The hot splash of blood hit Peter’s face before his spider-sense could kick in. He stood frozen with his camera lifted toward the podium as the person next to him dropped to the ground with a chunk of his skull missing.
“Sorry about the splatter!” Deadpool shouted. He dropped from the rafters above the stage, landing on the ground with a roll. The people on the floor ran out of his way as he walked forward, a large gun still in his hand. He stopped in front of Peter and patted his head. “But a perfect shot is a perfect shot.”
Peter’s hand trembled around his camera.
As many times as he’d met and dealt with Deadpool as Spider-Man, he’d never been up close and personal when the man had been working. The mercenary respected Spider-Man too much to take a life when he was present.
But Spider-Man was not at the press conference.
Peter Parker taking pictures for spare cash wasn’t worth the consideration.
“I can see you’re speechless,” Deadpool said. He brushed his glove over Peter’s hair, like he was flicking something out of it. Peter didn’t dare look to check and see what could be in his hair or he’d be sick. “That is a common occurrence around me.”
Deadpool towered over Peter.
He was only a half foot or so taller, but he was broad and filled out his form in a way that made him large and intimidating. Deadpool took over Peter’s space and senses, pinging his spider-sense on a constant level that never went off when he was in costume.
The mercenary might have been harmless to Spider-Man, but Peter Parker could set him off at any second if he said the wrong thing.
“You okay there, champ?” Deadpool asked. He crossed his arms and tilted his head to the side as he looked Peter over. “You’re the only one that hasn’t run away yet.”
Peter jerked back and dropped his camera. It smacked into his chest, saved from clattering to the ground by the strap around his neck. A glance around the room confirmed that aside from the dead man on the floor and Deadpool, he was the only one left in the large meeting room.
“You might want to leave,” Deadpool said. He moved his hands like he was shooing away a mouse. “I need to cut what’s left of his head off as a trophy for the client and I get this feeling you don’t want to see that.”
“Why’d you kill him?” Peter asked before he could stop himself. He glanced at the body next to him and back up at Deadpool. “What’d he do?”
As far as Peter knew, he was just the next guy in line for the podium to give a short update report. He was a company representative for Oscorp and no one special as far as Peter knew.
“Sorry, but that is confidential,” Deadpool said, bright and happy. The pitch of his voice dropped and he leaned close enough that Peter felt his breath through the mask on his face. “And better if you don’t know.”
Peter believed him.
“Now, get out of here,” Deadpool said, leaning back. He put his finger on the lens of Peter’s camera, smearing it through a glob of blood. Peter grabbed it to hold it still as Deadpool pushed it toward the exit. “I’ve got a head to take and clean up to do.”
The mercenary yanked a sword out from the holster on his back and stepped over the body.
Peter should have left and changed into his Spider-Man costume.
He should burst back into the room and arrest Deadpool for killing a man.
But his feet were glued to the floor and cooling blood itched on his cheeks. His grip on the camera would crack the casing if he held it any harder, but only the reminder that he couldn’t afford a new one kept him from breaking it.
“You are either still too scared to move or you want to see a guy get his head cut off,” Deadpool said. He dropped the sword and the blade rested near the skin of the man’s neck. “Let me know which one, because if it’s the second I can put on a show if you want. I always love an audience.”
“The first one,” Peter admitted. “My legs don’t want to move.”
Deadpool put the sword back in its holster and laughed. “Well, since you’ve given me the courtesy of refraining from taking photos, I guess I can help you out!”
Before Peter could move, the mercenary ducked down just enough to scoop Peter up into his arms bridal style. Peter clutched his camera to his chest and gritted his teeth together as his spider-sense screamed in the back of his ears and gloved hands dug into his legs. Deadpool whistled as he skipped toward the door of the room, holding Peter close to his rock-solid chest.
“Here we go,” Deadpool said. He kicked open a door and dropped Peter on his feet just outside it. He shoved him forward with a hard push and ordered Peter to “Run on home, now!”
The door slammed shut behind Peter and he stared at the closed wood. His heart beat heavy in his chest and his skin still tingled from where he’d touched Deadpool and felt his overheated, uneven skin under the leather of his costume.
When Peter collected himself and remembered that he was Spider-Man, he opened the door again. He kept his back against it and moved it an inch so he could see the situation with a calmer eye.
The room was empty, save for the decapitated body abandoned in the center of the room.
“You didn’t get a single picture!” Jameson yelled, shouting at Peter who sat in the chair in front of his desk. “You were in the middle of the action and you didn’t get the shot when Spider-Man shot a man!”
“It wasn’t Spider-Man,” Peter said. He sunk into the chair and cursed the similarity between his and the mercenary’s costume. “It was Deadpool.”
“Spider-Man. Deadpool. It doesn’t matter! You had a front row seat to a costumed freak and didn’t get the shot!” Jameson shouted again. “And don’t get me that bullshit about danger! You take photos of costumed freaks all the time. It’s your entire career!”
“Give him a break, Jonah,” Robbie said, standing to the side. “Parker was two inches away from a man who was shot in the head. Anyone would have panicked in his position.”
“He had the camera in his hands!” Jameson yelled, yanking his cigar out of his mouth and throwing his hands up. “And it’s on film!”
The man pointed to the the true source of J. Jonah Jameson’s ire in Robbie’s hands: A rival tabloid with a photograph of Peter covered in blood as he walked out of the building plastered across the front page.
The picture was a work of art.
The photographer had captured him on the right step with a serene, dazed look while he cradled his camera against his chest. The blood spatter had a morbidly artistic placement and the entire shot came together with the doves on the steps that flew up at precisely the right moment.
For one day, Peter Parker was more famous than Spider-Man for being the centerpiece of not only a fantastic, artistic photo, but his direct connection to the story of the day when Deadpool showed up in a crowded building full of witnesses to shoot a man.
“Our competitors are profiting off of my photographer!” Jameson shouted. He slammed his hands on the desk and Peter heard his teeth grind. He slumped further in the chair as Jameson collapsed in his own. “You’re going to make this up to me, Parker! You hear me? I want a perfect shot that’ll blow everyone away! I want you at every sighting of a costumed hero, vigilante or villain that makes the news!”
“Yes, sir,” Peter said. On the bright side of things, Peter felt sure that he’d earned himself some job security for the next few months. Jameson wouldn’t dare fire him or stop paying for his photos when the chance of Peter’s fame benefiting a rival paper was a possibility. “I won’t miss the shot next time.”
“As long as it doesn’t put your life at risk,” Robbie said, interjecting with a stern look. He put his hand on Peter’s shoulder and squeezed. “Jonah hasn’t said it yet, but we are all thankful you weren’t hurt and are still here to take pictures at all.”
“Thank you, sir,” Peter said. “I’m glad to be here, too.”
“Enough of this sap,” Jameson said. He huffed and grabbed the paper off the desk. He tossed it at Peter. “Go take some pictures we can use and get that out of my sight.”
Peter took that as Jameson’s way of letting him have a copy of the photo.
He gladly took the paper before saying his goodbyes and gave Betty one more hug as he passed. She’d been the first to grab Peter and tell him how glad they all were that he was alright after meeting Deadpool face to face.
“Mr. Jameson was more relieved than anyone when you walked out of that building,” Betty whispered in his ear during the hug. “Don’t let him fool you.”
“He didn’t,” Peter said. Jameson didn’t give Peter up when he had been threatened by a super villain—if that didn’t say the old man cared, nothing did. Peter let go of the hug and picked up his camera bag from behind her desk. “I’ll see you later, Betty.”
She waved as Peter got into the elevator.
His stomach growled as Peter left the building and turned toward one of his favorite hot dog stands. He’d get a bite to eat, go home, and crash. He could figure out what to do about the photo situation later—Peter smacked into someone’s chest.
“You might want to look where you’re going there.”
Large hands steadied him and gently held him at arm’s length. Peter tilted his head back and looked into Deadpool’s mask.