Peter had gotten used to life as a college drop-out but that didn’t make it any less embarrassing to see old friends - especially MJ. So much had changed for both of them in the year it’d been since they’d last seen one another, she was now married and mother of a precious baby girl, he on the other hand had dropped out and been forced to move back into his childhood bedroom at his aunt’s house.
The town house Mary Jane shared with her husband and daughter was sleek, white and modern. The late afternoon sun cast a dappled light through the room, sparkling of the rose gold frames of wedding photos and family portraits that covered the walls. Peter sat on the beige couch fidgeting nervously as he listened to MJ quietly gossip about their old high school friends while cradling her baby in her arms. She apologised that Peter couldn’t hold Annabeth right now as the small baby was currently bonded to her arm. She showed Peter where their skin was fused together.
“She’s just at that age where babies start sticking to their parents,” MJ explained. “She'll come unstuck in about ten minutes I think, than you can hold her, isn't she beautiful?”
“I thought babies stuck to their parents from birth?” Peter spoke quietly so he wouldn't disturb Annabeth.
“No they don’t, silly.” MJ laughed. “The love has to be felt both ways I think, that’s what the nurse told me anyway, babies need time to get to know you before the bond occurs.” MJ smiled at Annabeth who was resting sleepily in her arms.
“Here I think she’s unstuck now, you can hold her.” MJ gently placed the baby in Peter’s lap and moved his arms into the correct position so he was supporting her neck. “Isn’t she beautiful?”
Peter looked down at the baby's face, she had rosebud lips and was frowning up at him confusedly. “She really is MJ, you must be proud.”
“Of course.” MJ beamed. “But Peter how rude of me, I haven’t asked you how you are?”
“Oh you know,” Peter shrugged gently. “Just work, work and hey for something different some more work.”
“Ned told me you have two jobs now?”
“Yeah I’m working at Delmar’s, as well as my photography job at the Bugle.”
“Delmar’s, you mean the deli?” MJ frowned.
“Yeah I mean, it’s just temporary, but Mr. Delmar’s a good boss.” Peter winced, feeling self conscious about his minimum wage job.
“And I heard you left college before graduating?”
“Oh yeah, um... I did.” Peter felt uneasy, he wasn’t proud of dropping out, he hugged the small baby in his arms a little closer. “It’s just, it was to much with patrolling, and work, but I am going to go back, I’m just taking this semester off.”
“Oh Peter, I know you will, you’re so smart and there’s nothing wrong with taking some time, but have you thought about giving up Spider-Man for a while? Just until you finish studying?”
Peter shook his head. “No, I can’t do that, Spider-Man is to important.”
“I know he is,” MJ sighed. “It’s just a shame that’s all, I worry about you.”
“Oh no please don’t worry, it’s okay really, I’m on track for next year, I promise.”
“That’s great honey.” MJ started gathering up some of the baby toys that were scattered around the floor. “And how have things been for Spider-Man?”
“Good,” Peter smiled. “It’s really good actually”.
“That’s great Peter, I’m glad. I’ve seen a lot of positive media coverage for him, I mean you.”
“Oh, awesome,” Peter squeaked feeling even more awkward than when they had been talking about his job at Delmar’s (how was that possible).
“Oh Peter guess what?” MJ clutched his arm. “I got a part on a TV show.”
“Wow that’s so amazing MJ. What show?”
“It’s a crime drama, it’s just coming out so you won’t know it. Isn’t it exciting though? It’s not a lead role or anything but I’m pretty stoked, we’re going to have a party here to watch the first episode when it airs, you'll come won't you?”
Peter gently stroked the babys arm. “I wouldn’t miss it.”
They talked for a while longer and than he was standing in the doorway and MJ was hugging him goodbye. He felt relieved to get outside into the cool night air. It was good to catch up but something about seeing MJ left him feeling low. He changed into his Spider-Man suit and webbed his way home, the thrill of swinging between buildings cleared his head better than anything else.
A loud bang from above scattered the pigeons who had gathered around Peter. A rope unfurled beside him and Peter looked up to see a man wearing a red and black suit, that covered him head to toe, clambering over the side of the building. The man abseiled towards him startlingly fast and came to a sudden stop beside Peter.
“Spider-Man!” the man grinned at him as he swung on the end of the rope. The grin was obvious even through the mask that covered his face. “I knew it was you, I saw you from down below and thought it was about time I introduced myself.”
“Deadpool's my name.” The man stuck his gloved hand out. “Team ups my game.”
Peter took Deadpool's hand, who shook it vigorously. “Ah Deadpool? I don't normally run into people halfway up a building.”
“Well I'm not surprised it was a mission getting here Spidey.” Deadpool unhooked himself from the rope and sat down next to Peter, swinging his legs which dangled precariously over the shallow ledge. Which was feeling a lot more cramped now that Deadpool's bulky frame was hogging most of the space.
“So what do you think?” Deadpool asked.
“Think of what?” Peter sipped at his coffee.
“A team up Spidey, imagine it, you and me, we could be Team Awesome, Team Kick Ass, Team Red, although Team Red we’d have to invite Daredevil to join us.”
“Oh um, I haven’t considered being part of a team up.” That was a lie, he'd often fantasized about teaming up with Captain America or Black Widow but the avengers didn't seem to know he existed.
Deadpool put one arm around Spidey's shoulder the other gesturing towards the city. “Think of it Spidey, all the good we could do if we worked together. The criminals we’d take down.” He snatched the coffee out of Peter’s hands, pushed his mask up, and finished it in one swig. “The little old ladies we could save.”
Annoyed over the stolen coffee Peter shifted from the ledge and used his sticky fingers to cling to the wall. “Honestly I don't know if you'll be able to keep up with me.” He began climbing towards the roof.
“Oh I can definitely keep up, don't even worry little spider.” Deadpool leaped to his feet and franticly started attaching the rope back to his harness.
Peter reached the top of the building and jumped gracefully onto the roof, he looked back down and was surprised to see Deadpool not that far behind him. He was pulling himself up the rope at a ridiculous speed, Peter couldn't help but be a little impressed.
Deadpool pulled himself over the edge of the roof. “See, I can keep up.” He wheezed “Piece of cake, Spidey.”
“What does a team up entail, exactly?”
“Oh just the usual superhero stuff.” Deadpool began pulling the rope up. “Save some people, land some sick superhero moves, maybe even get some good press.”
“I don't think you'll get good press hanging around me, the Bugle hates me.”
“No one listens to the Bugle Spidey, everyone knows the public loves you, I could use a bit of that you know, it's hard being a hero with a reputation like mine.”
“Wait, what is your reputation?” Peter took a step back suddenly unsure about the large man.
“You haven’t heard of me?” Deadpool sounded disappointed. “Ah, it’s, I suppose it’s a little dicey, but that's all behind me Spidey.” Deadpool waved his hand in the air as though he could flick the past away. “I want to be a proper superhero now I want people to look up to me, like they do you.”
Deadpool had finished spooling up the rope and had stuffed it into one of the many pockets on his belt. Peter noted the two katanas strapped to his back, the holstered guns, one on each thigh, and the knife hilt sticking out from the top of his left boot.
“I dunno.” Peter hesitated, unsure what to make of the man.
“You’d be in charge,” Deadpool raised his hands in the air. “Promise to do everything you say.” he winked through his mask.
“I guess we could do a trial run.” Peter hoped he wasn’t making a reckless decision.
“Wait, did you say yes?” Deadpool looked altogether too pleased.
“Not exactly, we'll do one patrol together and see how it goes.”
“That was easier than I thought.”
“Don't get excited I said just a trial run, one time.” Peter held up a finger for emphasis.
“Oh Spidey you've made me the happiest super hero in the world.” Deadpool stepped forward, arms reaching out, Peter backed up quickly avoiding the hug.
“Meet me on Saturday and we'll patrol together.” Peter jumped off the roof and webbed himself away before Deadpool could answer.
“So all the data we've collated so far is really starting to build us a picture of what the actual underlying cause of the bond is.” Ned spoke around a mouthful of pizza. “It's actually going against a lot of conventional wisdom Like for instance, did you know that a bond cannot be formed if there isn't feelings on both sides. Like, I think that's such a widely held belief that the bond can be caused by just one person's feelings because it means that people can save face when they stick to someone they shouldn’t.”
“Avoiding embarrassment is a pretty strong motivator.” Peter enthusiastically attacked his slice of pizza.
“Oh yeah, that seems to be the conclusion, I mean imagine you're married and suddenly you stick to your coworker, how do you explain that away.”
“Are you just studying adults?” Peter asked.
“Oh no, we're studying across all ages, some of the results we're findings about teenagers are also going to be really embarrassing for a lot of people, because the general public believes that puberty causes people to get stuck to others almost at random.” Ned paused to gulp down some of his drink. “That isn't the case at all, it still has to be caused by two people feeling a strong loving emotion towards each other, the only difference is when you're going through puberty you're feelings can change pretty rapidly.”
“But you can imagine how big an impact this research is going to have when it comes out. Like, see celebrities, for example, they go to such extremes to avoid contact with anyone, even covering themselves completely when they're in public, that's actually not necessary at all,” Ned explained excitedly.
“And it's going to make some instances of bonding a lot more difficult to explain, you're not going to be able to blame just one person for causing all the issues.” He concluded.
Peter had stopped eating, instead choosing to stare at his plate morosely.
“Oh, sorry man,” Ned finally noticed Peter's dejected look. “Are you thinking about that time?”
“I was trying not to think about that time,” Peter replied.
“Hey it's okay, we all get stuck in strange ways during high school.” Ned reached over for the half slice left on Peter's plate. “You gonna eat this?”
Peter pushed the pizza towards him. “Yeah it's just that's gotta be the most embarrassing thing I've ever done.”
“Well look on the bright side, the research shows that it's never unrequited, so when you got stuck to MJ she must have had feelings for you too.”
“I think that make it worse?”
Ned didn’t answer, instead chewing loudly while Peter relived the horrible memory of getting stuck to MJ in 10th grade and even though MJ had been really kind about it, the rest of the school had not.
“Sooo how is the,” Ned lowered his voice to a stage whisper. “Spidey stuff going?”
“Oh yeah it's going usual, as usual.”
“Any ‘Man in the Chair’ work you need me to do?”
“Nah.” Peter pulled out his wallet searching for change to cover his half of the meal. “Oh wait, there is one thing, have you heard of a superhero called Deadpool?”
In a second Ned had his tablet out of his bag and was searching Deadpool. “Hmm, there’s no superhero named Deadpool.”
“There's a mercenary though, is this him?” Ned shoved the tablet under Peter's nose, showing him multiple pictures of the red clad man from the rooftop.
“Yeah that's him.”
“He sounds kind of dangerous Peter.” Ned was taping at the screen of the tablet bringing up different search results about Deadpool. “Is he a new archnemesis?”
“No actually he wants to team up with me, to fight crime.”
“Oh” Ned stopped what he was doing and looked at Peter. “Is that a good idea? It says here he’s very dangerous.”
“He said he wants to be a superhero.”
“Are you sure he’s not trying to trick you?”
“I said I'd meet him on Saturday for a trial run at it.” Peter nervously fidgeted with the change sitting on top of the bill. “Honestly, I have no idea though”.
“Hmm” Ned thought for a moment. “You have to message me everything that happens! And message me when your patrol finishes so that I know you’re alive, and tell me exactly what he's like, and if you think he's actually a good guy or not, don’t leave me out of the loop this time.”
“I wouldn’t dare” Peter laughed.
After they finished their meal Ned headed back to the lab. Peter put on his spider-man suit and headed to the rooftops to take some pictures for the daily bugle. Taking photos of himself and selling them was so embarrassing, but the bugle paid good money and he couldn't afford to stop doing it, at least not yet.