“Spider--” He’s halfway across the rooftop and it’s still a thrill to see him still. “Don’t rush off?” I never meant for him to know my real name, never meant to know his, but all the banter and all the circling around and posturing has to come back to something intentional, doesn’t it?
“Look, we both know you’re not gonna do anything rash.” Regarding my literal person-sized sack of loot. “What do you say we sit down for a second?”
I can see he’s not sure. “Promise I’ll be nice.”
“Somebody give you a ball of yarn, or something?” He sighs. “You’re acting awfully proud of yourself. “
“I did just pull off the heist of the century.”
“Heist of the week, maybe. What were there, three guards?”
“Yep. And a Super Hero.” I sidle up next to him, glance up. With that mask it’s difficult to read him, but it’s still Parker, right? That nerd from Typing class.
“I’m not sure you get to claim that one as a victory, considering we didn’t actually fight.”
“Maybe if you’re good, we’ll spar later.” I wrap him up in a hug from behind.
“Hey, so if you add a backpack to your costume design, are you gonna call it your Cat-pack?”
Oh, he’s not getting away with that. “Only if you call yours your egg-sac.” The retching noise he makes behind his mask is sufficient reward, so I move on. “Sure I can’t sell you on like, a Spider-lair located somewhere a lil more central?” Sitting for ten minutes on the roof turned my shoulders into stiff, jagged bits of rock, and storming out on the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen didn’t help at all. I’ve been playing sports my whole life, doing heists for nearly two years, and neither of them come close to the rush of--of today. “You could put a neat little logo on it. I know you like logos.”
He grins behind the mask. “Hey, marketing is all about Brand Awareness. But trying to open up a midtown branch seems like it’d be a lot of trouble.” We’ve run out of roof, though, and I have hella doubt about my grapnel holding up after all that. Besides, you need arms to work a grapnel and mine are done. I’m gonna have a hard time washing my hair tonight, let alone hoisting myself across a busted line.
“Yo, uh…” Maybe we can break into this building and catch an elevator down. Where are we? I don’t fucking care at this point. The whole breaking and entering thing might tack an extra half hour onto the commute though, and I have a policy about being in costume past sunup. Plus, what would we do once we hit the street? Call a cab?
I hold out a plaintive hand. “Lil help?” He zeroes in on the glove , reaching out to check the grapple, but- “No, like physically. Spider, I try to make that jump and you’re gonna be down a partner.” He flicks his fingers over my wrist anyway, checking the mechanism over. Stops when I suck air through my teeth.
Maybe it’s not just the shoulders? He’s still for a moment, then looks up.
“So, we’re partners?” Oh my god.
The eyeroll is unconscious. “No shit, Sherlock.” I just wrap my arms around his neck, and my legs around his waist. Being piggybacked around the city isn’t exactly my idea of a triumphant return, but then, we did just save a bunch of people. And, we took down a badass cyborg mercenary, which, apparently exist.
He’s warm. Swinging brings a funny kind of vertigo when it’s not me ; the timing is weird, and I can feel the give in those webs. But I could get used to it.
“So, uh, do you want me to drop you off at home, then, or…?”
Mom’s traveling for work this week. Home is an empty house and a ‘caregiver’ that will almost certainly be concerned about my growing collection of bruises. So far, I’ve been playing off as sparring practice. But she’ll eventually wise up and actually call the dojo, won’t she?
“I want ice packs and some devastatingly bad tv.”
“So, chill at mine, then.” I mumble something vague and affirmative into his shoulder, but he keeps on. “One might even say, ‘Netflix and chill’?”
I pick my head up just enough that I can whisper directly into his ear. “I’m gonna karate chop your larynx later.”
“Before or after Bachelor : Survival Edition? ”
Mrrrm... “After. I’m behind.”
He laughs. Everything is fine.
The world has soft, fuzzy edges that don’t harden until gravity slows down. Where are we? We’re...oh. Clambering though Parker’s window, apparently. And my ass hurts because...we hit the frame. Good to know.
I’m laughing helplessly as Spider fishes us this way and that. “C’mon, stick the landing!” It’s almost a shame he does, because the exhausted frustration is bordering on adorable. I make up for my disappointment by immediately flopping onto his bed slash futon setup. Dude’s been prepping for dorm life since he was born.
“Hey, hand me my bag before you go?” It’s in his closet, which is two steps that way. Steps I don’t have to take, though, seeing as Spider’s committed to his role as friendly neighborhood pack mule. He tosses the bag underhanded.
“I better be getting 5 stars for all my extra services.” Out the door he goes. Down the stairs. Two at a time, if the creaking is any indication. How’s he still got energy?
Changing from Cat into Felicia is a pretty quick process, all told. Boots, gloves, suit, goggles and ears. My bag’s got soft things and now that I’m seeing myself all blotchy and swollen I find myself grinning.
We won .
Whole big-money operation couldn’t even stand up to a couple high-schoolers in drag. Weak bastards. We’re on the way up. I gotta see if I can pull any more of Dad’s old contacts, maybe start chasing down a few connections. That Scorpion guy didn’t come from nowhere, and if he’s a reasonable response to having a shipment threatened, I expect there’s more like him.
Not a problem, if there’s two of us.
When Spider walks in, mask pulled up over his nose, he’s got a box of cold pizza, a half dozen bags of store-brand frozen veggies, and two bottles of water. He sets all that down and tugs his mask off, hair a jumbled mess. “You’ve got hat-hair.” I’m a little bleary, reaching for him, and he closes the distance with a frown.
“Felicia, uh...you look like a truck hit you. No offense. Sure you don’t want to hit up a hospital, or, like, a really fancy veterinarian? “
“Ha. Give.” I reach and grab his face with both hands. Smushy, smushy. “Go change.” Raising his hands in apparent surrender, he steps into his closet and returns a moment later in people clothes. Costumes are shot. I’ll have to see if I can talk him into accepting another one from me.
“Are you sure about the not-hospital thing? Cause I’m pretty sure I can swing getting you one of those. Hospitals, I mean. We could even go in a car. “
“Dude, shut up. I’m doing way better than ol what’s his face.” My shrug’s a bit stilted. “I was promised bad tv.” He’s hesitant, hovering, and I scooch a little to the side, pat the futon like I’m trying to get one of my cats to jump up. “C’mon, Parker. You can help ice me down.”
We’re lolling on the couch like so many bruised apples when a pebble hits the window.
I’m still thinking about whether it’s worth turning down the trashy tv when the window slides open silently. Mute panic crosses our faces as we both attempt to shove all the dropped costume bits under--couch? Blanket? Couch!
“Heyyy guys.” A flash of red above the windowsill. MJ’s all bouncy confidence, hopping over my discarded gloves and Peter’s wadded knee pads. “Did you guys see the rose ceremony last week?” It’s five in the morning. Why is she here? What’s my reason for why I’m here?
I’m still frozen as she swipes my goggles to the side, dangling them from her wrist as casual as can be. “I hate to be out of the loop on this stuff.” She insinuates herself between Parker and me, all comfortable and easy.
Through the open window, I faintly hear muffled yelling. The sound’s low, masculine, loose with drunkenness. This early in the morning? Yikes. “Red…” Maybe she doesn’t recognize anything? Spider was using his newer costume, and I try to keep a lowish profile, all things considered.
Why’d she know to come over here, anyways? Is ‘drunk parental rampage’ the reason she usually comes over? Shit. That’d explain why May’s all supportive and--“ ‘s a little early to swing by, doncha think?” I shoot Parker a look and he hurriedly wads his mask between the couch cushions.
“Swing’s a funny choice of words.” That’s it. She knows. We’re going to jail, or--Maybe we have to kill her? No, Spider never would. I don’t think I could. She’s soft.
There’s a bruise on her upper arm, fingers clear as day over her pale skin. The chill of nerves jittering up my back turns hot, clenches my hands into claws when there are no claws, because I’m not Cat, here, I’m Felicia and --
“Grab some peas, Red.” I look across the way. Mary Jane’s window is just there. Bed sheets still rumpled. From where she was presumably watching Spider fail to get our collective asses through the window in a seamless manner.
Another point for the ‘lair’ concept. I’m buying an apartment this week. Pretty sure I have an ID that’ll work for that. “You ever heard of Krav Maga?” I press the bag of frozen veggies to her shoulder. “Lessons at 4, meet here. Saturday morning. “
“Surprise me again and I’ll clock you. “
Her expression falls for a second, but then she’s grinning. “I surprised you?”
Wound together as we are, I feel an uncanny sense of novelty. It’s weird. I’m still shaky-mad thinking of MJ’s dad being a useless piece of shit and it’s distracting enough that I’m letting the whole secret identity thing go, for a second. “It’s past my bedtime.”
“You sleep?” Peter, as if shocked. “That’s a shocking development.” He’s grinning, the little shit.
“No kidding. 4 am martial arts and crime fighting on the side?” MJ’s nonchalant, propping herself up on an elbow. “Do I need a costume for that, then?” I flash a look to Peter and he shakes his head rapidly.
“The crime or the krav maga?”
“Wait, you guys do crime?”
“Yeah, do we do crime?”
Oh fuck me, we’re back to this. “Shut it. Show’s back on.” I flop back into the entanglement of limbs and half-close my eyes.
There are worse ways to survive the day.