Peter looked down at the mugger that he had webbed up. The man had done a number on the unconscious victim also in the alleyway. Peter knelt beside the victim and rummaged through the papers that were now strewn about the pavement, getting wet by the cold, misty New York morning. If he hurried and didn’t take his time here, he could make it to Midtown in just enough time to be in his seat before the first bell rung. He couldn’t afford to be late today. There was a big test that he couldn’t fail first period… But he couldn’t let this one go. Usually he left a note behind for the police to take the guys in but this time it was different.
The mugging wasn’t normal. He hadn’t been doing this for more than year, but he knew enough about mugging patterns by that point. They were random more often than not and they were hardly ever personal. This particular one was different. It didn’t follow the usual pattern. The mugger knew his victim and hadn’t been after anything. This… this was a hit, and he had to know why. If something was brewing in his city, he had to know about it.
He picked through the papers absently. It was weird thought… His city. It had always been his city in the sense that it was his home and where he had grown up, for better or worse. But when did New York become his problem? He picked up a stapled bundle of the paper. The bottom sheet was a destroyed, but the others were fine. He flipped through it absently. He knew the answer to that question. It became his problem when his uncle died in his arms. He had taken up the responsibility of protecting New York on that night. “You wouldn’t understand,” he said to the downed mugger, who returned his words with an angry and pained grunt. Peter tapped the man with his foot. It wasn’t hard enough to hurt, but it was hard enough to tell the man that he better not try anything. In the distance, he heard the police sirens. Someone in one of the nearby buildings must have heard the commotion and called the cops. That was he cue to get out of there. He sighed and webbed the packet to the wall. They would know what to do with it.
He took one last look at the paper and cocked his head when he recognized a name on it. “Fisk…?”
“Spider-man! Put your hands up!”
Peter groaned and complied. He didn’t need bullets flying everywhere; not when there were civilians who couldn’t dodge. “Captain Stacy!” he greeted. “Long time, no see! How are ya?”
“On your knees!” Stacy snapped, aiming his gun for Peter’s chest.
Peter suppressed a sigh and he was glad for the mask hiding his face. The last thing he needed was the police captain seeing him with an attitude. “Wish I could, sir, but you see… I’m late.” He knew Stacy wouldn’t fire. There were two people in the alley who could get hit. No one wanted any stray bullets hitting anyone. “I think this was a hit,” he said and fired a web, yanking up and out of sight.
Now he was going to be late. It didn’t matter how quickly he could cross from one end of Manhattan to the other; he wouldn’t make it in time. He let his body fall into the regular and all too familiar motions as he tried to sort through what he had learned. He hadn’t gotten much from the papers. Someone was working for or with Fisk. What he didn’t really understand was why anyone would be going after the man. Sure, he was rich and powerful, but as far as Peter knew, the guy was as straight an arrow as one could be while still being ridiculously wealthy.
He shot a web and yanked up, propelling himself over a building with grace and ease. His powers still amazed him. Even though he had gotten used to it, when he leapt over buildings with the grace of a gazelle, he still couldn’t believe that these powers were his.
He’d have to do some research about Fisk and why anyone would be going after his workers for any reason. It was possible that Fisk had nothing to do with the hit. Maybe the victim had stolen the mugger’s girlfriend and now he had a score to settle. It didn’t matter, he supposed. Wrong was wrong for any reason; he just wanted to know what that reason was. Maybe it wasn’t his place to find out, but it beat studying for the math test he had tomorrow…
Test! He landed on the back of the school yard on the football field just as the bell rang out, signaling the beginning of the day. He cursed as he ran to the gym locker room to throw on some clothes the he stored there over his suit. In his rush, he almost forgot to remove the gloves as he raced through the halls. Maybe his science teacher would have mercy. He was only a few minutes late. He couldn’t afford another tardy. If he got detention, Aunt May would ground him; and for him, grounding had a few extra connotations.
He ran through the halls and skidded into his classroom while his teacher had her back turned to the class. She was writing the start time on the board and he snuck as quiet as a mouse to his seat. Harry Osborn eyed him as he did. Peter offered him a guilty grin and Harry lifted an eyebrow.
“Mr. Parker,” the teacher said without even turning. “Fashionably late, as per usual.” Peter said nothing electing instead to push out a small cough. “I’m glad you take your education so seriously.” She turned around. “Office, now.”
“Mrs. Castle…” Peter started as he stood. He knew he wasn’t getting out of this, but he had to try, at least. I was stopping a murder! He wanted to shout out the truth, but he didn’t. Life had taught him that he needed to keep everything on the downlow about his powers. No one else needed to know. He couldn’t afford to let anyone else find out. His problems were his alone.
He walked towards the front of the class to receive his referral while someone whistled the Funeral March quietly under their breath. Peter passed Gwen Stacy’s desk as he did. She offered him a sympathetic smile and he took it with a small nod. He grabbed the blue slip from his teacher’s hand gently, trying not to offend in any way.
“Peter,” she said quietly, “you are a brilliant kid. Don’t throw it away doing whatever you’re doing.”
He looked down at the slip and smiled sheepishly before turning and heading back to his seat to gather his things. He prepared himself to hear the same speech from the principal. He had heard it all before. He was a good kid. He had a mind that he shouldn’t waste. He was gifted and he needed to take his education seriously. He’d never get into college with how he was going. He listened to the principal use those same arguments before he was sentenced to detention for the remainder of the period. He wouldn’t mind the detention if May hadn’t been called. Now he would have to deal with that on top of everything else.
When the bell rang, Peter walked out of detention and ran straight into Harry. “I smoothed things over with Mrs. Castle,” he said as he helped Peter pick up the books he had dropped upon collision. “She’ll give you a chance to retake that test.”
Peter laughed. “You are a Godsend,” he said with a smile. Harry patted him on the back. “Thank you.”
“No problem. Where were you this morning? I called to ask if you needed a ride, but May said you were already gone.” Peter’s sour mood dampened more at the mention of his aunt. He hated that he had probably made her worry. Everything about being Spider-man made her worry. She hated that he was out at all hours and his grades were slipping and he couldn’t keep a job to save his life. She probably thought he was getting into drugs. Spider-man is a drug, he thought.
“I just… walked…” Peter said with a shrug.
“You walked?” Harry gasped. Peter gave him a half grin. “Peter, next time just wait for me to pick you up.” Peter smiled fully. He didn’t know where he’d be without Harry at this point. He was a good anchor in his life. He spent so much time protecting other people, it was good to have someone that worried about him so much, but he also didn’t have to worry so much about.
The two said their good-byes and he went to his classes until the bell rang, signaling lunch. He moved quickly to the cafeteria. It was better for him to be seated in his spot before Flash Thompson got there. He’d rather not deal with that right now. He got his food and moved to his spot, keeping his head down until Harry sat on the other side of the table. Neither spoke as they ate their food. It was just enough to be in each other’s company.
Peter poked at the freeze dried, rehydrated mashed potatoes on his plate before looking up at Harry. “Do you know anything about Wilson Fisk?” he asked. Harry nearly choked on his food. “Sorry…”
He shook his head, grabbing his water to steady himself. “Y-yeah, no… no problem.” He swallowed a large gulp of water. “Why do you want to know about Mr. Fisk?”
Peter shrugged. “No real reason,” he lied. He hated lying to his friend, but he needed to start researching this. Someone was trying to kill someone else and he was the best person to try and stop it. “I’m just doing a paper on him and thought maybe you might have some insider information.”
Harry shrugged. “I don’t know much. Dad keeps his personal and professional business separate. I think they are working on negotiating some contracts for some land on the bay. Fisk wants to secure building contracts for some warehouses, I think, and dad’ll give him some space in a few of them for a lower price.”
“Land?” Peter asked, shaking his head. Could this really be about some land deals? Before Harry could answer, his phone rang. He smiled apologetically at Peter and took the call. Peter tried not to eavesdrop. If it was something he needed to know, Harry would tell him. After a moment, Harry stood from the table and moved to the side away from all the noise. Just as soon as Harry got up, Peter’s spider senses went up, but it wasn’t high. He didn’t dodge the water bottle that was hurled at his head. Sometimes he needed to take a few hits. A year ago, he couldn’t dodge those hits. He shouldn’t be able to dodge them now.
“Hey, Parker!” Flash boomed, sitting beside him and pulling him close as he put his arm over his shoulder. “How’d your test go?” His group of jocks laughed at the joke that wasn’t even that funny.
“It’ll go pretty well tomorrow,” Peter grumbled. “How’d yours go? Did all that tutoring help?”
The good humor in Flash’s eyes faded and his grip got firmer. “You think you’re funny, Parker?”
“No,” Peter grumbled. The last thing he needed was to get into a fight. He really didn’t need another referral today. Flash’s grip on his shoulder got tighter. Peter gave him a pity wince so that he thought he was doing something.
“You wanna meet me out back?”
“Hey, Flash!” The boys turned to a girl with platinum blonde hair walking towards them. “Why don’t you and I head out. You’ve got an English test next period, don’t you?”
Flash narrowed his eyes. “Need a girl to fight your battles, Parker?”
“I’m not embarrassed by that,” Peter said. Flash smiled at him and patted his shoulder before standing.
“Library?” he asked Gwen. She nodded and he started for the door, his group following in tow.
“You okay?” she asked.
“Yeah…” He avoided her gaze. “Thanks.”
She smiled. “Don’t mention it.” She waved him off and trailed after Flash and his group. Peter rubbed his shoulder. The move wasn’t because Flash had managed to hurt him. It was more for show than anything else. He rested his head on the table and waited patiently for Harry to return. His food remained untouched until the bell rang. The cafeteria went into an organized frenzy and he watched the others move around before Harry came back to pick up his tray.
“Anything exciting happen?” he asked Peter. He only got a shrug in response. Harry knew that Flash had probably bothered him while he was alone. He didn’t want to admit that Gwen had to assist in that. He could take Flash in a heartbeat. He could do all these things, but he didn’t. He had chosen to remain the weak, pathetic kid instead of using his powers for personal gain. He finally looked up at Harry and noticed that his friend’s face was paler than usual.
“Harry? Everything okay?”
“Yeah… no, not really…” he said. “That was my dad. One of his employees was attacked by an assassin and Spider-man this morning…”
Peter hadn’t been able to focus on anything throughout the rest of the day and he was worried that his grades had suffered for this, but how could he? He was now a suspect in the assault and attempted murder of one of Mr. Osborn’s employees. He wanted to talk to Harry about it, but he didn’t know how to breech the subject. He wanted to go to Harry’s house that afternoon, but he knew he needed to go home. May was going to kill him and he’d rather deal with that. After he had changed out of his clothes and got his suit on, he snuck out of the school yard and took to the buildings.
How had this happened? He knew that the police didn’t exactly like him, but they had never tried to pin an assault on him. He clenched his fists as he fled through the air. While his mind worked on that, another part tried to come up with a good excuse as to why he was late this morning. May wouldn’t buy any of it, but he wanted to try and offer her something; anything to put her mind at ease. Ever since Ben had died, she had been a wreck whenever he didn’t come home, or whenever he came home in pain.
While his mind was busy, his spider senses shot up to about an 8. He didn’t have time to dodge the incoming attack that disrupted his flight pattern and sent him hurling into the nearest building. He slammed into the wall and then hit the ground hard. He didn’t even see what had hit him. He stood slowly and looked for the person who had came after him, but he saw no one.
His senses spiked and he wheeled around in time to dodge the end of a spear. He leapt away from his attacker and landed to face her. He was surprised that she was in fact a female. He hadn’t seen too many of them in his battles thus far. She was wearing a rather plain, black suit with her black hair pulled back in a ponytail. She looked young; only a few years older than him and her face was partial obscured by a white hand print over the right side of her face. “Hey, whoever you are—” he started, but she moved like any trained fighter and swung the spear at him. He backflipped back, bounding away from the attack.
She was fast; he’d give her that, but she didn’t seem to have the powers he did. What she did have, though, was either bravery or stupidity, because she kept coming after him. He jumped away from the tip of the spear, but she outmaneuvered him. He was still getting the hang of fighting people who could fight back. His usual targets of muggers and petty thieves didn’t usually put up much of a fight. This woman, however, was determined to unbalance him. He shot web globs at her, but she pranced around them like a ballerina. They danced, but he didn’t even know why they were fighting. “Look, lady, whatever I did, I’m sorry!” he snapped just before she landed a punch to his face. He was sent into the wall. The punch was harder than he had been expecting. Beneath that suit, she must have had some powerful muscles.
She fought well and what was worse, she fought like him. Everything about the way she moved was reminiscent of his fighting style, mixed with advanced martial arts and dancing. She was light on her feet. As he dodged another kick, he realized that she was herding him into an alleyway. He tried to dodge away, but she blocked him with the spear and threw him back, where he summersaulted on the cold pavement. The way she had nothing to say unnerved him. She had hardly even made a sound since their fight had started.
He looked up the sides of the buildings on either side of them. It seemed odd that she would herd him this way. He could easily escape the onslaught and she would never be able to traverse the steps of the fire escape in time to catch him. He kicked out, sending his attacker back several feet. “Sorry, but this is tedious. And I’m late!” he added, hoping she didn’t mind that he was ducking out early. He jumped onto the wall and crawled up, keeping his body tightly close to the bricks. He expected her to shout out in annoyance, but she remained as silent as she had been since their fight started.
He pulled himself onto the rooftop and crouched, panting. That could have gone better. He looked down at the alley to find that his assailant had gone. He shook his head slowly. Whatever she had wanted, clearly it hadn’t been important enough for her to stick around. He sighed and looked up at the sky. It wasn’t getting dark yet, so he figured he could make it back and be able to blame it on a delayed subway or bus.
As he stood up and prepared to fire a web, a warped voice spoke to him from the roof on the other side of the alleyway. “Fisk sends his regards,” the mechanical voice hissed. Peter’s senses sprang to the point where it physically hurt, and the roof was suddenly ablaze with machine gun fire. Peter didn’t get a good look at this new attacker before he was forced to dodge a hail of bullets. Now he knew why she had herded him into the alley. She had wanted him on the roof.
He ran towards the edge of the roof and just as he lunged off the roof, a bullet tore through his shoulder. He shouted, but tried to ignore the pain. He didn’t want to be around to see who had set up the trap. He fired a web and yanked. Black dots sprang into his vision as another bullet ripped through his leg. Unable to keep up the swinging, Peter fell to the ground and half ran, half fell forward. All thoughts of Aunt May and how late he was, or the tests he had done today and would do the next day faded from his mind. Somewhere deep down, he knew his attackers weren’t following him. Not many people survived one gun shot, let alone two. The good thing about being so new to this game was that not many people knew how he worked.
The bad thing was that he was inexperienced enough to be lured into traps and shot at.
Peter stumbled and fell over a laid-out trash bag in another alleyway. He didn’t move. Already his healing factor was working on the entrance and exit wounds of the bullets, but the blood loss was disconcerting. He tried to stand, but he slipped on his own blood that had mixed with the water on the ground. He hit the ground hard and remained there. I’ll just… rest my eyes for a minute… he thought drowsily. As he closed his eyes, he felt his phone vibrate in its pouch.