It’s four in the morning on a normal day when Michelle Jones sits straight up in bed like a lightbulb has just turned on in her head.
Because, really, it has.
And she cannot believe she’s been stupid enough to not realize that Peter Parker has been parading around Queens as Spider-Man for as long as he has.
She’s kind of pissed. Very pissed. He’s so going on her hit list.
It’s probably just sheer luck. Absolute coincidence. Then again, Michelle doesn’t really believe in coincidences.
She walks into her favorite coffee shop (which just happens to be the Starbucks closest to Midtown, where she does most of her homework because the wifi’s surprisingly good and one of the baristas has started giving her free refills) and finds someone who could help her in the best of ways.
“You,” says Michelle. “Oh, this is perfect. I need your help.”
Clint Barton swivels around to face her; it should be noted that he is sitting on a table in the middle of a Starbucks in Queens. He is holding two cups of coffee. “I’m retired,” he grunts, and drinks from the cup in his left hand.
“Not that kind of help.” Michelle sets her backpack down next to him.
“Do you know a superhero by the name of Spider-Man?”
That piques his interest. “Sure,” he says. “Stark’s protégé.”
“You ever seen him without the mask?”
Clint blinks. “I don’t like this test,” he says. He drinks from the cup in his right hand. “Have I mentioned I’m retired?”
“It’s not a test.” she climbs into the table across from him. He looks mildly surprised, like he didn’t expect her to do that, but Michelle’s nothing if not unpredictable. “Consider it an opportunity.”
“Am I being pranked right now?” he says, glancing around. “Did Stark put you up to this? Nat?”
Michelle climbs off her comfy table and steps closer to him, keeping her voice quiet. “I know who Spider-Man is,” she says. “I know because he’s my friend. But he doesn’t know that I know.”
Clint looks unconvinced. “Prove it.”
Her lock-screen does.
(If Peter and Ned ever find out that she’s made her lock-screen a picture of the three of them, she’ll kill them.)
“I’m gonna go ahead and guess that you’ve met him without the mask,” says Michelle.
Clint looks at her. Down at the phone. Back up at her. “Bold of you to assume that.”
“I want your help to mess with him.”
He hesitates and drinks from the coffee in his left hand.
“You’re retired,” says Michelle, “I know. But this requires minimal effort. Basically, I just need someone on the inside. Maybe a little help with the press, depending on how far I can make this go.”
But he remains unconvinced. “What’s in it for me?”
She shrugs. “I’m a broke high school student. I can’t offer much. But Peter’s going to be thoroughly embarrassed when this is all over. I’m sure you’d love to take credit for that as much as I will.”
Clint takes a moment to think about it. Michelle watches as he drinks from both cups of coffee. “Ah, hell,” he says. “The retired life is boring, anyway. I’m in.”
She grins. “Good.”
“Didn’t even learn your name, by the way. That’s probably important.”
“I’m Michelle,” she says. And then: “My friends call me MJ.”
“Clint Barton,” is his answer. “Though you already knew that. I just like introducing myself to people I’ve never met before. Makes me feel a little better, you know?”
He’s weird. Probably also has a raging caffeine addiction.
“So,” says Clint after a moment of drinking his coffees. “What are you thinking? Do you have a plan?”
Michelle has to remind herself that Clint Barton doesn’t know her, so getting offended about the fact that he just asked if she had a plan doesn’t really make sense. “Of course I do,” she says. “Here’s what I was thinking…”
Michelle walks into Academic Decathlon a week later with an Avenger’s phone number in her contacts. He texts like a child.
Today’s the day. After a full week of planning every possible thing she could, she’s really about to walk in here and prank the shit out of Peter Parker. This has to be the highlight of her high school career. This is the story she’ll go down for. Assuming, of course, Peter eventually reveals his identity to the public, and immediately follows his announcement with a (probably overdramatic) retelling of this very story.
This better be her fucking legacy.
“Hey, MJ,” greets Peter, looking up from his textbook. He gives her one of those smiles he’s been giving her recently.
“Hey, Peter,” she answers, as if she’s not going to blow his mind in about an hour. “All right, guys, let’s get to work.”
It’s a normal practice, as it usually is. They’ve got a competition coming up, as they usually do, and her team answers every question correctly, as they always have. Ned and Peter exchange a few whispers throughout the practice and Michelle is almost positive they’re probably talking about the spandex-clad web-slinger. She almost texts Clint about it, just because she can. Then she decides against it, because if she sends Clint Barton one text, he’ll respond with about twenty.
“Okay,” says Michelle, after that exhausting hour, “that’s it for today. Same time next week, as always, and don’t forget to keep looking at those flashcards, right? See you guys around,” she adds as a dismissal, and she waits until a few people are out of the room before she clears her throat. “Hey, Peter.”
He looks up from his backpack.
“Would you mind staying for a minute? I want to talk to you about something.”
“Oh.” Peter looks at Ned and then to her. He lets go of his backpack. “Sure, MJ. I can stay.”
“I’ll wait for you outside.” Ned tells him. Michelle tries not to smile. She’s about to start laughing just thinking of Ned’s reaction.
So Ned leaves. Cindy and Betty leave. Mr. Harrington leaves. And that leaves Peter in the room, alone with Michelle, and her plan falling perfectly into place.
Peter shoves his hands into his pockets. “Okay,” he says, watching her carefully. “What’s up?”
“Maybe we should sit down.” Michelle answers. Peter looks mildly confused, maybe a little alarmed, but he sits down in the chair he’d been in during practice. She pulls up a chair right in front of him and clears her throat, trying to make herself look a little uncomfortable. She’s never really been an actress, but it’s kind of now or never at this point.
“You’re kind of freaking me out, man.” Peter pulls his hands out of his pockets and clasps them together in his lap. His leg is bouncing. He’s being unusually hyperactive at the moment. It’s pretty amusing to watch.
“Sorry,” she says, and blows out a breath. Wipes her hands on her thighs, like her palms are sweaty. “I just...I needed to talk to someone.”
Michelle leans in and suddenly she’s the closest she’s ever been to Peter Parker in her entire life. Focus, she reminds herself. She’s on a mission. A mission, regrettably, that she has to execute without her camera, because she lost it somewhere in her room. She really needs an organization system.
“I have a secret,” she says, keeping her voice very low.
Peter swallows. “You—you do?”
“Mhm.” She’s a genius. Really, an absolute genius for coming up with this. “I just—I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer. No one knows.”
“You can tell me anything,” says Peter honestly. Michelle feels like she’ll regret messing with him like this, just a tiny bit, when it’s all over, but. It’s his fault. His fault for making it so easy.
She glances around conspiratorially as if wary of bugs or cameras. Leans in just a bit closer. Tries to put on her best I’m very serious face. “Okay.” Lets out a breath. “I’m Spider-Man.”
The look on Peter’s face is priceless. Several emotions cross his face: shock, confusion, disbelief, more confusion, absolute and utter dumbfoundedness. He settles on looking like he wants to puke. “You’re—uh—what?”
“I’m Spider-Man.” she repeats.
“Uh—MJ—you know, uh, isn’t Spider-Man a—”
“Man?” she waves a hand dismissively. “I never gave the press that name. They came up with it themselves. I just went along with it. I don’t really care, and to be honest, it protects my identity even further. The suit’s pretty good at keeping disguisable body parts look non-existent, if you know what I mean.”
Peter is still slack-jawed. He doesn’t even blush at her comment. Michelle is pretty sure his eyes are about to pop out of his head at any given moment. “I don’t—understand.”
“I know it’s a lot to process.” she says in a hushed tone. She pats his arm and then stands up, slinging her bag over her shoulder. “But I know I can trust you with this.”
“MJ, hold on.” he says in a strained voice. “You can’t just—”
“I gotta go, Peter,” says Michelle, and tries her very hardest not to laugh when she says this, “you know, superhero duties.”
She leaves him in the Decathlon practice room. She wonders how long he’ll stay there with that same expression on his face.
“Hey, Ned,” she says, when she sees him waiting for Peter just outside, as he said he would. “See you tomorrow?”
“Yep.” Ned answers, completely unaware of how she just broke his best friend. “See you tomorrow, MJ.”
Then she goes to meet Clint Barton at Starbucks and hopes he’s kept up his end of the plan.
“So?” Michelle asks, when she sees him perched on his favorite Starbucks table. “Did you get them?”
He looks mildly insulted. “Of course I did,” he says. There’s a bag on the chair beside him. He gestures to it with his foot. “They’re in there. Copied, like you asked, so no one gets suspicious. Is that all you needed?”
“Got your own spandex lying around, then?”
“Duh.” Michelle answers. “Can I keep the bag?”
“Why would you want to keep the bag?”
Clint looks like he is very done with teenagers in this moment. “Sure,” he says finally. “It’s not mine. I don’t care.” He is silent for a moment, to drink from his (only one) coffee cup. Then he asks, “So, did Peter freak out?”
“I thought he was going to vomit on my shoes.” Michelle says honestly. That gets a laugh from the archer. “He was thoroughly spooked. This is the best idea I’ve ever had.”
“This is the funniest thing I’ve ever done.” Clint agrees. “This beats the Istanbul Incident by a longshot.”
Michelle decides that she does not want to know what the Istanbul Incident is. She orders her coffee and sets the bag he brought her next to her own backpack on the floor. So far, she’s received no texts from either Peter or Ned, and isn’t really sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
“You know,” says Clint, when she’s halfway finished with her coffee, “Stark would probably get a huge kick out of this.”
Oh, doesn’t she know it. But Michelle’s not really interested in the Big Leagues. Plus, she’s sure that including Tony Stark in her harmless prank would add so much embarrassment to Peter’s life, on top of how badly he’s already going to feel.
“I bet he would,” Michelle answers. “We can show him the finished gag reel once I find my camera and put it to good use.”
Michelle sincerely hopes Peter’s suit is made of a different material than her fake one because honestly it’s very itchy and very uncomfortable.
(With the mask on, though, it’s very convincing that she could be Spider-Man.)
(This really is the funniest thing she’s ever done.)
When she’s finished with the suit, she puts it at the bottom of her backpack. She’d spent a good eight hours making that suit, immediately following her Starbucks rendezvous with Clint, and is severely sore from sitting the entire time and extremely exhausted because it’s, like, two in the morning. But completely worth it.
No texts from Peter or Ned.
She texts Clint a photo of herself in the suit and is spammed with five texts of approving emojis before calling it quits for the night.
“Hey,” says Michelle gently. “I hope I didn’t freak you out.”
Peter practically jumps out of his own skin. He slams his locker shut and stares at her like she’s a ghost. Michelle’s camera is tucked into her bag, but she doesn’t think it’s an appropriate time to whip it out. “N-no,” he says, rapidly shaking his head. “Not at all, I just—”
“It’s a lot to process.” she guesses. “I know. Believe me.”
“MJ.” Peter’s voice lowers. “You cannot possibly expect me to believe that you are Spider-Man.”
She raises an eyebrow. “You don’t think I can handle myself?”
“No! No, I just—” He’s desperately searching for some kind of fact to disprove her. Michelle is pleased to find that it’s difficult for him. “Um. What about when we went to D.C. for that Decathlon trip last year?”
“What about it?”
“I wasn’t in the building.” Michelle tells him. “I know you wouldn’t know that, since nobody knew where you were the whole day.”
That shuts him up.
“I heard the explosion. Thankfully I had my suit with me.” she pats the strap of her backpack. “I always carry it with me, in case of emergency.”
His gaze zeroes in on her backpack. “You have a suit in there?”
“Of course.” Michelle looks at him like he’s daft. “If duty calls, y’know?”
There’s that I’m going to puke look again. It’s Michelle’s favorite expression on Peter’s face in the whole time they’ve known each other. “Right,” Peter says slowly. “Can I see it?”
“Not here, obviously.” she looks around. “Too many people. But I’ll text you a picture.”
“Right,” he says again. “A picture.”
First bell rings. Michelle’s whipping out her phone, going to her Photos app to send him the picture she’d sent to Clint. “I gotta head to class,” she says. “I’ll see you later.” She hits send.
She can hear Peter’s weird choking noises when she’s halfway down the hallway.
barton: need help plz
mj: help with what???
barton: are u free 2nite from like 5-10
mj: yeah, why?????
barton: babysit my kids
mj: you are shitting me.
barton: haha. nope.
barton: meet me @sbux ill take u 2 the cmpnd
mj: i didn’t say yes?
barton: 2 bad so sad ur doing it bc im helping u w this prank
mj: fine but only if you pay me
barton: thats not how this wrks
barton: but ill pay u if nathan bites u cos hes been doing that 2 us lately
barton: ok thx byeeeeee!!!!!!!!
Michelle is watching an eleven-year-old, an eight-year-old, and a three-year-old inside the Avengers facility in the wing where Clint Barton and his family occasionally stay. She is watching the children of an Avenger who is helping her prank one of her best friends who is sort of an Avenger but not really. This three-year-old is named after two Avengers. She is trying very hard to make sure Nathaniel Pietro Barton does not bite her, because getting bitten by a toddler is not worth the money Clint offered as recompense.
This is absolutely the weirdest thing Michelle has ever done and she can’t even take a picture and send it to the boys to prove it.
She does, however, get plenty of time to plan her next move. Which...isn’t going exactly how she wanted it to go.
She wants to go all out, for this one. Peter’s already going nuts. But Michelle isn’t really sure how to go big or go home in this sense. She doesn’t want to go out in the suit; she doesn’t have web fluid, and really could not pretend to be Spider-Man in action if she tried. But that doesn’t mean she can’t...make a public appearance.
When Clint and his wife come back from wherever they went, she proudly tells him that his son did not bite her, and also tells him to make sure he’s at Starbucks tomorrow so she can tell him her brilliant addition to their plan.
She also tells him to make a Twitter.
Michelle has few interactions with Peter the next day, but each one of them involves him just staring at her like she’s just sprouted a second head. At lunch, she sets her backpack on the table, and pulls out her replica suit just a little bit to show him that it’s in there. He does not eat for another ten minutes. It’s hilarious.
She spends the rest of lunch on the opposite end of the table, reading Persepolis for the third time that month. She can tell that Peter is watching her, very carefully, like he wants to say something to her but doesn’t know what.
But lunch ends without Peter Parker saying another word to her. School ends the exact same way. And when Michelle makes her way into Starbucks, she finds that Clint Barton is not the only Avenger waiting there for her.
“Hello,” says the redhead cheerfully. Clint is back to two coffees, but she’s nursing a tea in her hands. “It’s nice to meet you. Clint’s told me about you.”
“You know,” says Michelle, “my friend Ned would have probably passed out by now, if he were in my shoes.”
Natasha Romanoff’s eyebrow quirks up in amusement. “I’m flattered,” she replies. “But I’m not that special.”
Not that special. Michelle almost snorts. “Well, I’m a little surprised to see our team’s expanded.”
“Sorry. I tell Nat everything.” Clint says helpfully. “She’s great at this kind of stuff, though. We can trust her.”
Michelle has no doubt. “I need coffee.”
“Here.” he hands her the one in his right hand. She takes it reluctantly, finds it completely full, and looks at him skeptically. “I was a special agent with S.H.I.E.L.D., you know,” Clint says, mildly miffed at her expression. “Your coffee order was not exactly hard to decipher after the first time we met.”
“Clint says you have an idea on the next step.” Natasha prompts, as Michelle sips on her coffee that is precisely her order. Damn. She doesn’t know why she almost doubted an Avenger.
Michelle grins. “That I do. Clint, did you make that Twitter account?”
Natasha Romanoff tweets a captionless selfie of herself and Clint Barton inside a library. In between them is Spider-Man.
Clint retweets it and adds the announcement.
@hwkeye: com 1, com all, 2 the queens library in forest hills!!! spdr-man is reading kids books from 4-6 n WILL b takng pix!!!!!!
“I should mention,” says Clint, just as Michelle is sitting down in her fake Spidey suit, “that Peter doesn’t know we actually know who he is.”
Her eyes widen. “What.”
“It wasn’t hard to figure out.” Natasha agrees. “I mean, the kid’s bad at keeping secrets. This is proof of that, obviously. And I told Clint, because I tell Clint everything. The only person who knows Peter, as far as Peter is aware, is Tony.”
“You told me you’ve met him without the mask.” Michelle tells Clint accusingly.
“No, I didn’t.” Clint is grinning with a shit-eating grin. “You guessed that and I said, ‘Bold of you to assume that.’ So. Never confirmed.”
“Oh, my God.” says Michelle, slowly. “Did I just get pranked during my own prank?”
Clint and Natasha high-five.
“This just got so much worse and so much better all in one go.” Michelle mutters. “So much worse. So much better.”
“I hope you can at least try and sound like him.” Natasha tells her. “His voice is higher than yours.”
She snickers. “You’ve got my camera ready?”
“Tony will definitely know about this after today.” Clint says, more to himself.
“In case they ask you any questions about people you’ve fought, I’ll be on the comm.” Natasha taps her ear. “Ready to read to some kids?”
“Guess so.” Michelle answers. She clears her throat, puts on her Peter voice: “Bring them in.”
Natasha looks amused. “Good.”
After Michelle is done reading, she answers a few questions, but not many, since most people just want photos. The selfie of her with Clint and Natasha pretty much goes viral within three hours of it being posted. Then, she stands with little kids in the small reading room of the library, posting with peace signs and other random hand signals that she thinks up on the spot.
“Two more, Spidey,” says Clint, pushing the door open. “They just decided they wanted pictures last minute. Is that cool?”
“Sure,” says Michelle, in her Spider-Man/Peter Parker voice that makes him crack a smile. “Send ‘em in.”
It’s Peter and Ned.
Michelle relaxes a little. She holds onto her Peter voice, despite knowing that by the look on Ned’s face, he’s completely and utterly aware of the situation. “Hey, guys, what’s up?”
“Holy shit,” whispers Ned.
Michelle grins. “You want a picture with the best superhero in New York?”
“Uh,” says Peter.
“I’d say best Avenger, but I’m not an Avenger,” she says cheerily. “Not yet, anyway. I just like saying I am one because it boosts my ego.”
Peter makes that choking noise again.
They end up posing for a picture. Clint takes it for them. Michelle throws up a peace sign.
“Man,” she says. “I can’t wait to get this mask off. I can never breathe in this thing, you know?”
“Uh,” says Peter, again.
“Well, nice to meet fans, always,” she adds. Clint opens the door for them. “See you guys around!”
Clint escorts them out of the room and gives Michelle a thumbs-up on his way out. Once they’re gone, she changes back into normal clothes, and lets Natasha and Clint drive her home.
“Call me Nat,” says Natasha, when Michelle gets out of the car.
On her camera, hours after the event, there are several pictures of Peter and Ned standing in the back of the room, absolutely flabbergasted. Peter’s got the puke face on again. Michelle uploads them to her computer immediately, just so she can put in an order to print the one with Peter’s puke face.
When she goes to bed, she has two Avengers in her contacts.
When she wakes up, she’s about to have three.
Unknown: Pretty good imitation of the Spidey suit. Why don’t you come by the lab and I’ll make it even more convincing? -TS
It’s Saturday, which means Michelle has all day for this. Nat is downstairs, in a car, waiting to bring her to Tony’s lab. She shoves her fake suit in a bag and climbs into the car, incredibly grateful to see her coffee waiting in the cupholder.
“Someone’s keeping a close eye on Parker,” she says, before Michelle can say anything. “If he comes toward the facility, we’ll know.”
“Someone?” Michelle echoes. “You mean Clint?”
But Nat has this look in her eye that tells Michelle she’s up to no good. “Not Clint,” she says. “This is no longer a small circle of people, kid.”
“This has gone way too far.” she declares.
Nat laughs. “Probably,” she agrees. “But this is the most fun I think any of us have had in a long time. And considering the fact that technically only Tony knows who Peter is...it’s ridiculously easy.”
Michelle smiles. She opens her phone and pulls up her texts with Peter. Shoots off: lol should i make an instagram for spidey
She can almost hear the choking noises from here.
When they arrive at the facility, Clint greets them. Together, they walk down to Tony Stark’s lab, with Michelle’s fake suit in her bag, and they hear his voice drifting through the glass doors as they near him.
“...kid, you gotta be rational about this.” Tony says. Michelle already knows who he’s talking to. “Yeah, I know they helped out with the library stunt, but—nobody knows who you are, up here. No, I’m being honest. Just me.” A pause. “We agreed to keep your identity secret. That’s what we’re doing. I’m not going to tell them just because one of your friends is taking the piss out of you, okay?” He’s quiet again, as they enter the lab. His expression brightens when he sees Michelle. “Listen, I can’t give you advice on that part. You just gotta tell her when you’re ready. Honestly, I think it’s pretty hilarious. You should too. And honestly, she’s giving Spidey great publicity.”
She sets her fake suit on the table.
Tony grins. “See? There you go, kid. It’s not that deep, I promise. And if you really don’t like it, just give me another call. Okay? Okay. Yep. Have fun. Bye.”
He puts his phone down and rubs his hands together. “Michelle Jones,” he says, in a tone of voice that gives Michelle the impression that he’s impressed. “You’ve got one hell of a mind, don’t you?”
Her phone buzzes. A text from Peter: do it ill help if u want
The eyes move. The eyes in her fake suit move when her real eyes move.
Tony fixes the stitching a little bit and darkens the spider emblem on its chest. He adds fake web shooters, just so they’re there, like they are on Peter’s suit. After tweaking it for an hour, it looks like it is Peter’s suit. “Kid’s gonna kill me,” he mutters. “Worth it, probably.”
“Well,” says Michelle, as the suit’s finished, “I don’t think we can just do casual Starbucks meetings after school anymore.”
“Definitely not.” Tony agrees. “Good thing I planned for that, already.”
Starbucks meetings turn into occasional meetings at Stark Industries, in the fifth floor conference room. A couple meetings are at the facility, on Saturdays. Tony always has Starbucks waiting for them every time, each other perfect. Clint always gets his two coffees.
There’s this one time that the four of them end up at Michelle’s house, when her parents aren’t home. She takes a selfie just so she can print it.
It’s this meeting, in her living room, when Michelle cries: “Winter Soldier is in on it?”
“That’s our someone tailing Peter when we’re at the lab.” Nat says proudly. “He’s dragged Steve into it, of course, who wants to meet you and take a picture for his Instagram, if you want.”
If Peter knew the Winter Soldier was keeping tabs on him, he’d freak out. Not to mention: a photo. With Captain America. Nat says it like it’s no big deal. That’s a very big deal. “I’m in,” she says. “How many does that bring the count to, by the way?”
Clint ticks off his fingers as he talks. “Me, Nat, Tony. Bucky and Steve—”
“I told Rhodey,” offers Tony helpfully. “Happy is obviously in the know, even though he’s pretending like he knows nothing when he checks up on Pete.”
“Rhodey.” Clint amends. “Happy. Anyone else?”
“I’m sure Sam’s aware of the situation.” Nat says coolly. “I didn’t tell him, but you know how close he and Steve are. Plus, he doesn’t like Peter all that much after the airport incident, so any opportunity he has to mess with him is an opportunity he’ll take up. Same with Bucky.”
This is hilarious. Mind-blowing, Michelle thinks. This is like something straight out of a fucking comedy. How is this is her life right now?
“If Steve knows, Wanda probably knows.” Tony points out.
Michelle nearly spews coffee all over her shitty carpet. “Scarlet Witch?”
All three Avengers are eyeing her reaction curiously. “What?” she elaborates, casually sipping her coffee again. “She’s hot.”
Clint looks confused. “I thought you and Peter—”
“Peter also thinks she’s hot,” says Michelle.
“But aren’t you and Peter—”
“We’re not getting into my love life right now.” she says firmly. “That’s off the table.”
Nat nudges him. He goes back to sipping both coffees. Tony Stark looks at Michelle like he knows something about her that the others doesn’t.
She doesn’t like that.
“So...everyone’s in on it, then.” Michelle says, after a beat of silence. “Right? Is that everyone?”
“Probably.” Nat reasons. “Because if Wanda knows, then so does Vision, even if they don’t really ever do anything about it.”
“Peter would probably piss himself if I got a picture with Scarlet Witch.” Michelle says, half to herself.
Tony raises an eyebrow. “It wouldn’t just be for your personal benefit?”
“What? No way. Definitely for Peter. Have you seen his puke face? It’s adorable. Hilarious.”
Clint and Nat exchange looks over their cups of coffee.
“Okay.” Tony says. “I’ll make a call.”
“What is the end goal, by the way?” Clint inquires, when Tony steps to the side to make said call. “Like, we’re pranking Peter, which is hilarious. But are we going until we can’t think of anything else? Or are we going to tell him?”
“Well,” says Michelle, “considering that I never expected it to go this far, I think we should just keep going until Peter cracks. He will, eventually.”
“You don’t think he’ll be mad that you’re doing this?”
“Mad? No.” she taps her fingers on her coffee cup. “Irritated? Probably. I think I’m technically forcing him into telling me his secret, but it doesn’t really count, because I already know, even if he doesn’t know that.”
“Great news, gang.” Tony pockets his phone, picking up his Americano from the table. “Wanda’s en route with Vision. They’ll be here tomorrow. Photoshoot at the facility?”
Michelle almost passes out right there.
Peter meets her in the hallway just before Clint is supposed to pick her up. “MJ,” he says, keeping his voice low. “I gotta talk to you.”
“Sorry, Pete,” she says, closing her locker. “Can we reschedule? Someone’s waiting for me outside.”
“Oh.” he looks pretty uncomfortable. “Sure, of course.”
Michelle probably shouldn’t. Really shouldn’t. But she does anyway.
She squeezes his arm, offers a soft smile, and says, “I’ll tell Tony you say hi.”
Ah, yes. The puke face. The choking noises. She thinks Peter might be having an existential crisis at this point.
When Michelle sends Peter the photo of her and Captain America, Steve suggests, “Tell him you stole his shield once.”
When Michelle sends Peter the photo of her and Scarlet Witch, she texts: she’s even more hot in person
She takes another photo in between Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson, and Bucky posts it in his own Instagram account because he’s into that sort of thing. Michelle doesn’t understand the caption reference, but Sam does, because he throws his head back and starts laughing as loud as he possibly can.
Michelle takes a picture with Tony, and behind her fake mask she is laughing the whole time. They both chuck up peace signs, and right after they take it, Tony says, “Peter’s gonna break after this one, I bet. Completely lose his mind.”
“I’ll keep you updated.” Michelle answers. “Maybe I’ll call you when he tells me.”
“Oh, no.” he grins. “Kid doesn’t know about my involvement. Keep me out of it. He’ll give me an earful after it all.”
Another text to Peter: don’t worry, i’ll get them to sign your autograph book
A response: i literally h8 u
She’s pretty sure he means it. But she laughs anyway. And when Tony prints out the pictures in his lab, she gets two copies of each one, so she can give signed ones to Peter.
What Michelle thinks believes to be the final straw that breaks Peter’s back, though, is when Tony Stark uploads the picture of him and fake-Spidey in the compound, holding up peace signs.
@stark: Suit up. Newest Avenger coming soon.
Michelle laughs for approximately twenty minutes. She’s already added the photo to the several print-outs from her long-lasting prank. She’s thinking about making a few scrapbooks when this is all over: one for her, one for Peter, and one for the compound, since she’s got selfies with every Avenger on the planet at this point. She’s got enough photos for each of the scrapbooks to be identical, so.
Her fake suit lies in her closet, where she’s just put it after returning from the facility. It probably needs to be washed soon. She’ll have to ask Tony how to do it properly. Maybe, when this is all over, she’ll frame it. Maybe that’ll be soon. After all, it’s going to be really, really hard to come up with something that will top everything else they’ve done, if Peter doesn’t break after this one.
Turns out, ten minutes after she’s done laughing, Tony Stark is right.
There’s a steady knock on the door. Her parents aren’t home; they’ve been gone since this morning on a business trip and will not return until tomorrow, so whoever is out there is here for her.
Michelle opens the door.
Peter bursts in in a fury, wearing one of his nerd shirts, a jacket, and a pair of jeans. He’s yanking his hand through his in hair in frustration and Michelle notes that he’s wearing red winter gloves. As she closes the door behind him, he paces, all over her living room, breathing hard and not saying anything other than incoherent sounds.
“Peter,” says Michelle calmly, turning to face him. “What’s going on? Why did you show up like that?”
“I can’t do this.” he says. He sounds pained. The puke face is back. “MJ, I know you’re not Spider-Man.”
She maintains her composure. Frowns at him. “What do you mean?”
“You’re—you’re not Spider-Man.” he stops pacing long enough to face her, wringing his hands nervously. Michelle is starting to think those aren’t winter gloves on his hands.
“Peter, I think I’ve pretty much proven—”
“You’re not Spider-Man because I am.” Peter interrupts, and Michelle falls silent. “I’m Spider-Man, okay? It’s me. It’s always been me.”
He takes his coat off, then, and yanks the shirt with a math equation over his head. The pants come off next. He’s wearing his Spidey suit. The real Spidey suit. Peter Parker is standing in Michelle’s living room, wearing the Spider-Man suit, telling her his most trusted secret, staring at her because he’s waiting for her response.
Michelle says, “Oh, thank God. This shit was exhausting.”
“Hold on—let me facetime Nat and Clint.” Michelle fishes her phone out of her pocket. She takes a photo of Peter’s shell-shocked face first, because it looks funny, and then actually clicks on their group chat, hitting the video call button. It rings once before Nat picks up, Clint following shortly after. “Guys, we did it. Peter just told me he’s Spider-Man.”
“Finally!” Clint cries. Peter looks even more confused. “I’ll go tell the others.”
“God.” Peter groans.
“Good work, kid,” says Nat with a smile.
“MJ.” Peter says tightly. She looks up at him. “C’mon.”
“Call us back later.” Nat advises. The brief call ends.
Michelle puts her phone back in her pocket. Peter looks less stunned. Maybe a little irritated, now. “Okay, you want the full story?”
“Sure.” she exhales. “Peter, you are not the best at keeping secrets.”
He eyes her. “How long have you known?”
“Since D.C.” Michelle answers. Peter’s eyes bug. “Well, just after it. I realized it just after Homecoming.”
“It was pretty easy, really. Spider-Man was a Queens superhero until the team went to D.C., when he followed. So he had to be someone on the team. I knew you’d been missing, and then Spider-Man showed up, but Ned said you were sick and couldn’t make it, so I didn’t immediately suspect you at that point.” Michelle shrugs. Peter is listening very intently. She’s going to miss his puke face. “But then Homecoming happened, and you ditched Liz, and then Spider-Man was spotted fighting someone in the parking lot and then later on the beach on Coney Island.”
“Huh.” Peter says.
“And then Tiny told me that Stark’s bodyguard was talking to you in the boys’ bathroom.” Michelle adds. “And I realized that the Stark Internship was a little more than just an internship. It was kind of annoying, too. I woke up at, like, four in the morning with the realization.”
Peter’s eyebrows are raised very high. “That’s...well, when you put it all like that, I do kind of suck.”
“Oh, you suck so hard.” Michelle agrees. He lets out a breathy laugh. “But I’ve been planning this prank since then, so I’m very glad it came to fruition.”
“I just don’t know how you did it.” he admits. “How did you get the Avengers on board?”
Michelle laughs. “That was complete happenstance, to be honest. I walked into Starbucks and saw Clint sitting on a table.”
“On a table?”
“Yep.” she smiles fondly. “On a table. He texts worse than you do, fun fact.”
He makes a face.
“Exactly. Barely legible. So at first, it was just me and Clint, and...” Michelle keeps going, telling Peter the entire story. At some point, they both end up on her small couch, half on top of each other, and she has never felt so comfortable in her life. Peter’s irritation goes away as she keeps talking, explaining the timeline: Clint, then Nat, then Tony; then, in no particular order, kind of all at once, Rhodey and Bucky, Sam and Steve, Wanda and Vision. Michelle kind of wishes she’d been able to meet Thor and Bruce in the midst of her prank.
“I would have absolutely fucking lost it if you met Thor before I did.” Peter says seriously. “Or Bruce Banner. I literally would have lost my whole mind.”
“I know you would have.” Michelle answers, shooting him a grin. “That’s why I was hoping they’d turn up.”
Peter throws his head back, letting it rest against the couch cushion. “This has been the weirdest experience of my life.”
“You’re telling me,” she agrees.
“I'm kind of upset, though. You caused me a lot of anxiety.”
“I am sorry,” says Michelle, and she means it. “I didn’t mean for it to go as far as it did. It’s all Clint’s fault, for being at my Starbucks, really.”
“You pulled off one hell of a prank.” Peter says impressively. “I’m not mad at that. I am, though, a little annoyed at it all.”
“Did you know that I knew?”
“Not at first,” he admits. “I thought Mr. Stark was the only Avenger who knew my secret. I thought about it, at the library thing, but I didn’t actually realize it until you sent me the picture of you and Captain America and of you and Scarlet Witch.”
“She’s hot, right?” Michelle points out.
He sighs. “So hot. I hate that you officially met her before me.”
“You’re still oblivious, though.” she says. “For not guessing it in the beginning. If I were you, I would have guessed right away.”
“Eh.” Peter sighs. “I’m kind of glad I didn’t. By the time I realized it, you were knee-deep in this prank. I wanted to see how far you’d go.”
“The Avenger thing broke you?”
“Yep. Even though I knew Mr. Stark was messing around.”
Michelle is quiet for a moment. Then, she asks, “Were you ever planning on telling me?”
“I was!” he promises. He looks down at his hands. “I just—you know, with...with great power comes great responsibility. I didn’t even want to tell Ned, or May; they both just found out. But I wanted to be the one to tell you. When I knew I could protect you, in case anything happened.”
Michelle leans forward, ducking her head a bit to catch his eyes. “Why?”
She wants him to say it.
Peter stares at her, something soft in his brown eyes. “Because you’re different,” he says. “To me. May’s my aunt. Ned’s my best friend. You…”
He covers one of her hands in both of his gloved ones. “I’m sorry for pushing you to it,” says Michelle quietly.
“Don’t be.” Peter smiles at her. “This was quite possibly the most hilarious thing that has happened to me, too.”
“Oh, good.” Michelle breathes, relaxing. “Because I have a scrapbook to give you as a memoir of this insanity. I hope this means you’ve completely forgiven me.”
“Partially.” Peter says. She frowns. “I will completely forgive you,” he adds, grinning lightly, “on two conditions.”
Condition number one: Tony Stark takes a picture of them in an alley, in their respective Spidey suits, pointing at one another.
Condition number two: Michelle puts on the real Spidey suit and poses for a photo with the mask off while Peter calls her Spideychelle and cute in that order.
(Condition number three, which is completely Michelle’s idea: they go on their first date.)