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how to be an underdog (and avoid being a chew toy along the way)

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Peter Parker sometimes wishes that his life was at least half as exciting as it is. After three years of having to wrangle crazy villains and sometimes crazier superhero acquaintances, this prayer for some sense of normalcy was obnoxious in the way it reverberated in his head.

Screaming like someone desperate to save the life of another that was just out of reach.

Screeching like…

Peter leaped out of the way of a lashing tail.

Screeching like a spider-sense working overtime.

“Hey big, green, and handsome!” Spider-Man jeered from his position on a nearby building face. “I know this place sucks the life out of students, but can we deal with your anger in a more constructive way?”

He was met with a roar, the Lizard's sharp teeth flashed in warning at the spider.

“We could organize a demonstration,” a concrete planter was torn from its place and tossed in Peter’s direction, “Or is your anger more stress-related? There’s a floor on the library that brings these really cute dogs in for exam week and I think--” A chunk of sidewalk was hurled at his form, nearly clipping the back of his head. “Watch it!”

Spidey landed on the university sidewalk a distance away from the rampaging Dr. Connors, who was lashing his tail like an angry cat. Sparing a glance behind the transformed biology professor, Peter saw that the police line kept most of the lookie-loos contained behind a barrier of plastic shields.

If he didn’t know that the police were as prepared to shoot Spider-Man as they were the Lizard, he might’ve felt safe in knowing he had some form of back-up.

Spidey ducked under a pair of lunging claws, using the Lizard’s momentum to throw him up and over his shoulder. The creature hit the ground with a furious hiss and it’s limbs flailed as it scrambled to flip itself over and return the favor.

Come on, Lizzy, it’s so late,” Spidey mock-complained, “can’t you go crawl back underneath the cozy heat rock you came from?”

He moved to dodge another lunge like a matador, but instead of doubling back on his spidery opponent, the Lizard continued its charge towards the police line. The formation broke rank at the sight of the hulking reptile barreling towards them.

Snapping into action, Peter launched a web at Dr. Connors as he leapt towards the soon-to-be-scene of disaster. The web caught the scaly leg of the creature, sending it stumbling forwards.

The stumble turned into a fall as a second web caught the opposite leg of the Lizard, and it flailed its arms out on instinct. A clawed limb went to swipe an officer that was ushering a frozen student away from the scene, a blow that would surely cleave the man’s arm off if Peter didn’t reach the crumbling police line in time.

Spidey shoved the officer out of the way, (with maybe a little too much force than necessary the Bugle would surely report tomorrow morning), leaving himself to be caught by the falling villain.

Spidey yelped as claws made neat rows down his back, and the Lizard’s jaw audibly snapped shut as his scaly head hit the ground.

He maneuvered himself in time to avoid major injury, but the blossoming pain made his vision white-out for a moment, allowing the downed Dr. Connors to recover.

Peter’s spidey-sense blared as he rolled out of the way of a clawed hand that went to pin him, vision once again becoming fuzzy as his back made contact with the pavement. Small pebbles made themselves home in his open wounds, and Peter’s hiss in pain rivaled the one emanating from the dangerous reptile before him.

A dodge and a duck under two more swipes, Peter was getting tired of this dance. He has a mean 8 AM lab in the morning for Pete’s sake!

“Dr. Connors, can we finish this audition for 'Worst Godzilla Reject' some other time?”

Another duck and roll, further aggravating Spidey’s wounds. He wished he wouldn’t keep forgetting about his back injury in his adrenaline-induced haze.

Spidey returned a few punches, his fists scuffing on rough scales and knocking a few razor-sharp teeth loose from the professor’s mouth. The overgrown reptile staggered a bit, a hand clutching at its maw.

Time to wrap this up.

Peter swept the legs out from under Dr. Connors, who slammed into the sidewalk with a indignant roar.

Before the beast could gather it's bearings, Peter began to wrap up the Lizard in his webs, attaching him to the pavement for the cops to collect in a nice, albeit sticky, package.

What he didn’t foresee, however, was the jaws of the Lizard craning upwards in one swift motion and chomped down on Spidey’s lower leg. A crippling scream from the spider-hero echoed around the university center, and Peter could feel the teeth dig in and tear flesh as both figures thrashed.

Leg still in a vice-like bite, Peter hit the ground ungracefully in order to kick at the mouth with his free leg. A few good hits and the jaws retreated from his form as fast as they descended. Spidey let out a strangled whimper as he scrambled out of striking distance.

The Lizard made it's equivalent of a pleased grin, the saliva in its mouth running pink with the hero's blood.

“For that, you jolly green asshole, you get extra webs,” He wheezed out in between pain-filled breaths. “They’re...They’re gonna wonder if they accidentally picked up the Stay-Puft marshmallow man instead of an ugly dinosaur.”

Hobbling carefully on his good leg, he proceeded to coat the Lizard in layer after layer of silk, taking care to wrap the jaws closed and mummify the head in a way that still allowed Dr. Connors to breathe. The beast hissed indignantly under his restraints.

Spidey let out a wheezy breath, the adrenaline already starting to leave his body. He balanced weakly on his good leg, testing the condition of his now mangled one. Yep, definitely can’t stand on it, but he felt no broken bones. Just a flesh wound. A really, really painful flesh wound, but not one he couldn’t bounce back from.

Approaching footsteps warned him of the advancing officers, some of which still had their shields at the ready and eyeing both Spidey and the thoroughly-apprehended Lizard warily.

Peter placed his torn leg down on the ground while keeping his weight on the opposite. He wanted to avoid showing weakness around the NYPD, especially those officers that would spring at the idea of getting their handcuffs around an injured spider.

Keeping up his show of health, he launched into the air and away from the scene, giving the officers space to move in on the Lizard.



He didn’t get more than three buildings away when he decided to collapse in the courtyard of some darkened building, leaving blood spots on the empty basketball court that sat in the middle of the clearing. He inspected his wounds, finding that his lower left leg was bleeding at a faster rate than his back, which was expected due to how much more abuse it suffered in comparison.

He laid his head back on the cracked concrete with a sigh. “Ah… great.

He debated making the fifteen minute trip to his downtown apartment, but every swing had done nothing but put increasing pressure on his back wound, and looking back down at the steadily increasing puddle of his blood leaking from his leg he’s really unsure if he could make it to his bed before he bled out from the strain.

Adrenaline fully out of his system, he let out a groan as he felt the true extent of the pain he was in. Spidey went to push himself off the ground, dark spots dancing in his periphery as he touched his mangled leg to the cold concrete.

Head swimming in pain, he numbly decided he would wait for his healing factor to take care of the serious gashes before he went anywhere to take care of the rest. Nothing he hasn’t done before, he reasoned. He’ll just walk over and take a power nap in the bushes until the teeth marks are gone and then go clean up the remaining cuts! Easy-peasy!

He placed his injured leg down to take a step, and promptly passed out.




Francine’s blood ran cold when she heard Spider-Man’s agonized screams.

From behind the wall of riot police, she saw that the brightly-colored vigilante was on the ground, kicking at the face of the beast that had nearly careened into her a minute ago in a desperate attempt to free his leg.

He reminded her of those animals on nature documentaries that had their paws caught in a bear trap, pulling and writhing at the restraint, usually making the injury worse. She wondered if Spider-Man had a way to treat the injuries he’s gotten over the three years he’s been around.

A gruff officer told her to back off when they noticed her on her tip-toes, trying to see Spidey’s condition.

“Shouldn’t you guy’s check and see if he’s okay?” she pressed.

The officers huffed a laugh. “He’ll be fine,” a female NYPD agent stated matter-of-factly.

Francine opened her mouth to argue with the officer, to tell him that they should call someone to check on the hero, when she saw his red and blue form swing away.

“See? If he’s okay enough to make jokes and swing away, he doesn’t need an ambulance,” the gruff officer from before pointed out. “Guy’s probably a regular Tony Stark under that get-up anyways; probably has his own medical team.”

Francine’s brows furrowed in doubt. Did they hear the same scream as she did a second ago?

Resolve hardened in her gut and she began to sprint in the direction the hero went.




Turns out the trick to finding Spider-Man is to follow the webs. Barely visible strands of silk hung from the walls, reminding her of those plastic Mardi Gras beads suspended in trees after the parade leaves, only if they were made of delicate gossamer.

Each strand was about twenty feet apart, however, which didn’t sit right with Francine. It probably meant that he taking it slow, maybe due to his injury, she pondered.

At the beckoning wave of silk, she took a right turn into a dark passageway in between two of ESU’s administrative buildings. It led to a hidden area of campus; an unkempt courtyard that dated back to when the administrative buildings were used as student housing.

The only reasons that made current students seek out this place was the isolation, the cute swing at one end of the clearing, and the basketball--

“Oh fuck.

Francine froze in place. In a crumpled pile at the edge of the court was Spider-Man. In her shock, she forgot her purpose for seeking out the vigilante and almost turned back to get the police’s help, but remembered how callous they were towards his condition. Headlines flashed in her head of how the police were particularly interested in unmasking Spidey.

She tip-toed closer to the superhuman vigilante, movements slow and purposeful in case Spidey was aware of his surroundings and decided to bolt.

He didn’t stir, and Francine caught a glimpse of the pool of blood around his body.

“Oh, Christ ,” she tried to stave off panic, “Oh shit you are hurt.” She knelt down by his body, her hands ghosting over his form. His limbs were curled inwards much like a dead spider. Her heart caught in her throat until she saw the shallow rise and fall of his chest.

She fumbled to get her phone out of her windbreaker’s pocket, shaking fingers quickly calling for help.




Penny blinked into the bright screen of her phone, debating whether or not to even answer. She rubbed sleep out of her eyes and picked up the call.

“Francie this better be-”

Penny, thank god, so there was the Lizard that b-busted out of the Hesler building and Spider-Man showed up and was fighting it and-- and-- he saved me I think but he got hurt and now I’m standing in the Messel courtyard and he’s--”

“Stop, okay, back up.” Penny pinched the bridge of her nose. “...Spider-Man ?”

Yes ! He’s hurt really, really badly and I know you’re in the nursing program and I don’t know what to do!” Penelope heard shuffling on the other end of the line. “He won’t get up!”

This snapped her out of her last vestiges of sleep. “You’re with him ?! What about Code Cape, France!” Penny threw back her comforter, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. “Rule fucking one: don’t go near a--!”

I know ! Christ!” Ragged, panicked breaths came through the phone. “He’s just -- it looks really bad Penny, can you just get down here?” Her friend’s voice wavered pleadingly. Begging for help.

Penny shuffled on a pink robe and a pair of bunny slippers. Francine was always over-empathetic towards anything that moved, Penny thought it was one of the many reasons she became a pre-vet, but she definitely was not one to lose her cool.

“Messel courtyard?” A confirming noise. “I’ll be there in five.”



Still in her pajamas, Penelope raced the last few yards to where Francine was, apparently, accompanying one of the most notorious of all New York’s capes. Two of her suitemates followed loosely behind, alerted to the situation after Penny began knocking things off shelves looking for her keys. Both didn’t seem particularly worried, and Penny reasoned they only agreed to run across campus for the spectacle of seeing a superhero up close.

In the distance, they could see the flashing of police lights, likely still cleaning up whatever mess Francine had described in a panic over the phone.

Taking the lead, Penny was the first to breach the clearing, where she spotted Francine. She was hunched over a prone Spider-Man, tightening her pink windbreaker around one of his calves. The spider hero let out a low moan at the action.

Francine met her stunned gaze, blue eyes wide in worry. Any last inkling that this must be a joke disappeared.

A low whistle echoed behind Penelope, “Wow, is he dead?”

Francine shook her head, her short hair hitting her face, “He’s torn to bits though. He needs medical help.” That much was obvious, Penny thought. Rushing closer to the pair she could see Francie’s hands smeared in blood, and a sizable pool of it around the vigilante. Her dark eyes snapped back to Francine’s, commanding her attention.

“I have a key to the nursing building’s training labs. We can treat him there.” It wasn’t far from where they were, and was likely empty at this time of night. “We’ll need to take him in the back way to avoid the police.”

She spun towards her suitemates, who both looked much more concerned than before, “Can you both help us carry him?” They nodded.

Tying back her long hair, the four students hoisted up the injured vigilante, taking care to avoid his slippery back and left leg. He was lighter than anticipated.

The feeling of being lifted must have woken up the man slightly, and the mechanical eyes on the mask opened to slits. The group froze in anticipation, hoping that he wouldn’t lash out at them as the papers had often described him of doing. A nervous suitemate adjusting their hold made the hero hiss slightly in pain, and his mask eyes whirred shut again.

A collective sigh of relief left the four, all thankful for not being kicked apart, and they began to carefully bustle him out of the darkened courtyard.