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AI (The Boy Who Loves You)

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“Back again, Peter?” Mrs. Cox, the head librarian asked kindly. It was no secret that Peter was her favorite, a model student if ever there was one at Queensborough College. She also saw him in there often enough, she wondered if he didn't just live in the janitor's closet.

Peter shrugged and bashfully tilted his head. “Yeah, gotta study like hell to have any shot of acing my history final.” And his Introduction to AI Literature final, which he was sure he could at least bullshit. Because english classes, right? Besides, his history class was all stuff they’d covered in gradeschool, basics like the AI Rights Act and the evolution of AI. But he hadn’t exactly gotten the best grades on those subjects in HS, and he really couldn’t afford to fail now. He needed those base requirement credits. Now biochemistry and math? Peter was super ready to ace those.

Mrs. Cox shook her head in sympathy at the brunet. “You’ve got Mrs. Sable this semester?” It wasn’t like Peter full on grimaced, but yeah. It was enough for the librarian to reach out and squeeze his shoulder in sympathy. Mrs. Sable was well known to be, well, brutal.

How to balance your home, work, school, and secret life, by Peter Parker. Peter grumbled in his head. It's not like his teachers knew about his extra-curriculars, but every once in a while an extension or some leniency might be nice. Well, no better time to go over what he knew than oh, 24 hours before his first final, he figured. Sure, his first final was in General Calculus I, but he was gonna nail that one. He only had 49 hours before his final in history, so that's what was on the agenda for the day. And as Peter sat at one of the tables in the back, bringing out a heavy textbook with that in mind, he was definitely not thinking about jumping out the second story window.

It was common knowledge that AI integration into society began with the emergence of superheroes and villains. They brought new tech to the table. Then, with AIs and advanced robotics already being created, like Vision/Ultron/Jarvis/Aida, it tracked that androids would become the next big mainstream thing. In reality, people took to AI’s being part of the everyday world rather well, and at a moderate pace. Like the desktop being the norm, to the laptop. Or the Nokia to the Iphone XLI. Peter couldn’t afford the XLI, but it was an apt analogy (one he could even work into an essay).

In the present, androids were everywhere. Helping out with things ranging from doing jobs too dangerous for humans, leading to the AI Rights Act - which Peter was currently poring over in his obnoxiously large text book - to helping the elderly and working moms. He smiled, remembering how happy his aunt's AIde made her after his uncle Ben passed away. Even if Happy did burn dinner more often than not. He also knew so many kind souls working at The Network, from his teenage years.

This was the world Peter was born into. The doctor who delivered him was an android guy. His nanny had been a Holobuddy, until his parents.... Basically, none of this was news. But studying it for a class, well he just wasn't a, you know, history major. This stuff mattered to Peter’s best friend, Ganke, though, and it had mattered to his aunt and uncle. And it very much mattered to NYC's protector, Spider-man. Because while the majority of society agreed that AI was beneficial on the whole? There were still those against AI and waves of anti-AI crime to fight off.

So Peter? He had to at least pass this damn test. Or what kind of activist or hero was he?


 

One could agree that living in a world filled with super-villains and heroes would be enough to contend with for the average New Yorker. Any day some fight could decimate your apartment. Insurance premiums were sky-high. Your highschool bully could up and bond with a symbiote. Life was tough. So yeah, just surviving was enough for the average person, definitely. But Peter Parker was decidedly not the average person. On top of studying for his damn finals, he had to go and be one of the heroes.

The pay rate for being a masked hero is unfortunately shitty. Because Peter also had to make money somehow, he had landed a job making Spider-man podcasts of all things. Which he luckily got to send in online, saving every measly spare moment not playing said hero or in class or busing all the way into Manhattan, in the library. Like now. Basically, at 24, Peter had enough daily stress to give himself hives. (Well he had gotten a stress rash once, as well as early stages of Erythema ab igne, but those went away quickly with his healing factor). So he figured, If he got passing marks and could still save the day, he was managing just fine. He didn’t worry over rent, more often than not. His college apartment was decently outfitted, his kitchen was always at least stocked with frozen dinners and bagels. He didn’t go hungry, except when he just forgot to eat. Which was... well he was getting better about that, okay?

Peter also had a great group of friends he’d met his first year at Queensborough Community College. Friends who helped him move when he finally transitioned out of May's place. Friends who treated him like a regular guy, which he was, also more often than not. There was the fiery MJ and kind-hearted Gwen, both part of the LGBT club he went to, and then Ganke from Robotics and “he’s a little confused but he’s got the spirit” Harry who he wound up neighbor to. It wasn't long until they figured out that Harry shared his class in Biochem with Gwen, and MJ knew Ganke from her Pre-calc course. After that, they formed a chat group, and were thick as thieves. Every so often they’d all get together or a couple of them would meet up for drinks. Like they had plans to do that Saturday.

And then there was Yuri. The HoloBuddy left in his apartment by the previous renter. It had apparently been a mutual decision, and Yuri seemed to be happier with Peter. They could banter for hours, and Yuri even linked up with Peter's suit to send him police scan info on patrol. They were snarky, and they were warm, and Peter loved coming home to them. To sit on the couch and watch Teen Titans or Orphan Black with them.

Peter was never very lonely now.

Actually, Peter’s life was pretty good.

 

----

 

Deadpool’s life, on the other hand, was pretty, what's the term? Trashfire.

Wade Winston Wilson was unarguably the ugliest MF in NYC, and arguably the ugliest in the western hemisphere. Sub-sequentially, beneath the brash exterior of Deadpool, Wade was fairly lonely. Even his HoloBuddy, Hal, was an asshole to him. Much like the one he was named after. And Wade didn’t even have the heart to ask to reset him because that would be cruel. And Deadpool was often cruel, but come on! Hal wasn’t some mobster who got his rocks off dealing with underage girls and illegal arms dealings. Hal was, ultimately, there to help him.

The Holo also could choose to fuck off and leave Wade, but he didn’t. And even if Hal was an asshole sometimes, the Holo would still adjust the lights and draw the blinds when Deadpool had a Bad Day and play music in the livingroom on a Good Day. If Hal chose songs like Little Einstein’s theme song or Self Esteem, well, that was negligible. Often, all Wade had was that fucker.

Of course Weasel had suggested Deadpool get an AIde or Companion. And even if he had said it flippantly, it wasn’t like it was taboo or all that uncommon to have one. Deadpool certainly had the money. But then he’d have to say why he was applying for one, so that they could match him with someone who would understand his needs, and Wade couldn’t do that. Wade couldn’t say “I want a Companion because my skin looks like a blobfish fucked a jackfruit and I’m tired of everyone screaming at my face.” So he didn’t.

Then there was the small fact that he was Deadpool. He couldn’t just apply for help. There just had to be a more discrete company than StarkBots (goddamn Tony) or HomeMakers, one that wouldn’t document his Companion or him in any official city register. So until Weasel could magic up some unofficial option that actually fucking worked and wasn’t unethical as shit, Wade would do without. Because he was Deadpool. Not some lonely Austen novel nobility pining in an empty mansion, thank you very little.

But it wasn’t until months had passed since Wade even began considering it, and Spring was ending, that Weasel found ArachAI. A strange little start-up on the underground market.


 

 

“Hey, douchenozzel!” Weasel had called as soon as Deadpool entered the Hellhouse bar. Usually Weasel didn’t acknowledge Deadpool until he was in the owner’s face (and slumped over the counter), so that was rather odd. Deadpool whipped his head around before pointing at himself in shock. 

Deadpool had just been kicked out of Sanctuary, an AI Brothel in Hell’s Kitchen. And the rejection made him feel a little sore. Though often he would go to Sanctuary, just to have someone hold his hand and let him rant about how bad Green Lantern was or talk about Zachhari Levi’s nerdy ass in the old 00′s show Chuck, sometimes he was just too bloody to be let inside. The owner, Negasonic Not-A-Teenager-No-Mo' was openly not keen on him in the first place. This time, she had taken one look at his regrowing arm and scanned the empty left eye socket under his mask and sent him packing with a “Not today, Satan. Not even once”. Even her girlfriend Yukio, who was sweet on him, had agreed. Albeit sadly.

See, Deadpool had a face not even an android could love. And although he had eventually won over the two with his endearing (read: stupidly annoying) personality after his very first disastrous visit, he could understand why they couldn't let him in, let alone stand him, more banged up than normal.

Maybe it was something in their coding. Most androids were created with the ability to recognize when a human was sick, although only the AIdes or Companions really cared about that. But it meant that when they saw Deadpool, they saw cancer. Along with a mutation that made his cells renew and still stay sick and wrong. It was an unnerving sensation to them. They were also pretty good at feeling his wrongness through the mask, unlike humans, so his suit didn’t help matters either.

Luckily by the time Deadpool had stalked to Hellhouse from Sanctuary, he’d mostly healed. “Weas!” Deadpool crowed, excitedly bounding from the door to the bar and throwing his arms across the counter to hug the man once he got there, which Weasel neatly dodged. “I knew it! You missed me!”

Weasel grimaced at the thought (although begrudgingly, he was Wade’s friend, on pain of death he'd never admit he actually cared). “I did not, you overgrown murderchild.” He snapped, as Deadpool took a seat, chin in hand. “I’ve just found an android company on the low, so be fucking grateful I spent precious time finding you a fakemate.”

Deadpool grew menacingly serious for a second as he shot back “Androids aren’t fake, mate. AI Lives Matter.” But then he lightened, knowing Weasel meant no prejudice, and pumped his fist. “You found a match? Fer realsies?” He clasped his hands in front of his chest, batting his eyes. Which Weasel could just sense through the mask. “All for moi?” Ugh. Deadpool being cutesy. Gross.

“Regrettably.” Weasel deadpanned. “And I’ll give you the address-" Deadpool made grabby hands, "after you take this job you owe me.” He finished as he reached under the counter and then tossed a gold card to the merc.

As Deadpool scanned the coded info, thinking it only a small side-trip on his way to companionship, he couldn't help his eyebrows raising in confusion as something caught his eye. “Political assassination?” He asked, looking up at Weasel. “That’s not really my M.O. Why this guy?” Really, his deal was more the hands-on scum of the earth, not those who pulled strings. Unless there was a lot of money involved.

Weasel scoffed. “Senator’s looking to be the next 45.” And he turned to grab a bottle of the Ciegrimites liquor Deadpool had brought back from off-worlding once, pouring a shooter of it for him. It was about the only thing strong enough to affect the merc.

“Say no more,” Deadpool grinned. Gunning down someone that bad, got him really revved. All hot and bothered to think of the ways to unalive him, really. “Fucker’s got a one-way ticket to Vivisection-ville.” And on that note Deadpool downed the burning liquid and disappeared.

Weasel just shook his head as Deadpool skipped off. "Man, I hope ArachAI is what he needs." He grumbled. Because otherwise, they were all pretty screwed.


 

 

Meanwhile, Peter had been having an unusually good afternoon. After a long week, he was finally able to get drinks with Gwen and Harry at Local Bar & Grill, the aptly named hang-out spot near their apartments at Jeffery Gardens. The three of them were doing a mid-finals suicide outing, because they’d mostly burnt out on studying and tests and whatever happened in the second week of finals, happened. It was also just really nice to see them outside of Biochem. The bar was understandably crowded for a Saturday, and there was a live band playing Pete Yorn’s Undercover. Which Peter was rather enjoying. Especially when Gwen was trying to sing along despite not knowing a single word when he left their table.

Keyword: had been, Peter lamented. Keyword: Was. Until, well, someone had to ruin it.

“Hey sweetheart. What’s your name?” Asked a smiling, mostly innocuous douchebro, his hand on Peter's arm. The guy had intercepted him on his way back with the next round.

Peter would have kept walking without answering, but if Peter tried to pull away from the guy's grip, he’d slosh the three rum and cokes he was already struggling to hold. In situations like these, Peter always had to make a choice of making up some random gender-neutral name, or avoiding answering altogether. He only gave his name if it was A) someone he was out to outside of school, B) anyone on campus, C) a cute girl or guy at one of the gay clubs he went to, or D) someone who might become a friend.

This guy was definitely not any of those, so Peter chose the second option of deflection. “Nonya,” he quipped, trying to take a step away.

The guy’s brow furrowed at the obvious brush-off answer, and then his smile turned a little.. more concerning, honestly. “Well," he purred. "If you won’t tell me your name, cutie, I’ll just call you my girlfriend.”

An unpleasant tingle went down Peter’s spine that wasn’t Spidey sense in nature, although his senses had already had his hackles up from the moment this guy approached. Peter frowned, before turning to face the stranger with a falsely saccharine smile. “Sorry. Not a girl, not your friend,” he shot back with just a little too much Spidey snark. He could handle guys like this all the live-long day. In or out of the suit. So game on.

Luckily he didn't have to. Gwen had noticed Peter’s situation after looking for him when he took too long to get back with the drinks. She could instantly see what was going on, and it made her bristle. After all, she had to stand up to jerks like that herself on the daily. Gwen intervened, smoothly inserting herself between the two before the strange guy could respond to Peter’s announcement. (Although internally she was cheering after overhearing that) She knocked his arm away from Peter and wound her own arm around her friend’s bicep, smiling at the guy like a jackal. “I’m sorry sir,” she told him chirpily. “I’d like my boyfriend back now. Thanks!” And not stopping for an answer, she swiftly guided Peter away while douchebro was left shocked and fuming.

It wasn’t that unusual an occurrence, unfortunately. Not for him, not for Gwen, not for MJ. Not even in the future, although it was admittedly better than in the past. Yet somehow Peter still never got used to it. Once back at their table, he visibly relaxed. Sighing as he untensed and set down their drinks. “Thanks Gwen, you didn’t have to do that.” Peter admitted quietly, smiling at the blonde as she left him and walked around the table to take her place next to Harry.

Gwen shrugged. She knew he could handle it, but what were friends for? You know? But Peter knew that. “Well, you can owe me then.” She said instead. “Girl’s brunch next time you’re up for it?”

Peter shrugged. It was actually really kind of her to offer. “I’d love that,” he admitted. And truth was, he would. Whenever he felt like that again. “Though MJ will be mad you called dibs,” he tacked on.

Gwen threw her head back in laughter, a little tipsy already. Peter’s comment derailing her from the mood the unpleasant encounter had incurred. “Her girlfriend won’t be,” she said, meaningfully, cornering Peter with a wink. “Susan’ll be grateful MJ won’t be mooning over the prettiest twink to pretty femme ever.”

Peter covered his blush by taking a hearty sip of his drink. Averting his eyes at the reminder that MJ had been into him when they first met. He was also glad he had friends who could rib him like that, because sometimes close friends just get it.

Harry just shook his head about the whole thing as he looked between his girlfriend and his good friend Peter. He often worried about Peter, but they often didn’t want him to step in for them and he respected Peter too much to piss them off. Him. Either worked, to Peter, but Harry still didn't quite get it. “I’ll get the next round.” He offered, instead of getting lost in thought. “So, who’s up for a game of ‘best guess as to what’s gonna be on the Biochem final that we didn’t cover in the course.’?”


 

 

It was only early evening on Saturday when Deadpool finished Weasel’s job, whistling American Idiot the entire time. Much to his target's annoyance. I mean, until he was all deadski. Then Deadpool was happily skipping up to the building Weasel had begrudgingly texted him the address to, which turned out to be a mall on the cusp between Brooklyn and Queens. Deadpool had been unable to sit still the entire taxi ride to 8801 Queens Blvd. Hoping his (potential) future Companion would soon be at his side (and squashing the voices in his head saying no Companion would agree to working with him).

There wasn’t too much information on ArachAI, the company Weasel had found, other than they were staying under the radar while they built their brand. They had put out a discreet inquiry for someone to test their first model Companion android and all data gathered was guaranteed to be completely anonymous. They couldn't afford or take the chance to have any early failures get out. It was risky, but they seemed ethical and it was worth more than just a shot to Wade.

He daydreamed of spending time with someone other than his wretched self as he found the mall directory. Someone he could hold, someone who could hold him, in a way Hal definitely couldn’t (and wouldn't, honestly). Then, once he located the correct store number, Deadpool was quickly making his way to the unassuming business-front hidden down a mostly vacant corridor. The sign on top of its entrance was a radioactive green, reading only “Arach”. As the business technically wasn’t up and running yet or public about its nature. And if anybody was scared by the sight of a fully-suited Deadpool walking through their mall in Queens, at least nobody screamed about it.

The receptionist herself didn’t even jump when Deadpool slammed the doors to the office open. She was a petite young woman with short purple hair and large octagonal rim glasses. Her labcoat was just a little large on her, Deadpool noticed as she stood up with a smile. A nametag on her front read ‘Head Engineer, Olive.’ She was also expecting him.

“Ah, Mr. Wilson,” she greeted him, knowing his name and details from the man named Weasel, who had answered her team's inquiry. He didn't scare her, probably because what would be fear was replaced with scientific fascination over his healing factor. “Please, come with me.” She gestured towards a meeting room through an adjacent door.

“Yes ma’am!” Deadpool said gleefully, still filled with excess chaotic energy.

Once inside, he couldn’t keep his motormouth shut, however. “So what do they look like? Do they have a name? What’s their personality? Do they have more or less than four limbs? Can they dance the tango? Salsa? Do they like chips and salsa? Shit, can they eat?” He went on, as Olive patiently listened. Gathering up papers to go over with him.

“Now, Mr. Wilson,” Olive began, interrupting Deadpool’s tirade that had gone from questions about their android to a one-man inquisition over rights and independence for androids as a whole. “As we told your friend, we only have one android at this time. They have agreed to stay on as part of our company after manufacturing, and as with the big namebrand androids, are free to choose whether to accept or deny any position with a client. Do you understand?”

Deadpool’s face fell, glad ArachAI weren’t slavers (because then this meeting would get bloody), but sad because he fully expected to get rejected in the end. “I understand,” he replied, but then his face lifted in hope again. “So when do I get to meet them?”

At Deadpool's dog-headed enthusiasm, Olive finally laughed. “Not so fast. I’d like to know my friend is in good hands, if he accepts.” The android was her protege, after all. She’d customized the initial AI programming and helped him learn and adjust. She’d been the one to download him into his body, which she had wired herself. This meant so much to her... but for Deadpool, this seemed just as important, which is why she'd agreed to this. She just had to know for sure.

“They’re a he!” Deadpool exclaimed, latching onto that one detail he had of the android. He went every which way across the board in any dimension or on any planet, but he was glad to know, all the same. A Boy! Just like his crush! His mind supplied excitedly. Deadpool couldn’t contain it. “What’s he like?”

Looking off in thought, Olive thought of the boy’s short lifespan and her time working with him as he gained cognizance and began to form a personality. “Young,” She said. “A joy to be around.”

Deadpool immediately scoffed at that, tipping back in his chair. “Well now you just sound like every teacher describing their most difficult or boring student to their over-loving parents ever.” Of which he had been the former. Even as a child, pre-experimentation, Wade was a rambunctious and lovable disruption. I mean, not to his father. But- nope, bad headspace. Think of kittens and katanas, Deadpool.

“Well, you’ll see when you meet him,” Olive allowed. “I’d like to know more about you, however.” She paused, gesturing to Deadpool’s person. “It’s clear you’re the well-known merc ‘Deadpool’, so you make adequate income?” She asked.

“Want my bank statements in Euros, Dollars, Pesos, Yen, Rands, or Bitcoin?” Deadpool rattled off, leaning forward so his chair was back on four legs. “Whatever he needs, I’m good for it.”

Deadpool knew it was expensive to keep a Companion. A healthy portion of operating and contract cost paid to the company went to the contracted android themselves, and then there were out of pocket fees for upkeep. It’s why androids working as Aides or Companions were registered, so that incompetent contractors could be made accountable for poor return care. 

Olive shook her head. “As long as you can cover the electricity cost. His charging dock isn’t the worst for energy consumption on the market, but it still takes its toll.” She paused, tilting her head as if to affirm to herself that there was nothing else on that front, before looking Deadpool in the eyes again. “Well, next is care. What are you expecting from a Companion?”

Deadpool frowned. He knew this question was coming, but eh, it still hurt, so he deflected. “I’m looking for the Baby to my Johnny, the Louise to my Thelma, the Jack to my Ennis, yes shut up I know I’m Louise and Jack in those analogies, nobody needs to know that.” Deadpool trailed off. He cleared his throat. “I’m looking for companionship?” He finally stated as a question.

Of course, Olive more or less had been given a rundown of Wade’s misfortune of a face, and the way loneliness drove Deadpool crazier than normal. She let him answer anyway, judging his nervousness and sincerity on her own, before finding it acceptable. 

“Alright, Mr. Wilson.” She paused, looking down at a sheet of paper in front of her for a moment. “This last question may be a little rude, however I have to ask. You will not harm your Companion’s body, attempt to hack their mind, or otherwise inflict damage upon them?”

Deadpool blanched, nearly ill from the thought of doing any of that, and equally enraged. “Never!” He almost yelled. He was a well known mercenary, but you'd think people would have figured out by now that he had a code or something. “Scum who do that, they don’t get any mercy from me.” And he nodded to himself, confirming with the voices that it was an adequate reply.

For Olive, it was good enough. She’d be monitoring the input from the android to make sure, but it seemed unkind to deny the opportunity of having a Companion to one who so needed it. Besides, knowing the boy... they seemed unfortunately like a match made in hell. “Very well.” She smiled, standing up. “There’s paperwork to sign, if this works out. For now, would you like to meet our first android?”

“He’s here?!” Deadpool squealed, as a yes.

----

 

Olive wound up leading Deadpool further into the facility, which really shouldn’t have fit into its space in the mall. The short hallway she walked him through looked very clinical, white walls and black tiled flooring. There was at least one other door they passed, but it was clear they were headed towards the one at the end of the hallway.

Deadpool kept talking. “-would dare to, I mean could you imagine being at a Skrull reception and being asking that, like yes I’m the real Deadpool, for Pete’s sake-” Olive had opened the door, and Deadpool’s words died on his lips, as he got a look at the android within.

He looked young, slim and lean. Tousled, short brown hair. Wearing a white V-neck which showed off his smooth muscled chest and black scrub pants. Swiftly paging through a copy of The Bicentennial Man, and then those eyes were on Deadpool, and Wade melted into the warmth of them. Hazel, luminous, not quite brown, not quite green. You couldn't tell how nervous he was from the look of him.

The boy put aside his book, and rose. Approaching Deadpool and extending his hand. “Hello, Deadpool, I’m Pete.” He retorted, off of the only thing he’d heard his potential contractor say.

“Holy-” Deadpool started, but Olive coughed into her hand to stop him from swearing. At least around her, the boy wouldn’t be further corrupted. “Wow.” Deadpool corrected, shooting her a glare before taking Pete’s hand in his gloved one.

“Darling you are gorgeous. Are you a Pokemon, because I wanna Pikachu.” He announced, intent gaze and overt attention fully on Pete as they dropped hands.

Pete hadn’t had a name before, but he took to his first decision to take the name fast. He also hadn't met many humans, but Deadpool, or "Wade" rather, seemed like one of the good ones. Pete was also not a Pokemon, but he knew what they were. He knew quite a lot, obviously. For instance, he knew that Wade - as he’d been told about him - was fighting a powerful healing factor. The input of Wade’s affliction pulled at his senses, and he filed the feeling away, choosing to let it be forgettable background noise. And now he knew Wade knew terrible pick-up lines, too.

So Pete made his second decision with the man. An android in the care industry, with more manners or professionalism, would’ve played dumb about pop culture and gone straight into negotiations. Pete, however, was not known to keep a civil tongue. “Well,” he drawled, giving Deadpool’s mask some scrutiny as Wade shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. “You may be Gastly, but I choose you."

“Petey!!” Deadpool gasped, putting a hand over his mouth in an exaggerated gesture of pleased dismay. “You know Pokemon? Which is your favorite? Original 151?”

“Ditto,” Pete shot back at him, jokingly. “And I know everything. I’m the latest in advancements, tech-nically.” He drew out pointedly, crossed his arms with a smirk.

Deadpool’s jaw dropped. Oh he was doomed. “Was that a pun? Did you just pun at me? Holy Bea I think I love you.” If anything, Wade couldn’t have imagined getting along with his prospective Companion this well if given years to come up with plausible scenarios. Their banter just came out so easy. Almost artificially easy, to be honest. Not like when Deadpool and Spider-man met. There was always a different heat there, more unspoken words and uncertainty. But Pete, yeah, Deadpool could see cohabiting with Pete easily.

Pete leaned to the side to face Olive where she stood, a little behind and beside Deadpool, “wait, that’s not in the contract, is it?” He asked in dry humor.

“No.” Olive responded smoothly. Glad the two were getting along. While there were some who preferred or sought a more carnal intimacy with androids, whether for ill or for connection (and many a happy couple between the two!) a platonic Companion relationship was always best for all parties involved. But then, she knew Pete knew that she wouldn’t bring him anyone with intent of using him that way. Or 'using' him any way.

Pete nodded, assessing the red and black clad man in front of him again. “Shall we discuss the finer details then? Before I spend my dowry on booze and pills to numb the loneliness?”

Deadpool was pretty sure he was swooning.

Oh wait, he was.


 

 

The Network where Peter had volunteered pre-spider bite, was a mixed community which popped up in Harlem as androids gained independence via the AI Rights Act in the mid ‘30s. Taking up neighborhoods in Harlem and across the bridge in Mott Haven, The Network provided a relatively safe and quiet life for all its residents. The broke androids who couldn’t make it in central Manhattan, as well as plenty of broke humans, and Holos downloaded to avatars without a place to stay.

Being a prominent part of history, Peter had read about it in the news and heard about it in school, and a portion of his current history course covered it as well. But his connection to it ran much deeper, as you know. His uncle Ben had worked as a security guard at a bank there. When Peter was young, he remembered visiting Ben. Sitting on his uncle’s knee and listening to stories. Then, when Peter was a teenager, he had volunteered at their community center, escaping his bullies and realities of growing up. Becoming Spider-man only allowed him to grow even closer to the residents, providing the community with a little extra protection after uncle Ben was gone. Lately suspect ‘budget cuts’ had left The Network largely unguarded by the city. Budget cuts. Yeah right, Peter scoffed. 


It was so low, he thought, for anyone to target The Network. A place that provided so much for AI and humans alike. Shelters with charging ports of every generation of model, like F.E.A.S.T, where Peter had also volunteered with his aunt. Low income housing, facilities to plug in and do online work for petty cash. And they even had a recycled avatar program for AIs (android, holo, or otherwise), to switch into models left behind. The Network did so much good. How could people hate that? How could people want to wipe out AI?

Also, it may come as a shock, but yes, AIs could die. It was a myth that they could live forever. Glitches, viruses, degradation, corrupted data, endless things could take an AI from themselves and their life. Android Hospice existed solely to help AIs facing steady degradation. The Network had one too. One of Peter’s favorite elementary school teachers had wound up there, and Peter had sent her lots of cards. Cards with crude drawings of them holding hands. Cards that said “I miss you!” and “Thanks for reading Amelia Bedilia”.

Aside Spider-man, other protectors did keep an eye on the community, but no one could protect every area of NYC all on their own. Daredevil still had Hell’s Kitchen, Jessica Jones had Midtown Manhattan. Luke Cage - no, wait, he moved to Chicago. Hawkeye (both) had Brooklyn. But it was Peter who took The Network in on a more personal level. So it was Spider-man who arrived on the scene first.

----

It had been a relatively normal night around The Network. Residents getting home from work, or going out to work or play. Streetlights had already come on, traffic was slow-moving due to rush hour. Nothing worth a footnote in the weekly paper. Unfortunately, Spider-man didn’t get to enjoy the peace and quiet. Where Spider-man went, the front page usually followed.

Sitting on a roof, eating a tuna salad sandwich from Duane Reade, Peter was relaxed. Surprisingly confident about the history final he’d taken that day (Mrs. Sable could suck it), and excited about an OKC date coming up. Also, NYC crime had been steady, and that was good. Well, not good, but not increased, and so better than it could be sometimes. He was hoping to have an actual quiet night, before the black vans driving towards the county line passed him. Peter’s spider-sense went off as the two vans raced up to the largest apartment building in The Network, and he threw his half-eaten food down in frustration. Vaguely wondering if he could return later to throw it away properly, 'Every litter bit hurts' and all. But with Parker luck, probably not. And it was a really good sandwich, too. “Damn it, don't bad guys take a dinner break.” He growled as he swung after the vans.

Sure enough, Kevlar-outfitted men started jumping out of the vans as Spider-man caught up to them, and his senses turned to a screech just as an explosion blasted through the sixth floor of the apartment building. They’d evidently already had a man inside to set the charge. And the extra terrorists were there to gun down those escaping the fire that resulted from it. Triple damn it. Peter felt immediate guilt, hating himself for not making it in time. For being so close-by, and not knowing of the bomb. How many died over the years because...? What? Because he couldn’t be everywhere at once? But there was no time to dwell on that.

Spider-man slung himself over to the street, webbing away guns and shoving civilians out of the way of gunfire. Anti-AI crime was just.. so.. ugly. Why did humanity have to turn on every single new thing which challenged society’s ‘norm’? Peter said as much, as he secured a web and launched feet-first into one man with a taser. Like, “It’s 2062 what is the point.”

The terrorists had nothing intelligent to say in reply, as expected. Only spewing the same rhetoric fascists notoriously lived by in the past. What they once said against races, sexualities, genders, they now said against AI. Peter was impacted by it more than he should be, admittedly. The rights of others who didn’t fit in hit close to home, and so he tended to take his anger out on those who oppressed whole groups a little more harshly than with other low-level thugs in response.

Screams came from the roof of the building, distracting Peter from his inner grrr-people-fight-why, drawing his attention away long enough for someone to get a punch in. There were people trapped up there, fire spreading rapidly through the floors and licking out at the fire escape so they couldn’t get down. Worriedly, Peter realized he couldn’t web them to safety and continue to protect those on the street. He’d have to make a decision, or else hope for-

“No need to fear, Deadpool’s here!” came the merry sound of Deadpool’s voice. “Hey honey, am I late for dinner? Because it looks like you’ve burned down the house again!”

Peter huffed, but he didn’t have time to quip back. He was adept at cooking - thank you very much. He only caught Deadpool’s microwave on fire once. There was a time Spider-man had been roped into Deadpool Suicide Watch and as such had been a little frazzled, he was allowed to forget to check if the take-out container had tinfoil. Deadpool hadn't even thanked him for the food, he'd just laughed!

With a running start, Spider-man jumped onto the side of the building and began to scale it, using spider silk to propel him forward. Then, close to the top, he had to switch gears and throw an arm out to catch an android who’d jumped. Man, things would be a lot less complicated if civilians ever actually did the smart thing. Wait, is that Mr. O'Connell??

“Excuse me, wise guy! It’s super hard to make more dumb algorithm-fueled decisions if your hard-drive gets smashed!”

Mr. O'Connell just grumbled about overheating being worse as Spider-man lowered him down on a web and then returned to climbing. Hopping onto the roof next to his wife Marcia, who was holding a human toddler. Her eyes were old model, before color was introduced, but her gaze still conveyed her fear. Peter had met her once before he quit volunteering. “Please s-Saaaa aaave hIM him.” Her voicebox croaked. There was no way she had upgraded cooling systems to combat the heat from the fire which was rapidly growing. Fire engine sirens blared some blocks away, but they would be too late.

Spider-man narrowed his gaze. “You too, Mrs. O'Connell” he insisted as he held out a hand, but with the last of her operating power, she thrust the screaming toddler into his arms. And with his spider-senses suddenly on full blast, Peter had no choice but to swing to safety with the child tucked to his chest. Kicking him and screaming all the while. Behind them, an explosion rocketed out of the fire escape, consuming the woman along with the rest of the rooftop. Peter's heart clenched.

----

As much as Deadpool loved watching that boy’s ass above him from street view, he happened to hate AIphobes more. He barely registered the man dropping to the ground from Spidey’s direction and the fearful eyes of many peering from behind buildings. Everything seemed to blur, as all Deadpool saw were bad men with targets for faces. “Alright guys, gotta clean out before the wife gets back.” Deadpool growled, unsheathing a katana and neatly slicing one man with an upper-cut, bypassing his Kevlar.

“Wifey no-likey when she catches me leaving bodies on her doorstep.” Although now there was a thought, bringing his Spider-crush bad guy parts like some demented cat.

----

The blast disrupted Spider-man’s swing, and he tumbled onto the adjacent rooftop, protecting the little boy in his arms. Smoke billowing out from the fire next door overwhelmed them both, and Peter struggled to catch his breath and cover the toddler’s mouth and nose. Even as the child continued to wail and beat his tiny fists against him, coughing all the while. 

----

Deadpool wasn’t expecting the second explosion, and so he finished his decapitation of the last woman a little sloppy in his distraction. Instantly alarmed and worried about his hero. Bad Deadpool, taking your eyes off Spidey. Very Bad. He admonished himself. Turning his gaze and attention to the rooftops, scanning for that color pop of red and blue. “Aw shit,” he whispered as he spotted the younger man on the next building over, holding a removed glove over a child’s face. Spider-man was visibly struggling from the smoke himself, and Deadpool was already jumping up that building’s fire escape to get to them. Just as the fire trucks finally arrived on the scene.

“Hey Spidey, we’ve gotta stop meeting like this!” Deadpool yelled out, not stopping once he made it to the roof. He ran to them and smoothly scooped up the two boys, rushing to leap onto another building even further away. Good Deadpool. “See how great hanging out is, though? I get to learn so much about you, like you’ve got a thing for asphyxiation and you’ve got a kid! Do you have a kid? I sort of have a- nope, not saying, but don’t worry I’m totally ready to be a step-dad for you!” It was all he could do to rant and not let out his worry about Spidey instead. Spidey couldn't get a word out. Or process the grief tugging at him.

Deadpool grunted at the pain in his knees as they landed, and then continued running like a bat outta hell. Feeling Spider-man shake as he kept coughing, fueled by that grounding fear that his baby boy had to be alright. The child was also snuffling and hiccoughing quiet sobs from where it was tucked between them. Might have been nice, under wildly different circumstances, but-

“You killed everyone.” Spider-man growled tiredly as he regained himself enough to struggle out of Deadpool’s arms on the next rooftop. Half-falling as he wrestled himself away, before grabbing the toddler and taking a step backwards to look over the boy with concern. Though obviously adopted, the child had blue eyes just like his father's. Peter couldn't bring himself to give the merc behind him any more attention.

Deadpool made a strangled noise at being caught, but couldn’t hide the fondness creeping over him at watching Spidey holding the toddler. The relief at seeing Spidey had recovered from the smoke. The man scuffed his boot, acting sheepish at being caught. ‘Acting’. True, the only one he would probably kowtow to was Spider-man, but even then not fully. Not yet. “Aw, babe, they were really bad men. But you can totally punish me for-” At the suggestive tone in Deadpool's tone, Spidey finally turned.

“Nope.” Spider-man bit out. Nope nope nope. In the commotion on the street, he spotted Mr. O'connell near the burning building, and swung away from all things Deadpool before the merc could finish his sentence. “Nah to the ah to the no no no” He murmured. Bad song, yes, but catchy.

Deadpool caught it though, and it hurt. He was used to the brush off from Spidey, but still. Finally, he said lowly to himself. “I can take a hint” and watched Spidey handing the kid to his father (who Deadpool could really give a piece of his mind to). But seeing how drained and dazed Spidey looked... "His sign is stop. For now."

----

Down on the street, the boy's father was frantically asking everyone if they’d seen what had happened to 'Tommy'. When Spider-man landed in front of him, startling those in the vicinity, Mr. O'connell quickly snatched his son from Spider-man. Smoothing down the child’s hair, running diagnostics. Then, satisfied his son wasn’t in immediate danger, he thanked Spider-man profusely. "I left him there." He cried. "I could have lost them both."

Peter was exhausted. He didn't have time to unpack that or admonish the man for it. Once the man was out of sight, presumably on his way to an urgent care center to get Tommy checked out, Peter let out a deep breath. This attack was going to leave a mark on the community, and all of it had made him feel queasy.

He was just glad the pain-in-his-side Deadpool had showed up, or more innocents could have easily died. It was difficult to consider Deadpool’s methods, though even Spider-man had a moral quandary over whether terrorists should be spared to be prosecuted by the corrupted justice system. Leaving none of them left to question, though?

Deadpool watched Spidey from his perch on the roof. Wishing he could close the distance between them literally and figuratively, yet realizing just then wasn’t likely a good time. Besides, he didn’t really do ‘stick around once the authorities show up’ and he had to get home to set up for Pete! Still....

“Baby boy!” Deadpool hollered, hands cupped around his mouth. “Wanna grab post work-out grub?! My treat!” He had to try.

Spider-man canted his head upwards, glaring up at Deadpool. It wasn’t like he hated the merc, in fact he could even (begrudgingly) admit that he enjoyed their time together when not fighting. He just wasn’t in the mood to be around people anymore, so. “Sorry, I don’t consort with murderers!” He yelled back, even as his stomach growled in protest. Lamenting again that he didn't get to finish his earlier meal. RIP, tuna salad sandwich, I knew thee well.

Deadpool smiled though, glad to have gotten a whole sentence from Spidey. There hadn’t been time for their witty banter in light of the attack, besides, he was a lot more observant than most gave him credit for. He seriously did see that Spidey was affected by all of this, but oh how he missed their little talks! “But you do consort?!” He gleefully responded.

Peter shook his head, exasperated that Deadpool could twist anything he said. Deciding not to answer again, he swung off. Deadpool making loud exclamations of disappointment as he did so.

Chapter Text

The second, and last week, of finals had steadily drained Peter by Thursday afternoon. Aside probably flunking Introduction to AI Literature, his mind was also wont to draw back to the fire from Saturday. His friend Ganke had been pretty affected by it and lending him support was all he and his friends could do. People all over were mourning. But for the most part, the attack had only been big news for a couple days, before being swept under the rug. Sensationalism. Peter hated it.

It was also a terrible thought, but maybe if Spider-man and Deadpool hadn’t been there to stop it, cell phone videos of Spider-man swinging away with Tommy played on repeat, nobody would have cared at all. Or maybe it would be just like other tragedies, mourned for a while and then forgotten or overshadowed by bigger tragedies. Like nearly half a century ago with Pulse, or Christchurch. Or Flint, for that matter.

Spider-man could only do so much, just stopping nightly crime. May would tell him that was taking on too much as it was. Okay, everyone who knew would tell him that was enough already. It wasn’t his job to change society. And the fact that only four people knew? That made it even harder.

Speaking of those four who knew, just then Ganke jogged up to catch Peter in the hallway. “Dude! Wait! You’re like, stupid fast, jeez.” His friend complained, mildly punching Peter in the shoulder as he caught up to him. Together they walked towards the south end of the building, where right outside the south entrance there was the best cafe on campus.

Peter smiled, adjusting his backpack straps. “What’s up Ganke? I thought you didn’t have any finals today.” Peter wished he didn’t have a final that day. It was his next to last one, though, so at least he could see the end.

But Ganke didn’t have any, so he shook his head. Replying, “Nah, Robotics club meeting.” (was it ironic to be an android into Robotics?) “What about you, man? You look like shit.” I mean, Ganke could run a scan on his friend to find out for sure, but pretty much nobody he knew liked that. Especially not Spider-man, who had turned out to be his best friend when he first had the chance to scan the hero, out of curiosity. He just happened to know those readings a little too well because he knew Peter first. He’d also appropriately freaked out.

Peter sighed. Yeah, he felt like shit too. But he bumped his shoulder into Ganke’s arm to show that he was okay. “You should see the other guy.” Peter retorted. And Deadpool, because he was pretty sure the older man had gotten an arm cut off the previous night. Drug deal gone bad. For Deadpool. Who had been buying the drugs.

Ganke took Peter’s familiar tendency towards deflection in stride, shrugging. “It’s tough to be a bug.” He commented sagely. Peter regretted challenging him to watch as many Disney movies as he could in one night, at the start of the semester.

He even valiantly avoided saying that Antz was better, and coughed instead. “Arachnid.” Another cough. Ganke just rolled his eyes, to which Peter bumped into his shoulder. 

“Hey, we’re still on to play Lego Star Wars tomorrow, right?” Ganke asked as they approached the end of the hallway.

Ganke and Peter nights were a regular thing, playing video games or watching movies. Sometimes even busing over to The Uncommons for board games. That was their thing. Peter could go to the theater with MJ, go out to trendy spots with Harry, or have Gwen take him to the newest escape room. But with Ganke, Peter could just unwind and talk about Stranger Things or Zelda, Discworld or the Buffy comic reboot, as they played games in Ganke’s living room.

Still... Peter couldn’t help wishing the whole gang would get back together soon. “Yeah. Hey, have you heard back about if anyone wants to go see Pacific Rim 4 this weekend?”

Just as Ganke shrugged, Peter’s phone vibrated in his pocket. He took it out and scrolled past the old messages,

✓ Guys you will not BELIEVE. the package included stickers ok I would legit die for this company

Seen by: MJ

✓ Peter?!??? Did ur new binder arrive??? That’s awesome come show me!!!!

Seen by: MJ, Ganke, Gwen

✓ Not rn MJ I gotta go fail English

✓ How very dare

Seen by: all

Unread:

Hey! Who’s down for movie night at Harry’s this wknd?

As the ✓ formed to show that Peter had read that one from Gwen, another response came in from Harry.

Omg Gwen you can’t just volunteer my place I’ve done 0 dishes

Peter looked up at Ganke, who was also checking his phone. They’d both made it outside and were stopped in front of Cafe Oakland. “What do you think? Down for another Gay Science Gang sleepover?” Peter waggled his eyebrows.

Ganke smiled. “Yeah, why not?” They hadn’t all gotten together since before the semester had started.

On chat, Peter replied for the both of them:

✓  Ganke and I are in. We’ll bring the idea of a hint of a daydream of lime via La Croix?

Seen by: MJ, Ganke

✓  I hope by that you mean you’ll be frisky Fresca, or are bringing actual liquor.

Peter typed furiously, unable to accept defeat from MJ.

✓ You just won’t be satisfied until I’m a Fantana, admit it and shut up and drink my La Croix.

Seen by: MJ, Ganke, Gwen

Then he shoved his phone back in his jeans pocket. Ganke smothered a laugh as he read MJ’s furious replies. “Man, you two.” He commented wryly. Peter smiled a small, smug smile to himself in response.

When they finally entered the cafe, sitting down with their drinks (americano for Peter and a latte for Ganke), Ganke finally spoke up about the elephant in the room. 

“So, are you excited about your date tonight?” He smiled.

Peter groaned. “No,” He said. “Well, yes,” He was, technically, actually excited. “Felicia seems pretty cool.”

Ganke raised an eyebrow at Peter. “You mean totally hot. And not in an objectifying way, in a ‘bad bitch who could eat you whole’ kind of way.” Well, at least from what he’d seen of her profile when Peter had showed him.

Peter blushed. Okay, maybe he had a little bit of a type. Truth was, there wasn’t much Peter could do about his other, more morally-ambiguous crush-feelings. Besides the fact he didn’t normally have time to date. It had taken a bit of saving to afford to even ask Felicia Hardy out for dinner. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah maybe a bit.”


 

 

“You can’t do this, Norman! The technology doesn’t exist, to upload on such a scale-”

“Experimental trials are already being implemented. Don’t presume to tell me what I cannot do! The bastards want to sell my company? Embrace these petty ideals of corroboration with AI?”

“But sir, what you’re suggesting, well to be frank it’s genocide!”

“It’s our future, my future! I will rend you limb from limb before I see the board’s version be put in place. Now bring me Dr. Warren!”


 

 

Hal didn’t presume to know what all the fuss was about. He liked the apartment just fine with its only insane human occupant. He didn’t need a know-it-all newborn AI around. You know. Teenagers. Doesn’t matter what kind, right? Okay maybe he was just unhappy to adjust electricity for the new gaudy charging dock in the spare room.

After a long discussion back at ArachAi on Saturday, it had been decided that Pete would be sent to Wade’s apartment towards the end of the week. His charging dock had then arrived shortly after the merc had gotten home Sunday morning. Singing By The Sea obnoxiously as he set it up until Hal drowned him out with Beauty Underneath (little on the nose). Understandably that began a battle of who could pick the more annoying song. It didn’t end until Wade crooned out “I need words to tell you 'bout my pounding heart-” and Hal begged off.

Wade was also expected to buy a wardrobe of clothes and foods approved for Pete’s model (that which Pete could liquidize). Pete had sent him his preferences once they were connected on messenger, and Wade had spent the last few days running errands to stock up the apartment. He had most everything sorted, despite having had to regrow an entire arm.. Stupid spidey distractions, stupid katana-stealing dealers jacked on their own supply.

---

So now, it was Arrival Day. Hal had finally come to grips with the fact that maybe having Wade’s attention diverted to bother someone else might be beneficial to him. It gave him more time to gamble online and check out Love, Death & Robots anyway.

Wade was the opposite of calm anticipation, though. If anything, he was worse than before. Buzzing around his and Hal’s apartment to make sure everything was truly neat for once. To try and make it so Pete didn’t walk into a nightmare and then decide to walk right out, both out of Wade’s apartment, and out of his life.

Which of course led to Pete opening the door just as Wade was cramming freshly-washed dishes into a cabinet, leading to them crashing all around him when Pete said “Hey, Hal unlocked the door for me if that’s o- oh holy shit, man, are you okay?”

And then things went sideways. Well, more sideways. As Hal began to blast Amber, 311, Wade trying to catch at least one plate, Pete rushing forward only to trip, falling - Oh whoah, Amber is the color of your energy..

Pete yelped as Wade crushed plate pieces under his boots in an attempt to vault the kitchen island to help the android. You wanna know what brings me here, oh, Wade helped Pete back up, checking him over as Pete watched him, stunned.
You glide through my head, blind to fear, Pete lifted a hand to touch a healing cut on Wade’s cheek.

And I know why- “HAL SHUT THAT SHIT OFF.” Wade turned his head away from Pete and yelled desperately, resenting the resounding laughter of the Holo.

Pete, shoulders held by Wade’s gloved hands, startled by everything, began laughing hysterically. He’d seen funny vines and animal videos but nothing prepared him for this in the real world. But Pete reigned himself in when Wade looked back at him and he saw that Wade almost looked... hurt. Sad eyes.

Wade had trouble being seen without his mask. He had thought since the whole point of getting a Companion was to eradicate that barrier... maybe it would be easier to get it over with if Pete showed up while he was unmasked. Wade knew, logically, that Pete wasn’t laughing at him - or, well, not at his skin - but it still hit a sore spot. Which was too damn bad, because Pete’s laughter was beautiful. Wade huffed a false laugh in reply, just as the android gently shrugged out from his hold.

“So um, nice to see you again,” Pete tried awkwardly. “You’re a little nervous, I take it.”

“And you’re kind of like a graceless baby fawn.” Wade blurted out. Uhh... quick question brain, what the fuck.

But it brought a smile to Pete’s face, and all was right. “‘baby fawn’ is a redundant term.” Pete retorted, recovering. “And I’m not graceless!” he huffed, crossing his arms. Maybe he just needed to re-calibrate his spacial awareness.

Wade went to ruffle Pete’s hair and when he ducked, Wade shrugged. “Alright, Bambi.” he smiled. Indignant Pete was adorable. Good to know.

Another thing different in real life for Pete, was actually seeing Wade’s face. He’d been told, and he’d already scanned Wade (guiltily, without permission) and mapped it after initially feeling the wrongness when they met. Pete didn’t much care beyond curiosity, but he also detected something he hadn’t before.

The scars were hurting Wade.

Wade cleared his throat. “So, how does this, uh, get started?” He asked, going back to the kitchen to get a glass of water and oh, right. Sweep up first.

He didn’t catch the look Pete leveled at him. “Well,” Pete began. “You see when a person walks into an agency and they ask for-” when Wade didn’t hear the beginnings of his sarcastic reply, he sighed and followed him, leaning his forearms on the kitchen island. “Like friends, I suppose.” Pete answered honestly. “Like we put in the contract. We share each other’s company, I help you with lotion for your scars, or wound care-”

Wade shot up from where he’d been bending over with a dustpan on the floor, glaring at Pete. “That was not in the contract.” He could heal on his own, the young android didn’t need to be dealing with that gory shit. But Pete just glared back, leaning on the heels of his palms across the island. Having figured Wade would be difficult about it and not visibly backing down. 

Although under other circumstances, Wade would love to be staring into those doe eyes of Pete’s, instead they wound up locked in a glaring match.

Until after a straight minute (Pete timed it), Pete pushed himself back and crossed his arms sharply, tsk’ing. “Fine!” He muttered. “I quit.”

Wait. What? Wade lost all the steam he had, freaking out as Pete reached into his pocket and took out a folded piece of paper. He was reeling, no no no he’d already screwed it up, stupid Wade. “Pete, you just don’t need to deal with my gross skin hands-on, and you definitely have to stay out of anything to do with my job-” Wade protested, begging him to understand and only halting as Pete shoved the paper across the island. Pete looked pissed. Not even attractively.

“Is this your companion request?” He demanded, and Wade numbly took the form, unfolding it. Before he could answer, though, Pete continued. “Then I’d like to re-apply. And put those things in there.”

Damn. Bossy. Wade thought, stunned. He was more stunned, however, when a drawer beside him slammed open. The one holding pens and other knick-knacks.

“I like you, kid” Hal sent to Pete via the frequency AIs often use.

Most of all, Wade felt relief. And a little begrudging pride. He grabbed a pink hello-kitty pen to amend the contract, mumbling “they’re ganging up on me...” as he did so.

Pete just smiled triumphantly. And with a sudden thought added, “and school. If I want to take classes sometime, when I’ve been around longer.” He requested. Really, he wasn’t ready to start taking any classes right away, but he had looked up some courses nearby which interested him.

Wade smiled fondly, though not looking up. “Kid, that was already in there.” he said quietly. It was something he and Olive had slipped in secretly in case Pete ever decided that’s what he wanted.

“Oh.” Pete noted. Losing a bit of the wind in his sails. Starting to feel the weight of guilt from freaking Wade out earlier. Though, necessary evils. If Wade would stop being so kind and start being the ruthless contract killer he was known as, that would be so much easier on Pete’s conscious, thanks.

Pete was rocking back and forth on his heels when Wade finished, handing the paper back to Pete for him to sign. Then there was one more thing to address.

“Oh Hal~” Wade sang, and then Pete could hear that razor edge. It might have finally scared him if Wade didn’t follow it up with “I’M CHANGING MY NETFLIX AND SPOTIFY PASSWORDS, YOU TRAITOROUS LEECH.”

What a ridiculous threat! Pete had to stifle a giggle. The miracle was that Hal actually stayed quiet after that. Then Wade turned to him, and Pete straightened up a little. For the last time, Pete, at least try to act like a professional. “So, Bambi,” Wade chirped, “speaking of Netflix. Want to watch something after you settle in?” The hope Wade was trying to conceal with nonchalance was disjointing, so Pete just nodded.

Phew. Wade sighed. What a couple of... 15 minutes?Was that all?? That had been. “Alright, right this way my dear!” Wade deflected, throwing an arm around Pete’s shoulders, leading him around. Pete was walking, but it really felt more like being dragged.

“You’ve seen the lovely kitchen and living room, and we eat at the island.” Here Wade whispered in Pete’s ear, “It sounds fancier that way.” And he winked, before whisking Peter the other way. “Down this hallway is the bathroom, there on the right is Hal’s server room, where he mostly likes to record vlogs complaining about me - don’t worry, he rarely shows himself as a hologram anywhere else - then at the end of the hall is my room.”

Pete was busy linking with Hal and saving the layout of Wade’s flat, trying to keep up with the man at the same time. Then they stopped in front of the last door, on the left. “So this one is mine?” Pete guessed, going for ‘dry’ but ending on ‘awe’. His place with Arach had been okay, but it was a sterile, controlled environment. Everything Wade was not. Pete couldn’t imagine what was on the other side of that wall.

Then Wade threw open the door, and Pete gasped.


 

 

The restaurant Peter had asked Felicia to had been nice. The service had been nice. The food had been great, the prices not so much. And Felicia had looked amazing. Even Felicia had been nice.

Until they got to dessert, and then Felicia had given Peter a disappointed look, and had asked him, “can’t you just pick one?” And she hadn’t been talking about choosing between the brownie sundae or the tiramisu. 

Peter was past being furious when these things happened, he lied to himself as he swung through the city. It didn’t make sense to be sad, either. If he wasn’t what Felicia was looking for, then that was on her. Not him. Although I am mad I missed out on the tiramisu, he conceded with himself.

In his hand, Spider-man held a burner phone, which was currently recording. As he listened to the questions he’d already pre-recorded as Peter through his suit speaker, Spider-man answered through his voice changer. “Well, Peter, it’s funny that you should ask about the ramifications of sensationalism-”

As weird as answering himself for the SpideyPodcast was, at least it gave Spider-man a way to get his views out there. Yes, just so Jameson could tear them apart in his follow-up stream, but still. It was an escape. And most importantly, it paid.

Sirens wailed in the distance, stopping Spider-man short from answering another question. As usual, reprieves never lasted long. Too bad the more demanding job was the one that didn’t pay. Money, anyway.

He hit a small button on the knock-off smartwatch on his wrist, and his pre-recorded end speech cut in. “Alright friends, it’s time for Spidey to save the neighborhood!” Save the neighborhood, what had he been thinking? Spidey thought in disgust, as he switched directions to web the other way. “Tune in next week, for your one and only, SpideyPodcast!” Ugh. Was Spider-man a narcissist?! Don’t answer that, brain.

Spider-man continued to grumble as he followed the sound of the sirens. from parallel streets and alleyways. Yuri had already sent him the cross-street of where they were headed, so he didn’t worry too much about following them directly. He just swung, blindly, thinking about the night he’d had. Yuri had said some choice things about Felicia earlier, so he kept further musings to himself.

When Spider-man arrived, the scene before him looked pretty gruesome. An AI, ripped cords lain haphazardly around her android body. Coolant splattered, rivulets of it running from where her chest was bashed open. There was no chance that she’d uploaded before that happened. They were gone. Dead. Spidey dry-heaved at the sight, a hand to his mask, then he spoke roughly to the only one who could hear him. “Yuri, track all likely routes the suspect may have taken.” 

When Spider-man looked back at the body, it was even worse than he feared. He knew who that was. Whitney Chang. One of the biggest names in AI activism. This wasn’t a random attack. And the implications of that horrified him.

Thankfully, Yuri pulled him back to reality. “My algorithm is showing five possible escape routes the suspect may have taken, here are the top three most likely.

As he looked at the routes highlighted on his burner-phone, Spidey did his own mental calculations before taking one of the three on a hunch.

---

Fortunately, his hunch paid off. Spider-man found a guy in a stereotypical black ski mask, catching his breath in an alley a mile away from the crime. He was breathing heavily, his escape vehicle haphazardly parallel parked a street over. Into the phone he pressed against his face, Spidey heard the murderer say “yeah, it’s done.” and Spider-man saw red.

“Shit, it’s the spider!” The man swore into the phone, almost dropping it. As Spider-man landed in front of him, in his signature crouch.

“Then you must be a putrid fly,” Spider-man spat out. “Now who-” he paused to web away the gun the guy yanked out of his back pocket, wagging a finger at him. “Who’s behind this?” he demanded, slowly backing the goon into the alley wall. Because it was adding up. The attack on The Network, now the murder of a prominent activist....

But before Spider-man could web his suspect up appropriately, a shiver ran down his spine. Ringing in his ears moments before the shot-gun blasts, which prompted him into a backflip just in time to avoid the bullets coming at him from both ends of the alley. It’s not fair when they have back-up, he whined to himself.

Landing, just to spring onto the other alley wall when more shots were fired, Spider-man ground out, “Yuri, alert the police!” 

Copy.” 

With that out of the way, he turned his attention back on the suspect... who was getting away. Spider-man barely saw him round the corner and high-tail it down the street when a searing pain swept through his leg. “Futhermucker!” His nerves jolted as his skin went numb beneath the fabric of his suit, where the advanced taser prongs had bit through it and into his calf muscle. Spidey went down.

He didn’t have a chance to get back up, before two burly men were over him. The one with the taser jerked it back, ripping the darts out of his skin. As Spider-man shouted in pain, the second man brought a metal pipe (why is always a metal pipe?) down on his right shoulder. The resulting sound of his humerus bone fissuring was not reassuring, and Peter’s vision whited out.

You’ve sustained a significant injury, I’d like to call an ambulance-” Yuri piped up from inside the suit. Spider-man groaned, spasming as a kick hit him in the lower back.

Bile rose to his throat as he finally managed to shoot a web at Pipe-guy’s pipe, but he missed and wound up webbing the weapon to the guy’s hand instead of ripping it out of his grip. Parker luck. “No, Yuri, no EMTs. I’ll get out of this.” He said, repressing a whimper. I always do, Spider-man added to himself, a little frantic as he avoid a kick to the head, and mustering his energy, somersaulted between the two men and into the clear. Yeah, usually he got out of the worse scrapes, but lately he’d grown to heavily rely on... Deadpool being there. Without realizing it.

Thankfully, his other back-up arrived in a scream of sirens. The boys in blue.

Unfortunately, cop cars pulling up meant pipe-guy and taser-wonder were out of sight in minutes. Spidey ground his teeth from the pain in his side, leaning his good shoulder against the brick of the alley wall, to keep weight off his leg injury. When the cops briefly stopped in front of him, he shakily breathed out “that way.” and pointed where the criminals had gone.

As they took off, the gal who ran past last had the courtesy to ask if Spider-man was alright. She was blushing a little as she admitted she was a big fan. It made Peter smile, as he lied through his teeth. “I’ll be fine, takes more than this to knock me down.”

When she frowned, and hesitated to move, Spider-man placed his left hand on her shoulder. “Thanks for your concern, what was your name?”

“Jean.”

“Well, Jean. Thank you. Now shoo.” And he waved her off, watching as she turned the corner and went out of his sight. Then Spider-man let himself sag. It was gonna be a long ride home (no way was he swinging all the way back to Queens like this). It was an odd thought, but he even briefly wished he knew where Deadpool lived, because he would sure appreciate having somewhere closer to crash and lick his wounds. And not be alone.

---

It took an hour and a half for Peter to get back to Jeffrey Gardens. Getting dirty looks as he pressed Starbucks napkins to his bleeding leg on the way. Safe to say, it was the most uncomfortable ride ever.

All Peter wanted to do once home was take off the civilian clothes he’d thrown over his suit, peel that off, and then climb into a nice warm bath. He even heard the tap running to fill the tub once he unlocked the door of his apartment. He didn’t have time to mentally thank Yuri though, because their hologram projection was standing right inside with their arms crossed.

“Aw, dang.” Peter sighed. “Yuri, please, it’s been a long day-”

“Up.” They silenced him. “You don’t get to speak. You go out with this bitch I warned you about, then you botch an interrogation, then you don’t let me call you an ambulance-” As Yuri’s tirade continued, Peter sighed tiredly and walked right through them. They just turned, still admonishing, and followed him until he shut the bathroom door in their face.

Peter knew Yuri only got heated like that when they were extremely worried. So though the warm water seemed scalding on his wounds and he hissed in pain, Peter smiled.


 

 

Pete was staring at his room with his jaw open. The first thing he noticed inside were all the science posters - one of brain anatomy, the periodic table, a photo of Einstein. Next he focused on his charging dock, which had padding added to its interior and “sweet dreams” stickers all over the outside. As Pete walked forward in a trance, Wade stayed in the doorway and watched him with a big grin.

When Pete went to the dresser against the far wall, Wade couldn’t wait until he opened the first drawer to squeal, “I got you a Pikachu shirt! I hope you like it!”. Amused, Pete opened the top drawer to reveal a bright yellow shirt with Pikachu’s eyes, cheeks, and smiling mouth on it. When he turned around to thank Wade, though, the man just avoided his eyes before declaring “I’ll let you settle in! See you later!” And he disappeared.

Pete shook his head fondly. His client was... hard to pinpoint. “Is he always like this?” He asked Hal.

Regrettably” Was Hal’s only long-suffering answer.

With a shrug, Pete took off his plain white V-neck from the lab, and pulled on the yellow Pikachu shirt. Pulling the hem out, he looked down at himself to admire it. It was soft, and made him feel a little warmer inside. Perhaps a little too warm, he admitted with minor alarm as the cooling fans in his chest grew a little too loud. Eyeing his charging dock, Pete decided maybe a short nap couldn’t hurt....

---

30 minutes after Pete went to rest found Wade busily setting up the living room for a movie night. Blankets were thrown on the couch haphazardly from where he’d pulled them from a linen closet he forgot he had. Popcorn was popping in the microwave. Netflix was loaded up on the big screen. All Wade was missing was his Companion, he thought fretfully.

But Wade needn’t have worried, because Pete softly padded into the living room on bare feet just as the microwave dinged. “I hope you don’t mind, I took a bit to recharge.” Pete announced as Wade turned at the sound of the boy’s voice. Burning his fingers with the steam escaping the popcorn bag he was holding in the process. 

Pete looked great, Wade thought. In black sweatpants, as opposed to scrubs. And the Pikachu shirt, which added color to Pete’s skin and went well with his brown hair. Yes! “I take that much outta ya already?” Wade joked, filling the big plastic bowl he’d set on the counter. “Extra butter?” He asked.

Pete cocked his head to the side. “What?” he glanced at the bowl of popcorn, figuring he really didn’t need to ingest greasy anything. Ever. “Oh, no.” He answered. “Should I just..?” He gestured towards the couch. Had to admit it, Wade had done a great job of making the apartment inviting for him. With the addition of blankets and the TV on, the living room looked more lived-in and felt more like home than when Pete had first arrived. So when Wade distractedly nodded and mumbled the go ahead, he went and flopped onto the couch. Pulling a colorful Ash vs The Evil Dead throw blanket over himself.

And then, as Wade made his way over, Pete searched Netflix. Not on the TV, just, through the database using his mind. It wasn’t until he registered Wade waving a hand in front of his face that he sheepishly exited out and came-to. He was a little too sluggish in responding, though. Perhaps his response time needed re-calibration?

“Ground control to Major Petey, hello~” Wade cooed. Laughing as Pete finally blinked out of it and batted his hand away.

Pete frowned, searching for the reference.. “Ah. I get it. Falling back to earth now.” And then on a whim he sang duh do dah ah duh uh,

Wade clapped twice, beaming. “Space Oddity! Thought I lost you for a moment there. I know it’s hard to be around me, so if you want to mentally check out-”

“Wha? No!” Pete protested. He was going to have to work on Wade’s self esteem issues at some point. He didn’t like the way Wade was frowning at his denial that not wanting to be around him hadn’t been the case. Yeesh. “I was browsing Netflix. I haven’t seen much TV, and I was wondering if anything would catch my eye.”

At that, the skin where Wade’s left eyebrow should have been quirked up. “So did you find anything?”

Pete had been intrigued by The End of the F***ing World, actually, but he decidedly lied instead. “Nah. Wouldn’t know where to begin.”

Wade hummed at that, and patted Pete on the shoulder. Hmm. Making a decision, Pete surprised Wade by throwing the blanket he was under over his lap, before scooting over to lean into Wade’s side. Before Wade could say anything about it, Pete piped up quietly, asking “got anything in mind yourself?” Before tilting his head and turning his big brown eyes on Wade, so all Wade could do was stare.

“Uh,” Wade cleared his throat. “No, shut up. It’s not like that.” He mouthed to himself, before answering at normal volume. “I was thinking of re-watching The Ritual? Classic group-of-dumb-dudes get lost in the eldritch-horror-woods movie?”

Pete’s smile was soft, and his body was warm, and it melted Wade’s nerves clean away.

Pete took in Wade’s suggestion with a question to himself. See, Pete had a secret. He knew who he had been modeled after. He knew that Olive had worked closely with a then-barely-20 kid named Peter Parker. He knew that he’d been asked to spy on Parker since he was an AI running through server boxes, without a body. He knew a lot of what he was, was gleaned from monitoring a now-young-adult who didn’t know he’d been created yet.

Pete also knew from spying on text messages and twitter posts, that Peter Parker hated horror movies. So Pete simply said, “The Ritual sounds great. Let’s do it.”