Actions

Work Header

The Teenage Vigilante's Guide to Saving New York (And Making Friends Along the Way)

Chapter Text

Peter comes over to the lab like he does most days after school, whether it be just to work on homework or to work on something more Spider-centric, and this time it just so happens to be Spider-centric. Some days after school he seems a bit more subdued (Tony has his theories about the kid being bullied, but he keeps them to himself because he isn’t Peter’s dad and Peter would bring it up if he wanted Tony to know), so it’s more than a little surprising that he’s so talkative today while he’s fiddling with one of his web shooters.

 

“So anyway, yesterday I was heading home from here, and you remember it was kinda later than usual, right? So I’m heading to the subway, but I see a stray cat, so I start following it to see if it’s okay, and I end up in a kinda shady area, and the Spidey sense starts freaking out, so I duck into this alley and put on the suit real quick and this guy comes running out of nowhere and he’s holding a kid! He’s kidnapping someone’s, like, two-year-old, and I’m like ‘wow, I have to stop this!’ and the guy actually turns into the alley I’m in and I’m about to web him up, right? But the web shooters are jammed! Both of them! So I freeze up because I... uh, I have no idea what to do.”

 

The kid has the brains to look a little sheepish as he says this, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. “And the guy pulls a gun on me and I’m like ‘crap, I’m gonna die in a crappy alley in crappy Hell’s Kitchen cause my stupid Spidey sense didn’t warn me about the thing that was gonna get me killed, but before the guy can pull the trigger, guess who shows up?! Daredevil!” Peter’s voice goes a little bit higher with excitement. Tony tries not to show his concern, and Peter continues. “Man, anyway, he throws that stick thing he has at the guy’s hand, and Mr. Kidnapper drops the gun and Daredevil takes the kid away from him, hands her to me, and knocks him out! With this, like, crazy spin-kick-flip thing right in the head! Anyway, Daredevil looks at me, says an address, and says ‘take her home, Spider-Man.’” Peter impersonates the (frankly ridiculous) gravelly voice Daredevil has, and Tony actually cracks a smile despite the fact Peter just admitted to almost getting himself shot because he followed a cat .

 

“He knew who I was, Mr. Stark! Daredevil used my name! It was so cool! Anyway, I take the kid home to her mom—apparently the kidnapper was actually her ex-husband, but he’s crazy and he didn’t have custody because he hit her, like, in public and everything. She was really nice and she hugged me and said ‘thank you’ a lot. So when I leave, I walk outside and the Spidey sense flips out again and I’m like ‘crap, what now ?’ but I look up and Daredevil’s on the roof across the street and he’s staring down at me. I have like absolutely no idea how to interact with other super-people, so I just wave at him, and he sorta smiles and gives me the ‘wait there’ signal and a minute later he somehow sneaks around behind me, so I freak and throw a punch at him, but he dodges it and says that I must be new and he offered to teach me how to fight, so I’m gonna meet up with him tonight! Isn’t that so cool? I’m finally making my own super-people connections! I’m networking ! That’s what grown-ups call it, right?”

 

Tony’s suddenly struck by how young Peter is, and just how innocent he is. He froze when he got a gun pointed at him. He still fan-boys over other heroes. He still says grown-ups .

 

Yes, Daredevil has long since established himself as a pillar of the New York superhero community. He’s a good guy who has supposedly been through the wringer quite a few times (if his multiple long-term disappearances are anything to go off of) and is still a hero. Apparently, he bristles at being called a hero, but if the shoe fits… He’s also very rarely a team player if the Defenders have anything to say about it. Jessica Jones swears up and down that he’s a great guy once you get past the horns, red leather, and bravado, but she’s also from Hell’s Kitchen and a chronic alcoholic who’d probably been drinking for eight hours straight when she’d said that (at nine A.M.). He’s a hero: yes. He’s in the major leagues: yes. He’s an appropriate hero for Peter to be working with: hell the fuck no . He’s grizzly and gory and definitely rated R for a number of reasons, including the fact that he regularly tortures people. Peter’s not old enough to see staged graphic violence in movies, so he sure as hell isn’t old enough to be experiencing the real shit first-hand. In fact, the only person that Tony would object even more to Peter hanging around with than Daredevil is Deadpool, and that’s saying something.

 

“Peter…” Tony says softly.

 

“Oh no. That’s your ‘Peter you sweet cinnamon roll, you’re so effing oblivious’ voice,” Peter whines.

 

What? I don’t have that voice.”

 

Peter looks at Tony with an eyebrow raised.

 

“I do not.”

 

Peter looks at one of Friday’s cameras like he’s on The Office.

 

I don’t .”

 

Peter raises an eyebrow at Friday’s camera.

 

“Sorry boss, but when you’re trying to let Peter down gently about something, you do tend to speak at a certain volume and pitch with a slightly different cadence than usual. Would you like a full vocal analysis?” Friday responds cheerfully.

 

Tony glares at her camera while Peter beams at it with a smile that really does show what a sweet, innocent kid he is. There’s no strain in it.

 

“Okay fine, I do have a voice—but that right there is exactly why I don’t want you hanging around with Daredevil,” he says, pointing a finger at Peter for emphasis.

 

“What right where?”

 

That. The happy, smiley, cheerful thing. Daredevil’s all doom and gloom and violence and annoying sarcasm.”

 

“But Mr. Stark—“

 

“Call me Tony,” he interrupts, and Peter wrinkles his face up, because he’s still so young that it’s weird for him to call adults by their first names.

 

“Tony, I would’ve gotten shot if Daredevil hadn’t helped me.”

 

“And that’s another reason why you shouldn’t work with him. You still freeze up when someone points a gun at you, and he’s the kind of person that’ll get stabbed and then pull the knife deeper into himself so that he can break the guy’s jaw with a headbutt and then refuse medical care and jump off a roof while bleeding profusely. Trust me, I’ve seen it first-hand.”

 

“Woah, you’ve worked with Daredevil, Mr. Stark?!” Peter asks excitedly, the point clearly flying straight over his head and right out the fiftieth story window.

 

“Yeah—once or twice. And he’s dark, Peter. We were trying to get a bad guy to tell us where someone was, and Daredevil just strides right past Cap, takes one of Natasha’s knives, grabs the guy by his shoulder, slams him into the wall, and stabs him right above the eye until the guy’s screaming and begging and telling us whatever we want to know. Then he just says ‘there you go’ and gives Nat her knife back.”

 

Peter actually seems to consider this information for a moment, tilting his head slightly to the side in thought before he speaks again.

 

“Well… that’s not a good thing that he did that. But isn’t that something that Ms. Romanov’s probably done too? And you don’t really try and keep me away from her. I heard you tell her to babysit her ‘spider-child’ one time, and then she came and sat with me and asked me if I knew how to use a garrote, so I’m assuming that I’m the spider-child.”

 

Tony doesn’t immediately have a good answer for that, and before he can even open his mouth to reply Peter’s got something else to say.

 

“Also, Daredevil doesn’t kill people. And no offense Mr. St—Tony, but you do kill people. I know you and the Avengers deal with worse bad guys than Daredevil probably does, but all of you guys still kill people. Ms. Romanov and Mr. Barton have both definitely tortured people, and I get that it’s different for him because of reasons, but so has Sergeant Barnes. So how is working with them any different than working with Daredevil?”

 

“Because I said so.” And wow, Tony never ever wants to be like Howard, but he really just said that.

 

Peter looks unimpressed. “That’s not a very good answer.”

 

“Fine. Because I know that Natasha and Clint would never hurt you. I’m still questioning that slightly when it comes to Barnes, not because the grudge about killing my parents thing—that’s over—but because of the used to be a brainwashed assassin thing. I don’t know him well enough to be positive he won’t put you in danger, on accident or on purpose, and I know Daredevil even less.”

 

“Tony, I can take care of myself. I’m not gonna let him put me in danger. Ms. Jones is real-people friends with him, right? So shouldn’t you trust him by, like, proxy or something?”

 

“Jess is a whole other can of alcoholic worms that we aren’t getting into right now. We’re talking about Daredevil.”

 

“Okay, well how about Ms. Jones joins me and Daredevil to supervise, so you’ll feel okay about me being around him?”

 

Damn, this kid really should try and join the debate team at school. He’d probably be pretty good at it. But still, Daredevil’s not the kind of person Peter should be learning from. Maybe Luke Cage, but that would still be pushing it.

 

“No, kid. He’s not a safe person for you to be around.”

 

“But Tony—“

 

“No, Peter,” Tony replies more firmly, turning to look straight at him. “That’s final. Daredevil isn’t a good influence, and he isn’t safe for you to be around. Maybe someday I’ll reconsider, but for now the answer’s a hard no.”

 

Peter gives him those adorable, sweet puppy eyes and Tony has to turn away so that he doesn’t just immediately give in and tell the kid that he can hang out with Daredevil whenever he wants and also have his own left kidney.

 

“Just do your homework after you’re done fixing the web shooters.”

 

“Okay, Mr. Stark,” Peter replies petulantly as he goes back to tinkering with the devices.

Chapter Text

Peter miraculously manages to shut up and get his homework done over the next two hours, even if it involves a lot of humming along to the music he’s listening to on his iPod. Honestly, who still has a separate mp3 player from their phone? It’s not 2011 anymore.

 

He shoves the various binders, notebooks, and textbooks into his backpack and zips it up hurriedly at exactly eight o’clock. Tony finds himself worrying about five textbooks being way too heavy and possibly crippling Peter but then remembers that this kid has literally caught a moving bus. Then he worries about the fact that Peter had to catch a bus, and will definitely do it again at some point. Then he worries that maybe he really should go see a therapist for all his worrying, but by that point Peter’s already heading to the elevators.

 

“Bye Mr. Stark! I’ll see you tomorrow probably,” Peter says cheerfully.

 

“Be safe. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Tony replies. “And I mean current me, not twenty-year-old me. Cocaine is definitely out of the picture.”

 

Peter gives him a funny look, but nods and replies with complete sincerity. “I promise not to do cocaine.”

 

He gets on the elevator and heads up to the roof, where he puts on the Spider-Man costume before very carefully testing the web shooters a few times to make sure they won’t break and plummet him to his untimely demise between the skyscrapers. Once he’s certain they’re in working order, he shoots a web to a nearby building and swings off the edge, making his way to the meeting place on a rooftop in Hell’s Kitchen without once touching the ground.

 

When he gets there, Daredevil and Jessica Jones are already there, Jessica with a bottle of bottom-shelf whiskey in her hand while she harasses Daredevil by poking his horns repeatedly. Daredevil responds to the harassment by crossing his arms over his chest and looking disappointed in her life choices, while occasionally throwing suspicious looks at her whiskey.

 

Peter touches down on the rooftop a few feet behind Jessica and wrinkles up his nose at the smell of her drink. “Are you sure that’s safe for human consumption? It smells like rubbing alcohol.”

 

“Fuck!” Jessica drops the whiskey in surprise, not having clocked Peter’s presence until he spoke.

 

Daredevil catches the bottle by the neck before it hits the ground and hands it back to Jessica who nods at him gratefully before taking another sip of it. “I don’t think it’s gonna be cheap liquor that kills me, kid,” she says with a sigh. “Daredevil, Spider-Kid. Spider-Kid, Daredevil. Thought it would be easier if you two had a mutual acquaintance here,” she introduces, gesturing between the two with her bottle held loosely in one hand.

 

“It’s Spider man ,” Peter corrects, crossing his arms over his chest. His disappointed facial expression doesn’t really come across through the mask, though.

 

“How old are you?” Daredevil asks suspiciously.

 

Jessica snorts and rolls her eyes at the man’s fake gravelly voice, but Daredevil just ignores her. It seems like he’s had a lot of practice doing that.

 

“Uh, I’m seventeen,” Peter replies.

 

Daredevil looks unimpressed. “Try that again, but this time don’t lie.”

 

“Fine. I’m fifteen. Are you going to tell me I’m too young to be out doing this?”

 

Daredevil shrugs. “No, although you probably are. You’re going to do it no matter what, so I might as well show you how to do it without getting yourself killed.”

 

“You sound like my ninth grade sex-ed teacher, Mur—Daredevil,” Jessica drawls.

 

“Jessica if you just sit down and shut up, then I’ll buy you whiskey that doesn’t burn off your tastebuds,” Daredevil replies with an exhausted sigh.

 

She puts her hands up in surrender and goes to sit at the edge of the rooftop where she can observe the two superheroes. Sometimes looking at the costumes on other vigilantes gives her a pang of guilt as she gets a glimpse at what might’ve been—at what she might’ve been—but she shakes it off easily now.

 

“Alright Spider-Man, let’s see what you’ve got,” Daredevil says, gesturing for Peter to come at him.

 

“Er… are you sure..? I mean, I’m pretty strong…” Peter replies awkwardly. “I can lift ten tons, and you’re just a normal guy, right?”

 

“He’s a freak too, kiddo. Don’t worry about hurting him,” Jessica calls from the sidelines.

 

Daredevil flips her off and she returns the gesture with a smug smile. “She’s right; don’t worry about hurting me.”

 

Peter gives a hesitant nod. “Do you wanna just do like, hand to hand, or do you want me to use the webs and stuff?”

 

“Fight me like you’d fight anyone else who you’re trying to stop.”

 

“Alright…” he says, still sounding a little unsure.

 

Peter shoots a web at Daredevil’s feet, but the man’s already moving out of the way before Peter’s even finished flicking his wrist out. He aims another at Daredevil’s body, but he dodges that one with a flip. Shot after shot after shot, Daredevil dodges the webs perfectly, each missed web getting him a step closer to Peter. Daredevil throws the first punch, and Peter manages to duck under it, but at the same time Daredevil grabs his arm and flips him across his back and onto the ground, one knee on his chest and the other on his throat while his hands hold Peter’s wrists to the roof. On anyone else that would probably be enough to keep them down, but Peter can lift a jet so it’s not quite enough.

 

He pushes Daredevil off and launches himself to his feet, but Daredevil’s reflexes must be superhuman because the second Peter’s feet are back on solid ground, Daredevil’s managed to get to his feet as well and aim an extremely hard kick at Peter’s ribs. Peter makes an ‘oof’ sound and stumbles back, but Daredevil keeps coming at him. Peter catches his leg on one of the kicks and manages to knock Daredevil off his balance a little, but before he has the chance to do anything, Daredevil’s back up and manages to perfectly execute the same aerial-flip-kick thing from the night before right into Peter’s head. Peter goes down this time, but rather than kneeling on his throat and trying to pin him down again, Daredevil puts him in a killer arm bar that has him tapping out in seconds.

 

“Boo!” Jessica hollers from the side. “Why’d you go so easy on him, DD?”

 

Daredevil gets up and offers Peter a hand to help him up off of the ground while he shoots a look at Jessica. “Because he’s a kid and I’m not actually trying to hurt him.” He turns back to Peter and offers him a smile. “You’re not bad.”

 

“Really?” he asks, his voice going a bit squeaky.

 

Daredevil laughs softly, the gravelly voice significantly more toned down than it had been just a few minutes prior. “Really. You just need some practice. I think your best technique is to keep your distance from whoever you’re fighting and just web them up. Hand to hand definitely isn’t your strong suit, but we can work on that.”

 

“Woah—are you gonna be my, like, Mr. Miyagi ?” Peter asks softly, sending the tipsy Jessica into a fit of laughter so hard she nearly falls off the edge of the roof, but she manages to catch herself on the ledge with a grip that cracks the concrete into powder.

 

“If you want me to train you, then I guess I am. And if that’s the case then you can call me Mike. Here,” he tosses a flip phone to Peter. “Put your number in that.”

 

“This thing is ancient,” Peter replies as he dutifully types the number in. Pressing the seven four times to get an S to save the number under ‘Spider-Man’ is just too much work, so he saves it under his real name and tosses the phone back.

 

Daredevil doesn’t even look at the phone before slipping it back into a hidden pocket on his suit. “It’s nice to meet you, Peter.”

 

“Wha—how’d you do that?!” Peter asks, gaping at Daredevil. “Are you psychic?”

 

Daredevil just smiles and laughs, shaking his head. “Not quite.”

 

“Honestly, you might as well be with all the weird shit you can do,” Jessica replies.

 

“That’s so cool,” he whispers, getting Mike to smile again. “I have to go—school tomorrow and all that.”

 

“Alright, be safe. I’ll be in touch.”

 

Peter smiles. “Bye Mike, bye Ms. Jones,” he says, waving at the two of them as he picks up his backpack from where he’d dropped it upon his arrival, before swinging off back towards the subway station.

 

Aunt May is at work by the time Peter gets home—she’s working the night shift this week—so he changes out of the suit and makes himself four hot pockets for dinner, sitting down on the floor in front of the TV to eat them. He flips on the news channel, but that’s just depressing, so he changes it to Animal Planet. MJ tells him sometimes that being able to choose not to watch the news and keep up with current events just because they’re depressing is very telling of his privilege as a white man, so after a little bit he flips back to CNN. It dampens his mood slightly, but he still goes to bed with a smile on his face that night as he thinks of the day’s events.

Chapter Text

Peter stifles a yawn with the back of his hand in chemistry, trying his hardest to stay awake and alert. Unfortunately, staying up all night daydreaming about how cool it’s going to be to have a famous vigilante as his teacher isn’t conducive to being well rested.

 

Ned gives him a slightly concerned look from where he’s sitting beside Peter at the lab bench and subtly moves his hands across the table like a spider while raising an eyebrow at him.

 

Peter nods once in response, before focusing back on the teacher who’s explaining the lab they’ll be doing today. It’s laughably easy compared to what Mr. Stark has him doing sometimes, but it’s still necessary to get a good grade. Once the teacher’s done talking and they’ve collected the necessary equipment, there’s finally enough of a buzz of conversation in the lab that Peter feels safe talking to Ned about the night before.

 

“So, catch any bad guys?” Ned asks curiously as he pours water into a graduated cylinder carefully.

 

“Nope, not a single one.”

 

Ned wrinkles up his face slightly and gives Peter a funny look. “Then why are you so tired?”

 

Peter glances around them to check that the people at the surrounding benches are all absorbed in their own work before he leans in and whispers to Ned. “I was hanging out with Daredevil. He’s gonna teach me how to be a real hero.”

 

Ned drops the beaker he’s holding, but Peter snags it out of the air before it can hit the ground.

 

“Oh my God that’s so cool—what’s he like?” Ned asks in a barely-contained whisper.

 

“He’s… nice. Mr. Stark said he’s all dark and badass and scary, but he’s actually really nice. He told me I wasn’t bad at fighting,” Peter replies softly as he measures out the different solutions they’d been given to test. “I gave him my number and he said he’d be in touch. He had a legit burner phone. It was kinda neat.”

 

“Daredevil has your phone number?!” Ned whisper-shrieks.

 

“He said to call him Mike. Jessica Jones was there too.”

 

“She’s the one who can fly, right?”

 

“I think it’s actually jumping. And she was kinda drunk, but she’s friends with D- Mike, so that’s pretty cool. She told me that he’s got superpowers too, which is weird because I thought he was just a normal guy. He’s got like, some sort of psychic thing I think. I dunno, I’m not really sure.”

 

“I can’t believe you’re so chill about this. You’re on a first name basis with Daredevil . He’s like, New York vigilante Jesus. He was the first one of you guys that actually got a name—that actually made a difference . He paved the way for people like you, Peter. God, that’s so cool.”

 

“Mr. Stark told me he tortured a guy right in front of them one time,” Peter blurts out. “Like, I know he’s a grown-up and that he deals with really bad people like gangsters and human traffickers, but he’s like… major leagues. It’s kind of intimidating, even though he’s nice.”

 

“Woah. That’s kinda effed up and scary, but like… did he say why Daredevil tortured the guy? Cause, not that I’m defending torture, maybe he had a kinda good reason why?”

 

Peter shrugs. “He just said they were trying to get answers out of the guy by talking, but Daredevil was too impatient for it.”

 

Ned shrugs. “Well, he’s dark and broody, but he does it to protect people, so he was probably doing that to protect someone. And I guess I can sorta get behind that.”

 

“Mr. Leeds, Mr. Parker,” the teacher calls from the front of the room. “Your water’s boiling over. Stop talking and work.”

 

They both scramble to turn off the hot plate and Peter ends up mildly scalding himself in the process, but it’s nothing that takes longer than the rest of class to heal.

 

Peter doesn’t get the chance to continue his conversation with Ned before he leaves school and heads off to Avenger’s Tower. The only homework he has to do today is write an essay analyzing symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird because, apparently, that’s something he’ll need to know about in the real world. Again, he wouldn’t voice that opinion out loud because MJ would glare at him and tell him it’s an important book for everyone, especially white people, to read because it shows the way that white voices are always valued above voices of color, even when the facts don’t side with them.

 

When he gets to the Tower, Friday welcomes him with a polite, “Hello,” and takes him to the floor Tony’s on; this time it’s the Avenger’s common floor.

 

As soon as he steps out of the elevator his phone buzzes with a text message, and he pulls it out to check. It’s from an unsaved number and says “ I told you I’d be in touch. ” He smiles at the message, but before he can type a response Mr. Stark notices him. Jessica Jones is there too, sitting across from Tony and drinking what’s either scotch or whiskey; Peter’s not quite sure what the difference is because he’s never tasted either, and the smell of both burn his nose.

 

“Peter! Come join us, kiddo. We were just talking about you,” Tony says with a grin, waving Peter over.

 

“You texting a girl?” Jessica asks out of the blue. “You’re smiling at your phone.”

 

“What? Oh, no. It’s just a reminder from my teacher,” he lies, glancing up at her from his phone for just a second before he tucks it back into his pocket. “Why were you guys talking about me?” he asks curiously, hoping to a God that he doesn’t quite believe in that she hasn’t ratted him out about the Daredevil thing.

 

“He’s getting me to pass on a message to Daredevil. Blah blah blah, leave Spider-Man alone, blah blah blah I’ll kill you and everyone you love if you hurt him—“

 

“I didn’t say that,” Tony replies, and Jessica just smiles back at him.

 

“It’s the thought that counts.”

 

“I really hope that’s not how you think all the time.”

 

Jessica just shrugs and gets up, ruffling Peter’s hair on her way to the elevator. “Bye Stark, bye kid. I’ll see you around.”

 

“Bye Ms. Jones,” Peter calls back as the elevator doors shut behind her.

 

He goes to sit at a chair nearby to Tony after that and pulls out his laptop and book to start working on the paper. He glances up after a moment when he feels Tony staring at him, and he tilts his head slightly in a silent question at the man.

 

“What?” he asks after that doesn’t get a response.

 

“What’d you do last night?” Tony asks curiously.

 

“Um, I patrolled a little after I left here, and then I went home,” he answers. It’s not technically the truth, but he was out doing Spider-Man stuff, so if he stretches the definition that can easily count as patrolling.

 

“Alright. You just look tired; wanted to make sure you’re okay.”

 

“Oh! Yeah, I had some trouble sleeping, but I’m okay,” Peter assures immediately.

 

Tony nods and they both go back to working on their separate things, Tony doing something between his tablet and the hologram being projected in front of him while Peter switches between Sparknotes, his book, and an empty Word document that’s existence becomes increasingly more frustrating with each passing minute. Well, it isn’t completely empty; it has an MLA heading in Times New Roman, twelve point, double spaced.

 

Eventually Tony gets up to go do something and Peter manages to sorta get started on writing. Writing the introduction is always hard, but he struggles through it and comes out with something at least half-way legible. The paper isn’t due until the next Monday, so it isn’t like he needs to get it done tonight. A few more minutes of unproductive frustration and glaring at his keyboard are enough to make Peter realize he won’t be getting any more of this essay done tonight, so he saves and closes the document. Much to his surprise, it’s already nearing six forty-five and he remembers he never replied to Daredevil’s text.

 

He whips out his phone to see that the unsaved number sent another message, this one just being the juncture of two streets deep in Hell’s Kitchen along with a time: W 43 rd and 11 th , 7:00 . As soon as he sees that he scrambles to shove everything back into his backpack and heads up to the roof, putting the costume on once he reaches the privacy of the rarely-used roof access stairwell. He doesn’t get to the building until a couple minutes after seven, and when he lands on the rooftop, Daredevil/Mike is already waiting there for him.

 

“Sorry I’m late,” he apologizes immediately, as Tony’s story of Daredevil torturing a guy comes to the forefront of his mind. “I was writing this essay for class and, ugh, I got like nothing done but when I looked at the clock it had been like three hours. Writing’s just so hard, y’know?”

 

Mike smiles at him. “It’s a lot easier if you just write the thesis first and then your body paragraphs. Save the introduction for last. You’re a sophomore, right? So this is just a five paragraph essay?”

 

Peter nods. “Yeah—do you have to write a lot?”

 

“Sort of. I mean, I made it through seven years of college, so that was a hell of a lot of writing.”

 

“Seven years? Are you a doctor? Because that would make sense; Mr. Stark said you refused to get medical care. Is that cause you do it yourself?” Peter asks, giving the man a funny look.

 

Daredevil laughs softly. “No, not at all. I have someone who helps me with that sort of thing.”

 

“How’d you get someone to help fix you up? I can’t really imagine you put an ad on, like, the Craigslist personals: M for Vigilante Doctor.”

 

Mike laughs harder at that, and Peter takes a second to appreciate that, along with the man’s smile. It reminds him just the faintest bit of Uncle Ben, and as much as that hurts, it’s still comforting in its own way. “Not exactly. She found me bleeding out in her dumpster. Or more accurately, her neighbor found me bleeding out in her dumpster, and he got her because she’s a nurse.”

 

“That’s kinda scary. So, you would’ve just died if she hadn’t found you?” Peter's definitely freaking out a little internally because even though he has a healing factor, a bad enough wound could land him in a similar situation and he has no plan in place for when that happens. Hopefully, a nurse who isn't his Aunt pulls him out of the dumpster he's gonna end up in.

 

“Absolutely. And that’s an important lesson to learn. When you’re young you feel like you’re unstoppable, and I can’t really imagine it’s any less like that for someone with your powers. You need to acknowledge and accept that serious injury and death are real possibilities in this line of work. It’s obviously different with your powers than it is with mine, considering you have superhuman strength which is usually accompanied by a healing factor of some sort, but the fact remains that what we do is dangerous and unpredictable,” Daredevil explains somberly.

 

Peter’s still a kid, but he’s been through a lot and considers himself to be fairly perceptive about things like loss and grief. He’s not sure if it has something to do with his powers or if it’s just his intuition, but he feels a certain sadness radiating off of Mike.

 

“Mr. Daredevil, have you lost someone who’s in our line of work..?” he asks softly, mentally kicking himself for saying Mr. Daredevil .

 

Daredevil gives him a sad smile and nods once. “Yeah. She uh… it was bad. Death happens. None of us are invincible, and with how much danger we put ourselves in, it seems almost inevitable that it’ll happen someday.”

 

“That’s pretty dark…”

 

“It’s the truth.” He shakes his head a little as though he can shake the grief away. “But enough about that. For tonight I want to see you in action,” Daredevil replies as he walks towards the edge of the roof.

 

“In action like stopping bad guys?” Peter asks as he follows a little way behind Daredevil.

 

He gets a nod in response as Daredevil steps up onto the concrete ledge that borders the roof of the building. Daredevil stands still and tilts his head slightly in various directions until he seems to focus in on something in particular. “Follow me,” he says simply, before jumping and rolling onto the next roof over.

 

Peter knows that parkour is one of Daredevil’s gimmicks, but it’s pretty impressive to see in person. If he didn’t have his abilities, there’s no way in hell that Peter would be able to keep up, the guy has absolutely no hesitation in making jumps that most people would need to pray about before attempting. They finally come to a stop about three blocks away from where they’d originally met, and Daredevil crouches at the edge of the roof, motioning for Peter to do the same.

 

“That store right there is being robbed,” he says softly, pointing to the electronics store across the street. There are—“

 

“Three men inside,” Peter interrupts, earning himself a surprised look from Daredevil.

 

“I have really good hearing,” Peter explains with a shrug.

 

Daredevil nods in acceptance and turns back towards the building they’re observing. “There aren’t any civilians nearby, so this is a pretty low-risk scenario.” Before Peter can even protest that sentiment, Daredevil’s already explaining. “I know you’re capable of high-risk scenarios, but there’s no reason to throw you straight into one while you’re in unfamiliar territory. This is just for me to see what you can do, alright?”

 

Peter nods. “Alright, I won’t disappoint you.”

 

Daredevil smiles at him. “I know you won’t.”

 

Peter takes a deep breath and checks the web shooters one last time before he jumps from the roof and swings down to the street level. He glances back over his shoulder, and to his surprise Daredevil isn’t where he’d been just a few seconds prior. With a final deep breath, Peter opens the already broken door to the shop and looks to the three men who are perpetrating the robbery. None of them seem to have noticed him, so he takes that chance to listen in on whatever it is that they’re doing.

 

“Hurry up,” one man says, glancing towards the alleyway entrance of the shop. “We need to get outta here before Daredevil shows.”

 

“Really? You’re still talking about him? C’mon man, there’s so much other shit he’s probably dealing with. We aren’t even hurtin’ anyone,” one of the others responds, holding his arms apart, gesturing to the rest of the neighborhood. “I’m sure that somebody, somewhere is getting’ mugged or raped or something. Daredevil ain’t gonna bother with us.”

 

“Wow, you guys are the most optimistic burglars I’ve ever met,” Peter announces, webbing up two of the robbers simultaneously.

 

The third man fumbles to pull his gun from where it’s shoved in the waistband of his jeans but takes long enough that Peter can easily web him to the wall. He walks over to where the men are all cursing now and looks down at them.

 

“You guys might not be punching someone in the face, but you’re still hurting people. You’re hurting the owners of this store, for one. You don’t know what their financial situation looks like.”

 

“The hell are you doing here? Ain’t you the new guy from Queens?” one man asks.

 

“Yep, that’s me. Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. And obviously, I was in the neighborhood,” he says as he walks behind the cash register and picks up a piece of paper and a pen. “I’m gonna call the cops, so you guys just wait here for them, okay?”

 

He finishes writing his note and webs it to the wall above the third man.

 

Caught these guys in the middle of robbing the place. They’re pretty useless as criminals if we’re being honest. -Spider-Man

 

“Well, hope I don’t see you guys around!” he says cheerfully, waving at the men before turning to leave.

 

The street is silent when he heads back out onto it, and he can feel the hairs on his arms stand up. A quick look around finds the source of his Spidey sense freak-out to be Daredevil again, watching him from a rooftop. It’s a different one from the one they’d both landed on earlier, so Peter doesn’t need to cross the street this time to make his way up. He climbs up the side of the building and does a roll over the ledge to land sitting down next to Daredevil who’s looking at him in clear amusement.

 

“So, how did I do?” Peter asks curiously.

 

“You did great,” he says with a smile. “I told a beat cop about a block away that there was something over here he needed to see. Let’s get out of here.”

 

Daredevil leads them back to the rooftop they’d met on at the beginning of the night before turning to Peter once again.

 

“So what exactly are your powers?” he asks.

 

Peter hesitates for a moment. “Um, well, I got bitten by a radioactive spider. Hence the whole spider theme. I can stick to walls and ceilings and stuff, but the webs are just some tech that I built to kinda… help the spider aesthetic. I also have super-strength and sort of enhanced senses. Like good eyesight and hearing and all that—better than it was before at least. And I have this thing I like to call my Spidey sense. It just sorta goes off whenever something bad is about to happen, like a warning system. What about you? I don’t think you got bitten by a radioactive Devil.”

 

Daredevil laughs softly at that. “No, definitely not. There was a chemical spill of sorts. Left me with extremely enhanced senses. I can hear a heartbeat from more than a block away.”

 

“Why Daredevil though?” Peter asks curiously.

 

“You’d have to ask the journalists that one. I didn’t come up with my name—I never meant for things to get this big. I just wanted to help people. I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the violence though; I usually leave people pretty bloody, and some bad people controlled the narrative of the media at that time, so they decided to compare me to the Devil. A friend of mine made the costume, and they were still calling me The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen when he made it, hence the horns. I guess the name was just a little too long to be catchy so they shortened it to Daredevil.” He smiles at Peter. “I was kind of the first one to do the whole vigilante thing, so the media wasn’t the best at naming things yet.”

 

“You were the first person to really be a hero to the people,” Peter replies, noticing the way Mike cringes a bit at the word ‘hero’. “You are a hero. You’re the reason I knew I could make a difference and help people with my abilities. I mean, at the time I thought you were just a normal guy. But I thought, if Daredevil’s just a normal guy and he can save all those people and make that much of a difference, then I can do something with my abilities too. I’m sure other people were inspired by you too—even if they won’t admit it. Maybe Ms. Jones even.”

 

“Jessica’s very adamant about the fact that she isn’t a hero.”

 

“Well she is one, and so are you.”

 

“You’re a hero too. I heard about what you did with the Vulture, that was really impressive.”

 

Peter beams at him. “Thanks, Mike. Hearing you say that… just wow.”

 

“Actually,” Daredevil says, “my name’s Matt. Mike’s my fake real name.”

 

Peter smiles even brighter at that. “Okay, Matt. I gotta go, y’know, still gotta look out for my neighborhood and all that… but I’ll text you or something.”

 

“Alright, Peter. Have a nice night—good luck on your essay,” Matt says as he waits and watches turn and swing away.

 

When Peter gets home he revisits the scraps of an essay he has with Matt’s advice, and Jesus Christ, it’s so much easier to write like that. After he gets the first body paragraph finished, he opens up a new, blank document and hesitates before typing up a title. Who is Daredevil? He doesn’t really want to unmask his newfound friend and mentor, but he’s so damn curious that it hurts. He really doesn’t know much, but he has enough to at least type out a few bullet points.

  • Enhanced senses—hearing especially?
  • Seven years of college, not a doctor though
  • Lost someone in the superhero biz
  • Matt

 

It isn’t a lot to go off of, but it’s a starting point.

Chapter Text

Peter’s workload from his classes actually increases quite a bit over the next day; it’s like all of his teachers coordinate when they decide to assign reading, homework, and projects. Frankly, it’s a little ridiculous. Between the schoolwork, playing Overwatch with Ned, and being Spider-Man, Peter doesn’t end up back at the Tower until the next Monday. Over those few days, he gets a single text from Daredevil (now saved as Matt From Work) offering a meeting time and place that he has to decline. The guy is really understanding and just tells Peter to text him when he’s free.

 

When Peter finally shows back up at the Tower, he makes his way up to the lab as usual, but unlike usual, Tony is sitting in an office chair about eight feet away from the elevator doors with his arms crossed over his chest and an unimpressed look on his face.

 

“Umm… hi?” Peter says cautiously as he steps out of the elevator, glancing around the lab to make sure nobody else is there.

 

“Do you have something you’d like to tell me, Peter?” Tony asks, his voice much calmer than usual. Honestly, it’s a little bit scary.

 

Crap. Tony knows about the Daredevil thing. He’s gonna take away the suit again and tell Aunt May, and she’s going to ground him for forever for hanging out with the scariest vigilante in the city aside from the Punisher.

 

Peter’s in trouble no matter what, so he decides there’s no reason not to keep digging the hole deeper. He’s gonna be buried in it soon anyway.

 

“Uh, not particularly. Why..?”

 

“I was going through some police reports—” Tony starts, quickly being interrupted by Peter.

 

“Is that legal?”

 

Tony narrows his eyes at Peter. “No. But that’s not the point. The point is that I read a report saying that a police officer found three men who had been restrained with a “web-like substance” while “perpetrating the burglary of Cho’s Electronics near West 42nd and 10th. There was a note left at the scene signed “Spider-Man”. Would you like to explain that?”

 

“I stopped a crime, Mr. Stark.”

 

“In Hell’s Kitchen?” Tony asks, still looking highly unimpressed.

 

“Yeah, I think 42nd and 10th is in Hell’s Kitchen.”

 

“Right after I tell you not to meet up with the vigilante who stays pretty much exclusively in Hell’s Kitchen?”

 

“Well I saw a crime happening—I couldn’t just ignore it.”

 

“Why were you even going in that direction in the first place? It’s the complete opposite direction of Queens? For the love of God, don’t tell me there was another cat.”

 

“But there was!” Peter replies immediately, taking the excuse and running with it. “There’s this cat in this alley and it’s got kittens and I like to check on them to make sure they’re doing okay and I bring the mom food and it was really cold that night so I wanted to put another blanket in the box they live in!” He gives his best puppy eyes and forcing them to water just slightly by looking at one of the many bright lights for just a second (thank you for that trick, MJ). “I didn’t want them to die, Mr. Stark!” he finishes, actually having managed a single full tear.

 

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry kid—Jesus I’m sure your cats are gonna be fine. Just be careful in Hell’s Kitchen,” Tony replies, getting up from the chair and walking over to Peter to actually hug him .

 

Peter tenses up for a second, and Tony sighs.

 

“I’m hugging you this time, not getting the door.”

 

Peter can’t help the smile as he hugs Tony back for just a second before pulling away.

 

“Look, if you promise not to tell Pepper, then you can bring the cats here. I’m sure I can find someone who’d want to take care of them, or I can just… hide them in the lab or something,” Tony offers.

 

“You’d really let me keep them here?” Peter asks softly as he realizes 1) Tony definitely very much cares about him, because he’s normally extremely anti-pet and 2) he has dug himself into a very, very deep hole. Where the hell is he gonna find a cat with kittens this time of year?

 

“Yeah, kid,” Tony says, ruffling Peter’s hair as he walks past him. “Just bring ‘em by sometime soon, okay?”

 

“Alright!” Peter says, heading over to one of the lab benches to make some more web fluid and figure out exactly how to find said cats that he apparently now owns.

 

Tony smiles at him again before heading to the elevator. Once the sound of the doors closing fills the room, Peter exhales heavily and lets his head fall into his hands. Think, dammit. Where can he get some cats on short notice? Probably Hell’s Kitchen honestly. There are a hell of a lot of cats in the neighborhood, so looking is worth a shot.

 

Peter lets out a sigh and shakes his head as if he could shake off the stress. For the time being, he just needs to work on his Spider-shit, and then he can think about the cats. It only takes him about an hour to do everything he needs to get done, but being that it’s mid-January in New York, that means it’s already dark out. And Peter still needs to find the cats.

 

Today is one of the rare occasions where Peter doesn’t leave the Tower from the roof as Spider-Man; he leaves from the front doors as Peter Parker, loyal high school intern. The walk to Hell’s Kitchen from the Tower is only about seven blocks, but walking really highlights just how much quicker it is to swing his way around as Spider-Man.

 

He stops at a bodega on 39th to buy the cheapest can of cat food they have before continuing onward to the Kitchen. Peter makes his way down near the docks because that just seems like a place that cats might rather hang out than, say, outside a dive bar where drunks are always hooking up in the alley. He suddenly feels sorry for any cats that do live in alleys behind dive bars because ew, he wouldn’t want to see or hear or smell what goes down in those places.

 

He opens up the can of cat food in the hopes that maybe the scent will manage to attract a nearby cat—hopefully one with kittens. It does manage to attract a cat, but only one and it’s the ugliest, mangiest thing Peter’s ever seen in his life. And it’s a boy cat, so that automatically takes it out of the running.

 

After another half hour, Peter’s just about to give up all hope when the hairs on his arms all stand up. He spins around immediately, looking for whatever it is that’s setting the Spidey sense off, and finds absolutely nothing.

 

When he turns back around, Daredevil’s standing about two feet away, and Peter reflexively throws a punch because the costume is actually kinda scary in the dark—especially when you’re not expecting it.

 

Daredevil dodges the punch and tilts his head slightly in the odd way he does every so often. “Sorry for scaring you, Peter,” he apologizes, and Peter freezes up because apparently Daredevil somehow managed to recognize him even without the mask.

 

“Uhh… who’s Peter?” Peter says.

 

Daredevil gives him a funny look before it quickly morphs into an exasperated one. “You’re Peter. Don’t lie, your heartbeat and breathing sound the same regardless of what you’re wearing.”

 

That’s right; Daredevil has like freakishly good hearing.

 

“Oh, I was wondering how you knew.”

 

“Super senses, remember? Anyway, what’re you doing here?” Matt asks, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against the brick wall beside them.

 

“I’m uh… I’m looking for a cat. With kittens.”

 

“Do you own this cat and kittens?” Daredevil asks with a slightly confused look. The guy has a really expressive mouth.

 

“No…” Peter answers, dragging the one syllable out for way longer than he needs to.

 

“Okay. Can I ask why you’re looking for a family of cats that aren’t yours?”

 

“Because I lied to Mr. Stark and told him I was hanging out in Hell’s Kitchen to take care of a stray cat and her kittens and he told me to bring the cats to the Tower and that he could find homes for them and now I’m really screwed if I don’t bring him the cats because then he’ll find out that I was lying and I was really in Hell’s Kitchen to work with you and he’ll be so pissed,” Peter blurts out.

 

Daredevil looks like it’s the funniest thing he’s heard all month. He snorts unattractively and sighs. “Alright, kid. Let’s find you some cats.”

 

“Wait—you’re helping me find my made-up cats?”

 

“Yeah, come on,” Daredevil replies, turning and gesturing for Peter to follow after him.

 

They stick to the streets, Peter following along at Daredevil’s side as they weave around down the different alleys, Daredevil stopping occasionally to either listen or smell the air which is actually super effing weird, but Peter doesn’t say that out loud because it would probably be kind of insulting.

 

Finally, Daredevil turns them down the dead end between a church and a pizza restaurant and takes the can of cat food from Peter, carefully setting it down near a dumpster. He walks back a few feet and Peter follows him, not saying a word as Matt indicates for him to be quiet.

 

A minute later a small, tortoiseshell cat pokes her head out from beneath the dumpster and approaches the cat food cautiously. She’s skinny but not deathly so, and she eats the cat food quickly.

 

As she eats Matt very slowly approaches her, stopping every half step for anywhere from ten seconds to a minute until he’s finally kneeling in front of her. He works off one of his gloves slowly before extending it for the cat to sniff. She does so hesitantly before lightly bumping her head against Matt’s knuckles. He sits down and inclines his head toward Peter before lightly patting the ground beside him.

 

Peter approaches cautiously and takes a seat beside Matt, letting the cat sniff his hand as well.

 

“Not that this isn’t great and all DD, but I kinda need her to have kittens…” Peter says a few minutes later once the cat has finished the food and crawled into Matt’s lap where he’s scratching behind her ears gently.

 

“She has kittens,” Matt replies simply, lifting his free hand to point at the dumpster that the cat had been camped out under before they’d arrived. “There are six under there in an old cardboard box. There’s some sort of fabric in the box—an old t-shirt I think.”

 

Peter’s eyes light up, and he gets up from where he’s been sitting. The cat lets out a soft mrrow sound as Peter moves, but she seems content to stay in Matt’s lap even as Peter moves towards where her kittens are stashed.

 

Sure enough, there are six small, wriggly kittens in the box when Peter pulls it out from under the dumpster. Their ears are still tiny and round and they look like they’ve only just opened their eyes.

 

“Awww,” Peter coos softly, running his finger along an orange kitten, all the way from the top of its head down its stumpy little kitten tail.

 

“Think these’ll be good enough?” Matt asks, now standing beside Peter with the momma cat perched happily on his shoulder and rubbing her face against one of the horns on his helmet.

 

“Oh my God, can I please take a picture of you,” Peter blurts out immediately at seeing the glorious scene before him.

 

Matt’s expressive lower half of his face makes an appearance again, but he just shrugs with the shoulder that the cat isn’t standing on. “I don’t see why not.”

 

Peter grins at him. “Alright, cross your arms over your chest for me,” he instructs.

 

Daredevil obliges and Peter picks up two of the kittens, setting them in the cradle of Matt’s arms. Two more trips from the box to Matt and all six kittens are piled in his arms while the momma cat is still rubbing her face against his horn.

 

Peter pulls out his phone and stands back just enough to get from the top of Daredevil’s head to his waist in the picture before putting it away, thankful for the nearby streetlight so he didn’t need to use flash.

 

“Um, Peter, help,” Daredevil says, sounding slightly strangled, and Peter looks up from his phone.

 

Two of the kittens are trying to get out of Daredevil’s arms and onto his shoulder with their mom, so Peter grabs the box off the ground and walks over to him, carefully loading all six babies back into the box.

 

Peter frowns slightly. “Um, I can’t really take these guys tonight—it’s late enough that Mr. Stark would know I had to go find some cats instead of getting ones I already knew.”

 

“I can take them for tonight,” Matt offers, scratching the momma cat’s head fondly as she purrs.

 

“Really? Because I’m sure I can figure something else out—”

 

Daredevil waves him off casually. “It’s fine. I live pretty close by. Just text me when you need them and I can bring ‘em to you.”

 

“Wow, thanks. You’re a life saver, Matt. Really—Mr. Stark would actually kill me if he knew what I was really doing.”

 

Matt smiles at him. “Now I doubt that. Jessica says he’s pretty fond of you.”

 

Peter feels his face flush slightly and he mutters something gibberish before Matt huffs out a soft laugh and takes the box of kittens from him.

 

“Go on, Peter. I’ll take care of them,” he assures.

 

“Alright. Don’t get too attached to them, though,” Peter warns with a smile.

 

“I won’t,” Matt promises. “Now go home. It’s a school night, and I’m assuming Spider-Man still needs to make an appearance before you go to sleep.”

 

“Yeah, you’re right,” Peter says with a sigh. “Goodnight Matt.”

 

“Night Peter.”

 

As Peter starts his trek towards the nearest subway station he can almost swear that he hears Matt cooing softly to the cat and her kittens. So much for not getting attached, he thinks.

 

Chapter Text

After acquiring the cats with Daredevil’s unexpected, but much appreciated, assistance Peter heads back to Queens. At some point along the trip it starts snowing, and by the time he’s back off the subway and above the ground a fine layer of white is beginning to cover everything. He heads home and changes into the suit before swinging out the window, but there isn’t much in the way of crime to be stopped. Two attempted muggings and one attempted car theft later finds Peter sitting high up on the edge of a roof next to a dummy owl that, judging by the bird shit covering it, doesn’t do a very good job of keeping the pigeons away.

 

The city isn’t quiet; New York never is. But the blanket of snow drifting down from the sky is enough to muffle everything just enough that it feels different. Peter knows that the difference in feeling isn’t because of his powers because he can remember staying up late at night and sitting on the fire escape drinking hot chocolate with uncle Ben and it feeling the same. Maybe Ben’s hot chocolate had a bit of Kahlua in it most times, but Peter can still remember sitting right beside him with one of May’s plush throw blankets from the basket by the sofa wrapped around their shoulders. After half an hour it gets cold enough that Peter has to stand up and shake the gathering snow from his shoulders before jumping off the roof and swinging back to the fire escape outside his bedroom window.

 

May’s gone when he gets back; she’s still on the night shift for another week, so Peter makes himself hot chocolate with packaged powder and microwaved milk once he changes out of the suit. It’s cold enough that he doesn’t want to go outside, so he just sits in the armchair in the living room that still kinda smells like Ben if he focuses hard enough on it. Funny that he’d thought Daredevil was weird just a few hours ago for smelling shit when here he is doing the same.

 

He must drift off at some point because when he wakes up there’s a blanket draped over him and light coming in through the windows to his left. Peter sits up abruptly to check the time, but when he sees that it’s already eight he just lays back again. He’s been working hard lately; it isn’t like taking one day off from school is gonna kill him. Besides, he’s not sure he has the motivation to actually get up and go today.

 

After taking about an hour to work up the motivation to get up and out of the chair, Peter makes his way into the kitchen to make himself another mug of hot chocolate, because even though he’s in high school now he still can’t stand coffee. The smell of it’s great, but the taste is just… ugh. He thinks for a second about making some toast or something but decides against it and just goes takes his hot chocolate and the warm blanket from the armchair into his bedroom where he fires up his computer to play Minecraft. It’s a simple game and the music is soothing, so he loses himself in playing it for a few hours.

 

It isn’t until around 1:00 when May wakes up and does a double take at seeing Peter in his room when she walks past the open door.

 

The movement catches Peter’s eye so he looks up and smiles at her. “Mental health day.”

 

She smiles back at him and steps into the room to half hug him and kiss the top of his head. “Got it. Want me to order a pizza?”

 

“Mushrooms and pepperoni?” he asks.

 

May nods as she heads back out of the room. “Alright, gotcha. Have fun in here.”

 

Peter keeps playing for the half hour it takes for the pizza to arrive, and when it gets there he joins May in the living room to sit on the couch and watch crappy game shows while they eat. They sit in amicable silence for a while before May ends up breaking it with a question.

 

“So,” she asks, “you gonna go to the Stark internship today?” She bumps her shoulder against Peter’s playfully, and he smiles and rolls his eyes in response.

 

“Nah, I think I can miss one day.”

 

May nods and pulls Peter into a comfortable half hug. “Yeah, you work really hard. There’s nothing wrong with needing to take a break every now and then.”

 

“I know, Aunt May. You tell me that all the time.”

 

“Yeah? Well, can you blame me? When I was your age all I was worried about was school and boys. You’ve got a hell of a lot more than that on your plate. You know, if you want I’d be happy to get you a therapist, right?”

 

“I’ll think about it,” Peter replies with a shrug. The idea of having a therapist is a bit worrying to him because he’s not sure what the law is about therapists going to the police if they find out about the law-breaking, vigilantism, and superpowers.

 

“Alright sweetheart. Just let me know when you’re done thinking, okay?” she says softly, ruffling Peter’s hair before she gets up from the couch to throw away the now empty pizza box.

 

The remainder of the day passes by with Peter similarly lazing around either watching TV or playing video games with May either joining him or reading her book nearby. It’s comforting to just be near each other for a while and not need to fill the space between them with conversation. In fact, it’s so comforting that it lulls Peter into a bit of a trance and he doesn’t realize that he totally ghosted Matt with seven whole cats until his phone rings around six.

 

Peter snatches it off of the coffee table and answers, ignoring the curious look his aunt is giving him.

 

“Hey Matt!” he says brightly.

 

“Hey, Peter, sorry for calling unannounced but I was wondering if you needed me to keep the cats for another day,” Matt says, sounding more than a little tired.

 

“Oh crap—yeah, I’m really sorry about that. Something came up today, but I can come get them tomorrow after school.”

 

“Alright, just let me know when roughly when you need them and we can meet up somewhere,” Matt replies though he doesn’t seem at all bothered by the fact that he’ll have his fluffy friends for about 20 more hours.

 

There’s a faint rumbling noise that puzzles Peter for a moment until he realizes what it is and a smile breaks out across his face.

 

“Matt.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Is mom-cat on your shoulder right now?”

 

“Why do you ask?” Matt replies suspiciously.

 

“I hear purring.”

 

Matt sighs and there’s the faint sound of him adjusting the phone. “Yes, she’s on my shoulder. And her name is Spatula—don’t ask me. My business partners named all of them when I brought them to the office this morning.”

 

“You brought them to work? That’s amazing.”

 

“Well, I couldn’t just leave them alone all day,” Matt counters.

 

There’s the faint sound of someone yelling in the background of Matt’s call and he sighs before yelling back to whoever it is. “Yeah—just a minute! Alright, Peter, I gotta get back to work. Have a nice evening.”

 

“You too,” Peter replies before hanging up.

 

Aunt May is looking at him expectantly, but Peter just looks back at her.

 

“What?” he asks.

 

“Who’s Matt?” she asks curiously.

 

“Oh umm—“ Peter fumbles for a good excuse. “He’s um… a guy. Who’s fostering some cats I found until I get the chance to take them to Mr. Stark.”

 

“Just a random guy?”

 

“Not really. I asked the shelter and they gave me his number,” Peter lies.

 

May doesn’t look fully convinced, but she just shrugs. It isn’t like Peter can’t take care of himself. “Alright. Well, I gotta go to work. Text me if you decide to go out tonight.”

 

“I will,” Peter assures, scrolling through Instagram absently and liking a picture Ned posted earlier of a cute dog he saw on the way to school. Damn Instagram for getting rid of the chronological appearance of photos.

 

“Promise?”

 

“I promise.”

 

“Alright, have fun. I love you,” she says, hugging Peter again.

 

“I love you too.” He hugs her back tightly before letting go and watching her leave the apartment.

 

After another twenty minutes of pointless Instagram scrolling, Peter’s phone buzzes with a text message.

 

Ned: Dude where were you today?

 

Peter smiles at the message and types out a quick response.

 

Peter: Recovering.

 

Ned: From what?? Did you get hurt???

 

Peter hesitates for a second before opening Snapchat and sending Ned the picture of Daredevil with the cats.

 

Peter: check ur snap

 

Ned’s next messages are just a wall of keysmashes and question marks, and it gives Peter some pretty immense entertainment when the last message just reads ‘im calling u now’.

 

Sure enough, his phone rings a second later, and Peter picks up, careful to hold his phone a few inches away from his ear just in case Ned’s all caps keysmashing translates into his voice. It definitely does, and Peter spends two minutes getting Ned to chill before he relates the story to him. Strangely enough, Ned focuses in on something Peter hadn’t even really thought about.

 

“So he has business partners and an office he can bring cats to. He owns a business, probably in Hell’s Kitchen if he brought the cats to work. That narrows down his identity.”

 

Peter’s already running to his laptop to add that to the now sneakily named ‘homework 1/15’ document that holds all of his hints to Matt’s identity. “Yeah Ned, a business in Hell’s Kitchen. That’ll be easy to find.”

 

“I’m serious! Just narrow down what kind of business it is and then just call all those businesses asking to talk to ‘Matt’ and you’ll find him.”

 

“Okay, that would definitely work. But even though I’m new-ish to this hero stuff I know it’s like… bad etiquette to unmask other heroes.”

 

“Ugh, fine. Just earn his trust and then maybe he’ll tell you. You could always tell him first,” Ned suggests.

 

“But then he might feel pressured to tell me.”

 

“Dude, he knocked the shit out of the Punisher. A high school student telling him his identity isn’t gonna ‘pressure him’.”

 

“Whatever. He already knows what I look like and my first name and my age, so it’s not like I have much to tell him.”

 

“Wait he knows what you look like? How?”

 

“Last night I wasn’t looking for cats dressed as Spider-Man. He recognized me because of my heartbeat and breathing. It was super weird.”

 

“That’s awesome! His hearing must be like… effing incredible. That’s so cool.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. Keep fanboying over him and I won’t introduce you,” Peter teases.

 

Their conversation devolves into a short roast session before they end up talking about what Peter missed at school which apparently included MJ brutally tearing Flash apart during a debate in English class. That transitions to them playing Minecraft together because they’re both mature enough that they can admit Minecraft is just as fun as any FPS and isn’t just for little kids.

 

When Peter’s finally about to go to sleep his phone buzzes one more time, and when he checks it he sees a slightly blurry picture of all of the cats lined up on what looks like Matt’s couch.

Chapter Text

School the next day is a lot easier than it’s been in a long time; Peter thinks that’s the result of him taking an entire day off to get his head as in order as it can be without professional help. His classes pretty much breeze by and before he knows it he’s walking out of school with his phone held up to his ear.

 

After four rings Matt picks up, and there’s the immediate sound in the background of two people crooning “Who’s Peterrr~?” followed by the sound of a door shutting.

 

“Hey, Peter, what’s up?” Matt asks, ignoring what sounds like four hands knocking on the door for another ten seconds before they give up.

 

“Oh, just calling to say I can take the cats off your hands now.”

 

“Uh, okay. You mind coming by my office to pick them up?”

 

Peter is internally freaking out because Daredevil—Matt— trusts him enough to let him meet him as a real person. Unless he works in the Daredevil costume at a different building each day with complete strangers. “Sure! Where’s your office?”

 

Matt tells him an address deep in Hell’s Kitchen before he says he has to go and hangs up. Peter takes the subway to Manhattan just like on the days when he goes straight to the Tower after school, but this time he heads a bit further to get to the address Matt gave him. It’s an unassuming brick office building, but Peter heads on up to the first door on the left on the second floor. The glass in the door reads “Nelson, Murdock, & Page: Attorneys and Investigative Services”.

 

When he opens the door there’s a small waiting room set out with a desk at the far wall. A pretty blonde woman is sitting at the desk, typing away on a laptop and doesn’t look up until Peter clears his throat.

 

“I’m uh… I’m here to see Matt?” Peter says unsurely as he reads the nameplate on the desk. “Ms. Page.”

 

Before Karen Page can say anything, the door to the office on her left opens and a man with dark hair and red tinted sunglasses comes out. He’s wearing a black suit and looks fairly put together aside from the very faint bruise on his cheek.

 

“Peter,” he greets with a smile, and yup that’s Daredevil’s voice.

 

“Oh. You look so… normal,” Peter blurts out, earning him a choked back laugh from Karen along with the sound of the office door on the other side of the room opening. “Not that that’s a bad thing! I was just expecting you to look more uh… Frank Castle-y and less Men’s Warehouse model-y. And you’re a lawyer. Which is, like, only slightly less ironic than if you were a cop.”

 

The other man laughs at that and Matt sets his mouth into a straight line, looking very unimpressed by his business partner. Once he’s done laughing he gets a highly concerned look on his face.

 

“Matt,” he says.

 

“Yes, Foggy?” Matt replies pleasantly.

 

“That’s a child.”

 

“Yes, it is.”

 

“There’s a child in our office.”

 

“Yep.”

 

“Surprised by how normal you look.”

 

“That’s what he said.”

 

“Matt, how do you know this child?”

 

“We’re in the same line of business.”

 

“Matthew,” the man Matt called Foggy says, sounding absolutely scandalized.

 

“How old are you?” Karen asks, looking slightly concerned as well.

 

“I’m fifteen.”

 

“Fifteen?!” Foggy says shrilly, causing Matt to cringe a little.

 

“Hey! I’m almost sixteen, and besides I’m just here to get the cats,” Peter says, crossing his arms over his chest.

 

“You can lecture him about his life choices later, Foggy.” Matt sighs and motions for Peter to follow him into his office where Spatula is sitting on his desk, swishing her tail and knocking blank papers to the floor left and right.

 

“The kittens are in there,” he says, pointing to a small, blue plastic pet carrier sitting on a chair in the corner of the room over by the radiator.

 

“What are their names?” Peter asks as he goes over to check on the kittens, counting to make sure there are still six of them.

 

“Uh, I don’t remember. Hey Karen, could you tell Peter what you named the kittens?”

 

Karen pops her head into the office from where she and Foggy have both been eavesdropping. She walks into the office and over to the carrier, pointing at each of the kittens as she lists off the names. “The black one is Ladle, the orange one is Spork, the orange and white one is Tongs, the calico is Rolling Pin, the white and grey one is Whisk, and the tortoiseshell is Tablespoon. And the mom is Spatula. Matt told us not to name them because then we’d get attached, but jokes on him cause I was gonna get attached anyway.”

 

“Yeah Murdock, you can’t just bring cats to the office and expect us not to get attached,” Foggy says before turning to Peter. “You know he pretended he didn’t bring cats at first? He got here super early and stashed them in his office and when I asked him if he heard meowing later he said no. And we all know how good his hearing is.”

 

“So you guys know about…?” Peter asks hesitantly.

 

“Yeah, we know about the going out at night dressed like the devil and knocking the shit out of people,” Foggy answers. “Question is, why do you know about that?”

 

“Matt told you; we’re in the same line of work,” Peter answers as he pulls out his phone and gets the picture of Daredevil with the kittens on his screen. “Will you stop harassing me about my life choices if I show you the best picture you’ll ever see of Matt?”

 

“Well, now I’m tempted,” Foggy replies.

 

Karen looks over Peter’s shoulder to see the picture and laughs at it. “Oh my God, I’m giving you my phone number so you can send that to me.”

 

“Now I’m very tempted.” A short pause. “Fine, you’ve sold me. No more lectures on teenage vigilantism,” Foggy says with a defeated sigh as he comes to look at the picture.

 

There’s a moment of silence as he absorbs the full glory of the image before him.

 

“Oh wow, Matt,” Foggy says, clearly holding back laughter.

 

Matt looks unimpressed from where he’s picking up the papers Spatula knocked off the desk.

 

“No, really, wow. You’ve spent the past four years making sure your name strikes fear into the hearts of criminals, but if anyone ever sees this picture that’s completely done for.

 

Matt frowns back at him. “Frank literally gave into torture when someone threatened to hurt his dog. Helping animals doesn’t make you less scary.”

 

“Okay well if people saw the picture of Frank passed out on your couch cuddling with his dog then people wouldn’t think he’s scary anymore either,” Karen points out helpfully.

 

“Uh, those are definitely words spoken by a crazy person because Frank will never not be scary to literally any sane person on the face of the Earth,” Foggy counters, raising an eyebrow at a now-sullen Karen.

 

“Who’s Frank?” Peter asks curiously.

 

“Someone who Matt is going to do everything in his power away from you because literally no child ever needs to be around that man ever.”

 

“Frank Castle.” Matt answers. “He’s actually pretty good with kids,” Matt replies. “They like him more than they like me. It was pretty surprising at first, but apparently black tac gear with a skull on it is less scary than my costume.”

 

“Is it bad for me to say that I miss the days back when you and Frank were just doing the whole alpha-male ‘no, Hell’s Kitchen is my territory’ thing?”

 

“He literally shot me in the head, Foggy.”

 

“And yet apparently you rescue kids with him now!”

 

“A singular child. Who just wandered off and got lost. Who we both happened to find,” Matt corrects.

 

“Okay, well as entertaining as this is, I gotta take the cats to Mr. Stark now. Do any of you want me to like… save a cat for you when they get old enough to be away from Spatula?” Peter asks, halting the argument between Matt and Foggy in its tracks.

 

“Yeah, save Spatula for Matt. He went and got attached to her,” Karen replies. Matt glares in her direction but doesn’t object.

 

Peter smiles at her and hands her his phone. “Okay cool. Send yourself that picture while I get the cats. These guys are like two weeks old, so I’ll bring Spatula back in about… ten weeks? I think that’s right.”

 

“Alright, Peter. Don’t be afraid to call if you need anything,” Matt says with a slight smile.

 

Karen sends the picture to herself and Foggy as Peter holds Spatula up to Matt’s face and makes him kiss her goodbye on the top of her head before he puts her in the crate with the kittens. She hands Peter back his phone and everyone says their goodbyes, including to the kittens.

 

“Bye babies, you’re going to a better place!” Foggy assures the kittens through the slotted holes in the crate.

 

“What the fuck you make it sound like they’re gonna die,” Matt says, frowning at Foggy.

 

“Language, Matthew! What would Father Lantom have to say about you speaking that way?”

 

All three of them are bickering by the time Peter manages to sneak out of the office and head to the Tower to pass off his cats to a hopefully responsible adult. He’s most of the way there when he realizes he’ll have to tell Tony he already found a person to adopt Spatula out to, and that he has no excuse for why he knows said person. He pulls his phone back out and dials Matt’s number. As usual, Matt picks up after just a couple of rings.

 

“Quick,” Peter says, not giving Matt a chance to even say hello, “give me an excuse for us knowing each other as real people.”

 

“Uh…” Matt replies. “You’re in tenth grade, right?”

 

“Yep.”

 

“You taking a foreign language?”

 

“Yeah, Spanish.”

 

“Okay, great. I’m your Spanish tutor.”

 

“Do you even speak Spanish?” Peter asks curiously.

 

“Yeah, took it in college.”

 

“Wow. You’re a bilingual lawyer. Not at all what I expected.”

 

“You know, those aren’t usually the qualities people are most surprised about when they meet me for the first time.”

 

“Really? What are they surprised about?”

 

Matt doesn’t say anything for a second. “Nothing. Not important. Anyway, that’s your cover for knowing me.”

 

“Alright, thanks Matt.”

 

Peter’s about to hang up when Matt says something.

 

“Hey, are you free tonight? I have a job that I think I could use your help with.”

 

Peter feels his heart flutter in his chest. Daredevil needs his help. Daredevil. A part of him wonders if Matt can hear his heartbeat over the phone, and he decides that he probably can’t.

 

“I’m totally free, nothing going on.”

 

“Great. Meet me at Pier 88 at 11:00,” Matt says, followed by the click of the call ending.

 

Peter makes his way the remaining couple of blocks to the Tower and sneaks in through the parking garage entrance so that Friday can help him sneak in with the cats without any of the security guards finding out about it. That goes according to plan and Peter goes up to the Avengers common floor where Friday tells him Tony is along with Ms. Romanov, Clint, Captain Rogers, and Sergeant Barnes. They’re all professional spies and superheroes, so Peter doubts that they’ll snitch to Pepper about the cats. In all reality, she’d probably be delighted by kittens, but for some reason, Tony wants to keep them a secret from her.

 

“Mr. Stark, I got you the cats!” Peter announces as he steps off of the elevator, holding up the carrier high in the air before he sets it on the counter.

 

“Tony, why are you ordering your child minion to get you cats? Oh God please tell me this isn’t for an experiment or something,” Clint says, looking mildly concerned.

 

“No.” Tony sighs. “They’re strays Peter’s been looking after. But they were in Hell’s Kitchen and I don’t want him going over there.”

 

“What’s wrong with Hell’s Kitchen all of a sudden?” Steve asks curiously as all the heroes circle up around the carrier when Peter opens it to let Spatula out.

 

“Daredevil’s taken an interest in Spider-Man, and that’s a big no-no,” Tony answers.

 

“He’s not that bad,” Natasha replies with a shrug. “Wish he’d ask before he gets my knives all bloody though.”

 

Tony gives Natasha a mild grimace. “Uh, no Natasha. We don’t want Peter working with unstable vigilantes who think torture is an A-Okay thing to do on a regular basis. You at least save torture for special occasions.”

 

Natasha shrugs as if to say ‘you’re not wrong’ before she reaches into the carrier and pulls the kittens out carefully, distributing them so that everyone is holding one.

 

“What’d you name ‘em all?” Bucky asks softly as he very carefully holds the kitten Natasha handed him in his real hand.

 

“You’ve got Ladle, Captain Rogers has Whisk, Clint has Spork, Ms. Romanov has Rolling Pin, Mr. Stark has Tablespoon, I’ve got Tongs, and the mom is Spatula.”

 

“Strong theme. I like it,” Clint says with a nod as he pets Spork’s head with one finger.

 

“Thanks! And I already found someone who’s gonna take Spatula once the kittens are old enough to get adopted.”

 

“Who?” Tony asks curiously as he switches cats with Peter, looking over Tongs carefully.

 

“My Spanish tutor,” he answers easily.

 

“You have a Spanish tutor?”

 

“Yeah, I was struggling a little bit. The mom of one of the girls in my class knew him, so she got me in contact with him.”

 

“Cool, good job taking initiative with that.”

 

Peter smiles back at him sunnily. “I’m gonna actually head on home now. I want to see Aunt May before she goes to work.”

 

“You want a ride back?” Natasha offers, now holding both Spork and Rolling Pin.

 

“Um, actually that’d be really nice. Thanks, Ms. Romanov.”

 

Natasha smiles back at him and places her kittens on both of Sergeant Barnes’s shoulders. “Of course, Peter. Come on.”

 

Peter hands Ladle to the kitten-less Clint before waving goodbye to everyone and heading down in the elevator with Natasha. They’re both quiet as they get into Natasha’s black Aston Martin, and she doesn’t say anything until they’ve been driving for about ten minutes.

 

“So, Peter,” she says evenly, her tone giving away precisely zero about whatever it is she’s about to say.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Word on the street is that Daredevil’s taken on an apprentice. A red and blue spandex-clad apprentice.”

 

Peter freezes worse than he had when the guy pulled a gun on him. “Uh…”

 

“Now, I’m not going to tell Tony about that because I think it’s important for you to interact with fellow middle-class vigilantes who don’t have multimillion-dollar technology and enough influence to be able to announce their identity with approximately no long-term legal repercussions. And because Daredevil’s a good person who I know wouldn’t put you in danger.”

 

“You know him?” Peter asks, not sure what exactly to start with when it comes to unpacking all of what Natasha just said.

 

“Yeah, he’s a good contact to have. Now, all of that being said, I do think you should tell Tony that you’re going to work with Daredevil and that it’s none of his business which heroes you choose to work with so long as you aren’t causing more harm than good.”

 

“I—I think I’ll take that into consideration. Thanks, Ms. Romanov—for not telling Mr. Stark.”

 

“Of course, Peter,” she says simply before turning on the radio and letting the music fill the otherwise silent car.

 

They don’t talk anymore on the ride to Queens, but when they pull up outside of Peter’s building Natasha ruffles his hair before he gets out of the car.

 

“Make good choices. And call me when you get in over your head, малютка,” she says softly.

 

Peter smiles and nods. “I will. Thanks again.”

 

She smiles back at him once he gets out of the car before driving back in the direction of the Tower. Peter sighs and cracks his neck. He’s got a big night ahead of him, so he better get cracking on his pre-calc homework.

Chapter Text

Later, when Peter makes his way back for the next top-secret mission Daredevil has in store, he can’t help but wonder what it might be. Maybe he needs help with an international drug cartel? Maybe the mayor’s been taken hostage and he needs Peter’s help to solve the riddles that’ll lead them to his location?

 

Wrapped up in daydreaming, by the time he lands on the roof of the abandoned warehouse where he sees Matt, he isn’t really paying attention.

 

“Hey Daredevil, what’s on the menu tonight?” Peter greets cheerfully, standing close enough to Matt that their height difference is obvious, especially with the totally kick-ass boots Matt rocks as Daredevil.

 

“What the fuck, Red? Is that a kid?” a deep voice asks from the edge of the roof behind him.

 

Peter squeaks and whips his head around only to be confronted by the sight of an absolutely terrifying man in head to toe black, strapped up with guns, and rocking a very nicely painted skull on the front of his Kevlar vest that’s mostly hidden beneath the long black coat he’s wearing over top.

 

“Oh—uh hi Mr. Punisher sir. That’s a really nice vest,” Peter blurts out because 1) chronic word vomit and 2) the Spidey sense did not even warn him in the slightest that the mother effing Punisher who is clearly packing enough firepower to perforate him like a sheet of notebook paper has been lurking in the dark of the rooftop.

 

The Punisher looks at Matt incredulously, his mouth open slightly, and his arms spread in an extremely intimidating ‘what the fuck?’ gesture while Matt just gives him a smile that Peter can only describe as the epitome of the word catty.

 

Peter’s emotional state is doing the exact same gesture because last he heard, Daredevil and the Punisher were legitimately trying to kill each other in the wild, wild west of Manhattan. ‘This town ain’t big enough for the two of us crazy, violent, costumed folk’ and all that.

 

“He’s here to help us, Frank. He’s pretty new to the whole vigilante scene, but he’s definitely mastered the art of incapacitating people without killing them,” Matt says bitchily, with the most suburban white mom at the PTA bake sale talking to the single mom who brought store-bought cookies look on his face imaginable.

 

“Fuck off, altar boy. I can do this shit without killing, but I just don’t think these shitstains deserve the effort it takes to keep ‘em breathing. Besides, don’t act all high and mighty. I might kill ‘em, but turnin’ ‘em into vegetables and crippling ‘em isn’t a hell of a lot more humane than puttin’ ‘em down.” The Punisher rolls his eyes and returns to checking the scary-ass Beretta he’s been holding since Peter landed on the roof.

 

Matt exhales deliberately, his head tilted back slightly to the sky as is he’s praying for the strength to get through this argument with Frank one more time.

 

“It’s not—”

 

“Not up to us to determine whether someone lives or dies, yada yada yada, bleeding heart bullshit. How many times you given me the talk now, Red?” Frank interrupts, earning himself a downright venomous look from Daredevil.

 

“These are kids, Frank. I thought you didn’t kill kids.”

 

“They’re eighteen and it’s a fuckin’ gang initiation. You know how this gang initiates members, Red?”

 

Daredevil mutters something inaudible, his arms crossed over his chest irritably.

 

“What was that? I couldn’t quite hear ya.”

 

“I said, they kidnap a homeless person and take turns beating them until they finally die,” Matt growls back.

 

“Ex-fuckin’-actly,” Frank replies, gesturing absently with his gun. “And I don’t know about you, but I sure as shit can’t stand for some poor bastard gettin’ tortured to death just so these kids ,” Frank sneers that word deliberately, “can join their goddamn local murder club.”

 

“They haven’t killed anyone yet. And they aren’t going to kill anyone, because we’re going to stop them,” Daredevil snaps. “By giving them a good look at what’s going to happen if they try to go down this road.” Peter was watching this exchange trying not to grin and definitely not thinking about what they were going to be stopping.

 

“The only way people like that learn is with a bullet through the skull!” the Punisher snaps right back.

 

“Woah, woah guys, calm down,” Peter interjects, getting between the two, despite what little common sense he has telling him that’s a horrible idea. “Let’s just chill out a little. These people haven’t murdered anyone yet, right? And I’m sure you guys both know that in low-income areas the pressure for teenagers to join gangs is super high. And maybe they’re being strong-armed into it. Maybe they’re joining because it’ll protect their mom’s business or something. I’m not saying that what they’re gonna do is at all okay, and we should totally stop them. Just… maybe not stop them with a bullet in the skull, Mr. Castle. I don’t have any problem with getting these guys locked up, yeah? But how about we do that with at the very worst some broken bones and mild concussions?”

 

Frank Castle doesn’t interrupt Peter which he’s grateful for, but that doesn’t mean that the man stops sneering at any point. He’s pretty damn feral.

 

“Oh, so we can get ‘em arrested and then what? They’re back out on the streets getting’ ready for their initiation again in a week? Two weeks? A month? Tell me, Red, how many of those guys are you gonna personally help get back on the streets?”

 

That comment makes Peter’s eyebrows shoot up to his hairline because uh, the Punisher knowing Daredevil’s secret identity? That’s big effing news.

 

“I defended a piece of shit like you, didn’t I?” Matt growls back, his fists clenched at his sides.

 

“Fuckin’ barely! You missed like half of my trial! I got thrown in jail and got the shit knocked out of me by Fisk, and you know what? I’m still kinda blaming you for that part.”

 

“What the—” Matt makes a sound Peter can only compare to the ‘Lipstick?? In my Valentino white bag?!’ vine and gestures wildly at Frank. “How the actual fuck is that my fault?!”

 

Frank smirks extra smugly at Matt and crosses his arms over his chest, the gun still in his hand. “You’re the one who put him in jail instead of finishing the job, aren’t you?”

 

Matt looks like he’s about to throw his no killing rule to the wind and just straight up rip Frank Castle’s throat out with his teeth. Peter’s always seen Matt as collected and together, but clearly that’s just because he’s never been around someone who really knows how to thoroughly push his buttons.

 

As fascinating as it was to read about the Daredevil-Punisher throw-downs in the news when they’d been going on, Peter would really, really prefer not to witness one first hand because he’s not sure the crumbly old building they’re standing on could survive that.

 

“Hey! Both of you, stop fighting for, like, two seconds and listen!” Peter snaps, and oh God, he just yelled at the mother effing Punisher. “Look, I get that you kill people Mr. Castle, and that’s your prerogative or whatever, but Double D and I don’t kill people. Now you can either be a damn team player for once in your scary, tragic life and just shoot out some kneecaps, or I will web you to this roof and leave you here for some poor fucker to find you, so help me God,” he hisses, pointing at Frank Castle extra menacingly. Hopefully the swearing helped him sound a lot more scary than he feels.

 

Matt opens his mouth to piggyback onto Peter’s rant, but before he can get a word out Peter’s waving his hand angrily at him. “Uh-uh, no. You’re gonna shut up too. Stop trying to rile him up and start making nice before I end up webbing you two up here together and make you talk about your feelings or some shit. You’re both gonna put aside whatever moral philosophy debate you wanna have with each other’s fists until after we deal with this. You can get back to being catty once a civilian’s life isn’t on the line anymore. Got it?!”

 

Matt and Frank both look very surprised and maybe even a little intimidated for a fraction of a second before they look back to each other.

 

“Alright, fine. I’ll play nice if you will, choirboy,” the Punisher drawls, uncrossing his arms and putting the gun back in its holster for the moment at least.

 

“Deal, psycho” Matt replies, and the tension that had been filling the air between the two dissipates almost immediately. It’s disturbing how quick they go from ‘about to rip each other’s faces off’ to ‘calling one another by our weird big, tough vigilante pet names’.

 

Matt tilts his head slightly in the direction of the street that leads down to the pier.

 

“What is it, boy? You hear something?” Frank taunts. He must do it pretty often because Matt just gives him a scornful glance over his shoulder.

 

“A shitty sedan and two new SUVs are coming. Four people in the sedan, lightly armed. Five in each of SUVs, and they’re packing more serious firepower.” Matt tilts his head again slightly for a few more seconds before shaking it. “No, sorry; five in the sedan. Someone’s in the trunk. Homeless by the smell of it,” he adds, wrinkling up his nose a little.

 

Peter is very much not jealous of Matt’s ability to smell a homeless person in a car trunk from multiple blocks away. If he had that ability, then he’d definitely be walking around with teabags shoved in each nostril and a mask over the top.

 

“He hurt at all?” Frank asks, pulling his gun back out of the holster.

 

“No; he’s passed out drunk. They’re going to that building.” Matt walks to the edge of the roof and points at a much less decrepit warehouse across the street.

 

Frank and Matt both simultaneously crack their necks as they turn to the building across the way, and Peter kind of wishes he had his phone on him to film it because he thinks Karen would appreciate that more than the picture of Matt with the cats. Actually, now that he’s thinking about it he’s almost sure some of the articles about vigilante justice in New York that he’d read had been written by a woman named Karen Page. Huh. Wonder where she got that interest.

 

Matt and Peter both walk up to the ledge of the roof before jumping down, Matt using handholds in the brick and the metal bars of the windows that had been bent outward to assist him while Peter just walks down the side of the building.

 

Circus freaks,” Frank mutters under his breath, and Matt flips him off from where he and Peter are waiting on the sidewalk for Frank to join them via the fire escape on the other side of the building.

 

Once they’ve grouped back up at street level, Matt leads them towards a back entrance of the gang’s initiation building. It’s a large, open space that the gang uses as a hangout too, if they’re judging by the couches and beer cans and syringes strewn about, along with the half-done drywall attempting to separate the large area into different rooms. Peter doesn’t know much about gangs (he hasn’t gotten elbow deep in the organized crime of Queens like Matt and Frank have done with Hell’s Kitchen) but he’s pretty sure it isn’t a good idea to murder folks where you chill. That thought is confirmed when Frank speaks up after Matt assures them that there’s no one else in the building.

 

“Hey kid, you seem smart, but here’s a pro tip for ya: don’t beat people to death in a place you frequent. Do it somewhere remote and easy to clean. Bleach don’t really get rid of blood. If you need to get blood outta a carpet, or some shit, and make sure the cops won’t find it with whatever that forensic shit is, use Oxyclean—yeah, the one with the terrible commercials.”

 

“Spider-Man isn’t going to beat anyone to death,” Matt says, scandalized, as they reach the room that definitely looks like it’s been set up for a murder. The crappy walls don’t reach up to the ceiling of the warehouse, so the catwalks above are a great vantage point for Peter to swing from and Frank to shoot from, but they figure Matt would be best on the other side of the ‘wall’ right behind a weak point that’ll be hilariously easy to break through. Matt gives him a firm reminder that he’s not shooting to kill, just to maim and Frank calls him an altar boy again.

 

Peter blanches a bit under the mask at Frank’s nickname for Matt, and somehow through his weird powers of observation Matt knows that Peter’s embarrassed. There’s a look of confusion on his face for a second before he realizes what it was that got Peter’s cheeks flushed. That causes Matt to roll his eyes and groan.

 

“Being an altar boy isn’t—it’s not a sex thing,” Matt clarifies poorly, getting himself a stranger look from Peter and a highly amused one from Frank.

 

“Fuck you both,” Matt mutters before wandering off to his hiding place, a good indication that Peter and Frank should be getting to theirs.

 

Sure enough, just a minute after they’ve slipped into the cover of the dark catwalks there’s the sound of a door opening and all fourteen of the gangsters along with their victim enter the building. Two of the inductees are dragging the now-conscious man along, and he’s kicking and shouting the whole way. They throw the man down on the floor and proceed to drag him back up by his hair and tie him to the cheap metal folding chair in the middle of the room. Peter feels a bit sick watching it, but he has to keep staring and waiting for the opportunity to strike.

 

Once the man is tied down and struggling against the zip ties on his wrists and ankles despite the fact that it’s completely futile, the men who are clearly just there to watch the initiation start cracking open 40’s and a couple are even passing around a baggie of what Peter assumes is cocaine and snorting it. It might be heroin though, because he just recently learned from one of Aunt May’s ER stories that no, snorting heroin doesn’t always insta-kill you like in Pulp Fiction.

 

One of the inductees steps forward and lands the first blow on the guy’s midsection, forcing all the air out of the poor guy’s lungs. Peter winces as the guy throws two more punches before stepping back and pushing one of the other guys forward as an encouragement. The full-fledged gangsters are whooping and hollering as the new guy’s punch meets its mark hard enough to make the man’s nose bleed. That seems to be all Frank can stand, because he’s adjusting the hold on his gun after that.

 

“On three,” he whispers. “Red, take the four on the left. Kid, you get the three beatin’ on the guy. I’ll get the other six.”

 

Peter nods in acknowledgment as the Punisher starts his countdown and aims his gun.

 

“One… two… now!” he hisses, punctuating the countdown with four shots in rapid succession.

 

Peter webs up the two men that he can from the rafters before swinging down into the fray to get the third guy stuck to his compatriots. Unfortunately, he has to miss that shot, thanks to the gunfire that starts raining down on his location once the men see him.

 

Daredevil burst through the wall on the Punisher’s cue, and is in the middle of fighting three guys, avoiding the hail of bullets being directed at him as well. He even manages to take Peter’s last target down for him with a well-aimed kick, before he has to flip out of the way. That gives the Punisher a clear shot to take down their eighth baddie in total. Matt’s pretty well surrounded, but he’s staying close enough that he can knock the guns out of people’s hands until they’re all unarmed and he can beat them down. One of the gangsters lands a hard hit on Matt’s head and that throws him off his rhythm for long enough that two other guys can grab his arms and slam him down onto the floor. Peter and Frank simultaneously take out the two guys who aren’t beating on Daredevil, though the Punisher’s mark goes down with a lot more blood and screaming than Peter’s. It seems like the guys hadn’t accounted for Daredevil being as flexible as he is, so he’s able to hook his unrestrained leg over the guy holding his right arm down. Peter can’t track the movement because it’s so quick, but Matt punches the guy on his left with his now freed arm hard enough to knock him out while doing… some fancy jiu-jitsu looking move in order to break the other man’s arm in a nasty compound fracture. One more bullet from the Punisher takes the last guy down before Frank hops down to the floor to join them.

 

Frank cuts the zip ties off the homeless man with a very scary looking combat knife before he goes to stand over Matt, reaching down to offer his hand in helping him up.

 

“Not bad, Red,” Frank says with a smile, ignoring the cacophony of groans from the unconscious or seriously injured men around them as Matt takes his offered hand and gets to his feet.

 

Matt smiles and wipes the blood from his split lip off with the back of his hand. “Aw, Frank. I’m proud of you for not killing anyone.”

 

That earns him a shove and Matt laughs before turning his head to Peter. “You did goo—shit!”

 

Before either Peter or Frank can comprehend what’s happening, Matt essentially tackles Peter to the ground at the same time a gunshot rings off from one of the men who Frank had knee-capped when the fight initially started. Frank fires back immediately and makes a headshot out of habit. That’s one casualty.

 

When there isn’t immediate shouting and disgust from Matt at the fact that there are brains splattered over the warehouse floor, Frank must realize something is very, very wrong because he falls to his knees on the floor next to Matt and presses a hand to Matt's side. There’s a muttered “shit” from the Punisher when he pulls his hand back and it’s covered in blood.

Chapter Text

Frank shrugs off his jacket from one arm before ripping the sleeve off of his shirt and folding it up to press to Matt’s side to staunch the bleeding from where he caught the bullet.

 

Matt tries to sit up but Frank just pushes him back down on the concrete floor. “Jesus, stay down a second, Red,” he hisses.

 

Peter’s trying to hide his panic because oh shit, Daredevil just took a literal bullet for him. He kneels down next to Matt as well.

 

“Um, here, let me…” he says shakily as he uses a bit of webbing to hold the scrap of fabric more securely in place over the wound. “Should we—do we need to go to a hospital?” he asks nervously. Even after his and Matt’s talk about death, he hadn’t really thought out a plan for what to do when he inevitably gets severely injured.

 

“No hospitals,” Matt and Frank say simultaneously, though Matt sounds a lot more pained.

 

“Come on Red, up you go,” Frank says with a sigh as he picks Matt up bridal style to carry out of the warehouse. He starts walking only to turn back and look at Peter. “C’mon kid, I know where to take him.”

 

Peter didn’t even realize he’s just been standing and staring down at the pool of Matt’s blood until the Punisher’s words snap him out of it.

 

“Uh, yeah just…” Peter hesitates a second before shooting a web at the pool of blood from Matt to cover it. Hopefully, that’ll absorb it and then dissolve so the police won’t be able to test the blood for DNA.

 

Frank nods before leading Peter out, still carrying a vaguely protesting Matt. Once they’re outside he takes a second to grab a gun out of one of his holsters and fire it into the air until the clip is empty. “Hopefully that’ll get the cops’ attention,” he explains before he starts walking deliberately towards the sedan that a few of the gangster had arrived in.

 

Frank must’ve grabbed the keys off of one of the men at some point, because he unlocks the car and sets Matt in the backseat, gesturing for Peter to get in next to their bleeding friend. Peter gets in and notices that Matt’s definitely unconscious. Fortunately, the rise and fall of his chest as he breathes is still prominent enough that he doesn’t have to worry about Daredevil dying in the next few minutes in the backseat of a beater car that stinks of weed and body odor. The car starts and Frank floors it down 12th Avenue like the madman he is.

 

“Um… Where are we going, Mr. Castle..?” Peter asks hesitantly after they blow through a third red light.

 

“Harlem,” Frank answers simply before glancing in the rearview mirror to look at Peter for a second. “Hey, he’s gonna be alright kid,” the man assures in a much softer voice than the one he’d been using just seconds prior. “He’s a tough son of a bitch, yeah? Hell, I’ve given him worse than what he’s got right now.”

 

Peter nods and suddenly realizes that his hands are shaking. Harlem takes a while to get to from where they are, but Frank seems sure, and Peter’s not positive Matt would appreciate being dragged to Avenger’s Tower for anything less than a bullet to the chest. He’s even less sure that Friday would even let the Punisher into the Tower in the first place. He’ll have to ask her about that the next time he’s there, just for future reference.

 

Despite the fact it should’ve taken them nearly half an hour to get to Harlem, Frank manages to get them there in just a little over fifteen. He parks the car on the street, cutting the engine and getting out, coming around the side to lift Daredevil out of the backseat to carry him to wherever they’re going. It seems like a residential area, so he really hopes that Frank knows what he’s doing.

 

Peter gets out of the car and follows after Frank as he takes them into an apartment building just around the corner. They walk up one flight of stairs into the fairly nice building before Frank leads him down the hall and starts pounding on the door with the hand that’s supporting Matt’s shoulders.

 

“Dude, quiet down or you’re gonna wake up their neighbors!” Peter hisses, getting an eye-roll in response.

 

Frank resumes his pounding on the door and a second later it opens up to reveal a dark-skinned man in pajamas who’s tall enough that even Frank has to tilt his head back a little to meet his eyes. The man gives them a once-over before sighing and turning back into the apartment, gesturing for them to follow after him.

 

“Lock the door behind you,” he says, and Peter does after he makes his way inside.

 

Once they get in the living room there’s a pretty woman also in pajamas waiting for them, and she groans loudly the second she sees the troupe of costumed idiots in her home.

 

“You stupid motherfucker,” she says, pointing at Matt though there isn’t any real venom in her words. She pulls open one of the drawers of the coffee table and takes out a plastic tarp like the ones Peter’s seen on Dexter before spreading it over her couch.

 

“Alright, set him down. Luke, boil some water for me,” she says, pulling a big bag of serious looking medical supplies out from under her couch while the man heads into what Peter assumes is the kitchen. Another second and his brain catches up for him to realize that the man is definitely Luke Cage: Harlem’s Hero.

 

“Gunshot wound in his side,” Frank says as he lays Matt down on the plastic-covered couch. “Bullet’s still in there. Lost a fair amount of blood on the way here.”

 

“You the one who shot him, Frank?” she asks, pulling on a pair of blue rubber gloves. “Help me get the suit off.”

 

“Nice to see you too, Claire,” he drawls as he walks closer to help with getting the suit off. “Nah, some gangbanger piece’a shit got him. Bullet was meant for Spidey over there, but you know Red. Too much of a drama queen to just tell him to get outta the damn way.”

 

While Frank works on getting the top half of the costume off, Claire spares a glance at Peter for just a second. He waves, not quite sure what he can do to help.

 

“Dammit, Matt,” she mutters as she looks over the wound that’s still bleeding a little too heavily to put Matt in the all clear. “Castle, what’s your blood type?” she asks as she frowns at some of the older bruises littering Matt’s torso.

 

“AB positive,” he answers.

 

Claire frowns at that. “How about you, Spidey?”

 

“Huh?” Peter asks, taking an extra second to process the question. “Sorry, O positive. Does he need blood?”

 

“He might. He’s A positive, so you’ll work,” Claire answers honestly, as Luke comes back with a bowl of steaming water and sets it on the coffee table. “Right now I’m more worried about collapsed lungs. He has a history of them,” she adds, as she pulls out a stethoscope and listens to his chest for something. After she listens in a few different places she sets the stethoscope back down and grabs a rag. Claire dips it into the water and wipes away the blood around the wound before grabbing a pair of forceps from the bag and taking a deep breath.

 

“Luke, come over here and hold him down in case he wakes up,” she says.

 

Luke joins her, his hands positioned on Matt’s shoulders. Claire says something in Spanish to herself that Peter doesn’t quite catch before she’s using the glorified tweezers to carefully root around in Matt’s side to get the bullet out. It’s nerve-wracking as hell, and Peter doesn’t realize that he’s shaking again until he feels the Punisher’s hand on his shoulder and he’s being turned away from the sight of the at-home surgery.

 

“Hey, kid. I know it’s scary, but like I told ya he’s gonna be fine…” Frank soothes, squeezing his shoulder gently.

 

Peter nods but doesn’t say anything, he’s trying to hide the fact that he’s definitely close to crying beneath the mask, and his voice would give him away in a heartbeat. Frank seems to know anyway because he pulls Peter into a hug and rubs his back gently. Peter hugs Frank back even though the guy’s nothing but guns and Kevlar and hard edges; and despite all that the Punisher still gives good hugs. The sharp sound of metal clanking against ceramic pulls Peter’s mind out of its fog and in turn he pulls away from Frank. Claire’s just dropped the bullet, thankfully all in one piece, into a small bowl next to the one filled with water.

 

She reaches back into the bag and pulls out a curved needle while Luke wipes the blood away from the wound again to give Claire a better area to work with. Three stitches later there’s a softer clink of metal on ceramic again as the needle is dropped into the bowl with the bullet. Claire uses a square of gauze and some medical tape to cover the wound before she grabs her stethoscope from where she’d set it on the table earlier. After a minute or two of listening, she sits back on her heels and sighs before turning to Frank while she peels off her bloody gloves.

 

“He should be fine. Come here and help me get his costume the rest of the way off. Can you get him some clothes to wear, Luke?”

 

Luke hums in agreement and heads off towards what must be a bedroom as Frank heads back to the couch. He helps maneuver Matt’s dead weight around while Claire fiddles with the closure of the suit for a minute, before Frank just steps in and does it for her. Luke comes back a second later with a black t-shirt and sweatpants that are both definitely too big for Matt. Frank and Claire dress him, and it’s honestly a little funny to watch them try and get his arms through the sleeves. Peter’s been assigned the task of hiding the Daredevil suit in a big shopping bag, and he’s taking his job very seriously.

 

Matt comes to right around the time Frank is pulling the sweatpants up over his hips and he sits up abruptly to get his bearings in the new area. The first words out of his mouth get him punched (in the shoulder and definitely not at full strength, but they get him punched nonetheless).

 

“I’m flattered, Frank—really—but are you sure we should do that with the child right there?” he jokes with a big grin.

 

Frank gives him a flat look as Matt rubs his punched shoulder. “You’re an ass, Murdock.”

 

“Part’a my charm,” he shoots back as he sits up. “Hey Claire. Hey Luke.”

 

“It’s good to see you again, Matt. But next time can we do brunch instead of you bleeding out on my couch at one in the morning?” Claire replies.

 

“No promises,” Matt says, groaning as he gets to his feet with Frank’s assistance. “You alright, Spidey?” he asks softly, his head tilted as he listens to the way Peter’s heartbeat is still unusually fast.

 

“I’m good. But for future reference, I can definitely handle getting shot better than you. Accelerated healing and all that,” Peter replies. “Don’t get yourself shot for me again, okay?”

 

Matt’s expression softens a little. “I can’t just let you get hurt.”

 

“Well tough shit. Don’t get yourself shot for me again,” Peter repeats. He hopes that the frown translates through his mask somehow.

 

“Alright, kid,” Matt agrees, sounding pretty sincere. He tilts his head slightly and frowns. “Frank?”

 

“Yeah, Red?”

 

“Did you kill the guy who shot me?”

 

“You bet your goddamn ass I did.”

 

The two of them are back to arguing in no time, but neither Luke nor Claire seem too concerned about it, so Peter assumes it must be on par for their usual conversations. Claire makes her way over to Peter’s side, and she’s nearly as tall as he is.

 

“How old are you, sweetheart?” she asks softly, giving him a slightly concerned look.

 

“Um… almost sixteen,” he answers hesitantly.

 

Claire looks a little sad, and Luke’s eyebrows go up to his hairline as he takes in Peter’s words.

 

Claire puts her hand on Peter’s shoulder and gives him a serious look. “You ever get hurt, you can come here, alright? I’ll help you. No questions asked.”

 

“Oh, thanks Ms. Claire,” Peter replies, not having expected that. He was more expecting something along the lines of ‘you’re too young and you need to stop’. “But my Aunt’s a nurse, so I’m in good hands. Plus, accelerated healing.”

 

Claire groans. “God, I wish that dumbass had a healing factor. Instead he just fights with his broken ribs like a moron.”

 

“I can hear you,” Matt replies, immediately halting in his argument with Frank.

 

“I know you can, idiot. Speaking of your non-existent healing factor and common sense, you either need to call someone to come get you and stay with you or stay here tonight. Just in case there’s any sort of complication.”

 

Matt frowns at her, but he seems to know that she won’t change her opinion about it no matter how many sad, puppy-eyed looks she gets. “I’ll call Foggy,” he says with a defeated sigh.

 

“Good choice.”

 

“Not for me. We have court in the morning. He’s gonna be pissed.

 

“Lucky for you I already texted him right after you got here,” Luke says. “He’s on his way. Karen too, since she’s the only one of you with a car. Also, court tomorrow? Really? I thought you were done going out during trials after the stuff that went down with you missing so much of Frank’s.”

 

“Gang initiations don’t wait for the justice system to give me free time.”

 

“Couldn’t have pawned it off to Frank?” Claire asks.

 

“He’d kill them.”

 

“Jess?”

 

“She’s strong but she can’t handle that. Especially not drunk.”

 

“Deadpool then? He probably wouldn’t kill anyone if you asked him nicely.”

 

“He’s out of the country right now. Same for Danny.”

 

“What about Spidey?”

 

“It was supposed to be a learning experience for him,” Frank interjects. “I think he learned a lot.”

 

“I did, actually. And I have more stuff to learn tomorrow. At school. And it’s late, so I should be going. It was nice to meet all of you,” Peter says politely.

 

“You need a ride, kid?” Frank asks.

 

“Nah, I’ll be alright. Thanks for the offer though.” Peter waves him off casually and Frank nods before looking through his pockets for something.

 

Peter really hopes it isn’t a gun.

 

When Frank pulls his hand back out there’s a flip phone in it similar to Matt’s burner. He walks over to Peter and hands it to him.

 

“My number’s in there. Call if you ever get in over your head, yeah?” He pats Peter on the shoulder before walking around him to leave the apartment.

 

Before Frank can escape, however, there’s knocking at the door that isn’t unsimilar to what he’d been doing earlier so he answers the door to Karen and Foggy.

 

“Frank?” Karen says with a frown. “Please tell me you aren’t the one who shot Matt.”

 

“Why do people keep asking me that?” Frank says, like it’s completely unbelievable to think that the Punisher might shoot Daredevil. “No, I didn’t shoot him. I gotta go, but I’ll call you or something, yeah?” With that, he pushes past Karen and Foggy (who seems much more reasonably terrified than his friend) and leaves the apartment.

 

“Oh, hey. That’s Spider-Man,” Foggy blurts out once he’s done being terrified of the Punisher.

 

“Hi,” Peter says, waving awkwardly.

 

Karen narrows her eyes at him once she hears his voice. “Peter?”

 

Wow, she’s sharp. She must be the investigative service provider of Nelson, Murdock & Page.

 

“Umm, hi?”

 

“Stop bothering him, guys. He needs to get home,” Matt defends, walking towards Foggy and Karen slowly, his hand over the wound on his side.

 

Foggy immediately puts his arm around Matt to help him, and Peter takes that chance to pass off the bag with the Daredevil suit to Karen, who takes it from him without asking.

 

“Thank you for sewing this dumbass up yet again. I owe you a very nice bottle of wine,” Foggy says to Claire who just smiles and shakes her head slightly.

 

“Yeah, you really do. You want the bullet?” she asks, and Karen nods emphatically.

 

Claire grabs the bullet with a clean rag and drops it into a Ziploc bag before passing it to Karen who puts it in her purse. Peter seems to be the only one who finds this odd, and Luke catches him looking around between all of them.

 

“She says it’s a secret. I’ve given up on asking.”

 

“Ah, gotcha.” Peter so doesn’t got it, though.

 

“Alright, well we’ll all be getting out of your hair and not-hair alike now,” Foggy says, gesturing to Claire and Luke respectively.

 

Peter walks with the DD trio out of the apartment but splits off from them to head for the roof rather than the front door. He takes in the sights of this area of the city for a moment before slinging a web onto the building across the street and swinging away, the present from the Punisher tucked safely into one of the suit’s pockets. It takes him a while to get back home, but once he does make it he barely has the energy to take the suit off before collapsing into bed.

Chapter Text

The next day at school, Peter gets a text from a very put-out text Matt (now saved as ‘Spanish Matt’) saying that Matt’s suit was confiscated by his friends, and he’s being forced to stay off the streets for two whole weeks while it’s being repaired. Matt also says, sounding even more put-out, that it is also while he heals from actually being shot. There are several texts hinting that it won’t be that long, but Peter suspects that’s just Matt being more antsy than truthful. Over the next half hour, there’s no shortage of him bitching about how awful his life is, not being able to do anything, before he finally gets to the point- that he’ll have a few guest teachers for Peter until Foggy is done literally sitting on him to keep him from escaping. Peter wonders if that’s such a good idea since he knows he left webs at a murder scene not long ago, but he trusts Matt with his well-being, even if he can’t trust him with Matt’s own well-being.

 

Peter rolls his eyes, knowing that Foggy babysitting was what it would take to keep Matt from doing something stupid. Peter may be young, he knows that he is, but he still knows better than to jump around the city with a fresh bullet wound. After a few moments, there are a few completely illegible messages, before one that just says ‘Matt’s phone has been confiscated because I caught him being an idiot.’ Foggy is an even better friend than Peter originally thought, apparently, and he wonders what else Matt could have possibly done to warrant the confiscation.

 

Peter wonders if Ned would ever sit on him to keep him from being an idiot. He determines the answer is probably no. Though, Ned might sit on him to see if he can do a push-up with a whole person on his back. Obviously, Peter can do that theoretically, but he hasn’t actually done it, so now he definitely wants to try. Because unlike Matt, he hasn’t been shot recently and can do everything he can on a normal day.

 

“Who’s ‘Spanish Matt’?” MJ whispers over Peter’s shoulder, causing him to flinch and nearly throw his phone, only managing not to by the power of sticky-hands.

 

“Huh? Oh, um, my… my uh Spanish tutor. Matt,” he replies. Smooth, Peter. Smooth, like crunchy peanut butter. He wants to sink into the ground.

 

“You have like a 93 in Spanish, dude,” Ned says from where he’s sitting beside Peter, actually trying to take notes on what the teacher is lecturing about.

 

While MJ’s busy giving Ned a weird look for knowing Peter’s exact grade off the top of his head, Peter gives Ned a very forced smile while dragging his finger across his throat.

 

Ned’s mouth forms into an ‘o’ shape and he nods quickly, tripping over himself to change direction. “But like, I totally get it if you wanna actually be like, fluent, and not just pass tests.”

 

MJ raises an eyebrow at them and fully acknowledges the weirdness of the interaction that just went down between the two. “Ooookay. Well, you two wanna go get something to eat after school and talk about this project?”

 

“What project?” Peter and Ned ask simultaneously.

 

MJ gestures to the front of the classroom with her pen. “The one he just assigned and said get in groups of three for. So, do you wanna do that, or do you have to go to the Stark internship?”

 

“Oh, uh... no, I’m good. We can do that,” Peter replies after glancing at his phone again to make sure Matt hasn’t texted him anything of life-or-death importance. Or you know, something like a request to take over the Daredevil mantle until he recovers from getting shot like an idiot. That’d be pretty cool, Peter thinks. He could totally take over for DD, though he won’t have as deep of a voice yet. And he definitely doesn’t quite have the mad ninja skills either.

 

There aren’t any messages.

 

Peter makes his way through the remaining two classes of the day, somehow managing to not be constantly checking his phone for either updates from Matt about his condition, or a lecture from Mr. Stark about his webs being found at the same crime scene as a dead body—not to mention the fact that there were multiple witnesses who saw Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the Punisher there. Yeah, Peter had kind of forgotten that he wasn’t supposed to be seen or caught with Daredevil, but now that he thinks about it, Tony might be even angrier to find out he’s now hanging out with actual murderers that carry guns and stuff. He shivers at the thought of what Tony might say if he were to ever find out.

 

He should probably just take Natasha’s advice and tell Tony that he can do what he wants, but that’s also an absolutely terrifying prospect. He catches himself day-nightmaring (night-dreaming? day-maring?)  about the outcome of either him telling Tony to shove off or Tony confronting him about it. Neither option plays out all that well in his head. Peter, despite what many might think, isn’t too hip on being confrontational, especially with someone like Tony, who he’s more than a little desperate to impress.

 

Peter only snaps out of that train of thought when he feels someone’s hand on his shoulder. The part of his brain that had been at least sort of aware of the world around him during the daydreaming supplies the fact that someone had been talking to him.

 

“Huh?”

 

“Dude, the bell just rang. Time to go,” Ned repeats, looking at Peter strangely. “Are you alright?”

 

Sure enough, the room’s empty, as everyone else took off at the speed of light when the bell rang.

 

“Oh, um… I…” Peter pauses for a second. “Last night some shit went down.”

 

“Like, some Spider-shit?”

 

“Yeah, Spider-shit,” he answers. “I’ll tell you about it later—aren’t we supposed to meet up with MJ?”

 

Ned nods in response. “Yeah, she said she’d wait for us by the front office. You gotta tell me soon dude, you’ve been weird all day.”

 

“I will. I promise.”

 

Peter and Ned make their way to the front office, the former casting frequent concerned looks at his friend with every few steps. Peter usually doesn’t seem too shaken up after he goes on his patrols or whatever he calls them, but clearly, something happened the night before that either scared him or upset him pretty significantly.

 

Ned and Peter have known each other for… well, what feels like forever. In reality, it’s probably been about eight or nine years, but that’s more than half their lives, so it’s more than enough for Ned to know Peter as well as he knows himself. He wants to interrogate Peter then and there to find out what happened, but he knows Peter well enough to know when to wait. He’s still vibrating out of his skin in anticipation, though.

 

MJ’s waiting for them outside the front office like she promised, and they all decide on Chinese food. Trying to do their project in a restaurant doesn’t seem all that appealing to any of them, so they grab some and make their way to Peter’s apartment since, as Ned mentions,

 

“Hey, Aunt May’s either gonna be chill as always or heading to work.”

 

It turns out that it’s option B, and Ned and MJ get the satisfaction of watching May kiss Peter on the top of his head while he tries to brush her off before she has to leave to take something to the post office before work. Peter mumbles something about traitors under his breath and fixes his hair from where she’s ruffled it.

 

“Nice place,” MJ compliments as she looks around, picking up a glass bird figurine from the counter and turning it over in her hands before setting it back down.

 

“Thanks,” Peter replies with a smile. “Um, it’d probably be easiest to work in my room…” he offers, as he takes in the clutter of tax forms and other bills all over every flat surface in the apartment before leading his friends down the short hallway to his room.

 

MJ takes the desk chair while Ned and Peter both sit on the biggest beanbag chair Peter’s ever seen. They start passing around the takeout containers of Chinese, along with chopsticks and fortune cookies. The teenager who had taken their order thought MJ was cute and gave them about fifteen fortune cookies solely for her good looks. Peter makes a mental note to only go get Chinese with MJ from now on; he adores fortune cookies.

 

“So, what’s the project about again?” Peter asks after they’ve all been eating for a few minutes.

 

“It’s the ‘keep an egg from breaking when you drop’ it thing. Just something easy and fun,” MJ answers with a shrug. “He said it’s a good chance to impress him with our ingenuity and that the best project gets bonus points on their lowest test grade.”

 

“So we could just put it in a jar of peanut butter or we could actually do something cool,” Ned says, nodding. “Nice.”

 

Peter’s Spidey-sense goes off about half a second before someone knocks on the door to his apartment, and he fights the urge to snap his head over to the door, instead waiting like a normal person. MJ and Ned both look up at him expectantly after a second goes by without him moving. He has no idea who it could be.

 

“You expecting someone?” she asks with an eyebrow raised.

 

“No—you two just… stay here. I’ll get it,” Peter says as he leaves his bedroom, closes the door, and makes his way to the front door carefully. Once he’s in front of it, he swings it wide open, hoping to surprise whoever it is, especially if it’s someone bad.

 

Oh.

 

Oh no.

 

“Suit. Now,” Tony demands, his arms crossed over his chest. He looks pissed.

 

“Uh, Mr. Stark—hi!” Peter so doesn’t have the time for the damage control this conversation is going to take.

 

“Nope, no talking, get the suit right now. You, kid, are in so much trouble. I’m not here to listen to anything you have to say. I thought you were smarter than this, but I guess I was wrong. You should be grateful I at least waited until May was gone.” Tony continues, as he just walks right into Peter’s apartment and nearly slams the door behind him. Peter can’t think, he has a sick, sinking feeling.

 

“Look—whatever this is about, I’m sure I can explain, but right now I have friends over, Mr. Stark.” Tony looks like he’s about to shred Peter anyways, but Peter butts in, louder. “Mr. Stark, I have friends over , can we talk about this later, please ?” Peter’s holding his hands up in a gesture of surrender, knowing full well that he can’t explain in a way that’ll make Tony be any less pissed at him, but that he would rather die than have this conversation with MJ in the other room. Tony looks like he’s about to explode, but he deflates a little at Peter’s insistence. He lowers his voice rather than leaving like Peter had hoped, and continues.

 

“No, Peter, we most certainly can’t! The cops found your webs next to a guy with a hollow-point in his head! There are 13 people in custody and a body! Not to mention,”

 

“Mr. Stark-” Peter says, at normal volume. He’s not sure if Tony is scarier when he’s yelling or when he’s not, but even if MJ can’t hear what they’re talking about, he doesn’t want to have this conversation right now.

 

“Don’t Mr. Stark me, kid! They’re saying that between the living ones there are roughly ten fully-functioning kneecaps! You wanna know what the perps are saying, kid? They’re saying that Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the fucking Punisher stormed the place! Daredevil’s one thing, Peter. But the Punisher?! That guy’s a fucking maniac! Get the suit, Peter. Right now.”

 

“No,” Peter replies in a sudden moment of defiance, trying to sound a lot more confident than he feels, especially when he’s being defiant at the level of a whisper.

 

“What?” Tony goes still, and he narrows his eyes at Peter disagreeing with him.

 

“I said no. These people—Daredevil and the Punisher— they’re way more like me than you’ll ever be. They have to see the ways that the law doesn’t work, they have to see the injustices first hand, they don’t get the luxury of hearing them summarized by Friday for them in a skyscraper on Park Avenue. They don’t just come out for terrorist attacks and aliens like you, Mr. Stark! They help the little people with everyday problems, and they have the police out there trying to arrest them for upholding the law better than them. How many purse-snatchers have you stopped, Mr. Stark? How many robbers? How many kidnappers? How many rapists? You don’t—” Peter takes a breath, shaking with the effort it takes to contain all the emotion that wants to pour out. “You don’t deal with the things that we have to deal with. You get the glory of winning the big fights, but the increased crime rates after the city gets blown to shit? I deal with that. Daredevil deals with that. The Punisher deals with that,” Peter’s hands are balled up in fists at his sides as he fights to keep his voice steady. “You don’t see the dirty side of the city, and you don’t see the good sides of the people who fight to keep it clean. And Mr. Stark, I’m one of those people, now.”

 

Tony actually looks a little bit taken aback by Peter’s speech, but after a second he squares his jaw and rips into what he considers to be Peter’s naïve, idealistic views.

 

“They may do all of that, but they aren’t good people, Peter.” He laughs sarcastically, angry. “They aren’t there to keep the city clean; they’re there because they need the violence. They’re the lowest of the low, and the police are right to be trying to stop them! Working with them is going to lead you to the bottom of a bottle or an early grave, and you’re better than either of those things.”

 

“They aren’t going to get me killed. You know what is, though, Mr. Stark? You not answering my calls—ever . That almost got me killed. Daredevil didn’t just give me a fancy piece of tech and then shove me into the ring. He’s teaching me how to fight, and last night he took a bullet for me. He’s just a normal guy,” It’s not quite a lie, he heals like a normal guy, at least, “and he got shot in my place. You make it sound like they’re savages, Mr. Stark, but they’re people too! The Punisher dropped everything to take Daredevil to a doctor who could help him because even if they don’t agree on their methods, they both know that the city needs people like them—like me. And, Mr. Stark, would you be willing to take a bullet for me?”

 

Tony’s silent for a moment after that, but Peter knows this isn’t over. “You can make your own choices, I’m not your father. But I’m still taking the suit,” he growls, finally. He looks so disappointed. Peter feels his shoulders sag. He thought he’d made some pretty good points. Tony continues. “Look, kid- Peter. Maybe I should answer your calls more, but you chose to lie to me about this, and I can’t support you if you’re not willing to even try to keep yourself safe. Now, suit. ” Tony crosses his arms and nods, a clear indication that this is over, and that Tony is the one who came out on top, wrong or not.

 

Peter gives up and silently heads back to his room, jumping slightly when his bedroom door opens to Ned poking his head out fearfully.

 

“Hey, uh, hey is everything okay? We heard, like, angry whispering? Should we go so you two can actually fight?” Peter shakes his head, and Ned opens the door fully to let him in.

 

He silently and as furtively as possible shoves the suit into a bag while repeating a mantra in his head, the stinging of frustrated, disappointed tears already pricking in the corners of his eyes. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. May has always been of the school of thought that it’s okay for anyone to cry when they’re upset, which is an idea she passed onto Peter, but he’s not about to let out the waterworks with his only two friends and Tony Stark right there. When he zips up the bag and heads out of the room, MJ and Ned both follow behind him.

 

“Wait, guys, this isn’t a good time-” Peter protests half-heartedly as they follow him into the living room where Tony’s still seething.

 

“Hey, Mr. Stark,” MJ says.

 

Tony looks unimpressed and nods at her.

 

Peter hands the bag containing the suit to Tony and gives him a disappointed look. “We have to get back to doing our homework now. Do you mind?” Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.

 

“Stay in school. Don’t do drugs,” Tony says flatly, before turning and leaving.

 

Once the front door shuts, Peter deflates a little bit and Ned looks to MJ to see her reaction.

 

She looks back at him. “What?”

 

“What do you mean what? You were so chill with Mr. Stark!”

 

“I mean, I assume he was here to talk about how Spider-Man was implicated in a murder last night.” She says this calmly as she finishes a text.

 

“I’m sorry, what?!” Peter asks shrilly, his thoughts suddenly yanked away from how disappointed he is in himself even though he really didn’t do anything wrong.

 

MJ starts listing off points on her fingers. “Spider-Man operates in Queens, Peter lives in Queens. Spider-Man gets recruited by Tony Stark to fight Captain America, Peter gets an internship with Stark Industries. Spider-Man just happens to show up in DC when we’re all there? And save our AcaDec team? While Peter’s the only one not accounted for? Whenever you’re acting weird Ned does this,” MJ moves her hands to mimic Ned’s classic spider gesture. “Plus you never even break a sweat in gym even though you’re pretty nerdy. I was already like 90% sure.” She pauses to take in the twin stunned looks on both Peter’s and Ned’s faces. “You guys really thought you were keeping it a secret?”

 

“Uh, yeah!” Ned replies. “Why didn’t you say anything?!”

 

“Because at least one of us had to be subtle about it, right?”

 

“Oh my God, I can’t believe this—Peter, can you believe this?” Ned groans, turning to Peter to get his friend’s input, and the smile immediately drops off his face. “Peter, are you okay?”

 

Peter is definitely crying now. He’s got both hands in his hair and he’s pulling on it as he paces back and forth along the five-foot width of the ugly, patterned area rug that’s been in the Parker’s living room for as long as Ned can remember.

 

“Peter…” Ned says again softly, setting his hand on Peter’s hunched up shoulder.

 

Peter flinches away from the touch at first before he accepts it, and that’s alarming enough on its own, even without the tears and the hyperventilating and the hair-pulling. Peter loves being touched. He’s always poking Ned or putting an arm around his shoulders or hugging him or something, and he’s never flinched like that before, ever.

 

“I fucked up,” Peter whispers, latching onto Ned in a tight hug as MJ stands by awkwardly and with no small amount of concern herself.

 

“It’s okay, Peter. I’m sure he’ll get over it—I mean, it’s not like you killed anyone.” The strangled whimper that line earns from Peter makes Ned backtrack. “It’ll be okay! Just give it a couple of days and talk to him and…” Ned trails off when he realizes that nothing he’s saying is helping. “Do you want me to call May..?” he tries finally.

 

“No!” Peter sounds absolutely panicked at the idea.

 

Oh God what if Aunt May finds out about this too? She won’t let him be Spider-Man at all anymore and- and- and- and his chest hurts. His vision is blurry and far away, and he can’t breathe.

 

“Peter, you need to breathe,” MJ instructs softly laying a hand gently on Peter’s shoulder as he starts hyperventilating even faster.

 

“I— I can’t,” he whispers, squeezing Ned so tight that it makes his ribs creak.

 

“Yeah, you can,” she murmurs. “In and out, just breathe like Ned’s doing…”

 

Peter inhales shakily, and he’s trying to breathe like Ned but he just can’t it feels like there’s a weight on his chest—like he’s under that building again, and oh, God—

 

Peter dissolves into even worse hysterics after that and pretty much collapses against Ned- which causes him to stumble back until the backs of his knees hit the couch, and he then sits with Peter crying all over him.

 

“Shit—um should I— do you want me to call Matt?” he asks, trying to keep his shit together as well as he possibly can with Peter being this upset.

 

That gets an immediate, definitive nod from Peter and a questioning look from MJ.

 

“Spanish tutor Matt?” she asks.

 

“Okay, okay, we’re gonna call Matt,” Ned assures Peter, glancing over at MJ. “Can you get me his phone? It’s on the desk.”

 

She nods and disappears for just a second before returning with the phone and handing it to Ned who immediately puts in Peter’s password. He scrolls through the contacts until he finds “Spanish Matt” and clicks the icon to call him.

 

The phone rings and rings and rings before going to voicemail, and that makes Peter cry even harder, though the crying has gotten scarier, since it’s intermixed with gasping, and Ned worries Peter might pass out.

 

“Do you know where he might be? Or have another number to reach him?”

 

Peter blinks away the tears enough to clear his eyes for just a second before taking his phone and scrolling through his text conversations before selecting one and handing the phone back to Ned and collapsing against him, exhausted.

 

The number is unsaved and the only message between them is the picture of Daredevil with the cats, but Ned calls it anyway.

 

After three rings, a woman’s gentle voice answers the phone.

 

“Peter?” she asks softly. “What’s going on?”

 

“Um—Peter’s kind of… not great right now?” Ned answers hesitantly.

 

“Did he get hurt?” she asks, her voice going hard. Honestly, it’s a little bit scary.

 

“No- no he’s just really upset, and Matt wasn’t answering his phone so Peter told me to call you.”

 

“Um… Matt should be at his apartment… one second,” she says, setting her phone down. There’s the sound of someone pressing buttons on a landline followed by a bit of silence before the plastic-y click of a receiver being set down. “He’s not answering… one minute…” There’s the sound of more buttons being pushed, but instead of silence afterward this time they can hear the woman’s half of the conversation.

 

“Foggy? Are you with Matt?” Pause. “Okay, well tell him to call Peter back right now. And unmute his phone.” The receiver clicks down again before the woman’s voice becomes clear as she speaks into the cellphone directly. “Alright, he should call you in just a second.”

 

“Okay, thanks-” sure enough, another call pops up on screen, and Ned hits the end current call and accept option on the screen.

 

A man— presumably Matt AKA Daredevil (holy shit, Ned’s talking to Daredevil)— is immediately talking. “Peter, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

 

Okay, Ned can fanboy later, when Peter isn’t having a panic attack. “Peter’s having a panic attack, I think,” Ned blurts out because it’s the first thing that comes to mind.

 

“Put him on the phone,” Matt says, and wow, yep, that’s the scary Daredevil voice he was expecting.

 

Ned hands the phone to Peter, who sits up slightly and wipes his tears away before he speaks softly into the phone. “H-hi Matt,” he says around the sniffling and soft hiccuping sobs.

 

“What happened, Peter?” Matt asks in an even, gentle tone. Peter at first is unable to answer, but after a few minutes, Peter gets better control of his breathing and can answer.

 

“I um- Mr. Stark found out about me working with y—” Peter stops as he glances over to where MJ is standing, “about Daredevil and the Punisher and he’s so pissed, and he took away the suit again and he’s so disappointed in me and I don’t— what if he tells my aunt and she makes me stop being Spider-Man and—”

 

“Peter,” Matt interrupts softly. “It’s okay. You’re not going to have to stop being Spider-Man.”

 

“But—”

 

“No, I promise. I’ll talk to him, okay?”

 

“I- you don’t have to do that Matt,” Peter protests softly.

 

“I want to talk to him.”

 

Peter hesitates for a second. “You do?”

 

“I do. Tell him to be at West 51st and 11th at nine o’clock. The roof above the hardware store.”

 

“You’re hurt,” Peter says with a frown.

 

“And I’m not going to be fighting him. I just want to talk. I promise.”

 

“Okay… I’ll tell him,” Peter says softly, seeming a lot more calm now that there’s some sort of a plan along with a task to focus on.

 

“Thank you, Peter. I’m sorry I didn’t answer earlier— I’ll try not to do that again.”

 

“It’s okay… Uh, I gotta go and text Mr. Stark. Nine o’clock at West 51st and…?”

 

“Eleventh,” Matt answers. “The hardware store.”

 

“Okay. Okay, thanks. Bye Matt.”

 

“Bye Peter. Call anytime, alright?”

 

“I will,” Peter promises before hanging up.

 

He sniffles again for a second before opening up his text conversation with Tony and sending him the details of Matt’s specified meeting place and time. The message is read almost immediately, but there’s no reply.

 

“Can we work on the project tomorrow or something?” Peter asks softly, staring down at the floor and refusing to make eye contact with either Ned or MJ, as he sits sort of hunkered over on the couch. “I’m kind of tired…”

 

“Yeah—yeah of course. You want us to go..?” Ned asks softly.

 

Peter nods tearfully, and Ned pats him on the shoulder. “Alright, we’ll go. You sleep well, okay?”

 

“’Kay,” Peter answers softly.

 

MJ and Ned go back to Peter’s room to grab their backpacks, and MJ snags a fortune cookie off the desk before they both make their way back to the living room. MJ drops the cookie in Peter’s lap before patting him on the shoulder gently and leaving with Ned.

 

Peter waits a minute after hearing the door close before he unwraps the fortune cookie and cracks it open, pulling out the piece of paper inside.

 

All things are difficult before they are easy.





Chapter Text

Matt is pissed. The kind of pissed that Foggy has only seen him be maybe two other times in all the years that he’s known Matt- but then again, Foggy isn’t around for much Daredevil-ing, and that’s generally the time when Matt deals with most of his pent up rage and issues. No matter what he says, confession isn’t a substitute for therapy. Neither is beating the shit out of people, but that’s an argument that they aren’t going to have again.

 

“God he’s just— ugh!” Matt kicks the coffee table hard enough that Foggy has flashbacks to Matt’s wrecked apartment.

 

“Matt, let’s think about whatever that was logically, before you go and kill whoever it is you just set up a meeting with like some sort of weird gangster,” Foggy says in the ‘I need to calm Matt down before he gets himself punched’ voice that he’d had to perfect in law school thanks to his roomie mouthing off at every former-fratboy dick he met at a party. “Let’s start simple: who are you meeting?”

 

Matt kicks the table again before slumping back down onto his couch (the couch that Foggy refuses to sit on because he knows just how much blood has been cleaned off of it). “Tony Stark.”

 

The Tony Stark? Why the hell did you just get a superpowered child to set up a meeting with Iron Man for you?”

 

“Because Stark’s an irresponsible, emotionally stunted manchild who’s going to get Peter killed because of his own daddy issues!” Matt snarls, digging his fingertips into the cracking fake leather upholstery and ripping at the cheap foam inside.

 

And this is only night one of not being allowed to go Daredevil-ing. Out of fourteen. Foggy is going to die young just from the stress, he swears.

 

Foggy throws a pair of chopsticks at Matt’s head and the asshole catches them, before glaring in Foggy’s general direction.

 

“The hell was that for?”

 

“We had an agreement: no Daredevil voice in polite conversation.”

 

“I don’t have a Daredevil voice!” Matt says indignantly, throwing the chopsticks back at Foggy, who also catches them. Thank you, intramural softball league .

 

“Yeah, buddy, you do. We’ve had this argument before, and you lose every single time. Now tell me about Stark, because if you of all people are calling him emotionally stunted, then I need to hear this.”

 

Matt glares again, this time to the left of Foggy. When it doesn’t get a reaction, he just sighs and drags his hand down his face. “All I know is that he’s an asshole who hunted down a kid with abilities, gave him a fancy suit, and then sent him headfirst into a fight. Then when the kid needed him he just… ditched him!”

 

Foggy gives Matt a very sad look, and Matt glares again.

 

“What?” he growls.

 

“Whaddaya mean ‘what’?” Foggy replies.

 

“Your heart did a thing.”

 

“A thing called sympathy, bud. This issue seems pretty personal, huh?” Foggy says softly.

 

Matt trades in the grimace for a very flat look. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

“Peter is a kid, and he’s got all these scary new powers, right?”

 

“Right.”

 

“And he’s getting along alright. And then bam! This guy shows up and helps him because he wants this kid to fight in his war, and then after that lovely bit of almost-parenting, he ditches him.”

 

“This isn’t about Stick,” Matt snaps. “Don’t talk about shit you don’t understand.”

 

“Hey, man, you’re the one who brought up Stick, not me.” Foggy refuses to get pulled into any hostility and is neutral in his defense.

 

Matt growls and Foggy beans him on the head with one of the throw pillows that was in his armchair. “We don’t growl in this household. I need to get a spray bottle and start squirting you with it when you act too Daredevil-y in normal situations.”

 

“It’s my household,” Matt mutters sullenly, before getting up slowly and walking over to the closet.

 

As he kneels down and pulls the trunk out to grab his old Daredevil gear, the black pajama ones, he winces slightly from pulling his stitches. Because, Foggy recalls, almost like it was recently, he got shot. Like a moron. He grabs the clothes and groans as he stands back up, his right hand pressed over where the bullet had hit him.

 

“You know I’m not letting you go out alone, right?” Foggy asks as Matt starts putting on the costume. “You can barely stand for more than ten minutes. How the hell are you gonna get on a roof a few blocks away from here? You just gonna limp down the sidewalk and hope not too many people point their cameras at you? That’d be all over Twitter. I can already picture it: Daredevil’s Walk of Shame will be #1 trending.”

 

“You are not coming with me,” Matt says, continuing in his sullen tone and pausing before he pulls on the shirt.

 

Foggy checks for new scars out of habit, and sure enough there’s one near his collarbone. “Dude,” he says, “what do the ladies say about all the scars when you bring ‘em back to your place?”

 

“I exclusively find my hookups at BDSM clubs so they won’t ask about that,” Matt deadpans as he pulls on the shirt with too much effort and gritted teeth against the pain.

 

“I really hope you’re joking. I mean, I know Catholics are all about self-flagellation, but I never expected you to take it so literally. Not to say,” Foggy backtracks, “you can’t be into that if it’s what you really want,”

 

Matt gives Foggy his bitchiest look, the one that’s usually reserved exclusively for Frank Castle, or the patronizing middle-aged women at the coffee shop who say he’s ‘ so brave’ for just existing as a blind person.

 

“Seriously though, someone’s gonna have to chaperone you. Knowing you, you’ll hear a crime then jump off a building, and rip out all your stitches trying to go help if someone isn’t there to stop you. And I’m not letting you parkour there either.”

 

“Well then, Foggy, what do you suggest I do?” Matt says in a bitchy tone that matches his face. Jesus Christ, he must’ve been a nightmare as a teenager

 


 “I hate this,” Matt says. “I really, truly hate this.”

 

Foggy looks in the rearview mirror to see Matt slapping Jessica’s hands away, as she pulls on the tails of fabric that the black mask has. She only stops to pull a flask out of the pocket on the inside of her jacket and take a swig from it. Foggy feels a microscopic amount of sympathy for Matt, considering the smell of whatever Jessica’s drinking is even burning his nose

 

“That smells like paint thinner,” Matt mutters, crossing his arms over his chest, pulling the mask down further. Jessica punches him lightly in the shoulder; her coordination isn’t great after all she’s had to drink, so it isn’t quite as light as she’d intended. Matt winces and shoves her in response.

 

“I feel like I’m driving my kids to a soccer game,” Karen says from the driver’s seat. “Jessica, stop harassing your brother. Matt, don’t be such a downer.”

 

“I’m more like his babysitter than his sister,” Jessica points out. Thankfully, she’s still sober enough that her words aren’t too terribly slurred.

 

“No, babysitters get paid. You’re like his big sister,” Karen replies as she turns onto Eleventh Avenue and puts the car into park. “Alright kids, we’re here. We’ll be waiting down the block—just call us when you finish.”

 

“Okay mom, ” Jessica replies sarcastically as she opens the car door and gets out with Matt.

 

As the car drives off, Matt and Jessica head towards the building that he’d specified for the meeting, but once they get to it, it becomes pretty obvious that there isn’t a way to get to the roof without climbing up the fire escape and then doing some parkour along window ledges to get to the roof. Matt walks straight for the ladder leading up to the fire escape, but Jessica grabs him by the shoulder.

 

“No.”

 

“But—”

 

No, Murdock. They said not to let you parkour, and I’m not gonna let you parkour.”

 

“Don’t say my name. And how the hell am I supposed to get up there, then?”

 

Jessica pauses in thought for a moment, taking another sip of her whiskey before she sighs. She stuffs the flask away, and Matt knows he’s going to hate what she’s about to say. “Climb on.”

 

Matt tilts his head. “What?”

 

“You heard me. You didn’t do piggyback rides at the orphanage or something?”

 

Matt glares. Jessica glares back.

 

Jessica wins the glaring contest, because the top half of her face isn’t covered, and she’s actually glaring at Matt instead of half a foot to the right of his head.

 

“This is humiliating,” Matt says as he gives in and lets Jessica lift him up onto her back.

 

“Says the guy who goes out dressed in skin-tight red leather,” she counters before jumping up onto the roof and setting Matt back down after stumbling slightly on the landing.

 

“Are you ever going to get over the fact that I have a fucking costume? Maybe having my face covered is the reason I don’t need a lawyer every other fucking day, like you and Luke!” Matt bitches at her.

 

“So you admit it’s a costume!”

 

“It’s better than showing my face to the whole fucking world is what it is! And it’s also armor, which some of us like to have.” Matt snaps back, walking over to the edge of the roof to do his weird listening thing.

 

“Jesus, stop being so insufferable. Just stand there and look pretty until Stark shows up.”

 

Matt glares again but doesn’t say anything, as he proceeds to stand there and looks pretty while they wait for Tony to show up.

 

“Your ass looks better in this suit than the devil one,” Jessica says after five minutes of silence and three more drinks.

 

“Shut up ,” Matt hisses just a few seconds before the sound of the Iron Man suit becomes audible for Jessica as well.

 

As Stark touches down on the rooftop he groans loudly behind the faceplate. “Friday, please tell me that isn’t who I think it is.”

 

“I can only do that if you think it’s anyone other than The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen,” she replies.

 

When the faceplate opens up, Tony doesn’t even get the chance to say anything before Jessica’s making her way between him and Daredevil.

 

“Okay kids, ground rules before we get this started,” she announces, gesturing slightly with her now empty flask. “Rule one: no fighting. Rule two: minimal yelling. Rule three: no trying to unmask Daredevil, metaphorically or physically. Break any of these rules, and I will write the rule breaker’s phone number on every bathroom stall in every piece of shit hole in the wall bar I go to. And post it on the Craigslist personal section with a very explicit post about what you’re looking for in a partner. Do we understand?”

 

Tony glares at Jessica for a moment, and the raised eyebrow he gets in response makes him cave. “Fine. So Daredevil, wanna tell me why Parker set up this meeting?”

 

“So that we could discuss your treatment of him,” Matt answers simply though he’s definitely put on the ‘I gargle broken glass’ Daredevil voice to help his image.

 

My treatment of him? Oh that’s rich, coming from you,” Tony scoffs.

 

“The fuck is that supposed to mean?”

 

“I’m not the one exposing him to fucking domestic terrorists,” he replies.

 

Matt’s grinning like a psycho, and Jessica’s just giving Tony a look like he’s a fucking moron.

 

“No, no, of course you don’t. You just take him to a different fucking continent to fight international terrorists and super soldiers and assassins. That’s much better than him working alongside a person who’s only ever killed people who are threats to society,” Matt counters.

 

“You’re no fucking better than Castle,” Tony snaps. “Have you two shown Peter the best way to make someone talk yet? Is it ripping out fingernails or breaking the fingers themselves? I never had torture 101 in school.”

 

“Actually, shooting out their joints is pretty effective,” a deep voice supplies from behind Tony.

 

Both Tony and Jessica jump, but Matt only smiles.

 

“Frank, I’m so glad you’re here!”

 

“That’s a first,” Frank replies, circling around Tony to come stand at Matt’s side.

 

Matt ignores the barbed comment and just keeps smiling. “I want to ask you something.”

 

“Let’s hear it, choirboy.”

 

“If you knew a child was going to do something dangerous, and you have absolutely no way to stop them from doing the dangerous thing, do you think it would be a good idea to take away their only form of protection?”

 

“That’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard. Of course not.” Frank scoffs, personally offended by the idea.

 

Matt turns his psycho smile back to Tony. “You hear that, Stark?”

 

“Oh, fuck off, Daredevil. You’ve known Spidey for what? Three weeks? Why the hell are you acting like his dad?”

 

“I’m not acting like his dad,” Matt growls. “I’m acting like a goddamn responsible adult—something you haven’t had to do once in your goddamn life!”

 

“Minimal yelling,” Jessica reminds from where she’s sitting about ten feet away. She sadly sloshes her empty flask.

 

Matt growls something under his breath, before taking a step closer to Tony and sneering at the man. “You want to know what I think, Stark?”

 

“I have a feeling you’re going to tell me no matter what I say.”

 

“I think you’re the kind of person who uses people. You find them when they’re new and shiny or maybe even when they’re old and beat up; doesn’t matter as long as there’s something there to exploit. You make them think they’re serving some sort of greater purpose when really you’re just looking for bodies to pile up that will raise your throne up higher.”

 

Tony opens his mouth to counter, but the Punisher gestures in a vague, intimidating manner with one of his many guns.

 

“You’re a child ,” Matt continues, stepping closer until he’s right in Tony’s face. “What was it? Daddy didn’t love you enough? When you were bad he took away your toys, so you’re doing the same with Spider-Man? The thing is, he’s not going to stop just because you take the tech away. He’s still special without a fancy suit, and he still cares enough to try and help people, even if it gets him killed, Stark. But you know what? Go ahead, have your tantrum.”

 

Matt’s gesticulating, he’s in full lawyer mode. “Take away the suit, tell him to stop working with me, do whatever the hell you want. You want him out there with no training and no protection? Then that’s your choice. You want to take him away from the people who actually understand what he’s going through? That’s still your choice. But I’m not going to sit around and watch someone that Peter worships tear him to the pits of hell as well as take away his protection.”

 

Matt lowers his voice to an absolutely feral growl. “Because when he gets hurt, I want you to know that I’ll come for you. You’re not special without your suit, and maybe it’s time someone reminded you of that.”

 

“Maybe it’ll be your turn to take a bullet for the kid,” Frank adds, stepping forward to join Matt, who’s standing less than a foot away from Tony.

 

Tony looks between the two of them. “Jesus, you really are fucking psycho. Both of you.”

 

“Frank’s psycho; I’m the product of the same kind of mentor you are to Peter,” Matt replies with a grin.

 

Tony just shakes his head and takes a step back as the faceplate slides back closed. “Psychos,” he mutters under his breath before taking off. Matt shouts that he wasn’t done, but Tony takes off without a backward glance, and Matt takes a moment to control his anger.

 

Once the sound of the suit has faded into the distance, Matt turns to Frank. “Not that I didn’t appreciate your input, but what’re you doing here?”

 

“Heard Daredevil was runnin’ around and I had to make sure your dumb ass wasn’t tryin’ to fight with a fresh bullet wound,” Frank answers with a shrug.

 

“Aw, you worry about me? That’s so sweet,” Matt teases, completely oblivious to Frank’s eye-rolling.

 

“Go home. I got shit to do while you’re outta commission,” Frank mutters, adjusting the rifle on his shoulder before heading for the next roof over.

 

Matt just about follows after him, but Jessica grabs his shoulder and smacks him lightly on the side of the head. “No. You’re going home because I care about your friends enough to make sure they don’t need to drive you back to Harlem for Claire to fix you up again.”

 

“Fine,” Matt mutters. “But I’m going down the fire escape.”

Chapter Text

Peter gets a text from Matt the morning after the disaster that was Tony finding out about his extracurricular activities. He’s sitting on the couch wearing one of Uncle Ben’s old sweaters when his phone makes the soft pinging sound of a text message coming through, and it takes him a couple minutes to work up the energy required to sit forward and grab the phone off the coffee table where it’s sitting next to a half-finished bottle of Gatorade.

 

‘Talk with Tony went as well as could be expected last night but I have a solution. Meet me at my apartment at six and I can show you’ the message reads, followed by a text containing Matt’s address. Any other day Peter would be stoked as hell to have managed to get Daredevil’s motherfucking home address, but today he just feels… drained. But he guesses he owes Matt for at least trying to help with Tony, and if he has a solution that’s something Peter definitely wants to hear about.

 

He responds with a simple ‘okay’ before tossing his phone back down on the table and retreating into his cocoon of blankets once more. He must stay like that for a while, because the next thing he knows, Aunt May has a hand on his forehead and is frowning down at him.

 

“Are you sick, baby?” she asks softly, smoothing Peter’s hair back as he sits up and brushes her off with a shake of his head.

 

“No. I just—” Peter can already feel the tears welling up and he hasn’t even fucking said anything yet.

 

“Peter, what’s wrong?” May asks, continuing the gentle tone she’s been using as she sits down beside Peter and puts an arm around his shoulders and squeezes him reassuringly.

 

“Mr. Stark’s really mad at me,” Peter finally whispers, resting his forehead against May’s shoulder as he hugs her.

 

“I’m sorry baby… what’s he mad about?”

 

Peter just shakes his head and squeezes her a little tighter. She gives him a concerned look but doesn’t push.

 

“Alright, you don’t have to talk about it, but if you want to I’m right here…” Sensing just how uncomfortable Peter is with the topic, May takes it upon herself to change it. “So, you have any plans today?”

 

“Um, yeah. Tonight I’m gonna go hang out with some friends in Manhattan,” Peter answers after a moment of deliberation about whether or not it’s actually a lie. Matt is his friend, so technically...

 

“Alright. I’m meeting some of the girls from work for brunch in about an hour. You wanna come?”

 

“That’s okay. I don’t wanna intrude…” Peter mumbles back.

 

“They love you, baby. You wouldn’t be intruding.”

 

Peter really wants to do nothing more than just lay in bed for the rest of the day, but he figures he better do something if he wants to be a functioning human being by the time he meets Matt later.

 

“I guess,” he replies after a minute.

 

May beams at him and kisses him on the forehead before she gets up. “It’s that place on 48th that you love. I’m gonna go get ready, alright?”

 

“Alright,” Peter murmurs, waiting for May to walk back into her bedroom and out of sight before he gets up and goes to take a shower that he definitely needs.

 

Standing under the spray of hot water for twenty minutes surprisingly does a fair amount to improve his mood, as do the six Tylenol he takes to help with the headache he has from all the crying he did the night before. It had taken a fair amount of trial and error to figure out the right dosage with his new metabolism, but six still seems to be enough for a headache. He hopes his enhanced metabolism also means he won’t ruin his liver. When he gets back to his bedroom he pulls on his nice jeans and a black sweater so that he won’t look homeless next to Aunt May, who likes to dress up especially nice for brunch. With the extra hours she’s had to start working since Ben passed away, she doesn’t have very many excuses to get pretty.

 

Peter’s back on the couch and scrolling aimlessly through Instagram by the time May comes out of the bedroom, putting on her earrings and her shoes at the same time.

 

“You ready to go?” she asks, checking the time on her phone as she grabs her purse off the floor by the couch.

 

“Yeah.” Peter puts his shoes on, and they head out.

 

They walk to the restaurant, keeping up a light banter about work things, the different women who’re soon to be fawning over adorable little Peter Parker, and telling him to eat more since he’s so skinny. He can’t really deny the fact that he’s lost a little bit of weight since he got his powers, considering the inhuman metabolism they gave him, but that doesn’t make the fussing at him any more tolerable than it was before.

 

They arrive at the restaurant about fifteen minutes late which shouldn’t be a surprise at all to anyone who’s known May for more than a week. Sure, she’s punctual about work, but for other things she’s a bit more lax about getting there on time. A group of young to middle-aged women are sitting at a table and wave them over with bright smiles on their faces.

 

“Peter! It’s so good to see you,” one woman greets, standing up to hug him, before sitting back down. She’s short and heavy set with short, brown hair, and it takes Peter a minute to remember her name.

 

“It’s good to see you too, Ms. Theresa,” he replies as they sit, and the waiter comes by to get drink orders.

 

Peter sort of loses himself in the drone of whatever his aunt and her friends are talking about as the conversation fades from one morning talk show style topic to the next before he eventually gets dragged into the conversation.

 

“Yeah, Peter’s been pretty busy with his internship lately, so he doesn’t have too much time for poor old me,” May says, feigning sadness, even as she bumps her shoulder against Peter and smiles at him.

 

“Oh? Where’re you an intern at?” Samantha, one of May’s friends who he’s met in passing, asks.

 

“Um, Stark Industries,” Peter says after a second. “I work with the tech R&D people.”

 

“Wow. That’s pretty impressive. Have you met Tony Stark?” she asks.

 

“Uh, yeah. He kinda… personally recruited me,” Peter mumbles. It comes across as embarrassed, self-conscious teenager, but May catches it for what it really is: anxiety about whatever it is that went down between Peter and Tony earlier.

 

“Speaking of Tony Stark,” May butts in helpfully, “did you guys see that he’s funding renovations to a bunch of hospitals all over Manhattan?”

 

That manages to switch the topic to hospital finances for a minute before a woman who Peter can’t recall ever meeting before speaks up. She’s young, maybe in her mid-twenties with long, curly black hair and brown eyes and a slight Hispanic accent.

 

“I used to work the ER over at Metro General,” she says softly, taking a sip of her mimosa. “And that place needs any money it can get. They had some sketchy stuff happening there in order to get funding—there was some sort of conspiracy shit going down, and one of the best nurses quit over it. I transferred out pretty fast after that since the neighborhood had already gone to hell.”

 

That catches everyone’s interest pretty fast, and they all lean inwards toward the woman, curious to hear what else she has to say.

 

“What do you mean ‘conspiracy’?” Samantha asks.

 

“One of our nurses, Louisa, got killed. Official word was that she got stabbed by some junkie with a scalpel, but I’m friends with the ME’s daughter. She told me he was pretty messed up about it. They had him doctor the autopsy report. Louisa didn’t get stabbed with a scalpel. She was impaled—straight through the heart. With some sort of curved sword.”

 

“Like a katana?” Peter asks.

 

That gets all eyes on him, which makes him shift uncomfortably, but the woman nods. “Yeah—I think that’s what she called it. Anyway, I’m just glad I got outta there. Between all that shit and the people the Devil left for us every night, I’m glad I’ll never have to go to Hell’s Kitchen again.”

 

“Have you ever seen Daredevil, Carmen?” May asks the woman curiously.

 

“Yeah, a couple times. If a girl got beat up real bad, he’d help her then he’d walk her to the ER and make sure she got there safe. Saw him on the roof a couple times too, and he kicked the shit out of a couple guys who tried to mug my sister. Still, the way he left people… The Devil ain’t a bad guy, but he sure as hell ain’t human either.” She clears her throat as the waiter comes by to take their orders. “Like I said, I’m just glad I’m outta there. Who knows what shit that hospital’s elbow deep in now.”

 

The rest of brunch passes by with much tamer conversation, but Carmen’s stories leave Peter with a few things to ask Matt when he sees him tonight, namely: what the fuck was/is going on at Metro General hospital?

 

The women all decide to go out and do some shopping after brunch, but Peter excuses himself so he can go home. He needs to try to make himself a fully-functional human being before he has to go experience whatever it is that Matt has decided is a solution for having the suit taken away. Then he tries not to think about getting the suit taken away because remembering the sheer disappointment in Tony’s voice is enough to make him want to cry, again .

 

Peter decides that he should probably just take a nap or something, but when he gets off the elevator and turns down the hallway that leads to his apartment, he sees Ned sitting outside the door.

 

Ned looks up when he hears footsteps and smiles brightly up at Peter. “Oh thank God, you’re alive. I was starting to worry after last night, and then you weren’t answering my texts…” he says, frowning down at his phone a little.

 

Peter frowns and pats his pockets, and realizes that he only feels the bump from his wallet and keys, which he pulls out to unlock the door to let Ned in. “Sorry, I guess I left my phone at home, what’s up?” he apologizes as Ned steps out of the way for him to open the door.

 

Sure enough, as they walk into the apartment, Peter spots his phone sitting on the edge of the couch where he must’ve left it earlier that morning. Upon picking it up he sees about fifteen unread texts from Ned ranging from coherent questions to tier five memes to a series of question marks and commas.

 

“No worries,” Ned assures, waving his hand. “Wanna tell me what happened the other night though? You said some Spider-shit went down, and I’m assuming that’s why Tony frickin’ Stark was here yesterday.”

 

“Oh, yeah, that,” Peter says, walking into the kitchen to get a glass of water for himself and Ned, who’s already sitting on the couch.

 

“So, do you wanna talk about it..? I’m worried about you, man.”

 

“Yeah, it’s not that big of a deal,” Peter says, downplaying it for the sake of his own mental state. “I was working a job with Daredevil—”

 

“’Working a job’, God that’s so cool,” Ned interrupts. “Sorry, please continue.”

 

Peter smiles because, yeah, honestly he still gets a little giddy at being able to say he was working a job. It makes him feel like a real hero. “Yeah, we were gonna crash a gang initiation, but apparently the Punisher got wind of it too, and he was there with Daredevil when I showed up.”

 

“Duuude,” Ned gasps. “The Punisher?! Were they fighting?”

 

“That’s the thing— they weren’t. I think they’re like… friends now? It’s super weird— Mr. Castle knows Daredevil’s identity and everything. Anyway, back on topic- we go in to stop these gangsters from killing a guy, and that all goes pretty well, but when we have everyone down, one guy grabs his gun and tries to shoot me, but Daredevil pushes me out of the way and gets shot instead.” Peter pauses for a second to take a breath and collect his thoughts. “And… and then Mr. Castle killed the guy who shot Daredevil. And I just… gunshots aren’t like they are on TV, they’re deafening, especially with my hearing, but I could hear the sound of this guy’s skull cracking and his brain splattering all over the concrete and I know he was a bad guy, and he was trying to kill us and at the time I couldn’t really think about it because we had to get Daredevil to a doctor, but now I keep hearing the guy die and I just… I can’t stop myself from thinking about Uncle Ben…” he whispers, wrapping his arms tightly around himself.

 

Ned swallows sharply and leans forward to hug Peter. “Hey… it’s alright. It’s not your fault this guy died, and it’s not your fault that Ben died either…” he says softly, rubbing a circle on Peter’s back comfortingly.

 

Peter clutches onto Ned’s shoulders tightly and presses his forehead into his friend’s chest. “I know—I know but it’s just—I can’t explain it. But I just… I should’ve known . The Spidey-sense went off, so I should’ve stopped him, I should have known he had a gun, so he didn’t have to die but—”

 

“Peter, if you knew he had a gun, you would’ve done something. You didn’t know, and that’s not your fault.”

 

“But it was going off—”

 

“And you were in a room full of criminals with guns and the frickin’ Punisher. One time the Spidey-sense went off because there was a puddle where someone spilled their water bottle in the hallway. You couldn’t have known it was something else.”

 

“But—”

 

“At the risk of sounding like Mrs. Mondaski from seventh grade English, no buts,” Ned replies. “It’s not your fault. The guy died, and that must suck, but it isn’t your fault. And I’m assuming Daredevil’s still alive, so you can’t blame yourself for the death of my second-favorite vigilante.”

 

Peter sniffles a little and sits back. He doesn’t want to keep arguing with Ned as to why it is his fault, so he just says, “I thought he was your favorite.”

 

“Don’t be dumb. You’re my favorite,” Ned says, poking Peter in the middle of his chest lightly.

 

Peter lets out a slightly surprised laugh and shakes his head. “Alright, man. If you insist.”

 

Ned smiles back at him brightly. “So, you wanna work on the project today or do it tomorrow?”

 

“Ugh, tomorrow, please, my brain is absolutely fried right now. And Daredevil and I are doing something later tonight, so I want to still have the motivation to live by six.”

 

“Didn’t you just say he got shot two nights ago? Should he really be out… Daredevil-ing so soon after that?” Ned’s concern is apparent on his face and Peter just shakes his head.

 

“We’re not gonna be Daredevil-ing and Spider-Man-ing. Honestly, I’m not sure what we’re doing. He said something about a solution for my suit being taken away, so we might be breaking into Avengers Tower, but probably not.”

 

“Well then, good luck with, you know, whatever it is you’re doing. I have a strong feeling that it won’t be legal, whatever it is. Probably.”

 

“You’re probably right,” Peter replies with a shrug. “But I’m sure I’ll have fun doing it.”

 

Ned sticks around for another hour or so and the two of them just talk and catch up before Ned has to go home for a raid with his WoW guild. Peter never really got into World of Warcraft, but he’s still more than happy to hear all about Ned’s experiences with it.

 

After his friend leaves, Peter decides he really does need to take a nap, being sure to set an alarm for 4:30 so that he’ll have time to make himself at least mildly presentable before he has to catch the subway to Manhattan. He’d prefer to swing his way there on webs, but again, no suit. He names the alarm ‘ask Matt about Metro General’ instead of just remembering the topic he wanted to talk to him about. He was way too tired to think, or remember anything. He then promptly passes out in bed.

 

The absolutely grating sound of the alarm rings what feels like just seconds later, but is definitely closer to three hours. Peter sits up with a groan and scrubs his hands over his face, before kicking off his blankets and getting out of bed. He pulls on his sneakers without even bothering to open his eyes and walks out into the living room of the apartment, stretching his back.

 

“Hey sweetheart,” May says from where she’s sitting on the couch. “You going out?”

 

“Yeah, a few people from AcaDec are getting dinner near Bryant Park,” Peter lies easily. He’s been practicing it all day, and he’s pleased with how well it comes out.

 

“Alright, don’t stay out past… it’s Saturday? Let’s say you should be on the way home by two,” May replies. “And you have to give me a hug before you go.”

 

Peter can’t help but smile a little at that, as he walks around to the front of the couch and leans down to hug May. “I’ll probably be back earlier than that.”

 

“Just be safe, and have fun, okay?”

 

“I will. I promise,” Peter says, standing back up straight and grabbing his coat off of the hook by the door, before walking out of the apartment.

 

He’s never been the biggest fan of the subway, and since he got his powers he’s liked it even less. The smells are more cloying, sometimes almost to the point that he can taste the B.O. in the air. His ears pop from the pressure changes a hell of a lot worse than before, and the sound of the brakes shrieking at each stop makes him want to shove cotton in his ears. Without a doubt, however, the worst part is the way the Spidey-sense is constantly going off. Someone the next car over who might have the flu sneezes? It goes off. There’s a suspicious wet patch on the floor that he could possibly slip in? It goes off. A used needle beneath one of the seats that’s also suspiciously wet? It goes off. There’s absolutely fucking nothing in sight that could be considered a danger? It. Still. Goes. Off. Riding the subway is absolutely miserable now. He plugs in his headphones and just tries his best to ignore the constant shivers of anxiety rippling down his spine for what should be a 20-ish minute ride—assuming, of course, that there aren’t any delays.

 

There’s definitely a delay.

 

Peter emerges from the disgusting underground tunnels an hour later, ones that wouldn’t be considered habitable by even the least self-respecting mole-person on Earth- or any other planet, and starts walking towards the address Matt had texted him earlier that morning. It takes him a solid fifteen minutes of dodging around the tourists crowding the sidewalks to get from the station to the old, kinda shitty looking building that Matt lives in. Peter checks the text again to confirm the apartment number is, in fact, 6A before he heads inside and up to the top floor. He hasn’t even raised his hand to knock on the door before Matt’s opening it with a smile.

 

He’s dressed in all black except for the red-tinted sunglasses he has on—the same ones he’d been wearing when Peter swung by the offices of Nelson, Murdock, & Page to pick up the cats. Honestly, they look pretty good on him, but Peter has an aversion to sunglasses being worn at night. The song alone haunts him.

 

“Hey Peter,” Matt greets, opening up the door up wider for Peter to come in.

 

It’s dark in the apartment apart from a weird, purple light that’s filtering into the living room from somewhere. Peter stumbles over something on the floor—a briefcase, from the feel of the sharp edge he just kicked.

 

“Sorry, forget other people need the lights on—there’s a switch on your left,” he tells Peter, though he continues into the main area of the apartment.

 

That’s a weird comment. Matt had mentioned enhanced senses that one time though, so maybe that includes, like, super-vision or something?

 

Peter finds the switch after groping along the wall just a little, and he’s pretty surprised by just how nice the place looks with the lights on. It’s a big space with high ceilings and a separate bedroom (with broken sliding doors), not to mention the roof access which, hello, must be pretty damn convenient for the whole masked vigilante thing. The purple light is coming through the windows from a billboard across the street, and Peter can’t help but wrinkle his nose up at the sight of it. The apartment is just so nice without that eyesore.

 

“The billboard?” Matt asks, somehow sensing Peter’s change in mood. “Yeah, most people complain about it, but it keeps my rent down so—” he shrugs before grabbing his jacket and pulling it on. “You ready to do a little more walking?”

 

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Peter replies with a sigh before he turns to follow Matt back out of the apartment and down the stairs.

 

Matt leads him down the sidewalk towards an even shittier part of the neighborhood where the crumbly brick buildings are covered in poorly done graffiti and the sidewalks have the occasional stain that would totally light up under Luminol. Matt takes a sharp turn down a particularly gritty alleyway before leading Peter down some steps to a heavy, metal door.

 

He knocks three times before pausing and knocking twice and then another pause before one more knock. Holy shit. A secret knock. Peter’s so stoked he doesn’t even care that any other time he’d be getting murdered in this alley and not meeting one of Daredevil’s friends.

 

A minute later, an absolutely ripped bald guy opens the door and gives a huge smile upon seeing Matt.

 

“Hey! I was just about to call you! I fixed your suit, but man, you gotta stop getting shot. Your friends worry about you,” the man says, turning and walking back into the building which Matt takes as an invitation to follow. Peter follows after him as well.

 

“I know you mean that you worry about me, Melvin,” Matt teases gently. “And my friends told me the suit was gonna take a couple of weeks. Something about you needing to order new material.”

 

“Course I worry. And I’ll need to get some more material for something else I’m making you, but I have plenty to keep fixing the suit. Who’s your friend?” Melvin asks as he starts folding up the Daredevil suit to lay in carefully in a big paper bag.

 

“This is Peter,” Matt introduces. “And I was actually hoping to ask you for a favor.”

 

“Ask away,” Melvin says.

 

“He needs a suit.”

 

Melvin raises an eyebrow at Matt before looking over Peter, and then looking back to Matt. “He seems a bit young for that.”

 

“Hey, either he has a suit and does it safe, or he has no suit and ends up half dead from a ninja with a knife on a chain,” Matt replies with a shrug and a charming smile.

 

Melvin seems to consider that for a moment before sighing and rubbing at his forehead. “Alright. Anything the suit needs?” he asks, this time to Peter directly. He doesn’t make eye contact, but his body’s pointed in Peter’s direction.

 

“Umm… I need to be able to move my fingers well, and I don’t do a ton of punching, so I don’t need gloves like Daredevil’s… and I can’t have any insulators on my palms or beneath my feet, so anything with rubber soles is out—” That request puts a funny look on both men’s faces, so Peter decides to offer a little bit of explanation. “The way I stick to walls and stuff has to do with static electricity.” Peter waves his hand dismissively. “Y’know, science-y stuff.”

 

“Alright,” Melvin replies. “What about design requests?”

 

“Um, my suit was red and blue, so I’d kinda like to stick with that theme. Also, I’d like to keep the spider emblem on the chest.”

 

Melvin’s eyes get a bit wider. “ You’re Spider-Man?” Peter preens, just a bit.

 

“The one and only!”

 

“Jesus, now I’m gonna be worried about you the next time I see someone throwin’ a bus at you on TV,” he mutters, walking over to the work table nearest to them and grabbing a tape-measure off of it along with a small notebook. “Mind if I take your measurements?” he asks, as he comes to stand in front of Peter.

 

“By all means,” Peter replies.

 

Melvin proceeds to wrap the tape measure around everything from Peter’s head to his calves and everything in between. All in all, the process only takes about six or so minutes before Melvin scribbles down the last measurement in his notebook and stands back.

 

“I’ll need to get some more materials for this, but I should be able to have it ready in about a week. I’ll text Matt when I get it done, and you can come try it on and see if anything needs adjusting. That sound alright?”

 

Peter’s smiling like it’s Christmas morning, and his heart is definitely beating fast enough for Matt to notice it. “Um—wow. Yeah, that sounds great, man.”

 

“Cool, you’ll hear from me when it’s ready,” Melvin says, handing Matt the bag containing the Daredevil suit. “I see you running around in that thing before you’ve healed up from getting shot and I’ll beat you with your own billy-club,” he threatens.

 

“I’m basically under house arrest for two weeks,” Matt replies with a sigh. “My friends have decided that’s the longest they can possibly keep me in for without me going insane, but I’m pretty sure I can argue it down to a week and a half.”

 

“You can argue anything,” Melvin counters with a snort.

 

“Damn right. You have my number if you or Betsy need anything, yeah?”

 

“You know I do. Be safe,” Melvin says as Matt starts making his way back to the door with Peter following behind him. “You too, Spider-Man.”

 

Peter smiles and waves as they leave. “I will be, bye!”

 

Matt offers to walk him back to the subway, and Peter refuses the offer before politely offering to walk Matt back to his own apartment. He refuses politely as well.

 

“The suit Melvin makes for you isn’t going to have any sort of tech, but I can teach you a few things so you won’t need sensors like the old one had. Once I heal, that is,” Matt says as they walk the last block that has them heading in the same direction before they’ll split off to go their separate ways. “I have a friend who can show you some stuff on Monday, if you’re free.”

 

“I don’t think I have anything going on,” Peter replies. “I’ll text you later. Get home safe, Matt.”

 

“Say hi to the cats for me,” Matt replies before turning to head back to his apartment, reaching into a pocket of his jacket for something just as he gets out of Peter’s sight.

 

“Doubt I’ll be going by the Tower to see ‘em anytime soon,” Peter mumbles under his breath as he heads off towards the subway station.

 

The subway ride home isn’t any more enjoyable than it was on the way there, but the excitement of getting a suit made by the same guy who made the iconic Daredevil suit helps him to ignore the Spider-sense, at least a little bit. Though the guy-- Melvin--  had taken the moniker ‘The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen’ pretty literally for Matt’s suit, so Peter wonders if he might should worry about the guy making him some sort of wearable, eight-legged monstrosity. He’s tired enough that the thought only pops into his head for a fraction of a second before it disappears like everything else in his brain. He drops his keys twice before he can finally shove them into the apartment door to unlock it.

 

Aunt May is sitting on the couch eating ice cream in her pajamas when Peter gets home. She smiles and waves at him but thankfully doesn’t try to make conversation so he’s free to go to his room and pull on his own pajamas before passing out, and pass out he does. He only has one final thought before he falls asleep.

 

Shit. He forgot to ask Matt about Metro General.

Chapter Text

When Peter wakes up on Sunday morning, he feels nice and refreshed, and ready to actually work on the damn project. Even with the incredibly shitty past few days he’s had, there’s no way in hell he’s just going to leave MJ and Ned to pick up his slack on the project. He still has vivid memories of staying up till midnight in junior high to finish group projects, ones that his deadbeat partners hadn’t contributed a single word to.

 

They decide to meet up at Ned’s place this time, just so there’s little to no chance of Tony Stark showing up and making Peter have another panic attack. All in all, the work is easy, if time-consuming. They decide to go with a fairly basic design, consisting of bubble wrap, straws, and plastic bags. It works pretty well, so they decide it’ll do for class. There was some talk about using Peter’s webs to construct something, but that idea was vetoed since 1) they dissolve after two hours, which is less helpful when constructing it beforehand, and 2) that might give away Peter’s identity just the tiniest bit. Honestly, Peter’s just happy to be spending time with his friends and doing normal teenager things. He loves being Spider-Man, but he has to admit that it doesn’t give him a lot of chances to have the typical teen experience. Not that he regrets that, he thinks.

 

When he finally heads back home around five-thirty, he pulls out his phone and sees a few texts from Matt who is, once again, being forcibly held under house arrest by someone; this time it’s Karen doing the babysitting. There’s a series of messages complaining about being under surveillance. Then he says something about Karen being worse than the nuns at the orphanage which: what? Orphanage? Nuns? Peter’s gonna have to start a damn notes document on his phone to keep up with all these strange, sad details of Matt’s life. Or just ask him for a rundown of his life story like a normal person. Well, no, that’s not really normal either. Maybe he just needs to have some non-superhero-centric conversations with Matt to learn more about him. He ignores these texts, having gotten used to Matt’s angst over not leaving his house.

 

As Peter’s reading through the series of texts that are complaining about being treated like he’s going to jump out the window to beat up a mugger at any second, another message comes through with much more relevant, although slightly less entertaining, information.

 

‘My friend can meet with you tomorrow night at 9 in Chinatown. Does that work for you?’ the message reads.

 

Peter considers whether or not he’s going to have any tests on Tuesday. The answer to that is no, so he’s definitely going to be available to meet with Matt’s mysterious friend. After he sends a text affirming that he can make the meeting, two more texts come through. The first one is an address that when copied and pasted into Google shows up as Chikara Dojo. The second one is a little bit more odd.

 

‘Great. His name is Danny Rand and he’s a little bit strange but he’s a good guy. He’s going to say some weird shit for sure though.’

 

Peter responds to that with ‘thanks for the heads up’ before shoving his phone back into his pocket and resuming the walk home.

 

May’s in the kitchen, probably burning something horribly when Peter walks in. She’s too distracted to do anything more than say a quick hello, before focusing all of her attention back on whatever is lightly smoking in the pan. Peter heads straight to his room, where he tosses his backpack down on the floor before sitting down in his desk chair. The name Danny Rand sounds uncomfortably familiar, and after a few minutes of spinning around in the chair Peter finally gives up on his brain and instead opens up the search engine on his computer, typing in Danny Rand.

 

The results for the most part just talk about his miraculous reappearance after 15 years of being missing after his plane crashed somewhere in the mountains of eastern Asia, but there are a few more articles deeper down the rabbit hole that talk about Danny causing trouble with the police. There’s even a video, buried in the third page of Google, that looks like it might be security footage that shows Danny knocking the shit out of a couple of guards at Rand Enterprises, the corporation that he owns 51% of. Peter’s pretty damn sure that Matt wants him to meet this guy to learn from his frankly incredible martial arts capabilities, and he’s so completely on board with that. It’s always been a dream of his to do one of those spinning kicks to the head that knocks a guy flat out- well, it’s been his dream since he saw Daredevil do it a few weeks ago.

 

Peter’s pretty much lost himself in daydreaming when he notices the smell of smoke in the apartment and goes back into the kitchen to see May frantically trying to put out the chicken that she’s managed to catch on fire. He sighs and grabs the takeout menus from where they’re lying on the countertop.

 


 

On paper, Danny Rand should be more like Tony than anyone else Peter knows, but in practice, he’s a hell of a lot more comparable to a labrador puppy. Sure, the guy definitely has issues— as Matt so helpfully pointed out one time, nobody does what they do without having issues, but he seems to hide them pretty well under a veneer of cheerful attitude and childlike wonder about a world that isn’t in the mountains of Tibet, or wherever he came from.

 

Peter learns this precisely when he shows up at Chikara Dojo right at nine the next evening, to find Danny sitting on the floor and eating Poptarts while blasting the Hamilton soundtrack at damn near full volume on an incredibly fancy looking speaker that doesn’t match the rest of the dojo at all.

 

Danny bounces up to his feet with a bright grin when he sees Peter in the doorway. He turns down the music significantly and beckons Peter in with a gesture and a somehow even bigger smile than the one he was already rocking.

 

“Hi, I’m Peter,” he introduces, holding out his hand for Danny to shake. Danny gives him a high five instead.

 

“Nice to meet you! I’m Danny, and that’s Colleen,” he replies, pointing over to where a woman who Peter hadn’t noticed at first is sitting on the floor with a laptop in front of her.

 

She waves at Peter without looking up from the computer, more focused on it and the files spread around her in a circle.

 

“She’s doing taxes, don’t mind her,” Danny explains.

 

“Not all of us have a team of accountants who exist solely to deal with our finances, Danny,” she replies with a sigh.

 

“I told you I could hire you an accountant.”

 

“And I told you I’d let that happen over my dead body.”

 

“So,” Peter interrupts, trying to drag Danny’s attention away from Colleen, who looks increasingly ready to murder Danny if he doesn’t shut up and let her do her finances, “how do you know Matt?”

 

“I’m the Immortal Iron Fist,” is the cheerful response Peter receives.

 

Peter thinks he hears Colleen mutter, “Here we go again,” under her breath, but it’s so quiet that he can’t be sure.

 

“What’s that?”

 

“I’m the protector of K’un-Lun.”

 

“Sorry,” Peter replies. He has no idea what that is.

 

“Sworn enemy of the Hand?” Danny tries hopefully.

 

Peter just shakes his head.

 

“Matt didn’t tell you?” Danny looks sad, then disappointed, then just sighs and looks up at the ceiling. “God, he’s a good guy, but he’s all punching, no history about where that punching came from. K’un-Lun is a mystical city that can only be accessed by a magic passageway that opens once every 15 years, give or take. It’s where I did my training, but it’s gone now, and I’d rather not talk about why that is. Through my training there I gained the power of the Iron Fist by fighting Shou Lao the Undying, a dragon. The Hand is the enemy of K’un-Lun, and whoever has the power of the Iron Fist is sworn to fight them. Matt was trained to be part of a… companion organization of sorts to K’un-Lun but chose not to join them. Instead, he uses the skills he learned to be Daredevil.”

 

“And that’s what you missed on Glee,” Colleen deadpans from behind her computer, earning a snort from Peter.

 

Danny gives her a sad look because he doesn’t understand the reference she just made, but Peter’s still stuck on this scrawny, adorable guy having fought a dragon .

 

“Dragons are real?” Peter asks. “Also, um, what exactly is the Iron Fist?”

 

“Do you wanna see?” Danny asks excitedly, his sadness about Colleen’s exclusionary reference immediately forgotten.

 

“Sure, I guess.”

 

Danny closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, raising his hand in front of him in a fist.

Matt was right, this dude is weird.

 

Danny’s hand starts glowing yellow, and he opens his eyes, looking to Peter expectantly for some sort of reaction.

 

“What the hell?”

 

“It’s chi!” Danny explains unhelpfully. “I’m going to be showing you how to focus your chi today. I’m sure Matt’s gonna want you to learn punching his way, and honestly, I want you to learn it his way too. He’s an incredible fighter—the best I’ve ever seen in my life.”

 

As it turns out, the way one learns to focus their chi is through a combination of sitting completely still and breathing a certain way for hours. It’s incredibly boring, but Peter pushes through it even if he kinda would rather be doing taxes with Colleen. That’s a life skill; this is… impractical. Peter frowns a little bit at himself when he thinks it. Chi’s a pretty big thing for a lot of cultures, and clearly, it works judging off of Danny’s glowing hand, so he shouldn’t be so quick to write it off just because it doesn’t conform to the ideas he’s familiar with. He tries his best to focus, after that thought.

 

After three hours of focusing his chi, Peter’s finally allowed to move onto harnessing it. That process is slightly more interesting, considering one harnesses their chi through a lot of Tai Chi and Qigong poses and moves. Honestly, it’s all pretty relaxing. They do that for about an hour before Colleen interrupts them.

 

“Not that I’m not glad you’ve decided to pass on your knowledge, Danny,” she says, “but he is in fact, a child, and it is in fact, midnight on a Monday—technically it’s Tuesday now. He should probably be going home.”

 

Danny looks a little embarrassed as he glances at the clock to confirm that it’s just after twelve. “Sorry, I didn’t realize we’d been doing that for so long,” he apologizes with a smile, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly.

 

“It’s okay,” Peter assures even though he does really need to get home. “This was… interesting. Maybe we could do it again sometime.”

 

Danny looks just about ready to explode from excitement at the prospect of having a New York teenager who actually wants to learn about life energy and such from him. “Yeah! Here, put your number in,” he says, handing Peter his phone while trying not to vibrate out of his damn skin.

 

Peter carefully creates a contact for himself on Danny’s phone, and Danny sends a message consisting solely of a typed smiley face wearing a party hat so that Peter will have his number as well.

 

After saying his goodbyes and heading out, Peter pulls out his phone to send Danny a smiley face of his own. The conversation now reads

 

‘*<:-D’

(ノ )ノ*:・

 

Danny starts typing immediately after the message is received.

 

‘HOW DID YOU DO THAT?!!?!?!??!?!?!?!’

 

Peter sends him a link to kawaiiface.net.

 

Over the next twenty minutes he gets about thirty different faces from Danny, and a text from Matt that reads ‘I don’t know what the fuck it is that Danny keeps sending me but I’m going to blame you for it since it was all preceded by a text saying ‘look what your child showed me!’.’

 

Peter has never been more proud of himself, probably ever. He goes to sleep with a huge grin on his face.



Chapter Text

Tuesday morning, Peter wakes up to find approximately a billion texts on his phone. Closer investigation shows that he’s been added to a group chat of some sort. He has two of the numbers in his contacts: Matt and Danny, but there are three more numbers he doesn’t have saved. One of them looks strangely familiar, but Peter can’t quite remember where he’s seen it. He’s already running late for school, so he doesn’t get a chance to read the messages until he’s started walking to school (after he fell flat on his face in the bathroom while pulling on his jeans and brushing his teeth at the same time).

 

12:57 AM

Danny: (✿◠‿◠)

Danny: ヽ(^◇^*)/

Danny: (◕‿◕✿)

Danny: (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・✧

Danny: (◕ω◕✿)

Spanish Matt: Danny no not in the group chat too

Spanish Matt: You already put me through this torture

Spanish Matt: Fucking stop please

(212)-803-8774: wgo the fyck showrd him thst

Spanish Matt: Jessica I can’t fucking tell what that says either.

Danny: O(≧▽≦)O

 

Peter pauses his reading to add Jessica to his contacts, and he feels mildly sorry for introducing Danny to advanced text faces. He couldn’t have known Danny would abuse them like this, in his defense.

 

Jessica: im drink aa fuvk i cabt fuvjibg trxt

Spanish Matt: You’re killing me. Use voice to text

Jessica: I said who the fuck showed him those

 

Matt responds simply by putting Peter’s number into the group message again, instead of answering the question.

 

Jessica: I don’t have that number saved

Spanish Matt: It’s Peter’s

Jessica: I’m still not censoring myself even with a kid here

Danny: (>‘o’)>

 

1:13 AM

(212)-337-9105: ╾━╤デ╦︻

 

Why does that number look so familiar?

 

1:19 AM

Spanish Matt: What the fuck is that? Why is half of it in fucking Japanese?

(212)-337-9105: because there’s Japanese in it dumbass. I’ll give you three guesses.

Spanish Matt: Is it supposed to look like something?

(212)-337-9105: yes

Spanish Matt: Is it a gun?

(212)-337-9105: ding ding ding

Danny: (◡﹏◡✿)

(212)-337-9105: I will fucking shoot you

(212)-459-6363: I was serious about that swear jar

 

Peter doesn’t know this number either, but he keeps reading.

 

(212)-337-9105: fuck your swear jar

Jessica: ^^^^

(212)-337-9105: Jones you still text like a twelve year old you can’t say shit.

 

Is that—holy shit that’s the same number on the burner the Punisher gave him. Peter trips over a curb and only saves his phone from a watery death in a sewer grate thanks to his sticky hands. Honestly, what did he do before he had them?

 

He apologizes with a vague mumble to the woman he bumped into, before looking back down at his phone and adding Frank to his contacts.

 

Jessica: Still better than Danny

Danny: o(╥﹏╥)o

Frank: holy fucking shit stop it

Spanish Matt: Danny you’re a very nice person but I have no fucking clue what “o box drawings down double and horizontal single box drawings down double and horizontal single o” means and it takes for fucking ever for my poor phone to read it

Danny: I am stopping only for Matt.

Frank: Thank Jesus Fuck

Spanish Matt: Blasphemy

Frank: fuck off altar boy

(212)-459-6363: Frank.

Frank: Luke.

 

Peter pauses again to add the last number to his contacts. Honestly, it probably should’ve been obvious that the last number would belong to Luke since it has all of Matt’s other super-acquaintances in it. At least, the ones Peter knows. Wait, does the Punisher even have any powers?

 

Luke: All of you need to go to sleep. I know Matt has to be in court tomorrow morning. And I know Colleen probably needs to sleep and you can’t even text quiet Danny. Jessica just needs to sleep to get sober. Frank’s the only other responsible ish adult in this chat.

Spanish Matt: That so-called responsible adult is sitting on a roof with a rifle waiting to shoot a Bulgarian mob enforcer

Frank: what the hell are you out right now?

Spanish Matt: No I’m in my living room

Spanish Matt: I can hear you though

Frank: you’re so fucking weird

 

After that the chat ends and Peter assumes everyone just went to sleep like Luke told them to, but it’s more likely Matt jumped out his window to try and hunt Frank down, Jessica passed out drunk, and only Danny willingly went to sleep.

 

He figures if they added him to the group, then he might as well send something (without typed emojis given Matt and Frank's apparent extreme distaste for them). He types a quick ‘hello everyone, it’s Peter’ before muting his phone and slipping it back into his pocket.

 

The first class of the day passes by uneventfully, with Peter bored out of his damn mind while the teacher goes over balancing chemical equations for the millionth time (seriously. It’s not that hard). He actually ends up doing some of Danny’s chi focusing exercises while he waits for the teacher to finish her explanation again.

 

Peter’s mostly forgotten about having sent something to the group chat by the time break rolls around, so when he pulls his phone out after sitting next to Ned, he’s more than a little surprised to see 10 unread text messages and counting.

 

8:45 AM

Danny: Hi Peter :D!!!!!

8:59 AM

Luke: Hi Peter. This is Luke Cage.

Luke: Wait shouldn’t you be at school?

9:27 AM

Frank: let the kid live a little texting in class aint gonna kill him

Frank: this is Frank C.

Frank: I might get you put on a watchlist if the good old NSA reads these texts and I say my whole name so…

10:03 AM

Spanish Matt: This is your friendly reminder that while the police can’t compel you to tell them your phone password or compel you to type it they can compel you to place your finger on it if you have a fingerprint unlock.

Spanish Matt: Just in case any of you are doing anything on your phones that you don’t want the police to see.

Spanish Matt: For example texting in a group chat containing people who could possibly be vigilantes or criminals.

 

After reading this Peter takes a second to disable the fingerprint passcode on his phone. It’ll be slightly less convenient to type in a PIN, but if it’ll be more secure, he’ll try it out.

 

10:08 AM

Jessica: vigilantes ARE criminals dumbass

Spanish Matt: They’re criminals with a moral compass

Jessica: Peter this is Jessica btw in case you dont want to scroll up through the clusterfuck to try and find out who we are

Jessica: tell that to skull-vest mcshooterson, matthew

10:17 AM

Frank: Wow Jones. Just wow.

10:30 AM

You: I’d like to formally apologize for introducing danny to kawaiiface.net. I assumed he would use it more responsibly

 

There’s an immediate response from none other than the Punisher.

 

Frank: why the hell would you assume that?

You: he seemed very disciplined last night!

You: we spent like three hours sitting completely still and focusing on our breathing

You: that just screams discipline

You: btw I liked your gun emoji Mr. C

Frank: thanks kid

 

Peter puts his phone back in his pocket after that. He’s proud of his restraint, and instead of bothering the super-adults, asks Ned how the WoW raid went the other day. They manage to talk about that for the remainder of break, before heading to their next classes. Peter doesn’t get the chance to check his phone until that afternoon after school lets out since he ends up working on an essay all through lunch.

 

The group chat has quite a few messages, but the thing that catches Peter’s eye is actually a separate conversation from the group.

 

Jessica: I heard you’re in need of people to show you things while you mentor’s on the rebound. I have something you can join me for on Thursday. No need for a suit, so don’t worry about that.

You: that sounds good

You: vague but good

Jessica: great I’ll text you to deets when I have them

 

Peter’s walking home as he reads the message, and smiles at Jessica’s use of the word ‘deets’; it’s just such a contrast from her typical persona. She gives Matt a fair amount of shit for the whole dark, brooding vigilante thing, but she’s pretty dark and brooding on a day to day basis. The smile drops off of his face a minute later, when he walks straight into a guy who’d been walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk.

 

Peter looks up from his phone abruptly, completely ready to offer an apology, but the guy doesn’t look like he’s going to have any of it.

 

He’s about 6’2” and built like Luke Cage, but with a much angrier face. And he’s white. Speaking of faces, he has a tattoo on his. Multiple tattoos actually, now that Peter’s looking. And teeth that are rotting out of his head.

 

“What the fuck you lookin’ at?” the man spits, shoving Peter, and becoming incredibly frustrated when the hard shove fails to move this scrawny little doe-eyed teenager at all.

 

“Your face,” Peter blurts out, immediately realizing that it was the completely wrong thing to say when the guy narrows his eyes and winds up for a punch.

 

Peter knows he can definitely take a punch from this guy, regardless of how muscle-y and methed up he is, but that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. So he does what any reasonable person would do: defends himself.

 

But Methhead McGee’s reflexes just so happen to be a little bit slower than his friendly neighborhood Spider-Man’s, so he doesn’t even get the chance to make his punch connect before Peter’s has knocked him out and back a few feet.

 

Of course, it’s just his luck that this is right as a patrol car turns the corner to see Peter shaking out his stinging knuckles while standing over an unconscious guy.

 


 

The back of the patrol car smells like weed. And piss. And vomit. The Spidey-sense is freaking out so hard that Peter’s worried he might have a panic attack. The handcuffs are fucking tight. Oh god, they’re gonna book him and put him in a holding cell with a bunch of hardened criminals, and it’s gonna turn into a fight club because he’ll say something stupid and piss off one of the bad guys, and then he’ll either have to let himself get beat up or show that he has powers and—

 

“Get outta the car, kid,” one of the officers, a middle-aged woman with graying blonde hair, says as she grabs Peter lightly by his shoulder to guide him out of the car.

 

Peter gets out and walks with the woman and her partner, a young Hispanic man, into the precinct. The female officer seems at least a little bit accepting of the fact that what went down was probably being misunderstood by the police, but she knows it’s still her job to bring him in until it gets sorted out.

 

“You want your phone call?” she asks tiredly.

 

Peter nods, but once she leads him over to the phone he freezes. Who should he call? Sure, Mr. Stark would probably get him out in approximately two minutes, but that’s assuming he even answers the phone which he probably wouldn’t. He could call Happy, but again, there’s the possibility of not answering. Aunt May’s at work and he doesn’t want to bother her, so that only leaves one person he can think of.

 

“Hello. Who is this?” His chosen person answers after three rings.

 

“Hi, Matt,” Peter replies quietly. “I um… I kinda got arrested?”

 

There’s a moment of silence. “ You got arrested.”

 

“That’s what I just said.”

 

“You, Peter Parker, were arrested,” Matt asks again, emphasizing on his name heavily.

 

Ohhhh, he’s asking if he was arrested while being Spider-Man.

 

“Yep. I, Peter Parker, was arrested for assault. Or something,” Peter replies.

 

There’s a relieved sigh from Matt. “Don’t say anything to the cops. Where are you?”

 

Peter looks to the officer beside him. “Um, sorry to bother you, but what precinct is this..?”

 

“The 114th,” she tells him.

 

“I’m at the 114th. Up in... Astoria I think?”

 

“I’m dealing with a client right now, but Foggy can be there in forty-five,” Matt says, following it with, “Don’t worry, Peter. Everything’s going to be okay.”

 

After the call ends, the female officer escorts Peter into an interrogation room where his handcuffs are attached to the table. He rattles the chain sadly and the officer gives him a sympathetic look.

 

“A detective should be here to ask you some questions in a couple minutes,” she says before leaving the room.

 

Peter tries to count the seconds that pass as he waits for the detective to show up, but he loses track of where he was after about 400 seconds, so he decides to do some more of Danny’s breathing exercises. They surprisingly help to calm the Spidey-sense down quite a bit, and Peter’s finally at least halfway relaxed by the time a detective slams open the door.

 

He’s maybe ten years older than Matt is, with black salt and pepper hair and a square jaw. He looks like a TV director had to cast the most stereotypical grizzled cop on the face of the Earth.

 

“Mr. Parker,” he says in a comically thick New York accent. “You wanna tell me what happened earlier?”

 

Peter doesn’t say anything, considering Matt told him not to breathe a word about what went down to the cops.

 

“I got a real big guy who’s gotta weigh about 190 pounds, who’s got multiple warrants out for his arrest for crimes that sure as hell ain’t petty in the hospital with a probable concussion, and I got the teenager who decked him right here. Wanna tell me how that happened?”

 

“…” Peter was relaxed, before this very moment.

 

“We already searched your shit—no brass knuckles or anything in there. Wanna tell me how a 5’8”125-pound kid takes down a guy like that with what looks like one hit?”

 

Peter is suddenly very fucking thankful for Tony having taken the suit away because if it was still in his possession Peter 100% would’ve had it in his backpack, and that would’ve been a hell of a lot harder for either Foggy or Matt to explain away.

 

The detective sighs and drags the chair around to the side of the table and sits just a foot or two away from Peter. “Look, Peter—can I call you Peter?”

 

“You can call me whatever you want,” Peter replies finally. “Doesn’t change the fact that I’m not gonna say shit until my lawyer gets here.”

 

“If you ain’t guilty, then why do you need a lawyer?” the man asks with a scoff.

 

Peter does his best to give the man a very flat, unimpressed look. He wants to spout off about how cops are pretty notoriously fucking shitty to everyone (particularly minorities) they get their grubby, power-hungry hands on, but that might get him in bigger trouble and Matt told him not to talk, so he just sticks with the look.

 

When Foggy shows up almost exactly 45 minutes later, the detective is still uselessly interrogating Peter.

 

Peter wants to cry with joy when he sees the long hair and dinosaur tie come through the door.

 

The first thing Foggy does is look between Peter and the detective with a highly unimpressed expression that could’ve killed Peter’s attempt at an unimpressed look without a second thought.

 

“How about we get the handcuffs off the child?” he says.

 

“He knocked out a man twice his weight.”

 

“Allegedly.”

 

“His damn knuckles are bruised,” the detective replies.

 

“No, they aren’t,” Peter butts in with a frown, rattling the cuffs as he lifts up his hands to show his pristine knuckles. Please. As if one little punch could bruise him.

 

“They don’t look bruised to me,” Foggy says after giving Peter’s hands a cursory glance.

 

“Well then that’s a whole new issue. Wanna tell me how a kid like this manages to knock an ex-con out with one hit without busting his damn hand?”

 

“Good aim?” Foggy suggests. “Can I get the name of the guy my client allegedly assaulted?”

 

“Michael Richmond,” he answers, arms crossed over his chest.

 

“Michael R—isn’t that the tweaker who robbed a bodega and shot the owner last week?” Foggy asks incredulously.

 

“Allegedly,” the detective replies in a snippy tone.

 

“So you, an obviously weathered detective, have come to the conclusion that this fifteen-year-old honor student on his way home from school randomly assaulted a known violent criminal and drug addict in the middle of the sidewalk in broad daylight?”

 

“Well there’s a reason why Richmond’s in the damn hospital and the kid’s here,” the detective snaps.

 

“Maybe because he smoked just a tad too much and keeled over right there.”

 

“We got a damn camera on that corner! I guarantee you that the kid did something!”

 

“If you have footage of what happened, then why the hell are we here arguing instead of watching it?” Foggy replies.

 

“Fine, you wanna fuckin’ watch it? Let’s go have a look,” the detective snaps.

 

“Great idea, let’s go. Peter, wait here,” Foggy says before he follows the detective, now muttering about how damn much he hates defense attorneys from the room.

 

Peter jangles his handcuff chain out of boredom as he waits for the two of them to return, and tries to reclaim his relaxation.

 

Twenty long minutes later, Foggy comes back in with the detective- who looks even more pissed off than he had when he’d left the room originally. It’s a funny contrast to the grin that Foggy’s sporting.

 

“Great news kiddo! The footage? Totally shows that the guy was trying to attack you. Now, let’s go get your stuff and get out of Detective Bryant’s graying hair since his current, and much more pressing, problem is the fact that the guy who attacked you , has now escaped from the hospital! We can only hope this experience has taught him a valuable lesson about handling violent criminals versus teenagers who are the victims of these violent criminals.” Jeez, Foggy’s really piling it on as the detective silently fumes and unlocks the cuffs from around Peter’s wrists. He doesn’t mind though, Peter’s feeling the same way, at least a little.

 

Peter looks down at his wrists and rubs slightly at the lines the cuffs left where they’d started to cut into his skin.

 

“Thank you so much, Mr. Nelson,” he says, as he gets up and casts a scornful look at the detective that Foggy quickly copies.

 

“You’re very welcome, Mr. Parker! Now let’s go get your personal effects, and get outta here. A precinct looking this nice weirds me out. I’m used to the lovable shithole that is the 15th.”

 

Peter smiles and follows Foggy to a desk, where an officer hands back Peter’s backpack, phone and wallet and even apologizes for the misunderstanding that brought him into the precinct.

 

Once they’re back out on the sidewalk, Foggy speaks up again.

 

“I assume this event has been very stressful for you, so why don’t we get the best stress reliever in the world?” Foggy suggests cheerfully.

 

“You know where to get heroin?” Peter jokes, earning a snort from Foggy.

 

“Of course I know where to get heroin. I work with criminals in Hell’s Kitchen, and my best friend is everyone’s favorite red-clad righteous idiot. But I’m not talking about heroin! I’m talking about ice cream!”

 

“That’s okay—you really don’t have to,” Peter assures quickly, even as he smiles at ‘red clad righteous idiot’.

 

“Nonsense. If being arrested is as stressful as I remember, then you need ice cream. Come on,” Foggy says as he starts to walk, motioning for Peter to follow after him.

 

Peter does follow after him because hello?? Mr. Nelson said he’s been arrested?

 

“What’d you get arrested for?” Peter asks as he trots alongside Foggy.

 

“Drunk and disorderly conduct.”

 

Peter gapes at him.

 

“But the joke was on them because I wasn’t even drunk. I’m just an idiot.”

 

“What’d you do?” Peter asks now that his curiosity has been piqued.

 

Foggy sighs reminiscently. “An excellent impersonation of a friend.”

 

The nearest ice cream shop is only about a five-minute walk away, and it’s actually a frozen yogurt shop, but Foggy says he can’t tell the difference between the two. Once they’re sat down with their yogurt (that Foggy had insisted on paying for), Foggy starts another conversation. He’s a lot more chatty than Matt.

 

“You know who hates froyo with a passion that’s only equaled by his hate-on for criminals?” Foggy asks, causing Peter to choke on a gummy worm. “Matt,” he continues, answering his own question. “That man will go on and on and on about how it shouldn’t even be compared to ice cream because of how fucking abhorrent the texture is. I swear to God, he had to go to confession after all the shit he said about froyo got him looking just a tad too murderous.”

 

“What’s wrong with the texture?” Peter asks, looking down at his strawberry-mango swirl covered in watermelon boba and gummy candies.

 

“He said, and I quote, that it’s like ‘someone filled a playdough extruder with cough syrup flavored wet chalk and bribed an FDA official into labeling it edible with indecent use of their body and an indeterminate quantity of unmarked bills’.”

 

Peter chokes again, and Foggy pats him on the back sympathetically.

 

“He’s got a great sense of humor. I can’t wait for you to get the chance to see it.”

 

“I don’t think he’s trying to be funny, but watching him interact with Mr. Castle is pretty entertaining,” Peter replies.

 

“Ugh, you’re as bad as Karen. Frank is terrifying,” Foggy groans.

 

“The Spidey-sense doesn’t think he’s a threat,” Peter replies softly, shrugging his shoulders.

 

Foggy’s eyes widen a little at that. “Well, shit. Maybe he’s not as bad as I thought. I’m still kinda trying to get over the whole him chaining Daredevil to a roof. And shooting him in the head.”

 

“He chained him to a roof?”

 

“Apparently it’s complicated. So complicated, that even after hearing both sides of the story I still have no idea what the hell either of them was thinking—that’s assuming that they were thinking at all.”

 

Peter laughs softly at that and shakes his head as he finishes off his yogurt. “Well, they’re pretty funny. I think Mr. Castle is just annoying him because it’s fun.”

 

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” Foggy says with a shrug. “Hey, do you have my number?” he adds.

 

“Nope, here,” Peter replies, handing his phone over to Foggy with the text messages open.

 

Foggy send himself a message from Peter’s phone before handing it back over and finishing his own dessert.

 

“Unfortunately I have to get back home. There’s paperwork to be filed and taxes to be done, my friend!” Foggy announces, getting up from the table with Peter. “But I insist on walking you back home, so I can serve as an eyewitness if you get jumped by any more crackheads.”

 

“I’d appreciate that,” Peter replies softly.

 

The walk to Peter’s apartment takes a little while, but they keep up a nice balance of amicable silence and friendly conversation along the way, with Foggy even telling Peter about his first meeting with Matt, where he somehow managed to insult him and flirt with him incredibly awkwardly in the span of less than two minutes.

 

“Well, this is me,” Peter says as they get to the entrance to his building.

 

“Indeed it is. Matt told me to give you this by the way,” Foggy says before pulling Peter into a hug.

 

Foggy is arguably a lot better at hugs than Matt. Not to say that Matt’s bad at hugs—he’s just composed entirely of solid muscle and scar tissue, which aren’t the most huggable materials in the world. Foggy, however, is composed of approximately 3% muscle, and about 90% more open feelings than Matt, so he’s much easier to hug.

 

“Tell him I said thanks,” Peter says softly.

 

“I’ll be sure to do that,” Foggy replies, standing out on the street until he sees Peter enter the building.





Chapter Text

Thursday finally rolls around, and it turns out Jessica just wants Peter to tag along with her while she works one of her cases. Apparently, knowing how to ask questions and get straight answers without either a) breaking bones or b) being a human lie-detector is a necessary skill for street-level heroes, such as themselves. While it doesn’t sound like it’ll be anywhere near as entertaining as beating up the criminal element with Matt, Peter’s betting it’ll be a fair amount more entertaining than breathing exercises on a scuffed wooden floor (no offense, Danny).

 

Since Jessica’s office/apartment is in Hell’s Kitchen and she doesn’t need him to join her until 5:30, Peter decides to swing by the offices of Nelson, Murdock, and Page, since Matt’s business partners have finally allowed him to leave his apartment, for the express purposes of either going to work, or getting alcohol. Peter isn’t quite sure why the second option was approved by whoever Matt’s main handler is, but he figures that there’s a reason for it, however convoluted that reason may be. Regardless, he owes Foggy and Matt both a big thank you for rescuing him from the police and getting shot for him respectively. Then there’s the whole matter of Matt getting him a new suit made. Peter’s not the world’s best chef, but baking is pretty easy, considering it consists of numbered steps and a basic practical application of beginner’s chemistry. When he was baking the chocolate chip cookies, he made absolutely sure to wash his hands, and the counters, and everything that even touched the food multiple times, before using them, since Matt had mentioned to him in one of his rambling text rants that he can taste everything that food has touched anywhere along the process of being made.

 

The office is pretty empty when he shows up, and Karen’s not at the front desk. Instead, there’s a young woman, probably in her early twenties, sitting at the receptionist’s desk. There’s a little temporary name card on the desk that reads ‘Danielle’, in what’s probably the woman’s handwriting. It’s pretty and full of loops and swirls, with a small flower drawn in the corner.

 

She looks up quickly when she hears the door open, clearly a little surprised that someone’s actually entered the rinky-dink law firm/PI office.

 

“Welcome to Nelson, Murdock, and Page, how can I help you?” she says pleasantly, a nice customer service smile on her face.

 

“Oh, my name’s Peter! I’m a friend of Matt’s. I'm just here to see him and Mr. Nelson,” Peter explains, earning himself a slightly strange look. He doesn’t blame Danielle for finding it odd that a teenager who, on a good day, looks to be 14 years old, is claiming to be friends with her employer, a moderately successful lawyer in his thirties. Actually, Peter isn’t even sure how old Matt is. He’s going to guess thirties.

 

“I’ll get Mr. Murdock for you, then,” she says with another smile, as she picks up the phone on her desk and presses the extension for Matt’s office. It’s just a tad unnecessary, considering the guy’s office is literally six feet to her left, and Matt’s abilities have definitely allowed him to hear everything both of them have said- or even thought, Peter thinks. He hopes Matt didn’t hear him think that. In fact, the only reason Matt hasn’t come out is probably because Danielle doesn’t know about the superpowers thing.

 

A second later, Matt’s office door opens, and he has a bright smile on his face- despite the fact that it’s definitely pulling slightly at his still-healing split lip to do so. He’s still wearing the damn sunglasses. Did he just listen to that eighties song too many times and can’t get over wearing sunglasses? Peter is entranced by them, and wonders why Matt chose red, of all colors.

 

“Peter! It’s so nice to see you!” Matt greets. Peter’s too busy glaring at Matt’s sunglasses to notice the funny look that Matt’s phrasing gets from Danielle.

 

“Hi, Matt. Good to see you too,” Peter replies, walking closer to Matt. “Is Mr. Nelson in his office? I definitely owe him a thank you too.”

 

“Yeah, he should be in there,” Matt says, running his hand along the edge of Danielle’s desk as he walks around it to let himself and Peter into Foggy’s office.

 

Foggy’s got his headphones on, and he clearly can’t hear a damn thing, since he doesn’t even look up at the two new people who have entered the room. Matt shuts the door softly behind him and Peter, before grabbing a piece of paper from the recycling bin on the floor and balling it up. He throws it at Foggy and hits him right in the center of his forehead.

 

“Wha—” Foggy startles and pulls his headphones off as he lifts his head up abruptly, and the confused look on his face switches for a smile when he sees Peter. “Peter! Long time no see!”

 

“Hi, Mr. Nelson,” Peter says with a small wave.

 

“Ew no, don’t call me Mr. Nelson. That makes me feel old. Call me Foggy.”

 

“Hi, Foggy,” Peter says instead, slightly awkwardly, getting a nod of approval from him.

 

“Much better. Now, may I ask what brings you to our humble offices?” Foggy says, leaning back in his desk chair, to the point that Peter’s a little worried it might tip over.

 

“I brought ‘thank you’ cookies,” Peter says, setting his backpack down on one of the chairs across from Foggy’s desk and digging through it to grab two bags of chocolate chip cookies. He sets one on Foggy’s desk and hands the other to Matt. “Thanks for making sure I don’t end up in prison, and thanks for taking a bullet for me. And for introducing me to your suit guy!”

 

Foggy immediately opens the bag and takes a bite of one of the cookies. “Oh my God. These are heavenly,” he moans, before pointing a deliberate finger at Matt. “Get shot more often, so your child will bake for us again.” Peter beams from the praise.

 

Matt sighs. “If Peter was my child, then I would’ve had him when I was like… 14 or 15. And trust me, 14-year-old Matt was appealing to no one, aside from one creepy priest we had for like, three months while Father Lantom was on a mission trip.”

 

Peter looks absolutely horrified at that, and Foggy looks fairly disturbed as well. Matt seems to not be affected, and instead takes a bite of one of his own cookies, nodding in appreciation while the other two process what he’s just said.  

 

“Oh my God, that’s horrible, ” Peter blurts out.

 

Matt just shrugs in response. “It happens.”

 

“Okay, Saint Matthew, what we’re not gonna do right now is give this child the impression that that is a thing that ‘just happens’,” Foggy says, narrowing his eyes at Matt. “That’s a very bad thing, which we are going to talk about later. Peter, that isn’t a thing that you should just brush off as normal.”

 

“Catholic orphanage. Nineties, two-thousands,” Matt says simply. “Easy target,” he adds, gesturing to himself. “Wasn’t exactly a rare occurrence.”

 

Peter gives Matt a funny look, he can’t imagine Matt ever having been an easy target.

 

“That really doesn’t make it any better,” Foggy replies.

 

“Why were you in an orphanage?” Peter asks. It’s something he’s been wondering since the off-hand mention in one of Matt’s texts, and now seems like as good a time to find out as any.

 

“I was an orphan,” Matt replies, blasé.

 

Both Peter and Foggy give him flat looks.

 

Matt sighs. “My dad got murdered by the mob, my mom was never in the picture.”

 

“Do all super-people have dead parents?” Peter asks with a frown.

 

Matt considers this for a moment. “Jessica and Danny’s parents are dead too.”

 

“And mine. And Mr. Stark’s,” Peter adds helpfully.

 

“You should conduct a survey,” Foggy suggests. “Maybe then, someone can finally figure out the psychology behind you caped-crusader types.”

 

“And what? I just go up to whoever I find and say ‘excuse me, but did one or both of your parents happen to die in an incident that traumatized you as a child?’, I’m sure that would blow over well with the psychos of the group.” Matt shakes his head, taking Foggy much too seriously.

 

“I’ll ask the Avengers about it next time I see them,” Peter offers. “I gotta go meet Ms. Jones to do something now, though. Enjoy the cookies, and don’t get shot again,” he adds, after glancing at the clock on Foggy’s wall and noticing the time.

 

“Don’t get arrested,” Foggy calls after Peter, as he leaves the office.

 


 

When Peter arrives at the address Jessica sent him, he double checks the text just to make sure it’s the right building. It’s not a bad building per se, just a bit dingy. For some reason, when he gets in the elevator, the Spidey-sense goes off hardcore. Peter’s actually a little worried that the elevator might try and plummet him to his death, but he gets off on Jessica’s floor without a hitch, and Peter knows her apartment is at the end of the hall. There’s a glass panel in the door reading ‘Alias Investigations’, and Peter knocks on it carefully.

 

There’s the sound of someone getting up from a desk after a second, and the door swings open a moment later to reveal a young black man, who is most definitely not Jessica Jones.

 

“Umm, hi,” the man says, looking Peter over.

 

“Is Jessica here?” Peter asks. He’s really hoping he didn’t somehow manage to go to the wrong place.

 

“She should be back in just a couple minutes. You wanna come in and wait for her?” he asks, stepping aside to let Peter in.

 

“Alright.” He walks into the apartment, and the first thing he notices is that the walls have been through hell. They have bullet holes that have been filled in poorly with spackle, along with a big chunk of the drywall that’s just gone. There are a few places where paint covers what Peter assumes are bloodstains, judging by the way his skin tingles when he looks at them.

 

“Sorry about the mess,” the man says, shutting the door behind Peter and returning to a smaller desk, off to the side of the desk that Peter assumes is Jessica’s. “I’m Malcolm, by the way. I’m Jessica’s business associate.”

 

“I’m Peter.”

 

A few minutes pass by in awkward silence, as Malcolm tries to type something at his computer, but keeps getting distracted since he feels the need to supervise the child in the office. Knowing Jessica, there’s probably a lot of broken glass somewhere, and they really don’t need a lawsuit from an angry parent.

 

“So,” Malcolm says eventually, having given up on doing his work. “How do you know Jess?”

 

“We have some mutual acquaintances,” Peter answers. This Malcolm guy seems nice enough, but Peter’s not about to blurt out that he’s Spider-Man. No, thank you.

 

“Ah.” Peter’s grateful that he leaves it at that.

 

The silence settles back over them, only interrupted a few minutes later, when Jessica comes through the front door with a brown paper bag under each arm. Both Peter and Malcolm breathe a sigh of relief upon seeing her; the awkwardness in the air had been suffocating them both slowly but surely.

 

“Hi, Ms. Jones,” Peter greets cheerfully.

 

Jessica looks hungover and pissed off; but then again, she always looks like that. She smiles when she sees Peter.

 

“Hey, kid. Hope Malcolm didn’t bother you too much,” she says as she sets the bags down on her desk. She pulls out a jar of peanut butter and throws it at Malcolm, before emptying the rest of the bags.

 

They contain nothing but cheap liquor, which Jessica puts on a shelf by the wall (Malcolm looks oddly pleased by this) aside from one bottle, which she leaves on the desk.

 

“Nah, he didn’t bother me,” Peter assures, as he watches Jessica pull out her flask and fill it with the bottle that she’d left out. As soon as it’s full, she puts the bottle in the bottom drawer of her desk, and Malcolm loses his pleased look when he sees this.

 

“I do my best. But, I am a little confused as to why a kid you ‘have some mutual acquaintances with’ is at your office,” Malcolm supplies, from where he’s watching Jessica, while he turns the jar of peanut butter over in his hands.

 

“I’m on babysitting duty,” Jessica replies. “His usual after-school program’s temporarily closed for maintenance.”

 

Peter really hopes that Jessica can help him learn how to come up with convincing lies on the spot like that.

 

“No one would ever entrust a child to you,” Malcolm replies.

 

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that believable.

 

“Why not? I’d never let the kid drink. Booze is all for me.”

 

“That is exactly why not.”

 

They stare each other down for about thirty seconds. Peter fidgets, feeling even more awkward.

 

“Fair point,” Jessica concedes with a shrug, as she puts her flask back in her pocket and grabs her camera bag off the desk. “Peter, let’s go.”

 

“Okay, bye Malcolm,” Peter says, waving goodbye as Jessica herds him out of the apartment.

 

“Bye, Peter,” Peter hears being called back, as the door shuts behind him and Jessica.

 

Jessica starts to lead him to the elevator, but Peter pauses. “Um. Can we take the stairs?” he asks.

 

She gives him a look that he doesn’t quite understand, but nods anyway, and opens the door to the stairwell.

 

“Thanks.”

 

“No problem.”

 

Once they’re on the sidewalk, Jessica finally gets to explaining the details of what they’re doing.

 

“It’s a missing person case. My client’s fiancé just up and disappeared about a week ago.”

 

“Don’t you call the police for that sort of thing?” Peter asks with a frown.

 

“Usually. She did go to the police, but her fiancé has a record that includes drug charges, and the cops made it pretty obvious they think he’s just on a coke bender, and that he’ll pop back up again in a few days, so they’re treating it as low priority.”

 

“What do you think?”

 

“I’m not sure yet. Some of his things were gone from the apartment, and his credit card hasn’t been used. But he also withdrew a large amount of cash the day he disappeared, so he really could just be living it up in a shitty motel with hookers and crack. But I’m getting paid to find him, so I’m gonna find him. And you’re gonna help me.”

 

“Wait, how am I gonna help?” Peter asks.

 

“Simple,” Jessica replies as they come to a stop outside a shitty bar. “You’re gonna put on some teary eyes and go ask the bartender if he’s seen your step-dad.” She hands Peter a picture of a couple. The woman is white with blonde hair and brown eyes, and the man is fairly light-skinned but possibly Latino with shoulder length, curly hair. Both look to be in their late thirties.

 

“I don’t know if I’ll be too good at it…”

 

“That’s okay. Think of it as practice. Someday you might need to be able to act like a scared, upset kid, and you’ll be able to look back on this moment for guidance.” Jessica pauses and takes a smaller than usual sip from her flask. “Alright, so, I’m gonna go in there now and sit at the bar. I want you to wait either five minutes, or until two other people have entered before you come in, got it?”

 

“Got it. Five minutes or two people,” Peter repeats, looking down at the picture. “Don’t get drunk,” he adds with a smile.

 

Jessica rolls her eyes so hard Peter’s a little surprised they don’t pop out of her head. “I promise not to get drunk.”

 

Jessica enters the bar after that, and Peter ends up entering after a third person, because he was pretty focused on getting his eyes to get right to the point of being watery by staring at the headlights of a taxi parked outside the bar.

 

When he does finally go inside, the strange looks he gets from everyone are more than enough to make him hunch his shoulders as he walks up to where the bartender is standing. Jessica’s just a few feet away, which Peter is grateful for; it’s not a very welcoming atmosphere.

 

“You must think I’m either blind or stupid, if you think I’m gonna serve you,” the bartender says, as he casually polishes a glass that looks like it hasn’t been truly clean in years.

 

“I—” Peter bites his tongue hard enough to make tears well up in his eyes, as he sets the picture he’d been clutching to his chest down on the bar. He does his best to make his voice shake as he says, “I’m looking for my step-dad. He hasn’t been home in a week, and my mom’s really worried, and I know he comes here sometimes, and I just want him to come home,” he says, looking up at the bartender with the saddest eyes he can manage. It’s one of the few times that looking so young has really come in handy.

 

The bartender’s expression softens slightly, as he picks up the photograph and looks over it for a minute. “Sorry kid, haven’t seen him for a couple weeks.” He looks like he wants to say something else, but he just passes the picture back.

 

“Do you know if there’s anywhere else he might go? I know he has problems with drinking, and I just want him to come home…” Peter tries again, as he finally gets a couple of tears out.

 

The bartender looks conflicted again but sets down the glass and rag finally to look at Peter. “Mouthful. Down on ninth,” he says finally. “But, kid, don’t go askin’ around there by yourself.”

 

“Thank you— I won’t,” Peter assures, hugging the picture to his chest for a moment, before he slips it back into his pocket and walks out of the bar.

 

He stands just out of view of the front windows, and Jessica joins him two minutes later.

 

“You did good,” she says sincerely.

 

“Really?”

 

“Bartender went and called his son after you left. Just to check up on him.”

 

“Wow.”

 

“Yep, and I thank you for your help with that. Now we’re going to Mouthful, and you’re going to stay very close to me,” Jessica replies, as she turns and heads down the street with Peter at her side.

 

“Wait, why? What’s Mouthful?”

 

“It advertises itself as a gay bar, but in reality it’s a homing beacon for all sorts of creeps, gay, straight, whatever. Owner’s a registered sex offender, and they’re pretty notorious for not IDing. Which attracts dumb kids, who don’t know better. Which is exactly the point of the place.”

 

“Oh,” Peter says. That’s why the bartender hadn’t wanted to tell him where his ‘step-dad’ might be. He didn’t want to ruin the happy family with the fact that the guy might be either gay and oblivious, or a complete sicko.

 

It takes them about ten minutes to get there, and it’s definitely the seediest looking bar on the street, cushioned between a vape shop, and a tattoo parlor that looks like it’s had to pay off every health inspector that set foot inside it for the last decade, at least. Jessica winds her arm tightly around Peter’s as they enter the bar, and Peter stops dead in the doorway from the way the whole place makes the Spidey-sense flip. Out. Peter’s not sure if it’s upset because of the sticky, wet floors or the people popping pills, or the loud bass of the music, or the predatory look one guy gives him until Jessica pretty much bares her teeth at the guy and he slinks off. They make their way to the bar by pushing through the crowd, even if that means that Jessica has to break a wandering hand, that definitely didn’t touch her simply by accident.

 

One more person sets his hand on Jessica’s shoulder. “How much?” he shouts over the loud music.

 

“I’m not for sale!” she snarls, shoving him back.

 

“Not you, bitch-- the kid!”

 

Peter tenses up because a fucking grown man just asked how much he cost, and Jessica just pulls him closer, as she drags him towards the bar even quicker.

 

Once they get to the counter, Jessica flags down the bartender and reaches into Peter’s pocket to grab the picture, and slap it down on the counter- which very well may be stickier than the floor.

 

“You seen the guy?” she asks abruptly.

 

“Maybe.”

 

“I’m not playing your damn game. Tell me if you’ve seen him, and I promise not to get a cop who isn’t in your boss’s pocket down here,” she snaps.

 

The guy rolls his eyes and just flips Jessica off, before wandering away to help some paying customers.

 

Thankfully, a girl who looks maybe seventeen is standing near enough by to see the picture, and she speaks up.

 

“He was in here a few days ago. Had a seizure after he did some bad coke in the bathroom. A big white guy put him in a cab to the hospital,” she says, sipping on some obnoxiously colored, fruity drink.

 

“You remember what day?” Jessica asks.

 

“Tuesday, I think.”

 

“Alright,” Jessica replies before looking over the girl carefully and noticing just how young she is. “What’s your name?”

 

“Prija. Why?” the girl answers hesitantly.

 

“Prija, take my advice and get the hell out of here. You wanna know how many times Daredevil’s had to beat the shit out of guys in the alley behind this place because they drug girls your age and drag ‘em out there? More times than I can count. And nobody’s seen Daredevil in a week.”

 

Prija looks a little more anxious at the mention of that. People have been speculating recently about whether Daredevil’s on vacation, or if this is another one of his multiple-month disappearances starting up.

 

“Come on, we’ll walk you home,” Jessica says, and for the first time the girl notices Peter over on Jessica’s other side.

 

“I don’t have a home,” she tries to whisper, speaking just loud enough to be heard over the music. As she does, she finishes setting her drink down on the bar and stepping closer to Jessica’s side.

 

“Then let me take you to a shelter or something,” Jessica replies.

 

“I can’t go. He won’t let me,” she whispers in an even lower tone, inclining her head towards a big guy, who looks either drunk or stoned out of his mind. “He owns me.”

 

Those words send a chill through Peter’s whole body, and he stares between the man and the girl whom he apparently owns. He hasn’t been around the gritty crimes enough that he feels anger reflexively at the mention of human traffickers or pedophiles; instead, he just feels shock. He's sure the anger will come later, though.

 

“Come on. We’re getting you out of here.” There’s a harsher tone to her voice, as Jessica glares at the man. Jessica still has her arm as tightly around Peter as she possibly can, and now she has her other hand on the girl’s shoulder. As she starts to lead them both out, the man grabs Prija’s arm hard enough to almost yank her out of Jessica’s grasp.

 

“Hey! Where d’ya think you’re goin’? Haven’t even finished the drink I jus’ boughtcha,” he slurs, before gesturing to where Prija had set the glass on the counter.

 

The girl is absolutely frozen and doesn’t say a word, as the man tugs on her arm again.

 

“Back off,” Jessica warns, pulling the girl even closer back to herself.

 

“Or what?” When the guy stands as he says this, it becomes pretty obvious that he isn’t someone who loses fights. He has to be nearing 6’4”, and looks like he does manual labor for a living, even if all the drugs and alcohol pumping through his system make him a bit wobbly on his feet.

 

“Or I’ll knock your slimy ass the fuck out,” Jessica growls, looking up at the man.

 

He just laughs at that and reaches for Prija again. Jessica pushes Prija behind her, and closer to Peter. The barbarian is clearly unhappy with this, but before he can do anything, Jessica punches him so hard that he breaks the barstool he falls against. Peter desperately wants to help, but Jessica seems to have it under control, so he just tries to keep Prija away from any of the other patrons.

 

Prija and a few other patrons are staring in shock as Jessica grabs her and Peter again, and walks them quickly toward the exit while people are distracted. They manage to get out to the street before any of the guy’s friends think to go after them, and by the time three other men pile out of the bar, Jessica has already shoved both children into a cab and is getting in with them.

 

“Fifteenth precinct,” she orders the driver, who nods and immediately throws the car into drive.

 

“We can’t go to the cops,” Prija blurts out, biting at her nail out of stress. “They don’t give a fuck about it. They’ll take me back to him-- or sell me to someone else!”

 

“I’m taking you to a good cop, Prija. I know him, and I know he’ll help you,” Jessica soothes in a voice that’s a lot more gentle than anything Peter’s heard from her before.

 

The girl just shakes her head and starts repeating ‘they’ll give me back’ over and over under her breath.

 

“It’s the cop that Daredevil likes,” Jessica tries softly, remembering the way Prija had reacted to the earlier mention of him. “He helped Daredevil with Fisk, and the Punisher, and all of the small guys too.”

 

“Daredevil trusts him..?” she asks softly.

 

“I promise,” Jessica assures.

 

The girl nods, but after that, the ride to the precinct is pretty much silent. Peter’s pretty occupied with his own thoughts after that. It’s a little startling to realize that the course of this girl’s whole life was altered just because he played ‘concerned step-son’ well enough to get a bartender he’d never met before to tell him where a man might be. If he and Jessica hadn’t been at the bar, if they’d come five minutes later, or five minutes earlier, or if Prija hadn’t been standing there to see the picture Jessica intended to show just to the bartender-- if so many thousands of things leading to that moment hadn’t gone exactly right, then this girl would’ve been abused for rest of her life, which probably wouldn’t have been all that long. He feels sick just thinking about it. How many other girls in that bar were like Prija? How many trafficked people has he seen this week without realizing?

 

Once they arrive at the precinct, Jessica throws some money at the driver, before helping Peter and Prija out of the cab. She keeps her arm around Prija but allows Peter to walk at her side untethered. When they enter the precinct, there’s sort of a collective groan as the officers and detectives see Jessica. She just ignores all of that and walks straight to a desk where a man’s too busy hunched over typing on his computer to notice her.

 

“Brett,” she says.

 

Brett groans loudly. “What is it now, Jones?”

 

“She was trafficked,” Jessica answers, tilting her head toward Prija.

 

That gets Brett’s attention, and he sits up straight right away. He changes his expression to a kinder, more friendly one when he sees Prija standing there with her heavy, smudged makeup, that doesn’t do anywhere near a good enough job of making her look older. In this light, she actually seems even closer to Peter’s age than she had in the poorly lit bar. “Alright, don't worry, I’m gonna help you,” Brett says to Prija. He looks back over to Jessica. “What happened?”

 

“I was working a case. Led me to Mouthful. Found her there,” Jessica answers simply.

 

“The boy too?”

 

Peter waves awkwardly, shaking his head. He doesn’t want to get in the way of Jessica, but he doesn’t do well with being quiet when he’s nervous.

 

“No. He’s a friend’s kid.”

 

Brett looks slightly suspicious of that, giving Peter a hard look but nodding anyway. “Alright, can you tell me your name?” he asks the girl softly, as Jessica guides her to sit across from him.

 

“Prija Nguyen,” the girl says softly.

 

As Prija begins to answer the questions the detective has for her, Jessica pulls Peter aside.

 

“You should probably head home. This is gonna take a while.”

 

Peter glances back over at Prija before meeting Jessica’s eyes again. She looks very, very tired, but there’s a sort of anger beneath it that makes Peter think she’s going to go back to Mouthful as soon as they’re done here, and beat every man in there to death.

 

“What’s gonna happen to her?” he asks.

 

Jessica shrugs. “That depends.”

 

“On what?”

 

“If she’s a US citizen, or if she was kidnapped and sold internationally. If she’s a minor, or an adult. If she has family that’s looking for her, or if her family sold her,” Jessica answers, tossing a glance over to where Prija’s now crying across from Brett, who hands her a tissue.

 

“Will she get deported if she was kidnapped and brought here?”

 

“I don’t know; probably.”

 

“Will they charge her with anything?”

 

“Probably not,” Jessica answers after a second.

 

Probably not?” Peter asks incredulously. “So they might. What would they charge her with?”

 

“Overstaying her visa. Possibly possession, if she has any drugs on her.”

 

“But-- that’s not--” Peter looks up at Jessica, searching for some sort of answer. “That’s not right.”

 

“No, it’s not. But it’ll be a while before we know exactly what’s gonna happen, and you don’t need to stay for all of that.”

 

“But--” Peter tries.

 

“There’s nothing you can do. I’ll stay with her, and I’ll text you whenever something happens,” Jessica replies. “Please, go home,” she adds firmly.

 

“Okay,” Peter replies quietly, wrapping his arms around himself and nodding.

 

Jessica sighs and pulls him into one of her very rare hugs. “It’ll be alright. Text me as soon as you get home.”

 

He nods, even if he doesn’t really hear her, considering how much he’s drawn back into his own head. He doesn’t want to go home; he wants to do something. He wants someone to go back to the bar and help. When Peter ends up back on the sidewalk, he doesn’t turn towards the way home; he turns to walk deeper into Hell’s Kitchen.

Chapter Text

After leaving the precinct, Peter heads directly for Matt’s apartment. It’s only about a fifteen-minute walk away, but Peter manages it in ten by taking a page out of Matt’s book and parkouring across the roofs of the city to make it quicker. He almost misses a jump, once again only being saved by his ability to stick to things (in this instance, the guard rail on a fire escape). He takes it a little bit slower after that, before dropping down to street level half a block away from Matt’s apartment and sprinting the rest of the way there. He’s definitely panicking, but this is different than usual. He tries to convince himself that the reason for his rapid breathing is just from him sprinting across roofs and nearly falling off one of them, but he knows that it has more to do with the tightness in his chest that feels like there’s something in there, clawing to get out.

 

“Matt! Are you home?” Peter calls loudly, his voice pitched a little bit higher from his nerves, as he knocks on the door.

 

He pounds on the door for almost two whole minutes, before one of Matt’s neighbors opens their door to glare at Peter.

 

“He’s obviously not home. Keep it down.”

 

“R-right. Sorry, I just…” Peter glances away from the woman, and his eye catches on faded letters painted on the wall beside an old cement staircase that reads ‘roof access’. She closes the door.

 

Peter doesn’t really think; he just goes for those stairs like his life depends on it. He can remember seeing the roof access in Matt’s apartment the one time he’s been inside it-- mostly because he remembers thinking just how smart it was for Matt to have that feature in his apartment. Surely he’d never be able to keep up the dual identities if his nosy neighbors saw Daredevil stomping up eight flights of stairs at 3 every morning, bleeding all over the railings and such. When Peter gets to the roof, the door leading down into Matt’s apartment is unlocked. It makes sense that it would be unlocked; carrying a key in costume wouldn’t be a great idea.

 

As he descends the creaking stairs, the apartment is once again lit only with the bright purple glow emanating from the billboard outside. The lighting shifts through shades of blue and pink and back to purple as Peter does a quick lap of the apartment, including the bedroom, to make sure Matt hadn’t crawled home and died somewhere. Fortunately, there’s no dead Daredevil in the apartment, but unfortunately, that means Peter has no idea where Matt is. He tosses his backpack down on the floor by the armchair and pulls out his phone to try and call Matt. He feels dumb for not just calling earlier, but his mind was (and still is) pretty clouded with adrenaline and panic.

 

“No, no, no, no,” Peter mutters, as he repeatedly clicks the lock button on his phone to no avail. All he sees in the dead, black screen is a reflection of himself, and Jesus, he looks terrible. He’s pale, and his hair is soaked through with sweat both from the nerves, and the impromptu athleticism it took in order to get to Matt’s apartment in the first place.

 

Peter falls down to his knees with a loud thunk to search through his backpack on the off-chance he remembered to toss a spare charger in there at some point, but his unlucky streak continues to shine when all he finds is a broken pencil and an old granola bar wrapper. As Peter lets himself settle into the armchair (he doesn’t sit on the couch; the spidey-sense is extremely unhappy with Matt’s couch), he realizes that all he can do is just wait for Matt to get home from wherever he is.

 

About twenty minutes pass by in what would normally be silence, but everything that’s happened over the course of this night-- of the past week-- has left him so on edge that he can’t even attempt to filter out all the sounds his enhanced hearing is lending to him. There’s a couple fighting in the apartment downstairs, and a cat yowling in the alley behind the building, and the sirens from police cars and ambulances just keep pouring in. Peter doesn’t even realize that he’s crying out loud, heaving sobs with his hands clamped over his ears until he feels a hand on his shoulder.

 

He opens his eyes from where they’ve been clamped shut- as if that’ll somehow help drown out the sounds and keep the light from the billboard from burning his eyes- and sees Matt kneeling down in front of him. He looks a little disheveled, with his tie loosened, and his shirt about halfway unbuttoned, and of course he still has those stupid fucking sunglasses on. There’s a dark bruise on Matt’s neck, which is weird, considering he hasn’t gone out Daredevil-ing in almost a week but-- just then, some movement further behind Matt catches Peter’s eye.

 

There’s a guy about Matt’s age, who Peter’s never seen before, standing awkwardly with one hand clasped around the wrist of his opposite arm as he does his best not to wobble on unsteady feet while he stands there. This guy’s shirt is still completely on, but his belt is undone and-- oh.

 

“Peter-- Peter, are you okay?” Matt’s asking-- and has been asking, for at least a minute now. “Peter, what’s wrong?”

 

Peter hates the way his voice cracks when he speaks, and he hates that he sounds like a scared child. “It’s too much--” he manages to get out.

 

“What’s too much?” Matt prompts gently, rubbing a small circle on Peter’s shoulder.

 

Everything! It’s too bright, and it’s too loud, and it smells like blood in here, and--”

 

“Shh… shh, it’s okay,” Matt continues before turning over his shoulder to address the man standing there. “You should go.”

 

That gets a nod from the strange man, who then realizes his belt is still undone, so he quickly fixes it as he heads for the door, shutting it behind him. Even just the sound of that makes Peter flinch, and full on whimper and try to hold his hands to his head even tighter.

 

“It’s okay,” Matt repeats, adding his hands on top of Peter’s, and holding them there firmly. “I can fix this,” he says, and Peter notices that his voice the absolute tiniest bit slurred.

 

Matt keeps his hands tightly over Peter’s ears, as he gets him up from the armchair and takes him into the bedroom, gently walking Peter backward. They continue this way until the backs of his knees collide with the bed, and he sits down on it.

 

“I’m gonna let go for just a second, okay?” Matt says. “Two seconds, I promise.” Peter nods.

 

Matt removes his hands from Peter’s, and a second later Peter feels headphones sliding over his ears. There’s the soft click of a switch on them being flipped, followed by some gentle white noise that manages to drown out almost everything. He feels the mattress dip down as Matt sits beside him, and very carefully puts an arm around Peter, holding him close.

 

As Peter’s heart rate returns to normal over the next hour or so, he relaxes more against Matt and even almost drifts off to sleep a few times. Eventually, he pulls the headphones off and sets them in his lap before opening his eyes to look over at Matt. It isn’t too loud anymore, and the light from the billboard, which is fainter here in the bedroom, doesn’t burn itself onto his eyes.

 

“You wanna tell me what happened?” Matt asks softly, giving Peter’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze.

 

Peter nods and takes a minute to try and collect his panicked thoughts from earlier. “I think I had another panic attack…?”

 

Matt huffs softly. “Yeah, you did.”

 

“It wasn’t like before, though. Last time I just couldn’t breathe, and I felt like I was gonna die, but this time everything was so loud and bright and I just-- I couldn’t make it stop…”

 

Matt gives Peter a sympathetic look. “Has that ever happened before? Things being too loud?”

 

Peter nods. “Yeah-- yeah, after I got my abilities, it was always too loud. Sometimes when I get nervous, everything gets loud too… And everything’s almost always a little too bright. Wait-- is that why you always have the sunglasses on? Is it a super-senses thing?”

 

Matt smiles fondly and shakes his head. “No, not really.”

 

So it really is just a douchey fashion statement. Huh.

 

“So,” Matt continues, “do you want to tell me why you were panicking?”

 

“I was with Jessica… She said she wanted me to help her with one of her cases, but I think she was probably just trying to keep me busy and out of trouble. Maybe Mr. Stark thought I needed a babysitter, and told her to do it or something-- I wouldn’t put it past him. Whatever, doesn’t matter. So we ended up at this-- this bar. Called Mouth- mouth something. It was super trashy and disgusting,” Peter says.

 

“Mouthful,” Matt replies with a nod. “I know the place.”

 

“Right-- well, there was this girl there, and she had to be like, my age, and Jessica told her it wasn’t safe to be there, and the girl said she had to be there because some guy there owned her. She said he owned her, Matt. You can’t-- people can’t own people--” Peter hears the panicky tones rising back up in his voice, and Matt must hear them too because he just hugs Peter tighter and reminds him to breathe.

 

“Hey… I know. It’s horrible and disgusting, and it still makes me sick, even after years of dealing with it. What happened next?” Matt prompts in a soothing tone.

 

“Jessica and I got her out of there, and we took her to some cop that Jessica said you trust, and I think Jessica’s still at the station with her…”

 

“You did good, Peter,” Matt praises gently. “You saved that girl.”

 

“But that’s the thing-- there were so many other girls in the bar, Matt. Ones that weren’t standing close enough for Jessica to start a conversation with, and we only got the one girl out and I just-- I can’t just leave them there!”

 

“Shh, calm down, Peter. It’s okay,” Matt soothes gently. “It’s alright, I’m gonna go help them, okay?”

 

“No you aren’t-- you’re hurt!” he protests. If Matt gets himself injured or killed from doing this, then Peter will never forgive himself.

 

“Hardly. Peter, I’ve fought harder battles with worse wounds. I can handle this--Look, I’ll even call Frank to help, okay?”

 

It’s a pretty good negotiation, and Peter nods, caving after less than a minute. “But you have to be careful.”

 

“I will be,” Matt assures, squeezing Peter one last time before he stands up. “I should only be gone for a couple of hours, alright? You can stay here until I get back if you want.”

 

“Okay…” Peter agrees. He’s suddenly feeling just how drained that weird-ass panic attack left him, and all he wants to do is just sleep for a solid 36 hours.

 

“Alright. Make yourself at home,” Matt replies, pulling the blanket from the bed up around Peter’s shoulders.

 

Peter listens to the sound of Matt walking back into the living room and opening the closet door. There’s a faint scraping, followed by the sound of fabric rustling, as Matt changes into the suit. The last thing Peter hears before he passes out, slumped on what feels like silk sheets, is heavy footfalls going up the stairs to the roof access.

 


 

When Peter wakes up again, it’s to the sound of footsteps on the stairs. The first thing he notices is that this time, it’s definitely two pairs of boots. The second thing he notices is the daylight coming in through the window. He sits up abruptly, practically launches himself out of Matt’s bed, and starts pulling on his shoes. Holy shit, it’s gotta be like 7 in the morning. When he stumbles out into the living room, he sees Matt still in the suit, the mask discarded on the kitchen counter, crouched by the sink as he fishes something out from the cabinet there. Frank is sitting on the couch, holding the type of rags that restaurants use, to the side of his arm. It’s pretty bloody, and Peter looks away quickly.

 

“I gotta go—I’m gonna be late for school, and I have physics first period, and I’m totally screwed if I miss that again—” Peter rambles, fumbling slightly as he grabs his backpack from where he’s left it by the armchair the night before. Frank’s looking at him like he’s a little bit crazy, and Peter can’t really blame him.

 

“Jesus kid, don’t have an aneurysm,” Frank says. “Want me to call you a cab?”

 

“I’ll just catch one myself,” Peter replies, waving Frank off, as he tries not to panic too hard.

 

“Alright,” Frank says with a shrug, wincing a little bit.

 

“Don’t fucking move—your ribs are broken,” Matt calls back over at Frank, as he finally wrestles a huge first aid kit out from beneath the sink.

 

“They’re bruised,” Frank argues.

 

“I can hear your fucking bones crunching around, Frank. It’s disgusting,” Matt retorts, walking over to Frank and shoving the first aid kit down on the couch, before rummaging through it for something. “‘Get out of there, Frank’ I said. ‘Don’t shoot that, or it’s gonna explode’ I told you. And what did you do? You blew yourself up!”

 

“Well, pardon me for not taking your word as gospel, your holiness” Frank snaps back at Matt.

 

Matt looks more than a little tempted to use the suture kit he's just pulled out to sew Frank's mouth shut instead, and Peter uses the moment of silence that idea creates in order to escape.

 

“Thanks for letting me stay, Matt. I’ll call you later or something—bye!” Peter announces before pretty much sprinting out of the apartment.

 

He manages to catch a cab about two blocks away from Matt’s apartment. He collapses into the backseat, panting to catch his breath. The driver just glances back at him.

 

“Where to?”

 

“Midtown Tech,” Peter answers after he’s at least sort of caught his breath.

 

“Gotcha,” the driver replies, before turning the radio back up when it’s obvious Peter doesn’t have any other requests.

 

The station he has on is playing the news, and Peter isn’t really paying attention- instead just counting the streets they pass until he hears the woman on the radio say “Punisher”.

 

The Punisher and Daredevil are back. These two vigilantes, who once turned Hell’s Kitchen into a warzone fighting both each other and the law, have once again been spotted working together—this time, to take out part of a suspected human trafficking ring. Witnesses say that Daredevil and the Punisher attacked a bar, severely injuring an indeterminate number of the patrons. Daredevil left the scene with 9 girls, who are suspected to be victims of human trafficking, to take them to a safe location while they waited for the police to arrive, and during that time the Punisher told some of the onlookers to leave the bar before there were shots fired inside. The death toll is currently at five, but there are multiple people in critical condition at a local hospital. At five o’clock this morning, there were multiple explosions down at the docks, and we can only assume this was related.”

 

Peter swallows hard and squeezes his eyes shut. Five people are dead. Frank killed five people. But the other girls are safe. Peter knows he should feel more remorse for being the (indirect) reason five men were put in the morgue, but he can’t find it in himself to feel sorry for those monsters.

 

Peter pulls out his phone, before remembering that it’s dead, and oh fuck, he never texted Jessica last night, and May wasn’t on the night shift, so she definitely knows that he never came home last night. Unfortunately, thanks to some pretty bad traffic due to some moron causing gridlock, the cab doesn’t pull up at Peter’s school until about 7:55. There’s no time for him to find a charger, go home, or even ask to borrow someone’s phone before class starts, so he can’t call May. Whatever, hopefully, she’ll just assume he spent the night at Ned’s house like he does sometimes. Peter pays the driver as quickly as he can, before getting out and sprinting through the front entrance and down the hall to his first class. He sits in his usual seat just as the bell rings. The teacher raises an eyebrow at him but doesn’t say anything.

 

Ned immediately freaks out when Peter walks into the room, and the second he sits down Peter finds himself being punched repeatedly in the shoulder.

 

“Dude!!!” he whispers. “Where were you? Tony Stark came to my house looking for you!”

 

Peter shrugs off Ned’s hand. Tony was probably just going to chew him out some more. “I was with Daredevil.” Peter’s still trying to shrug off his exhaustion, trying to focus on just being awake. Now he definitely isn’t also freaking out about Tony trying to track him down.

 

“He said Jessica thought you might’ve done something stupid,” Ned continues. “Daredevil wasn’t answering when she called him, and she said he’s still on medical leave, but apparently not, because last night at that bar—wait, were you there?”

 

“No—I wasn’t—I was at his apartment, okay?” Peter hisses back, as he tries to get Ned to calm down at least a little. “A lot happened yesterday, okay? I’ll tell you later. Just—he handled it, alright?” Peter catches up to what Ned said before. “What did Mr. Stark say when he stopped by?”

 

The spidey-sense goes off half a second before a pencil hits Peter in the back, and he turns around in his seat to glare at whoever threw it.

 

“Are you still talking about how you actually, definitely, super aren’t lying about how you know Tony Stark?” Flash whispers, smirking.

 

“What’s it to you?” Peter hisses back, narrowing his eyes as he waits for the inevitable rude comment.

 

“‘Cause I prefer people who don’t brag about something that isn’t true.” The teacher calls for quiet, and Flash just shoots Peter a triumphant look.

 

He manages to get ten, wonderful, uninterrupted minutes of note-taking in, before there’s some sort of commotion out in the hallway, followed by the door opening.

 

Pretty much everyone’s jaw drops when none other than Tony fucking Stark storms in, followed closely by principal Morita, who looks moderately concerned.

 

“I’m so, so dead,” Peter says, quiet enough that only Ned can hear it.

 

“I’ll pray for you,” Ned whispers back.

 

Tony looks directly at Peter, who is now trying to see if he has a somehow undiscovered ability that’ll allow him to sink into the floor. Tony is angry again? Angrier?

 

“Sorry for the interruption,” Tony says, not sounding very sorry at all. “I need to borrow one of your students for a second.”

 

Mr. West just gives a gesture that looks like it says, ‘you can take anything you want, including my left kidney’.

 

“Great. Peter, come on, let’s chat.” Tony says, before turning and walking out of the room.

 

Peter drags himself out of his chair, since the floor-sinking ability has decided to not make itself known at this time. He does his best to ignore all the eyes on him, but he still feels them burning into him. Principal Morita follows him out into the hallway, where Tony’s pacing back and forth. He looks up when he sees Peter, and casts a glance over to the principal. Peter doesn’t know what he could have possibly done to have pissed Tony off enough to come find him at school , but he knows he isn’t looking forward to this confrontation.

 

“Mind if I have a minute alone with him?”

 

Peter silently begs not to be left alone with him.

 

Principal Morita looks over Tony critically for a second, before sighing and leading them down the hall about ten feet, to unlock a classroom that isn’t currently being used. “You’ve got just a minute or two. Mr. Parker is gonna need to get back to class as soon as possible.”

 

“Thank you,” Tony mutters, before dragging Peter into the classroom and shutting the door behind him. Tony moves toward him suddenly again, and Peter braces for an impact.

 

It takes Peter way too long to realize that Mr. Stark’s hands are on his shoulders and patting down his arms to check for injuries. As soon as he seems satisfied that Peter isn’t hurt, he pulls him into an actual hug . It’s so tight that it’s bordering on uncomfortable, and Peter is lost . He expected anger, frustration, anything but this.

 

“Do you have any idea,” Tony hisses out, “how worried we have all been? May didn’t know where you were, Ned didn’t know where you were, and when you didn’t text Jess, she couldn’t get a hold of Daredevil so she called me, and I certainly didn’t know where you were!”

 

Holy shit—Tony’s scared . For Peter.

 

“I-I’m fine, Mr. Stark. I promise,” Peter says, before awkwardly hugging Tony back for a second. He totally does the awkward back pat, and he hates himself a little for it.

 

“What the hell happened?” Tony asks, pulling back to put both of his hands on Peter’s shoulders again.

 

“Jessica told you what we were doing, right?”

 

Tony nods. “Yeah, basically.”

 

“There were more girls at that bar, Mr. Stark. I couldn’t just leave them there, but I didn’t have my suit so I couldn’t help, so I went to someone who could!” Peter explains, feeling a little sick just from thinking about it again. “I went to Daredevil’s place, and I was freaking out so I told him what happened, and he said he’d handle it, and my phone was dead so I couldn’t text Jessica or Aunt May, and I fell asleep, and I only woke up when Daredevil came back at like, seven this morning and I was still kind of freaking out, and I just- I didn’t wanna be late for school because Aunt May would be pissed and—”

 

“Kid, your aunt’s not pissed,” Tony interrupts. “She’s terrified. She thought someone was gonna find you dead in a dumpster somewhere.” Peter shudders at the intervention she’s probably planned.

 

“Wait—how’d you even know I was here?” Peter asks suddenly.

 

“I hacked into the school’s computer system and set it to alert me when you were marked absent, so I knew you were here when it didn’t go off.”

 

“What—”

 

Peter’s interrupted by Principal Morita knocking on the door. “That was long enough, Mr. Stark. I don’t care who you are, Mr. Parker needs to go back to class now. Your internship already has him missing out on enough.”

 

Tony opens the door and turns back to point a deliberate finger at Peter. “Come see me as soon as you get out today. Okay?”

 

Peter nods, speechless, and watches Tony walk off down the hall.

 

“You gonna be okay to get back to class?” Principal Morita asks.

 

Peter nods again.

 

“Great. Then I’m going to go make sure I didn’t just alienate our best donor,” he says, patting Peter on the back, before heading after Tony.

 

Peter takes a minute to deal with the whiplash he’s currently experiencing. He’s trying to calm himself down from the fear that he’d built up from thinking Tony was pissed at him again, but instead of going away, it just transfers to the fear that Aunt May might actually murder him. He finds himself defaulting to some of the breathing exercises that Danny taught him, and after a few minutes or silent panicking, he makes his way back to class.

 

He opens the door slowly and hears the teacher stop lecturing again as he walks back to his seat silently, staring down at the floor and trying to ignore the looks he’s still getting. There’s been a pretty divided dispute about whether Peter actually interns at Stark Industries, at least there was up until about 5 minutes ago. After he sits down, it takes all of thirty seconds for Flash to throw another pencil at him.

 

“Dude!” Peter snaps over his shoulder. Does Flash just keep extra pencils on hand to be annoying?

 

“You actually know Tony Stark,” Flash says, sounding a little bit dumbfounded, and more than a little impressed.

 

“I’ve been telling you that for months, asshole,” he replies before doing his best to go back to taking notes.

 

The rest of the day passes by obnoxiously slow, but Peter manages to find a charger for his phone at some point and get his battery up to 30% before he has to get to his next class. He ignores the mass of texts and missed calls, and texts Aunt May that he’s safe. Apparently, everyone knows that the Tony Stark pulled Peter Parker out of class today, so he keeps getting weird looks and even weirder comments from his fellow students. When the final bell rings, Peter’s both a little relieved and a little nervous. Relieved that he can escape the prying questions about his internship, nervous that he actually has to go to said ‘internship’ now. Tony might not be mad now, but he definitely was mad, and Peter still isn’t really prepared to deal with that yet. He sighs and heads for Stark Tower.

 

Chapter Text

As soon as class lets out, Peter jumps on the subway, heading to Stark Tower. Somehow the universe has been made aware of his trepidation about going there and decides that the best course of action is to make it the quickest commute of Peter’s life. There isn’t a single delay and it even skips one of the stops for some reason. The one day he wouldn’t actually mind sitting on the subway for an hour and a half ignoring the spidey-sense is the one day that it only takes him approximately thirty-five minutes to go from the subway station by the school, to standing in front of the glass and steel giant dominating the skyline that is Stark Tower.

 

Once he works up the nerve to push past the glass doors and into the building, he lets his feet carry him straight to the elevator, where he gives the button a hard push to vent some of his building irritation. He’s not sure what to expect, and that lack of foresight is what’s killing him. Normally he has some sort of idea about what sort of speech he’s going to be forced to listen to; this time he’s absolutely clueless. The doors to the elevator at Peter’s left slide open, and he waits for the few sharply dressed people to exit before he gets on all by himself.

 

Good afternoon, Mr. Parker. It’s nice to see you again,” Friday says once the elevator doors have closed. Her tone is perky like usual, but underneath the cheerful veneer, there’s something Peter can’t quite pinpoint that hints at a bit of irritation. “Boss has requested that I take you to his office as soon as you got here.”

 

Great,” Peter says, shrinking into his sweater just a little bit more. Being called into Tony’s office is worse than the time he got called into the principal’s office for trying to ditch class to go stop the crazy guy in Central Park with the robots. Usually Tony’s more than happy to just meet in the lab where he spends 99% of his waking life, but if that isn’t the case, then that means whatever kind of speech he’s going to get is going to be serious.

 

Peter spends the entire elevator ride up doing his best to just melt into the mirrored walls, or disappear, or just do anything that might rescue him from having to face Tony. He’s assuming that now Tony knows he’s okay, that the worry has been used up, and Tony’s going to go back to being pissed at him about anything from last night to the whole lying about working with Daredevil thing. Though to be fair, Tony was a lot more concerned about the Punisher than Daredevil, so if the speech takes a turn down that route it might not be so bad.

 

As the elevator doors finally slide open with a ding that resonates in Peter’s soul, he forces his feet to drag him out of the relative safety of the elevator and into the open waters of the floor that contains the offices of all the Stark Industries officials. There’s a woman standing at a desk in the absolutely pristine waiting area that the elevator bank opens onto. It looks like something out of a catalog, with all the white leather furniture and artfully crafted end tables, all elegantly accented with potted plants that must have their own team of gardeners for upkeep.

 

Peter swallows down his nerves and approaches the woman at the desk, who looks more than a little bit confused at seeing a school-child standing in the reception area for some of the most important people in one of the biggest companies in the world.

 

Can I help you?” she asks pleasantly, giving Peter a once over.

 

He’s suddenly very conscious of the small hole in his jeans, right by the pocket.

 

Uh, I, uh, have a meeting with Mr. Stark?” Peter answers hesitantly, his tone making it come off as more of a question than a statement.

 

The woman’s perfectly done eyebrows shoot up to her hairline, and she types a few things into the computer in front of her, before looking back at him with a slightly less skeptical expression on her face.

 

Could I get your name, please?”

 

Peter Parker.”

 

A few more seconds of typing.

 

Alright, Mr. Parker. If you take that door,” she gestures to a door to their right, “it’ll lead you to Mr. Stark’s office. Check in with his secretary there.”

 

Peter nods, only remembering to throw a muttered ‘thanks’ over his shoulder as the door is closing behind him.

 

The door leads down a hallway that screams wealth in the subtlest of ways with its fancy light fixtures and white marble floors. The hallway leads to another set of doors that, when opened, reveal a lavishly decorated waiting area containing no fewer than three water features. It’s the one part of the Tower that Peter’s ever found to be truly ostentatious—sure, Tony has expensive tastes, but even by his standards the area that he’s claimed as his office is over the top. At first, Peter had thought that maybe the silk and brushed silver were Tony’s way of covering some sort of insecurity when he met with people who demanded to see the Tony Stark, as opposed to the CEO of Stark Industries, but after some more consideration that didn’t really make much sense. Peter’s current working theory is that Tony’s trying his best to make whoever it is he’s meeting with feel as uncomfortable and out of place as is humanly possible, because that’s certainly working on Peter now. If he’d been self-conscious of the hole in his jeans at the desk in the other waiting room, there aren’t words for how he feels now, as he takes stock of every last bit of his appearance.

 

Peter approaches the desk in the middle of the room where a woman with jet black, perfectly straight hair is standing. She looks bored until she spots Peter and smiles at him.

 

Good afternoon, Mr. Parker,” she greets, typing something into the computer in front of her quickly.

 

Hi,” Peter replies awkwardly, suddenly a little worried that he’s met the woman before and just doesn’t remember her. That happens a lot.

 

Go ahead and take a seat. Mr. Stark will be with you in just a few minutes,” she assures with another smile. This one seems a little bit more… plastic.

 

Peter nods in response and walks over to one of the areas where a few chairs are set up on top of a rug that probably cost more than tuition to MIT. He feels his nerves continue to build up over the twenty minute period that he spends waiting there, checking his phone every few moments, and very pointedly ignoring the seventeen missed calls and voicemails that were left by May.

 

Peter gets pulled out of his near nervous breakdown by the sound of high heels clicking on marble approaching him. He looks up to see Tony’s secretary standing there with a tablet under her arm.

 

If you’ll follow me, Mr. Stark can see you now,” she says, and yep, that smile is definitely on the artificial end of the spectrum.

 

Peter manages to muster up an obviously weak smile in return as he gets up and follows behind her, letting his eyes catch on the flash of red on the soles of her shoes. They look like the kind Peter’s seen Pepper wear once or twice, so he can only assume they’re incredibly expensive. He tries even harder not to think about his scuffed tennis shoes and holey jeans.

 

The secretary opens the door to Tony’s office like she’s one of the suitcase models on Deal or No Deal, and Peter walks through it like a man heading to the gallows. The actual office is just as extravagant as the waiting room; one half of it is occupied by a large desk with two chairs in front of it, and the other half has a sitting area and a full bar. The entire wall across from the door is flush to the side of the building, so the windows offer a view straight out across the skyline. Peter kind of wants to jump out of one of those windows instead of staying here for this conversation.

 

Hey, kid,” Tony greets from where he’s sitting at his desk, his feet kicked up on it, and a glass of what’s probably whiskey in his hand. Peter wants to say something about day-drinking, but there’s still hope that this conversation might actually go well.

 

Hi, Mr. Stark,” Peter replies, coming to sit in one of the chairs across from Tony’s desk. When he isn’t corrected to say ‘Tony’ instead, Peter’s heart races just a little faster.

 

I’m going to cut to the chase. You can’t just go off like that,” Tony says, setting his glass down on the desk in front of him and moving to sit in the chair properly. “We all thought you’d gotten killed, or kidnapped, or that something horrible happened to you.”

 

If I’d had the suit, then you would’ve been able to just track my location,” Peter replies curtly, staring Tony down.

 

Tony narrows his eyes at Peter and just stares for a solid minute before something clicks. “Was this some kind of a ploy?”

 

“... What?” Peter wrinkles up his face a little bit, unsure of the exact implications of Tony’s question. It sounds like… no, it can’t be what it sounds like.

 

A ploy. A ruse. An act,” Tony elaborates, as he does his damndest to bore holes into Peter’s soul with the eye contact he refuses to drop. “Make me worry about you, so that when you show up unharmed I give you the suit back and just hope you’ll be safe with it.”

 

Peter feels his jaw drop at that. It was exactly what it had sounded like. He’d tried to mentally prepare himself for a lot of things from Tony, but an accusation like that wasn’t one of them.

 

You really think I’m that manipulative?” he asks incredulously. There’s a tinge of hurt in his voice that he just can’t mask upon realizing that Tony truly thinks so little of him.

 

I don’t know, kid. I’ve got no idea what the hell it is that Daredevil’s been teaching you.”

 

Not this again,” Peter groans and rolls his eyes hard, slumping down in his chair slightly.

 

Not what again, Peter? Tell me what it is that I’m doing that’s so exhausting for you. Is it caring about you?” Tony doesn’t snap at him, but it’s a near thing.

 

No! It’s your—your, I don’t know— hatred for people like me!”

 

I don’t hate you!”

 

I didn’t say you hated me—Jesus, do you ever listen, or do you just let me say something so you get the pleasure of hearing yourself reply!” Peter snaps. “I’m sick and tired of this crusade you’ve got going against people like me—and don’t try to deny that I’m like them, because I am!”

 

You are not like them, Peter,” Tony argues back fiercely.

 

But I am!” Peter contends, his voice dropping down into a vicious hiss. “This morning when I heard the news about what Mr. Castle did, do you know what I thought? I thought that maybe those guys that he killed deserved it. I didn’t feel sorry for them. It scares me that I feel that way, but guess what? I can’t change how I feel about that.” Peter can only keep his voice down for a limited amount of time, and before he even realizes it, his volume is through the roof. “You keep bashing him and Daredevil like they’re… like they’re monsters or something, but they’re not! They’re good people, Mr. Stark. The last time you yelled at me, you said that they were gonna lead me to the bottom of a bottle, right? You’re the one that’s trying to turn day-drinking into an Olympic event!”

 

Peter snatches the glass of whiskey off of Tony’s desk and stands up, gesturing with the crystal tumbler as he speaks. “I’m not saying that they’re good at dealing with their trauma, but beating the shit out of bad guys is a lot more conducive to helping people than sitting in a skyscraper trying to drink your daddy issues away!” He takes a deep breath to try and reign himself in at least a little bit before he continues speaking. “Keep the suit—I don’t care about it anymore. Nothing you can do will stop me from helping people. I did it before you found me, and I’m gonna do it again-- this time my way, with my people!” Peter slams the glass down on Tony’s desk, ignoring the way the drink sloshes over the rim and onto his hand. He gives one final glare to Tony, who’s sitting speechless, so Peter tilts his chin up slightly in defiance before storming out of the office. The door slams shut behind with an incredibly satisfying sound.

 

The expression on the secretary’s face as Peter walks past her desk definitely serves to show that she at least heard raised voices, and possibly heard more than that, but Peter can’t be bothered to care as he makes his way back to the elevator. Part of him is sure he overreacted at least a little, but the other part is happy that he finally got to say all of that. And he meant it—every last word of it (even if the daddy issues comment was a bit harsh). He feels tense, and like there’s an electric current running through him, but also like he might faint any second like some swooning Victorian-era lady.

 

Rather than pushing the button in the elevator to get back to the ground floor, he instead just pushes the close door button.

 

“Hey, Friday?” he asks.

 

“Yes, Mr. Parker?” the reply comes. She doesn’t sound quite so peeved anymore.

 

“Where’s Ms. Romanov?”

 

“She’s in her apartment here. Would you like me to take you there?”

 

“Yeah-- uh, yes please,” Peter replies as he digs his nails into the palm of his hand. He just needs to be away from Tony.

 

There’s the sound of the elevator heading up, and Peter leans his head against one of the cool walls for the few seconds it takes him to get to the right floor. The ding denoting the doors opening tells Peter to collect himself, and try and stop his hands from shaking (he’s still not sure if that’s with anger or with anxiety) as he walks toward the door a little bit down the hallway. Only a few seconds after he knocks, the door opens to reveal Natasha dressed in an oversized sweater and leggings. If Peter didn’t know better, he’d say she looks soft. Gentle, even.

 

“Peter,” she greets casually, opening the door a bit wider and gesturing for him to come in (which he immediately does).

 

“Hi, Ms. Romanov,” he says quietly, as he glances around the apartment. He’s only been there once or twice before, but it looks different than he remembers-- homier, this time around.

 

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” she asks, shutting the door once Peter’s inside. She begins leading him over to the area where a couch and matching loveseat are set up, by the large bank of windows that let the late afternoon light filter in and give everything a bit of a gold hue.

 

“I um… I wanted to ask you for some advice,” Peter explains, though up until that moment he wasn’t exactly sure why he’d come to Natasha of all people. His eye catches on an unattractive blue plastic pet carrier places beside a floor lamp and potted plant, and he wonders what kind of pet Black Widow would have gotten.

 

“Why me? You’re certainly closer to Tony. And apparently, Daredevil went and got himself shot for you. Wouldn’t you rather ask them?” she says in a measured tone, as she looks Peter over.

 

“You gave me good advice before,” he explains quietly, a reluctant smile working its way onto his face when he hears a cat trill a split second before he sees Spatula stick her head out of the crate. She must recognize Peter at least a little, judging by the way she walks right up to him and starts winding around his ankles.

 

“I did?” Natasha asks, taking a seat back in an armchair that has a nice patch of sunlight on it for the moment.

 

“You told me to tell Mr. Stark about working with Daredevil before he could find out on his own.” Peter plunks down on the couch across from Natasha, and the cat immediately jumps up to sit in his lap. She’s less boney than he remembers her being, and the kittens that toddle out of the crate behind her are bigger than he thought they would be.

 

“If I remember correctly,” Natasha says, sounding a little amused, “you didn’t take that advice.” Peter grimaces.

 

“Yeah, well, I wish that I had.”

 

The quick response, which is bordering on snappish, causes a small rift of silence between them, which Natasha fills with an appraising glance at Peter while she deftly scoops up one of the kittens- Rolling Pin, if Peter recalls correctly. When she continues not to say anything, Peter sighs and lets his shoulders drop from where they’ve been hunched up near his ears.

 

“Tony refuses to understand why I might want to work with people like me, or that he has no say in who I do choose to work with.”

 

Natasha makes a soft hum of acknowledgment and looks at Peter as she pets the kitten in her lap, and ignores the one that must be shredding her leg as it attempts to climb up to her lap.

 

Peter tries to return the look, but he doesn’t quite make it. Another thirty seconds and he gives in and tells Natasha all the details of the first argument, the conversation he had with Tony at school earlier, and the fight that they’d had just before he came down to see her. She listens attentively, even as she detaches the kitten from her calf and plunks it into her lap alongside its sibling.

 

“I don’t-- I just,” Peter huffs out an irritated sound, and runs his hands through his hair. “I don’t know how to make him realize that it isn’t his job to approve of what I do. It’s not anyone’s job to tell me what I can and can’t do when I go out as Spider-Man-- I mean, Tony wants me to stop being Spider-Man, and start being someone who’s careful and risks civilians rather than himself, and I won’t do that-- I can’t.”

 

“It sounds like you’re not going to change your mind on this,” Natasha responds once Peter’s finished. She gets an affirmative nod in response. “Then the only advice I can give you is to stick to it. Tony’s stubborn, but you’re right. He’ll come around eventually. It’s not his job to be your guardian or your parent. I think he’s just bitter that Daredevil stepped into a space he’d been too afraid to occupy. Right now, he’s acting like a child who had a toy he wasn’t playing with taken by someone else.”

 

“I’m the toy in that scenario?” Peter hopes he looks as disgruntled as he feels.

 

She nods.

 

“And all I can do is wait until he realizes himself that he’s being unrealistic?”

 

Another nod.

 

“Oh.”

 

“I know that probably wasn’t the advice you were looking for, but it’s what’s going to work the best,” Natasha says, carefully taking the kittens off her lap and setting them on the floor where they immediately begin bumbling around. She gets up and moves to Peter’s side, laying a hand on his shoulder. “I’ll talk to him if you’d like.”

 

“It’s alright, Ms. Romanov. I think… I think I got my point across alright on my own. He’s a genius; I’m sure he can figure it out,” Peter decides. “But now I have to go and get murdered by my aunt for disappearing last night and making her think I was dead or something.”

 

Natasha’s barely-there smile widens at Peter’s last comment, and she gives an amused little huff. “I’m sure she won’t kill you. Ground you until college? Maybe.”

 

“I think I’ll manage either way,” Peter says with a smile as he gets up and heads to face the music.

 

Once he finds himself back down on the street, he can’t really imagine sitting on the subway for half an hour or more with this much adrenaline and nervous energy coursing through him, so he just starts… running. It’s definitely not the fastest or smartest way to get back home, but it’s what he does.

 

When he walks through his front door a solid hour later, May’s sitting on the couch with a book in her lap that she immediately drops upon his arrival. It’s clear that she wasn’t even trying to read it, and that she was just waiting for Peter to come home. Within approximately two seconds, Peter finds himself being crushed in a hug.

 

Don’t ever do that again,” May mutters into Peter’s hair before kissing his head and squeezing him even tighter. “What happened? Why didn’t you come home, or call, or something?”

 

Didn’t Mr. Stark tell you?” Peter asks hesitantly. He’d been pretty damn sure that if Tony hadn’t already, he would’ve called May to tell her about his nighttime excursions with Daredevil and Company, especially after that disastrous conversation they’d just had.

 

Tony told me you were alive and at school this morning, and that’s it,” she answers as Peter finally manages to wriggle out of the death grip she’d been holding him in.

 

I was out with a friend last night,” Peter answers carefully.

 

Okay, yeah I knew that too, Jessica Jones.” May sighs at the shocked look this brings to Peter’s face. “I know we both like to pretend like I have no idea what’s happening with your life, and that the more I know the worse it is for both of us, but I think in this situation, you’re going to have to be straight with me.” May says, moving her hands in a ‘come on’ sort of gesture.

 

But I thought you said he just told you—” Peter says, sounding a little bit dazed, and a lot more anxious than he had just five seconds prior.

 

Yeah, that’s all I know about today . I know you went to some bar with Jessica Jones to look for a missing person and found a human trafficking victim along the way. I also know that you go out at night all the time, and I know that Stark Industries doesn’t have interns in anything below grad school,” she says.

 

Peter frowns slightly at her minimization and deliberately ignores the thing that she’s hinting at. “You can’t just brush this off like that, Aunt May. She said someone owned her.”

 

May sighs, and gives Peter an apologetic look, rubbing the space between her eyebrows tiredly. “I’m sorry baby, I didn’t mean to make that sound small. I just want to know what happened after that.”

 

May might as well hear the full story now. If she grounds him, then so be it. “I went to Daredevil to get him to help the other girls at the bar who were being trafficked.”

 

Peter looks down at the ground to avoid the stare May is aiming at him that he can’t quite figure out the emotions hiding behind.

 

Wait—you went to Daredevil? You just… know where he is? Or were you wandering around in Hell’s Kitchen at midnight going, ‘hey Daredevil, I need help!’?”

 

I didn’t—no!” Peter takes another deep breath. He already snapped at Tony, who honestly probably deserved it at least a little, so he is most definitely not going to snap at his aunt. Who definitely does not deserve it. “I just… I work with him sometimes. I know where to find him, okay?”

 

I’m sorry, did you just say you work with the guy that I hear horror stories about daily? The guy who is the main reason so many nurses are transferring over here? You work with him? What does that even mean?!” May sounds a little panicked at that, and Peter can’t really blame her. He’s heard some of the stories that May is referring to, and they don’t paint Matt in the greatest light.

 

He’s not a bad person,” Peter defends, a little surprised by his own vehemence. “He’s teaching me how to fight and introducing me to other people like me who can help if I ever need it— he even got shot protecting me!”

 

May holds up her finger in a ‘shush’ gesture. “You got that close to being shot ?! When was this? When did this happen?”

 

Like… a week ago?”

 

Oh my God—Peter!” May whispers furiously, pulling at her hair. “You can’t just—what happened?!”

 

We were doing a thing, and Mr. Castle and I didn’t realize this guy was going for his gun, but M-Daredevil did, and he shoved me out of the way and got shot instead,” Peter explains as briefly as he possibly can. The memory of that night is still pretty upsetting, and he’d rather not rehash it in detail if he doesn’t need to. There are a few moments of silence as he stares at the ground and waits for May’s probably scalding response to come.

 

Peter,” May says in an almost serene voice that makes Peter’s skin crawl. “Who’s Mr. Castle?”

 

Uhh…” Shit. Peter should not have mentioned him, “Frank?”

 

Frank… Castle?”

 

Peter nods, still looking at the floor. He cringes at the beat of silence.

 

He has to cover his ears when May’s shrill response comes. “ The Punisher?! Are you actually—are you kidding? Please tell me you’re joking! What the hell did Tony have to say about this?!”

 

I think it was in the news,” Peter replies, and nope, judging off the look on May’s face, that definitely wasn’t the right thing to say. “I mean, maybe?”

 

I don’t read the news about Spider-Man. I was hoping my own kid would tell me if he did anything newsworthy,” she hisses back, glancing at the living-room wall that they share with an exceptionally nosey neighbor. “And you didn’t answer me- what does Tony think about this?”

 

Well, now the nice plausible deniability between them about the true nature of his internship has been irreparably shattered, so Peter just sighs and runs his fingers through his hair. “He took the suit away. The day after it happened. If you’re gonna lecture me about it, you should know first that Mr. Stark already yelled at me about it until I had a panic attack, so I think I’ve heard everything that can be said.”

 

May suddenly looks furious. “He did what ?!”

 

The spidey-sense is not happy with that tone.

 

Well, he didn’t yell , I mean, MJ and Ned were in the other room, so he used his indoor voice, but we argued about it—” Peter backtracks, doing his best to quell May’s wrath at least a little.

 

He made you have a panic attack though?”

 

Peter hesitates a second before nodding.

 

What the hell is wrong with him?!” May sounds the most pissed Peter thinks he’s ever heard her. “You almost got shot, you saw your friend get shot, and he thought the best course of action was to make you feel so terrible that you had a panic attack?! After everything you’ve been through already--”

 

Aunt May--” Peter cuts her off right then and there, because he does not want to talk about Ben, and he does not want to talk about what happened that night with Matt and Frank, because if he thinks about it for another second, then the sight of a head that looks like it was run through a meat grinder, and the sound of brains dribbling onto concrete out of what used to be a man’s face are going to fill his mind.

 

He’s trying to keep the frantic notes out of his voice, but the last thing Peter needs after today is May going after Tony like a mama bear, or to have another panic attack about something that he’s been trying his damnedest to block out. “It’s fine. I handled it. I’m okay-- and you’re not even gonna need to worry about me getting shot anymore because I’m getting a suit that isn’t just spandex, okay?”

 

May looks like she wants to say something else on the topic of Tony, but she doesn’t. Maybe she can tell how much the conversation is stressing him out. “How are you getting a new suit?” she asks instead, now sounding a bit more curious than angry, though her arms are still crossed over her chest.

 

Uh, Daredevil introduced me to his suit guy. It should be ready this weekend so… I’ll let you see it when I get it?” Peter tries hesitantly.

 

“Didn’t you just say Daredevil got shot? Then his suit isn’t bulletproof,” she says, sounding a little concerned.

 

“It’s mostly bulletproof. He just got hit at a weird angle,” Peter assures sincerely.

 

May seems to be appeased by this, at least for the time being, and Peter doesn’t think he’s ever felt more relieved in his life. If necessary, he definitely could physically keep May away from her phone and prevent her from calling Tony to chew him out about the whole panic attack situation, but thankfully it doesn’t seem like it’ll come to that

 

You definitely will. At you’ll let me know what you’re doing when you go out, okay?”

 

Peter nods again.

 

I’m not gonna try and stop you doing what you do. You’re Peter Parker, and you’re Spider-Man, and I love you, and I know you’ll never be able to go back to being just Peter. I accept that. I just want to be a part of both parts of your life. Okay? That’s all I want.”

 

Peter just pulls May into another tight hug, his face pressed against her shoulder. “Thank you.” His voice is barely a whisper, and that only makes May squeeze him back tighter.

 

You’re welcome, sweetheart.”

 

Peter gives her another smile before slinking off to his room and getting in bed. He’s not dumb; he knows that May worries herself sick about him. When he’d first gotten his powers, May had noticed something was up with him, but she was graceful enough to never bring it up in conversation. She probably thought it has something to do with Ben since he’d died so soon after Peter was bitten. He knows that May still worries, even though she does her best to hide it. One day when he’d had to go look for something in her room he saw a prescription pill bottle on her nightstand and, being the nosey child he is, he decided to check google for what exactly Clonazepam was. The answer to that question had been anxiety and panic disorders. Maybe now that they’ve acknowledged the red and blue spandex clad elephant in the room, things will be easier. It helps Peter relax, and he drifts off quickly, exhausted.

 

Peter falls asleep in his jeans for the second time that day.

Chapter Text

Saturday morning, Peter finds himself being awoken by the sound of his phone vibrating two inches away from his ear. He groans and does his best to ignore it, folding the pillow up over the side of his head. His phone stops for a second before the buzzing resumes and it vibrates itself right off the edge of his bed and lands on the floor with a loud thump.

 

Peter groans again and rolls onto his back before finally opening his eyes to look up at the ceiling; it’s bright enough that it’s probably a little bit past noon, and that gives him the motivation it takes to roll over to the edge of his bed and pat the floor, searching for his phone without looking. Eventually, his hand sticks to his phone, and he pulls it up to hold in front of his face.

 

He blinks a few times to focus his eyes on the screen and watches as notifications continue to pour in. The buzzing is getting on his nerves, so he sets his phone to complete silence before opening his texts and clicking on the group chat that’s the source of all of the fuss.

 

The first spam of messages that woke Peter up are all from Luke, the first one simply reading ‘check out what Malcolm just sent me’ followed by six pictures. The first one looks like it was taken last night, and it shows Matt and Jessica sitting at her desk and smiling. Jessica’s in her chair, and Matt’s on the edge of the desk, but the most important things to note are that Jessica is passing a bottle of some kind of alcohol to Matt and that the picture was 100% taken through the cracked open door of Jessica’s apartment. The picture after that is taken from a similar angle, but Matt’s now laying on his back on the floor, and for once the sunglasses are off. Jessica is sitting on the desk, and they both have separate bottles of alcohol. The third picture has daylight streaming in through the windows and shows that Jessica’s apartment is a mess. There’s a new hole in the drywall by the desk. The fourth picture is of Malcolm face palming. The penultimate photo shows Jessica passed out in her bed cuddling two empty bottles of liquor and Matt on the floor beside the bed with a bottle that’s slightly more than half empty. The final picture shows Matt and Jessica throwing up in the bathroom into the trash can and toilet respectively. Malcolm’s hand can be seen giving a thumbs up while both Matt and Jessica are flipping him off.

 

12:17 PM

Frank: classy

Luke: our adorable little alcoholics

Danny: why don’t I ever get invited to drink-yourself-into-unconsciousness nights?

 

Another message comes through as Peter is reading.

 

Jessica: anyone with childhood trauma is more than welcome to join drinking nights

Jessica: except Peter

Jessica: children can’t drink sorry

You: :-(

Jessica: don’t worry. Frank had a normal childhood so he can babysit you.

Luke: somehow, I don’t think that’s a good idea

 

Peter smiles a little at the messages and locks his phone before stretching and getting out of his bed. He regrets it the second his feet hit the cold floor and all the warmth in his body gets siphoned out through them. It might not be the most hygienic thing in the world, but he grabs the nearest pair of socks discarded on his floor and pulls them on, not caring that one is inside-out.

 

After turning it back to vibrate, he slips his phone into his pocket as he heads into the kitchen to find something to eat. May hasn’t been to the grocery store in quite a while, so all he manages to scrounge up is a slightly stale box of cereal. It isn’t until after he’s already poured it into a bowl that he realizes they’re out of milk. For a second he seriously considers substituting in orange juice, but an unusually rational voice in his head tells him that’s a bad idea.

 

Five minutes later when Peter’s sitting on the couch and eating dry cereal by the handful while he half pays attention to a rerun of CSI: Miami on the TV, his phone buzzes with a notification.

 

12:25 PM

Frank: fuck you I’m great with kids

 

That gets a snort of amusement from Peter, but he doesn’t reply to it before switching over to Twitter and scrolling through it aimlessly for a while. The next message comes just as Peter’s hand brushes the bottom of the cereal bag.

 

12:34 PM

Spanish Matt: He actually really is

 

There’s another message from Matt, but this one is sent directly to Peter instead of on the group chat.

 

12:35 PM

Spanish Matt: Your suit’s ready. I can take you to get it tonight

 

Peter’s heart skips a beat. He’s honestly a little nervous about the idea of getting a new suit. His first suit was just some crappy red and blue clothes, and his second suit came from Tony. It has an awesome design, sure, but with the way Tony takes it and controls the programming in it, it’s never truly felt like it’s his. This one though… Peter has a feeling that this one will be different. Sure, there won’t be any fancy tech, but if he needs anything he trusts in his abilities enough that he believes he can make upgrades to the suit.

 

12:35 PM

You: that would be awesome man what time??

Spanish Matt: Meet me at my place at seven tonight. Bring your web shooters.

 

With the meeting time and place set, Peter lets himself daydream for a while about what the end result might look like. He wonders about the colors and the patterns and what features it might include, and if he’ll need to modify it at all to accommodate the web shooters or something. He honestly isn’t sure how long he spends thinking about all of that before he’s jolted out of his thoughts by the feeling of his phone buzzing in his hand. It’s a message from Ned that simply reads ‘play fortnite with me loser.’

 

Peter smiles and rolls his eyes at the message before heading back into his room and turning on his computer. He and Ned end up playing about three rounds before Ned finally decides to ask what precisely the hell happened when he went missing Thursday night. Peter offers him a longer explanation than he’d given before, this time including details of the argument with Tony and the talk with May.

 

“Wait—she knows?” Ned asks incredulously.

 

“I’m pretty sure she’s known for a while. It was like a don’t ask, don’t tell sorta thing. I don’t know, it was weird,” Peter explains with a shrug, turning slightly in his chair. “But speaking of don’t ask, don’t tell—”

 

“That’s always the start to an interesting sentence,” Ned interrupts playfully.

 

Peter rolls his eyes. “I think Daredevil might be gay.”

 

“What? Why? What happened?” Ned asks, the game being forgotten in his excitement about more details into the personal lives of the Real Vigilantes of New York. His character gets killed, but he doesn’t even notice with the way he’s hanging off of every syllable coming from Peter’s mouth.

 

“Because when I was at his apartment waiting for him he came back with some guy, and they were both at least a little bit drunk, and the guy had his belt undone, and Matt’s shirt was mostly unbuttoned, and I think he had a hickey,” Peter explains, though he does feel a little bit weird gossiping about Matt’s life like this when the guy has been nothing but nice to him.

 

“Huh, well, I mean that’s interesting, but it doesn’t really change anything. A lot of people already think the gays are the devil,” Ned replies, being sure to put on a thick southern accent for the last sentence.

 

Peter snorts at that. “Yeah, you’re right. I kinda want to ask him about it, but I don’t know if we’re on that level yet.”

 

“What level would that be?”

 

“I dunno, that’s like a level four friendship question. If anything, we’re level two.”

 

Ned makes an approving sort of hum. “You could ask his business partner.”

 

“That would be even weirder than just asking him about it,” Peter replies.

 

“Yeah, that’s probably true.”

 

They play for a while longer before they both hang up to go do their respective homework that shouldn’t be put off until the last minute. After Peter finishes his, he takes the shower that he very desperately needs and changes into clean clothes, including socks that haven’t just been lying on his floor. He screws around on his phone for a while before the alarm that he set to remind himself to head to Matt’s apartment goes off, and he gets up and pulls on his shoes and jacket before heading out.

 

The subway ride isn’t so bad this time which is a little surprising, but Peter appreciates it nonetheless. The people aren’t packed on like sardines for once, and it even smells like at least 75% of them remembered to put on deodorant before they left their houses this morning. When he emerges from the station, the streets around Times Square are crowded with people as always, some of them just passing through on their way home from work in rumpled suits while others are only now starting their night in skin-tight clothes. Peter’s in such a good mood about finally getting his suit that he can’t even be bothered to feel irritated at the tourists blocking the middle of the sidewalk and pointing their cameras up at the big neon advertisements all around.

 

It takes around fifteen minutes for him to actually get there as he weaved through the crowded sidewalks. He received the reminder of why it they called it ‘the city that never sleeps’. When Peter knocks on Matt’s door this time, he’s sure to keep it down to not to annoy the neighbor that he had the last time he was there. But before his hand can even hit the door once, it’s pulled open to reveal Matt standing there in the dark with the whole suit (aside from the helmet) on.

 

“You probably shouldn’t answer the door looking like that,” Peter comments as he steps inside and shuts the door behind him, following Matt into the main body of the apartment.

 

Matt shrugs. “I knew it was you, and nobody else was in the hall. You bring the web shooters?”

 

Peter nods and pats his backpack. “Yep, right here.”

 

“Alright,” Matt says, setting the sunglasses down on his coffee table and pulling on the helmet. “You walk on the sidewalk; I’ll follow along on the rooftops.”

 

“I might be more following you. I don’t really remember where this place is,” Peter replies with a slightly sheepish tone.

 

That gets him a smile from Matt. “That’s alright. I’ll be sure to stay in sight for you.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

Peter feels a little bit awkward leaving Matt’s apartment and going back down to street level as Matt takes the roof access exit. Once he’s down on the street, he scans the surrounding buildings until he sees a flash of red on top of one. Matt gives him a signal on which way to go before melting into the shadows. The walk there continues in a similar pattern with Matt popping up every couple of minutes to give a new signal to Peter before disappearing until they finally arrive back at the familiar sketchy building.

 

Matt drops down from the roof onto a dumpster before hopping down and walking over to Peter’s side. “You excited?”

 

“Yeah,” Peter answers casually despite the fact that he’s pretty much vibrating out of his skin at the promise of the new suit waiting just behind that rusted metal door.

 

Matt flashes a quick smile before stepping up to the door and pulling it open.

 

Peter thinks this is probably not a great place to leave your doors unlocked, but Melvin’s a pretty big dude, plus he’s friends with Daredevil. So, it most likely isn’t too dangerous for him. Peter also notes just how many sharp objects there are all around the workshop-- from screwdrivers to sawblades-- as he follows Matt inside.

 

Melvin’s sitting at a desk and humming along to something when Peter and Matt walk in. The main source of light in the room is the yellowish light coming off the lamp on Melvin’s desk, but there are a few fluorescent overheads buzzing and doing a poor job of upping visibility in the connecting hallway.

 

“Melvin,” Matt says from where he’s standing a few feet away from the man.

 

Melvin lifts his head up from where he’s been focusing on drawing something and turns on the stool to smile at Matt and then Peter. “Hey, you two!” he greets, getting up and walking towards where a large black trunk is sitting on a workbench. “Finally finished the suit. A lot more detail than I’m used to, but I like a challenge.”

 

Peter can’t see around Melvin, but he hears the sound of the latches on the trunk clicking as it opens. He turns his head to Matt who smiles and gestures to where Melvin’s waiting for Peter to come check out the suit.

 

Peter takes a deep breath and walks over to the workbench.

 

The first thing he notices about the suit is that it’s darker than his original one. The red has been replaced with a maroon similar to Matt’s, and the blue is now a navy color. The colors are generally in the same placement, but they’re more like separate armored pieces with a different black fabric between them. It still has the same spider web design over the colored parts of the suit, but it’s all raised, gunmetal detailing. He unfolds it from the trunk and pulls it out, holding it in front of himself to admire the whole thing. The spider emblem in the center of the chest has longer legs that span from the tops of the shoulders down to the hips, and the whole design is just… sharper looking. There are raised gauntlets of a sort on the wrists that mimic the spider design on the chest, and they’re made of the same dark metal as the web design.

 

“The red and blue parts are bulletproof, the black should deflect a knife at most angles. The mask gave me the most trouble,” Melvin explains as he pulls it out of the trunk and hands it to Peter. “Getting the eyes to be white but still see through? Man, I tried to figure it out, but I had to ask a guy I know how he did it on his suit.”

 

The eyes are still the same large, white ones that the Stark suit had, but rather than being rimmed in black they’re surrounded by more metal detailing as is the web pattern on the mask. The shape is slightly different though, and it makes the whole thing more intimidating. It’s not as scary as Matt’s, but it’s more frightening than it was before. It has a small zipper at the back of the neck.

 

“I just… wow,” Peter breathes out, running his fingers over the mask before Melvin gently takes it from him and sets it back in the case with the main body of the suit, and passes him a pair of boots.

 

They go up to about mid-calf, and they’re the same maroon color as the suit, but the toe is covered in the same lightweight metal that seems to be everywhere else. Kicking someone too hard with these would definitely kill them. Just like he’d specified, there’s no rubber on the sole; instead, it’s just more of the maroon fabric. Is it fabric though? It seems a little tougher than that.

 

“Last thing I have for you are the gloves,” Melvin says as he passes them to Peter.

 

They’re a thin fabric the same color as the boots, and there’s more web design on them, made with the same metal. But the web design is placed in such a way that it’s like a very sleek version of brass knuckles. They look like they’ll be just fine for him to still be able to use the web shooters.

 

“I don’t know what to say,” Peter finally says. “It’s amazing.”

 

Melvin smiles at that. “I hoped you’d like it. You should try it on and see if anything needs to be adjusted. Bathroom’s over there.”

 

“Great—I’ll be back in just a second.” Peter thinks he hears Melvin say something to Matt just as he shuts the door to the bathroom behind him, but he can’t be sure.

 

This suit is tougher to get into than the stark one considering it’s actually already fitted to him instead of just shrinking down once he puts it on. It’s a bit of an uphill battle, but eventually, he manages to get the suit on, affixing the web shooters over the gloves before he pulls on the mask and tucks it into the neck of the suit. He takes a second to shove his regular clothes into his backpack. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t admire himself in the mirror for a minute before finally stepping out to show Matt and Melvin.

 

“It’s perfect,” he declares. “What do you think, Matt?”

 

Matt smiles at him. “It looks great, Spider-Man.”

 

“You ever need me to fix it, just text me or bring it here. Matt can give you my number,” Melvin says. “Kick some ass for me, kid. I gotta get back to work.”

 

“Alright, Melvin. We’ll get out of your hair,” Matt replies with a smile. “Thanks again for this.”

 

“Yeah, thanks again!” Peter adds waving at Melvin as he follows Matt out.

 

Once he’s outside with Matt, he follows the man up to the roof of the building after checking that both his hands and feet can still stick to things in this suit. He does an unnecessary but incredibly fun acrobatic trick to land on the next roof over and turns back to see Matt smiling at him.

 

“I’m sure Queens has missed you. Go help some people tonight, okay?”

 

“I will. You help people too,” Peter replies, doing his best to give a serious nod before turning and shooting a web to swing him across the street and to a taller building.

 

It’s incredible to be able to web his way back to Queens instead of taking the subway like he has been, but it is a little bit tiring. Once he’s finally back in Queens, he stops a couple of muggings and attempted car theft as well as just helping someone who’d accidentally gotten locked on the roof of her apartment building when the door swung shut behind her. The people who are out and about and happen to see him are quick to take pictures. There haven’t been any Spider-Sightings in over a week, so people were starting to worry.

 

By the time Peter gets home, 'Spider-Man’s New Suit' is trending on Twitter.

Chapter Text

Finally being back in action as Spider-Man is a lot more tiring than Peter expects. Sure, maybe some of it can be accounted for by the simple fact that he’s lost some of his endurance from when he’d been going out almost every night, but a more likely explanation for this newfound exhaustion is that he’s pushing himself harder than he had before. He only took a week off from being Spider-Man, but that’s still a week that Queens went without its friendly neighborhood superhero. That statement in itself is something that’s been getting the gears in Peter’s head to turn, too.

 

Is he a superhero? Sure, nobody would argue the fact that the Avengers and all the individuals who make up the team are superheroes, but with the way he’s managed to distance himself from Tony and all of the man’s ideas for who Spider-Man should be, it’s like he’s drifted outside the deep, still lagoon of being a hero, and entered the choppy surf of being a vigilante. He’s spent way too long looking up different definitions of the word itself, ‘vigilante’. The culture surrounding them is different than dictionary definition would have one believe, so it isn’t a question that can be answered simply. Peter’s starting to suspect more and more that it’s a sort of social class thing that makes the divide, because the more he thinks about it, Tony absolutely used to meet every definition of a vigilante, even if he was always considered a hero. The whole concept is incredibly nebulous, but this is the theory that makes the most sense.

 

Tony Stark is a rich man who used to act outside the confines of the law to enact what he considered to be justice. That’s textbook vigilantism, but he’s always been labeled a hero.

 

Daredevil is almost exclusively referred to as a vigilante, but Peter thinks that might be partially due to his lack of powers that are visible to the naked eye. After diving deep into some vigilante/superhero forums on the internet he reaches the debates and discussions about whether or not Daredevil has powers or not. Most people think he’s just a good fighter, but there are a few people who are adamant that he has abilities. There are even fewer (but still a surprising number) who are of the belief that Daredevil is actually Satan.

 

It seems like there might be an element of classism to it though, and Peter isn’t quite ready to give up that string of thought just because he got derailed by some of the absolute lunatics on the Daredevil forums.

 

Jessica Jones isn’t really in the public eye, so there’s not much of a perception about what exactly it is she qualifies as, and the same goes for Danny.

 

Frank is widely regarded as a vigilante or a domestic terrorist, and Peter decides to attribute that to the fact that the man has no qualms about putting a bullet in anyone he considers to be someone who deserves to be put down. Nobody claims he’s a superhero, and that’s because of the definite lack of powers.

 

There’s someone else, though, whose alignment between hero and vigilante is probably the most debated of anyone’s in the city: Luke Cage.

 

The working people of Harlem will scream from the rooftops that Luke is a hero, but people in positions of power scream back that he’s a lawless vigilante. In general, the police seem to side with calling him a lawless vigilante, but there are a few cops who have spoken up in favor of Luke.

 

Peter gets the chance to ask Luke which he identifies as the next Saturday.

 

Matt’s been tied up in court all week with his day job, and both Foggy and Karen have forced him to pawn off his nighttime escapades to Frank and a few other unnamed heroes. He seems genuinely apologetic in his messages to Peter about why he won’t be able to train him on anything that week, but it really isn’t too big of a deal. Peter’s pretty excited to have a little time to settle back into his routine—well, sort of.

 

His routine used to include going over to the Tower almost every day just to work on his homework, or something related to his alter ego, or to just hang out. He hasn’t heard from Tony since the screaming match though, and he’s not sure if he wants to go back there just yet.

 

Luke, as one of the most (if not the most) responsible adults Peter knows, offers to step in for Matt and bring Peter along on one of his jobs. Matt is incredibly grateful because after almost a week of not being able to Daredevil at all, he has some shady shit he needs to do without a kid who he’s looking after having to see him torture people.

 

Since Luke is a responsible adult, he waits until the high school student has a day off from school to invite him on a nighttime, crime-solving escapade. Peter’s given a cross street to meet Luke on, along with a time (9:00). He, much like Jessica, doesn’t offer any sort of explanation about what it is they’ll be doing, but Peter figures he’ll be able to handle whatever it is.

 

Peter gets to the meeting place fifteen minutes early and camps out on a nearby rooftop as he waits for Luke to finally show. Luckily for both of them, Luke arrives five minutes after Peter, because he’s one of those punctual adults who say things like, ‘if you aren’t early, that means you’re late’. Peter never really understood that phrase, because you can be on time and not be late, but hey, old people say a lot of things that don’t quite make sense. Like ‘millennials are killing the napkin industry’ and ‘how do you talk to Jesus on the Facebook?’.

 

Hey Luke,” Peter greets, dropping down from his perch on the edge of the roof. “What’s up?”

 

Hey Spider-Man,” Luke replies with a smile as he looks Peter over. “Nice suit. The pictures on Twitter really don’t do it justice.”

 

Peter beams at Luke under the mask, and from the way the man smiles back, it seems like the expression came across, regardless that his whole face is covered.

 

So, what are we doing?” Peter asks as he falls into step behind Luke, who’s now leading them down the street. It’s a bit weird to walk around instead of vault over rooftops, but it’s good practice for working with people that don’t have the same skill set as him.

 

I think there’s a new gang moving into Harlem,” Luke answers simply, slowing down so that Peter’s at his side rather than behind him. “Somebody’s moved into one of the warehouses that got cleared out when the last guys who used it got arrested. This is mostly going to be a stakeout, but we’ll intervene if it looks like anyone’s gonna get hurt.”

 

Peter nods along with what Luke says, and reminds himself to check into the gang activity in Queens. Sure, he helps people, but it seems like Matt, Luke, Frank, and Danny all have the organized crime in their areas under a microscope. “A stakeout. Nice, I’ll get to live out my law-enforcement dreams.”

 

Luke snorts at that and rolls his eyes. “Oh yeah, stakeouts are a blast. Sitting still for hours and hours, and watching boring shit through binoculars until you feel like your eyes are gonna bleed? Dream come true.”

 

You sound like you’ve been on a lot of stakeouts,” Peter replies, doing his best to very casually wheedle some more information out of Luke.

 

Yeah, and I used to get paid for them.”

 

Peter has to do a double take at that. “You were a cop?”

 

Luke nods, gives an affirmative hum.

 

Huh.”

 

Peter and Luke walk in silence the rest of the way until they arrive at an unoccupied and very dilapidated tenement building across the street from a warehouse, presumably the one that Luke had been talking about in regards to the gang. The two of them sneak into the building through a back entrance rather than the front door, and Luke leads Peter up a few flights of stairs to a floor that looks like it’s in the process of being remodeled. The paint on the walls is covered with a new coat of primer, and plastic drop cloths litter the floor along with the occasional ladder a toolbox. Luke pulls open the door to one of the apartments.

 

There are two cheap folding chairs set up in front of a large window that’s facing the warehouse, and two pairs of binoculars are sitting on an upside down, empty, five-gallon bucket that is a truly eye-searing orange color.

 

You’ve been staking this place out for a while then, huh?” Peter asks, running his gloved finger along the dusty windowsill.

 

A few hours, just over the past week,” Luke answers honestly, as he takes a seat. “Haven’t seen anything so far, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything going on.”

 

Peter sits down next to him, nodding in agreement with Luke’s wisdom.

 

They’re quiet for a while as they just watch out the window, Luke with binoculars, and Peter with just his enhanced vision. Eventually, Peter just can’t stand the silence, as his eyes trace over the graffiti and tags plastering the outside of the warehouse.

 

Are you a hero or a vigilante?” he blurts out suddenly, without looking over at Luke.

 

He can see out of his periphery that Luke lowers the binoculars and turns to look at him for a minute before speaking.

 

That depends on who you ask.”

 

I’m asking you,” Peter says.

 

I don’t really consider myself a hero, if that’s what you’re asking,” Luke replies, kicking his feet up on the windowsill. “But I don’t consider myself a vigilante either. I’m just a guy doing what I can to help people, maybe try and make up for some of the bad things I’ve done along the way.”

 

Peter lets that sink in for a moment. It seems a little bit prying, but he can’t help but ask, “What bad things?”

 

Luke bites his lip and scrubs a hand over the lower half of his face for a minute before sighing. “I wasn’t always a great person; most of the time I wasn’t even a good one,” he starts. “I grew up here, ended up running with a gang. I hurt people, I got big to try and intimidate them, but eventually, I realized that a gangster wasn’t who I wanted to be. I left the life, joined the military, came home, became a cop. I was doing my best to help people as an officer, but I got caught up in some crap and ended up doing time for a crime I didn’t commit. And in prison?” Luke gives a long whistle. “I was a mean man. All these guys coming in had heard that stupid advice to find the biggest guy in the yard and make him your bitch. I was the biggest guy in the yard, and I had no plans on being anybody’s bitch.”

 

Did you have your powers then?” Peter asks. He knows that if people like them are caught, they get sent to an offshore hellhole—The Raft, he thinks it’s called.

 

Luke shakes his head. “Got my abilities while I was inside. A doctor there did experiments on the prisoners—offered up reduced sentences for anyone willing to volunteer.”

 

That one catches Peter a little off-guard. “Experiments? So they know how to make more people with your… abilities?” he asks, mirroring Luke’s phrasing.

 

Not exactly. One of the variables in my experiment got screwed up. Nobody’s been able to replicate the results; hell, for a while they thought I died in the experiment.”

 

How—”

 

There was a bit of an explosion.”

 

Peter sighs. “Isn’t there always.”

 

They fall back into a comfortable silence for almost another hour before Peter finally thinks he has an observation worth saying aloud.

 

There’s nobody in this building.”

 

Luke looks at him and nods. “Yeah.”

 

Shouldn’t there be at least, I dunno, one homeless person squatting, or a junkie shooting up, or some dumb kids tagging the place? Have you seen anyone there when you’ve been watching?”

 

Luke considers this for a moment. “I haven’t, actually.”

 

That’s super weird!”

 

Luke sighs, and checks through his binoculars one more time. “Half an hour,” he says. “We don’t see anyone in the next half hour, and we go in. Got it?”

 

Got it,” Peter agrees with a nod.

 

Luke nods in return before going back to his observation.

 

Peter’s actually pretty proud of himself for managing to be quiet and just watch the warehouse across the street for a whole fifteen minutes before he can’t help but strike up another conversation with Luke. The guy’s a lot more talkative than Jessica, and Peter likes hearing about the superhero stuff from a reliable source.

 

How did you guys all meet?” he asks finally, not taking his eyes off the building.

 

Who?”

 

The people in the group chat,” Peter says.

 

Luke lets out a soft huff that could possibly be the precursor to a laugh. “Well, I met Jessica first. She drank at the bar I used to own- before it got blown up, that is. Then I got mind-controlled by her supervillain, and she had to shoot me in the head. I met Danny next, ran into him while I was working the whole Harlem’s Hero gig, and he punched me in the face with the Iron Fist. I met Matt because he was Jessica’s lawyer, and he followed her to a superhero thing where Danny and I were.”

 

Peter takes a moment to consider the fact that two out of the three people Luke mentioned definitely injured him, possibly even severely. “What about Mr. Castle?”

 

Frank and Matt are all tied up in each other’s crap. I only ran into Castle because Matt’s like a bloodhound when it comes to him. I was working with Matt on something—we were on some roof in Hell’s Kitchen—and Matt just stops dead in his tracks, shuts up mid-sentence, and walks over to this gross, bloody handprint on the ledge. I kid you not, he leans down and smells it, then growls ‘Castle’, and sprints off towards lord knows what. I caught up to him half an hour later because I heard them yelling at each other.”

 

What’s up with them? In the news they made it seem like they hated each other, but Frank knows who he is and I’ve seen them work together twice. It seems like they, I dunno, get along now, even if they argue.”

 

Luke shrugs. “I have a theory, but I don’t think anyone really knows what their deal is.”

 

Peter perks up at that. “What’s your theory?”

 

Luke bites his lip for a second before sighing. “Matt doesn’t kill people.”

 

Peter makes an affirmative noise.

 

Frank does kill people.”

 

Another hum.

 

And at first, Matt couldn’t handle anyone dying on his watch. He just couldn’t do that, but the city broke him down. Bad things happened to him, Peter. Really bad things. And I think those things changed him, because after that, even though he still can’t bring himself to kill anyone, he’s been able to handle Frank killing people. I don’t agree with what Frank does, and I know Matt doesn’t either, but it works. There are bad people Matt’s thrown in jail time and time again—left them practically gift-wrapped for the police—but they always end up back on the streets. Matt knows better than anyone that the system doesn’t always work. He knows that even his way doesn’t always work, and I think he finally acknowledged that he needs Frank to deal with the people that he can’t.”

 

That brings a more serious air to the conversation that Peter isn’t quite sure he likes, but regardless he’s glad to have the information. “What kind of bad things happened to Matt?” Peter asks in a softer voice.

 

I don’t really think it’s my business to tell, but I bet if you asked him, he’d tell you,” Luke says.

 

Another ten minutes manage to pass by in silence before Luke sets his binoculars down and stands up. Peter follows suit and stands as well, looking up at Luke and waiting to be told what to do.

 

I’m gonna go in through the front door. I want you to go through the roof, alright?”

 

Okie dokie,” Peter says with a nod, earning himself a little bit of a smile from Luke.

 

You can head on up to the roof here and swing over there,” Luke says. “Be careful, and be quiet.”

 

Peter nods before heading out of the apartment they’ve been camped out in and goes up the remaining few floors to the roof. Once he gets out in the open air, he waits until he sees Luke exit the building to swing across the street and land on the roof of the warehouse. The building looks even more run down up close, not a unique feature in the north parts of Harlem, unfortunately. He waits at the edge of the roof to watch Luke make his way to the front doors of the building before he heads for a section of the roof that has caved in and created a nice, Peter-sized entrance.

 

Once he gets inside the building, the Spidey-sense flips. Out. In most instances it gets upset in abandoned, mildewed buildings because of black mold or something, but this time it’s a much more visceral reaction that Peter can only attribute to the zombie apocalypse-esque surgery center that this place turns out to be housing.

 

There are some ratty curtains hung up between a few mismatched gurneys, cots, and hospital beds (complete with tears and spatters and smears of what’s probably old blood), and there’s a dented up, rusted IV stand beside each bed. As Peter hesitantly pulls back a curtain, he sees what looks like an autopsy table with a tray of rusted, bloody tools sitting on it. The whole thing is frankly so disgusting that it makes him feel a little bit sick. Whatever the hell this is, it certainly isn’t a gang hideout. He’s seen crime TV shows that mention black market operation centers for people who get shot but can’t go to a hospital for whatever reason, but the bits of zip ties attached to each of the beds* (*read, any flat surface) makes it obvious that whoever had been on them hadn’t been willing participants.

 

There’s the faint sound of water dripping rhythmically somewhere in the warehouse, and Peter finds himself being drawn to the source of the sound. His skin crawls more and more with each curtain he has to pull back. A fresh shiver runs down the back of his neck when he spots a patch of blood on one of the beds, still red and wet, rather than the crusty, brown color of dried blood. The dripping continues at its unnervingly slow tempo, and when Peter pulls back the next curtain, he almost screams.

 

There’s a woman in dirty clothes laid out on the table. Her skin is a horrible gray color, and her eyes are rolled back into her head. Her curly hair is matted up and tangled, and the closer Peter looks at her face the more he begins to notice just how sallow her cheeks are, and the way that bruises add a horrible purple and green mottling to her pallor.

 

Drip. Drip. Drip.

 

Peter lets his eyes trail down her body to where her arm is hanging off of the table, a long cut on her wrist revealing itself to be the source of the sound as blood rolls from the gash, down her fingers, and drips down into the sickeningly large pool of red on the floor.

 

He can hear the sound of curtains being pulled back elsewhere in the room, along with Luke swearing under his breath as he sees what it was that Peter has already looked through. Peter’s frozen though, and the only thing that manages to pull him out of it is the horrible, ragged rattling noise of the dead woman on the table taking a breath.

 

Peter jumps about the foot in the air before he comes to his senses and the horrible realization that no, the woman on the table isn’t some sort of comic book zombie; she’s a (barely) living, breathing, person who has been through God only knows, and has been left to slowly bleed out over the course of some number of hours, possibly longer.

 

Peter tears a chunk of fabric from the curtain and wads it up before pressing it down on the wound on her wrist and doing his best to elevate it. Her shoulder makes a horrible crunching noise as Peter moves the arm, and she makes another gruesome wheezing sound.

 

Luke!” he calls out loudly, unable to keep the panic from his voice as the blood slowly soaks into the material of the curtain.

 

Peter hears the sound of footsteps rushing towards him, followed by Luke pulling back the final curtain and coming to an abrupt stop.

 

Is she—”

 

She’s alive,” Peter cuts him off. “She’s still alive.”

 

Okay, okay,” Luke says, clearly doing his best to keep Peter calm. “Don’t move her too much; we don’t know if she has some other injuries that we can’t see, just…” He trails off and looks around for a second, before grabbing the gurney from the next curtained-off area over and rolling it to the edge of the table that the woman’s on. “Get her on that, and take her out of the building. I’m going to call for help and check if there’s anyone else in here.”

 

Peter nods and follows Luke’s instructions, carefully lifting the woman up and laying her down on the gurney as he hears Luke make the beginnings of a phone call. All he hears is, “Misty, I need you and an ambulance,” before the sound of Luke’s voice is masked by the squealing wheels of the gurney, as Peter rolls it toward the front entrance to the building.

 

He gets the woman out to the sidewalk, and continues to hold pressure on her wrist for the five minutes it takes Luke to join him again. Luke isn’t carrying anyone with him, so Peter assumes that this woman was the only one left there.

 

Was there anyone else?” he asks Luke quietly, doing his best to keep his voice from wavering as he stares down at the woman. Someone did this to her. Someone did this to a living person, and whoever did it is going to pay.

 

One,” Luke answers lowly, clenching his fists at his sides. “It was too late though. She was gone.”

 

Peter feels his stomach roll with another wave of nausea. Too late. They staked the building out for over an hour. If they’d come in sooner, would it have been soon enough to save her?

 

Luke seems to realize what Peter’s thinking. “She’s been dead since at least this morning,” he adds calmly. “Maybe even late last night.”

 

It helps slightly, but Peter still feels sick. There were so many beds in there. What happened to the other patients? Why were these two left behind?

 

Peter’s still lost in thought when the blue flashing lights come into view, accompanied by the sound of sirens howling. A car comes to a screeching halt in front of the warehouse, and a woman with dark, curly hair and what looks like a metal hand steps out, immediately making her way over to them.

 

Luke—what is this? What’s Spider-Man doing here?” she asks, eyes widening as she gets a good look at the woman next to Peter. “Shit!”

 

Misty,” Luke greets cordially. “Is an ambulance coming?”

 

Yeah, it’s on its way. Now answer my question,” Misty, apparently, replies.

 

Luke shrugs. “I have no idea. It looks like some sort of organ harvesting operation, maybe. Set up like a hospital in the warehouse. Empty, other than one body and this woman.”

 

Misty looks over to Peter, before looking back to Luke. “And Spider-Man?”

 

We were in the area. Had reason to believe there was something suspicious going on here, and we weren’t sure if the authorities would make it in time,” Luke answers, the line sounding weirdly rehearsed.

 

Misty looks at him like she knows that it’s bullshit, but she seems to accept it anyway and radios in for backup just as the red lights of an ambulance come around the corner.

 

The ambulance pulls up just beside Misty’s car a moment later, and two paramedics get out with their own, much cleaner gurney in tow. Peter’s still holding the scrap of curtain to the woman’s wrist, and one of the paramedics, a young man with blond hair, gently pulls the woman’s arm from his grasp.

 

We’ve got her now,” he says very professionally, as he loads her onto the new gurney and his partner takes her pulse. They get her back to the ambulance and speed off almost immediately.

 

Peter watches the lights disappear around the corner, and listens to the sirens fade away before he tunes back into Misty and Luke’s conversation. She seems to notice when Peter starts listening because she turns to look at him, her arms crossed over her chest.

 

You look a lot shorter when you’re not swinging from skyscrapers, Spider-Man,” she says in a measured tone.

 

Not all of us can be, like, six foot six,” Peter quips back with a gesture towards Luke, earning himself a raised eyebrow from both adults. “What? Everyone looks short next to him.”

 

Misty gives Luke a look. Peter recognizes that look. It’s the ‘ we’re going to talk about this later’ look. May gives it to him a lot. So does Mr. Stark.

 

Alright, Spider- Man ,” she drawls, giving him a different (but equally intimidating) look. “You want to go ahead and get out of here before the rest of the cops show and you need to make an official statement?” she asks.

 

Peter casts a glance over at Luke who nods. “Go ahead, Spider-Man. I can handle this.”

 

Peter’s shoulders sag with relief. “Alright, if you’re sure… I’ll see you around, Luke. And..?”

 

Detective Knight,” Misty says.

 

Detective Knight,” Peter repeats back, giving them both a nod before he shoots a web up at the building and heads off back home.

Chapter Text

Peter makes it eight blocks away from the crime scene before he falls to his knees on a random rooftop and pulls his mask up just far enough that he can puke his guts out.

 

He’s always hated throwing up, more than most people do, he thinks. The way it leaves his throat burning, he has to shut his eyes against tears that threaten to spill out. Of course, as soon as he closes his eyes, he can’t stop seeing the woman he’d found. That’s something that’s been burned into his mind, and that’s going to stay with him forever.

 

Suddenly, puking over, Peter isn’t so much upset as he is pissed. Someone did that to a person—they took a woman and did God knows what to her, before leaving her to slowly bleed out. They killed that other woman, and there’s no telling how many other people were killed. Peter can still hear the rasping sound of her trying to breathe, through what he’s assuming was at least two broken ribs, and it makes him clench his fists at his sides. He steadies himself and tries to get on with his night.

 

He stops the usual few muggings and attempted thefts, and he might be a little bit rougher with the perps than usual. It isn’t until he’s crossed over the river, just north of Long Island City, that Peter really loses it.

 

He can hear muffled screaming coming from between two buildings as he swings over them, so he quickly drops down to the roof looking down at the alley.

 

There’s a man holding a knife to the throat of a young woman he has shoved against the wall beside a dumpster. He has a hand clamped over her mouth, and as he traces the knife down her neck to slice the thin strap of her dress off, Peter drops down from the roof.

 

Hey!” he shouts at the man. “Leave her alone!”

 

The guy takes his hands off the girl and flips the knife in his hand so he’s holding it like he actually knows how to use it. Peter knows he could just web the guy up and be done with it, but he really doesn’t want to let the man off easy.

 

The man lunges at Peter, and he probably would’ve managed to carve up a pretty good chunk of Peter’s arm if it weren’t for the new, knife-proof suit. Peter punches him in the face, and the guy goes down hard. Sure, Peter isn’t the best at hand-to-hand, but he still has super strength and fairly good aim. The guy groans and tries to get back to his feet, but Peter kicks him hard enough that he feels something bend and snap in the guy’s chest.

 

The girl is sobbing against the wall, and she has makeup running down her face in streaks, her whole body shaking.

 

Peter has a horrible moment where he realizes he just beat a man, in front of someone no less, but he manages to tamp down the inevitable freakout because this girl still needs help. He finally webs the guy, now groaning on the ground, up before carefully walking toward the woman with his hands down at his sides and open. Non-threatening.

 

Hey… it’s alright,” he says softly, as he comes to kneel in front of her. “Are you hurt?”

 

She shakes her head, but Peter can’t make out any words through the tears.

 

Alright, I’m gonna call the police now,” he explains as he pulls the burner phone Frank gave him out of one of the many convenient hidden pockets that the new suit has.

 

He dials 911, and the operator picks up almost immediately. He explains that there was an assault and gives the street they’re on as well as the name of the bank across the road from them. The girl is still crying even after he hangs up, and Peter feels a little bit helpless since he can’t make her feel better. It takes him way too long to realize that she’s staring at the man, and Peter goes to stand between them.

 

I called the police,” he says. “They should be here soon…”

 

As he turns the walk away, the woman’s hand shoots out and grabs his ankle. “Don’t—” she chokes out, “don’t leave me with him.”

 

Peter feels like an idiot for almost leaving. “I won’t go,” he promises. “Why don’t we go sit on the curb and wait for the cops? It smells pretty bad over here.”

 

She nods and lets Peter help her to her feet so she doesn’t stumble in the stilettos that she’s wearing. They both sit at the edge of the street, and Peter doesn’t know what to say or do, so he just listens to the woman cry into her knees with her arms wrapped around herself. He wishes he had a jacket or something to offer her; it isn’t that cold, but he thinks that something more than the torn, leather mini-dress might make her feel more secure.

 

It takes almost twenty minutes for the police to pull up, and Peter only leaves when the officers get out of the car. He nods to the woman, swings up to the top of a nearby building, and watches as one of the officers comforts her while the other gets a good look at the would-be rapist and radios in for an ambulance.

 

When Peter gets home, he barely has time to pull off the mask before he’s stumbling into the bathroom and puking again, this time because of what he did. He hurt a man badly, a bad man, but a man nonetheless, because he was frustrated and pissed off and hurt by what he’d seen. Once he’s flushed away the evidence of being sick and thoroughly cleaned his mouth with so much off-brand Listerine that it burns, he slinks his way back into his bedroom and strips out of the rest of the suit before hiding it in a cardboard box that he shoves to the back of his closet.

 

He grabs his phone off his bed once he’s pulled on pajamas with every intention to call Matt and tell him what he did, but something stops him.

 

Matt hadn’t been able to stand the idea of anyone dying on his watch, but that had changed. Bad things had happened to him.

 

Would Peter having a moral crisis over doing the mildest version of something that Matt does on a damn near daily basis make his life any easier? Or would he start thinking that he’s some sort of corrupting influence and not want to work with Peter at all anymore?

 

Peter forces himself to calm down all on his own by the tried and true method of bottling up all of his feelings about the night and hoping for the best.

 

When he wakes up Sunday morning, Peter has a plan for what he wants to do.

 

He might not have been able to help the woman who Luke found dead, and it’s still possible that they were too late even for the one they found alive, but Peter can stop something like that from happening again.

 

Harlem is Luke’s domain, Hell’s Kitchen is Matt’s, and Chinatown is Danny’s. They all know exactly what’s going on with organized crime in their areas, but Peter doesn’t have a single damn clue about what sort of gang activity there is in Queens. He’s sure he could find some information about all of that on the internet, but he needs better results than just Googling ‘gang activity Queens NY’ could possibly yield.

 

With a heavy backpack and an even heavier sigh, Peter heads out of the apartment and to the subway.

 

Walking into the Tower has got to be one of the hardest things Peter has done in a while, and he has to keep repeating to himself that this is about the greater good and not about him, in order to get his legs working. He enters the building at smiles at the security guard on duty, a woman he’s met a few times but whose name he doesn’t remember, and rushes to get on the elevator to head up.

 

There are already two SI employees on the elevator, and they both look more than a little surprised to see a schoolchild press the button to one of the floors that they don’t even have access to and not be denied. Fortunately for all of them, they don’t try to engage Peter in a conversation, so there isn’t any awkward rambling that might lead to Tony needing to get his lawyers to draw up more non-disclosure agreements.

 

Peter readies himself to see Tony as soon as the elevator doors slide open to the lab, but he’s pleasantly surprised to see that it’s completely unoccupied. Sure, he has to double check around the place and make sure Tony isn’t hiding somewhere before he can sit down and get to work, but he still manages to get to work pretty fast.

 

He pulls out his laptop and hooks up a cable from one of the computer banks to a port specifically meant to give the resident AI access to whatever device is connected. He’s more than positive that he could just ask Friday for a dossier on every gang and their activity in Queens, but something about that seems too easy. He wants to actually do some work for himself, so he starts with a simple search through news databases for any reports on gang-related activity in Queens.

 

He starts typing his notes into a document and quickly finds a divide that allows him to split the gangs into two main sections: nationality based and street gangs. The various Italian mafia families as well as the Russians, Greeks, Koreans, Irish, Albanians, and Chinese all fall under nationality based while Bloods, Crips, various white supremacist gangs, Vatos Locos, Latin Kings, and Trinitarios, are all classified as street gangs. He divides those further until he has a nicely sectioned out order to start his research in.

 

He does use Friday’s help to look up police records that he probably shouldn’t have access to in order to start building his list of known members for each of the different gangs, listing off their various charges under their names and including a mugshot of each one in the document. He honestly feels a little bit like he’s creating a LinkedIn for criminals.

 

After his eyes hurt from staring at the screen and the word ‘gang’ no longer sounds like a real word, Peter opens a new document and moves onto creating a database on other repeat offenders in Queens who could have ties to organized crime, including everything from weapons dealers to pimps. It’s a lot of work, but nearing eight hours in, he finally has enough useful information to get started. He’s pretty lost in the work of reading page after page of arrest records and court documents that he’s just figuring out how to make sense of when the soft ding of the elevator doors opening rings through the lab.

 

Peter looks up to see Tony, who looks just as surprised as Peter’s feeling. There’s a stretch of awkward silence before Tony speaks.

 

When did you get here?”

 

Uhh…” Peter has to pause a second to think.

 

Mr. Parker arrived just after ten AM,” Friday supplies cheerfully.

 

It’s like, six-thirty,” Tony says, his eyebrows going up even higher. “You’ve been here all day?”

 

Is it really that late?” Peter asks, blinking a few times to make the blurriness in his eyes go away long enough that he can read the clock in the corner of his computer screen. Sure enough, it reads 6:33 PM. “Oh, I should head home. I have some stuff I need to do for school,” he says, realizing full well just how lame the excuse sounds, but he doesn’t feel like talking to Tony until he gets some sort of apology about the man’s behavior.

 

Tony looks like he wants to say something more, but he just nods with a tight look on his face. “Alright. Good luck on that.”

 

Thanks,” Peter replies as he unplugs his laptop and shoves it back into his backpack. As he’s leaving, he hears Tony clear his throat and Peter turns back to look at him.

 

I just wanted to say, uh, nice suit. You make it yourself?” Tony asks.

 

Peter just smiles back at him and shakes his head. “I have a guy.”

 


 

Over the course of the next week, Peter continues to sneak over to the Tower to work on his research. He isn’t quite ready to bash heads and break elbows for answers like Matt does (that would kind of ruin Spider-Man’s friendly image), so he uses Friday’s pretty much infinite (and definitely illegal) access to almost every camera across the five boroughs in order to figure out where the gangs most likely have hideouts. Facial recognition and gait analysis prove to be invaluable since they allow to AI to compile a list of places where one or more of every person Peter told her to look for, and where they frequent.

 

He adds all of the addresses to the document and finally decides to call Matt in for some backup. He isn’t about to burst into every possible gang hangout he found; he just wants to do surveillance to figure out if these places really are involved in heinous activity. Matt’s better than any sort of listening device on the market, and it’s easier to ask for his help rather than try and bug all of the places anyway. He checks back at his research one last time, and he’s surprised that he missed the pattern before. The heaviest foot traffic from Albanians is always on Wednesdays, but the location seems to rotate randomly between eight or nine different places. With this new information, the call to ask for assistance is surprisingly easy to make.

 

The phone rings three times on that Wednesday afternoon before Matt picks up.

 

Hey, Peter,” he greets. “What’s up?”

 

Hey, Matt. Are you free tonight?”

 

Umm…” There’s a moment of silence. “Yeah, I don’t think I have anything planned. Why? What’s up?”

 

I need some help checking out a few places for nefarious activity. You in?”

 

Yeah, of course. Where do you want me to meet you?” Matt answers immediately.

 

Long Island City, 48 th and Center at nine o’clock,” Peter answers. He’s been practicing saying that all day, even if the muttering under his breath got him weird looks from both Ned and MJ alike.

 

Sounds good,” Matt replies.

 

Alright, I’ll see you then,” Peter says, before hanging up.

 

He spends the rest of the day committing the addresses the Albanians have been meeting up at to memory before it’s time to head out and meet with Matt.

 

Peter finds himself sitting on the edge of a roof, just swinging his feet and enjoying the view across the river for a few minutes before Matt nearly makes him fall off the building from sneaking up beside him like the ninja that he is.

 

Matt snorts at the shocked noise that Peter makes as he sits down beside him. “So, what sort of nefarious activity are we looking into?” he asks.

 

We, my friend, are looking into the Albanian Mafia. They’re meeting tonight, but I’m not sure where. I figured we could scope out the possible places and maybe listen in on what they have planned.” Peter answers as he stands up.

 

Matt seems a little surprised but gives Peter an approving nod anyway. “Good choice. They’ve been pretty weak since Fisk sold them out to the FBI, so it’s a good time to make a move on them.”

 

Peter smiles at the praise. “There’s an apartment building about two blocks away. I’ve seen a few known Albanians and Associates going in and out of the place. I was hoping you’d be able to listen in and tell me if you can hear anything going on.”

 

I’d be more than happy to. Lead the way, Spider-Man,” Matt says with a gesture ahead of himself.

 

Peter nods and heads in the direction of the aforementioned building, being sure to only make jumps that are humanly possible so that Matt isn’t left behind. It’s exciting to jump without using the webs sometimes; there’s just something exhilarating about not having a safety line.

 

It only takes about five minutes to get to the place, but it takes a good fifteen minutes of Matt tilting his head in slightly different directions for him to determine that there aren’t any Albanian crime syndicate meetings going on in the building.

 

It takes them three more hours and six more buildings to find where the meeting is taking place: an innocuous, three-story brick building near the corner of 39 th and 24 th .

 

Matt and Peter are perched on the roof of an apartment complex two buildings away with Matt listening in on the conversation they’re having. He’s reciting the few things actually being said in English to Peter, and after twenty minutes Peter finally speaks up with something other than a snide remark about how the Albanians managed to last this long with such bad planning skills.

 

Should we move in on them now?” he asks suddenly.

 

Matt frowns and tilts his head a little more before giving a hesitant nod. “I mean, yeah. It’d probably be pretty easy to take them, but I don’t think that we can prove they’re doing anything illegal, so the cops would just let them go.”

 

I don’t know,” Peter replies. “I know that at least five of the guys who attend these meetings regularly are on parole, so if they have any weapons or drugs on them, then…”

 

Then they’d go back to jail. That’s really smart, Spider-Man. Where’d you get your intel?” Matt praises again.

 

Good, old fashioned research. And breaking multiple privacy laws.”

 

Matt laughs at that and smiles. “Alright. We should go in through the back door— easier to get in without being noticed.”

 

Peter nods. “Lead the way.”

 

Matt leads him two buildings over, before dropping down into the small area that was probably intended to be a courtyard and knocking the man guarding the back door out with a well placed him from his club. He catches the man before he can hit the ground, and drags him out of sight of the door before turning back to look at Peter.

 

All of them are armed. If you get shot, it probably won’t go through the suit, but it’ll still hurt like a bitch. So try and avoid that,” Matt says with the tone of a man who’s definitely speaking from experience.

 

Noted,” Peter replies, heart skipping a beat. “I’ll try not to get shot.”

 

Matt gives a nod of approval, before leaning down to grab a set of keys off the man he’d just knocked out, and using one of the keys on the ring to unlock the back door to the building. He just barely opens the door enough to slide through, indicating Peter to follow him with a slight tilt of his head. Even though this is Peter’s operation, he’s more than happy to hand the reins over to Matt, at least until he learns how to break into gang meetings on his own.

 

Matt darts behind a shelf filled with dusty cardboard boxes, and Peter joins him, looking up to Matt as the man does his listening thing again.

 

There’s only ten of them in the building, and they’re all on the second floor. One guy is outside the front door, sitting in a car and waiting, but he’s on his phone, so I don’t think he’ll notice us until the shooting starts,” Matt explains in a hushed tone. “Everyone has a handgun on them, but there are a few heavier guns around in crates; I think they might be discussing a weapons deal, so be extra careful. They’re sitting at a table, and there’s really no sneaking in. We just have to be faster than them.”

 

Got it,” Peter says quietly.

 

Matt nods. “Let’s go.”

 

They make it up the cramped staircase easily enough, Matt managing to guide Peter not to step on any of the creaky parts of the stairs somehow. Of course, their stealth becomes completely obsolete the second that Matt finishes his count of three and flings the door wide open, throwing his club to hit one man in the head hard enough to knock him out as Peter webs two men to the chairs they’re sitting in.

 

Complete chaos breaks out after that with bullets flying everywhere. Peter feels one bullet graze the edge of the suit before he ducks into the little cover that a nearby shelf offers. There’s the sound of Matt’s club whacking into another head, followed by angry Albanian yelling, as Peter rolls out from behind the shelf and webs another guy up after punching him so hard his own wrist hurts. The idiots clearly don’t have very good aim, judging by the two guys on the floor bleeding from gunshot wounds, and Peter realizes just how right Matt was about these guys being weak.

 

Unfortunately, neither of them realized that the Albanians’ weakness would make them prone to extremely dangerous, extremely horrible decisions. Decisions involving grenades in enclosed spaces.

 

Matt’s beating the next to last man standing into submission as the only other Albanian still on his feet reaches into one of the nearby crates and pulls out a grenade that doesn’t look like any kind Peter’s seen before.

 

Daredevil—move!” Peter yells, before pretty much drop-kicking Matt out of the way and behind an overturned table just before the device explodes.

 

Peter must pass out, because he comes to being carried down the stairs bridal-style by Matt just in time to see Matt kick the guy who must’ve been waiting in the car out front down the stairs.

 

Peter tries to say something, but all that comes out is a whine when he finally registers the horrific pain that’s encompassing his entire chest.

 

Don’t try and talk—your ribs are broken,” Matt grits out as he slams open the front door. “Claire can’t fix this; I’m taking you to the hospital.”

 

No hospital,” Peter chokes out. He knows if he goes to a hospital, even if they get him out of the Spider-Man costume, it’ll be inevitable that a doctor finds out about his healing factor, and therefore his other abilities. He can’t have that happening. “Tower,” he groans. Someone has to know what to do there.

 

Avengers Tower?” Matt asks.

 

Peter nods, making another absolutely pitiful whining sound as that jostles an injury he hadn’t realized he had.

 

Matt looks incredibly conflicted for a moment before he exhales deeply. “Fuck it,” he says before heading for the car that the gangsters’ lookout left unlocked and running.

 

He sets Peter down in the passenger’s seat, debating for just a second before clicking the seatbelt into place, and slams the door before climbing into the driver’s seat and muttering what sounds like a quick prayer under his breath before he rolls down the windows and slams on the gas. There’s the horrible, shrieking noise of metal on metal as the mirror of the car they’re in scrapes along another parked car. Matt immediately overcorrects with the steering wheel and takes them into the wrong lane.

 

Stay awake, Peter,” Matt says, swerving back into the right lane. “I’m gonna need you to give me directions.”

 

Right here,” Peter says with a groan, gasping incredibly shallow breaths as he tries to catalogue all the injuries he has. Matt already said broken ribs, but Peter’s starting to suspect possibly also a punctured lung when he tastes blood in his mouth after a ridiculously painful coughing fit.

 

Matt grits his teeth and presses down harder on the gas as he flies down 25 th .

 

Your next right,” Peter gasps out.

 

Matt nearly rolls the car with how fast he takes the turn on the road leading up to the bridge, and Peter thinks he would probably be screaming if he wasn’t in such intense, all-consuming pain from whatever the hell had happened. Why can’t he remember what happened?

 

Matt grinds the edge of the car along the cement barrier splitting the bridge in two, and Peter cringes at the awful noise. Matt’s a fucking abysmal driver, and it’s a damn miracle they don’t end up in the East River.

 

Peter sees his life flash before his eyes on Park Avenue as Matt makes another physics-defying turn at his instruction and swerves into oncoming traffic to floor it through a red light.

 

What the fuck was that?!” Peter finally shrieks, despite the way it makes his chest feel like it’s on fire. “Are you fucking blind?!”

 

Yes!” Matt yells back, swerving back into the right lane again and slightly hitting another car. They’ve got at least one police car after them now, but even the cops seem hesitant to try and drive dangerously enough to keep up.

 

Yes, what?!”

 

Yes, I’m fucking blind!” Matt screams back, laying on the horn.

 

What?!” Peter screeches as it finally all clicks. The sunglasses. The complaining about the emojis in the group chat. The functioning perfectly in the pitch-black. The lenses on his mask being tinted so dark that Peter can’t see his eyes through them. The fucking sunglasses . “It’s right here!” he adds on last second as they almost fly past Avengers Tower.

 

Matt lays on the horn again before driving right up onto the fucking sidewalk, thankfully managing to avoid the few people on Park Avenue at midnight on a Wednesday, well, technically Thursday now. He throws the car into park and jumps out before running around to the other side of the car and pulling Peter out, back to carrying him in the way that puts the least amount of pressure on his ribs.

 

Everyone on the sidewalk has their phones out, some already having been filming Matt’s disastrous driving before they knew it was Daredevil and Spider-Man in the car. Matt completely ignores all of them in favor of running into the Tower.

 

Security is on high alert since, hello , someone almost just ran a car through the front of the building.

 

Get me Tony Stark, now!” Matt yells in his terrifying Daredevil voice.

 

It’s a well-known fact that Spider-Man and Iron Man have worked together in the past and are on generally good terms with each other; it’s also known that Daredevil has worked with the Avengers once or twice, so the security officer in charge makes the decision to help.

 

Weapons down,” he orders the two other guards who do as he says. “Daredevil, follow me.”

 

Matt follows behind the guy to the elevators and actually growls at him when he offers to take Peter for him. Peter’s pretty out of it with the pain and the fuzziness filling his head. He’s really nauseous and—

 

Matt, incredibly, manages to pull Peter’s mask up just enough to uncover his mouth and tilt him so that he pukes on the floor, instead of either Matt or himself.

 

The elevator doors open onto the infirmary floor where one of the nurses whose name Peter can’t remember is waiting with a gurney beside Tony, who looks like he’s seen a ghost.

 

Hey, Mr. Stark,” Peter manages to mumble before everything goes black.

 


 

Peter wakes up to the sound of yelling just beside him. He thinks that’s not very good bedside manners for someone with broken ribs. He opens his eyes, and has to blink away the blurriness in his vision to realize he’s in a hospital bed, and that the people yelling are Matt and Tony.

 

I knew this was exactly what was going to happen once he got dragged into your shit!” Tony yells at Matt, who is back to just growling.

 

Tony’s in pajamas, and Matt’s still decked out in the full Daredevil regalia, and Peter knows he must be at least a little bit drugged up with pain medication because he can’t suppress the giggle that comes from the sight of the two of them arguing. Oh right, arguing about him.

 

Not his fault,” Peter mumbles from where he’s lying, causing both heads to turn and look at him.

 

That’s bullshit, Peter,” Tony practically spits.

 

Peter shakes his head and immediately finds himself regretting it. “Woah, dizzy,” he groans before continuing with his thought. “Not his fault,” he repeats.

 

How is it not his fault?”

 

Matt growls at the accusation.

 

Dragged him into my shit,” Peter explains in a slightly slurred voice. “We were doin’ a, uh… a Spidey thing, not a Daredevil thing.”

 

Matt gives Tony an ‘I told you so’ look.

 

You still should’ve looked out for him,” Tony snaps at Daredevil.

 

You think I don’t know that?! At least I tried!”

 

What the fuck is that supposed to mean?!” Tony’s voice has gotten defensive.

 

You know how bad off he’d be right now if he’d been in anything other than the suit I had made for him?” Matt snaps. “He’d probably be dead. I’ve never seen anyone that close to an HE grenade detonation come out as good as Peter did. The guy who detonated it killed himself with the blast. If he’d been in your suit, which you took away, or no suit at all, then you’d be scraping him off the walls. Be grateful he got out as well as he did.”

 

As well as he did?” Tony says incredulously. “Six broken ribs, two almost completely shattered , a broken collar bone, a severe concussion, and a punctured lung isn’t anything near ‘well’ by any sane person’s standards!”

 

Aha, so Peter had been right about the punctured lung.

 

It’s a hell of a lot better than dead!” Matt snarls.

 

Stop fighting,” Peter whines, trying to move his hands up to cover his ears because, ouch, loud yelling and concussions don’t mix, but wincing when moving his arms causes everything to hurt, even with whatever painkillers are flowing through his system.

 

Matt immediately loses the angry posture he’d had and turns to Peter, reaching out to set a hand on top of Peter’s own. “I’m sorry. We’re done fighting,” he says, glaring over at Tony when he says something under his breath. “Do you want me to go?”

 

Peter immediately shakes his head, and reels at the awful feeling of vertigo it causes yet again.

 

Your Aunt’s on her way. You sure about that?” Tony asks.

 

I wan’ him to stay, Mr. Stark,” Peter mumbles, shutting his eyes in an effort to make the room stop spinning. “Wha’ time is it?”

 

Just past four. You were in surgery for a couple hours,” Matt answers.

 

It took us a while to get a hold of May,” Tony adds.

 

Why do bad things always happen on Thursdays?” Peter says suddenly to nobody in particular as he stares up at the ceiling.

 

Tony and Matt exchange a look before both turn back to Peter with plastered on kind expressions. Like how you’d look at a really dumb puppy.

 

Matt sighs. “Go back to sleep if you can, Peter. We’ll wake you up when your Aunt comes if you want.”

 

Okie dokie,” Peter murmurs before the black at the edges of his vision expands to immerse everything in darkness once again.

 

When Peter comes to for a third time, the fuzziness in his head is far more subdued, and he’s a lot more aware of his surroundings. Particularly, he’s aware of Daredevil standing in the least well-lit corner of the room (how does he even know it’s darker over there if he’s fucking blind ?) and May sitting beside the bed while trying to engage Matt in some sort of conversation.

 

Matt suddenly lifts his head from where he’s been keeping it mostly aimed at the floor and speaks up in his Daredevil voice. “He’s awake.”

 

May turns to Peter immediately and squeezes the hand she’d been holding while he slept. “Don’t you ever,” she says, “ ever do that again.”

 

It’s obvious from how red her eyes are that she’s been crying, and that just breaks Peter’s heart. “I’m sorry I made you worry,” he murmurs. “But I can’t promise I won’t do it again, because I can’t really remember what I did.”

 

Yeah sweetheart, sometimes that happens when you get a bad concussion. Daredevil was just telling me what happened,” she says calmly, running her other hand over Peter’s forehead in a soothing gesture.

 

You got blown up,” Matt says. “Turns out they were discussing something about a new weapons supplier who they’d just gotten a shipment from. One of them had a grenade, and it went off about a foot away from you after you pushed me out of the way.”

 

Guess I got you back for getting shot for me, huh?” Peter replies with a grin. “We’re even now.”

 

I think I actually owe you now. I’d be dead if you hadn’t taken the hit,” Matt replies grimly. “Your resilience and healing factor are the only reason your insides didn’t get turned into gelatin.”

 

Peter decides, with the help of the painkillers, that he isn’t going to freak out about getting Matt that close to being killed right now. “I think the suit probably helped too.”

 

Matt huffs softly and smiles. “It certainly kept the shrapnel and bullets out.”

 

About that,” May chips in, “I thought that grenades were pretty much just dangerous because of the shrapnel.

 

That’s true for the most common kinds,” Matt explains, “but this wasn’t a frag grenade. It was a military grade, high explosive grenade. I don’t usually see those around; I’ll see what Frank knows about who might be dealing in those.”

 

Are you okay?” Peter asks, because even though he isn’t letting himself freak out, he’s still letting himself be moderately concerned for Matt’s well-being.

 

I was completely deaf for about two minutes after the explosion,” Matt replies honestly. “But I’m fine now, just a little bit of ringing in my ears.”

 

Peter frowns at that. Now that he knows the secret (okay, it’s not really a secret that Matt Murdock is blind, but it is a secret that Daredevil is Matt Murdock so Peter’s going to call it a secret), he’s suddenly very concerned about Matt losing his hearing, even only temporarily. Now that he can think again, it makes the most sense that Matt uses some sort of echolocation in order to do what he does, and Matt can’t do that if he can’t hear. “Are you sure your hearing’s alright?

 

It’s fine, Peter. I’d tell you if I was hurt, alright?” Matt assures just as Tony walks back in.

 

Funny, considering you wouldn’t let anyone check you for a concussion after you came in. I saw how you were driving—you’re trending on Twitter with that by the way. You’ve given every New York driver a bad reputation,” Tony says as he makes his way to the other side of Peter’s bed.

 

New York drivers gave themselves a bad reputation,” Matt mutters, crossing his arms over his chest as he glares at Tony. At least they’re acting vaguely civil towards one another now.

 

Yes, but you’ve further tarnished it,” Tony retorts before doing something to one of the monitors Peter’s hooked up to. “Alright kid, you’re gonna need to stay here for at least another two days before you can go home. Cover story is that you, dear Peter, were the victim of a hit and run. Speaking of which, you sure you didn’t hit anyone, Daredevil?”

 

Keep talking and I’ll gladly hit you,” Matt growls.

 

That’s pretty big talk coming from a guy in bondage gear,” Tony shoots back.

 

Before World War 3 can break out, Peter decides to intervene. “Hey, Daredevil, shouldn’t you be heading home soon? I mean, you still have to go to work today, right?”

 

Matt turns his attention from Tony to Peter. “Are you sure? I can stay.”

 

No, no, it’s alright. I don’t want you to miss work for me. I’m sure I’m in good hands now that my aunt’s here anyway,” he says.

 

Matt looks relieved that he’s been given permission to leave while it’s still dark outside. Peter can’t imagine sneaking home in the Daredevil suit is at all possible in the daylight. “Alright. I’ll call you, okay?”

 

I look forward to it,” Peter says cheerfully before Matt leaves the room and stalks off down the hall. When it’s just him, May, and Tony left in the room, Peter closes his eyes again. “I think I’m gonna go back to sleep now.”

 

Alright, sweetheart. You do that,” May murmurs, squeezing his hand again. “I’ll be right here when you wake up.”

 

He does.

Chapter Text

Peter finds himself confined to the hospital bed in Avengers Tower until Saturday, and while it isn’t a terrible experience, he’d much rather be at home resting- or even better yet, not blown up or needing to rest at all. No way in hell does he regret doing what he did (he still feels incredibly giddy whenever he thinks about the fact that he saved Daredevil’s life), but he does wish he’d gotten slightly less hurt in the incident.

 

While he’s still a little bit doped up on pain meds and feels like he probably isn’t that badly hurt, he tries to sit up and realizes that, yes, he is that badly hurt. That requires him to be even more doped up on pain medications which leads to some absolutely fantastic videos when Ned and MJ come to visit shortly after Peter’s mistake, or as he prefers to call it, heroic rescue. Of course, they can’t show these videos to anyone, because they consist of Peter having a very heated debate with himself over whether or not he’d be able to regrow limbs. He’s adamant that if they’re going off of spider biology, then since he is still technically a juvenile, he would be able to grow back a limb if he shed his exoskeleton. On the other hand, he doesn’t have an exoskeleton to shed. Ned offers up the idea that maybe it would grow back cell by cell as Peter shed his normal skin and that after a few years he’d have a nice new limb. MJ tells them that she’ll hold the stopwatch if they want to test that theory out.

 

An x-ray taken late Friday night shows that Peter’s ribs seem to have knitted themselves back together to the point that the broken ones are just cracked, and the shattered ones are just broken, as well as showing that his collarbone is healing up at a similar rate. Tony reluctantly agrees to let May take Peter home the next morning and sends a few bottles of painkillers that were synthesized specifically to work with his metabolism, along with instructions to actually take them and not just suffer through the pain because he’s heard it grows character or something.

 

In another display of her infinite kindness, May manages to keep her worried ranting to herself for the entirety of Peter’s stay at the tower. And the cab ride home. But once they enter the apartment and she gets Peter settled on the couch with the softest blanket they own and the TV remote, she just can’t hold it in anymore.

 

Peter, baby, I am so proud of you for doing what you did. You saved your friend’s life. I don’t want you to ever think that I’m not proud of you for putting someone else’s life ahead of your own like that, but I do want you to know that I’m not happy you got yourself in a situation where you got blown up,” May says as she sits beside Peter on the couch, still avoiding touching his torso at all. “How did that happen?”

 

Peter shrugs and winces, because his collarbone is definitely still at least a little bit broken. “We miscalculated.”

 

May stares at him.

 

He stares back.

 

That’s all I’m getting? ‘We miscalculated.’ What does that even mean?” she asks, the corners of her mouth turning down slightly to a frown.

 

There weren’t that many, and Daredevil listened in on them for, like, ages and it didn’t sound like they were saying anything about military grade weapons. But Daredevil doesn’t speak Albanian, so we were just going off the tone of voice,” Peter says, staring up at the ceiling and letting his eyes follow a faint crack in the plaster. Before he had been loaded into the private car that took them home from the tower that morning, he’d been doped up to the gills so that he’d be able to sit up and wear a seatbelt without being in agony.

 

May seems to clock the vacant look on his face as he traces something invisible to her with his eyes and just sighs. Any sort of serious conversation is definitely going to have to wait until Peter’s sobered up.

 

Something seems to snap Peter’s attention away from whatever it was he’d been entranced by for the past few minutes, and he quickly turns his head to May. “Can I have my phone?” he asks sweetly.

 

May blinks at him. “You have your phone,” she says in a gentle voice.

 

Peter looks shocked. “I do?”

 

In your hand, baby.”

 

I do!” Peter says, his excitement palpable despite the fact that he doesn’t even check his phone once he realizes he has it. “Aunt May?” he asks softly, looking up at her from where he’s pulled the blanket up to his chin.

 

Yeah?” she replies.

 

Can we get Chinese food?” he asks, giving her his best puppy eyes. He thinks that the near-mortal wounds definitely make them more effective.

 

Of course we can, baby. What do you want?”

 

Sesame chicken,” Peter answers immediately. “And crab rangoon,” he adds on as an afterthought, still smiling brightly up at his aunt.

 

From that place over on 35th?”

 

Yep!”

 

His relentlessly cheerful attitude seems to break down the small amount of residual negative emotions May had been holding onto, and she finally returns the sunny smile Peter’s been giving her.

 

Alright, I’ll go call in the order,” she says, pulling out her own phone and stepping heading into the kitchen to make the call. By the time she comes back, Peter’s fast asleep with his phone on his chest.

 

When Peter wakes up what could be either thirty minutes or three hours later, he finds a note lovingly stuck to his forehead. He blinks the sleep from his eyes and pulls the note off to read what’s written in May’s slanted handwriting.

 

Their delivery guy is sick. Going to get the food, should be back in half an hour.

 

Well, that means he can’t have been asleep for too long if she’s not back yet.

 

Peter notices his phone once it slides close enough to his collarbone that there’s a bit of discomfort and finally picks it up to check it. His lock screen has a truly unparalleled number of notifications on it from Instagram, and he suddenly finds himself hoping that he didn’t post anything about Spider-Man while he was incredibly drugged up. He’s bad enough at keeping his identity a secret when he’s completely sober.

 

When he unlocks it, he immediately goes to Instagram to check exactly what he posted. Thankfully, it’s nothing incriminating.

 

It’s a two-part post from last night, the first image being a selfie of him in the hospital bed giving a thumbs up with all sorts of monitors and an IV visible in the background, and the second image being one of Tony asleep in the chair next to the bed. The caption reads ‘in this world its yeet or be yeeten’ followed by the cowboy emoji.

 

Thank you, high Peter, for not revealing Spider-Man’s identity. Either that, or thank you, people supervising high Peter and not letting him reveal Spider-Man’s identity.

 

The first two comments are from Ned and MJ, both of which are spelling corrections. Ned’s says ‘yeeted*’ and MJ’s says ‘yote*’. The rest of the comments section is comprised entirely of various iterations of either ‘hope you get better soon’, ‘what happened??’, or ‘is that Tony Stark????’. He tags Tony in the picture to answer one of those questions.

 

Rather than respond to any of the 85 comments individually, he just posts another picture, this one of his ceiling with the caption, ‘thank you for the concern everyone. I got slightly run over but I’m doing okay now’. He’d gotten the cover story for his injuries drilled into his head every five minutes over the past few days. A hit and run, at a street that Tony double checked to make sure had no surveillance cameras. There are even false records that Tony created saying Peter was admitted to an actual hospital. Sure, a smart enough person might be able to connect the dots here that Peter and Spiderman were injured at the same time, but that’s still less incriminating than Spider-Man showing up in DC during the Decathlon and saving the entire team from Queens except for Peter Parker, who was strangely missing.

 

He looks up from his phone when he hears the sound of the door unlocking and smiles when he sees May come in carrying a plastic bag on each arm.

 

Later that evening when Peter’s sitting on the couch, propped up enough that May can sit beside him while they watch the marathon of Star Wars movies that always seems to be playing on one channel or another, his phone rings from where it’s fallen to the floor. May leans down to pick it up for him while Peter mutes the TV.

 

It’s ‘Spanish Matt’,” she says, reading off the name on the screen as she passes it over to Peter.

 

He vaguely remembers Matt promising to call.

 

Hi Matt,” Peter greets, making the world’s most awkward eye contact with May while he speaks.

 

Hey Peter,” Matt says. “How are you feeling?”

 

Um, well, the painkillers are doing a great job, but my ribs are definitely still broken. So we might have to postpone our next, uh, lesson.”

 

May raises an eyebrow at Peter but doesn’t say anything as she continues to listen to one half of the conversation.

 

Are they really lessons?” Matt jokes.

 

Fine, tutoring ,” Peter corrects, stressing the second word more than is probably necessary. He doesn’t know exactly how well Matt’s super hearing works over the phone, but he’s assuming it’s only as good as the sound the microphone picks up.

 

I take it your aunt’s in the room if you’re calling it that.”

 

You’d be right about that.”

 

Well, in that case, do you think you’d be up for an at-home tutoring session? I finally have some time off tomorrow, and I owe you a thank you,” Matt says.

 

Oh, that’d be great. My aunt’s gonna be here though,” he says, watching May perk up a little at the mention of her.

 

Then maybe I’ll actually get around to helping you with Spanish tomorrow. There any time that’s best for you?”

 

How about six?” Peter suggests.

 

Sounds good to me. I’ll see you then.”

 

You won’t see me, ever!” Peter sees his opportunity for the joke and takes it, despite the funny look it gets him from his aunt.

 

There’s loud laughter from Matt’s end of the line. “Fine, I’ll hear you then. Bye, Peter.”

 

Bye, Matt.”

 

Once he hangs up, he can tell that May is ready to ask about eight billion questions.

 

That was my Spanish tutor,” he explains.

 

Oh?” she says.

 

He’s gonna come over tomorrow to help me study for my test next week.”

 

May raises an eyebrow. “I thought I just heard you say he won’t see you ever.”

 

Peter snorts. “Oh, he won’t.”

 

May looks at him like she thinks he might’ve taken too much of the pain medicine again.

 

It was a joke,” he tries to explain. “Because he’s blind.”

 

May makes a sound somewhere between laughing and choking. “Peter!” she scolds. “I can’t believe you said that!”

 

What? He thinks it’s funny, and isn’t his opinion the one that matters?”

 

May narrows her eyes a little and just takes another sip from the glass of red wine she’s been working on for the past hour. “Well, I look forward to meeting him.”

 

Peter unmutes the TV and they both fall back into the comfortable sound of Stormtroopers shooting in the opposite direction of the protagonists.

 

Peter must fall back asleep at some point because the next time he’s even remotely aware of his surroundings, the sun is back up and the smell of coffee is filling the room. He sits up and groans at the way his ribs shift uncomfortably now that the painkillers have worn off. The sound of his pain seemingly summons May, who appears beside the couch a moment later with a glass of water and the pill bottle.

 

You alright, baby?” she asks softly, dropping a pill into one of Peter’s hands and pushing the glass of water into the other.

 

I’m alright,” he replies softly before putting the pill into his mouth and drinking half the glass of water to swallow it down.

 

You want some breakfast?” she asks, heading back into the kitchen when the coffeemaker beeps obnoxiously.

 

Peter debates for a second whether or not he wants to try the muscle through whatever May might try and cook. He figures the odds are pretty good that it’ll just be cereal, so he gives some sort of affirmative sound.

 

Unfortunately for both of them, May doesn’t make cereal, and they have to spend half an hour trying to air out the apartment which now smells like charcoal that might’ve possibly used to have been bacon. After the excitement of putting out a grease fire, Peter finally argues his way into getting May to let him take a shower. He’s Spider-Man; he can stand up for ten minutes under some hot water with average water pressure.

 

He might be Spider-Man, but he’s still tired enough after taking a shower that he takes another nap.

 

May shakes him awake around five-thirty and Peter’s honestly shocked that most of the day is already gone.

 

Hey,” she says softly, passing another pill and another glass of water off to Peter. “Your tutor’s gonna be here soon. You want me to help you get some of your notes together or something while you get dressed?”

 

Peter takes the medicine and sits up, looking down at the pajama pants with little sheep printed on them and oversized t-shirt he’s wearing. “I think I’ll just wear this.”

 

May gives him a slightly critical look.

 

What? I got blown up. I’m allowed to wear pajamas in my own home,” he argues. “Again, it’s not like he’ll see.”

 

May actually laughs softly at that and shakes her head. “Alright. I went to the grocery store earlier, so Matt can join us for dinner.”

 

As his aunt walks out of the room, Peter wonders if maybe May is the one who was recently severely concussed, seeming her apparent amnesia regarding the fact that they’ve already had one cooking disaster today.

 

He gets out of his bed, bends down to grab his backpack off the floor, and pulls out his Spanish binder and textbook. All in all, the process takes a solid five minutes, thanks to his multiple broken bones and the fact that the painkillers haven’t kicked in just yet. Eventually, he makes his way out to the living room with his books and sets them on the coffee table. May seems to have occupied herself with picking things up off of the floor and considering everything Peter’s seen Matt do, he’s pretty sure that’s unnecessary, but he figures that Matt will appreciate the sentiment regardless.

 

On the scale of mature adults, Matt is a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in skin-tight red leather, so Peter has absolutely no idea how punctual the guy is. Peter’s seen him being a complete hot mess, but he’s also seen him dead serious, so Peter isn’t sure how put together Matt really is. His question is answered when Matt knocks on the door right at six o’clock.

 

He also immediately has about a hundred more questions, starting with ‘how did you find me? I never told you where my building is, much less my apartment number.’

 

May opens the door wide with a smile on her face, and Peter can tell she’s a bit surprised by what she sees. “Hello,” she greets cheerfully. “I’m Peter’s aunt. You can call me May.”

 

Nice to meet you, May. I’m Matt,” he answers with a nice smile of his own. He’s wearing a black suit like he has been almost every other time Peter’s seen him being a real person, and to go with the red glasses that are definitely concealing a black eye, he also has a long, white cane in one hand. In the other hand, he has a bouquet of flowers and a tasteful gift bag.

 

Hi, Matt,” Peter says, once he’s made his way to stand next to May at the door.

 

Hey, Peter,” Matt says. “I heard you got pretty badly hurt. Here,” he adds on, handing over the flowers and gift bag to Peter. “The flowers are from Karen, by the way.”

 

Peter just smiles at him. “They’re great. Tell her I said thanks.” He passes the flowers off to May, who takes them into the kitchen to find a vase for them, before offering his arm to Matt to guide him into the apartment, mostly for May’s sake, though he’s not sure if being more accommodating is something Matt would like from him in the future.

 

I will. She must like you pretty well, considering all she gave me when I got hit by a car was a balloon and a lecture,” Matt replies.

 

May turns to look at him with a very concerned and motherly expression. “You got hit by a car?”

 

Matt laughs and gives her a charming smile that makes her look like her heart’s melting. “I wasn’t really watching where I was going. Stepped right out into the street.”

 

Well, I’m glad you’re doing better now,” May says with a smile, setting her hand on Matt’s shoulder reassuringly for just a second before she remembers her task of finding a vase for the flowers.

 

I’m glad too,” Matt replies as Peter guides him to the edge of the couch and they sit.

 

As Matt folds up his cane, Peter sees a dent on the end. Judging by Matt’s love of clubs and crime-stopping, Peter’s going to bet the dent was made by someone’s head.

 

Asi que,” Matt says, turning his head towards Peter. “ ¿ Cómo te sientes? Tus costillas escuchan mas mejor de cuando yo vi tu un par de días atrás.”

 

¿ Qué significa costillas?” Peter asks, stuttering a little through the Spanish.

 

Matt runs a hand down his own side to show that he means ribs and repeats the word. “Tus costillas fueron quebrado muy mal. Podía escuchar los moliendando, ya no están haciendo eso.”

 

Peter scrunches up his face. He can’t imagine hearing broken bones sounds good. “Siento mas o menos ahora. Señor Stark di mí medicina so no puedo sientar el dolor. Debería hacer sanado en dos dias, ¿ posible tres?”

 

Remember to include tenses and masculine endings, Peter. You said ‘di’ instead of ‘dio’ and also it’s ‘sentir’ instead of ‘sientar’.” Matt corrects before continuing on in Spanish. “Eso es bueno, pero no quiero tu luchando para al menos un semana.” Matt adds sternly, tilting his head as May comes back into the room.

 

I was going to make dinner if you’d like to stick around for that, Matt,” she offers, still smiling over at them.

 

Peter rolls his eyes at her and holds his hands up in a heart. She rolls her eyes back and shakes her head, still smiling.

 

I’d love that, thank you,” Matt says in English.

 

Ella es un cocinero horrible.” Peter blurts out in Spanish.

 

Matt laughs and responds in kind. “Yo se. Puedo oler que un cosa quemo este mañana, y huele de mucho comida de restaurants,” he pauses, “Also, tenses again, Peter, she is a woman, so it’s ‘cocinera’,” he reprimands in English.

 

Peter laughs at Matt’s acknowledgment of her cooking skills and blushes at the same time because of his mistake. “Ella va a quemar lo sea que ella quiere cocinar.”

 

Te creo,” Matt says.

 

They chat for a few minutes, Peter definitely struggling with the more conversational style Spanish as opposed to what he studies in class and his textbooks. The teacher is always suggesting they try talking to people who are native speakers, or at least fluent, and Peter’s starting to really get why.

 

Surely enough, about ten minutes later, Matt sniffs the air and sighs. “Algo se está quemando.”

 

Should we try and help her?” Peter asks hesitantly, finally switching back to English.

 

Might as well,” Matt says with a sigh, standing up from the couch.

 

Peter extends an arm to him and Matt takes it with a smile; Matt’s definitely offering a lot more support to Peter, even though he’s the one being guided.

 

Hey, Aunt May,” Peter says awkwardly, causing his aunt to look up at them.

 

Yeah, sweetheart? What’s up?”

 

I was wondering if we could cook tonight,” Peter says, gesturing slightly between himself and Matt.

 

Peter,” May says sweetly, “are you saying you don’t trust me to cook?”

 

Uhh, maybe?” Peter says. “I love you, but I don’t want to drive off my tutor with whatever that is that’s burning in there.” Peter gives the stove a skeptical look, and May swears under her breath, rushing over to the pan on the stove and pulling it off the heat before dumping it in the sink.

 

May stares down at the charred chicken and sighs. “Maybe you have a point.”

 

If you’d like,” Matt offers, “I’d be more than happy to show you how to cook something.”

 

I—” May bites her lip. “That’d be nice, actually. Ben was always the one who did the cooking. I never really learned how.”

 

The mood of the room drops significantly at the mention of Ben, Peter shifting slightly at Matt’s side.

 

I’d be happy to teach you a few things,” Matt says with a kinder smile than the one he’d given before.

 

May smiles back at him. “Peter, why don’t you go lay down? I think Matt can keep an eye on me—shit, sorry,” she says, realizing her wording.

 

Matt laughs and shakes his head. “Don’t worry about it. It’s hard to avoid allegories of sight when you’re talking.”

 

Peter ends up laying down on the couch, just listening to the sound of voices and movement filtering in from the kitchen, interspersed with occasional laughter. It makes the whole apartment feel lighter, and Peter loses himself in the symphony of sounds and smells for a while until a knock at the door draws his attention back to his immediate surroundings.

 

I’ll get it,” Peter calls, taking a moment to sit up and head over to the door. He isn’t sure who he’s expecting to be there, maybe one of their neighbors asking to borrow some coffee or something. But he isn’t expecting- “Mr. Stark! Hi!”

 

Should you even be up?” Tony asks, walking into the apartment.

 

Yeah, I mean, I’m not gonna like, run a marathon, but I can answer the door,” Peter replies, following behind Tony.

 

It smells pretty good in her— oh. Hi there,” Tony says, waving at Matt.

 

Tony!” May greets with a smile. “What brings you here?”

 

Tony rattles a bottle of pills. “Brought more of these, just in case. Didn’t mean to interrupt date night, so I’ll just be heading out. You kids have fun.”

 

May laughs at that and shakes her head. “No- you’re not—this is Matt. He’s Peter’s Spanish tutor,” she explains.

 

Oh, nice to meet you, Matt,” Tony says, glancing over to Peter.

 

Nice to meet you too—sorry, what did you say your name was?” Matt asks pleasantly, and it takes all of Peter’s self-control not to laugh.

 

Tony actually gets a little flustered at that. “Tony. Gotta say, I’m not used to introducing myself,” he says with a laugh.

 

Oh? Why’s that?” Matt asks in the same amiable tone.

 

I have a pretty recognizable face. And uh,” Tony gestures to himself from his rose-hued sunglasses down to his designer clothes. “It’s good to meet someone else who appreciates the merits of sunglasses as an accessory.”

 

I’m blind,” Matt deadpans, and Peter chokes on his own spit.

 

Well, I gotta say,” Tony really doesn’t need to say, as he gestures to Matt, “you keep it pretty tight for a blind guy.”

 

Matt just stares Tony down, and Peter tries not to laugh because he knows it’ll hurt his ribs.

 

Why don’t you join us for dinner, Tony?” May offers, to break the awkward silence that Tony’s comment prompted.

 

Tony helps May set the table while Matt finishes up cooking whatever it is he’d been able to throw together with the ingredients they had. To the relief of everyone involved, Tony doesn’t make another pass at Matt.

 

So,” May asks once they’re all sat at the small table at the edge of the living room, “What is it that you do for a living, Matt?”

 

I’m a lawyer,” he answers. “I have my own practice.”

 

Tony snaps his fingers. “You’re the one who worked on the Wilson Fisk case, aren’t you? I knew I recognized you from somewhere.”

 

I’m glad you remember my firm for its successful case,” Matt says. “The Frank Castle case is the first one that comes to mind for most people when they hear of Nelson & Murdock.”

 

May shoots a look at Peter at the mention of the Punisher, as does Tony.

 

That dude was a maniac,” Tony replies with a shrug. “He tanked his own case if I remember right.”

 

He’s troubled,” Matt corrects. “Not a maniac.”

 

“That’s one word for it; dude was a full-blown psycho. He killed like fifty people. And he shot up a hospital. And didn’t he kill the district attorney?” Tony continues, looking at Peter even as he speaks to Matt. Peter doesn’t exactly condone Tony harassing Matt, but he’d be lying if he said it wasn’t entertaining or that he didn’t want to hear Matt’s response.

 

“He didn’t shoot up a hospital. He was going after a single target who happened to be in the hospital-- I’m sure you can read the police report on that with all your infinite resources. And he didn’t kill Reyes either,” Matt says, his words slightly clipped.

 

“You got proof about the DA thing?” Tony asks, genuinely curious. “Everything I read pinned it on Castle.”

 

Matt gives Tony a look. “The person who shot Reyes threatened to kill her daughter. Frank Castle would never do that. And there were two shooters; Castle works alone.”

 

“Two shooters? Jesus, you sound like a conspiracy theorist,” Tony says in his accidentally inflammatory manner.

 

“No, I sound like someone who was close enough to Reyes that when the shooting started, I got bloody. I know what two guns sound like; I’m blind, not deaf.”

 

Peter’s having trouble not laughing at the tension between Matt and Tony. He knows why Matt has some underlying hostility towards Tony, but neither May nor Tony does. He’s recording the whole conversation on his phone to share with the group chat later. Despite how positively dumb Tony’s being at the moment, he’s still a genius, and if Matt keeps up the growling for another second then Tony’s going to recognize it

 

Hey Mr. Stark,” Peter blurts out to try and resolve the tension. “Matt’s the one who’s taking Spatula once the kittens are old enough to get adopted.”

 

That sparks a much more light-hearted conversation for the next half hour before Matt says he has to leave. Tony checks the time on a watch that probably costs as much as the entire apartment and says he should get going too. He offers to give Matt a ride back, and, surprisingly, Matt accepts the offer.

 

Peter loses it once they both leave, ribs aching. May gives him another strange look as she starts cleaning up the kitchen and sends him to lay back down on the couch. While laying there, he finally opens the gift bag that Matt brought and finds an incredibly soft sweater inside. It takes him a few minutes, maneuvering around his injuries to put it on, but once he’s wearing it he falls asleep within minutes.

 

Chapter Text

Peter hates hospital gowns. They’re thin, ugly, and uncomfortable, and he’s been wearing this particular one once a day for the last week while Tony decides that, yes, he really does have accelerated healing. Even though Peter already knew that. He’s struggling to not be bitter, and he’s looking forward to the comforting feeling of pants again.

 

He kicks his feet back and forth off the table he’s sitting on, trying not to rustle the paper that’s covering it. The doctor Tony’s hired walks in, and he sticks up a couple of x-rays on a light board, and he turns to Peter with a smile that should be reserved for small children. It’s not that Peter doesn’t like him, but he doesn’t seem to understand that Peter isn’t a child, or that he understands a lot more than the doctor thinks.

 

“Okay, Peter, your ribs are looking even better today! Obviously, we’ve never seen anything exactly like this, but I’d give you a clean bill of health, young man. Though, you will have to keep wearing the sling as though you were one of us mortals,” Doctor Ramos chuckles and takes down yet another x-ray, and Peter smiles awkwardly. Doctor Ramos is way too enthusiastic, and definitely doesn’t seem like someone capable of keeping his secret identity an actual secret, but Tony vouched for him, so Peter grins and bears it. Once Doctor Ramos finished chatting, Peter is left alone to dress and he quickly leaves.

 

Once Doctor Ramos lets Peter go back to school, he’s even antsier than when he was stuck inside the tiny apartment with Aunt May. He’s practically healed so he doesn’t want to wear the sling and pretend to be in pain, but the good doctor was right. He has to keep up the charade, and so he lets his friends fuss, and when Flash even offers to carry his backpack for him, Peter lets him.

 

Everyone at school treats him like he’s fragile, and Peter gets a kick out of it for a day or so until he realizes that he absolutely cannot stand Flash being nice to him. It’s weird and it throws him off, and it’s so pointless since he knows the guy will just go back to being a complete dick the second that Peter can say he’s healthy. Also, having limited use of one arm is no fun at all. He can’t eat and text at the same time in public, which is annoying. MJ takes a video one day, of him eating French fries with his one good hand and using his nose to scroll down his phone, which was set on the table. She sends it to May, and Peter doesn’t know where or when she got his aunt’s number in the first place but he wishes she hadn’t.

 

Peter Parker may still be trapped by his injuries, but Spider-Man is free to do as he pleases, and right now what he pleases is going out and fighting organized crime. The newspapers and blogs have started picking up on the fact that after Spider-Man’s short disappearance, he came back with a game plan. At least twice a week, the police are making busts on gangs. Usually only small groups, or even just individual members, but these arrests lead to more of them getting dragged in, after the criminals make any deal they can and give up everyone they think of, to save themselves from 10 to 12 in Sing Sing. Matt praises him for putting a dent in organized crime, but he warns Peter that once he starts, he can’t stop. Getting rid of one gang leaves space for another gang to occupy, or someone else to expand into. If he beats people out too quickly, he’ll have a power vacuum on his hands. If he slows down too much, then the gangs will grow right back to their former power.

 

Tonight, however, Peter isn’t doing anything involving gangs. Over the past week, missing person posters have been popping up with a picture of a dark-skinned woman with close-shaved hair, and the name Angela Trenton printed on them. There’s a phone number to contact with information, and Peter calls it, as Spider-Man, to set up a meeting with the woman to find out some details. The woman is hesitant to meet up, but he manages to convince her he’s Spider-Man by sending a crappy selfie from the burner phone’s camera of himself in the suit holding three spoons between his fingers like he’s Wolverine.

 

He’s waiting on a roof of the building of the address she texted him, bouncing on his heels and humming when she taps him on the shoulder, and he starts in surprise.

 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you! I thought you heard me.” The woman says, and he laughs and tells her it’s fine, he’s just jumpy. The woman, it turns out, is the sister of Angela Trenton. Her name is Aelisha, and she’s a waitress at a nearby diner.

 

Aelisha tells him about how her baby sister has been into drugs—heroin in particular—for years. Angela overdosed last week, and when Aelisha went to the hospital to pick her up, the nurse told her that she’d already been discharged and left. Aelisha knew her sister wouldn’t just up and leave, so she called her and she called her, until one day she got an answer from a man who’d found the phone in an alley two blocks from the hospital. Aelisha went to the police and did her damnedest to convince them that her sister had been kidnapped, or killed, or something equally horrible, but they wrote Angela off as another junkie who’d either run away or overdosed and fallen into the river.

 

Angela tells him that she spends too much of her tip money at the library printing out more missing posters to replace the ones that had been ruined by the rain and from expanding the radius of where the posts them. Peter tells her that he’ll keep an eye out for her sister and that he’ll check back in if he gets any news of her, and leaves, hopeful.

 

Peter does try to keep an eye out for Angela, but his preoccupation with the gangs he’s recently made his problem keeps him from looking too much into it. Four days after his meeting with Aelisha, Peter’s just walking down the street when something catches his eye. In this part of town, he’s gotten used to seeing the familiar missing posters. There’s always one on this corner, on that electrical box, on this lamppost, and as Peter walks past a certain marker, he feels a shiver run down his spine. The Spidey-sense knows something’s wrong, and it takes a minute for Peter to realize what it is.

 

There’s only a chunk of the poster left up, and the edges are curled from where it’s obvious the poster was soaked. It hasn’t rained in three days, and Peter’s heart sinks. He rushes home and pulls out the burner phone, dialing the number he remembers from the posters. There’s no answer. He calls again. Still no answer. He suits up as fast as he can, and goes to the diner Aelisha said she works at most days from ten to eight.. Spider-Man has sort of become a fixture of everyday life in Queens, so there isn’t a massive panic when he walks into the sparsely occupied diner and asks the girl at the hostess stand if she’s seen Aelisha recently.

 

She hasn’t.

 

Peter thanks her, before sprinting out of the restaurant and to the building he met Aelisha at. He looks at the names by the buzzers outside the front door of the building and finds Trenton easily enough. There’s a butterfly drawn on the handwritten name tag, and Peter mashes on the button without a response. A man leaving the building holds the door open for Peter to get in, and Peter doesn’t remember to thank him as he rushes up six flights of stairs to the right apartment. He pounds on the door, and when he doesn’t get a response he mutters a quick apology before getting ready to break the lock.

 

He doesn’t need to. The door is unlocked.

 

The inside of the apartment is tidy, but it’s clearly lived in. There isn’t any knocked over furniture or blood stains or anything, but there’s a horrible rotting smell. Peter thinks of the woman he and Luke found when the stench hits him, but he pushes through it to find the source. There isn’t a dead body, thankfully, but there’s a raw chicken that’s been left in the microwave, probably to defrost, for about three days, judging by the stink. There’s also a big, gray cat who meows loudly at Peter, and then walks over to its’ empty food and water bowl. Peter uses a glass from the draining rack by the sink to fill the bowl with water, and the cat immediately starts drinking. He looks around for a moment and spots a purse on the counter nearby; a quick glance in it shows that Aelisha’s wallet and cellphone are in it.

 

He calls the police and anonymously files a missing person report as well as a welfare check. He tells them that Aelisha has a cat, and he doesn’t want it to starve if she’s really gone missing. One last apologetic pet for the cat and Peter heads out, leaving everything except the cat’s water bowl just as he found it. He wants to take the cat with him and take care of it until Aelisha’s found (he doesn’t let himself think about what might happen if she isn’t found), but he knows if the cat is gone then that will significantly sway detectives’ decisions about whether or not she’s missing or if she just chose to leave.

 


 

At school the next day, Peter’s a little bit distracted as he tries to figure out what person or gang might have an interest in Aelisha. She said her sister was a heroin addict, so it’s definitely a possibility that Angela was kidnapped or killed because she got in hot water with the wrong people. Peter figures that Aelisha making a big fuss about it, with calling the police, and putting out posters, probably got her in hot water with the same people who took her sister. He kept one of the missing posters, so he has a picture of what Angela looks like. It isn’t guaranteed to work, but maybe Friday will be able to use her facial recognition tech to help him search.

 

He heads straight to the tower after school to see if Friday can help. Things between Peter and Tony are still a little bit rocky, but after his life-threatening injuries, they’ve become significantly better. They’re talking again for one- just not about who Peter works with as Spider-Man. It’s actually pretty nice to hear Tony ask how his day at school was, as opposed to how many bad guys he caught the night before. Occasionally he’ll mention some sort of technology he’s working on that might be applicable to his work in the future, but for the most part, they talk as Peter and Tony rather than Iron Man and Spider-Man.

 

When he gets to the lab, Friday informs him that Tony’s across town at a meeting of some sort, so he just pulls out his laptop and gets to work. He takes a picture of the poster with his phone and opens it on his computer once he’s hooked it up to Friday’s interface. She starts running her scans on it and immediately comes back with a long list of arrests. Peter reads through those, and it’s about what he expected to see, but that doesn’t make it any less sad. Possession, larceny, possession, solicitation, possession, trespassing, possession, drunk and disorderly, solicitation, larceny… the list goes on. A few minutes later, he gets to the medical records that Friday supplies and finds himself saddened by just how many different rehab clinics he sees listed on there. He also sees the last hospital visit before she’d gone missing.

 

“Is there any more information you’d like me to retrieve?” Friday asks politely, and Peter thinks for a moment.

 

“Could you… could you run facial recognition and see if her face matches any Jane Doe’s brought in recently?”

 

“Certainly. Would you like me to check hospitals, morgues, or both?”

 

“Both,” Peter replies, feeling a little sick- the mention of morgues brings the woman he and Luke found to his mind.

 

He’s been in touch with Luke since that night, and he knows that the living woman they found is still alive. She’s in a coma, and nobody’s sure if she’ll wake up. They still don’t know who she is, but she has a twenty-four-hour police guard assigned to her room at the hospital. He went to see her once, but it was painful enough that he doesn’t think he’ll do it again.

 

Friday returns the results on her search of hospital and morgue records a few minutes later, and there’s one woman who was an inconclusive match for facial recognition. Peter looks over the picture, and if not for the woman’s hair, he’d think it a possible match. Aelisha told him the picture of Angela with shaved hair was only about a month old, and the woman in the picture has much longer hair.

 

“Is there anything else?” Friday asks again, as Peter closes the image of the woman on an autopsy table.

 

“Yeah, actually. Do you think you could pull up a missing person report filed for Aelisha Trenton?” he asks. He hadn’t stuck around long enough to find out what the police did, but he knows any officer with any brains in their skull would be able to see something was wrong with the scenario.

 

“Just a minute,” Friday says, before going quiet for a moment. “There’s a missing person report for Aelisha Trenton, filed yesterday and resolved yesterday.”

 

“Resolved?” Peter asks with a frown.

 

“The report reads that when officers went to perform a welfare check on Aelisha Trenton, they were let into the apartment by the landlord and found it in perfect condition. It says that Aelisha’s purse and other personal items including her toothbrush and prescription medicines were gone as well as the medium sized suitcase from a set that they found. The officers concluded that Aelisha Trenton is simply out of town.”

 

Peter feels his blood run cold, and he doesn’t know what to think, let alone say, so he says “What does it say about her cat?”

 

“The report doesn’t mention a cat.”

 

“Shit,” he breathes out.

 

Peter’s just now gotten into trying to deal with organized crime; he has no goddamn clue what to do about corrupt cops. He’d had his doubts before, but now he’s absolutely positive that Angela did not check herself out of that hospital, and that she’s not just off on a drug binge, or whatever it was that the police had told Aelisha. Think, dammit. What should he do?

 

“Friday, what’re the names of the officers who checked into Aelisha Trenton?” he asks, biting his lip.

 

“That would be officers Wyatt Sanders and Lucas Eltman,” Friday responds, automatically pulling up both of their files on Peter’s computer.

 

He reads over them for a minute, and he’s relieved to see that they’re not too high up the food chain. Maybe the corruption doesn’t run too deep. A few more documents pop up a second later, including a patrol schedule for both officers. They’re partners and work out of the same car, so that’s definitely convenient.

 

Peter packs his laptop back into his backpack and heads out, thanking Friday as he steps off the elevator. He leaves the building and makes a beeline for the one person he knows has experience weeding out dirty cops.

 

When he walks into the offices of Nelson, Murdock & Page, Peter isn’t too badly surprised to see nobody in the waiting area aside from Danielle, who’s at her desk doing something. She smiles when she sees Peter.

 

“Is Matt here?” Peter asks nervously, not even bothering with a greeting.

 

“He and Mr. Nelson are out right now, but Ms. Page is in her office,” she says, and when she sees the way Peter’s face drops she’s quick to tack on, “They should be back within half an hour!”

 

“I… is Ms. Page with a client right now?” he asks, and Danielle shakes her head in response.

 

“Would you like me to tell her that you’re here?” she asks, and this time Peter shakes his head.

 

“No, it’s okay. I’ll just wait for Matt out here,” he replies, going to sit in one of the slightly worn armchairs of the waiting area.

 

After twenty minutes of sitting there, bouncing his leg and picking at the skin beside his thumbnail constantly, Danielle gets up from her desk and heads over to the kitchenette. Peter doesn’t bother paying attention to what she’s doing until she comes to sit in the chair beside him and hands him a cup of tea.

 

“Thanks,” he says quietly as he takes the chipped mug and sips from it.

 

Danielle smiles at him. “Are you alright?” she asks softly.

 

“I… I just need to ask Matt a question,” he replies, worrying the inside of his lip with his teeth.

 

“Alright… just tell me if you need anything, okay?” she says before heading back to her desk.

 

Peter knows that she’s probably only three or four years older than him, so the caring instinct probably comes from her being someone’s older sister. He lets himself wonder about Danielle for a few more minutes before he’s pulled back to reality by the sound of a door opening.

 

“Hey, Peter!” Foggy greets with a wide smile. “What’s up, man?”

 

Matt has a more serious expression, and Peter wonders how good he is at telling people’s emotions.

 

“I need to talk to Matt,” he says, and suddenly Foggy looks serious too. He also gives Matt quite a glare.

 

“Alright, Peter. Let’s talk in my office,” Matt replies calmly, inclining his head to tell Peter to follow him.

 

As soon as they’re in Matt’s office and the door is shut, Matt speaks in a low whisper, probably to keep their obvious eavesdroppers in the dark.

 

“What’s wrong?” he asks, the death grip on his cane not relaxing at all.

 

Peter looks around the office and finds his eyes landing on the bookshelves, full of things printed in Braille. The papers in neat stacks across the desk are in Braille too, and there’s a screen reader sitting beside Matt’s laptop. He feels extra dumb for not noticing Matt’s disability sooner, but before he can spiral into a horribly self-induced cringe-fest, Matt sets a hand on his arm and shakes him out of it.

 

“Peter,” he says, and he’s frowning now.

 

“I’m okay,” Peter assures immediately, even though he’s not quite sure that he is.

 

“What did you need to talk to me about that you couldn’t over the phone?” Matt says, guiding Peter to sit in one of the chairs while he sits on the edge of the desk in front of him.

 

“There’s this lady—her sister went missing and the cops wouldn’t help her, so she was kinda making a big deal and putting posters everywhere. And I called the number on the poster and met up with her and talked so I could try and help because I just... I couldn’t stop thinking about the woman Luke and I found and I needed to help someone—”

 

“Peter, take a breath,” Matt guides gently, leaning forward to put his hand on Peter’s shoulder for a minute until he gets his rapid breathing back under control. “So there’s a woman whose sister is missing and you were going to help her.”

 

“Yeah, and she always puts up new posters when one gets torn or taken or it rains, and yesterday I found one of the posters, but it was torn up and looked like it got wet, but it hasn’t rained in days, so I went to her job to see if anyone had seen her and I called her and I went to her apartment, and when I got there nobody was home and the door was unlocked, and there was a chicken that had been rotting in the microwave for days, and her purse and wallet and cellphone were still there, and her cat didn’t have any food or water, so I called the cops, y’know? Figured I’d file a missing person report since I figured she got taken or killed by whoever it was that her sister got in trouble with. I waited for the cops to show, then went home. But today I looked at the missing person report because it had been marked resolved, and they said that her door had been locked, her stuff was gone, and that there were no signs she was taken or that foul play was involved.”

 

Matt frowns at that and sits back to think for a minute before speaking. “Do you have the names of the officers who investigated her apartment?”

 

Peter nods and then wonders if Matt can tell he nodded, and gives a verbal affirmation as well, just in case.

 

“We could do some surveillance on them, see if they do anything else questionable or say anything about the case,” Matt suggests. “I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but she’s most likely dead,” he adds gently.

 

Peter knows that. He knew that the second he read the report. “Okay.” Peter’s shoulders are still tense, and Matt just seems to be able to tell that he’s still not feeling much better about the whole scenario.

 

“Here’s the plan,” Matt says in a much more certain voice. “We’re going to find out their schedules, and we’re going to watch and listen to them to see if they give any hint of being dirty; it’s possible someone else changed the report after it was entered. If we can confirm it’s them, then we’ll get the answers out of them. If we can’t, we’ll find who’s responsible.”

 

“I have the patrol schedule,” Peter says quietly, pulling out his laptop to open the document and check. “Umm… Sanders and Eltman… there, they’re patrolling from 21st to 32nd street tomorrow night. Starting at eight PM, going till four AM,” he reads off.

 

“Good. Tomorrow night at seven-thirty, we’re going to meet on your roof. I’ll help you with this, okay?” Matt says in a way that makes Peter feel a little bit more grounded.

 

“Okay,” he says. “Tomorrow, seven-thirty.” He thinks about the cat left in Aelisha’s apartment again, and he must give off some sign of a new wave of anxiety hitting him because Matt’s hand is back on his shoulder.

 

“What’s wrong?” he asks softly.

 

“Her cat,” Peter answers. “Nobody’s taking care of it.”

 

“You can go get her cat,” Matt says. “If you can’t take care of it, I can take it until we find her. I’m gonna call you a cab, okay?”

 

Peter wants to protest that he’ll be fine taking the subway, but he also knows that Matt’s a human lie detector, so it would be pointless. Instead, he just thanks him quietly and waits there until Matt tells him the cab is coming down the street. He wants to ask more about Matt’s abilities, but he figures that he can do that another time when he isn’t on the border of panic.

 

The cab drops him off at his apartment, and Peter only stays there long enough to change into the suit before he heads for Aelisha’s apartment. When he gets there the door is locked, and he has to break the handle to get in. Rather than the smell of rotting meat greeting him, he’s instead met by the choking odor of bleach. The purse is gone now, and as Peter walks around the apartment calling out for the cat, he sees other things that are different- suitcases are set out in the bedroom, and the toiletries covering the bathroom counter are gone. After a minute of fruitless searching, he heads back to the kitchen and pours some cat food into a bowl and rattles it around.

 

Half a minute later, the cat comes slinking out from under the couch, completely different to how it had acted the day before. It eats the food but is so skittish it takes a solid twenty minutes before Peter can pick it up. He looks around for a moment and finds an old backpack, which he very apologetically puts the cat into before zipping it up and leaving out the window. He makes the trip back to his apartment as quick as possible, but once he gets inside and shuts the window behind him he can feel the cat wriggling around desperately in the backpack.

 

As soon as he takes off the mask and tosses it onto his bed he unzips the backpack, and the cat bolts into the living room.

 

The cat almost runs straight into May and hisses at her before slithering under the couch.

 

“What the hell, Peter?” May says in a very defeated voice.

 

“Her owner’s missing. I’m just watching the cat until I find her!” he says.

 

May looks appraisingly between Peter and the low growling emanating from beneath the couch for a minute before sighing. “Fine. Go see if Ms. Landrin down the hall has a litterbox we can borrow,” she says.

 

Peter grins at her and heads for the door, only stopping when May grabs his wrist as he walks past. He looks at her in confusion, and she raises an eyebrow.

 

“You might want to change first.”

 

He blushes and heads back into his room to change into normal clothes before returning to the task at hand. Fortunately, the neighbor does have a litterbox they can borrow, along with a bag of cat food that she says none of her five cats will eat. He thanks her and heads back to the apartment to set things up for the cat.

 

By the time Peter goes to bed that night, the cat has significantly calmed down, with the help of many bits of sandwich meat and cat food. It even hops up onto his bed and curls up into a little ball right at the curve of his back. He can feel in purring as it sleeps, and he makes a quiet vow to get its owner back to it.

 

School passes by in a blur the next day; Peter doesn’t remember a single detail of it but knows he must have gone, judging by the nice new pile of homework he occupies himself with until it’s time to suit up and head to the roof.

 

Unsurprisingly, Matt is already there and sitting at the edge of the roof, his legs dangling off the building. Peter would say he was admiring the view if he didn’t know Matt was blind.

 

Matt doesn’t give the slightest acknowledgment in his body language that he knows Peter’s finished climbing up the wall outside his window to get there. Instead, he just greets him with a “Ready to go?”

 

Peter nods. “Yeah, let’s go.”

 

Unlike the last time he worked with Matt, Peter sticks closer to him. He parkours right alongside him across the rooftops and alleys. Once they get within the patrol area, Peter sets a hand on Matt’s shoulder to indicate they can stop. It’s not like Matt can read the street sign marking this the corner of 23rd Street and 33rd Avenue. And then he stops and thinks because Matt obviously knew where he was, regardless of not being able to read the signs. Peter really needed to know more about what Matt’s deal was.

 

“They should come through here at some point,” he says, going to sit at the edge of the roof that they’re on.

 

Matt comes to sit beside him, and he begins to tilt his head in that signature way of his as he listens to the world around them. “What did you say their names were again?”

 

“Wyatt Sanders and Lucas Eltman,” he says, looking down at the few cars that pass by below them.

 

“Got it.”

 

Things are quiet for a while as Matt listens in to all sorts of things that Peter can only imagine being able to hear. He jerks his head around in a way that reminds Peter slightly of a dog that hears something unusual, but eventually, he settles with his head one way.

 

“They’re circling the block,” he says. “I think we should wait until it’s later. They’ll be less alert, and there’ll be fewer people around.”

 

“Alright,” Peter says before going back to the silence they were in. He wants to ask Matt about how he does what he does, but he also doesn’t want to pry or come off as rude.

 

After five minutes of Peter’s internal debate, Matt sighs. “Say what you want to, Peter.”

 

Peter jumps. “How did you know I want to say something?”

 

“People’s breathing changes before they say something. You keep almost saying something and then not following through,” Matt explains simply.

 

“You’re disabled,” Peter finally says, even though that’s not what he’d wanted to ask. It’s not even a question.

 

Matt’s mouth pulls into a tight line, and he nods. “I am.”

 

“I just… I don’t get it. You can still see, right?”

 

“The chemicals that enhanced my senses also got into my eyes and blinded me. I’m completely blind. My eyes serve no function at all. When I say I’m blind, I mean that I am really, truly, completely blind. So, no. I can’t see anything.”

 

“Then how do you do it?” Peter asks.

 

“I’ve told you my other senses are enhanced. I can tell where things are from how sounds bounce off of them, the way air currents move around them. It’s like sonar, but more advanced. All of the input makes a sort of picture in my head, but I can’t see.”

 

“How old were you when you got your abilities?”

 

“Nine,” Matt answers like he’s had to answer these questions a lot.

 

“And how did you learn how to..?” Peter makes a vaguely, ninja-ish gesture that he hopes Matt can pick up on.

 

Even with the highly defensive aura radiating off of Matt, that still manages to make him smile for just a second. “My dad died not too long after the accident, and I got sent to live at the orphanage my church was associated with. When I was there, a blind old man named Stick found me and taught me how to use my abilities and how to fight. He left, I kept up my training on my own. I heard bad shit happen for years and eventually, I had enough and started stopping the bad shit on my own. I’m still capable of everything I was before you found out,” he says, the last sentence coming out harshly.

 

“I mean, I’m not gonna treat you any differently now that I know,” Peter replies, ignoring the derisive huff it gets him from Matt. “Well, that’s a lie. I’ll read signs for you. And I won’t tell you to cut the red wire if we find a bomb.”

 

Matt snorts at that, and although he’s not relaxed, the air between them is definitely less tense. There’s a moment of quiet before Matt speaks up though. “You’re worried about me more now,” he says, and it’s a fact, not a question. “You got nervous every time I had to make a jump on the way here. Your heart rate spiked, and you stayed closer to me, did you think I might trip and fall off the roof or something?”

 

“I—”

 

“You don’t need to worry about me, Peter,” Matt adds in a voice of finality.

 

That ends their conversation, and they sit quietly on the rooftop so Matt can listen in on the conversation the officers are having when they’re within hearing range. After nearly an hour Matt perks up, and Peter turns to watch him.

 

“They’re talking about you,” he says.

 

“Me?”

 

“Spider-Man,” Matt elaborates. “Said something about you stirring shit. Disrupting the supply chain.”

 

“Oh,” Peter says.

 

They’re quiet for another long stretch.

 

“I have a plan,” Matt announces finally. “We’re going to have to use you as—” He stops speaking abruptly and tilts his head again.

 

Peter wants to ask what he’s hearing, but he doesn’t want to be the reason Matt misses some important bit of dialogue between their targets.

 

“Change in plan. We’re going to let them arrest us,” Matt says decisively, and Peter almost chokes on his own tongue.

 

What?

 

“Their boss doesn’t like me either. Apparently, I disrupt the supply chain too, whatever that means. It’s probably heroin. Anyway, we’re going to get their attention and let them arrest us. They won’t take us to the police; they’ll take us to whoever their boss is to try and suck up to him and get into his inner circle. They sound like they’re pretty low in the ranks. If they haven’t killed the woman they took, she’ll probably be there.”

 

“Are you sure about this..?” Peter asks hesitantly. “Won’t they try and, like, identify us?”

 

Matt shrugs. “Probably not. Guys like this usually want to leave the honors to whoever they work for.”

 

Peter gives Matt a skeptical look.

 

“I’ve dealt with a lot of these people. They’re weird. They’re theatrical. They get their rocks off on the thought of unmasking the people who make their lives hell, and they’d probably cut the hands off any of their disciples who try and take that moment for themselves.”

 

Peter gives Matt a significantly more disgusted look.

 

“Look, if they go for the masks, we’ll just take them down. They aren’t in the greatest fighting shape considering I can smell the cheeseburgers from here,” Matt adds on. “If it happens when we’re cuffed, you can break the cuffs and I know how to fight with my legs. Simple enough, right?”

 

While Matt’s plan had sounded like one concocted by a complete crackhead, the further explanation shows that he’s actually thought things out. While he can’t say he’s thrilled with the idea of letting himself get arrested, Matt was right in saying he can break out of handcuffs.

 

“Fine,” he says with a sigh. “Let’s do it.”

 

Matt smiles at him and pulls his own burner phone out before dialing 911 as Peter watches in mild confusion.

 

“Hi, yes,” Matt says in a sweet voice. “There’s someone trying to break into a car in the parking lot on 23rd and,” He pauses, thinking.

 

“Thirty-third road,” Peter whispers back, and Matt recites it to the dispatcher.

 

Matt hangs up and slides the phone back into one of the pockets on his suit. “Let’s go. Sanders and Eltman are being dispatched to stop our imaginary car thief.”

 

Peter nods and follows after Matt, and they quickly make their way to the parking lot just a few hundred feet away. They’ve just gotten into position when flashing lights pull up and the police cruiser’s siren chirps twice at them.

 

“Down on the ground!” one of the officers yells at them, his gun held in obviously shaking hands. Matt was right about them not being in the best fighting shape; neither of them are morbidly obese, but they definitely have some dad-bod going on.

 

“Are you seeing this shit?” one officer asks his partner, tilting his head toward where Daredevil and Spider-Man are standing in front of them.

 

“Sure am, Eltman,” the man replies, and Peter’s glad for the confirmation of the officers’ identities. “Down on the ground!” he repeats.

 

Peter grits his teeth but kneels when Matt does, putting his hands on top of his head in a mirrored gesture of Matt.

 

Both officers approach them, their guns still out, and for a second Peter’s worried that they might just get shot and have their dead bodies unmasked by whatever druglord these two work for. His worries are laid to rest though when the officer closest to him holsters his gun and pulls out his cuffs, restraining Peter’s arms tightly behind his back. He grabs Peter by the wrist and drags him over to the car, shoving him in the backseat. He hesitates for a second before clicking Peter’s seatbelt into place. A moment later he has his gun back out and trained on Matt so his partner can cuff the matching Daredevil to their already collected Spider-Man. Despite Peter’s well known superhuman strength, the officers still treat Matt like more of a threat. Maybe it’s because Daredevil’s been known to beat the shit out of cops, but Spider-Man is still of the friendly, neighborhood variety of hero.

 

Regardless of why it is, they still shove Matt extra roughly into the backseat of the cruiser, trying to knock his head on the edge of the door, though Matt manages to avoid it and growls at them. They buckle him in too, even though Matt looks ready to bite anyone who gets too close.

 

“Can’t say I expected you to come this easy, after what you did to those guys from the fifteenth who tried to bring you in,” Eltman says once he’s back in the driver’s seat.

 

“I don’t hurt innocent people,” Matt growls back, and the guy laughs.

 

“You just made the biggest mistake of your life assuming we were innocent,” he says, and wow, these guys are fucking morons.

 

“There was no car thief,” officer Sanders says into his radio. “Probably just a prank call. We’re going back to our patrol route.”

 

“Roger,” a slightly static-y voice replies.

 

“You’re welcome for stopping a grand theft auto, by the way,” Peter says. “Saved you some paperwork, on it, didn’t we? And this is how you thank us? I’m wounded.”

 

“Relax, Spidey,” Sanders says, rolling his eyes.

 

Matt snarls at the nickname, and even though the officers are separated from him by the metal grill blocking off the backseat, they still shut up at the sound.

 

They’re headed further and further away from Manhattan, and Peter’s getting bored. It’s unnerving being in cuffs in the back of a police car, and he’s a nervous talker, so he does his best to just bug the shit out of their kidnappers.

 

“Jesus Christ, you drive like you’re eighty,” Peter groans loudly. “You’re already breaking the law. Would it kill you to speed?”

 

“Shut it,” Eltman barks as he presses down on the gas regardless, turning over his shoulder to glare at Peter.

 

In that split second his eyes are off the road, a dark shape moves out in front of the car.

 

A dark, humanoid shape.

 

Peter screams, “Look out!” the second the car hits the person.

 

The windshield shatters, and Eltman yanks the steering wheel on reflex, turning the car directly into a street light. The car comes to a screeching halt, and both officers are groaning into the deployed airbags because although they put seatbelts on their suspects, they were too dumb to do up their own. There’s some blood, and Peter assumes that one or both of the cops were cut by the shattered windshield. He has no idea what to say (he’s just thankful the cops decided to put seatbelts on the vigilantes they were kidnapping), so he just turns to Matt.

 

Matt is muttering something under his breath, and before Peter can ask him what he’s saying, a black-gloved hand attached to a red arm shatters the glass on the passenger side of the car and reaches in to delicately press the ‘door unlock’ button.

 

A second later, the door on Matt’s side of the car opens. Before Peter can even see who it is, Matt kicks them in the knee. Hard.

 

“Ow!” a voice says. “Is that any sort of way to treat your valiant rescuer?”

 

“Wade, you dumbfuck,” Matt snarls, getting out of the car with his hands still cuffed behind his back and posturing up to—oh God, is that Deadpool? “We were getting them to take us to their boss!”

 

“Hey, hey, hey! Calm down, shnookums,” motherfucking Deadpool says, earning a growl from Matt who’s now straining against his cuffs. “I can drive you to the police station if you wanna see their boss so bad.” Peter’s trying to fight off a smile, but Deadpool just rescued them. Or, thought he was. Still cool.

 

“They’re dirty, you moron,” Matt snaps.

 

“And so are you! Leather and handcuffs? You’re really pulling out all the stops tonight!” Deadpool says, and Matt lunges at him.

 

Deadpool puts his hand on Matt’s shoulder to hold him at arm’s length and laughs, rooting around in one of the pockets on his belt for a second before procuring a tiny, silver object. “You’re lucky I always carry these. Now turn around,” he says.

 

Matt growls again but obliges, and Deadpool uses the thing that Peter’s now realizing is a key to unlock the handcuffs.

 

Peter finally makes his way out of the car, scooting over to exit through the door Deadpool had opened for Matt. He pulls his hands apart until the chain snaps and then wrenches open the bracelet parts of the cuffs, tossing them onto the ground.

 

“Did you… did you get run over to stop the car?” Peter asks incredulously.

 

“Spidey! Nice of you to join us!” Deadpool greets cheerfully. “And yes. Well, I kinda bounced off the hood and over the roof, so I didn’t really get run over, per se.” The hand gestures Deadpool uses to illustrate himself bouncing off the hood of the car are slightly disturbing.

 

Why would you do that?!

 

“I couldn’t just leave my bestest, red leather buddy to get arrested, could I?” Deadpool says in a syrupy falsetto, throwing an arm around Matt’s shoulders and pulling him closer despite the way Matt is still growling at him. Matt pretty much goes feral as soon as he’s in the suit, and honestly, it’s pretty entertaining.

 

Peter thinks that Deadpool is even better at pushing Matt’s buttons than Mr. Castle is. And he didn’t even know Daredevil and Deadpool were acquainted up until this moment.

 

Matt elbows Deadpool in the ribs and shoves him back against the side of the car. “How many times have I told you to stay out of my shit unless I explicitly ask for your help?”

 

“You don’t need to ask me to do anything explicit more than once,” Deadpool coos at Matt, who just snarls at him again before taking a step back to consider their situation.

 

“Fine. You fucked this up, so you’re helping me fix it,” Matt says.

 

Deadpool nods eagerly, and he looks like a heavily muscled, 6’2” puppy with multiple guns and katanas. “Anything for you, Redthew.”

 

 Peter chokes on his laugh, coughing instead. Matt shoots him a look anyway.

 

Matt’s face tightens up at that nickname, but he doesn’t rise to the bait or punch Deadpool. “Get the driver,” he says simply, before heading around to the passenger side and pulling out Officer Sanders who groans weakly. He doesn’t put up much of a fight as Matt carries him into a nearby area around the side of the abandoned looking building they crashed in front of.

 

Deadpool follows close behind Matt, humming as he drags his charge by the wrist. “Come on, Spidey. Don’t want to miss out on the fun now, do we?”

 

Peter has a bad feeling about it, but he follows Deadpool to where Matt’s kneeling on Officer Sanders’ back, holding the man’s arm up at an awkward angle and pushing it toward a direction that it’s not meant to bend in.

 

“Tell me,” Matt growls.

 

The response from the officer is muffled enough that Peter can’t hear it, but from the way Matt quickly shoves the man’s arm down straight across his own back with a horrible crunching noise and a scream from the man, he can tell it wasn’t the answer Matt wanted to hear.

 

“Wow,” Deadpool says, still restraining Eltman with one hand firmly around the man’s wrist. “Is it weird to say that I kinda wish I was the one he just did that to?”

 

Matt snaps his head up and turns it toward where Peter is standing frozen beside Deadpool. “Spider-Man, you don’t want to see this,” he says.

 

Peter nods and turns around, heading back to stand by the car. He listens to the screams that eventually die down into whimpers, cringing at each loud noise that comes from where Matt and Deadpool are interrogating—no—torturing two men. He’s known this entire time that Matt tortures people sometimes, but it’s always been sort of an abstract thought that he doesn’t necessarily have to confront.

 

It’s a lot harder to not confront it when he can match faces and names to the shrieks of pain he’s hearing.

 

A little more than half an hour later, though it feels like hours have passed, Matt comes out looking especially grim, followed by Deadpool, who’s looking particularly giddy if the way he’s skipping is anything the judge by.

 

“Did you get what you needed?” Peter asks, sounding hoarse and feeling like he might throw up.

 

“We got a name,” Matt replies.

 

Deadpool skips around to the side of the police car and leans in through the shattered window to speak into the radio. “Hi, dispatch,” he says sweetly. “This is your old pal, Deadpool. Just stopping by to let you know that the officers who were in this car are no longer in this car because they made some bad choices. If you know the choices I’m referring to, then I’ll come after you too.” He finishes speaking with a hard note in his voice, before turning back to Matt and Peter.

 

“Let’s get out of here before the cops show up,” Matt says, putting a hand on Peter’s shoulder to lead him down the street, Deadpool following behind them. They make it about six blocks before Matt yanks them all into an alley a few seconds before a police car with no lights or sirens zooms past.

 

“Where are we going?” Peter asks quietly once the car has passed.

 

“You can head home if you want,” Matt replies. “Or you can come with me and Deadpool to check out the name we got from those cops.”

 

Deadpool is doing something on his phone, not of the flip variety, and Matt is waiting for his answer. He stares at Matt, and does his best to give an unimpressed look. Matt doesn’t look affected by it, but Peter’s not sure if that’s because Matt’s blind or because he doesn’t have a very good unimpressed look. He’s going to go with the second one even though the first one is most likely the truth.

 

“This was my case,” Peter points out a little less than politely. “And it’s Friday so it isn’t like I have to go to school tomorrow. If anything, you and Deadpool are coming with me to figure out who this guy is.”

 

Peter doesn’t even realize what he let slip until he notices the silence has gone on for far longer than it has up until this point in Deadpool’s presence (the guy never shuts up).

 

School?” Deadpool asks, his face oddly expressive even through the mask. “How old are you?”

 

Peter looks to Matt quickly for an out, but he just shrugs vaguely. The slight upward pull at the corner of his mouth shows that he’s amused, that jackass.

 

“Umm I’m twenty,” Peter tries, and his attempt at making his voice sound more mature is so laughable that even Matt can’t keep the smile off his face any longer.

 

“Uh uh, Spidey. College kids say ‘class’. You said school,” Deadpool replies, his arms crossed over his chest.

 

Peter sighs and tosses another look at Matt before thumping his head back against the brick wall of the alley they’re all hiding in. “Almost sixteen,” he mutters.

 

Deadpool full on chokes on the air. “You’re fifteen?!” he shrieks in the loudest whisper Peter’s ever heard (and he’s friends with theater kids). “You’re too young to fight crime! You can’t even drive!”

 

“I can’t drive either,” Matt replies, just to be chaotic.

 

“It’s New York-- nobody needs to know how to drive,” Deadpool says, blowing him off.

 

“Then why’s it such a big deal that I can’t drive?” Peter counters.

 

“Because you couldn’t get a license even if you wanted!”

 

“Neither can I,” Matt points out again, earning himself a glare from Deadpool.

 

The two of them stare each other down for a minute, and there’s definitely some eyebrow raising going on beneath both of their masks before Deadpool throws his hands in the air and sighs. “Fine. Fine, whatever. See if I care that someone tried to hire me to kill a little baby!”

 

“Wait, what?!” Peter asks, standing to attention as Matt adjusts his stance similarly.

 

“Don’t get your onesies in a wad-- I didn’t do it! The guy offered me 10k. Ten K! For a superhuman hero! A child superhuman hero!” Deadpool laments, before glancing back down at his phone when it buzzes and switching the topic so fast it makes Peter’s head spin. “Our guy’s in Manhattan. Mount Sinai West.”

 

Matt doesn’t seem thrown off at all by the abrupt change in conversation. “How the hell did you get that so fast?”

 

“I added him on Snapchat. Duh,” Deadpool replies, tapping one of Matt’s horns. Peter swears he hears the man say ‘boop’ under his breath before he turns to look at the youngest member of their trio. “Snap maps are a hitman’s best friend, kiddo.”

 

Peter makes a mental note to set his location so nobody can see it.

 

“We have a location. Let’s go,” Matt says, but before he can take more than a step, Deadpool grabs him by the arm.

 

“We are not fucking walking to the Upper West Side,” he says. “I’m calling a cab.” Deadpool goes to his contacts list and scrolls until he finds one that simply has every heart emoji ever as the name.

 

A single minute conversation later, and apparently Deadpool’s cab-driving friend is on his way to come get them. Peter’s wandered over towards the other end of the alley to investigate the graffiti painted there.

 

“I spy with my little eye… something red,” Deadpool sing-songs closer towards the entrance of the alley after a couple minutes of blessed silence.

 

There’s silence for a beat followed by a defeated sigh and Matt saying, “Is it you?”

 

“Nope!”

 

“Is it me?”

 

“Nada!”

 

“Is it Spider-Man?”

 

“Yahtzee! Your turn,” Deadpool says with a grin.

 

Matt looks Deadpool straight in the face. “I spy a colossal dumbass.”

 

Peter realizes it’s going to be a long wait for the cab.

 

 

Chapter Text

Three rounds of ‘I spy’ later, and Deadpool has gotten tired of playing with Matt only to get various creatively worded expletives thrown in his face.

 

“How about you, Spider-Man?” Deadpool asks, poking Peter in the shoulder. “What do you spy with your gigantic white eyes?”

 

Peter looks up at him and sighs before thumping his head back against the wall. Over the past thirty minutes, his opinion of Deadpool has gone from ‘super cool anti-hero’ to simply ‘who the fuck knows?’. “I certainly don’t spy a cab,” Peter snarks back, smiling when Matt laughs at that.

 

They’ve been chilling in the alley for close to thirty minutes waiting for a cab driver who Deadpool knows will pick them up, no questions asked, despite the fact that Matt has helpfully informed them that the police have an APB out on Deadpool. Deadpool had simply smiled and pulled out a small piece of paper to add a tally mark on the already half-filled backside. Peter didn’t ask, and he didn’t know if Matt noticed. If he did, he didn’t say anything.

 

“Oooh, sassy. I like it,” Deadpool compliments. “But incorrect. Riiight there,” he adds, pointing to an obnoxious yellow sedan that’s cruising down the street at a suspiciously slow pace.

 

Deadpool steps out of the shadows of the alley and into the street, waving at the cab, which immediately heads for them. It rolls to a stop, and Deadpool opens the door with a flourish indicating for Peter to climb in first, which he does, followed by Matt, and then lastly, Deadpool. There’s Bollywood music playing very faintly over the speakers, and the cab smells like air fresheners and blood which, if Deadpool is in it often, is probably about as could be reasonably expected.

 

“Hi, Mr. Pool,” the cab driver says in an accent thicker than Peter expected, turning in his seat to wave at Deadpool, who waves back. “Mr. Devil,” he adds. Matt only gives a short nod in response.  “And Mr. Man.”

 

It takes Peter a hot second to realize that he, Spider-Man, is being called Mr. Man. When he finally realizes this, he gives a small wave and smiles under the mask, trying not to laugh.

 

“This is Dopinder,” Wade introduces them to the driver as he leans across Matt and practically lays on him in the process. “Do you need a booster seat?” he stage-whispers to Peter.

 

Peter just stares at him blankly.

 

“I’ll take that as a no,” Deadpool whispers again, leaning back out of Matt’s personal space to put on his seatbelt.

 

Peter puts on his seatbelt too, as does Matt, once the driver steps on the gas.

 

Deadpool keeps up a string of inane babbling for a surprisingly long amount of time before Matt finally just puts his hand over Deadpool’s mouth. There’s a moment of silence where Deadpool and Matt just stare at each other.

 

“You know,” comes Deadpool’s muffled voice after a minute, “licking someone’s hand is a lot more effective when you’re not wearing a mask.”

 

“Even if you weren’t wearing a mask, I still have gloves on,” Matt points out.

 

Peter has a hunch that Deadpool rolls his eyes at that, of course, he can’t tell because of the freaky white lenses that cover his eyes. Peter thinks that even though he has white lenses too, they’re much less scary thanks to the fact that they’re big and cartoonish.

 

Peter stops contemplating costume similarities between himself and Deadpool, and tunes back into his surroundings when he feels Matt twitching beside him.

 

“… and we can beat people up together every night,” Deadpool continues from whatever he’s been ranting about, half draped across Matt.

 

Matt does not look happy about this.

 

“Dude,” Peter snaps, giving his best angry look at Deadpool. He misses the way the eyes on the Stark suit narrowed, mirroring his own, but hopefully, his tone of voice still gets the point across. “Back off of him. He’s not interested.”

 

Deadpool looks shocked.

 

Matt looks vaguely irritated at Peter for just a second before he sighs. “Spider-Man, thank you, but I can handle myself. Deadpool knows exactly what happens when he actually oversteps my boundaries.”

 

Peter contemplates the look of irritation more than the words and wonders if he would’ve stepped in like that had he not known that Matt is blind. He cringes a little at the realization that he probably wouldn’t have said a word.

 

“He broke my whole hand one time,” Deadpool supplies cheerfully, and not at all like someone who’s testing their limits with a person who has caused them severe bodily harm for doing just that in the past.

 

“And I’ll gladly do it again if you push it too far,” Matt says sweetly.

 

Peter does not understand their dynamic.

 

“But I thought you said you hated the sound of my bones healing on super-speed.”

 

“Not as much as I love hearing the sound of them breaking.”

 

Peter really does not understand their dynamic.

 

The cab finally stops a block away from Mount Sinai West, and the driver turns in his seat to hold up his hand which Deadpool quickly slaps with a high-five.

 

“See you around, Brown Bear,” Deadpool calls, blowing a kiss that Dopinder mimes catching and putting into the front pocket of his shirt.

 

“You too, DP,” Dopinder says. “And you, DD. And you, SM.”

 

Once they’re all out of the car, Deadpool looks to Peter. “You know, if any one of us was going to have the initials S and M, I would’ve put my money on the one of us dressed for a bondage scene,” he says, tilting his head to where Matt is standing.

 

“Interesting jab coming from the guy in the gimp suit,” Matt shoots back, and Peter chokes. He’s not sure how Matt knows what a gimp suit looks like, or how he knows what Deadpool’s suit looks like, and he doesn’t really want to ask.

 

“Wow, I’m hurt. This is clearly much better quality than your run-of-the-mill gimp suit. You gonna take my word for that, or do you wanna feel it?” Deadpool says suggestively.

 

“I could feel your hand breaking again,” Matt deadpans.

 

“Burn ward is right there if you’re tired of getting roasted,” Peter mutters, jumping slightly when Matt full on cackles.

 

“Yeah, maybe you should go to the burn ward, Wade,” Matt says, with a grin plastered on his face that has absolutely no right to be nearly as charming as it is.

 

“Maybe you should go to the eye doctor,” Wade shoots back, though there isn’t any venom behind either of their words.

 

Well, that settles it. Peter wasn’t quite sure if Wade, apparently, knew Matt’s identity (the driving comments earlier made him think probably), but that solidifies it. Now he’s just curious about why Deadpool should go to a burn ward.

 

“Guys, not that I’m not, uh, incredibly entertained by everything that’s happening right here,” Peter says, gesturing between the two vigilantes, “but shouldn’t we be going after this guy whose name you got? A name you guys haven’t even bothered telling me, might I add.”

 

“Whoops,” Deadpool says. “Yep, focusing on that now. His name’s Daniel Adams, and he’s the executive director of the hospital. Apparently, he’s the guy your cops were in contact with.”

 

Peter wants to say ‘they’re not my cops’ for a second before he realizes, yes, they are his cops. And it’s his case too, dammit.

 

“And we’re hiding in the alley behind the hospital, stalking him on Snapchat and in real life because..?” Peter says.

 

“Because we need answers from him,” Matt replies simply.

 

“So you’re gonna, what? Follow him home? Wait till he’s passing a particularly dark alley? Drag him down it and see how many bones you have to break to get another name? Then go do the same to the next guy?” Peter asks, and there’s a hint of anger simmering beneath his skin now in a way that’s palpable to both Matt and Deadpool, probably from the way he’s tensed up from head to toe.

 

“We’ll do what we need to if he doesn’t wanna talk to us. That’s kinda how it is in this business,” Deadpool says, and for once Peter’s the one growling.

 

“No,” he says firmly. “This is my case, and I’m not going to let either of you torture another living, breathing person for answers on it They are people. They have rights, and you should know that better than the average person, Daredevil. I told Aelisha that I’d help her find Angela, and I will. Now I’m going to find Aelisha too. I spent the longest thirty minutes of my life listening to two men scream while you broke their bones for a name. You guys can do whatever the hell it is you want when you’re working on your own shit, but this? This is my shit, and if either of you tries to lay a hand on another person while you’re working with me, guilty or not, it’ll be the last thing you ever do with that hand. Am I clear on that?”

 

Matt’s looking at him thoughtfully, and Peter keeps his chin high and his fists at his sides as he stares back. He doesn’t want a fight, but he was serious about his threat.

 

“Okay,” Matt says finally.

 

“O…kay?” Peter responds in a stunned echo. That was not the response he was expecting, and it catches him off-guard.

 

“You’re right,” Matt says with a shrug. “This is your case. You get to set the rules.”

 

Peter looks to Deadpool for confirmation, and the man gives a shrug of his own. “I mean, it’s kinda like the Pirate Code,” he explains. “If you invite someone else to work your gig, they generally follow your guidelines. It’s why Castle doesn’t kill when he works with Red, and why he does kill when Red works with him.”

 

Huh. Well, that does make sense he supposes.

 

“Well, good. Glad that’s settled,” Peter says with a nod, finally relaxing slightly.

 

“Well then, team leader,” Deadpool says in a way that somehow doesn’t come across as sarcastic. “What’s our next move?”

 

Peter bites his lip for a moment, thinking of the best way he can go about this. He knows he’s new and inexperienced, and he doesn’t want to make a fool of himself after he’s just outlawed their most effective way of getting what they need. “We’re gonna do surveillance,” he decides after a minute, nodding as if it’ll solidify the slight waver in his voice. When Matt cracks a small smile, he realizes it’s a good choice and repeats himself. “We’re gonna do surveillance on this guy to figure out two things. One, if he’s involved by choice or by force, and two, what the best way to get information from him is going to be. Maybe he’ll be really dumb with technology and have everything in a poorly secured email.”

 

Deadpool snorts at that, but judging off his body language, it seems like a fond snort, not a ‘you’re a naïve idiot’ snort. “Alright. So, surveillance. Where do you think we should start with this?”

 

Peter feels like he’s being given a pop quiz in a class he hadn’t realized he was taking. “Umm… well, he’s the executive director of the hospital, right?”

 

Deadpool and Matt both nod.

 

“Well, that’s kind of an important role. So there’s probably some video on the internet of him giving a speech or something,” Peter says slowly, thinking as he speaks. “Deadpool, you’re the only one of us with an internet connection right now, so you look for a video of him talking.”

 

“Aye aye, Captain,” Deadpool says before pulling his phone back out to do just that. For someone so knowledgeable about Snapchat, he still types like an old person.

 

Two minutes later, Deadpool has a Youtube video pulled up on his phone of one Daniel Adams giving a speech at some fundraising banquet.

 

“Alright Daredevil. Listen to his voice, and then see if you can match it to anyone in the hospital right now. If we’re not close enough then we can move to the hospital roof and try from there,” Peter says.

 

“Alright. It’ll take me a while; especially if he isn’t talking at the moment,” Matt replies before nodding for Deadpool to play the video.

 

They listen to it four times before Matt’s confident enough in his ability to recognize the man’s voice that searching for him via listening is a viable option. Matt tilts his head in various ways for a minute before he shakes his head. “We’re too far. You two can stay here, I’ll head over to the roof. No offense, but I’m better at not being noticed than either of you,” he adds, when he can tell there’s about to be a protest from Deadpool and Peter about being left behind. “I’ll call you guys the second I find him, and then you can come over. The longer we can keep three costumed vigilantes off the roof of the building, the longer we can go without being spotted.”

 

And with that, Matt’s off like a shot, running damn near straight up the wall of the alley they’ve been chilling in since they got out of the cab. He grabs the bottom edge of a fire escape and swings up onto it almost effortlessly before continuing up to the roof. He’s out of sight shortly after that, so Peter turns to Deadpool who is now sitting on top of a nearby dumpster, his legs hanging off the edge and swinging along with the tune he’s whistling. It’s familiar, but Peter can’t quite place it.

 

“So,” Deadpool says suddenly, interrupting his song, “are the webs, like, from your body?”

 

“Oh, um, no,” Peter stammers out, a little bit caught off-guard by both the question and the fact that he’s alone in an alley with an unkillable assassin whom someone once tried to pay to kill him. “No, I make the web fluid in a lab. It goes into the shooters,” he explains, hopping up to sit next to Deadpool on the dumpster. He holds his hand out to Deadpool, palm up so that he can see the mechanism. “I press the button there to shoot the web.”

 

Deadpool leans in closer to inspect the web shooters, and once he sits back he gives Peter a highly suspicious look. “You built this?” he asks.

 

“Yeah, they’re the originals, but I’m working on a new set now,” Peter explains.

 

“And the webs? That shit’s your own unique chemical composition?”

 

Peter nods.

 

“You’re fifteen.”

 

Peter nods again.

 

 Deadpool’s quiet for a moment as he just stares at Peter. The white lenses really are freaky. “You’re clearly a genius, so how the hell did you get yourself mixed up in all this shit?” he finally asks, gesturing widely.

 

“What shit?” Peter asks because he’s not quite ready to accept the compliment of being called a genius, even if it’s from a crazy guy.

 

“The superhero shit, man!”

 

“Oh,” Peter says. He has a good reason. He has a dead uncle and words left with him that motivate him to do the right thing. But that doesn’t mean he’s about to spill his guts to Deadpool about great power and great responsibility in an alleyway. “I um… got bitten by a… a radioactive spider.”

 

“A—what the shit?” Deadpool asks, slumping in defeat. “The fuck is with you kids nowadays? Can’t any of you get your powers through good ol’ human experimentation, or is that out of fashion now?”

 

“I don’t think human experimentation was ever in fashion,” Peter points out. “Plus it’s illegal.”

 

Deadpool sighs and runs a hand over the top of his head. “You’re a vigilante; hate to break it to you kid, but you’re already doing the illegal.”

 

Deadpool’s phone starts ringing a second later, and he answers it immediately. “Yes, honey?”

 

Peter can hear Matt’s voice on the other end of the call from where he’s sitting. “He’s about to leave the building, heading for the parking garage around back. Both of you meet me there, now.” Matt hangs up abruptly after that, and Deadpool puts his phone away.

 

“Alright kid, we’re going to the parking garage,” Deadpool says, standing up on top of the dumpster before making the jump to grab the bottom edge of the fire escape and pull himself up.

 

Peter watches him for a moment, before simply walking straight up the wall just a few feet away from where Deadpool is.

 

They make it to the roof of the garage where Matt is already waiting, crouched down in a shadowed area on the edge of the roof like a particularly menacing gargoyle.

 

“He still here?” Deadpool asks as they walk over to Matt.

 

“Yeah, he’s still waiting for the elevator,” Matt replies, before turning his head towards Peter and Deadpool. Peter knows that Matt doesn’t need to look in their direction to see—well—sense them, so he wonders if Matt’s simply developed the habit to throw people off his trail for being blind. “It might be harder for me and Wade to keep up with him, so I want you to follow him, Spider-Man. I’ll tell you which car is his when it pulls out, and then we’ll go break into his office while you tail him.”

 

Peter’s heart flutters a little that Matt’s trusting him to be the one who follows the guy, all contemplation about the man’s disability instantly wiped from his thoughts. “Alright. I’ll call you guys and tell you where he stops,” he assures, trying to sound cool and just barely succeeding.

 

“Great.” Matt tilts his head for a second. “Okay, he’s started driving out. He’s heading down and…there,” Matt says, pointing down at an obnoxious black sports car that shares more than a fair resemblance to the batmobile.

 

“I’m on it,” Peter says, jumping off the edge of the roof and shooting a web to the building across the street as the car guns it down 58th.

 

Peter doesn’t often find himself swinging around this part of Manhattan, so it’s a bit more of a struggle to keep up with the guy than he’d expected. Their mark has clearly watched too many Fast and Furious movies, judging by the way he incessantly revs his engine and even actually drifts on a few turns. Asshole.

 

Eventually, the guy pulls off the street and into the garage of an incredibly nice looking apartment building. Peter waits around for a few minutes before it becomes apparent that Daniel Adams is staying in tonight. He pulls out his phone and calls Matt’s burner, listening to it ring for a few seconds before he answers.

 

“He’s at his apartment,” Peter says. “Some weird looking double-towered building off West End Avenue.”

 

“West End Towers,” Deadpool’s voice replies. “Any idea which unit he’s in?”

 

“Uh, I couldn’t exactly stealthily follow him inside dressed like this. So, no,” Peter says, once again caught off-guard by Deadpool. He hopes that isn’t going to become a common occurrence. “Did you guys find anything in his office?”

 

“We found his internet search history,” Deadpool says. “And beneath all the porn, I actually found something that might be of importance to us. Red says to meet back at his place. Roof access is—”

 

“Unlocked,” Peter says. “Like it always is. He’s gonna get robbed one of these days.”

 

“That’s what I keep telling him!” Deadpool says.

 

“I don’t have anything worth stealing,” Matt says, and Peter can hear that he’s at least a few feet away from the phone.

 

“Whatever you say. See you there,” Peter replies before hanging up.

 

It takes him longer than he’d like to admit to figure out how exactly to get to Matt’s apartment from the West End, but eventually, he figures it out and makes his way to the familiar building. He lands on the roof with a slightly poorly executed roll before hopping up and making sure nobody’s watching him. Once he’s sure the coast is clear, he enters Matt’s apartment and finds both Deadpool and Matt sitting on the couch.

 

“Spidey!” Deadpool says. “How’d it go?”

 

“Fine. He drives worse than Daredevil does, though.”

 

Deadpool snorts. “Now, I find that hard to believe.”

 

“Believe what you want,” Peter says with a shrug before coming to sit on the chair by the couch. “So what’d you guys find?”

 

“Thank you for asking, young spiderling,” Deadpool says. “We found out that dear Mr. Adams recently purchased an incredibly secure safe. I’m talking shit I couldn’t get into without a couple of pounds of C4. It was sent to the hospital, but it’s sure as hell not in this office, so it must be at his place.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“So what we’re assuming,” Matt says, “is that he’s keeping something he doesn’t want anyone to know about in this safe. It’s also a lot more expensive than he should be able to afford, even with his salary.”

 

“Alright, awesome. So we just have to figure out which apartment is his, and get in and get the safe. But how are we gonna get into the safe?”

 

“I can crack it,” Matt answers. “Nothing’s secure when you can hear tumblers clicking as easily as I can.”

 

“Great,” Peter says with a smile. The plan is falling into place surprisingly well, and they didn’t even need to torture anyone to get this information! “Leave it to me to figure out a way to get you into the apartment.”

 

Deadpool looks like he wants to protest, but Matt lays a hand on his shoulder to stop him. “It’s his case; he calls the shots,” he says to Deadpool before turning to Peter. “Let us know as soon as you have something.”

 

“I will.”

 


 

The next day, Peter wakes up to a text message from a number he doesn’t have saved. It’s a screenshot of a Snapchat photo taken out of a window to show the sunrise over the city and the words, “Mornings like these” typed over it. There’s another message sent after that, and it simply contains a spider emoji.

 

Peter knows instantly that he can do a lot with this picture. There’s a bit of the guy’s living room reflected in the glass of the window, and Peter’s going to guess that not a lot of people in the building have bright red couches and huge art nouveau sculptures in their apartments. What’s more, he can narrow down what floor the guy’s apartment is on by going on Google maps, and looking at 3D rendered satellite images on the street. He can’t get the exact angles that the buildings he’s seeing are at in relation to Daniel Adams’ apartment, but he knows the side of the building and the general height, and that’s enough for him to get started.

 

Unlike Daredevil, Spider-Man doesn’t just work nights, so Peter grabs the suit and shoves it into his backpack before heading to Manhattan. He finds a relatively secluded alley to change into the suit and stash his backpack in before heading off. Spider-Man in Manhattan isn’t an unusual sight, but it’s still not nearly as common as Spider-Man in Queens. When he’s in Manhattan he usually sticks to the Upper East Side, so to avoid drawing attention to his behavior changing to check out a new area, he decides to spend a few hours swinging around the whole island, including some time spent at West End Towers.

 

He has his phone with him to reference the image the person (who he’s assuming is Deadpool) sent to him - and thank God Melvin made the gloves still usable with touchscreens. It takes him a few swings around the building, but eventually, he finds the apartment, and the décor is truly abysmal. It looks like HGTV had a baby with a seventies porn set. Once he’s confirmed it’s the right apartment, Peter makes a note that while it isn’t a penthouse, it is the fourth row of windows from the top of the building. Even more helpfully, it happens to be a corner apartment. With the Spider-stalking done, Peter takes the scenic route back to where his backpack is hidden and changes back into his normal clothes before making his way back to the apartment building.

 

Once he’s at the building, he waits until a group of women with their children head into the building and fades into the crowd to make it past the doorman without being detected. Thankfully the khakis and sweater over a collared shirt are preppy enough that nobody questions whether or not he should be there. He presses the button of the elevator that’ll take him to the floor he scoped out earlier, and sure enough, all the soccer moms and soccer children get off the elevator before him with polite smiles. When he walks down the hall towards where he knows the apartment is going to be, Peter realizes something very unfortunate. There are three cameras in the hallway. It won’t be fun to make it around those, but it’s still probably doable.

 

Peter comes to a halt when he gets a look at the door he’s been approaching. It looks like it belongs in a bunker. Two deadbolts and a handle with another lock adorn the metal door. There’s also a keypad lock and a camera on the door. Peter very abruptly turns and walks back to the elevator, because he knows he is not getting into the apartment undetected and he doesn’t want his face on the guy’s door camera. Anyone paranoid enough to have home security like that is definitely paranoid enough to go back and watch the footage.

 

He’s pretty sure there isn’t a way into the apartment unless Daniel Adams lets them in. And unless they torture him into submission, Peter has no idea how they’ll get him to do that.

 

No. No. He isn’t going to let another man be disfigured or maimed or traumatized, no matter how shitty he may be, just so they can get answers. He became Spider-Man to help people, and although helping people sometimes can involve punching bad guys, it in no way, shape, or form requires him to torture and abuse people in order to get them to conform to his will. Hell no. He’ll just have to find another way.

 

At that moment, karma happens to be on Peter’s side because just as he’s getting back on the elevator, he hears a man’s voice from the hallway.

 

“Hey- hold the doors!” he calls, and Peter does because he’s a good person and because the man calling for him to hold the doors is Daniel Adams. He’s a bit older and a bit greasier, but it’s undoubtedly the same man as the one from the video that he and Deadpool had Matt listen to the night before.

 

“Thanks,” Adams says as he gets on the elevator, pressing the button for the ground floor even though Peter has already pressed it.

 

He’s about six feet tall, and he has the body of a man going through his midlife crisis, meaning he’s both fat and heavily muscled. Though, Peter can tell he’s definitely been skipping leg day.

 

“You’re welcome,” Peter replies despite the way he feels somehow slimier just from breathing the same air as this guy. The Spidey-sense doesn’t like Daniel Adams, and neither does Peter.

 

The ride in the elevator is silent from that point on, and they stop at a few different floors for other people to get on. Peter feels weird and out of place around all these casually wealthy people. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with dressing nice, but there’s just something off-putting about being around women who throw on a seven-hundred-dollar necklace with their yoga pants, and men who wear ten thousand dollar watches to run errands.

 

Once they get to the ground floor, Peter runs his thumbs along the inner side of his backpack straps and steps off the elevator behind Daniel Adams. The man’s talking on his phone with a Bluetooth earpiece (seriously man, you use Snapchat, but you don’t have Airpods? Decide whether you want to be old or not already) and scrolling through his phone with one hand. Peter’s not even that sneaky, and it’s still laughably easy to follow behind this guy at a distance of about fifteen feet. Thanks to his abilities, he can still observe the man just as well as if he were five feet away.

 

They walk for a while, and the man’s call ends after about eight minutes—something boring about insurance that Peter can’t even begin to comprehend. After that, Peter just listens to the sound of the guy’s ugly dad sneakers smacking on the sidewalk. He stops to get coffee from some minimalist bakery with maximalist prices, and Peter takes that time to pull off his sweater and shove it into his backpack as well as open his button-up shirt to show the dumb graphic tee underneath. He’s hoping for a disguise like the ones Captain Rogers uses religiously, but he only has sunglasses and no hat, so he just has to go with what he’s got.

 

The man comes out of the café a minute later, and Peter resumes tailing him. It’s getting to be around seven in the evening; Peter hadn’t told May where he went that morning, but he figures she won’t worry too much since it’s a Saturday and she knows (vaguely) what Spider-Man’s been up to lately.

 

After a while longer, Peter’s getting bored enough with his mark that he almost misses it when the guy answers his phone and swiftly steps into a nearby alley. Peter stops quick enough that someone runs into him and mutters an insult under their breath, but he ignores it as he hides near the entrance of the alley to listen to the conversation the man’s having. He’s close enough that he can hear both ends of the call, even if the one coming through the phone’s speaker (thank God that Adams ditched the Bluetooth earpiece) is a bit crackly and muffled. As a woman stumbles by him, already drunk, Peter realizes that they’re in Hell’s Kitchen- one of the worse parts, at that.

 

“I don’t care,” Adams snarls into his phone.

 

But—

 

“No. I told them they could take people who wouldn’t be missed.”

 

Peter feels his heart skip a beat.

 

“If they fucked up,” Adams continues, “and took people they shouldn’t have, that’s on them.”

 

It was one time. Don’t you thi—

 

“One time?” he hisses. “One time? No, you idiots have been doing it all over the city. That crackhead they snatched from Elmhurst in Queens? We had to get someone to take care of her sister who was putting up fucking posters. The junkie you picked up from Metro General? His fiancée hired a goddamn PI to find him.”

 

Two people. That’s not bad for how many we’ve gotten away with, you have to admit.”

 

“I’d be fucking fine with it if it was just two people. But your idiots over in Harlem left two more for the cops to find when they were supposed to clear out and guess what?”

 

What?

 

“Luke Cage found them. Our guys from the 114th? The ones who dealt with the crackhead’s sister? Deadpool got to ‘em. The PI? She’s another fucking super. I got some asshole in Chinatown wearing a mask and beating the shit out of our long distance suppliers looking for some girl who we may or may not have. So you idiot grunts are getting the boss on a radar he doesn’t need to be on. You spread the word—any one of you foot soldiers fuck up again, and I’ll use you to fill Sinai West’s quota. Don’t call me here again.” Adams hangs up, and Peter finds himself glued to the brick wall in shock.

 

When the man storms out of the alley, Peter forces himself to keep following at a reasonable distance, and he only stops when Adams walks into a building within neon lights and thumping music Peter can hear from the street.

 

It’s a club.

 

A club decked out with rainbow flags and posters advertising drag queens.

 

Peter knows that his babyfaced self isn’t getting into the building under any circumstances, and with the bomb that’s just been dropped on him, all he can think to do is send a message to the people involved. He opens up the group chat with shaking hands.

 

7:39PM

You: ALL OF YOU GO TO MATT’S PLACE RIGHT THE FUCK NOW BIG SHIT JUST HAPPENED BE THERE ASAP ROOF ACCESS IS PROBABLY UNLOCKED CAUSE HE’S A DUMBASS

 

Peter immediately opens up the text chat from the unknown number earlier. He’s almost certain it’s Deadpool, so he sends a message with similar wording and tone before sprinting into a nearby alley to change into the suit. He missteps and almost falls flat on his face, but the adrenaline keeps him moving just as quickly. As soon as he’s shoved his clothes into his backpack and zipped it up, Peter swings off in the direction of Matt’s apartment. It’s on the other side of the Kitchen, but he’s still pretty sure he’ll make it there before Danny does. He’s assuming that Danny was the ‘asshole in Chinatown wearing a mask’ at least.

 

While he’s racing across rooftops and swinging across alleys, he can feel his phone buzzing as texts start coming back to him, probably from a group of concerned vigilantes, but he doesn’t care. He just focuses on getting to Matt’s apartment so that he can catch everyone up to the massive conspiracy he’s managed to stumble upon. Unfortunately, Peter’s concentration is broken when he sees a man following a woman into an alley as he swings past another street full of loud clubs and bars. She’s stumbling, either because she’s drunk or wearing five-inch heels, he can’t tell, but he knows that he can’t not help her. However, once he’s made up his mind to offer assistance and is already preparing to drop off the edge of the building to help, he spots someone on a fire escape in the alley.

 

Someone wearing red leather and horns.

 

Daredevil jumps down into the alley and plants a kick right in the middle of the man’s chest that sends him down to the ground in a flash. The girl runs away the second the fight starts, and before Matt can break any more of the would-be rapist’s bones than he already has, Peter drops down next to him.

 

“Daredevil!” he calls just as Matt snaps the guy’s wrist with a sickening noise that reminds Peter all too much of what Matt had done the night before to those cops.

 

Matt drops the man immediately and turns his head to Peter. “Spider-Man? What is it?” he asks, pitching his voice low and gravelly for their audience that consists of a single predator now whimpering on the ground like a child.

 

Peter wants to comment on the Daredevil voice, but this is too vital to waste time on throwaway jabs. “Your place, right now. See you there,” he says before swinging off again.

 

Peter still isn’t a master of geography, so he gets slightly lost on his way to Matt’s apartment yet again. Sue him. Ten minutes after his run-in with Matt, he stumbles through the man’s roof access door after five or six wrong turns, panting hard from the exertion of exercise and adrenaline of cracking the case wide open.

 

The lights are on for once, and Peter’s surprised to see Frank, Jessica, and Deadpool already there alongside Matt, who’s still suited up. Jessica and Deadpool are sitting on the couch with relaxed postures while Frank is standing by the window, giving Matt a run for his money with his brooding vigilante schtick. It’s definitely helped along by the red light shining in from the billboard, like the city symbolically painting him with the blood he’s spilled in its streets—nevermind, the light has shifted to a much less menacing magenta.

 

“I’m just saying, you two match with all the red leather,” Jessica is saying as she gestures between Matt and Deadpool before her head snaps up at the sound of the door slamming open. She tenses up for just a moment before she realizes that it’s just Peter, and not some villain of the week. “Now I’m gonna say all three of you match with the red leather.”

 

“Spider-Man, what’s going on?” Matt asks as Peter pretty much flies down the rickety stairs to join them all in the living room. The adrenaline is starting to wear off a little, so he’s feeling less energetic and more shaky.

 

“Are Danny and Luke coming?” he asks, ignoring Matt’s question.

 

“Yeah, Luke should be here any minute, and Danny’s on his way with Colleen. Why?” Jessica says. She has a concerned look on her face that looks like part of a matching set next to Matt and Frank.

 

“I’d rather not explain everything twice. Let’s just wait for them,” Peter says as he drops his backpack on Matt’s floor and sits down in the armchair he’d once had a panic attack in. He might have another if it weren’t for all the people in the room. It’s at that moment that Peter really registers that Frank is there. He’s not even involved in any of the mess. “Oh shit, sorry Mr. Castle,” he blurts out. “I totally forgot you were in the group chat—I don’t think this one actually involves you.”

 

There’s a sharp intake of breath from Jessica, Frank and Matt the moment the words ‘group chat’ exit Peter’s mouth. He only has to wonder why that is for a fraction of a second.

 

“There’s a group chat?!” Deadpool gasps, scandalized. “And I’m not in it?!”

 

Whoops.

 

Thankfully, before there can be any more ‘woe is me’ moaning on Deadpool’s part, Luke slams open the roof access door, looking more than a little bit panicked as he makes his way down the stairs. That can probably be blamed on Peter’s cryptic, all caps, emergency text.

 

Everyone’s heads shoot up when Luke enters the apartment, and all at once they greet him with, “Hey, Luke.” It’s weird and unplanned and gives the vague notion of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Peter knows Jessica should probably go to AA, and judging by the truly impressive range of half-empty liquor bottles on one of the shelves, along with the three completely empty ones in a recycling bin, Matt might need to attend as well.

 

Luke shoots a funny look at the entire colorful cast of characters in the room before his eyes settle on Peter. “What’s going on?”

 

“We’re waiting for Danny, then he’ll explain. Said he doesn’t wanna go through it all twice,” Frank says with a shrug. “Apparently, I don’t need to be here, but I’m here already so I might as well stay. I’m actually kinda interested in figuring out what shit you guys managed to get into. Also, maybe if I’m here to help nobody will get left in the basement of a collapsing building this time.” There’s definitely a hint of bitterness in those words, and the looks on people’s faces range from confused, (Peter) to upset, (Luke) to angry, (Jessica) to completely unreadable because of a mask (Deadpool).

 

Matt looks incredibly heartbroken for just a fraction of a second before he’s got that steely poker face back on. “Now’s really not the time, Frank,” he says in a warning tone.

 

“Neither was the last time,” Frank shoots back.

 

“Well, maybe it’ll never be the time,” Matt snaps, losing the remainder of his cool pretty quickly.

 

“Look, Red—”

 

“Drop it, Castle,” Matt hisses dangerously. “You’re not my fucking priest; I’m not gonna fucking talk about it.”

 

Peter casts a glance at Luke, who now just looks guilty. Maybe all of that enigmatic arguing has something to do with what Luke was talking about when he told Peter that the city had broken Matt down.

 

Thankfully, Deadpool’s there to break the awkward silence prompted by whatever the hell that was.

 

“Nice to see you too, Luke. Is it just me or have you gotten even more muscley since the last time I saw you?”

 

Luke sighs. “What’s Deadpool doing here?”

 

“Spider-Baby texted me, just like the rest of you,” Deadpool says. “At least someone here recognizes my value and doesn’t just kick me to the street like a syphilitic hooker.”

 

“Wha—”

 

“He found out about the group chat,” Jessica says bitterly, crossing her arms over her chest.

 

“Dammit,” Luke says.

 

“Swear jar,” Frank says, though he continues to give Matt concerned looks while Matt is very obviously doing everything in his abilities to ignore Frank’s presence.

 

The roof access slams open yet again, and Danny and Colleen both run in, Colleen with a sword slung over her back. She looks a lot more intimidating now than she did when she was doing taxes on the floor.

 

“Will you people stop slamming my fucking door?” Matt snaps. “It opens just like any other door—no need to put another fucking hole in my wall that I have to get fixed.”

 

“Someone’s in a bad mood,” Deadpool mutters under his breath, and Peter jumps because he hadn’t even realized Deadpool had moved from the couch to just behind him and a bit to the left.

 

Matt throws a venomous look over their way, and Peter hopes that it’s mostly aimed at Deadpool who just makes a kissy face in response.

 

“Woah, sorry Ma—uh, Daredevil,” Danny corrects, once he spots Deadpool. “What’s going on, Spider-Man?”

 

“You’re the guy running around Chinatown in a mask beating up human traffickers, right?” Peter asks, figuring he should get some sort of confirmation on that theory before he drags Danny into a mess that he doesn’t need to be in.

 

“Uh, yeah. How’d you know about that?” Danny replies as he makes his way over to squeeze onto the couch beside Luke who’s taken Deadpool’s spot.

 

“Not important,” Peter says, waving him off. “Well, actually, yes important, but we’ll get to that in a minute.” He realizes everyone in the room is watching him, and, now that everyone is present, he clears his throat. “I was investigating a missing person case,” he starts. “A woman went missing in Queens after she was admitted to Elmhurst Hospital. I was helping her sister look for her since the cops weren’t being much help, and she went missing too. Daredevil and I found the cops who covered up her disappearance, and Deadpool helped Daredevil get a name out of them.”

 

“Daniel Adams, executive director of Mount Sinai West,” Matt says, finally looking a little bit calmer.

 

Peter nods. “And I’ve been following him, like, all day. About half an hour ago he got a phone call. He was talking to the person, and he said that he’d told them to only take people nobody would miss. Then he started talking about mistakes this person and their associates had made. He mentioned my missing people. He mentioned the guy whose fiancée hired you to look for him,” Peter says, gesturing to Jessica. “The night with Prija, remember?”

 

Jessica nods, and she looks increasingly disturbed, as does everyone else.

 

“He said some ‘asshole in a mask’ in Chinatown was beating up his long-distance suppliers, I assumed he meant human traffickers considering he was talking about, y’know, kidnapping people.” Peter falters for a moment and has to take a deep breath for the next part. He still hasn’t gotten over the event, and he doubts that he ever will. “He also said that they left two women in a warehouse they were supposed to clean up and that Luke Cage found them. He said if the guy on the phone or any of the other ‘foot soldiers’ screwed up again, he’d use them to fill West Sinai’s quota. Whatever the hell that means.”

 

Everyone is quiet for a minute before Frank breaks the silence.

 

“This one guy—he’s connected to all that shit?” he asks, gesturing broadly.

 

Peter nods. “And the guy on the other end of the call made it sound like they’d taken a lot more people than we know.”

 

“Well, he seems pretty high up. I’d say he probably knows where these people are bein’ held. If they’re still alive. And I think I know how to get him to tell us.”

 

“No!” Peter protests immediately, his panicked tone drawing all eyes back on him once again. “No,” he repeats, sounding less scared and lot more substantial. “Nobody’s going to torture any more answers out of anyone.”

 

Frank frowns at him, but Matt gives him a look similar to the one he’d given Deadpool last night, and he backs off after a minute of the staring contest.

 

Frank sighs and throws his hands in the air. “Fine, kid. Then what are we gonna do?”

 

“He has a safe in his apartment,” Deadpool says, finally contributing something useful to the conversation. “Real fancy, real expensive, real hard to break into. He didn’t have any files about any of this human trafficking shit in his office or on his computer. If he’s talking about quotas, then there’s probably some sort of ledger. I bet it’s in that safe, and I bet it’s what we need.”

 

Frank narrows his eyes a little at Deadpool. “How sure are you?”

 

“How straight is a dick?” Deadpool says, and nobody has a response for that.

 

Jessica’s the one to fill the silence this time. “Fine, he has the safe in his apartment. We break in, we get the safe, we get the ledger, we get out. Sounds simple enough.”

 

There are nods and murmurs of agreement all around, and Peter shakes his head.

 

“Yeah, no. That’s not happening,” he says.

 

“Why not?” three people ask.

 

“I found his apartment earlier,” Peter explains. “It’s super high up—seriously. Even I had trouble getting to it from the outside. And when I tried to get in through the door…” Peter just shakes his head again. “Nope. Three cameras in the hallway, reinforced metal door with another camera on it, three locks, and a keypad. The only way anyone’s getting in there is if Daniel Adams lets them in.”

 

“Well, you said you managed to get to it from the outside,” Colleen points out. “Couldn’t you just break the glass and get in that way?”

 

Peter shakes his head again. “Breaking glass that high up is actually really freakin’ hard. And Daredevil needs to be the one in the apartment. Sure, I could break in through the window if I don’t plummet to my death and then let him in through the front door, but again, cameras and building security. It’d tip him off for sure, and they might move the people and we’ll just find an empty warehouse again.”

 

“Why does Daredevil need to be the one in the apartment?” Danny asks.

 

“Uncrackable safe,” Deadpool answers. “Only Red here has the ear to do it.”

 

Frank sighs. “Well, I guess we’ll just have to get him to let you in, Red. You play up your thing, act like you need help.”

 

“He’s a total douchebag. I doubt he’d help him, even with his thing.” Peter’s assuming that the ‘thing’ is Matt’s blindness.

 

“Couldn’t hurt to try it though,” Jessica points out. “You said you were following him, right Spidey?”

 

Peter nods.

 

“Where’d you leave him?” she continues.

 

“Uh… A gay bar. Near 41st,” Peter says.

 

“Do you think he’s still there?” Danny asks.

 

“Lemme check,” Deadpool replies, pulling out his phone to check Snap Maps, probably. There’s silence for another moment before it’s interrupted by Deadpool’s gleeful clapping. “Yep, still there.”

 

Deadpool, Frank, Jessica, and Colleen are all staring at Matt with a look Peter doesn’t quite recognize, but gets the gist of anyway.

 

“No,” Matt says immediately.

 

“Please, Red?” Deadpool begs, and Peter gets the distinct impression that he’s batting his eyelashes beneath the mask.

 

“I’m not letting him take me home.”

 

“Oh come on, it’ll be a piece of cake! We all know you’ve got a nice face under the mask,” Deadpool says as he meanders over to the current object of his torment.

 

Wade,” Matt hisses in a warning tone.

 

“And an even nicer body under the suit,” Deadpool continues, despite Matt’s warning.

 

If looks could kill, the one on Matt’s face would put even Deadpool six feet under.

 

It’s so quiet Peter thinks he can hear his own heartbeat.

 

“I knew it,” Jessica breathes out, holding her hand out to Luke. “Pay up.”

 

Luke looks miffed as he pulls a twenty out of his pocket and slaps it onto Jessica’s palm.

 

Really?” Frank says, looking all too amused. “You fucked Deadpool? Classy, Red.” Peter can almost taste the sarcasm oozing out of the words.

 

 “Oh, fuck you, Frank,” Matt snaps, turning his killer glare from Deadpool to Castle in an instant.

 

“Yeah, fuck you!” Deadpool agrees. “If I remember correctly, darling Matthew here just went on and on about how ‘oh, yeah, you’re so much better than Frank. Oh God, Wade, harder—my Catholic Guilt Complex is about to kick in, oh God!’” Deadpool says in what Peter can only infer is his impression of how Matt sounds during sex.

 

“I am going to kill you,” Matt hisses at Wade, jabbing his finger into the man’s chest hard. “I’m going to kill you, and I’m not going to feel bad about it, because I know you’ll come right the fuck back so I can kill you again.”

 

Peter’s not the only one who notices a distinct lack of denial on Matt’s part in that sentence.

 

“Did you really—” Danny starts to ask before Frank and Matt both turn to look at him.

 

“It was one time!” they snap in unison.

 

Deadpool looks supremely amused by the impromptu confession he’s caused.

 

Luke holds his hand back out to Jessica, who has an even more sour look on her face as she slides the twenty back to its original owner.

 

“Damn, Murdock, was I really your third choice?” Jessica says. “I’m wounded,” she adds on, not sounding wounded at all.

 

“Wow, this is incredible,” Deadpool says. “I’m starting a club. The ‘I banged Daredevil Club’. Is there anyone else I need to send an invitation to? Maybe Captain America?” he teases.

 

“I haven’t slept with Captain America,” Matt snaps.

 

“Hawkeye?”

 

“No.”

 

“The Hulk?”

 

“No.”

 

“Falcon?”

 

“No.”

 

“How about Iron Man?” Jessica calls from where she’s sitting on the couch.

 

Matt’s mouth flattens out into a harsh line. For a lawyer/vigilante/human lie detector, he really is terrible at telling lies.

 

“No,” Peter gasps.

 

Matt doesn’t say anything.

 

“But you’re always fighting with h—” Peter stops mid-sentence. Matt’s always fighting with Deadpool. And Mr. Castle. Oh God, is that his type?

 

“He has a type, kiddo,” Deadpool confirms with a solemn nod, before turning back to Matt. “How about B—”

 

“If I agree to do this, will everyone in here shut the hell up about my sex life?” Matt snaps. “Can we agree to that?!”

 

“Deal,” Deadpool says, and Peter can tell from his voice that he’s not going to drop it.

Chapter Text

“Oh, hell no! You can’t wear that!” Deadpool insists with an obnoxious whine. “That’s another suit! We already determined that literally nobody wears a suit to a gay bar on a Saturday night! Sure, maybe after work on a weeknight when you told your girlfriend you’d be at the office late, but really you’re just out getting something that she can’t give you, but a Saturday? No way!”

 

This has been going on for quite some time, and Peter only looks up from his phone to verify the fact that Matt is, yet again, wearing a suit. Like he has been the last three times they’ve told him to change outfits. The only difference is that this time it’s a grey suit rather than black.

 

“He still looks good,” Colleen points out, from where she’s now sitting on one of the barstools at Matt’s counter.

 

“I know he looks good, I have been blessed with sight. But he needs to look easy, not just good,” Deadpool replies.

 

“The blind thing usually works pretty well to make me seem easy,” Matt drawls, his arms crossed over his chest. “People are much less intimidated when they think you can’t tell how they look.”

 

“No, the fact that you’re easy is what makes you seem easy,” Jessica says, immediately getting a glare from Matt. She’s acquired one of Matt’s bottles of scotch at some point during their makeshift fashion show, and is drinking heavily from it.

 

“We’re done discussing my sex life,” he reminds, pushing his sunglasses up a little, before gesturing to Peter. “There’s still a child present. And even if there wasn’t a child present, I’m still done discussing it. We need to figure this shit out before the guy leaves the bar with someone else.”

 

“It’s kinda unlikely that people are jumping on him, he looks like a major creep,” Peter supplies helpfully.

 

“Exactly! So we have time!” Deadpool argues.

 

“If nobody else is going for him, then I don’t need to look like a damn model then, do I?” Matt counters in his lawyer voice.

 

“You always look like a model, sweetie,” Deadpool croons in a way that has Matt growling again.

 

Peter thinks he hears Frank mutter, ‘here we go again’, right as Deadpool and Matt start another round of snippy remarks towards one another, with very little substance behind any of the insults.

 

It suddenly dawns on Peter that Matt is blind. Like, well and truly blind. To quote the man himself, his eyes serve absolutely no purpose. Originally, Peter just assumed the reason Matt only owned suits was that his job required him to dress nicely, but he’s suddenly sure it’s more than that. Suits are easy to match. As long as you know what blazer goes with what pair of pants, then you can easily get dressed and look put together. But everyday clothes like jeans and t-shirts? Those are a lot harder to match, especially if you can’t see.

 

He stands up straighter from where he’s been leaning against the wall and sighs loud enough to get some attention, making a true show of himself being bored. He notices Matt looking in his direction suspiciously. Peter ignores him and directs what he has to say to Deadpool instead.

 

“Are you an idiot? If you don’t think the outfits he’s picking are good enough, then pick something for him.” Peter takes a beat to look at Deadpool and quickly decides against that.  “Actually, dressed like that, I don’t trust you to make any remotely good fashion decisions,” he says, looking over Deadpool’s suit critically.

 

“Hey!” Deadpool gasps, putting his hand on his chest in mock offense. “I made this myself!”

 

“Which, funnily enough, makes me trust your fashion sense even less. Come on, Matt, I’ll pick something for you,” Peter says finally, walking through the living room full of superheroes to grab Matt by the arm and drag him into the bedroom, sliding the door shut behind them. It’s finally back on the tracks; the last time he’d been in the apartment it had still been broken and just leaning up against the wall.

 

“Peter,” Matt says, only to be immediately shushed.

 

“Uh-uh, I don’t trust your fashion sense either,” he says, walking over to the closet where, sure enough, there’s suit after suit hung nicely with a little braille label on the hanger of each one. There are button up shirts, as well as ties, hung up further down the closet. There are a few pairs of shoes, and they’re all black. Peter realizes that the only time Matt ever leaves his house to go somewhere other than work is probably to go out Daredevil-ing. It makes him sad for just a moment before he forces himself to focus back on the task at hand. He spots a chest of drawers and walks over to that instead, pulling open the first drawer down from the top. Bingo, pants that aren’t all lawyer-y. They aren’t labeled like the suits are, so Peter’s sure that this is why Matt was having a hard time getting dressed.

 

“Here,” Peter says after a moment of searching through the drawer. “You can keep that shirt on, but wear these jeans with it.” He passes the pants to Matt before looking around another moment to find a pair of shoes that are equally not lawyer-y. There’s a pair of dark, canvas sneakers by the drawers and Peter decides that they’re good enough before setting them by Matt. “Put on those too.”

 

“Thanks,” Matt replies a little awkwardly.

 

Peter just smiles. “No problem. I’m gonna go put on my normal people clothes now too.”

 

Peter leaves the room, sliding the door shut behind him again. While originally only Jessica had been drinking, now both Frank and Deadpool also have liquor in their hands. Thankfully they’re both drinking from glasses, unlike Jessica.

 

“He should be ready to go in just a minute,” he announces to the room. “I’m gonna go change. And Deadpool, you should probably find something else to wear too. The bar was kinda seedy, but definitely not ‘gimp suit’ seedy.”

 

Frank chokes on his scotch at Peter’s comment, while Deadpool just looks down at what he’s wearing and gives an agreeable shrug.

 

“Alright, I’ll go steal some clothes from our lovely host,” he says, downing the rest of his drink before hopping up from the couch and calling out, “Oh, Matthew~” in a sing-song voice.

 

Peter just grabs his backpack and heads into Matt’s bathroom to change out of the Spider-Man suit. After he’s changed, he can’t help but be a little bit nosey and look through Matt’s medicine cabinet. Maybe he’s a little curious as to whether or not the guy even owns a razor, because it certainly looks like he never shaves. But maybe that’s just another thing he has trouble with being blind. A quick search reveals that Matt does indeed own a razor, but it also shows the strongest painkiller he owns is Tylenol. For a normal person that would be fine, but for someone who gets stabbed, shot, and beat up way more than could ever be considered reasonably healthy, it’s a little bit concerning. Peter is suitably concerned.

 

Peter emerges from the bathroom, the Spider-Man costume tucked away into his backpack, just in time to see Jessica fussing over Matt’s outfit. He has on the dark wash jeans Peter picked out, along with the shoes.

 

“It’s good,” she’s saying as she tucks the shirt in and undoes the top two buttons. “You should wear jeans more.” She steps back to look at him, either that or admire the view (Peter’s not quite sure, now that he knows more than he ever wanted to about what Matt gets up to behind closed doors). She makes a face and unbuttons one more button on Matt’s definitely silk shirt before nodding. “Looks great.”

 

Deadpool steps out of Matt’s room a second later. He’s wearing a pair of black sweatpants and a gray t-shirt, but that’s not what Peter notices. The guy looks horrible , and he suddenly gets why Matt laughed so hard when he’d made that joke about the burn ward the night before. As far as Peter can tell, every inch of the guy’s skin from his hands to the top of his bald head is marred with horrible reddish burns and protruding veins.

 

“Spidey!” Deadpool gasps upon seeing him, covering his mouth with his hands. “Oh my God, he’s adorable. He’s just a baby! Who let this child fight crime?!” Deadpool crouches slightly to be closer to Peter’s level as he fawns over the ‘baby-child’.

 

“Uhh,” Peter says, still trying to get over Deadpool’s appearance, especially now that he’s close enough for Peter to see every raised detail of his skin.

 

“What’s your name, child?” Deadpool asks as Matt throws a dark hoodie at him which hits him in the face; truly impeccable aim.

 

“Peter,” Peter answers because he’d rather Deadpool know his name than call him ‘Spidey’ in public.

 

“Nice to meet you, Peter, I’m Wade,” he replies, pulling the hoodie off of his head. Peter’s heard Matt use Deadpool’s real name before, but now’s the first time he’s ever thought of the man as anything other than ‘Deadpool’. The hero name matched the mask just fine, but the human name matches the face.

 

“Hi, Wade,” Peter says, doing his best not to stare.

 

Wade seems to catch onto him staring anyway. “Ugh, I know right?” he says, gesturing to his face. “A good friend once told me that I look like Freddy Krueger face fucked a topographical map of Utah, and I can’t say he’s wrong. At least Matthew still thinks I’m beautiful,” he says with a sigh, tossing a look over at Matt, who snorts as he grabs his cane from where it’s hanging by the door.

 

“I have low standards,” Matt says. “It has absolutely nothing to do with beauty.”

 

“Only you can say that you beautiful, beautiful man,” Wade says with a dreamy sigh.

 

Matt punches him in the arm. “Jess, I want you to come with me,” he says. “Just in case.”

 

Jessica nods and passes the bottle of scotch to Frank who sensibly puts the top back on it and sets it on the coffee table. “Alright, let’s go.”

 

“Aw, you aren’t gonna leave the rest of us here, are you?” Wade pouts, giving Matt a sweet look that he definitely can’t see, but Peter imagines he knows it’s there anyway.

 

“I absolutely am leaving the rest of you here,” Matt replies.

 

“But Maaattt,” he whines.

 

“But Waaaade,” Matt whines back. “No.”

 

“But what if something happens and you need backup?”

 

“That’s why Jessica’s coming.”

 

“But she’s drunk!”

 

Matt turns toward Jessica and sniffs the air. “Jess,” he whines for real this time.

 

“What? I’m barely tipsy, besides, this whole thing is ridiculous. How are the rest of you even sober right now?”

 

“I mean, I did a ton of coke this morning, so I’m probably not totally sober,” Wade says. “But I’d totally be an asset to this mission. C’mon, we get you near this guy, I come up and pretend to harass you, he gets to play white knight, you go home with him, and bam! We have the ledger!”

 

“That’s actually a pretty good plan,” Luke says, and Frank nods in agreement.

 

“Fine. Wade and Jessica, let’s go,” Matt decides after a second.

 

“Wait!” Wade says, prompting a groan from Matt. “We can’t just leave Spider-Baby! He’s the one who’s making this all possible!”

 

“I’m not bringing Peter into another seedy bar ever again without a full protection detail for him,” Jessica announces, throwing a wink at Luke, who immediately gets a spark of understanding in his eyes.

 

“Well, it wouldn’t be right to leave him out,” Luke agrees. “Frank and I can look after him.”

 

“Colleen and I drove here,” Danny announces. “So we can drive Matt, Jess, and Wade over there now.”

 

Matt narrows his eyes behind the sunglasses as he realizes this has just become a class trip, definitely solely so everyone can see him have to flirt with someone who he couldn’t possibly be less into. “Fine. Danny, Colleen, Wade, Jess, let’s go. The rest of you get a cab.”

 

Danny and Wade both look ecstatic as they head for the door, followed by Jessica and Colleen. Matt takes a second to walk over to Peter. “If you’re uncomfortable with this, you don’t have to come,” he says softly enough that neither Luke nor Frank can hear. “Last time you were at a bar you came here and had a panic attack. I don’t want you to have to deal with that again.”

 

It’s incredibly thoughtful of Matt to check that he’s okay with this, and it makes him smile. “I’m alright. But thanks for asking.”

 

Matt hesitates just a second but nods; he knows that Peter was telling the truth about that. “Alright. I’m gonna make Danny stay in the car, so if you can’t get into the bar or you start feeling nervous just go sit with him.”

 

“Alright, mom ,” Peter teases, and Matt shoves him just a little.

 

“Hey, Murdock!” Jessica calls from where she’s standing in the open door beside Wade. “You coming or not?”

 


 

Much to everyone’s surprise, Peter and his babyfaced self actually do manage to get into the bar. The bouncer gives him a slightly critical look, but one raised eyebrow from Luke is enough to get him to turn the other way, especially since Frank is there, looking equally as menacing.

 

While the flashing lights and loud music are fairly distracting, it only takes Peter about a minute to spot where Matt is standing by the bar. He elbows Luke very gently in the ribs to get his attention and tilts his head toward Matt to indicate where he is.

 

Luke nods in response, not even bothering to try and speak over the loud music as he guides Peter and Frank to a standing table that has a sightline on Matt. For Peter, they’re close enough that he’ll be able to hear, even if he might lose a few words to the thrumming bass.

 

“That’s him,” Peter says, jerking his head towards where Adams is ordering a drink.

 

“What?!” Luke shouts down at him. Frank is giving him a similarly confused look.

 

“That’s him!” Peter shouts, both standing on his toes and pulling Luke down a little so he can be closer to ear-level.

 

“Got it!” Luke shouts back, before passing the news onto Frank, who nods.

 

As they wait for Adams to notice Matt, a man who looks to be around twenty with tight clothes and eyeliner on stumbles over to Frank’s side. It’s immediately obvious that the guy is at least drunk and probably a little high on top of that.

 

“Hey!” he shouts at Frank.

 

“Uh, hey kid,” Frank replies, glancing to Luke for a second before looking down at the guy half his age who apparently doesn’t realize he’s draping himself all over the Punisher.

 

“Wanna dance?” he asks, and Peter’s pretty naïve, but he knows this guy is looking for more than he can get on the dance floor.

 

Frank looks so panicked that for a moment Peter would think he’s never been hit on by a man before in his life if not for the conversation he was, unfortunately, privy to at Matt’s apartment earlier.

 

There’s a flash in Frank’s eyes and he leans down a little bit so the guy can hear him when he says, “I’m married!” and flashes the ring hanging from a chain around his neck.

 

The guy shrugs and looks Luke over once, staring straight over the top of Peter’s head.

 

“Nice pull, man!” he shouts to Luke, giving a thumbs up before stumbling back into the crowd.

 

Peter is of the opinion that Frank is 90% terrifying and 10% fatherly instinct, so he’s a little surprised that he got hit on so fast. But the guy was also pretty wasted. Hopefully, it doesn’t become a theme; it would suck to miss out of whatever it is poor Matt is going to have to put himself through because of Frank getting hit on constantly.

 

He casts a glance back over to where Matt is, and now he’s just a few paces away from Adams, who still doesn’t seem to have noticed him. Another guy starts walking towards Matt with clear intent, but the glare he gets stops him in his tracks and causes him to make an abrupt left turn. A second later, Peter can see Adams scanning the bar before immediately turning to look back at where Matt’s standing.

 

Matt makes a quick signal with his hand, and Wade heads toward him, apparently coming out of thin air. For a huge guy, he’s good at hiding. Must have something to do with him being a hitman, he thinks.

 

Peter suddenly realizes that neither of his adult, moderately deaf companions are going to be able to hear the true artistry of what’s about to go down, so he whips out his phone and opens the notes app. Even before being bitten, Peter has always been a quick texter, but after he got his abilities, the enhanced reflexes really ended up lending themselves to court stenographer levels of typing speed and accuracy. He quickly pokes Luke and Frank, who are standing on either side of him, and points down at his phone, before focusing back on Matt.

 

Wade is now leaning against the bar beside Matt, an arm slung around Matt’s waist to pull him a little closer. He’s on the opposite side of Matt from Adams, so their mark has the perfect view of what’s going down. Matt’s doing a great job of looking uncomfortable.

 

“You come here often?” Wade asks in what is truly the worst line Peter can imagine as he types it quickly.

 

“Not really,” Matt replies, hunching his shoulders up a bit to play up the discomfort. Peter bets that it’s killing him to act like some poor damsel who needs rescuing.

 

“Yeah, this place is kinda a shithole. You know where you should come instead?” Wade asks, barely holding back a smile.

 

Matt sighs deeply and looks defeated. “Where?”

 

“All over me,” Wade answers in a truly horrible caricature of a sultry tone, winking at Matt and moving his hand as low as it possibly can and still be considered to be on Matt’s back.

 

Peter hears Luke choke as he reads that line over Peter’s shoulder, and Peter’s just wishing he hadn’t had to hear that.

 

Matt jolts at Wade’s hand migrating so low, and it’s obvious to anyone who knows him that he could have Wade’s hand off of him and his arm entirely, given ten seconds and any one of the numbers of beer bottles on the counter behind him, but Matt very politely doesn’t dismember Wade. Instead, he just tenses up his posture even more and leans as far from Wade as he can with the hold he still has anchored on Matt.

 

Now Wade’s leaned in towards Matt’s ear, and he’s quiet enough that Peter can’t pick up on the words. Judging from the looks it’s earning him from Matt, he can only assume it’s some truly appalling shit.

 

Whatever he’s saying is bad enough that either Wade’s harassment or Matt’s obviously broadcast discomfort is enough to prompt their man to step in.

 

“Hey,” Adams says, taking a step towards Matt. “Back off the guy.”

 

Peter realizes that poor Daniel must truly be an idiot, because if Frank is terrifying, then Wade is on a whole new level.

 

“Excuse me?” Wade says, loosening his hold on Matt just enough for him to slip out of it and towards their mark.

 

“You heard me, Scarface. Get lost.”

 

Peter’s not sure if Daniel’s an idiot or just completely suicidal.

 

“Jesus, fine,” Wade says, backing down a lot easier than he would any other time, Peter’s sure. He turns and heads toward where the bartender is, coincidentally right beside where Jessica is sitting and drinking… something.

 

“Jesus, did you see his face?” Adams asks Matt.

 

“No,” Matt replies pleasantly and a little bit shyly. It’s honestly unnerving how good Matt is at acting like the damsel he most certainly isn’t.

 

“Oh?” the man asks curiously, raising an eyebrow at Matt who simply taps his cane on the ground in response. A look of recognition crosses his face as he takes in Matt’s sunglasses and cane. Peter swears he can see the creep factor in his expression go through the roof the second he realizes Matt’s blind. Adams immediately checks Matt out in a way that makes Peter’s skin crawl, even from across the room.

 

Matt gives the fakest laugh Peter’s ever heard from him and couples it with a dazzling smile. “What can I say? Looks just aren’t that important to me.”

 

“Yeah? Well, what is important to you?” Adams asks, his tone as slimy as he is.

 

“The way people sound,” Matt answers sweetly before pitching his voice a little differently as he runs a hand down Adams’ arm. “The way they feel .”

 

Peter wants to gag, and he’s assuming Matt does too.

 

Adams looks supremely interested the second Matt touches him, and he takes this as an opening to set his own hand on Matt’s cheek. Peter can see the way Matt tenses up for just a fraction of a second before forcing himself to lean into the touch. “And how do I feel?” he asks.

 

Luke and Frank are both looking rapidly between Peter’s typed dialogue and the scene unfolding before them. Luke looks irritated, and Frank’s starting to look like something verging on murderous.

 

“Like someone who’s gonna buy me a drink,” Matt answers, and the guy’s smile just gets wider.

 

“And what drink would I buy you?”

 

“The same as whatever it is you’re going to have.”

 

Adams laughs softly and turns to the bartender to flag him down and orders two whiskeys, neat. Pretty much as soon as the bartender sets the drinks on the counter, Adams pulls a small pill out of somewhere and drops it in the drink that he pushes towards Matt who’s now leaning his side against the bar rather than his back.

 

“So,” Adams says, looking down to check Matt out once again, making Peter’s skin crawl even from across the room. “What was it we were talking about?”

 

“How you feel like someone who’d buy me a drink,” Matt answers, trailing one hand down the front of Adams’ shirt while he uses the other to very quickly switch their drinks.

 

“And how do I feel now that I’ve bought you drink?” he asks.

 

“That depends,” Matt says simply.

 

“On?”

 

“What drink you chose.”

 

The guy laughs. “Drink it and tell me what you think.”

 

Matt smiles and downs his whiskey like a shot before shrugging. “Tastes alright,” he says, setting the glass down and moving his hand to Adams’ hand that’s around his own drink. He takes the glass from him and moves it to his mark’s lips. “But I’d like to find out how it tastes on you.”

 

Adams is more than happy to chug the liquor Matt’s practically pouring into his mouth as soon as he hears that. As soon as the glass is empty, Matt sets it back on the counter and pulls the guy down to kiss him.

 

Peter looks away because, ew , and he can hear Frank’s disgusted, “Jesus Christ,” as clear as day. He only looks back up when he hears Adams’ voice again.

 

“And how do I taste?” he asks.

 

“Like someone who’s gonna take me home.”

 

Peter retches as he types it.

 

That’s all Matt needs to say before the guy is practically dragging him out of there. Jessica gets up immediately and follows them while Wade walks over to where the three of them are still gathered.

 

“God, I wish I knew what they were saying,” he says with a sigh as he slumps against Frank’s side only to immediately be shoved away.

 

“Peter transcribed the whole thing for us,” Luke says, and the gleeful look that puts on Wade’s face is disturbing.

 

Jessica pops up beside them a second later. “They left in a cab,” she says. “We’re gonna go back to Matt’s place and wait for him. Anyone who wants to is welcome to join us.”

 

“Yeah, he has a lot of liquor, and I need to forget what I just saw,” Frank agrees.

 


 

Back at Matt’s place, Peter’s phone has been confiscated by Wade who sent the transcription of the conversation to himself, Jessica, and Frank, and is forcing them to read it like a script. Wade is playing Matt, Jessica is playing Wade, and Frank is playing Adams.

 

Danny and Colleen ended up following the taxi Matt got in, so he’ll have a getaway car ready to go. Wade was insistent that Luke film the reenactment to share with them and all of the others at some point.

 

“I’m not letting you kiss me,” Frank says once they get to that point in the script.

 

“But you let Matt kiss you,” Wade counters.

 

“So did you.”

 

“Well, our mouths are already only one degree of separation away from each other; why not make it zero?” Wade says, leaning across the couch to get closer to Frank.

 

“Do you want your mouth to have zero degrees of separation from my gun?” he asks.

 

Wade raises what would be an eyebrow, if he had any, and looks Frank up and down. “Is that what you named it?”

 

Peter coughs loudly to remind the room of his presence.

 

“Whoops! Sorry, Petey. We’ll keep it PG,” Wade promises.

 

He needs multiple more reminders to keep it PG.

 

By the time Matt finally gets home, it’s past midnight, and they’d left the bar at about a quarter past ten.

 

Danny and Colleen walk in ahead of him, and Peter’s sure it’s just so Matt can get the satisfaction of slamming the door. He throws his cane on the floor and turns a murderous glare on everyone in the room.

 

“You all owe me so fucking much,” he hisses as he storms over to the living area and pitches a plain looking, brown paper accordion file down on the coffee table.

 

“What took you so long?” Jessica asks, and Matt turns the full force of his glare on her.

 

“We got stuck in traffic,” he says venomously. “And I had to keep his drugged ass awake so that he could actually get us into his fucking apartment.”

 

“You drugged him?” Danny asks incredulously.

 

Matt scoffs. “He drugged himself. Tried to roofie me, so I switched the drinks.”

 

“Atta boy,” Frank says, prompting a growl from Matt before he flings himself down into the unoccupied armchair. “What does it say?”

 

Matt stares at Frank. “Does it look like it’s written in fucking braille?”

 

Peter laughs hysterically, and he's so incredibly glad decided this all happened because he didn’t want to torture anyone else.

Chapter Text

Once Peter stops wheezing due to Matt’s absolutely hilarious outburst, everyone shuts up to hear what it is the documents have to say. At least, they try to shut up to hear what it has to say, but there’s a bit of a dilemma when it comes to choosing who’s going to read it aloud.

 

“Not you, Mr. I-Gargle-Glass-Shards-For-Breakfast,” Wade says, snatching the folder away from Frank, who just gives an exhausted sigh and drags his hand down his face in defeat. “And you’re blind, so that’s another ‘no’.” Matt simply flips him off for that, and the gesture is lovingly returned. “I’d love to get a whole detective noir thing going on, but I’m pretty sure that Jones is seeing double after all she’s had to drink. Karate Kid dropped out of school in the fifth grade, so I’m not sure his reading skills are up to par.”

 

“Hey!” Danny says indignantly, and Colleen just shakes her head.

 

“You sure seem to love talking; why don’t you read it?” Frank finally snaps, because even Deadpool can’t crush his fiery temper for very long.

 

“Oh, Frank, just admit you want to hear even more of my sweet, sweet voice so that you can imagine—”

 

Frank snatches the folder from Wade and tosses it to Peter before crossing his arms over his chest.

 

“What was that for?!” Wade asks, his voice saturated with offense.

 

“Kid annoys me the least, figured I’d give it to him if it meant shutting you up.”

 

Peter smiles at that, because that’s basically a ringing endorsement when it comes to Mr. Castle. Most of what the man says is composed of insults or vague grunts. He opens up the folder and begins flipping through the different sections.

 

“Bellevue, Elmhurst, Metro General, Mount Sinai, Mount Sinai Brooklyn, Mount Sinai Queens, Mount Sinai St. Lukes, Mount Sinai West—basically every Mount Sinai variation on record—um, now we’re getting into psychiatric facilities…” Peter flips a bit more, because if he reads off every name they’ll be there for hours. “Jails, too. And police precincts.”

 

“What precincts?” Matt asks, leaning forward a little.

 

“Um… 1st, 9th, 46th, 61st, 114th,” Peter lists off as he flips through the files. There’s nothing about the 15th which is what he’s assuming Matt was most interested in. Daredevil taught that precinct a lesson about corruption, and anyone who managed to stay, especially after Fisk went away to prison, seems to have learned said lesson. He pauses before pulling out the file for the 114th and flipping through it, since it’s the one most relevant to him. “The precinct files have names of officers, and tables. I think…” Peter pauses to scan over the tables and confirm that awful feeling in his stomach. “The charts have an officer’s name, a date, a number, a location, and a price. I think the number is people. There’s a quota at the bottom.”

 

“For just the precincts, or for everything?” Colleen asks.

 

Peter puts the folder back before pulling out one of the hospital files. “Names of workers, dates, numbers, locations, prices, and quotas,” he confirms. “Looks like they’re on everything.”

 

“Jesus…” Luke mutters.

 

Peter flips past the files labeled with institutions until he finds something different. It’s hand-written as opposed the everything else that was clearly typed. Jessica raises an eyebrow as Peter pulls out the thick stack of papers that have been stapled together.

 

“What’s that one?” she asks.

 

Peter flips through it, and after a few pages of letters that, while definitely the alphabet he knows, are formed into completely incomprehensible chains. “Uh… I think it’s in code.”

 

“What? Lemme see that,” Frank says, gesturing for Peter to pass it over.

 

“No, I’ve got it,” Peter replies, as a pattern between the words catches his eye. “Just…” he sets the papers down on the coffee table and kneels in front of it, flipping back and forth between the few sections of writing where he can see a pattern. “Does anyone have a pen?” he asks, not looking up at his audience.

 

That prompts a wave of people patting themselves down, until Frank finds one shoved in one of the many secret pockets of his scary jacket and passes it to Peter.

 

The adults seem content to watch in silence for a few minutes, or it takes them that long to come out of their stunned stupor from seeing a teenager good at something that has nothing to do with technology. Either way, it isn’t surprising that Wade is the one who breaks the silence.

 

“Um, okay lil’ Turing, you do a lot of Sudoku growing up or something?” he asks, having moved in a bit closer to read exactly what it is that Peter’s writing down.

 

Peter glances up at him for just a moment to judge just how serious he’s being, (completely) before going back to working on the paper which is now filling up with lines between the writing with his own notes. “What? No, it’s a substitution thing, it’s really easy,” he says, pointing at a word with his pen. “See this?”

 

“That says JZT. That doesn’t mean shit,” Wade answers.

 

“But look, it’s here too, and here, and here,” Peter says, flipping through the pages and pointing out each occurrence of the ‘word’. “And here’s JZTDT. So it starts the same, then there’s a new letter, then there’s a familiar letter. A three letter word that you use a lot and that can have a new letter and one of its existing letters added onto the end to make a new word?”

 

“So what you’re saying is..?” Wade says.

 

“I’m saying JZT means ‘the’. J is T, Z is H, T is E. So JZTDT is..?” he prompts.

 

“It’s ‘these’. So D is S.”

 

“Exactly!” Peter replies before looking back down at the paper and continuing to work out the code. “It’s a weird choice to code something with because you don’t need a key to work it out. Sure, it takes some trial and error, but anyone can figure it out, given enough time. It’s like they don’t need the code to hold up for very long, just enough to slow someone down if they ever got their hands on it… Guess they assumed they’d notice fast if it went missing.”

 

“Well, they sure were wrong about that,” Matt says under his breath.

 

Wade kneels down beside Peter and actually manages to help, pointing out a few possibilities for certain letters, while the others tear into the files on hospitals and cops in their respective areas. Jessica reads off a list of names to Matt, and some of them he recognizes from both his daytime and nighttime jobs.

 

All in all, it takes Peter about an hour and a half to decrypt the code, with a surprising amount of assistance from Wade. It seems that once the guy sets his mind to a task, he can keep his focus on it pretty well. There aren’t just sentences that they have to work on though, there are also tables similar to the ones in the typed documents.

 

Everyone is pretty much just laying around by the time Peter finishes the first table. Frank has left and then returned with a surprising number of guns, and made omelets for everyone once Peter’s finished. He has to read back over it a couple times to make sure that he’s reading it correctly, and he doesn’t like what he sees.

 

“Hey, guys,” Peter says. “I found something good—well, not good, it’s actually horrifying, but it’s good that we know it now—”

 

“Peter,” Jessica says. “Just tell us what you found.”

 

“Right, yeah, sorry,” he apologizes. “Well, it’s another table with the number of people, date, and location, but this time, it’s saying what location they were brought from. So this also has the secondary location, which John Mulaney taught me is never a good thing,” he rambles, and Wade is the only one to laugh at his reference. Peter thinks he understands how old people feel when they make a joke around the young ‘uns that just doesn’t fly.

 

“Yikes, tough crowd,” Wade says after an awkward and confused silence, patting Peter’s shoulder sympathetically.

 

“What I’m saying is that I have the locations that everyone ended up at,” Peter says, pulling out his phone to put the address that keeps showing up into it. “It’s an office building. Uh, Genlabs Inc., over in Williamsburg.”

 

“Well, that sounds not at all ominous, or like something you’d find in a zombie apocalypse game,” Wade says from where he’s finishing up decrypting another table. “This is all the same stuff, by the way, just more people being taken to Genlabs.”

 

“Well, I think I know where we need to go,” Luke says. “Guess you three should suit up so we can head over.”

 

Peter looks down at himself and then the rest of the present company. Matt, Wade, and himself really are the only ones with costumes, unless they count Frank’s skull vest as a costume. He goes to use Matt’s bathroom to change back into the Spidey suit, while Matt goes back to his bedroom to change. Wade whines outside of Matt’s door until he’s done, and then uses the room to change so that he doesn’t have to subject the rest of the people there to seeing more horribly scarred skin than they already have. It’s actually rather polite of him.

 

Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Deadpool all leave the building through the roof access, while the other heroes use the front door like normal people. Not wearing costumes does afford them a bit more free reign when it comes to entering and exiting normal people spaces, but the downfalls of not having their faces covered definitely outweigh the few benefits.

 

Unfortunately, Danny and Colleen’s car can fit five people max, so it’s out of the question when it comes to using it as transportation. Jessica had given Danny, Matt, and Luke a look that was met with resistance at first and shortly followed with defeated sighs.

 

That’s how Harlem’s Hero, The Iron Fist, The Punisher, Deadpool, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Jessica Jones, and Colleen Wing all find themselves sitting together on the E Line just past three in the morning on a Sunday.

 

They get a few strange looks, and they absolutely end up on at least three Snapchat stories, but they make it to Genlabs without any run-ins with law enforcement, just a drunk guy who screams ‘I love you, Spider-Man’ at them while they’re walking from the 23rd Street Station to the Court Square Station to catch the G down to Williamsburg. Peter will forever deny that he shouted his undying love back.

 

All in all, they finally arrive at Genlabs offices just past four in the morning. Peter thinks he’d be pretty tired, if not for the fact that his blood has been almost entirely replaced with pure adrenalin by this point in time. This won’t be the first time he’s taken down a bad guy—hell, this won’t even be the first time he’s ended a conspiracy. But taking down the Vulture and his operation didn’t go anywhere near smoothly considering he now has an arch-nemesis of sorts who knows his identity, but that’s a problem for another time, so Peter shakes it off as they head for the building.

 

“This place looks pretty plain,” Deadpool says, sounding a little bit disappointed. “What happened to villains with pizzazz? I want glass towers and garish purple and white suits—not this Brooklyn office building bullshit.”

 

“I will be more than happy to pass off my next theatrical villain to you if you just shut up about it for the rest of the day,” Jessica replies, earning nods of agreement from everyone, including Colleen, who has been relatively silent up to this point.

 

“That’s a deal, Ms. Jones,” Deadpool says, holding out his hand for Jessica to shake.

 

She recoils from him almost immediately. “Uh uh, hell no. I’m not falling for that shit again.”

 

“What shit?” Peter asks, immediately regretting it when all the ‘you innocent, adorable little angel baby’ looks are turned on him.

 

“Last time he got me to shake his hand, he’d cut it off and stuck it back on with duct tape so I pulled the whole thing off. It was horrible,” Jessica says darkly, glaring at Deadpool when he laughs.

 

“What? It was classic!”

 

“As truly interesting and disturbing as it is to get a look inside that thing you call a brain, I think we should head on in, see if we can find anything,” Colleen says, tilting her head towards the building they’re standing outside of. “I’d rather not still be out when the sun comes up.”

 

“Amen to that,” Frank says. “Can you tell if anyone’s inside?” he asks, turning to Matt.

 

“I can’t sense anyone, seems empty,” Matt replies. “There’s a door around the side; Luke, Danny, Frank, Colleen, go around that way. Jessica, Wade, Spider-Man come with me.”

 

They split off into the two groups, and while the others head through the side, Matt leads their group around to the opposite side of the building where a large window on the second floor is open.

 

“We’re going in through there,” he says, before running straight at the dumpster and vaulting onto it before making another jump and snagging the edge of the windowsill to pull himself up and through.

 

Wade follows almost the exact same series of movements while Jessica just jumps and Peter climbs up the wall after her.

 

Peter’s not sure what he was expecting, but the inside of the building is just as generic and boring as the outside. The walls are a pale yellowish beige, the floors are covered in dull linoleum, and there’s a plastic potted plant in the hallway. A thick layer of dust covers everything, from the sad plastic plant, to the windowsill, to the desks, to the truly archaic monitors on the desks.

 

“This stuff looks ancient,” Peter says, poking at an absolute dinosaur of a copy machine sitting up against the wall.

 

“It looks like someone bought a bunch of old office equipment and filled this place up with it,” Jessica corrects, looking over one of the desks and running her finger through the thick layer of dust on the keyboard. She makes a face at the way her finger has been stained gray from it and wipes the remainder of the dust on her jeans.

 

“So it’s a front,” Matt says. “I can’t say I’m shocked. Let’s go meet up with the others.”

 

Peter falls in line behind Matt and Jessica with Wade bringing up the back of their party as they head down the musty stairwell to the ground floor. Matt pushes the door open with an ear-rending screech from the rusted hinges, and Peter cringes sympathetically. He knows that has to have hurt Matt’s ears at least as much as his own.

 

Colleen and Frank are at the front desk, and Colleen is trying to get the computer to turn on so she can look through their records, assuming there are any, while Frank keeps watch. Danny and Luke are apparently just finishing their lap of the first floor, and Danny puts his arms out in a gesture that conveys a lot of emotions, mainly confusion.

 

“There’s nothing here. Did you find anything upstairs?” Danny asks.

 

“Just some old, unused office equipment,” Peter answers. “We only went to the second floor though.”

 

“Have you checked out the basement?” Matt asks from where he’s standing by one of the interior walls, his hand just barely touching it.

 

“What basement?” Colleen asks. “The elevators only go up from here, and you were in the stairwell. This is the bottom floor.”

 

Matt shakes his head. “There’s a basement. A few basements, actually; I think it goes down about three floors.”

 

“You wanna do your magic trick and find us the elevator to it?” Jessica asks, watching as Matt runs his hand over the wall and starts walking towards something that nobody else can sense. He looks completely focused on the task at hand, and nobody else seems to take much notice of this.

 

Colleen is still working at the computer with Frank beside her, and Danny and Luke have joined her behind the desk as well, while Wade and Jessica are following a few paces behind Matt- just like Peter himself.

 

Peter feels the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and he turns just in time to see the stairwell door open and reveal a man in all black with a gun not unsimilar to the one Frank has in his hands. He panics for just a split second, before shooting a web that sticks the man’s hand to the wall and yelling to alert everyone else to the presence of the gunman.

 

Frank is immediately on the guy and has an arm around his throat to choke him into unconsciousness. “What the hell, Red?! You said there wasn’t anyone here!”

 

Luke flings himself in front of Danny just as shots are fired from the other side of the floor, and Peter doesn’t miss the way that Deadpool puts himself on Peter’s side that has the least cover from the wall.

 

“Well, clearly I was wrong!” Matt yells back, tapping his fist against a supply closet door and turning to Jessica, who immediately yanks the door open and all but drags Peter in with her.

 

“How many?!” Colleen yells from somewhere behind the front desk between the bouts of gunfire that are getting concerningly closer to them with each moment that passes.

 

“Eight!” Matt yells back after Deadpool fires off a few shots.

 

“Head down,” Danny calls out as a faint yellow glow comes from where he is, brightening the otherwise fairly dark building. “We can handle them!”

 

A few seconds later, Matt and Wade join Peter and Jessica in the closet, which he realizes isn’t actually a closet at all, after Wade helpfully flicks the light switch on. It’s another stairwell. Once the door is slammed shut, Jessica bends an exposed pipe on the wall in front of the door so that it’ll be inaccessible to anyone without strength on par with hers.

 

Peter looks down the stairs and sighs. “Well, that looks ominous. Anyone down there?”

 

“I can’t tell,” Matt says, and that’s another thing Peter’s going to add onto the list of concerning things about this building. For how completely innocuous it seems, Matt’s abilities are apparently inhibited by it somehow.

 

“In that case, I think I’ll go first,” Wade says, awkwardly squeezing past all three of them to get to the front of the group. “Come along now, ducklings.”

 

Matt is the first person behind Deadpool descending the narrow concrete staircase, followed by Peter with Jessica bringing up the rear. Peter knows they’re protecting him, but with the way the Spidey-sense is completely flipping its shit, he can’t really say that he’s unhappy with the arrangement.

 

“Something’s really wrong,” he says quietly as they continue to descend, apparently heading for the lowest sub-basement.

 

“No shit, Spidey,” Deadpool stage-whispers back, and Matt jabs him in the side for it.

 

“I’m serious,” Peter replies, sounding a little more nervous. “Something is really, really, really wrong.”

 

“How do you know?” Deadpool asks.

 

“I— I just do?” How the hell does he explain the Spidey-sense?

 

“It’s one of his powers,” Matt says. “He can explain it later.”

 

“You can just tell when shit is wrong? Coolest power ever!” Deadpool says, loud enough that Matt slaps his hand over his mouth. At least this time there’s no licking involved.

 

They’ve passed by two doors that appear to lead down empty, darkened hallways, but when they arrive at the bottom of the stairs, there are actual lights on in the hallway this door leads down. There’s a keypad lock on the door, but it isn’t engaged, which just sets Peter’s nerves off even more.

 

“There anyone down here?” Peter asks softly, and Matt nods.

 

“A lot of people. Thirty? Forty? I can’t tell.”

 

They all look back at the door, and Deadpool is the one to literally say ‘fuck it’, as he pulls the door open.

 

The hallway here is wider than the stairwell had been, wide enough that instead of standing single-file they can all stand side by side. The hallway looked maybe 30 feet long at first, but once they enter it must set off a motion sensor of some sort, which turns the lights on further down the hallway. Peter isn’t even sure if he can see the end of the hallway; everything is the sterile, bright white that a hospital wishes it could be, and the light reflecting off of the pristine shiny floors and glass walls is enough that it takes Peter’s eyes a minute to adjust from the dim stairwell.

 

“Shit…” he hears Jessica breathe out, and it’s just then that Peter realizes the walls aren’t glass; the hallway is entirely lined with cages.

 

As far as he can see, there are people locked in individual three by three cells, and the moment their occupants see people in the hallway, they start pounding on the glass. It’s a horrible chorus of ‘let me out’ and ‘help me’ and variants on pleas to get these people out before something happens. They’re all screaming, and the woman in the cell directly in front of Peter is pounding her fist against the glass hard enough that her knuckles split and smear blood all over the barrier. Peter watches in mute horror as the rivulets of blood run down the wall to stain the otherwise pristine cell. It takes him a moment to get past the blood, but when he does his heart sinks. The woman in the cage who’s screaming and crying and begging him to let her out is Aelisha Trenton.

 

He raises his hand to break the glass, to save Aelisha from whatever the hell either has been done to her, or will be done to her in the near future, but before he can, the back wall of the cell slides up. Another woman stumbles in through the back of the cell, and she looks significantly worse than Aelisha. Her skin is pale and bruised all over, and as she makes her way into the light, Peter can see that the blood vessels in her eyes have burst. She clearly needs help too, but as he again makes the move to break the glass, Matt grabs his wrist and pulls him back.

 

“Something’s wrong with her,” Matt says just as the hurt woman focuses in on Aelisha who is still pounding at the glass.

 

People in the surrounding cells who can see what’s happening start screaming even louder, but Aelisha doesn’t turn around until it’s Peter yelling, “Behind you!”

 

As soon as she turns, the injured woman is on her, like a lion on a gazelle in those nature videos the biology teacher shows in class when they’re too lazy to make a lesson plan.

 

All four of them watch in sheer horror as the injured woman drags Aelisha down to the ground and digs her nails into her skin, ripping them through the soft tissues of her arms and dragging them from shoulders to wrists. No amount of screaming, or hitting, or thrashing from Aelisha seems to make any difference, as the one goring her bites down on her cheek hard enough that blood wells up around her teeth.

 

“What the fuck,” Deadpool says, unable to tear his eyes away.

 

There’s another dramatic increase in the screaming, and Peter manages to wrench his eyes away from the horrifying sight in front of him in time to see the back walls of the other cages slide up and similarly afflicted people stumble out before descending upon the original occupants of the cells, like the zombies on the horse in The Walking Dead.

 

“Mesmerizing, isn’t it?” a voice says over the speakers installed all through the ceiling.

 

Peter jolts at the voice. “It’s not mesmerizing, you sick fuck! It’s murder!” he yells, once Aelisha finally stops fighting.

 

“Not murder, no. Think of it as a new state of being,” the man’s voice continues, crackling just slightly. “People are animals, at their root, at their core. That’s all we are. Violent, greedy evil beasts. We take and we take and we take until there’s nothing left, but somehow we still try to take more.”

 

“What the hell is wrong with you?!” Peter shouts before Matt puts a hand across his chest.

 

“Why are you doing this?” Matt asks, his voice calm despite the fact that he’s shaking; either from rage or horror, Peter can’t even begin to tell.

 

“This is my job,” the man says.

 

“Your job?” Jessica spits out in disbelief.

 

“Well, it was my job. I worked for the government,” he explains casually, as if this is some water-cooler office talk and they aren’t surrounded by people brutally, senselessly murdering other people. “Biological weapons engineer, that’s what I was. I was stuck in a lab ten hours a day figuring out how to weaponize Ebola— the entire developed world was working on that! But I had a vision! I had ingenuity! I knew I could make something greater—something nobody’s seen before!”

 

“Holy shit. I called it,” Deadpool says in shock. “I said Genlabs sounded like some zombie apocalypse shit, and here we are.”

 

“Don’t be absurd,” the man snaps. “They aren’t zombies; they’re humans— at their full potential! You and me, our brains put limitations on what we can do. They stop us from biting hard enough to crack our own teeth, stop us from lifting so much we rip our muscles to shreds—our brains, they limit us! They stop us from being great! But I found a way to change that.”

 

Peter has to swallow down bile as he listens to this lunatic raving while people are dying all around them. Innocent people, screaming for help, are dying.

 

“One little virus,” he says. “Touch a dirty door handle, inhale the air someone coughed into, drink contaminated water, and it’ll begin to make its way to your brain, taking over nerve cells and forcing them to reproduce the viral bodies until they explode. Once it reaches the brain, it begins to shut down key parts of the different lobes, and that, that was the hard part. Shut down the frontal lobe, and they can’t control their movement. Shut down the parietal and they can’t interpret what they’re hearing or seeing. Shut down the temporal and they can’t hear. I couldn’t have the perfect human without any of those, no. I had to get the virus to target individual areas of each lobe to keep the perfect balance, and along the way there were casualties. People ended up braindead, in comas—just barely clinging to life. These aren’t zombies; they’re alive. They just have every bit of themselves perfected. Higher thought is limited, but instinct is there. The most important instinct left just belongs to the virus; spread. And while I don’t like to be rushed, it seems like I’ll have to release my creation sooner rather than later, thanks to your discovery. It’s getting close to time for most people to start their day, isn’t it?”

 

The speakers cut out, and Peter looks around to his fellow heroes, each looking disturbed in their own measure. While his eyes sweep across them, his peripherals catch that the sick people are no longer attacking the others, though most of the people who were attacked are still laying on the ground or propped up against the wall

 

“She’s infected now too…” Matt says, taking a step towards the glass, his head tilted at Aelisha who is still on the ground.

 

His movement apparently triggers something in the people’s minds as the ones that are standing begin pounding on the glass, tearing open their knuckles without seeming to notice.

 

The glass is nowhere near cracking, but Matt takes a step back, grabbing Peter’s wrist and pulling him towards the exit. “We’re leaving. Now.”

 

“But those people—”

 

“They’re sick. We can’t help them. The fronts of the cages have the same mechanism as the back, so they could open up at any fucking second,” Matt says as he continues leading them back down the hallway.

 

They’re about ten feet away from the door when there’s a mechanical whirring sound; Peter doesn’t even have to turn and look to know that the doors must have opened, because now Matt’s sprinting the rest of the way down the hall and dragging Peter with him.

 

Jessica slams the door shut just as the people from the cells start pushing against it, and it’s clear that even she’s having a little trouble holding it. Thankfully, similar to the door that led down into the stairwell there’s a pipe on the wall that Jessica can bend down and wrap around the handle to keep it shut, at least for a little while.

 

She’s panting and looking between everyone else, but the door seems secure for now. “I’ve got three words,” she says. “What. The. Fuck.”

 

“Fucking zombies,” Deadpool replies, sounding almost impressed.

 

The gunfire from upstairs has ceased, and they all take that as a good signal to head back up, though Jessica tosses a worried look at the door that the people (Peter refuses to call them zombies, no matter what it is that Deadpool is saying) are pounding on as they shriek and make a truly stunning variety of awful noises.

 

“It should hold,” Matt assures before tilting his head. “For a little while, at least.”

 

“Well, that’s comforting,” Jessica says, not sounding at all comforted. Peter has to agree with her there.

 

Jessica bends the pipe back from the door once they reach the top of the stairs, and they immediately come face to face with Luke, Danny, and Colleen, who were apparently getting ready to come down and help them.

 

“You guys handle everything up here?” Jessica asks, looking over the impressive array of bullet holes in Luke’s clothes.

 

“Yeah, we got the guys tied up and locked in the office behind the front desk. Frank’s watching them. You guys find anything good down there?” Colleen asks, and Peter’s happy to see a distinct lack of blood on her katana.

 

“We found zombies,” Wade says.

 

That doesn’t turn any heads, because it’s Wade and 90% of the words out of his mouth are poorly timed jokes.

 

“Seriously, what’d you find?” Luke asks.

 

“Zombies,” Matt says, and now it raises eyebrows.

 

“They’re people,” Peter snaps. “They’re infected, and they’re not in their right minds, but they aren’t the walking dead. They still bleed, and I’m sure a shot it the heart would kill them, because they’re people.” Calling them zombies makes them already seem dead, but they’re not. There’s a chance they could be saved, and Peter isn’t about to risk people killing them because they’re assumed to be lost causes.

 

“They’re infected with a disease that unleashes their ‘full potential’,” Matt clarifies. “We got a monologue over the speaker system. Long story short, it sounds like he’s planning on releasing the virus soon.”

 

“How soon?”

 

“A few hours soon,” Peter says grimly.

 

“So, we’ve got forty plus zombies—” Deadpool starts.

 

“Infected. People,” Peter corrects viciously.

 

“My bad, infected people in the basement, and a door that ‘should hold for a little’ keeping them back, we’ve got the hit squad up here that you guys have managed to deal with, and we’ve got a mad scientist ready to release his disease somewhere in the next few hours. Anything I’m missing?”

 

“That sounds about right,” Jessica says, tossing another worried glance over her shoulder down the stairs.

 

“Someone wanna grab Frank and fill him in?” Matt asks, and Danny nods in response.

 

“Yeah, I’ll go grab him.”

 

“Life as we know it could come to an end in an hour as far as we know,” Colleen says, directing the group back to what’s absolutely crucial. "So what's the plan?"

Chapter Text

There’s a moment of silence as everyone thinks, and Peter’s the first one to speak. Maybe he’s watched too many zombie movies, played too many games, who knows—all he knows is that he has a pretty good plan when it comes to anything that resembles the undead.

 

“Luke and Deadpool should stay here and guard the door, make sure they don’t get out. These guys aren’t slow—think more like World War Z. They can’t break Luke’s skin to infect him, assuming that’s what the biting was about, and Deadpool’s unkillable, so it makes sense to keep them here,” Peter says, thankful for the nods in agreement for his plan. “He said it can be transferred through air and water, but it seemed like direct contact was the way they were trying to infect the others. Treat it like rabies, I guess. Don’t come into contact with any of their, uh, bodily fluids. By that, I mean blood and saliva. I really don’t want you to even think about anything other than those being a possibility for coming into contact with.” Peter tacks on the end bit quickly as he sees Deadpool putting up a finger as if he has something to say to that. He lowers his finger after Peter’s clarification, thankfully.

 

“Alright, Deadpool and I will stay here, keep an eye out. And call the CDC,” Luke says just as Danny comes back, Frank at his side.

 

Frank, concerningly enough, has some blood on his hands, literally, but Peter really doesn’t want to ask about it. They don’t have time to deal with the fallout from that right now.

 

“Sunday doesn’t seem like the best day to unleash a virus that passes from person to person; a lot of people just stay home, so he’s gonna have to find a place that’ll still be busy. The rest of us should split off in pairs and go to the most likely places he’ll use as ground zero,” Matt adds in.

 

“So, where has a lot of foot traffic?” Danny says, wondering aloud.

 

“Public transport hubs,” Peter says immediately. “I mean, think about it. Tons of people go through there every day, every hour. If I wanted to get a ton of people infected, that’s how I’d do it. My money’s on Grand Central Station, JFK International, or LaGuardia.”

 

Peter looks around, and everybody seems to be in agreement judging off the slight nodding and distinct lack of arguments. It makes him preen a little as he realizes everyone is looking to him for further instructions.

 

“Mr. Cage and Deadpool, stay here and keep everything contained. Ms. Jones, you and Mr. Castle go to Grand Central. If Mr. Castle goes within a mile of an airport I’m pretty sure the CIA or someone is gonna know. Danny and Colleen, you two head up to LaGuardia. Daredevil and I are gonna take JFK. Be on the lookout for anyone acting suspicious, loitering around. He’ll probably be wearing gloves, and maybe a mask, since I doubt he wants to infect himself. Might try and disguise himself as a janitor or something like that; it’d give him an excuse to be spraying something,” he continues.

 

“You put a lot of thought into this sort of thing before?” Frank asks, sounding a little concerned by just how thorough Peter’s plan is with only about a minute devoted to thinking about the whole thing.

 

Peter shrugs. “I’ve picked up some stuff.” By which he means he watches a lot of movies, and zombie/general plague movies are a niche genre he and Ned worked their way through a while back. But he knows how adult superheroes feel about plans based off of movies.

 

“Enough talking, let’s go. We don’t have a lot of time” Matt says. “Send a text once you get where you’re supposed to be.”

 


 

Peter and Matt, or more accurately, Spider-Man and Daredevil, are walking away from Genlabs when Peter realizes he isn’t quite sure how it is they’re going to get to the airport. Swinging there would probably take a while, and it would take longer if he had to slow down and keep pace with Matt.

 

“So uh… are we gonna take the subway again?” Peter asks as he trots alongside Matt at the slightly-faster-than-walking pace he’s setting for them.

 

“That’d take over an hour; we’ll get a cab. There’s one less than a block away,” Matt replies, turning down an alley to cut over to the next street.

 

Soon enough, the cab comes into view, but before they can get too close, Peter sets a hand on Matt’s shoulder to stop him.

 

“Let me talk to the driver. No offense, but you’re kinda absolutely terrifying.”

 

Matt pauses a second before he shrugs in a ‘fair enough’ gesture and follows behind Peter, somehow managing to stick in the shadows despite his inability to see them. Peter lifts a hand, and the cab that has been rolling along comes to a stop in front of them.

 

“Nice costume, man!” the driver yells after rolling down his window. “Hop in.”

 

It’s at that moment that the guy notices Matt, and Peter can see the way he tenses up and his eyes widen when he realizes this isn’t one of the guys from Times Square who dresses up as Spider-Man and charges tourists a dollar for a picture; this is actually Spider-Man, being accompanied by Daredevil of all people. But to his credit, that isn’t enough to scare him off from picking them up. As a cab driver in New York, he’s probably had weirder passengers in all likelihood

 

Once the two vigilantes are settled in the back seat of a cab that absolutely reeks of weed, the driver turns over his shoulder to look at them.

 

“So, uh,” he says, “where can I take you?”

 

“JFK International,” Matt answers curtly, and the driver abruptly turns back to the road.

 

“Uh, yes sir.”

 

Peter looks over at Matt, and part of him wonders how he managed to cultivate an alter-ego so completely different from his actual persona. Sure, Matt’s tough, but he’s not the kind of scary that inspires people to shut up the moment he walks into a room. He’s a lawyer who does mostly pro-bono work defending innocent people, or people who don’t deserve to be in jail, even if they’ve broken laws. The energy he gives off as Daredevil is just entirely different from Matt Murdock.

 

He must be pretty obviously staring at Matt while he wonders this because after a minute Matt shifts in his seat.

 

“What is it?” he asks.

 

“Huh? Oh, sorry. Just thinking about stuff,” Peter answers vaguely.

 

“Are you okay?” Matt asks a little bit softer. “What happened earlier, that was—”

 

“We’re not talking about that,” Peter interrupts immediately, sitting up a little bit straighter. The task at hand is important, and he knows if he lets himself think about what happened earlier, the only thing he’ll be able to hear is Aelisha’s terrified screaming and begging.

 

Matt looks concerned but nods anyway. “Alright.”

 

The cab driver coughs to reestablish his existence in the minds of the two superheroes in the car who are on the cusp of what sounds like a highly personal conversation.

 

From the time they get in the cab, it takes roughly forty minutes to get to the airport. Peter gets a text from Danny confirming that he and Colleen have arrived at LaGuardia, and right as they’re getting out of the cab after Matt pays the driver, a text from Jessica arrives saying that she and Frank are at Grand Central Station.

 

Fortunately, their driver seems to be competent enough to realize that maybe Spider-Man and Daredevil don’t want to be noticed by the police within half a second of getting out of the car, so he pulls up to the most deserted looking entrance- which, unfortunately, still has a fair amount of foot traffic.

 

On the bright side, most of these people look like they’re just getting off red-eye flights or like they’re up way earlier than they wanted to be, so none of them pay more attention than a cursory glance at the two costumed weirdos in their presence. Maybe the people of New York have just gotten used to seeing superheroes in their everyday lives and isn’t that something to think about.

 

“How are we gonna get past security or, like, TSA or whatever?” Peter asks as they approach the door, but he’s surprised that there isn’t a security guard or a cop or anyone standing by the doors like there almost always is. “That’s convenient…”

 

“And concerning,” Matt adds as they walk into the building.

 

There are a fair number of people, mostly lined up and waiting to go through the TSA checkpoint, but there are also a lot of people just walking through, maybe heading out to where the lines of cabs are waiting to pick up passengers or to the parking garages.

 

“The woman at that desk just noticed us. She’s calling security,” Matt says under his breath, inclining his head towards a young woman with bleach blonde hair standing behind the Delta check-in desk. “They’re sending an officer over this way, but only one. I don’t think they think we’re the real Daredevil and Spider-Man.”

 

“Because so many people come to the airport in a spider-themed onesie and a leather devil costume,” Peter replies, looking around the place for anyone who seems out of place. It’s definitely been long enough for whoever it was at Genlabs to get here, and Peter’s suddenly overcome with the fear that maybe there’s some other place this guy would rather spread his disease, somewhere they didn’t send anyone to watch.

 

Matt appears to be scanning the crowd as well, his head tilted down and towards them, shifting slightly every so often to get a different angle.

 

“Are you getting anything?” Peter asks, and he’s sure that his nerves are creeping into his voice.

 

“There’s a lot of people here, checking them all is gonna take me a minute,” he says, sounding on edge himself.

 

“Well, hurry it up, because security’s coming for us,” Peter hisses, his eyes catching on an older man in a security uniform. Just then he feels every hair on his body stand on end, and the Spidey-sense absolutely loses its mind.

 

There’s a man about thirty feet away; he’s just… plain. White, middle-aged, wearing ugly khakis paired with a golf shirt. He has a black suitcase sitting at his feet, and he’s kneeling to pull something out of it. In all regards, there’s nothing about this man that makes him stand out from the rest of the people, but Peter’s learned his lesson with not listening to the Spidey-sense, and the stakes this time are monumental.

 

He starts walking towards the man before picking up the pace until he’s running. “Everybody get back!” he shouts as the man’s hand finally closes around something.

 

Of course, this incites screaming and running because this is an airport in New York, but it also causes about fifty cellphones to be pointed at the scene Spider-Man is causing.

 

The guy’s balding head shoots up, and he goes pale before fumbling with the object in his hands: a can of hairspray. Before he can pull off the cap, Peter shoots a web at the can and pulls it back to himself despite the way the thing makes Peter flinch as Spidey-sense starts screaming at him even louder.

 

Matt is on the guy a second later, restraining him against the ground so that he can’t go for anything else, given the chance that he might have more of the virus stashed somewhere. The man is screaming and freaking out, thrashing uselessly with Matt’s knee digging into his back and pinning him face down on the ground. Just like every time Peter’s seen Matt use that move on someone, he also has the guy’s arm bent behind his back at an awkward and incredibly painful angle.

 

“You’re limiting them!” the man screams. “You can’t stand the thought of not being the only special ones—I was going to make everyone great! Give everyone a chance to be more than human!”

 

“Shut up,” Matt hisses.

 

Everyone’s eyes are on the scene happening in the middle of the airport, and Peter glances between the phones pointed at them to record every detail of what’s going down and the mass of security converging on them. It looks like none of the officers are sure whether they should be pointing their guns at Spider-Man and Daredevil or at the man under Daredevil who has now ceased the useless flailing and is just screaming about how everything has been ruined.

 

“Uh, can one of you call the CDC or something? I’m not sure if a can of hairspray can be hermetically sealed,” Peter says awkwardly to the group of people with their cellphones pointed at them, still holding the can in his hand and shaking it just barely to draw attention to it.

 

And boy if that doesn’t cause mass panic.

 

The airport is very reasonably put on lockdown once Peter explains to the nearest security guard that the man Daredevil is very mildly brutalizing on the floor is a mad scientist and the hairspray can contains an actual, functioning zombie virus. Even if he absolutely despises that descriptor, it is the easiest way to communicate the magnitude of keeping this contained. With every entrance and exit to the building shut as well as all incoming flights being diverted to different airports, there’s nothing to do but wait for the correct officials to arrive and deal with this. Unfortunately for them, the CDC has already dispatched all available workers to Genlabs to deal with the actual infected people, so there’s nothing for Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the rest of the people stuck in the airport to do aside from watching the news vans and national guard slowly surround the airport.

 

Matt assures Peter that the can’s seal hasn’t been broken, and the people all calm down once Peter passes the information onto them. There’s a lot less crying after that and a lot more trying to get pictures with Spider-Man. So much so that Peter has to parkour, web, and climb his way high enough that he can get enough relative privacy to inform Jessica, Frank, Colleen, Danny, Luke, and Wade that they foiled the villain’s master plan.

 

Wade tells Peter that he too is hiding; apparently some folks at the CDC are incredibly interested in Deadpool’s regenerative abilities and won’t stop bothering him and asking how he got them which is apparently an ‘awful fucking memory’ that doesn’t need to be ‘dredged up from where it resides in Hitler’s ass in hell’. Peter decides not to ask how Wade got his powers.

 

Eventually, he hangs up and drops down from his hiding place when he sees Matt waving him over from where he’s letting two guards handcuff their bad guy to one of the counters under his direct supervision.

 

“What’s up?” Peter asks, bouncing a little on his feet as he comes to stand in front of Matt. The adrenalin from the whole situation is still coursing through him, so staying still isn’t the most easily accomplished task.

 

“Just wanted to let you know we’ll probably be stuck here another few hours. The CDC is going to set up a mobile lab as soon as they can to verify that the can is still sealed. Once that happens we’ll be good to go.” As soon as the words are out of Matt’s mouth, he turns to glare in the direction of the nearest security guards.

 

The guards’ hands have started to drift a little closer to their tasers, and some even towards their guns. Matt has started growling, and the tension in the air is palpable even from where the civilians have all gathered near the front windows. The chatter from them falls to a hush, and Peter’s absolutely positive there are cameras pointed at them once again, and not just by the guy who’s been filming since Spider-Man and Daredevil entered the airport.

 

“Woah, you’re not— you guys aren’t going to arrest Daredevil, are you?” Peter asks, and the tight looks he gets in response from the guards is all the answer he needs. “You’re—wow. Just wow. Guy saves the city—no—the world and you wanna punish him for it?”

 

“Spider-Man,” Matt hisses, shaking his head.

 

“No, you know what? Try it. We’ll see how far you get,” Peter snaps at the guards, taking a step forward.

 

Matt grabs Peter’s shoulder and pulls him back, quickly turning both of them away from the security personnel.

 

“I’m serious,” he whispers, turning Peter to face him. “Drop it, okay?”

 

“But—”

 

Drop. It.”

 

“You just saved their lives and—”

 

“And I’m still Daredevil,” Matt interrupts. “I’m still the scary one who hides in the shadows, knows whenever someone lies, can seemingly read minds, and beats the shit out of people. You’re their friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man. You standing up for me fucks with both our reputations and besides, you’re the one who did the saving today; not me.”

 

Peter wants to argue, but everything Matt said is the truth. Daredevil scares the shit out people, Spider-Man is seen as someone friendly and trustworthy, and he saved the day. He did the decoding, he figured out where it was going to go down, and he stopped the virus from being released. He was a huge part of stopping something truly horrible.

 

Honestly, Peter feels a little bit choked up, but he nods. “Okay, I won’t make myself seem scary or you seem like a pussy.”

 

Matt laughs and smiles at that. “Alright, I think they’ve calmed down anyway. They smell less on-edge at least.”

 

Peter’s sure he makes a face at that.

 

All in all, it takes three and a half hours for the CDC to set up a seal on the door to the airport so they can safely come in and check that there hasn’t been any deadly virus exposure and that the can is indeed sealed. Peter spends that time talking to people and keeping them calm while Matt lurks and broods over by where their perp is still cuffed to a desk as well as occasionally growling at security when they get too close after the earlier stand-off. He knows that Matt’s listening to him though, because whenever Peter says something particularly funny he sees the corner of Matt’s mouth twitch upwards.

 

Right around the time everyone has been cleared to leave and their mad scientist is in police custody, the adrenalin rush that’s been fueling Peter for hours by this point is wearing off. He doesn’t even notice Matt slinking away into the shadows once the police arrive on the scene. In fact, it takes every last bit of energy for him to swing home and strip out of the costume before falling directly into bed and sleeping for a record eighteen hours.

 


 

Peter takes a deep breath.

 

In. Out.

 

That’s all he has time for before the elevator doors are opening and he forces his stiff legs to take two steps into the room. For once he isn’t going to the lab, or even the offices to see Tony; instead, he’s in the penthouse.

 

The TV is turned onto the news, and just like every other channel, it’s running the story of the world’s close brush with a zombie apocalypse nonstop since the evil plan was foiled yesterday morning. Peter found out later that the man’s name was James Edwards, and he used to work for a biological weapons engineering program contracted by Shield-but-actually-Hydra. After Hydra was exposed, his work was immediately stopped and defunded, but he became obsessed with continuing his work and unleashing it on the world. The guy’s manifesto apparently showed up at the New York Bulletin addressed to one of their freelance journalists: Karen Page. According to a text from Matt sent to the group chat, Karen is ‘fucking tired’ of these psychos sending their ‘methed-up book reports’ to her, but she writes the article anyway after the paper’s editor asks her nicely (he begs). A few hours later she mysteriously gets a copy of the ledger that was given to the fifteenth precinct by a mysterious source.

 

Peter’s eyes finally catch on some movement exiting the bedroom, and despite his best preparations his heart rate still spikes when he sees Tony.

 

“Mr. Stark,” he greets with excessive formality to try and mask the way his words want to stick in his throat.

 

“Peter,” Tony says, walking over to the excessive bar. “Why don’t you sit down?”

 

His voice is much kinder than what Peter had been prepared for. He expected yelling, another lecture, another futile ban on working with the Defenders and Friends, but this gentleness is off-putting. So much so that Peter takes a seat on one of the couches without another word.

 

Tony pours himself a drink and comes to sit across from Peter on the coffee table, his fingers tapping nervously at the rim of the glass before he downs it all in one gulp, and boy if that isn’t concerning. Peter tries to hold eye contact with Tony despite how awkward it is, but even that doesn’t work since Tony keeps looking away. Peter nearly jumps out of his skin when Tony finally speaks.

 

“I know it isn’t my job to approve of what you do or who you work with. It’s none of my business because I’m not your parent, and I’ve barely even been a mentor to you. Daredevil was right; I gave you fancy toys and ditched you, and I want you to know that it’s nothing you did. I have my own shit I’m dealing with, and it wasn’t right of me to put you through any of it. I wanted to protect you, okay? And I know I did a shit job of it, but I still want to protect you. Which is why I want you to hear this from me.”

 

Peter feels his heart sink. “Hear what from you, Mr. Stark?” he asks hesitantly.

 

“I have friends in high places, and one those friends work for the CDC,” Tony says before taking a deep breath, white-knuckling the edge of the table. “As far as they can tell, the virus is a genetically modified form of rabies. It spreads faster and is more specific about how it interacts with the host, but at its core, it’s still rabies.”

 

Peter feels sick, but he just closes his eyes and forces nausea away. He knows exactly what Tony’s saying, but he wants to hear it said. “So what you’re saying is..?”

 

“It’s incurable. Once it reaches the brain, there’s nothing they can do, and this thing has an incubation period of less than four hours before the virus takes over the host. They’re trying their hardest, but for almost everyone… it was too late. There are a few they might be able to save, but for the rest, there’s nothing anyone can do for them. For rabies, it takes about a week from the brain being infected to death, and so far, it seems like this is going to do this same thing, just on a slower scale, probably over a few months. They’re trying to contact next of kin to get permission to put these people out of their misery, and I’ve got Friday running facial recognition to try and find out who they are, so it shouldn’t take too long.” Tony takes a deep breath. “I’m so sorry, kid. I know you want to save everyone, but it can’t always work out like that. You saved a lot of people, though, and I’m proud of you.”

 

Peter’s been keeping it all bottled up pretty well, but Tony’s sympathy is enough to break the floodgates, and suddenly he can’t keep the tears in anymore. He’s angry; he’s furious that all those people are going to die. But he’s also horribly upset by it.

 

Tony moves to sit beside Peter on the couch and wraps an arm around his shoulders, running a gentle hand over them as Peter finally lets out all the pain and fear and anger he’s been keeping inside.

 

“It’s gonna be okay… I’ve got you…” he says softly, and Peter’s crying too hard to say that it’ll never be okay for those people ever again.

 

It takes the better part of an hour for Peter to calm down enough that he can actually speak coherently, and once he does the first question out of his mouth is, “How many do they think they can save?”

 

Tony looks pained by the question. “Four. Two women, two men.”

 

“Did… is Aelisha Trenton one of them?” Peter asks quietly.

 

“Do you mean Angela?” Tony asks.

 

“Angela’s okay?”

 

“The infection hasn’t reached her brain yet, they’re managing to hold it back for now. Do you know her?”

 

Peter shakes his head. “Her sister—Aelisha— I was trying to help her find Angela. I’ve been watching her cat…”

 

“I’ll let you know if I hear anything, okay?” Tony says earnestly.

 

“Thanks…” Peter looks away awkwardly. He wants out of this conversation topic. “Um, speaking of cats, are the kittens old enough they can be adopted yet?”

 

Tony looks a little like he wants to say something about the abrupt shift in conversation topic, but thankfully he drops it. “Yeah, yeah I think they’re ten weeks old now? They’ve been eating dry food for a while. You gonna finally take Spatula to her new dad?”

 


 

Showing up to Daredevil’s day job with a cat isn’t the weirdest thing Peter’s done in the last twenty-four hours, but he still feels out of place sitting in the waiting area with a few of Matt, Foggy, and Karen’s potential clients, especially since Spatula is periodically meowing to remind Peter of her unhappiness with being put in the cat carrier. Matt is meeting with a client, according to Danielle, but he should be done in just a few minutes and she promises she’ll tell him that Peter is here with the cat. Peter thanks her even though he knows that Matt must know he’s there already.

  

It’s about twenty minutes before a young woman walks out of Matt’s office and Danielle waves Peter over to her. Peter gets up and grabs Spatula’s carrier before heading into Matt’s office and shutting the door behind himself.

 

“Sorry for disappearing yesterday,” Matt says apologetically. “But the police planned on arresting me.”

 

Peter just shrugs. “It’s alright, I don’t want to be the one having to bail you out of jail anyway. Besides, we have more important matters at hand.”

 

“I’m assuming those matters have to do with the living animal in your bag,” Matt says.

 

“Her name is Spatula, and she’s yours now,” Peter says, setting the carrier on the floor by Matt’s desk. “I was just at the tower, so I thought I’d bring her by.”

 

Matt offers Peter a smile which he returns. “Thanks, Peter.”

 

“Anytime,” Peter replies. “I gotta go home. I skipped school today, so I have some stuff I need to make up.”

 

As Peter turns to leave, Matt sets a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Are you okay?” he asks softly, his worry clear even through the dark sunglasses.

 

Peter takes a deep breath and gives Matt a wobbly smile. “I’m gonna be,” he says, and it isn’t a lie.