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Omertà

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Peter Parker was a good kid. He went to school, kept his grades up, tried to keep his head down, and would do his chores for Aunt May and Uncle Ben. He didn’t start fights on the playground, and if he was on the street and heard something bad happening, he knew to keep away and find a cop if he could, but otherwise he should not get involved.

 

Queens could be dangerous, especially for a scrawny, nerdy weakling like him. He was a prime target. He was small and skinny, and his size and glasses put a neon sign over his head that screamed “easy pickings.” His hair and eyes were too brown to stick out to anyone, and he was a pasty boy who looked just like any other teenager. He wasn’t special. There was nothing memorable about him, so if he got mugged, or kidnapped—who would be able to tell anyone anything? He would be one of the many faceless victims, lost in the masses if he were attacked and left for dead—if May’s paranoid ramblings had any merit, anyway. His best defense was his invisibility, and his ability to ignore other people’s problems.

 

After the bite, everything changed. He wasn’t as skinny anymore. He could run his laps without having to worry about an asthma attack. When Flash broke his glasses, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Instead of wandering around dealing with double vision, he managed to convince his aunt and uncle that he was wearing the contacts they got for him at the beginning of the year. It just took getting used to, May, really. They don’t bother me at all anymore. It looked like his luck was finally turning good.

 

The powers were a pretty neat bonus.

 

When he needed to dodge bullies in the hallway, he could run up the walls. He knew ahead of time when some creep tried to pick his pocket on the subway which he discovered because of a weird crawling sensation that sparked at the back of his neck. The craziest thing was the taxi.

 

It had been barreling toward him while he was in the intersection, as he rushed from Delmar’s to home, ignoring the light. At the blare of the cab’s horn Peter spun to face the yellow car and grabbed the front with both hands. Somehow, he lifted the cab up before dropping it down on all four wheels. The cabbie stared at him with wide brown eyes, his mouth hanging open as he gripped the steering wheel tightly, ignoring the white and red lei swinging wildly back and forth on his rearview mirror. After a moment of hesitation Peter bolted, zipping out of the street and down the sidewalk to be lost to the masses once again.

 

The truth is, Peter didn’t know what to do with all of it. Suddenly he had all this power at his fingertips. He felt like he could do anything! He could join sports, or maybe win money at some of the underground fights he’s heard about. Hell, he could even be a superhero, like Iron Man!

 

Then again, he had seen what had happened to other kids who started acting… weird. Enhanced? Like that goth girl, Ellie. Ellie was two years ahead of him, and he liked her, even if she was a little dark. It started out small. She knew every answer to every test question. She would predict something about someone’s day and most of the time, she was right. It was enough to make you wonder. Then one day, Harry said something obscene and intolerable about “the gays,” (Harry was a nice guy, but he was straight up ignorant some of the time—but what do you expect with a father like Norman Osborn?) and Ellie lost it. She didn’t lose it like a normal person, though. Losing it for her involved her skin glowing super bright and blasting a row of lockers in the general area Harry was standing. He was lucky not to be hurt.

 

Some weird people in sunglasses and dark coats showed up after that, and Ellie disappeared.

 

Peter figured she had just transferred schools, but he had been talking to Michelle a lot about possible government registration acts that were being discussed for enhanced humans (“a direct violation of our civil liberties, Parker, because they fear what they don’t understand and they want to control what they fear,” she said, more passion in her voice than Peter had ever heard before), and it made him wonder if maybe something else happened to the girl. Once he got bit by that spider and he started changing, he knew his best bet was to lay low. So what if he could actually play football? He couldn’t then, so he shouldn’t now. If he started winning street fights, he would start to get attention, and besides, May would have a heart attack. As for being a superhero? He was fourteen! He didn’t know what he was doing. He needed to avoid drawing attention to himself so he could get through school, graduate, go to college, then make his own living. He had already designed some pretty cool wrist devices and a liquid rope adhesive in his chemistry and shop classes. They would be a great start for a tech company, or even a career as a professional stuntman. Once he had the wherewithal to protect his friends and family, then he could go out and be the next Avenger, if that was something he still wanted.

 

So when that guy who robbed the convenience store on the corner by his apartments bolted past Peter and he did nothing, he felt a twinge of guilt disappear in a sea of self-preservation instincts that he had been cultivating his entire life. Yeah, he let that criminal run right by him, but he was just a kid. It wasn’t his responsibility to stop the guy, it was up to the police. They were supposed to watch out for the little guy, after all. Sure, they could probably use some super-powered help, but he never saw Iron Man stop a robber. It was just too small for superheroes to deal with, and the teen wasn't even a superhero. He just had powers.

 

Two nights later, when the same thief shot Uncle Ben in front of Peter, he felt like his heart tore itself out of his chest. When he dropped to his knees, pressing his hands against the man’s wound as his uncle gasped for breath that wouldn’t come, Peter was in agony. May was screaming into the telephone and he was lost in a whirlwind of pain and shame and guilt. Ben pressed his hand against Peter’s cheek, smiling a little. “You’ll be okay,” he whispered, before his eyes rolled into the back of his head.

 

The police officers and coroner arrived to take their statements and remove Ben’s body from the apartment. They issued soothing platitudes and offered services, giving empty promises that the criminal would be found.

 

Peter saw red.

 

The next day he went out in a red hoodie and blue jeans, searching every dark hiding place where scum like that would hide. Unleashing his fury on unsuspecting criminals to get information about this asshole was freeing. It was amazing. No one else could do what he could, and he would bring Ben’s killer to justice, because he was righteous, and nothing would stand in his way. The information he gathered led him to an Irish bar in Hell’s Kitchen. Peter watched from the shadows as night fell, waiting for his target.

 

When the man finally did appear, his entrance was unexpected. He burst through the doors, looking around as though startled before taking off down the street. Peter stayed hidden, hood up as he chased after the man, watching from the rooftops. The thief sensed he was being followed and ducked down an alley to hide from his assailant. Peter ran after him, dropping into the alley and blocking his only exit. The man whirled around, and Peter shot some glue at his foot, keeping him there. The mugger pulled out a gun and aimed it at Peter. Peter felt that extra sense warning him—guiding him. He dodged the bullet after the gun fired and snagged the piece with another sticky rope, pulling it out of the man’s hands. Peter wrapped his hand around the handle and held it at his side as he stalked forward, finger on the trigger. The man fell back, still stuck to the concrete below. He covered his face.

 

“No!” Peter shouted and the man raised his arms in alarm. This murderer would not be allowed to hide from him. Peter lifted his free hand and blasted the fluid again, this time pining the man’s hands to the ground as well. He had no choice but to lie there as the enraged teenager stood over him, holding his life in his hands, just like this bastard had done to Uncle Ben. He lifted the gun with a shaking hand and aimed it at the villain’s head. The thief’s eyes widened, and he shook his head, begging for his life and screaming for help. Peter’s hand trembled so badly he had to support it by grasping his wrist. He stood there, shaking, aiming the gun but not pulling the trigger. “Why?” he asked bitterly. “Why did you kill him? Why did you kill my uncle?!”

 

The man shook his head, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry kid, don’t shoot me. Fuck, don’t shoot me, I don’t want to die like this,” he begged, Jersey accent thick.

 

Peter laughed, but it sounded more like a sob. “You piece of shit! Who—how dare you freaking—you killed my uncle!” His eyes filmed over with tears as he stared at this monster who was begging for his life. It would be so simple. Just one squeeze and Peter could rest easy, knowing he’d got the bad guy. The bad guy who he let rob a convenience store, who didn’t stop taking and taking and taking until his uncle was dead. The bad guy who was wearing dingy clothes and a ratty jacket, and who was old enough to be Peter’s dad but was crying like a little kid. Peter trembled before him, holding all the cards, ready to see the light leave this bastard’s eyes. Peter just wished this thing looked like the monster he was, instead of a regular person. It would be so much easier if he would just—stop—crying!

 

“Don’t,” a voice called down the alleyway. Peter went very still but did not lower his weapon. The robber craned his head to see around Peter, and he blanched at whoever was approaching, silencing himself. The sound of heavy footsteps against the ground filled the space as the mystery man moved toward them, not stopping until he was directly behind Peter.

 

Peter felt the tears spill onto his cheeks. “He killed him.”

 

“I know,” the man sounded calm, and didn’t appear at all alarmed at the scene of a fourteen-year-old boy holding a full-grown man at gunpoint.

 

“He wasn’t—we were home! We were at home where we’re supposed to be safe and this… this shitbag killed Ben!” Peter could barely bite out the words as he started to shake again. The tears were blurring his vision.

 

“Yes, but you caught him, little spider.” Peter shook his head. “You did,” the man continued calmly. “You avenged Ben by catching his killer. Now he can face justice,” at the sound of his uncle’s name on the stranger’s lips, Peter lowered the gun and looked over his shoulder to see a smartly dressed man calmly surveying the scene. He was similar to Peter in that he didn’t look very special—dark brown hair and blue eyes hidden beneath thick frames. He had the kind of face that wasn’t memorable. He stood about half a foot taller than Peter, and was wearing a fine, dark blue suit—very out of place for their current environment. Peter eyed him warily for a moment.

 

“Spider?” he asked quietly.

 

The man smirked. “Well yes,” he gestured towards the thief pinned to the ground. “Webs.” Peter glanced back at the man, really looking at the fibrous adhesive covering each limb. Then he focused on the weapon in his hand before dropping the gun completely. As it fell to the ground, he felt as if he was deflating. All the adrenaline that had been pushing him here left him quickly, and all he felt was exhaustion. His body was sore from his earlier fights, and the fact that he hadn’t eaten all day was much more noticeable. His victory over his uncle’s killer left him feeling somewhat hollow inside. The stranger walked up next to him and slowly reached out to grab his shoulders, turning Peter so the pinned villain was behind them.

 

“Walk with me,” he said, pulling Peter out of the alley. With his hand wrapped around Peter’s bicep, he drew the teenager toward a long, dark car that was parked nearby, where a man smoking a cigarette leaned against it. Peter scrubbed at his face, still shuddering a little as he cried, and was unable to really take in any details of his surroundings. The bespectacled man left his side and murmured something to the other, but Peter couldn’t hear much over the sound of blood rushing in his ears. His heart was pounding, and everything was dialed up to the point where he couldn’t focus. He felt his breathing quicken, his sixth sense still warning him of danger even though the monster was behind him, trapped and immobile. A hand gently pressed against his shoulder, causing him to jump.

 

“Hey, it’s okay. What’s your name?” Peter stared at the man’s leather shoes, still scrubbing his face. He reached a point where he was just irritating his skin, but he couldn’t seem to stop. The man grabbed his wrist, making him pause and look up.

 

“P-P-P-Peter,” he stuttered out, sniffling. “Peter P-Parker.” The man ducked his head down, ensuring he made eye contact. He was smiling slightly.

 

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Parker,” he said softly. Peter nodded a little, calming his breathing. His head ached after all the stress of the night. “What you did was very brave.” Peter shook his head. He didn’t feel brave. “Where do you live?”

 

The teen sniffled again. “Queens. Forest Hills.”

 

“How clever you must be, to have tracked your uncle’s murderer all the way out here,” the man smiled. “I’m very impressed, but that’s quite a long way to go on foot. Please, let me give you a ride home.”

 

Peter pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes until spots appeared beneath his eyelids. “I’m not supposed to get rides from strangers.”

 

The man chuckled. “You’re not supposed to threaten to assault people with a deadly weapon, either.” Peter had to admit, he had him there. “If it makes you feel better, my name is James Wesley. I’m the personal assistant of Wilson Fisk,”

 

“The guy in the white suit cleaning up the city?” Peter knew of Fisk. He was on the news a lot, talking about rebuilding the community in Hell’s Kitchen. He even started an outreach program to rehabilitate gang members and wayward youths and helped them become productive members of society. May thought he was just what Manhattan needed.

 

“You’ve heard of him. That’s good. I appreciate young people who are wise enough to keep up with current events,” Mr. Wesley said as he opened the door. “Please, Mr. Parker, I insist. If I left you out here alone after all this and something happened to you, I could never forgive myself.” Peter sighed and nodded. After all, this guy stopped him from committing a crime, and it was cold and dark, and Peter was tired. He climbed into the back of the car, twisting his head as he heard a sharp buzzing sound. Mr. Wesley pulled his phone from his pocket, frowning as he looked at the caller ID. “Mr. Parker, I’ll just be a moment. I’m going to close the door so you can warm up, alright?” After the boy nodded the door was shut. Peter stared down, noticing the contrast between his dirty sneakers and the clean, black carpet of the limousine.

 

Wait, a limousine? Peter looked around, noticing small open compartments beside the seats holding little candies and bottles of water. Then he looked up and saw the driver of the car looking back at him through the rearview mirror. Peter shrunk back a little, slightly nervous. What am I doing? I know better than to get into a stranger’s car. May would kill me for acting this stupid, he thought to himself. As he was trying to decide the best way to exit, the door opened and Mr. Wesley got inside. He sat in the seat across from Peter and turned around to face the driver.

 

“Start heading towards Forest Hills. We can get Mr. Parker’s address from him on the way. Derek is going to be occupied for a while,” he said. The driver nodded and pulled out onto the road. Peter gulped, not looking away from Mr. Wesley. That sixth sense was going nuts. Mr. Wesley eyed him for a moment. “Give us some privacy,” he said, calm as ever.

 

“Yes sir,” the driver said. With a mechanic whir, a dark partition slid up, separating the cab from the passengers. They rode in silence for several minutes, Peter’s anxiety increasing with every passing moment.

 

“Are you nervous, Mr. Parker?”

 

Peter jumped. He wasn’t expecting Mr. Wesley to speak. The man stared at him, frowning as he waited for a response. “Uh… no, sir?” The brunette raised an eyebrow, disbelief evident all over his face. “I mean. It’s just that I don’t know you sir, and I really shouldn’t have gotten into this car even though it’s really cool, but my Aunt May would kill me for doing it and my head must not be on straight right now because otherwise I never would have, so I feel really stupid and a little scared and I don’t know what’s going on and it’s kind of freaking me out,” he babbled. Mr. Wesley stared on impassively. “Not that I think you’re scary, really. I mean you are, but not like mugger scary and you don’t seem like a kidnapper or like you’re gonna do anything to me, but I still don’t know you. And my head hurts and I’m tired and kind of thirsty and I’m not sure what I’m doing so….” he trailed off. Wesley looked down at his lap with a very tiny smile on his face before reaching to what looked like a cabinet door beside him. He pulled it open and looked over the contents.

 

“We have bottles of water, or if you like, there are some cans of Coke.” Peter blinked at him. “You said you were thirsty,” his smile grew a little.

 

“W-would it be okay if I had a Coke?” Peter asked, somewhat baffled. The man nodded and handed him a red can, smile even bigger. He didn’t show any teeth, but the gesture put Peter’s heart at ease a little. He let out a small, relieved laugh as he thanked the man for the drink.

 

“Mr. Parker, it’s alright to be nervous. You don’t know me, and it may have felt like I coerced you into getting in the vehicle,” Mr. Wesley said, a serious look in his blue eyes. “Please, allow me to assure you that I had no intention of making you feel that way. I truly was just worried because you are a very young man to be out in Hell’s Kitchen so late. It can be dangerous.” Peter nodded as he cracked open the can before taking a sip, allowing the bubbles to tingle on his tongue before swallowing the sugary liquid. “I honestly do just want to make sure you get home safely, and I wanted to pick your brain a little on the way.”

 

“Pick my brain?”

 

“Yes. The fact that you managed track Mr. Morgan all the way from Forest Hills in—how long have you been searching?”

 

“I… um, I started at 9 this morning.”

 

Mr. Wesley looked at his watch. “11 hours. What did you even have to help search him out?”

 

Peter rubbed the back of his neck. “I remembered what he looked like and knew one other place he robbed.”

 

“That’s truly remarkable, young man. What you did with your limited resources is very impressive.” Peter blushed a little at the praise, smiling into his soda. “Who supplied you with that adhesive you use? The webbing?”

 

“I made that in the lab at school. During chemistry,” Peter said after taking another sip. He relaxed a little more.

 

“Amazing. And those?” he asked, nodding toward Peter’s wrists.

 

Peter pulled up a sleeve so Mr. Wesley could see the wrist devices more clearly. “I made them in shop,” he said with a shy smile.

 

“How old are you?”

 

“Fourteen.”

 

“Unbelievable. A man with your capabilities is rare. Do you know how special you are, Mr. Parker?”

 

Peter blushed harder, looking away from Mr. Wesley. He sometimes heard praise from his aunt and uncle, and even from teachers at school, but it was never like this. Mr. Wesley seemed genuinely pleased at Peter’s accomplishments, and while he didn’t know Peter at all, he believed Peter had done this work without question. Most adults in his life always asked him how he could have come up with the right answer without writing out the problem or grilled him about little details in the projects he built, like they thought he was cheating or something. With Mr. Wesley it was like he knew what Peter was capable of the moment he laid eyes on him. Not only that, but he called Peter a man, not a boy or a kid. He shook his head a little, both pleased and dazed by the admiration.

 

“I imagine you’ll put these skills to good use. Can you tell me where you live, Mr. Parker?”

 

“Oh, sure,” he said, rattling off his address. Mr. Wesley rapped on the partition to pass the information on to the driver. The rest of the way they exchanged information. Peter shyly asked about what Mr. Fisk was like, which Mr. Wesley seemed happy to answer. When Peter told him his weakest subject was Spanish, Mr. Wesley quizzed him until Peter could easily ask for and give directions to various places. He was blown away when he learned Mr. Wesley spoke 6 different languages fluently. Likewise, Mr. Wesley was pleasantly surprised that Peter went to Midtown, and that Peter got a full scholarship to attend. Before he knew it, they were parked in front of his apartment building.

 

“Thanks for the ride, Mr. Wesley,” Peter said, reaching to open the door.

 

“Of course, Mr. Parker,” he reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a small business card, handing it to Peter. “This is my contact information if you ever need it.” Peter smiled, taking the card and slipping it into his pocket. “You did well tonight. That man will get what he deserved.” Peter opened the door and stepped out before frowning.

 

“Wait, we left him in that alley! That adhesive—the webbing stuff—it dissolves after an hour!” He said, alarmed.

 

“No, Mr. Parker. Derek took care of Mr. Morgan.”

 

Peter let out a relieved sigh, glad Mr. Wesley had someone call the police. “Good. He deserves to be locked up.”

 

Mr. Wesley smiled, but at the sight of it Peter felt a familiar zing go up his spine, causing his heartrate to spike. “You’ve got quite a future ahead of you. I’ll mention you to my employer. He likes to help the youth of the city. We’ll be in touch. Good night, Mr. Parker.”

 

Peter nodded and closed the door before making his way back to his home. When he stumbled in, May panicked, fussing over his bruised and dirty body, yelling the whole time. Peter apologized, feeling his emotions catch up to him. As he felt the warm embrace of his aunt he burst into tears, and in response she hushed him and stroked his hair, comforting him through his stress and grief. It didn’t take away the feeling that if he had just stepped up and done something, none of this would have happened. He was determined to never let anyone else be in his place if he had the power to stop it.

 

Someone had to look out for the little guy, after all.

Chapter Text

The thing was, Peter still had to keep a low profile. Using his abilities to stop thieves and help the little guy was important, more important than anything else he was able to do—but he still needed to protect his friends, family, and own self. So he grabbed the red hoody (after he washed the bloodstains of various, seedy New York criminals off of it) and a set of blue sweats he never wore before and got to work, grateful that May insisted he learn how to use a sewing machine. After a night of sketching, cutting, and sewing he had his suit. He sewed the top and bottom together, with a long zipper hidden on the back, running between his neck and tailbone. The hoody was stitched over the blue sweatshirt, creating a small pocket of space between the fabrics. Where red covered blue Peter made sure to add in some protection. Thin metal shin guards were sewn between the pantlegs and thick red socks at the bottom of his suit. Padding lined his chest and back. To protect his identity, he managed to make a mask out of the sleeves of his hoody, a pair of old swim goggles (with some minor modifications to allow for widening and narrowing of the lenses) and some mesh he cut up from an old shower caddy he never used (anything to cut down on the input was a win in Peter’s book). After including a pair of red water-socks to protect his feet, he added the finishing touch—a hand drawn spider on the front of the sweatshirt (Mr. Wesley was spot on when he called Peter “little spider”). Once his costume was finished, he started patrolling.

 

It was exhilarating. Flinging himself between buildings, stopping bad guys and saving people—it was so fantastic that it was almost unreal. If not for the wrenched shoulders and bruises giving him constant, physical reminders, he might not believe it was happening. As he popped up more and more, people began to trust him—to like him. They knew he was there for anything, big or small. Sure, he stopped a mugging that could have turned into a homicide, but he also helped a kid get her cat out of a tree (and really, the cat was more volatile than the mugger. At least the mugger could see reason).

 

Finding a balance between home and patrol was difficult. At first, he thought he was doing fine, not alerting May to anything, until one day he snuck back in after curfew and saw his aunt sitting alone, in the dark, staring at the muted television. Peter paused, taking in the sight.

 

“Uh, hey May.” His greeting was met with silence. He was sure he was in deep trouble. “Okay, so I guess you’re mad at me,” he began, searching for an excuse. He was glad that this time he was only half an hour late.

 

“I’m not mad at you,” May said quietly, not looking in his direction.

 

“Oh, okay. Are you alright, then?”

 

May was silent for several heartbeats. “Do you like me, Peter?”

 

Peter blinked in confusion. “Of course I do, what kind of question is that?”

 

“I mean as a person. Not as your aunt, just as… as a person,” she said, finally turning to look at him. There were tear tracks down her face. Peter stumbled over to her, kneeling in front of her chair.

 

“Yes, I do. Of course I do! May, why are you asking me that?”

 

“You’re never here,” she bit out as new tears formed in her eyes. “You always have things to do, other places you’d rather be. I never see you anymore.”

 

Peter put his hand on her knee, imploring her to look at her, catching her eye. “Yeah, but we’re both just busy. You have work, and I’ve got school and like, extracurriculars, I didn’t think that—”

 

“Let’s face it, Peter, we just kind of got thrown together.”

 

“What?”

 

“It’s okay to say it,” she sniffled, eyes wide and beseeching. “We’re… we’re the only ones left now, and this isn’t what either of us wanted, or envisioned. This isn’t the life we had planned out, and it’s not as if you chose me, or I chose you. It’s all happenstance, right?”

 

Peter felt his heart clench in his chest. May sounded like she didn’t care anymore, like she was ready to let go and give everything up, including Peter. “But… but I love you, May,” he said, tears forming in his own eyes. She blinked a little, as if coming back to herself, taking in the sight of her nephew, kneeling in front of her, scared and crying.

 

“Oh, no, Peter, come here baby,” she said, opening her arms. Peter collapsed against her, holding her as tightly as he dared. “I’m sorry honey. I just miss him so much.”

 

Ever since then, Peter was a lot more mindful about when he was out of the house. He made sure to be home well before curfew three times a week, trying to put in some quality time with his aunt. He only stayed out past curfew on the nights he was certain May had a late shift. After a couple of weeks their bond was stronger than ever.

 

Keeping up with schoolwork was difficult at first, too. Peter was smart. He got into Midtown on a scholarship that gave him a full ride, including the cost of books, fees and supplies. He only had to study the material once or twice (for science and math, a little more for history and social studies) to have it memorized. He flew through his assignments and did well in classes. Once he started wearing the suit though, he was falling behind on his homework, but he figured he could handle it. It wasn’t until his homeroom teacher, Mr. Harrington pulled him aside that he realized he was going to hit trouble, sooner rather than later.

 

“Peter, I want you to know that I am very sorry for your loss,” the bespectacled teacher began, placing a hand on Peter’s shoulder.

 

“Thanks, Mr. Harrington,” Peter said, somewhat bewildered at the sudden sympathy he was receiving.

 

“I am here to support you in any way you need, but we need to talk,” he implored, guiding Peter to his office.

 

“About what?” Peter asked, confused.

 

“Your grades,” the man said, pulling the door open to his office and gesturing for Peter to go inside. Peter gaped at him before moving toward the cluttered desk, settling in a chair. Mr. Harrington slid around the desk and took his seat. He swiveled back and forth slightly, waiting for Peter to gather his thoughts.

 

“I don’t understand,” Peter said slowly. “I’m doing well on all my tests, and my attendance has been fine since the f-funeral,” he said, rubbing his neck a little. Sure, he’d missed a couple of assignments, but he was still doing okay, wasn’t he?

 

“Yes, but Peter, you’ve missed several assignments in all of your subjects, and you’ve been falling asleep in class!” Mr. Harrington clasped his hands together under his chin, keeping a steady gaze on his pupil. “At this rate, your scholarship will be in jeopardy.”

 

“M-my scholarship? I’m gonna lose my scholarship?” Peter thought his heart stopped for a minute. If he lost his scholarship, he’d lose any chance of getting into MIT, or any of his other top choices for college. May didn’t have money to pay for school. He needed any edge he could get when it came time for his secondary education and being enrolled in this school was a huge one. “Mr. Harrington, what can I do? Is it too late to make up the assignments?”

 

“Calm down, Peter,” Mr. Harrington smiled. “As a matter of fact, it’s not too late. I have a list from each of your teachers of all the assignments you missed with renewed due dates. They’re willing to work with you because they know you’re dealing with a very stressful situation at home, okay?”

 

Peter got lucky (a rare thing, for a Parker), and he didn’t take it for granted again. He diligently completed his work before going on Patrol. Yes, Spider-Man was important, but Peter Parker was a little important, too. Besides, Peter’s future was Spider-Man’s future. He had to make sure he didn’t fall behind.

 

He also learned (the hard way) that he had a healing factor but said healing factor was not a replacement for a good first aid kit. Getting on the wrong side of a knife during a fight taught him that really well, and if May was concerned or confused about the sudden appearance of a well-stocked, heavy duty first aid kit under their bathroom sink, she was keeping quiet about it.

 

So yeah, after a month of being Spider-Man, he got his routine down. He reprioritized, and things were going well. He even started hanging out with Ned again, because building Lego sets and watching old nerdy movies with his best friend was nothing short of therapeutic. Everything was looking up.

 

One day as he walked away from school, a small black car pulled up next to him. He paused looking around himself before focusing on the tinted window that was lowering. He peered inside, blinking in surprise when he saw a familiar dark head and blue eyes hidden behind thick glasses.

 

“Hello, Mr. Parker. How are you doing today?”

 

“M-Mr. Wesley!” Peter breathed out, looking around again as he pulled his headphones out of his ears. “H-h-hi, sir,” he stuttered, stepping toward the door. “I’m uh—good. Real good, sir. Thanks for asking.” Mr. Wesley smiled that same small smile he had last time, and Peter grinned a little at seeing it.

 

“Are you busy?”

 

“Uh,” Peter was getting ready to make his rounds, almost at the alley where he changed into his suit. “Yeah,” Peter flushed suddenly at the bluntness of his answer. “Not that it isn’t great seeing you! Because it totally is. I just uh—I mean who knew I’d just run into you in Queens of all places. I mean, Delmar’s is right there,” Peter pointed to the sandwich shop. “Not that it’s bad to run into you or anything, sir, it’s not but I’ve uh, I’ve got a thing? So….” Peter trailed off, twitching his head over his shoulder in the direction he was heading.

 

“I see,” Mr. Wesley said. “And would that thing have anything to do with the Spider Guy?”

 

Peter’s mouth dropped open. “Spider Guy?”

 

Mr. Wesley smirked. “From YouTube.” Peter shook his head a little and Mr. Wesley laughed—actually laughed—at him.  “Come now, Mr. Parker. Surely you didn’t think I had forgotten you.” Peter flushed and dropped his head, scuffing his shoe along the ground. Truth be told, he did think Mr. Wesley had forgotten him. He was a busy man, and despite what he saw Peter do, Peter hadn’t heard a word from him, and it had been a month. His business card lay untouched in a drawer in Peter’s desk, not because Peter didn’t want to call, but because he had so much to do, and really, Mr. Wesley was the kind of man who could have come to Peter easily, any time he wanted. Peter didn’t want to burden the man with his presence. Mr. Wesley’s smiled dropped, as he scanned Peter from head to toe. “Or perhaps you have?” Peter glanced up, taking in Mr. Wesley’s face. He looked like he was trying to solve some kind of puzzle. “Perhaps you thought after one ride home that I would have no reason to remember you, a boy who could track a criminal across a city on foot with nothing but a face to go on.”

 

Peter blushed and shrugged. “Sorry, sir. I just, uh, I’ve just been busy. I kind of figured you’ve been busy, too.”

 

Wesley nodded before opening the door. Peter stared at the interior of the car as Mr. Wesley slid over. “Please, get in Mr. Parker. I was hoping to speak with you.” Peter looked around, rubbing his arms through the thick fabric of his coat. “It’s freezing outside. I can take you home. Or wherever you need to go for your… thing, I believe it was?” After a moment’s hesitation (that damn zinging was going up his back again, how does every little thing set it off?) Peter climbed down into the backseat and settled in next to Mr. Wesley. After the car got on the road, the partition slid shut between them and the driver.

 

“Do all your cars have a divider-thingy?” Peter asked, a little startled to see it in a BMW.

 

Mr. Wesley retrieved a bottle of water for Peter, who smiled and thanked him for it. “My employer values his privacy above all things. The partition is part of that.” Peter nodded. “I see you’ve been keeping busy,” Mr. Wesley said, folding his hands in his lap. Peter shrugged as he sipped his water. “I rather liked how you tripped that carjacker.” Peter cringed a little. He had only stopped one carjacker so far, and he took a pretty hard hit from the guy’s crowbar before he managed to take him down.

 

“I didn’t know it was online. I haven’t really been… paying much attention? I mean, I just started. I didn’t think people were gonna film it….” Although if Peter were the one to see some random guy in a sweat suit stopping criminals and climbing up walls, he probably would have been the first one to record it and post it to his Instagram. He looked out the window and noticed they were going towards the interstate. “Hey, Mr. Wesley, this uh, this isn’t the way to my apartment.”

 

Mr. Wesley tilted his head slightly and smiled, and Peter felt that familiar buzzing feeling at the back of his neck again. It was constantly humming, making his hair stand up and his muscles tense. Somewhere nearby a horn blared on the freeway, and Peter shrugged the feeling off. “Yes I know. I’ll be sure to get you home soon, but like I said, I wanted to speak with you. Furthermore, my employer wanted to speak with you.”

 

“Mr. Fisk?” Peter asked, alarmed and awed. Wilson Fisk had been on the news a lot lately, talking about all kinds of projects he was doing in the city to reduce poverty. Peter just saw a press conference on the news where Mr. Fisk talked about a rehabilitation program for kids who just got out of juvie, to help them “learn reasonable trades to better their situations and change their lives.” The information he had about how the circumstances of poverty can lead to higher incarceration rates and higher crime rates for communities was presented really well. When he talked about it with Michelle the next day, the only negative thing she had to say about it was that he didn’t include the fact that there was a disparity for people of color and how or if he planned to address it, but progress was progress so she was looking forward to what he would come up with.

 

Mr. Wesley only nodded in response.

 

“Whoa, really? Oh wow that’s so amazing. Mr. Fisk wants to meet me? But why? I mean he’s Mr. Fisk. We’ve been talking about him in my Journalism class at school and he’s like, really cool. The work he’s doing in Hell’s Kitchen is amazing. It would be great to have programs for younger people for some of the neighborhoods out here, you know? Or in Brooklyn? And the work he’s done renovating the housing in the poorer parts of the area is awesome. I can’t believe he started out like… well like me! Without the powers or anything. Just him and his mom, you know? He built his whole fortune from the ground up! It’s incredible!” Peter babbled, and as he chattered on Mr. Wesley’s appearance took on a warmer quality. His smile was gentler, and his posture became slightly more relaxed. The angry buzzing in Peter’s head receded to a quiet hum.

 

“Yes, he is a very remarkable man.”

 

“Exactly. So why does he want to meet me?

 

Mr. Wesley chuckled. “You’re a remarkable man, too,” he said. Peter stared at the floor, rubbing the back of his neck. When he looked up again, that soft smile was still on Mr. Wesley’s face. “I’ve already told you that you’re impressive, Mr. Parker. The intelligence and abilities you have at your age?” Peter felt himself blush a little, still not used to this kind of praise. “My employer has every reason to want to meet you. So tell me, how are your classes coming along?”

 

Peter told Mr. Wesley how he was doing in all his classes, letting slip that he was worried about his term paper for Social Studies. Mr. Wesley gave him some really great ideas about the pros and cons to the Mutant Registration Act congress kept going back and forth on. When Peter shyly told him that he got a perfect score on his last Spanish quiz, he felt a flush of pride at the nod of approval he got in return. Again, Mr. Wesley took the time to go over the curriculum for Peter’s Spanish class (having his backpack with his homework helped tremendously). They went over the topic until the car finally parked. If Mr. Wesley could spare the time, Peter thought Spanish could be his top subject. He explained verb conjugation in a way Mr. Hernandez couldn’t. Peter hoped the Spanish II teacher could be half as good as Mr. Wesley. When he said as much, Mr. Wesley cleared his throat, a pleased smile appearing on his face. Mr. Wesley reached across Peter and pulled the door handle, giving it a small push. Peter pushed it the rest of the way open, then stepped out of the car, Mr. Wesley following behind him.

 

Peter looked up, expecting them to be at some swanky office, and was surprised to find they were standing in front of an old, worn down building. He glanced back at Mr. Wesley who merely shrugged before moving towards the door. Peter followed him inside, taking in the paint fumes and plastic tarps hanging around the space. They made their way into a kitchen area where another man was bent over some blueprints on the island. Mr. Wesley cleared his throat, and the man straightened to his full height, turning around to face them. This was Mr. Fisk, from the news. He gave a small smirk. “Hello, Wesley,” he said, softly.

 

Peter was struck by the contrast between the man’s voice and overall stature. He had never seen someone so… huge. Instead of his usual white suit, Mr. Fisk was wearing a casual black tee-shirt and dark, dusty blue jeans. He was barrel chested, and the top of his head gleamed under the bright shine of the overhead lights. His arms were thicker than Peter’s neck, and he towered over them, power radiating from his very core. This time when that extra sense kicked in, the zing went straight up his spine, sharper than ever before, and buzzed angrily in his ears. The ringing sensation was so sharp that Peter let out a quiet gasp, but despite how hard he tried to contain the sound, Mr. Fisk could hear it. He smiled gently, nodding his head a little toward Peter. “Is this him?”

 

Who? Peter thought, eyes roving over the goliath in front of him. Mr. Wesley nudged him, and he turned sharply to the other man, who had a raised eyebrow. Did he say something? Was he asked a question? Should he answer? What could he say? Peter cleared his throat. “H-hello, sir. I’m Peter. Parker? Peter Parker,” he rambled, holding his hand out to Mr. Fisk. Mr. Fisk held out his own hand and shook Peter’s, nodding at the boy’s grip. Ben made sure to teach him the proper way to shake someone’s hand. Peter was almost surprised at the gentleness of Mr. Fisk’s hold. He was halfway certain his fingers were going to be crushed as he held out his hand, and was very glad to be wrong, for once.

 

“Hello, Mr. Parker. I’m told I probably don’t need to introduce myself, but regardless, it would be polite to say. I am Wilson Fisk,” he said in that same, quiet, raspy voice. Peter felt his knees wobble a little, and he chalked the buzzing in his ears to anxiety related to meeting a real-life business mogul who also happened to be a giant. He’d never, ever been near someone so big, and the closest he ever came to someone so famous before was when Iron Man saved his life when he was ten. “I’ve heard some very interesting things about you.” Peter shook his head bashfully before staring at the floor. As his nerves calmed, the buzzing receded. His body seemed to realize that he wasn’t going to be harmed.

 

“Oh, wow sir. That’s, so amazing to hear from someone like you,” he said, flushing a little. Mr. Fisk made a little sound in his throat, and when Peter glanced up, he saw a wrinkle of confusion on the man’s brow. “I mean, you’ve done so much for the city, it’s really something,” Peter said, rambling on about all the good things he heard about him, including what they discussed in his classes.

 

“I didn’t realize my work was classroom material,” the man chuckled, and Peter felt himself getting even redder. “Well, Mr. Parker. Wesley seems to hold you in very high regard, and he is rarely wrong about these things,” Mr. Wesley smiled again, but did not deny or affirm what was said. He stood with an aura of casual confidence. He held an air about him that seemed to show that he knew what he could do, and that he knew he did it well. Peter only ever felt that way as Spider-Man, and even then, it was an irregular occurrence. “I have to say, though, I am surprised at how young you are,” Peter rubbed the back of his neck again, unable to control the nervous habit. “Don’t get me wrong, I was told your age, but hearing it and seeing it, especially when coupled with the other things I know—it’s just a bit startling.”

 

Spider-Man. Mr. Fisk was talking about Spider-Man. Peter wondered what on Earth Spider-Man could possibly do for Mr. Fisk. The guy didn’t look like he needed any kind of protection—his size was intimidating to say the least, but there was also an undercurrent of danger lurking beneath his stoic expression. He reminded Peter of a crocodile—how they sat and waited, perfectly still and unseen despite their size, before they suddenly attacked their prey. If someone that intimidating needed protection….

 

Peter barely managed to restrain himself from shivering. “Mr. Fisk, sir, I don’t really understand why I’m here,” he said, quietly.

 

The man looked over Peter’s shoulder. Peter followed his gaze to Mr. Wesley, standing behind him with, hands folded together behind his back. Peter saw him raise an eyebrow, and when he turned back to Mr. Fisk, he caught the tail end of a nod.

 

“Mr. Parker,” Mr. Wesley said as he stepped up beside Peter, dropping his hands to his sides. Peter turned his head to Mr. Wesley. He reached up to adjust his glasses, smirking again. “After I met you the first time, I was intrigued,” he said, staring straight at Peter. Peter swallowed and held his gaze. “The tracking skills alone were fascinating, but the sheer tenacity you had… it was incredible.” Mr. Wesley’s smile became more genuine. “But then when I actually spoke to you, got to know you, I saw so much more—a quick intellect, a desire to learn—I was enlightened.” Peter felt his ears burning and he just knew his blush was probably all the way up to his forehead. Mr. Wesley had such a way with words, they just seemed to swallow Peter up in an alarming but pleasant way. He resisted the urge to break eye contact.

 

“I ran a full background check on you. To see you managed to survive so much hardship, it made me realize you had some serious potential, if someone could just help you cultivate your skills. I wondered if maybe Mr. Fisk knew of a program you could sign up for, and when I began to describe you—”

 

“I found you interesting,” Mr. Fisk interjected. Peter dropped his jaw. “Don’t look so surprised, Mr. Parker. A sharp, young man with humble beginnings, living in a low-end apartment in Queens? It’s not so different from my own beginnings,” he chuckled, his laughter danced through the air like smoke.  

 

“Then, all of a sudden, this Spider-Guy was flinging himself around Queens,” Mr. Wesley continued, shaking his head a little as he smiled, “and I knew it was you, Mr. Parker. I knew from the webbing, and the top half of your suit. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was some way we could foster your talents, and help you become the best you could be.” Peter felt his chest swell a little, pride peeking through.

 

“So, I thought we might be able to create an internship for you,” Mr. Fisk said. “We were even looking into the possibility of it being paid, considering your financial situation.” Peter looked between the two men, stunned.

 

“An internship?” Peter could see it, too. He could absolutely see himself doing all that humanitarian stuff that Michelle would go on about. It was a whole new way to help the little guy, where he didn’t have to hide behind a mask. Doing that and getting a paycheck for it? Peter felt like it was dreamlike.

 

Mr. Fisk sighed. Apparently, he thought it was a little unrealistic, too. “The problem is, most of what I do is on the ground—working with those young men, reconstructing buildings—it’s very hands on, and this would be a very expensive program to add on so suddenly. I have to be completely justified after committing to it, and I don’t know you well enough to risk that kind of money on you. As smart as you are, I’m not sure that you’re capable.” Peter blinked, suddenly stung. He wasn’t sure why but hearing Mr. Fisk think he couldn’t do something—it rattled him, especially after having that treat of an internship dangled in front of his nose. How many people did he know who could put Internship with Wilson Fisk on their college applications?

 

“I can learn really quickly, and I’m good with computers.” Mr. Fisk shrugged and tilted his chin towards Wesley. He already had someone who could handle that. Peter thought about it for a moment, cataloguing everything Mr. Fisk just said. An idea dawned on him. “I can build things,” he said, face set. Mr. Fisk raised an eyebrow. “Seriously,” Peter said, straightening up at slight disbelief he saw there. “I made those web-shooters that you guys saw me swinging around on. My Uncle was a contractor and he taught me some things. I could do the hands-on stuff.” Mr. Fisk glanced at Mr. Wesley, who now gazed at Peter. “Come on, Mr. Fisk, can you give me a chance?”

 

The older men stared at each other again, having a silent conversation. Peter took a slow breath through his nose, calming down a little. Mr. Fisk gestured towards a hammer. “Alright, Mr. Parker. Show me what you can do.”

 

Peter did. Mr. Fisk showed him the drafts and blueprints, and explained what he was working on, then put Peter to work. He observed stoically, only speaking to offer correction when needed, otherwise silent while he watched Peter hammer, saw, and sand through the project. Peter lost himself in the work, feeling the same tranquility he felt whenever he was making something. It took him back to the days that Ben would take him to work, and just let him loose on a whatever needed to get done—building a shed, putting up a gazebo, fixing cabinets—and Peter relished in peaceful feeling that came over him.

 

He was half-way through repairing the kitchen island that Mr. Fisk set him to before he felt a hand on his shoulder. The sixth sense flared to life and he jumped, dropping his hammer and whirling around. Mr. Fisk held his hands up in a placating gesture, and Peter relaxed a little, the angry buzz somewhat receding. His body must have forgotten that others were in the room with him. He stepped aside and let Mr. Fisk look at what he accomplished.

 

“Not bad,” Mr. Fisk nodded, a small smile gracing his features. Peter felt a flush of pride at the words. “Not bad at all,” he glanced over at Mr. Wesley who smiled and nodded in return. “Perhaps I misjudged you, Mr. Parker. I think I can find a place for you, if you’re willing. I know you go to a rather prestigious school, and you have your,” Mr. Fisk cleared his throat, “extracurricular activities, but I think I can help you go far, if you decide to work for me.”

 

The three of them spent the next hour going over some details of Peter’s internship. Peter came to find out that Mr. Fisk had no intention of having him work on the remodeling. Peter was too young, didn’t have any licenses, and was technically a liability, despite his good work. The whole thing had been some kind of weird test to see if he was willing to do hard work, or something. Peter was a little bothered they tricked him like that but decided that it wasn’t worth being upset over. After discussing the specifics of his internship, the only thing Peter worried about was finding the time to continue as Spider-Man, but before he could voice his concern, Mr. Fisk beat him to it.

 

“Spider Guy is something else. You catch criminals?”

 

“Spider-Man,” Peter corrected, finally. Mr.Fisk raised an eyebrow. Peter blushed. “Yes, sir. I patrol after school, usually, or on weekends.”

 

Mr. Fisk hummed, flipping through a contract Mr. Wesley had printed. It looked like Mr. Fisk was spending a lot of time here, considering he had a computer and printer set up for office work as needed. “I don’t want to deprive the city of his help. How about we cut back the days? It can range between one and three a week for your duties here. You’ll one or two days with Wesley, learning how the business is run—you know, accounting, paperwork, project management, that sort of thing—and you’ll spend one day a week doing research with Dr. Ohnn. His focus is in biology, but he does some work with engineering. Mr. Davis is one of my young men who joined us in a rehabilitation program, and he does a lot of our engineering projects. When Dr. Ohnn or Wesley are unavailable, you will work with him. This should allow you time to still do your schoolwork, and to continue as Spider-Man.”

 

“Wow, Mr. Fisk this is amazing! Thank you so much!” Peter was absolutely giddy, reaching out to grab the contract when Mr. Fisk pulled it back fractionally—just out of Peter’s reach.

 

“I wonder—” he began, but shook his head, handing Peter the paperwork. Peter looked at the thick packet in his hand to bring to May to review, then back up to Mr. Fisk’s thoughtful face.

 

“What?”

 

Mr. Fisk shook his head again. “No, never mind, Mr. Parker, it’s nothing you can assist me with, anyway.”

 

Peter bit his lip, curious as to what Mr. Fisk wanted to ask him. Really, the man was going out on a limb, making so many resources available to help Peter. “Are you sure? I mean, maybe I can help.”

 

“Well, perhaps,” Mr. Fisk sighed, stroking his chin. “We just—we have some difficult criminals in Hell’s Kitchen. Have you heard of the Devil?” Peter shook his head. “Well, people are of two minds about him. A man in a black mask goes around Hell’s Kitchen, hiding in the shadows and only attacking at night. He only targets criminals, but—” Mr. Fisk turned away, stepping toward Mr. Wesley, who merely turned his head down in acknowledgement. “I haven’t been able to influence everyone with my efforts. Despite all that my program had done before it became public, there are a few men who turned back to crime after all was said and done. It really is a shame, to see all my hard work go to pieces, but I also worry about them. The Devil doesn’t hold back. If I could just speak to them, before the Devil gets a chance to hurt them, maybe I could get them to change their ways, and if not, they’re much safer in lockup then out on the streets. The problem is, they disappear so quickly I don’t even have a chance to warn them,” Mr. Fisk looked at Peter, seriousness etched all over his face.

 

Peter didn’t know there was another vigilante running around New York, but he didn’t sound like a good guy. Peter tied crooks up and left them for the police to deal with. This Devil sounded like he just took matters into his own hands. Peter frowned. No one could be judge, jury and executioner. Just because he had the ability to mete out punishment didn’t mean he should. He thought the same went for everyone else. There was a reason the criminal justice system existed, and it was meant to be fair. Toeing the line to catch bad guys and protect people, that was one thing. Working around the system altogether to dish out some kind of personal justice? That was going too far.

 

“Well, Mr. Fisk I’m actually pretty good at tracking people down,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I could try to find people for you, occasionally, if you think that would help them?”

 

Mr. Fisk stared at him a moment in thought before a small smile formed on his face. Peter returned it tentatively. “Mr. Parker, I really hadn’t wanted to ask that of you, but I’m in such a tight spot, I can’t say no to your offer,” Mr. Fisk placed a gentle hand on Peter’s shoulder. “Perhaps I can compensate you for your efforts.”

 

“Ah, geez, Mr. Fisk you’re already getting me new clothes and a stipend—” Mr. Wesley pointed out that it would likely be more beneficial for the financial component of his internship would be better spent on obtaining Peter a suitable wardrobe for press events, and the stipend would go directly to Peter to help with any expenses or savings he was planning for.

 

“I like to treat my employees well, Mr. Parker, especially when they go above and beyond for me,” Mr. Fisk said, firmly. Peter shivered a little at the tone, suddenly nervous. He stood his ground.

 

“Sir,” he began, gulping a little, “I really do appreciate it, but you’re already doing so much for me—I’d feel bad.”

 

Mr. Fisk started at him a minute longer, then shook his head, smile appearing once again. “You are something else, Mr. Parker,” he said, glancing at his watch. His eyebrows rose, slightly. “Is that the time?” Peter pulled his phone out of his pocket and felt his mouth fall open when he saw it was already after six. May was going to kill him!

 

“Oh, crap, Mr. Fisk, I gotta go!” he exclaimed, tucking the paperwork into his backpack hastily.

 

“Of course. Wesley, get the boy home, and have him call his aunt so she doesn’t worry,” he said, brushing down his clothes. “It was good to meet you, Mr. Parker. I look forward to seeing what you accomplish with us.” Mr. Fisk held out his hand for Peter to shake, and Peter took it gratefully, grinning outright. Despite the headache he felt coming on (from stress, lack of sleep, and every zap of his sixth sense), Peter had a good feeling about what was to come.

Chapter Text

When Peter arrived home with Mr. Wesley in tow, May looked like she was going to have a heart attack, and Peter wasn’t surprised in the least. Even before Ben passed, May was always a little over-protective, but she became especially so ever since Peter decided to face a lone Hammer Drone by himself with nothing but an Iron Man mask at the tender age of ten. Peter showing up back home with an adult she had never seen nor heard of before? She would never let him out of the house again if she thought he got himself caught up in something as dangerous as a potential kidnapping.

 

Peter explained his worries to Mr. Wesley on the drive back to his apartment, and the man had nodded thoughtfully, considering Peter’s predicament.

 

“Well, Mr. Parker, as much as I hate to say it, perhaps we will need to lie.”

 

Peter frowned and his stomach twisted. He hated lying to May.

 

Mr. Wesley seemed to notice his hesitation and offered him a gentle smile. “We don’t have to. You can tell her how we really met, and about Spider-Man.” Peter shook his head. He couldn’t tell her. She wouldn’t let him do it anymore! She’d freak out. “Alright then, how about something easy?” Mr. Wesley folded his hands in his lap. “We’ll tell her that you emailed Mr. Fisk about his programs, and you wondered about his plans for the other boroughs. What you said earlier was quite thoughtful,” he allowed, smiling again as Peter blushed a little more. “You really should have more faith in yourself. You have good ideas.”

 

Peter stood back and allowed Mr. Wesley to introduce himself and talk to May as he got the contract out of his backpack. Peter was so bad at lying. When he said so, Mr. Wesley just asked that Peter leave it to him, so he did. Mr. Wesley was smooth, too. He introduced himself, was so happy he finally got to meet May, was very impressed by her nephew’s hard work and so on. Mr. Wesley was so blown away by the email Peter sent (brought to his attention by one of their people in communications) that he had to share it with Mr. Fisk. May melted when she heard that, a glint of pride in her eyes. Then Mr. Wesley went on to say that Mr. Fisk was just considering opening up an internship for low income high school students as part of his plan to help address poverty in the city. Mr. Wesley explained that these programs were very much a “pay-it-forward,” kind of thing, and that Mr. Wesley thought Peter would be the ideal candidate, considering his grades, school, and ideas. Once the contract appeared and May thoroughly read it (because she was not going to trap her kid in some weird business scam. Mr. Fisk didn’t seem like the type, but you never knew) she gave it back to Mr. Wesley, signed to make the internship official.

 

Peter could not believe how well that went. After Mr. Wesley left, May badgered him, asking why he didn’t want to tell her he was reaching out to Mr. Fisk directly. He had to know she was proud of him, right? And that she would support him in anything he tried to do? Peter felt a twist in his stomach at her words and apologized, saying he didn’t even know there was an internship available—that things just snowballed from his first email. To celebrate, May took Peter out for Indian food, because it wasn’t every day that a Parker hit that kind of luck. Peter nodded along at the conversation as he munched on his Butter Chicken.

 

A few days had gone by and Peter’s routine returned to normal (his internship wouldn’t start until the following month. The first of the month was best for finances, Mr. Fisk said). He went to school, did his homework, and caught bad guys in the afternoon. It was almost like he never even went to Hell’s Kitchen. Things did change a little after he told Ned about his internship, though. His best friend was a lot of things—loyal, funny, intelligent—but he could not keep a secret to save his life. Peter felt like this would be a way to test the waters for his other afterschool activity, but Ned told everyone before the day was out with a loud announcement in their chemistry class. Peter could shake his round-faced friend. It looked like Spider-Man would be kept under wraps for the foreseeable future.

 

Flash was an ass about it, as usual. He approached Peter at the end of the day, while Peter was gathering his things from his locker.

 

“Hey, Penis,” Flash snickered, giving a high five to one of the jocks he always hung around. Peter rolled his eyes. Flash wasn’t that special. He was smart, but not the smartest. He was good at sports, but not the best. He looked good, but he wasn’t the most attractive guy there. People seemed to flock to him, though. Peter tried not to be bitter about it. He was taught by his uncle that you shouldn’t make judgements or say cruel things about people, but Peter found himself thinking—not for the first time—that the only reason Flash was so popular was because he had money. Peter, on the other hand, was probably one of the poorest people to attend Midtown, and he was treated like it. It wasn’t like May and Ben had nothing. Before his uncle died, they did alright. All the bills were paid, they had everything they needed, and Peter was happy, but they never had the money for a new laptop or the latest game system. Those things weren’t important, though, and when he was in public school, there were other kids there like him who also couldn’t afford it. Now that Ben was gone things were tighter than ever. It was embarrassing to shop at Goodwill because you had to. If he heard that Thrift Shop song one more time, he might scream in frustration.

 

Peter shut his locker and turned away from the bully, intent on just leaving the school and ignoring him entirely. Flash matched his pace and Peter sighed. “Penis, I’m talking to you.”

 

“You could actually use my name,” he muttered, adjusting his backpack.

 

Flash scoffed, “Whatever. Word is, you’ve got some fancy internship with Wilson Fisk.” Peter shrugged noncommittally. “Yeah, I thought it was bull.”

 

Peter tensed. Flash always got under his skin. “It’s real, Flash. It starts next month.”

 

“Yeah right, Parker. Wilson Fisk, who has only ever done outreach in Hell’s Kitchen, suddenly offered you an internship? God, you’re more pathetic than I thought,” Flash laughed as they reached the entrance, shoving Peter with his shoulder as he darted out the door. Peter grumbled and rubbed his shoulder, trying not to let Flash get to him. He knew Flash was jealous because Peter did better than him in classes. Peter just had to ignore the guy. Sure, it would be an annoyance for the next three and a half years, but what were the odds they’d both go to the same college? Although, Peter had heard that Flash’s parents were already attending preparatory meetings and dinners at MIT for him.

 

Peter heard ESU was pretty good. They had better biology and chemistry programs, anyway.

 

That day after school, several packages arrived at his door—mostly paper-wrapped parcels with a couple of boxes amongst them. Most were addressed to Peter, but some were addressed to May, too. The two opened them together, and May was absolutely floored by what she saw when Peter unwrapped what was essentially a new wardrobe. She gaped at his new clothing, pointing out labels like Earnest Sewn, Gucci, and 7 For All Mankind. Even Peter—whose extent of clothing knowledge was where sold the best and cheapest nerdy tee-shirts—knew that this was high-end. He got the feeling the new shirts and jeans and shoes were easily more than their rent. Probably by a couple months. The couple of packages for May were also brand name clothing—just some blouses and jeans—as a thank you for allowing Peter to participate in the internship program, according to the note that came with. There were four garment bags—two for Peter, and two for May.

 

Peter opened his bags to reveal two absolutely amazing suits. Like, Tony Stark level suits. The tags said Armani. One was black and the other was navy blue, and Peter suddenly realized the silk button-ups (as opposed to the plain, cotton ones) he unpacked earlier were meant to be paired with these. The fabric was softer than anything he had ever felt before. May opened her bags to reveal two stunning dresses. One was a deep red, strapless, knee-length dress with ruching at the hips. The other an elegant, white, full-length strapless dress with subtle silver designs that shimmered in the light. May was beside herself as she examined the garments.

 

“Peter,” she said, stunned, “this is too much. This is all too much!” Peter shook his head wordlessly, glancing at the two boxes that came with the clothes. “Why do you need designer clothing? Why do I need evening gowns? What kind of internship is this?” May wrung her hands together, pacing back and forth before Peter, who sat on the couch, still gaping at the Armani suit in his hands.

 

“Well,” Peter began, hesitantly, “I need clothes for work. When I go into the office I need to be dressed appropriately, and I don’t really have anything other than a couple of button-ups and the one pair of slacks, and Mr. Fisk said it wouldn’t be fair to make us go get more fitting clothes for me. He said as part of the terms of the contract he would make sure to get me some suitable things.” Then again, Peter kind of thought Mr. Fisk meant clothes from Target not—wherever he got this stuff. “And there are press events, you know? That both of us would attend? And they’re really fancy, so….” Peter trailed off, a little helplessly as he pulled the first box towards him. It was fairly light, and when he opened it, he discovered a brand new JanSport backpack (finally, something Peter recognized, a plain, black, somewhat trendy bag) and a leather messenger bag from Dolce & Gabbana. Putting these aside, he opened the final box and nearly dropped it in shock when he saw the contents.

 

The box contained a brand new, state of the art Microsoft tablet and laptop that Peter actually knew the value of—tech geek that he was. He was holding at least 4000 dollars’ worth of equipment in his trembling hands. He wouldn’t have to bring that duct-taped monstrosity he used before to school. He could get rid of his home rigged retro-tech for good. He may never have to dive into a dumpster for an old, used computer again. This was not part of the contract.

 

He couldn’t accept this.

 

He told Mr. Wesley as much when he called him that night. He put the man on speaker so both he and May could voice their concerns, which Mr. Wesley heard and said he would take care of.

 

Apparently, that meant sending Mr. Fisk to their apartment directly.

 

May squeaked in alarm when the philanthropist showed up at her door, unannounced. She smoothed her hair as she led him inside to a seat at their dinner table, then offered to make him some tea which he courteously accepted. Peter sat with him at the table as May bustled in the kitchen, quietly answering questions about school. He was glad he was starting to get over how intimidating the man was—his spider-sense was only quietly buzzing at his presence now. May served Mr. Fisk with trembling hands and sat down herself, brushing imaginary dust from the table in front of her seat.

 

“Mrs. Parker, I understand you have some concerns with the items I had delivered the other day,” Mr. Fisk said, quietly.

 

May took a deep breath before beginning to speak. “It’s not that we aren’t grateful, Mr. Fisk,” she began, hesitantly, “but it’s too much. I don’t think you understand—all of that is too, uh, it’s too—”

 

“I do understand, Mrs. Parker,” Mr. Fisk interjected gently. May pressed her mouth closed and looked worriedly over at Peter, who was drumming his fingers nervously against his knee. “My own mother would have reacted the same way if this had happened to me when I was young,” he offered with a small smile. “Perhaps I was a little overzealous when I made these purchases.”

 

“Oh, no, Mr. Fisk! I mean, maybe a little—but it’s not that we don’t appreciate it—”

 

“May I explain my reasoning?” he asked. May and Peter both nodded. Mr. Fisk sighed. “Mr. Parker—he reminds me of myself at that age. My Father disappeared one day, leaving me and my Mother alone to fend for ourselves, and my Mother was very sickly and frail. I had to continue my education, because I knew if I didn’t I couldn’t better our situation in the future, and we both had to work to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. I was fortunate to do as well as I did in college and to invest where and when I did to get where I am now,” Mr. Fisk adjusted the cuffs of his shirt, almost nervously. Peter never knew the man to speak of his past so candidly before. “Of course, I can attribute that hard work to who I am today, but I still remember the stress of it. This is a tender time in Mr. Parker’s life, and the one thing I wish I could have had was someone to help us,” Mr. Fisk shook his head, staring into his tea. He looked into Peter’s eyes as he spoke his next words. “I was so angry. So very angry,” Peter blinked, startled by the sting of tears in the corner of his eyes. He suddenly felt a connection to the philanthropist that he hadn’t expected.

 

Peter knew that there was a dark, hot thing in his chest, eating away at him, trying to claw its way out, but he hadn’t realized that it was rage he was feeling—an anger that was always present. Peter felt it whenever the other kids looked down at him for his secondhand clothes, or when Mr. Delmar gave him pitying looks and a discount on his stupid gummy worms. He even felt it when he went to Ned’s and saw how normal his best friend’s life was. Ever since Ben died, he was nothing but angry, and he had to bury it in order to make it through the day.

 

Mr. Fisk turned back to May. “I made awful, awful choices back then, and many of them were out of spite of my own situation. I could never wish that on anyone. When I saw the opportunity to spoil you both, I couldn’t help myself. Please, I beg that you allow me this one concession. It’s not as though these items will not be needed for his internship—it really does equate to a business expense for me.” He stared at May, almost beseechingly, and the woman glanced at her nephew, reading his face before slowly nodding.

 

“It’s just so expensive,” she began. “We could never pay you back.”

 

Mr. Fisk smiled again, a twinkle appearing in his dark eyes. “You won’t have to, Mrs. Parker. This is a gift—one that I give willingly and with no expectations in return—with the exception that Peter work hard while he is with me and my people.”

 

“I will, Mr. Fisk, absolutely,” Peter said, finally regaining some composure. It was the first time he ever heard Mr. Fisk say his first name. The man turned to him with that same, gentle smile.

 

“Of that I have no doubt, Mr. Parker,” he said kindly. They sat and spoke over tea together, sharing stories until Mr. Fisk’s cup was empty. The Parkers led the man out, both feeling as though a whirlwind just flew through their apartment that somehow left them in one piece.

 

After that, things seemed to go very well for Peter and his aunt. The claim for Ben’s life insurance finally went through. May had been arguing with the agency for months trying to get everything in order. She could finally pay off the debts to the funeral home, and it eased the burden on her for rent. Not only that, but his pension was finally coming in. The last time May spoke to the head of Ben’s union, she heard it would take two more months due to some stupid piece of paperwork that was missing. Apparently, whatever crucial information that was needed to process the documents was found and their case got bumped to the top of the list. May was incredibly relieved, and it showed on her face. She ordered Thai and they spent the evening watching crummy horror movies and giggling over the terrible effects.

 

Peter was so at ease now that things were settling down at home, that when the first came along, he only felt a tiny bit of nervous butterflies in his stomach. He was more excited than nervous to start his internship. Instead of his backpack he brought his new messenger bag to school, which got him a lot of unexpected positive attention. After school he changed into some of his new clothes—a pair of khaki slacks from True Religion and a whitish Hermes shirt with a grid pattern—then went to the front of the school to see Mr. Wesley waiting for him in front of another black car—a Mercedes, this time. Mr. Wesley opened the door for him, and he spotted Flash just before he climbed in, staring at Peter with a mixture of wonder and disbelief. He smirked and gave a little wave, causing the bully to scowl at him. Peter was sure he was going to get a lot of grief tomorrow, but right now he felt like it was absolutely worth it to see that look on Flash’s face.

 

After they started driving towards Manhattan, Mr. Wesley handed him a bottle of water before telling him about the itinerary for the day. “Today you’ll be meeting Dr. Ohnn. He’ll go over some of the duties you’ll have while you work with him, as well as what you are going to learn from him. On Wednesday you’ll do the same with Mr. Davis, and on Thursday you’ll be with me.”

 

“Okay, Mr. Wesley, but, um, are you always going to pick me up? I know you’re really busy,” Peter asked, nervously. Even though he had met Mr. Wesley a handful of times, he still felt a little anxious around him.

 

“No, I won’t. You’re right when you say I’m busy. That reminds me, actually,” Wesley knocked on the partition, which slid open. Peter could see the driver’s hazel eyes underneath heavy, blonde eyebrows staring back at them through the rearview mirror. Peter was pretty sure this was the same driver from the night Peter met Mr. Wesley.

 

“Yes, sir?”

 

“Francis, I want Peter to meet Frederick tonight. He’ll be the one picking up Peter at school and taking him home from now on,” Mr. Wesley said, curtly. Francis nodded and closed the partition again at Mr. Wesley’s request. Peter was a little surprised. He didn’t realize he would have his own chauffer for these things.

 

“Dr. Ohnn doesn’t know you’re Spider-Man, and we intend to keep it that way,” Mr. Wesley said, picking up a tablet and scrolling through it. “While you’re with him, he’ll be teaching you about biophysics. Currently he is developing experiments to create medical advancements, primarily with radiation. You can learn a lot from him.”

 

Peter processed the information and found himself a little lost. “Mr. Wesley?” Mr. Wesley nodded for him to continue. “I just—uh—why does Mr. Fisk need someone working on medical advancements?” Mr. Wesley smiled at the question.

 

“In short, he doesn’t,” he said, tapping a few icons on the tablet. He set the device down and looked up at Peter. Peter’s brows drew together in confusion. “However, the methods that are being developed by Dr. Ohnn are cutting edge, and the good he can do for the community is outstanding. Mr. Fisk is helping to fund Dr. Ohnn’s research in order to keep the information out of the wrong hands. I believe he may have mentioned how his mother was ill while he was a child?” Peter shrugged a little. “When he was young, they couldn’t afford medicine for her, and social services were not kind in those days. Medicine was hard to come by. Mr. Fisk believes the drug companies who patent these medicines do not do it with the best interests of the people at heart, and so in turn, he is working to patent some drugs and procedures himself so they can be more easily obtained by people.”

 

That didn’t sound right to Peter. “But I thought you couldn’t patent a medical procedure. I mean, I know drugs can be patented,” Mr. Wesley raised an eyebrow at Peter, and Peter felt himself flushing under the scrutiny. “I mean, if he’s focusing on developing treatments instead of medicines….” Peter trailed off, lost for words.

 

Mr. Wesley appeared to consider his words before responding. “It is… difficult… to patent a medical procedure, but not impossible. However, Dr. Ohnn is developing technology that can utilize radiation to enhance cells, and medical devices are often patented. Mr. Fisk doesn’t want this technology inaccessible, and his goals are similar to Dr. Ohnn, so he offered the man a position.”

 

“Oh,” Peter said, shifting in his seat a little. He hadn’t realized how many areas Mr. Fisk was involved with. Soon the car pulled to a stop and Mr. Wesley led Peter out of the vehicle, and Peter gaped at the building in front of them.

 

It was a skyscraper, several stories tall and silver-grey in color, covered in windows from the ground up. Peter could hardly believe his eyes. Mr. Wesley led him inside to a receptionist, and had a badge made up to allow him clearance to all his necessary floors, including Mr. Fisk’s own (though not his office—only Mr. Fisk and Mr. Wesley had access to that). Once these necessities were taken care of, Mr. Wesley took Peter to an elevator. The elevator moved upward for almost a minute before stopping. The doors opened to reveal a state-of-the-art lab with equipment Peter had never seen in his life. Before he had time to examine the machinery, Mr. Wesley brought him to some lab tables where a man was hunched over a microscope. Mr. Wesley cleared his throat, and the man straightened up and turned around, his mouth twisted in an impatient scowl.

 

Peter’s eyes took in the sight of the scientist. The man was tall, possibly taller than Mr. Wesley. His dirty blonde hair was unkempt and flopped around his pale face. He wore thick glasses and he had a long, white lab coat that covered his crisp white shirt. Around his neck he wore a plain, black tie that matched his black slacks almost exactly, and nice black dress shoes. Peter gulped, somewhat intimidated by the expression on the man’s face. Mr. Wesley nudged him forward, and he hesitantly stepped toward the man, holding out his hand. “Hello, sir, I’m Peter Parker.”

 

The man let his eye move from the top of Peter’s head down to the toes of his shoes before grasping Peter’s hand in a cordial handshake. “Hello, Peter. I’m Dr. Ohnn,” the man introduced himself. “I understand you are to be interning with me once a week?”

 

“Yes, sir. I look forward to learning from you. I’m afraid I don’t know much about biophysics—I’ve always been more interested in chemical engineering, but I understand you’re developing some interesting tech for medical advancements?”

 

Dr. Ohnn smiled. “Oh, I was worried about you,” he said with a chuckle. Suddenly his whole demeanor shifted, and he appeared much more relaxed. “When they told me I would have a high school kid as an intern, I just about lost my mind. I’m glad to see you’re not an idiot,” he laughed. Peter smiled, nervously glancing back toward Mr. Wesley. The man adjusted his glasses, then cleared his throat.

 

“I’ll let you two get started,” he said before he left the room. Peter smiled hesitantly at Dr. Ohnn. The bespectacled man clasped a friendly hand on his shoulder and guided him to the table he was working at. Peter stared at the graphs and notes spread out before him, somewhat dazzled by the detail of the work.

 

“Oh, wow, Dr. Ohnn, are these are really in depth!” Peter exclaimed as he picked up a loose sheet and examined the contents. “The detail about the effect of the radiation used is crazy. I’m confused though. Mr. Wesley said you’re working on medical technology, but this seems to be primarily focused on the negative and positive effects of radiation treatment, and that’s been around for a long time.”

 

“Well, Peter—can I call you Peter?” Peter nodded at the man’s question, a little relieved that someone wanted to use his given name. “Peter, I am working on a device that can distribute radiation in a safer, more measured way.” The man opened a drawer and pulled out some blueprints for a machine that appeared to be comprised of a generator and a sealable chamber. “I’ll confess something though,” he said conspiratorially, “I’m not only seeking to change how we use radiation treatment.”

 

Peter’s eyebrows shot up. “What else are you trying to do?”

 

“Well,” he began, smirking slightly, “between you and me, I’m trying to see if I can use this technology to develop transportation abilities.” Peter stared at him in disbelief. “I believe that if an organism is exposed to the right wavelength of beta radiation, it can move itself from one point to another instantaneously.” Dr. Ohnn gestured towards the microscope he was using earlier. Peter wandered in the direction Dr. Ohnn pointed and stared at a radiated cell sample underneath the microscope. As expected, the cells had deteriorated to a point where they were nearly unrecognizable.

"That's the control sample. When radiation therapy is used, that is what happens to all the cells that can easily replenish themselves," Peter nodded in acknowledgment, and looked away from the sample, seeing Dr. Ohnn was now by his elbow. "What I intend to do is develop something where the cells don't deteriorate, but shift. When the molecular breakdown reaches the subatomic level, in theory an organism will not cease to exist, but stay in motion, allowing it to move great distances in a short period of time."

"Like the transport beam in Star Trek?"

Dr. Ohnn laughed at Peter's enthusiasm. "More like how the dragons go 'between' in Dragon Riders of Pern." Peter stared at the blonde man in confusion, and the man shook his head. "Don't you read?"

"Uh," Peter stuttered, feeling a blush overtake his face. "I've read Dr. Banner's publications on gamma radiation...."

Dr. Ohnn barked out a surprised laugh. "Kid, you're something else."

 

Peter cleared his throat, suddenly nervous enough that his mouth went dry. “Does—does Mr. Fisk know about this?” Dr. Ohnn grinned, grasping Peter’s shoulder.

 

“Of course he does. Nothing goes on around here without him knowing it, young man. You better get used to having no secrets,” he laughed again, releasing Peter and moving back to the table. Relief flooded the teenager and he let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “Enough of this though.  Believe you me, you and I will most likely discuss the applications of this project, but you need to know what your duties will be in the lab while you work with me.”

 

Peter and Dr. Ohnn went back and forth about his strengths and weaknesses before they determined what he would be doing. Dr. Ohnn had a solid grasp on engineering, and Peter was excited to learn how that would apply to his research in biophysics. The older man was glad he knew the difference between a Flathead and a Philips (Peter was pretty sure he was joking about that, but he could tell he was happy Peter actually knew his way around a toolbox). They decided to further develop Peter’s skills in mechanics primarily, but the teenager was glad Dr. Ohnn wanted to work with him to develop and structure experiments appropriately. “Science is an art in some ways, Peter, but we can’t just throw things together and hope for a good outcome,” Peter winced as he thought of his webfluid formula. He was actually pretty lucky that he inherently knew those chemicals would combine correctly instead of blowing up in his face. He was glad he wouldn’t have to confess that lucky accident to Dr. Ohnn. “The scientific method is our bread and butter, and controlled experiments with exact variables are the safest and most efficient way to find the answers we seek.”

 

Before Peter knew it, it was five o’clock. Mr. Wesley appeared in the lab to collect him. As they rode down the elevator, Peter couldn’t help bouncing on the balls of his feet. He couldn’t believe what a great first day he had and was really looking forward to seeing Dr. Ohnn again.

 

“I take it you enjoyed yourself?” Mr. Wesley asked. Peter nodded, enthusiastically.

 

“Yeah, Mr. Wesley. Dr. Ohnn is amazing! I can’t wait to start working on some of those projects.”

 

Mr. Wesley smiled as the elevator drew to a stop and the doors opened. He led Peter to the receptionist and showed him how to sign out before taking him back to the entrance. A tall, dark-skinned man with very short, tightly curled hair and warm brown eyes was waiting for them. He was only a couple inches taller than Peter, and had a similar, stocky build. The man was young, clearly only a few years older than Peter, which put the boy at ease. It was nice to see someone close to his own age.

 

“Mr. Parker, this is Frederick. He will be taking you to and from your internship.” Peter smiled and held out his hand. Frederick grinned, his bright smile taking over his face as he shook Peter’s hand. “I’ll leave you to it. Remember Frederick will be there after school on Wednesday. I won’t be seeing you until Thursday, and by then I’ll have the month’s schedule worked out for you.”

 

“Thanks Mr. Wesley. See you Thursday!” Peter said as they left the building. Frederick led them to the car and opened the door for Peter. The boy nodded his thanks as he climbed into the back of the car.

 

He stared out the window, eyes taking in the dazzling lights of the city as they started to leave Manhattan. “Thanks for driving me, Mr. Frederick,” Peter said, remembering his manners. The driver laughed, glancing back at him in the rearview mirror.

 

“Nah, Mr. Parker. You gotta call me Freddy,” he said, still smiling broadly.

 

Peter smiled shyly back. “Okay, but only if you call me Peter.”

 

“Done deal, Peter,” Freddy replied, eyes back on the road. “What did you think of your first day?”

 

“It was incredible. I still can’t believe it,” Peter said, a little breathlessly. Freddy nodded in understanding.

 

“I know what you mean. I remember my first day. I was about your age, I think. It was intense.”

 

“Really?” Peter asked, somewhat awed. It was neat to meet someone who started in a similar position at him.  

 

“Yeah. I was one of the first people to get involved in his rehabilitation program when it went public a few years ago,” Freddy said, shrugging a little as he turned onto the freeway. “Things were bad, back then. Mom and I were struggling. Dad was a deadbeat. In jail more often than out, and money got so tight that I needed a job ASAP. No one wanted to take a chance on me though. Mr. Fisk hired me on the spot. I owe that man my life twice over. If it weren’t for him, I might be dealing on the street, you know? Instead, Mama’s got a great new job thanks to a reference from him, and I just started my first year at Columbia. On a scholarship! He really helped me turn things around.”

 

During the remainder of the ride they discussed lighter things. Both of them were huge fans of the Mets and they were excited for spring to come so they could see the games. When Freddy told Peter about the ticket discounts he would get as an employee of Mr. Fisk Peter was positively giddy. Peter learned Freddy grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, and they talked about their mutual love of sandwich shops. When Peter said there was no way the Melt Shop could compare to Delmar’s, Freddy laughed and told him it was on. “After you get settled in, we’ll go to both. We’ll stop at Delmar’s on the way to work, and then stop at Melt Shop on the way back. You’re gonna eat your words, man, let me tell you.”

 

Before Peter knew it, they were at his apartment complex. He thanked Freddy for the ride and waved him off as the man dipped back into traffic like it was nothing. Peter was grinning all the way upstairs, humming tunelessly in the elevator. He got to his door, turned the key in the lock and greeted May who was sitting at the table, staring at a letter. Peter took in her shaken expression and sat down next to her, rubbing her arm.

 

“May? May what’s wrong?” he asked, all the joy from the afternoon gone in a second. Anxiety filled him as he waited for her response. Peter should have known better than to start feeling so great. Things never actually stayed good for long.

 

May blinked tearfully as she looked at Peter, when a bright smile overtook her face. She laughed, aglow and happy, and Peter was thrown for a loop.

 

“Peter, Peter I—” she shook her head, touching the paper on the table in front of her. “You know how I enter those sweepstakes sometimes?” Peter nodded. “I—I won one. I actually won. I won 100,000 dollars, Peter!” she said, excitedly.

 

Peter was floored. “W-what? You—you what?” he asked, a small confused smile forming on his face.

 

“Peter, I won 100,000 dollars! I don’t have to work those insane hours anymore, and we can finally move!” she exclaimed, leaning over and wrapping him in a tight hug.

 

They could leave. Peter stared at the kitchen for a moment, still haunted by the crack of a gunshot and the snapping of Ben’s body against the counter. They could move. They could leave this place and never have to remember that ever again. Peter was ecstatic as he hugged May back. He couldn’t believe their luck. The life insurance finally went through. He had a great new internship with awesome benefits. May actually won something. They could finally go somewhere else and leave that awful memory behind. Peter didn’t know what was making the universe throw some good things their way, but Peter wouldn’t question it.

 

Things were finally looking up.

Chapter Text

"Okay, I welded on the power coupling, Mr. Davis."

"Look, Parker," Peter's mentor began, pinching the bridge of his nose, "you can call me Davis. Hell, you can call me Aaron, but for the love of God, please don't call me Mr. Davis. That was my Father, and he was a dick." 


Peter waited a beat before responding, "What about A-aron?" Silence followed his question for a few minutes and Peter opened his mouth to apologize for his audacity when Aaron laughed, quiet and somewhat surprised.


"Aren't you gen-z or some shit?" he asked with a smirk. "I didn't realize kids your age would know a reference so old."


Peter shrugged. "We thrive on vines and pop culture references, Mist--um--Aaron." Aaron clasped him on the shoulder and Peter grinned, turning back to the anti-gravity climbers they were building. It was an incredible project. Apparently, Mr. Fisk was developing them to land a contract with emergency services in the city. They would be incredibly useful for fire fighters and paramedics in the during situations when access to the upper floors of a lot of buildings was cut off. 


"Man, you gotta meet my nephew. He's a little younger than you, but you'll like him. You draw? Maybe we can find a place on our off time and the three of us can throw some shit up."


Aaron was, by far, the most casual mentor he got to work with. On the first day they worked together, when the engineer saw Peter's designer clothes, he gripped his dark dreadlocks and shook his head as he told him in no uncertain terms that he should never wear those threads again unless he wanted to destroy them. He was especially upset that Peter was willing to mess up his brand-new Nikes. Since then, Peter was at his most comfortable during his internship on Aaron's lab days, wearing his worn-out Adidas and well used jeans and tee-shirts.

 

He was the opposite of Dr. Ohnn in almost every way. Dr. Ohnn expected crisp professionalism at every turn, from his attitude to the shoes he was wearing (he objected to the Nikes for an entirely different reason). Aaron wanted things to be relaxed—said it made for a better work environment. Dr. Ohnn was methodical, neat, and concise. Everything was ordered, everything had a plan, and ideas were worked out on paper before being set in motion. Aaron was chaotic. He threw things together while explaining that just knowing how the parts work would be enough to see how they go together, teaching Peter how to see the flow of the machinery. Half the time they worked on ideas while doing some kind of physical activity, like running laps around the lab or hitting the punching bag he had set up in the corner. The only thing Dr. Ohnn and Aaron really seemed to have in common was that Mr. Wesley did not want Aaron to know about Spider-Man either, which was unfortunate because Peter figured his webfluid formula and the method he used to create it would have been well received. Aaron was friendly and easy-going, and he was so relaxed and welcoming with Peter that he found himself really wanting to become the man’s friend. Which was kind of weird when Peter thought about it. What 14-year-old wanted to be friends with a 32-year-old man? Nevertheless, Peter did, so he was both excited and nervous about Aaron’s suggestion to tag a wall.



"I don't know, Aaron," he said hesitantly, picking up a screwdriver and fiddling with it. "Isn't that illegal?" He loved graffiti. There was something so raw and beautiful about the art form, but the idea of committing vandalism really bothered him. He had seen what Mr. Delmar had to go through to clean the walls of his store, and knew it wasn’t an easy or cheap task.


"Man, don't pussy out on me. My nephew is 13 and he's already throwing up his art," Aaron said, picking up the climber and examining his work. Peter frowned and shook his head.


"Okay, first off, that is such a misogynistic insult. A pussy threw you into this world, and probably snapped back into place after." Aaron raised his eyebrows, possibly surprised because Peter never used that kind of language, but in his head the boy could just see May nodding her head in approval. When it came to words and bullies (okay, not his own bullies, but other people’s at least), Peter had a hard time holding his tongue. "Second, there's nothing weak about wanting to stay on the right side of the law. It's called being smart. I'd lose my scholarship in a heartbeat if I got caught and that's not worth it. Besides, I have the artistic capabilities of a two-year-old."


Aaron grinned. "Shit, Parker, calm down. I wouldn't get my nephew busted like that. I know some legal walls. We'd be good." Peter sighed in relief. It had only been a few weeks, but he really didn’t want to get on Aaron’s bad side. He enjoyed their work and comradery way too much. He was glad the older man wasn't willing to jeopardize things for him because of his outburst. "You can even bring friends, if you know anyone who'd be down. And I can teach you how to paint. I’ve seen your schematics. You know how to draw. You just don’t know you know, you know?"


Peter knew Ned would be overjoyed at the prospect. It was such a badass thing to do. Then he thought of Michelle and her sketches. This would probably move him from loser to nerd in her book. "My best friend would want to go, and I know a girl who might be into it...."


Aaron smirked and chuckled a little. "Ohhhh, a girl. Right."


"Come on, man, it's not like that," Peter blushed. 


"Uh huh, sure," Aaron said, grabbing the next set of parts they needed for the climbers. "But just in case, do you know about the shoulder touch?"


Peter left that day feeling a mixture of confusion and confidence. He may not see Michelle that way, but maybe if he got the courage to try to ask Liz out, he would see if Aaron's suggestion worked. 


Okay, he would probably never get the courage to ask Liz out, but at least he had a pretty cool plan for Saturday. Ned was ecstatic when he told him, and Michelle—well she said it didn't sound totally boring, so Peter figured that was a win. He happily told May about his day (without saying exactly what he was working on—nondisclosure agreements were taken very seriously for all of Mr. Fisk's projects) as they ate lasagna that was only slightly burnt.

During dinner Peter’s phone rang, and he glanced at it and raised his eyebrows in surprise to see Mr. Wesley’s name glowing on the screen.

 

Working with Mr. Wesley was not what Peter expected. For some reason, he found himself thinking he’d be learning about scheduling and working in an office, so he was really surprised to find he was expected to show up in his nicest clothes other than his suits (a set of grey slacks with a matching grey blazer, a crisp button-up shirt and a tie—thank goodness for May and YouTube teaching him how to do a Windsor knot) so they could go out and—meet people. Mr. Wesley went all around Hell’s Kitchen, meeting several contacts who did all different kinds of work. Sometimes they would go to the police station and speak to some of the detectives there. They went to a hospital (the very one May had to commute to every day—part of the reason she was so excited about the extra money coming in was because she could finally work closer to home) to touch base with several doctors and nurses on staff. May was so surprised and happy to see him, she appeared right next to him to give him a hug, despite the fact he was there for work. He blushed bright red in embarrassment while Mr. Wesley merely smiled at them indulgently. Once Mr. Wesley even brought him to a winery and explained how to select different wines based on type, variety, vintage, and what it would be served with (if anything). Peter had no idea why that would be useful, but when he voiced this Mr. Wesley merely chuckled and said part of his work for Mr. Fisk was to ensure he had the right things available for the man to impress whatever company he was with. Being a Personal Assistant was way more in depth than managing a schedule.

 

Peter hadn’t seen Mr. Fisk at all since he had showed up at his and May’s apartment all those weeks ago.

 

He cleared his throat and excused himself from the table, telling May it was from work. She allowed it with a small frown, knowing they wouldn’t call unless it was important, but she was clearly still upset at the disturbance.

 

Peter answered the phone as he went into his room, shutting the door softly behind him.

 

“Hello Mr. Parker, I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” Mr. Wesley said after Peter’s greeting.

 

“Oh, not really, Mr. Wesley. We’re just eating dinner. What’s up?”

 

“I’m sorry to call during this hour. Mr. Fisk just received word that the Devil is active again, and he is worried about a former associate of his,” Mr. Wesley spoke slowly and softly, as if he regretted bringing it up with Peter in the first place.

 

Peter glanced back at the closed door. “Oh—yeah. Um… does he uh—need Spider-Man?” he whispered. So far, Mr. Fisk had asked him to capture criminals for him a handful of times. It was nothing that required additional time outside of his normally scheduled patrols, but Spider-Man was starting to get noticed in Hell’s Kitchen. May had seen that the hero was branching out away from Queens on the news and shared the information with Peter over breakfast one day, wondering how much of the city the man would try to protect.

 

Mr. Wesley sighed on the other end. “Yes, Peter, I’m afraid he does, and I’m afraid he needs this woman found tonight.”

 

Peter nearly dropped his phone. Mr. Fisk had never set so short a deadline before. “Why?”

 

“Because the woman in question—how do I say this—” Peter sat down on the edge of his bed, clutching at his phone, trying to keep his strength in check. Mr. Wesley was never at a loss for words. “Mr. Parker, this woman is now running a drug trafficking ring.” Peter could hear the shame creeping into Mr. Wesley’s voice. “She was in one of his rehabilitation programs, but she was always very stubborn. She could never see the pros to working on the right side of the law, and she always thought she was too deep to get out. Now she’s apparently embraced her life of crime, and has been climbing up in the ranks. She’s responsible for the manufacturing and selling meth in the wealthier areas of town, and the Devil doesn’t discriminate.” Peter let out a little gasp, suddenly frightened for this nameless, faceless woman, despite the fact that she was doing terrible things. “He won’t care that she’s a woman, and won’t pull his punches, and she has always been delicate. Mr. Fisk is afraid that if the Devil finds her, she won’t survive it, and he is certain the vigilante has some kind of intel on her. I know you have school tomorrow, but—”

 

“It’s okay, Mr. Wesley. This is important. Can you text me her picture? And you need to help me lie to May,” Peter felt guilt twist in his stomach. He hated lying to May.

 

“Of course, Mr. Parker. Hand the phone to her and I’ll give her an excuse while you change into your suit. You worked with Mr. Davis today, right?”

 

Peter left his room and apologized to May, saying he had to go back, handing his phone to her to allow Mr. Wesley to explain. May’s eyebrows furrowed as she grabbed the phone and Peter saw her open her mouth to give Mr. Wesley an earful as he went back to his room. He undressed and pulled on his suit, then put his loose jeans and a baggy sweater over it. He pocketed his mask as he left his room, and when he approached their dining area he saw May nodding. “Oh, I understand Mr. Wesley. It’s just that it’s a school night—are you certain that Peter has to go?” she waited a beat and nodded, frowning all the more. “That sounds like an incredibly dangerous project for a child to work on—no, no I know he’s capable! I don’t understand how he’s developing this to the point that he’s one of the only people who can fix—oh. Oh, I didn’t realize he was inventing it alongside—no, no one mentioned anything about patents for his work. I understand,” she looked out at peter and mouthed anti-gravity? and Peter shrugged helplessly with a small smile. So much for the NDA. “Thank you, Mr. Wesley. Please make sure he gets home safe. Alright. No, he’s here, I’ll give him the phone,” she sighed. “Goodbye,” she said, handing the phone back to Peter. Peter held it up to his ear as he gave May a hug and grabbed his jacket.

 

After he left the apartment, Mr. Wesley told him that since Frederick was already home for the evening, Francis would be the one to drive him to Hell’s Kitchen, near the last location the woman was seen. As soon as Peter exited the building, he saw the same BMW Mr. Wesley picked him up in about a month ago. Francis stood outside the vehicle and opened the door for Peter so the boy could climb in. Peter murmured his thanks, and Francis shut the door for him. Soon the car was moving towards Manhattan. Peter quickly shucked his jacket, sweater, and jeans, and he sat patiently in the car, holding his mask in his hands. His phone pinged with a new text, and opened it to reveal a picture of a woman with short brown hair and wide green eyes wearing a serious expression on her thin, pale face. Beneath was the name Janet Williams, with known aliases Jenny Stone and Jan Wilson, and her age was listed as 25 years old. Peter frowned and shook his head, wondering what could have caused her to start down this path. He hoped he would manage to find her before the Devil.

 

He knew the man’s work, now. He had seen it firsthand. One night when Peter was patrolling, he heard the sound of screaming and the thud of flesh on flesh in the distance. By the time he got there, the other vigilante had vanished, leaving behind a group of bodies in an alleyway. One of the men was dead, most likely because of his broken neck, and the only person conscious was murmuring about the Devil in a black mask. Peter was sick to his stomach when he discovered them. He was so shaken by it he had nightmares for days, wondering what could make a man beat another person to death. Peter was always so cautious of his strength, knowing if he put too much behind a punch, he could really hurt someone. The idea of somebody just losing it on another human being like that was sickening. He knew this woman wasn’t good, really. She clearly wasn’t worried about the people who suffered from the drugs flowing into their communities, and only cared about getting paid, but Peter still didn’t want her to be dead in an alley somewhere, left out with yesterday’s trash. As soon as they got to the last location she was at—an newly renovated poolhall between a bar and a smoke shop, Peter slipped his mask on, thanked Francis for the ride, and jumped out of the car to get to work.

 

He swung around the area, looking for crime so he could weed out information. He stopped quite a few people—carjackers, a mugger here and there—but so far, he hadn’t seen any drug deals going down to give him the clue he needed to get where he wanted to go. He sat on the roof of an old brick building, staring down at the streets below him, waiting. Soon, his patience paid off. On the corner below him, just in front of the mouth of an alleyway, he saw a man in a thick jacket and ski cap meeting up with a college aged kid who was nervously adjusting the strap of his bag. Soon, Peter saw a small baggie exchanged for money, and he smiled a little under his mask. Finally.

 

The two parted ways, and after Peter webbed the college kid to a wall and relieved him of his purchase— “you shouldn’t take drugs. They’re bad,”—he targeted the dealer and followed him throughout the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, sticking to the walls and rooftops above. The man seemed none the wiser as he strolled along, finally stopping at a deserted parking lot before lighting a cigarette. Peter decided now was the time to strike. He shot a web over the man’s head, causing him to drop his smoke and lighter in alarm. Peter dropped down behind the man, folding his arms across his chest and shaking his head.

 

“You know,” he began, causing the man to whirl around in shock, “every night I do this, I keep thinking of that really old song. You know the one? About the guy who meets the prostitute, and then the mugger, and he asks them why they do those awful things, and they say there ain’t no rest for the wicked?” the man reached into his coat pocket, whipping out a small pistol. Peter clicked his tongue and shot another web out, ripping the gun out of his hand and throwing it across the lot. “Is that the deal? Money don’t grow on trees? Because if that’s the case, I’m sorry man, but you just gotta go out and get a real job. I know paying taxes is a pain, but this can’t be worth it.” The man turned and ran, sprinting between the sparse cars in the lot. “Oh, good job, dude, keep going! You might get away!” Peter crowed cheerfully, Shooting a web to the building next to him and launching himself into the air, then running above the criminal along the wall. The man spun around, and staggered, seeing no one behind him. Peter paused and cocked his head, watching as the man looked wildly from side to side before ducking into an opening between buildings that the parking lot sat in front of. It contained a truck loading dock and a dumpster. Peter wondered why no one ever seemed to look up. The man ran back to the wall and started climbing on the dumpster so he could leap over it, but Peter shot a web at his ankle and pulled him back as he dropped to the ground. The man tripped to the ground and scrambled up, pulling a knife out of—somewhere. Peter laughed and shook his head, holding his hands out in front of him.

 

“Oh, no!” he said, sarcastically, “A small knife! I’m terrified! How did you know my weakness!” The man stared at him, backing himself into the wall, knife shaking in his hand. Peter shot a web out and snatched the knife, tossing it toward the dumpster before webbing the man’s hands to the wall.

 

“Get the hell away from me, bug boy!” he snarled, thrashing against his restraints. Peter stepped toward him menacingly, hands on his hips. The man jerked backwards and smacked his head into the wall, making Peter wince a little. “I ain’t worth shit to Kingpin! I ain’t worth shit! I never even seen him!” the man wailed, clearly panicked. Peter paused, blinking in confusion, lowering his hands. Who the hell is Kingpin?

 

“Well, I’m sorry you have such low self-esteem man. You gotta be worth something to someone, and right now, you’re worth something to me, so we don’t even have to worry about Kingpin.” May as well use it. The man closed his mouth, breath coming quickly. Peter stepped toward him again and tapped his own chin as if in thought. “How about a deal, huh? Kingpin doesn’t need to know anything about you, right?” he asked. The man shook his head. “Never seen him? Never been a bother to him?” The man nodded vigorously. “Alrighty. I won’t say anything to anyone who asks, as long as you tell me what I need to know, okay buddy?”

 

The man let out a little sob-laugh, trembling against the wall. Peter felt his insides twist unpleasantly. Whoever this Kingpin was, he had to be a bad dude. He would need to ask Mr. Wesley the next time they saw each other. If this guy was as bad as he sounded, Peter had to take him out. He was sure Mr. Fisk didn’t want someone like that messing with the city. The man worked too hard to clean it up to allow it to be taken over by some crime boss or whatever.

 

“Okay, this will be easy,” Peter said, gently, as he pulled the little baggie out of his pocket to show the man what he was talking about. “This is meth, right?” The man shook a little, eyes wide as he saw the little bag. He nodded once. “Right. I thought so. Is this some of the shit that’s being made right here? The high-quality stuff y’all sell to middleclass folk instead of the addicts on the street?” The man nodded again. “Who is your boss, buddy?”

 

“Oh, no… no Spider-Guy, come on,” the man said, shaking his head.

 

“Spider-Man,” Peter corrected, stepping forward threateningly again.

 

“Sorry, sorry, Mr. Spider-Man,” Peter bit his lip to keep from laughing. On the one hand, he really did feel bad about how much he was scaring this guy. On the other, he sold drugs to people, endangering their lives and allowing crime into this part of the city. Hearing himself called Mr. Spider-Man by this criminal was a little entertaining.

 

“It’s okay, man, we all make mistakes, and you can drop the mister,” Peter said soothingly, gently patting the man’s webbed arm. The man flinched a little. “But you gotta tell me who your boss is.” The man shook his head again. “Okay, what if I guess, huh? Is it Jenny? Or Janet?” the man went incredibly still, mouth dropping open in surprise. “Awesome, dude. That’s what I thought. You need to tell me where she is.”

 

“Spider-man, she’ll kill me if I tell you,” he whispered. “I—I can’t tell you.”

 

“Look—what’s your name?”

 

“J-Josh,” he stuttered.

 

“Look, Josh, this girl is in a bad spot, alright? There is a terrible man coming after her, and I need to get her in lockup first, before that happens.”

 

“You can’t take her to Kingpin!” the man screamed, desperately. Peter clapped a hand over his mouth and shushed him.

 

“I’m not taking her to Kingpin!” he hissed, narrowing his eyes. “But I am keeping her away from the Devil, alright? Tiny little thing like her? Even if she’s armed, that won’t stop him, and you know it. She’ll be ground up into the pavement before the police OR this Kingpin guy can get near her.”

 

Josh gulped, shaking again before nodding slowly. Peter lowered his hand and sighed, waiting for the crook to speak. “She—she’s at the warehouse district. There’s an old distribution center that has a big blue dolphin painted on the side. I don’t remember what company it’s for, but it’s the only one with a dolphin. It’s over by the docks, you can’t miss it.” Peter drilled him for more concise directions then webbed his mouth shut as he stepped away, Over by the dumpster he saw an old piece of cardboard that he grabbed and wrote, “Drug Dealer Found—Please Return to nearest Manhattan Precinct!” on it with a sharpie he kept in his pocket. He placed the sign and bag of drugs at the man’s feet, gave him a cheerful wave and bounded off into the night, pausing only to tell a passerby that he webbed up a criminal and they should probably call the cops (Peter knew to never use his own phone. The calls were to easily traceable).

 

He hitched a ride on a semitruck toward the docks and slipped off once they got close before wandering through the warehouses. Towards the outskirts he found what he was looking for. An old, decrepit white warehouse stood—a blue dolphin in the center of the wall with flaking paint. Peter was unsure what the warehouse could have stored, thinking it must have been used by a toy company as he saw the letters E  o TOYS® below the dolphin. Peter crept forward, moving as quietly as possible as he reached the door of the warehouse, finding it slightly ajar. He snuck inside and saw that it was abandoned.

 

Recently abandoned, most likely for the second time.

 

There was powder scattered on several surfaces, and clean square patches on the dusty floor. Footprints of varying sizes were spread throughout. Peter felt his spider-sense zing up his spine, and he spun around just before he heard the click of a gun being cocked.

 

Janet stood near the door, a briefcase in one hand and magnum in the other, pointing the gun at Peter’s head. Her hands were steady, and her face was impassive as she stared Peter down. Peter gulped and put his hands up, extremely wary of this thin, five-foot nothing brunette with a loaded firearm.

 

“I know you’re looking for me,” she said into the quiet. Peter nodded but otherwise remained still. Guns were scary. He knew, rationally that his abilities made it so he would know just before the gun was fired, but sometimes when his sense of danger was heightened like it was now, everything was a threat, so he was unable to differentiate between the general anxiety he felt at the situation and the actual, lethal danger. “I’m not going, Spider. You’re not taking me to Kingpin.”

 

“Okay one, Spider-Man. It’s not hard. Spider-Man,” he grumbled. “Two, who the hell is Kingpin?”

 

A flicker of confusion appeared in Janet’s emerald eyes. “You don’t work for Kingpin?”

 

“Considering I don’t even know who the guy is, I’m gonna have to say no,” Peter said, watching the gun slip downward slightly. Her grip loosened enough for him to take the risk, and he shot a web at it and pulled it from her hand, then threw it out of sight. She scowled suddenly and turned to run but wasn’t fast enough. Peter webbed her feet to the floor before running up to her and webbing her hands together, briefcase and all.

 

“I thought you were a lot of things, Spider, but I never pegged you for a liar,” she growled. Peter rolled his eyes, knowing the expression was wasted beneath the mask before webbing her mouth shut.

 

“I’m not lying,” he sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “Look lady, I don’t know what you’re thinking, but you’re going to the police. I’m taking you to a friend of mine first, and he’s gonna try to sort you out, and if he can’t, he’s taking you down to the station. That’s it.” Peter was given explicit instructions to never mention Mr. Fisk’s name. He had been practicing it every time he went anywhere with Mr. Wesley. My employer this and Our employer that. It was exhausting, but good practice for his nighttime activities. “No Kingpin involved—whoever that is—and this way, the Devil won’t beat you to death. Frankly, considering you were about to shoot me, I feel like it’s more than you deserve, but whatever.” He was lying. He didn’t like that she tried to shoot him, but he still didn’t want her beaten within an inch of her life and left for dead somewhere. She gave some kind of muffled response and Peter rolled his eyes again. “Yeah, yeah,” he said, pulling out his phone. “That’s what they all say.” He grabbed her and swung her over his shoulder in a fireman carry as he dialed Mr. Wesley’s number. “Mr. Wesley? I have her. I’m at the docks. If you give me like, two minutes I’ll be able to give you the street.”

 

“Already? Well done, Mr. Parker,” Mr. Wesley sounded pleased. Peter blushed a little as he left the building, a small grin working its way onto his face. “If you go to the loading docks by the waterfront, Derek and I will meet you there.” Peter mumbled an acknowledgment and hung up, glancing at the time. He winced a little when he saw it was already past eleven. May was going to kill him, internship excuse or no. He sighed, adjusting the load on his shoulder and quickly moved toward the rendezvous point. He set her down, shrugging at her glare when she bounced a little on the ground after he dropped her a little too roughly. “Sorry. I mean, you had it coming. Guns are not cool, lady.” She mumbled something and shook her head, staring at the ground. Peter shuffled his feet a little and watched as two town cars pulled in. Mr. Wesley stepped out of one, and Derek stepped out of the other.

 

“Hey kid,” Derek grinned, patting him on the shoulder. Peter liked the redheaded man quite a bit, he found. He was easy to work with and always friendly, and he was amazingly reliable whenever Peter had found whatever target Mr. Fisk sent him after.

 

“Hello Spider-Man,” Mr. Wesley said, looking down at Janet. He shook his head and sighed at her baleful look. “Would you get in the car?” Peter noticed Francis managed to switch from the BMW to the vehicle Mr. Wesley arrived in. The blonde man had climbed out of the driver’s seat and opened the door for Peter, waiting for him to get inside. Peter nodded and got in the limo. After he sat, he groaned a little, cracking his neck. It may not have been as challenging as usual—he got real lucky with that Josh guy—but he was still exhausted, and he still had a test to study for. Thankfully it was chemistry, so he doubted he’d have much trouble, but he still wanted to review the coursework, if only so he could see the look on Flash’s face when he surpassed him again in their scores. Peter sighed, glad the heat was on, and he rubbed his hands together, not realizing how cold he felt until he got into the warm limousine. On the seat beside him were the clothes he had changed out of earlier. He pulled them on over his suit before he reached over to the tiny minifridge and pulled out a Coke. Peter had done this often enough that he was comfortable grabbing the things he wanted after this type of job.

 

Soon Mr. Wesley joined him, grabbing a bottle of water for himself and directing Francis back to Peter’s apartment. Peter drummed his fingers on his Coke, reciting the equations he would need for his test under his breath as he stared out the window. Mr. Wesley had his tablet in front of him again and was scrolling through something or other for Mr. Fisk. He muttered something about a painting and caught Peter’s attention. Peter smiled at him and Mr. Wesley cleared his throat. “Our employer purchased a painting a little bit ago. It was very costly, but an interesting piece. I’m adjusting the finances because it was a spur of the moment decision.” Peter nodded and looked out the window again, privately recounting his evening.

 

“Mr. Wesley,” he asked, not looking at the man. Mr. Wesley hummed a response and Peter glanced at him once again, watching him tap away at the tablet in front of him. “Do you know who Kingpin is?”

 

Mr. Wesley slowed his movements, then put the tablet to the side before giving Peter his full attention. Peter wilted a little, feeling his spider sense tingle. Sometimes he felt that with Mr. Wesley. One day he confessed about this feeling he got—and his weird precognitive power—and Mr. Wesley thought on it and gave him a simple solution. Sometimes Peter would bring up questions that would make Mr. Wesley tense, or wary, and perhaps his spider-sense was reacting to the anxiety Mr. Wesley displayed. Sometimes it was hard to determine if an emotional impulse could cause harm to the person on the receiving end, so the danger his body was alerting him to could simply be a warning of the possibility of a threat. Peter figured that answer made the most sense. After all, Mr. Wesley had never hurt him, and only helped him, and the other times it acted up when it shouldn’t was around Dr. Ohnn and Aaron, and all they were doing was teaching him. Peter couldn’t fault Mr. Wesley’s logic.

 

“Kingpin?” Mr. Wesley drawled the name slowly, as if feeling the word in his mouth. “I’m afraid I’m not sure who that is. Why do you ask?”

 

Peter shrugged. “No reason. Just—well tonight, the guy who told me where to find Janet was worried that I’d take him to Kingpin, and then Janet said she knew I worked for him? I never even heard his name before, and I don’t understand why they thought that. I mean, I work for Mr. Fisk, but he’s a good guy, and even if he wasn’t—which is ridiculous—I work for him as Peter Parker, not Spider-Man. No one even knows that Spider-Man goes after specific criminals. I’ve always had random targets because it depended on what crime was being committed, you know?” Peter babbled, staring at his soda while he talked.

 

“I see. Well, Mr. Parker, I can look into it for you if you’re worried.”

 

“I just really think Mr. Fisk should know about this guy. I mean, if he’s got people who run a drug trafficking ring scared, then maybe—I mean, I wouldn’t want him operating, you know?”

 

Mr. Wesley smiled. “I understand your concern, Mr. Parker. I will inform Mr. Fisk at my earliest convenience. However, if there is a criminal who is that frightening, I must express my concern at your interest in him or her. I don’t want you getting unnecessarily hurt,” he said, worry coloring his tone.

 

“Don’t worry about me, Mr. Wesley. I’ll keep my head down. That sounds more like a job for the FBI, or maybe the Avengers if it’s real bad,” Peter laughed, rubbing the back of his neck.

 

Mr. Wesley smiled in return and turned the conversation to lighter topics as they drove back to Queens. Peter relaxed as they talked, now only nervous over his chemistry test in the morning. Well, and what May’s reaction would be over him getting home so late. He’d deal with it when he saw her, though. As for Kingpin—

 

Well. Mr. Wesley and Mr. Fisk didn’t have to know everything he looked into as Spider-Man, did they?

Chapter Text

Peter leaned back, one hand sticking to the wall and the other holding a can of yellow spray paint, balancing precariously on a rickety metal ladder. As he pushed back, the ladder slipped under him, but he caught it with his feet and slammed it back against the wall.

 

“Whoa there, Pete, nice catch!” Aaron shouted below him, running over to the ladder. “That thing leaned almost a foot away from the wall! How’d you do that?"

 

Peter glanced at him and back at his hand, realizing he was holding on to the wall by his fingertips. He pressed his palm flat and laughed nervously. “Uh, good reflexes, I guess.”

 

“More like good luck,” Ned snorted below him, cutting through his red paint with black.

 

“Unlikely,” Michelle chimed in, analyzing her work with a small frown on her face. “Peter has dealt with more unlucky situations than anyone else in our year. It’s weird. Remember the time he lit his coat on fire in chemistry? Or the time he tripped in band and knocked over all those stands? Plus, there was the time he inadvertently started that food fight in the cafeteria by losing his balance and flinging his tray at Flash and his goons.” Peter and Ned stared at her for a moment, and even Aaron raised an eyebrow. She glanced over at them. “What? I’m incredibly observant.”

 

Peter shook his can before spraying continuously in one spot. “Alright,” Aaron said, “If you want it to drip, that’s fine, hold it still, but if you don’t you gotta keep moving it.” Peter nodded and moved the paint in an arc, filling in the area with wide strokes of his arm. “There you go.”

 

“It’s hard way up high like that,” Miles chimed in. Aaron was right, Peter did get along with the boy. They both had a lot in common. He was ridiculously smart and was a little envious that all three of them went to Midtown. When he told Peter they couldn’t afford it, Peter told him about the lotteries the school did for the lower income families, and how to apply for the scholarships available. He found out that Miles’ mom was a nurse, like May (although Rio worked in Queens, much closer to where they lived), and they both thought Delmar’s served the best sandwiches. Aaron shook his head at them, telling Miles off for betraying Sub Haven, but the gangly, dark-haired boy rolled his brown eyes and told his Uncle that his love of bread was a little ridiculous. “Sometimes, I climb on Uncle Aaron’s shoulders and he’ll walk me across. It helps to keep the paint moving.”

 

Peter smiled at Miles, picturing him and his uncle working together on some of his artwork. Miles was really talented, enough that he caught Michelle’s attention, and she saw a lot of potential in the boy. Michelle complimented a lot of his technique, but also gave some ideas where he could improve. He applied several of her suggestions, smiling the whole time. Peter grinned outright when he was watching them, amused that Michelle had a new fan. He wondered if she noticed how much Miles blushed around her—for all her observational skills, Michelle could miss the obvious, sometimes.

 

“So for the eyes, you need to cut the yellow with some black. That’ll help you make an outline, and when it dries, the white you use will really pop out,” Miles said as Peter finished filling in his lines with the yellow paint. Peter dropped the can and Miles caught it, then Miles tossed the black up to him. “Why Iron Man, anyway?”

 

Peter grinned, shaking his new paint can. His Iron Man was hovering above the Darth Maul that Ned was finishing up, pointing his repulsor at the Sith Lord menacingly.  “Who else would you have go up against the dark side? The Force is strong with him.”

 

“Besides, Qui-Gon can’t fly,” Ned said, solemnly.

 

“More like I can’t draw a regular person’s face to save my life,” Peter laughed, cutting short, angled lines where the eyes would be on Iron Man’s face. “I think Qui-Gon could have used the Force to fly. He was good. We just didn’t see enough of him to know the true extent of his abilities.”

 

“Peter, Yoda can’t even fly. You can’t tell me Qui-Gon can fly if Yoda can’t.”

 

“Just because we haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it’s not possible.”

 

“You two are really nerdy, you know that?” Aaron said, shaking his head.

 

“You can say that again,” Michelle muttered, grabbing a can of red paint. Peter slid down from the ladder, taking a break to allow what he had done so far to dry a little.

 

“I know a better superhero to fight a… whatever that guy is,” Miles said, gesturing at Ned’s painting. Peter and Ned both dropped their jaws.

 

“No, stop right now. There is no superhero better than Iron Man. Not one.”

 

“This is Darth Maul!” Ned cried. “He’s the Sith Lord in Phantom Menace! How do you not know Darth Maul!”

 

Peter shushed him. “Priorities, Ned.”

 

“But—” Miles tried to interject.

 

“Tony Stark is a genius,” Peter said fervently.

 

“Okay, but—”

 

“He built his first set of armor under duress while he was imprisoned in Afghanistan.”

 

“Yeah, I know, but—”

 

“He created an element!” Peter waved his hands frantically.

 

“He synthesized an element that already existed, Parker. Get it together and quit fanboying over there,” Michelle said, spraying a few new lines on her work.

 

“No he—okay, yeah, he synthesized it, but still, that’s freaking impressive. The coolest thing about him is that he doesn’t have a superpower!”

 

“Money’s a superpower,” Aaron said with a laugh. Peter frowned and whirled around, staring at him in shock. “What?” Aaron asked, smiling.

 

“It’s like Batman,” Ned chimed in. Peter’s jaw dropped as he stared at his best friend, feeling betrayed. “Bruce Wayne does the same thing Tony Stark does, and it’s all because he has money. I bet if I had the money to get into a fancy school, I’d have my own super-human alias, too.”

 

Peter shook his head. “Et tu, Brute?”

 

“Glad to know you’re paying attention in English,” Ned said with a grin. “Come on, man, Iron Man is still my favorite. We’re gonna be science bros and graduate from MIT together and work as low-level grunts in his lab and trade spreadsheets for coins.”

 

Peter frowned at him but nodded slowly. “Alright, fine. I guess I forgive you. But only because you said Iron Man is your favorite.”

 

“I still know a better superhero,” Miles said, folding his arms over his chest. Peter and Ned looked at him disbelievingly. Miles grinned. “Spider-Man!”

 

Peter felt his face heating up and he turned away, under the guise of examining Ned’s painting while he tried to control his blush.

 

“Who—oh wait, the guy from YouTube?” Ned asked. “Oh man, he’s so awesome. Did you see the video where he stopped the bus from running into those cars? Where something happened with the brakes and it was gonna run that red light?” Peter turned around, hearing his friend’s enthusiasm.

 

“He saved my Mom, once,” Miles said, proudly. Peter was happy he had a positive impact on Miles before he even met him, even if the boy couldn’t know his secret identity.

 

“I’d like him better if he’d quit pinching my homies,” Aaron grumbled. The man turned to Michelle, watching her nod once in approval before setting down the red spray paint. Peter looked over to see what she had done. In the forefront, a man in a stiff suit with greying floppy hair and a thick mustache stood, mouth open as if speaking, but his coloring was ominous and not natural—greys and reds and dark blues highlighted his features. Above him in thick block letters was a recent quote of the distinguished man from a press conference about the newly forming regulations for the Avengers.  “We must be vigilant. There must be accountability for these enhanced individuals, to protect mankind from their destruction.” Behind him was a dark mass, a grouping of human shaped figures in grey and black. In small clusters, somewhat separated from the larger group were smaller figures painted in the same shades as the others, but with distinctive red, dripping X-shaped marks on their chests.

 

“Uncle Aaron, you need better friends,” Miles said, coming to stand next to him and examine Michelle’s work. Aaron blinked, looking away from the image, almost startled. Peter couldn’t blame him. When Michelle wanted to make a point, she made a point, and Secretary Ross was not her favorite person right now.

 

They packed up their paints and headed towards the parking lot, talking about their morning. Ned, Michelle, and Michelle’s new shadow led the group, with Aaron and Peter a short distance behind them. Peter sucked in a breath, working up his nerve. His search for Kingpin during the rest of the week was fruitless at best. Most of the criminals he rounded up in Queens hadn’t even heard of the guy, and the ones that did weren’t talking. Peter knew Aaron’s background was less than legal, considering how he even started working for Fisk, and he felt like he was running out of options.

 

“Hey, Aaron?” he began hesitantly. Aaron grunted, showing he was listening. “Have you—have you ever heard of the Kingpin?”

 

Aaron shrugged a little and glanced at Peter out of the corner of his eye. “Who’s asking?”

 

Peter glanced down to his feet as he walked. “I’m just curious. I’ve—I’ve heard some rumors about him? In Hell’s Kitchen.” It wasn’t entirely a lie. Sometimes when he and Mr. Wesley went to shadier establishments, he had heard the name, especially since he brought it up with the man. “He—he sounds bad. I just—it makes me nervous, you know? I mean, sometimes Freddy is late picking me up, and I just wonder if I need to watch my back more while I’m waiting.”

 

Aaron scoffed a little and shook his head. “You live in Queens, and not exactly a great part, and you’re worried about someone mugging you in front of Fisk Tower? What kind of crap are you watching on TV, man?” Peter flushed, thoroughly embarrassed. He lived in New York his whole life and knew the likelihood of being robbed in front of his work was slim to none. Aaron clasped a friendly hand on his shoulder. “Look, you don’t have to worry about Kingpin. He ain’t a mugger, okay?”

 

Peter looked up at him, eyes wide. “You know him?” Aaron sighed and glanced from side to side before settling his gaze on the group in front of them, who were oblivious to the seriousness of the conversation between the two.

 

“Look, man, I can’t tell you much, okay. I don’t know him. No one knows him. He’s like a ghost. He doesn’t even have a name. What I do know, is that he isn’t a mugger or some random criminal on the streets. He’s a powerful dude, but he has lackeys. You’d never see him.”

 

Peter frowned, thinking about the random dealer from last week. He understood how Janet would know of Kingpin, seeing as she ran a drug trafficking ring, but Josh was the lowest guy on the ladder. How could he know how bad Kingpin was?

 

“He’s everywhere though, man. Practically has the city in his pocket. He’s all kinds of crooks working for him, from the top of the food chain to the bottom, and they’re all loyal to him,” Aaron said, entirely serious.

 

“But, why? I mean, if he’s so bad, why are they loyal? They’re criminals! Wouldn’t they just flock to someone else if they got a better offer?” Peter asked, eyes wide.

 

Aaron chuckled. “You’d think. But you know, there’s usually a reason for loyalty, and with Kingpin, there could be lots of reasons. Some are with him because he’s made some hefty promises and delivered. Some are there because they owe him. Some are being blackmailed, and some are too scared to even think of betraying him. Thing is, it doesn’t matter why they’re loyal. What matters is they are, and nothing can shake them of that. That’s what I hear, anyway, and you won’t get any more information than that, so it would be best if you stopped asking,” Aaron finished firmly as they reached his car.

 

Peter spent the next few days trying to put together puzzle pieces that didn’t fit. He couldn’t comprehend it. How could one person have control of the criminal underworld of the city, and even if that were the case, wouldn’t everyone know about it? It frustrated him to no end, because he felt like he was missing something obvious. Something was tickling the back of his brain, like when the answer to a question on a test was just hovering out of reach. No matter how hard Peter tried to focus, it slipped farther away.

 

Mr. Wesley had noticed there was something off about Peter. Of course he did, he noticed everything. Peter hadn’t told Mr. Wesley how extensively he was looking into the Kingpin. He didn’t want the man to worry about him. He was especially glad for it now, seeing as—for the first time in his crime-fighting history—Peter was not able to catch the bad guy. He managed to shrug Mr. Wesley’s concern off, saying that he wasn’t spending much time with kids his own age since he started the internship. The man didn’t need to know that Peter only had two friends. Well, maybe two. He was never sure where he stood with Michelle.

 

“Well, you have been spending a lot of time with us. We originally said one to three days, but lately you come down four or five or sometimes six times a week,” Mr. Wesley said with a smile. Peter shrugged as he adjusted his tie, mumbling something about the work being interesting. It was, too. The last time he was with Dr. Ohnn they had finally started construction on his new radiation device, the Anti-gravity Climbers he and Aaron worked on were ready to be tested, and Mr. Wesley had introduced him to a couple of people on the city council. The fact the Peter had managed to avoid stammering through his own introduction was pretty surprising. There was nothing else quite like this job, and he really enjoyed what he was learning and doing. “Perhaps you should cut back to the original three days we suggested in your contract.”

 

Peter frowned at that. “But, Mr. Wesley—”

 

“Ah,” Mr. Wesley interrupted, holding up his finger, “It’s for the best, Mr. Parker. You’re young. You should be cultivating your interests and developing relationships with your peers, not holing yourself up in a lab or catching criminals non-stop. I’ll speak to Aaron and Dr. Ohnn about it, to see that they aren’t overworking you. If you don’t wish to take this time to spend with your friends or to relax, perhaps you could join some type of extracurricular activity.”

 

“I’m in band,” Peter mumbled, defensively.

 

“Yes, third chair and you could be first if you spent a bit more time practicing,” Mr. Wesley chided. Peter hunched inward, frowning a little. Mr. Wesley was right, he could practice his clarinet more, and would most likely place higher, but it was boring. He only took it because he had to have an art credit. As soon as 9th grade was over, he was donating that instrument to Mr. Hughes and not looking back. He didn’t care how many fingering jokes you could make in that class; he was done.

 

Peter appreciated that Mr. Wesley was concerned about his future, but he felt weird about how parental he acted, sometimes. It was like once he started actually teaching Peter about his job, suddenly he felt like he needed to be involved in all the aspects of the teenager’s life. It was a little suffocating, but at the same time Peter felt a familiar warmth fill him at the man’s actions, which he hadn’t felt since Ben passed away. “But that’s a class, Mr. Parker, not an extracurricular. I was thinking you could join a club of some kind. Debate may be a good choice. It could easily help with the role you’re taking while shadowing me.”

 

“At Midtown you can’t be in Debate until junior or senior year. It’s really competitive,” Peter said with a shrug.

 

“Well, regardless, it would be good to look into something. Besides, some downtime would probably be very good, considering the Gala is coming up in a couple of weeks.”

 

Peter raised his eyebrows in surprise. “What Gala?”

 

Peter went home that night to tell May that Mr. Fisk was hosting a party for several important figures of the city, and the proceeds were going to the Marlene Vistain Mother’s and Children Foundation. It was a charity designed to help newly single mothers. May had been a recipient of some of their aid when Ben had first passed away, so being able to participate in an event that would support it was very exciting. When Peter told her he was told he should be cutting back on some of the work he was doing for Mr. Fisk in the meantime, she was visibly relieved. Peter didn’t realize how much of his time he was actually spending on his internship. Mr. Wesley was probably right. He should take a breather. Besides, once he had a clearer head, maybe the Kingpin mystery would be easier to solve. He didn’t think he would sign up for a new extracurricular. All the ones that interested him, Flash was involved in, and if he wasn’t interested, he didn’t see much point in participating.

 

Flash had caught on really quickly that Peter was working less days in Manhattan. “What happened, Penis? They find out you’re not nearly as smart as you pretend to be?” He sneered, the day before the Gala. Peter drew in a deep breath with his nose and slowly released it from his mouth. Flash was just a bully. He couldn’t do anything to Peter outside of saying mean things that weren’t true, and maybe shoving him into lockers. It would not be worth it to antagonize the bully over something so small and idiotic.

 

“Why, Flash? You want a chance to show Mr. Fisk what you can do?” he asked in a saccharine voice before snapping his fingers. So much for not antagonizing the guy. “Oh, wait, sorry. I forgot. I meant to say, do you want your parents to go down there and wave money at Mr. Fisk, so you don’t have to do any actual work, but get credit anyway?” A brief look of hurt appeared in Flash’s eyes, and Peter instantly regretted the words that came out of his mouth. Then felt a whole new type of regret when Flash shoved him into his locker, hard, and punched him in the face.

 

The school nurse asked what happened. He said he ran into a door.

 

He wasn’t a snitch, after all.

 

May fussed over him when he got home, and he let her baby him a little. It was rare to not have to hide an injury from her, these days, and it was nice to have her press a bag of ice wrapped in a towel gently against his face. Most likely it would clear up by Saturday, but the Gala was Friday night, and he was going to show up dressed to impress in that black Armani suit, and it wouldn’t matter because everyone would be wondering about the stupid shiner on his face. He told May, and she suggested he could use her makeup, but their skin tones were too different. Peter just resigned himself to showing up bruised.

 

Mr. Wesley did not like that at all. The second Peter appeared at the gallery (an hour before the first guests were to arrive, a standard for most of the employees that would attend), the man laid eyes on him, and an impassive look came over his face—one that Peter associated with Mr. Wesley being disappointed. He frowned and tugged at the buttoned collar of his shirt, clutching his black bowtie in his hand. Mr. Wesley shook his head as he approached and gently pulled the tie from him. “What happened?”

 

“Nothing, Mr. Wesley,” Peter said as he felt his stomach sink. He suddenly wondered if he would even be allowed to attend. Mr. Wesley reached out and put his hand under Peter’s chin to tilt his face up so he could examine the damage.

 

“Doesn’t look like nothing. Run into some trouble on patrol last night?” he asked, gently. He dropped his hand and Peter shook his head, feeling his face flush in embarrassment at how he even got the black eye.

 

“It’s just a kid at school. It doesn’t matter, Mr. Wesley. I-I can go, if you want. I—”

 

“Why would I want you to go?” Mr. Wesley asked, almost alarmed. He sighed and gently pulled Peter toward the bathroom. “Mr. Parker, the main reason you’re here is so Mr. Fisk can show you off. You’re an ideal example of the change we’re working for within the city.” The sinking feeling started to go away, and Peter let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. After they entered the bathroom, Mr. Wesley wet a towel (an honest to God towel, not a paper one. Geez, this place was fancy), and handed it to Peter, asking him to wash the skin around his eye. Peter followed his instructions, watching the man type a quick message out on his phone. After a few minutes a woman with a short, blonde bob and red glasses showed up with her lips pursed. She carried a dark, black and silver case. She tsked a little as she looked at Peter’s eye, then without a word she set her case on the counter and opened it to reveal the most makeup Peter had ever seen. If May could get her hands on this, she would be ecstatic.

 

The woman pulled out a square of cloth and unfolded it quickly, revealing what looked like a large sort-of bib. Peter removed his jacket at her prompting and handed it to Mr. Wesley, then allowed her to wrap the cloth around his shoulders to protect his shirt. Soon she began applying several creams and powders to his whole face—not just the skin around his eye. She laughed at the questioning quirk of his eyebrow and told him it was for blending. “It’s really obvious if you wear makeup in just one place, especially if it’s to cover up a bruise,” she said, gently stroking a brush along his skin. After a few minutes she nodded her head in satisfaction and took the bib off, telling him to look in the mirror. Peter turned around and was stunned. It looked like nothing had happened at all. Not only that, but the makeup had the added benefit of covering up his acne scars and smoothing over his freckles. Peter felt like he looked—older, almost.

 

“Oh wow, that’s cool,” he said breathlessly. The woman laughed again as she ducked out, and Mr. Wesley handed back his jacket. Peter let it hang over his arm, and as Mr. Wesley handed over the tie the door swung open again, revealing the towering figure of Mr. Fisk. Peter straightened up instantly.

 

The businessman glanced between his PA and new intern. “Is everything alright, gentlemen?”

 

Mr. Wesley nodded. “Peter had some trouble with a bully, who seemed to think it would be okay to hit him in the face,” the man said as he adjusted his glasses. Mr. Fisk narrowed his eyes at Peter, and Peter just sort of shrugged helplessly.

 

“Hmm,” Mr. Fisk grunted, stepping forward and eyeing the way Peter tugged at the tie in his hands. “Wesley, Vanessa will be arriving shortly. I would like you to greet her and thank her for setting up the use of this establishment,” he said, dismissing Mr. Wesley from the space. Mr. Wesley straightened up a little, looking back and forth between the two. He opened his mouth—either in protest or agreement, Peter wasn’t sure—but didn’t allow himself to speak after a short look from Mr. Fisk. He nodded and left the restroom, leaving Peter alone with the goliath.

 

Peter shivered a little. He may have seen Mr. Fisk a few times, but not enough to get used to the man’s giant stature, and this was the first time he was actually alone with him. He focused all his attention on his limbs and forced himself to hold still and not tremble. He got the feeling he would never be comfortable in Mr. Fisk’s presence.

 

Mr. Fisk held his hand out, and Peter stared at it dumbly, wondering what Mr. Fisk wanted. “Hand me your tie,” he said, kindly. Peter laughed a little nervously and handed it over. The dim lights overhead gleamed against the skin of his scalp as he reached toward Peter’s neck with his hands. It took everything in Peter not to flinch. Mr. Fisk paused. “Have you ever tied a bowtie before, Mr. Parker?” Peter shook his head. “Will you allow me to assist you?” Peter nodded, a little dumbfounded. Mr. Fisk flipped the collar of Peter’s shirt up, and carefully wrapped the black strip of cloth around his neck. With surprisingly deft fingers, the man artfully twisted the cloth into the correct shape. “This was possibly the only useful thing my Father taught me,” he said quietly. Peter swallowed at the unprompted admission.

 

“Sir?”

 

Mr. Fisk’s eyes did not stray from his work as he tugged against the tie. “He was a bully, Mr. Parker. The worst bully I ever had the misfortune of knowing. I know a thing or two about how these kinds of people operate, and I want you to know that they are weak,” Mr. Fisk said coolly, fingers still holding the points of the bowtie as his eyes flicked up to meet Peter’s. “They are weak and useless, and at the end of the day, they know this about themselves, so they try to make others feel weaker and more useless to pick themselves up. I admire your ability to abstain from violence against your aggressor. When I was your age, I certainly couldn’t control my temper that well.” Mr. Fisk finally dropped his hands, gesturing with his head towards Peter’s jacket.

 

Peter smiled slowly and pulled it on, straightening and buttoning it after it set comfortably on his shoulders, considering the man’s words, a small flush of pride filling his chest. It took a lot of effort to stop himself from laying into Flash. He didn’t even know that he needed to hear those words about the bully until that moment. It was almost like something Ben would say—granted, not nearly as eloquently, but the sentiment was the same. The goliath wrapped a meaty hand around Peter’s shoulder and gently turned the boy to the mirror to allow him a chance to see his reflection. Peter’s mouth dropped a little. He couldn’t believe how put together and mature he looked. “Come now, young man. I have some very important guests I want you to meet,” he said as he guided Peter to the exit. Peter glanced up at him, shyly.

 

“Mr. Fisk?” he asked, tentatively. Mr. Fisk turned back to him and nodded to show he was listening. “Thanks. I—I really appreciate you saying that.”

 

Mr. Fisk held open the door. “Of course, Peter,” he said with a smile. “I will always tell you what you need to hear.”

 

Peter smiled, confused by Mr. Fisk’s odd phrasing, but happy, nonetheless. Mr. Wesley and a tall woman in a white, knee length dress waited for them in the hallway. Mr. Wesley nodded at their appearance, and the dark-haired, tanned woman stepped forward and held her arms open. “Wilson,” she greeted warmly as the man wrapped her in a hug. She looked like a doll in his arms.

 

“Vanessa,” he said softly, letting go quickly. He gestured behind for Peter to join them, and when Peter stepped next to Mr. Fisk the man placed a warm hand on his shoulder, gripping him gently. “This is Peter Parker. He is the new intern I’ve been telling you about,” he said quietly in his soft, raspy voice. Vanessa’s eyes went from curious to warm. She held out a hand and Peter grasped it, shaking it nervously. “Mr. Parker, this is Vanessa Mariana. She is an,” he paused as if looking for the right word, “associate, of mine.”

 

Vanessa laughed, shaking her head and winking a little. Peter felt himself blush at her playfulness. He wasn’t used to beautiful women winking at him. “H-hi Ms. Mariana. I’m Peter,” he said in a rush.

 

She laughed again and let go of his hand. “Please, Peter, you do not need to waste formalities with me,” she said, leaning forward with a bright smile on her face. “You can call me Vanessa.”

 

“O-okay Vanessa,” he said, sheepishly.

 

“My goodness, Wilson, he’s adorable,” he flushed brighter at the words, getting more embarrassed by the second.

 

“Vanessa,” Mr. Wesley interjected, glancing at Mr. Fisk before continuing, “while we appreciate your newfound affection for Mr. Parker, we do need to go out and start greeting the guests.”

 

Vanessa laughed again and waved them off. Mr. Fisk stood quietly with her as Mr. Wesley led Peter out to the main area of the gallery. Peter stared at one of the paintings—an impressive piece with bright splashes of bold reds and golds against the canvas, pausing to get a better look. Mr. Wesley waited beside him.

 

“Our employer can be very intimidating, sometimes,” he said gently, causing Peter to glance back at him sharply. Mr. Wesley’s face was steady and mostly impassive, but there was a wrinkle around his eyes and in his forehead that betrayed his concern. Peter smiled at him.

 

“Yeah, he can be,” he allowed, swallowing a little. “But he also seems to know just what I need to hear. Isn’t that weird?” Wesley nodded his head in acknowledgment and led Peter to some partners and associates of Mr. Fisk. May arrived (not allowed to come before the doors opened for the rest of the guests) and found Peter quickly in the crowd. She tugged against the hem of her red dress once or twice, but otherwise did not show her nervousness. Mr. Wesley took them both around to meet people until Mr. Fisk found them again.

 

“Are you enjoying the evening, so far?” he asked, handing a glass of water to Peter, who sipped it quickly, glad to have something to soothe his parched throat. Peter nodded. “Well, the night has really only just begun. Tell me Peter. I know your school went on a trip to his company, but have you ever had the fortune to meet Norman Osborn?”

 

Ned was not going to believe that he ate canapes with the founder of Oscorp. He grinned, amazed that this was his life.

Chapter Text

Peter thought he wouldn’t be able to sleep that night, with everything that happened. He got to meet Norman Osborne. Norman Osborne! Sure, his company had some shoddy containment units and his son was a complete, homophobic tool, but his work in biochemistry gave the world decades of advancements that no one had ever seen before. Oscorp provided so much—weapons, protective body armor and even medicine. Their work with genetics alone was more cutting edge than any other organization. Peter was sure if there would be a cure for cancer, it was going to come out of Oscorp.

 

Not only that, but everyone he met and spoke to was amazing. People actually paid attention to him. Mr. Wesley wasn’t lying when he said they wanted to show Peter off. He was introduced to so many people, and to all of them Mr. Fisk or Mr. Wesley sang his praises—about his school, work ethic, and even his personality. It was insane! He had never been made much of—certainly not like that. Between Vanessa, Mr. Fisk, and Mr. Wesley, he and May probably covered every square inch of the space, including some of the sidewalk outside. He was so exhausted by the end of everything that he could have kissed Freddy when he showed up in a limo for Peter and May. On the way home, the driver stopped at the aforementioned Melt Shop. Peter had to hand it to Freddy. As he ate his burger melt with extra pickles, he had to admit it was a pretty good sandwich. It wasn’t Delmar’s, but it was good.

 

Despite the fact that his brain was whirling a mile a minute, Peter’s stomach was full, and his bed was invitingly warm and comfortable compared to the bitter chill outside. Peter’s eyes closed the moment his head hit the pillow.

 

At school, Peter told Ned all about the party, and his best friend hanged on to his every word as if it was gospel.

 

“You actually met Norman Osborn?” he whispered. “We went to his tower for academic purposes. For the education of the future. Because we are the best and brightest. We didn’t even see the back of his head!” Ned said excitedly. “Not only that, but Harry goes here, and Mr. Osborn has never been seen here. You met him?”

 

Peter nodded enthusiastically and Ned whooped. Peter was glad he started cutting back on his internship hours. He didn’t realize how much his time there was affecting his meager social life until he got to hang out with Ned again. Loyal, smart, forgiving—in the past 3 months, Peter had bailed on Ned constantly. It was always important why, and was usually Spider-Man related, sometimes work related, but he still felt bad. Ned was a good bro, though, and when Peter told him his hours were being cut back, the first thing the other boy did was tell him about this older show he found called Firefly, and that it was great because it was about space cowboys, so they had to watch it together. They knocked it out over the following weekend and followed it up with Serenity.

 

Other than catching up with his best friend, Peter still wasn’t sure what to do with the new free time. Mr. Wesley had asked what kinds of clubs Peter had checked out, and gave his disappointed face when Peter stammered that he hadn’t really been looking into it. At a loss, he told Ned about his dilemma. Ned lit up at his request, and immediately demanded Peter sit in on an Academic Decathlon meeting.

 

“Dude, AcaDec is awesome. You have to be really quick, have strong reading comprehension and mad trivia skills, and it looks great on college applications. Besides, if Mr. Wesley wants you in Debate, AcaDec members are some of the first picks for the club.”

 

“I don’t know, man,” Peter said, thinking of spending more time than necessary with Flash.

 

“You know, Liz Allen is the captain,” Ned reminded him with a wink, which was how Peter found himself in a small classroom, observing the Academic Decathlon practice. Flash got every answer wrong, and Abe poked fun at him for it, which made Flash growl and glare at Peter, for some insane reason. Peter would never understand why he was always Flash’s target. Finally, Mr. Harrington—enthused at seeing Peter show some interest—invited Peter to join them for a lightening round. Ned gave him two thumbs up, and Liz raised an expectant, yet curious, eyebrow at him. He grabbed a bell and sat at the edge of the stage, setting his bell on the floor. Ned sat at the desk positioned above him and offered him a high-five (well, a low-five for him, a high-five for Peter) that Peter reciprocated before they began. At first, Peter was hesitant to chime in. He felt like an intruder. Eventually, Ned kicked him in his hipbone and Peter staring ringing his bell. He was the fastest to ring in on all the science and math questions, but he seemed to surprise everyone by his social studies and literature knowledge. Peter nearly rolled his eyes at the astonished look on Liz’s face. He was at a school for geniuses on a scholarship. That wasn’t just for show. After the five-minute round was over, Mr. Harrington approached him and folded his hands in front of him, leaning forward with a hopeful look on his face. “You know, Peter, we almost had nationals, this year,” he said with a smile. “I bet we would have cinched it if you were on the team. Are you really considering joining us?” Peter heard Flash scoff.

 

“I—well yeah, I think so,” Peter said, shyly glancing at Liz who grinned briefly before schooling her face into a more serious expression. He felt his cheeks warm up under her gaze and immediately turned back to Mr. Harrington. “Mr. Wesley—he’s one of people in charge of my internship—he really wanted me to join some kind of extracurricular to help round out my resume.”

 

Mr. Harrington clapped his hands together. “Peter, if you could join us, that would be wonderful! We meet every Monday and Thursday. Could you manage that?”

 

“What?” Peter spun around to see Flash glaring. “We already have a spot for everyone for the competitions! We’re already full up!”

 

Mr. Harrington shrugged. “For now, Peter can be an alternate. We’ll see how practice goes, and we’ll probably test out everyone again on all the components of a competition to see what the new order should be.”

 

“But—”

 

“No one wants to hear it, Eugene,” Michelle said. When she wasn’t practicing with the group, she had her nose in her book, like now. Peter gave her a small, confused smile, and was unsure if she even saw it, considering she hadn’t taken her eyes off the page in front of her.

 

“Really, Flash, this will be good for the team,” Liz said, taking command of the room, tucking a dark lock of hair behind her ear. “Peter can offer us a new perspective and a fresh outlook. We could use that.”

 

“That settles it!” Mr. Harrington declared. “I’ll see you all on Thursday! Peter, Liz will give you copies of the study guides.”

 

When Peter told Mr. Wesley so he could rearrange his schedule, Mr. Wesley showered him in praise, glad of the steps Peter was taking to ensure his future. Peter was a little stunned. It was an afterschool club, for goodness sakes. They’d meet twice a week and go to a few competitions. Yes, it was prestigious, but it wasn’t the most exciting thing he could attest to participating in.

 

“Academic Decathlon is… what, exactly?” Dr. Ohnn asked as he sparked his welding torch to life. Peter watched him for a minute as the man started sealing the metal panels at the bottom of the chamber before returning to the inner circuitry he was working on for the computer.

 

“It’s like… a trivia club, I guess. Well, more like a test-taking club? It’s been around for forever. It started out in California, then became national, and last year it became international?” Dr. Ohnn shook his head. “Oh. Well, it can be pretty intense. The competition is split into all different kinds of levels, but everyone on our team is honors—that’s GPA based, and I guess anyone with a lower average than 3.75 doesn’t even try to get on the team at Midtown. You have to take tests, write essays, give impromptu speeches, compete in trivia rounds—practice has been pretty fun so far.

 

“No wonder Wesley is over the moon about it,” Dr. Ohnn said, not looking away from his work. “That extracurricular alone is pretty outstanding to see on a resume. Plus, he and Fisk can brag even more about the new prodigy they have under their respective wings.” Peter shrugged, slowly connecting the wiring to the motherboard. Dr. Ohnn brought up an interesting point.

 

“I guess,” he allowed, leaning back to examine his work. Peter’s phone pinged and he picked it up to see Mr. Wesley had sent him a text. He sighed. It was most likely Spider-Man’s next target. Since his hours had cut back at work, it seemed Mr. Fisk needed him to find more and more people, each one with more urgency then the last. He didn’t want to seem ungrateful though, so he caught the criminals without complaint. He looked back to make sure Dr. Ohnn was fully engrossed in his project before opening the message. Peter winced. Two targets this time. The first was a human trafficker named John Pearson. He was the most normal looking guy Peter had ever been asked to catch. He had healthy-looking, tanned skin, brown hair and eyes, and a little scruff on his face. Everything about him was average, making it easier for him to blend into a crowd. Peter scowled as he read about the guy, frustrated that he’d have to deliver him to Mr. Fisk instead of the cops. The Devil was going after these guys pretty hardcore lately. Peter got frequent alerts on his phone about the Devil’s activity, and it seemed like he was targeting a lot of traffickers. Peter really couldn’t blame him. These guys kidnapped people, then sold them. They were the worst kind of awful.

 

The second guy—Ludwig Carson—looked particularly nasty. He was a large, beast of a man with a thick, dark, tangled mane of hair and a bushy beard. Amidst all the hair on his face were two dark, beady eyes. He was a weapons dealer. Those were never fun. Peter almost always got shot at.

 

Peter hated guns. They made him think of Ben; how the man stumbled back into their kitchen counter, and how he stared at Peter, a little dumbfounded as the boy pressed his hands against Ben’s stomach, trying fruitlessly to keep his blood inside instead of out. Guns sent a livewire up his spine and along his nerve endings before they were even cocked. He knew how dangerous they were, even for him, despite his enhancements. He had always been faster (so far) than the guys shooting at him, but it still stressed him out like nothing else. Every time he heard a gunshot go off in a closed space, he saw Ben’s face, glassy eyes pointed at him, but seeing nothing. It was awful.

 

Peter shook himself as he heard a loud thud. He realized he dropped his phone on the table because of how violently his hands were shaking.

 

“Everything alright?” Peter whirled around and saw Dr. Ohnn quirk a blonde eyebrow at him. “Peter?” he stepped forward and Peter flinched back a little, struggling to find air. Dr. Ohnn was opening and closing his mouth, obviously saying something, but Peter could not hear anything beyond the rush of blood in his ears. Dr. Ohnn approached again, and Peter felt himself sliding to the floor. His vision narrowed and he pressed himself against the leg of the table, staring at his hands. They were red. Were they supposed to be? Where was Ben? He had to keep pressure on the wound. If he could just hold on a little longer—

 

Mr. Parker, I need you to breathe with me.

 

Peter shook his head. His hands were dirty—bloody. There were stains that wouldn’t come off. Or maybe he didn’t want them to come off… wasn’t this all that was left of Ben?

 

“You can do it, Mr. Parker. In and out. Do you know where you are?”

 

Of course Peter knew where he was. He was—wait wasn’t he in his kitchen? No—no he was in the lab. The lab at school? Why were his hands still red? He washed them. He scrubbed them raw after he trapped that awful monster that tore his family apart again—

 

“Peter,” Peter’s eyes locked onto the blue, bespectacled ones in front of him and he felt his hand being pressed firmly against something warm and hard and alive. “With me. In one-two-three,” Peter felt the chest beneath his hand expand, “out one-two-three,” then contract. The pattern lined up with the words and repeated over and over until the spots that were dancing over Peter’s eyes started to fade out.

 

Mr. Wesley’s face became startlingly clear in front of his own. They were crouched together on the floor of Dr. Ohnn’s lab, and Peter felt cool, wet trails against his cheeks. “Mr. Wesley?” he asked, quiet and confused.

 

Mr. Wesley sighed and released his hand. “You were having some kind of anxiety attack, Peter. Possibly a flashback,” Peter gaped at him before he wiped at his eyes. “Has that ever happened before?” Peter shook his head. He didn’t even know what brought that on—he’d thought about Ben and how he died lots of times. Nothing like this had ever occurred.

 

“I-I don’t know what happened, Mr. Wesley,” he panted, eyes wide. Mr. Wesley shushed him, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder to help ground him.

 

“You’re alright. Just keep breathing.” Peter did just that, breathing in deeply and releasing his breath slowly until his heartrate slowed down to a much safer pace. “Are you with me now, Peter?” Peter nodded, swallowing around the lump in his throat. “Do you want to tell me what happened?” Peter opened his mouth, then shook his head. It was too close to the surface, right now. “That’s alright. I’ve called Frederick for you. He’s waiting out front. I know I just sent those messages, but you don’t need to approach those targets until you are calm, and your mind is clear. Mr. Fisk has stressed the importance these men hold for him, and so I want to express that same importance to you. There can be no mistakes in their capture. Do you understand, Mr. Parker?” Peter nodded. He suddenly realized that Mr. Wesley was using his given name during his panic attack, and now he was upset at hearing his last name again. Mr. Wesley and Mr. Fisk both used his first name sparingly. He wasn’t sure if it was because it was too important for them to throw it around lightly, or if it was because they wanted to create and maintain some professional distance. Either way, it was starting to bother him, a little. Maybe he was doing something wrong.

 

“It’s okay, Mr. Wesley. I can—I mean, it’s important, right?” Mr. Wesley had labeled the targets as “urgent.”

 

“Mr. Parker,” Mr. Wesley began, shaking his head.

 

“I’m fine. Really, I am. I don’t know what came over me. I can find them. May works late, tonight, and I brought my suit with me, so really, there’s no better time. Freddy doesn’t have to take me home. I’ll just grab my dinner and start patrolling.”

 

Mr. Wesley eyed him warily. “If you’re sure…”

 

“Absolutely, Mr. Wesley.”

 

Mr. Wesley sighed and shook his head before pulling out his phone and sending a quick message. “Alright. I’ve told Frederick that you’re going to be working late with me. Let’s find you some food so you can start.”

 

Three hours and half a sandwich later (Peter was pretty queasy after that panic attack), Peter wished he listened to Mr. Wesley as he chased down Ludwig the Weapons Dealer.

 

Ludwig. That just sounds like a bad guy’s name, he thought as he vaulted over a dumpster and onto the wall so he could crawl and swing after the bearded menace. Seriously, his options are seedy criminal, or brilliant composer, and it’s not like people are looking to hire composers on the regular. The teenager’s stomach rebelled against him, and it took everything in him to keep pushing until he finally cornered the guy. “Nowhere else to go, buddy,” he panted, dropping down in front of him. The man screamed and charged at him, causing Peter to flinch and back up in alarm. No one had ever done that before. Suddenly, he found himself shoved into the street, madly dodging swerving cars. He was mostly successful, only having been tapped by a couple of vehicles. Unfortunately, he was thrown into the path of an oncoming semi, and after a heavy impact to his back he managed to cling to the grill until he could throw a web out to a nearby building. Peter groaned, hunching over. That hurt. He shifted back and forth a little, wincing at the movement, but he was pretty sure he hadn’t broken anything. The truck was moving pretty slowly. Peter spun back around. A short distance away from him he saw a crowd of people. He swung himself back across the street to a tall building that overlooked the commotion and frowned at what he saw. Ludwig the Weapons Dealer also managed to stumble into traffic, but judging by the mess, he was not nearly so lucky. Peter found himself blinking back unexpected tears. He killed someone. Oh shit, he killed someone. He backed away from the edge of the roof and pulled off his mask before calling Mr. Wesley in a blind panic. As soon as the man answered, Peter spilled everything that happened, fear of the situation rising to the point where he was almost certain all that came out of his mouth was gibberish. Mr. Wesley waited until Peter stopped speaking before giving him instructions to head to Fisk Tower and to enter through the roof access door. Peter replaced his mask and started swinging, constantly replaying the gruesome imagery in his head. After swinging for twenty minutes he arrived at his destination. 

Peter snuck in through the unlocked door (most likely courtesy of Mr. Wesley) and crept along the ceiling through the darkened halls of the top floor until he reached Mr. Fisk's office. He dropped down, looked down each side of the hallway and knocked. The time and action did little to calm him. All he could see was that bloody, visceral mess Ludwig left behind. The door opened and Mr. Wesley gestured for him to come in. As soon as the door shut behind him Peter ripped his mask off, trying to breathe. Mr. Wesley must have seen something on his face because the next thing Peter knew, he was sitting down with a small trash can in his hands, vomiting into it. Mr. Wesley sat beside him, pressing a warm hand against his back.

Peter was absently aware of a door opening and closing and the murmur of conversation somewhere beyond the buzzing in his ears.

"Mr. Parker," that was Mr. Wesley. Calm, cool, collected. His voice was soothing, like a balm on a nasty burn. "What happened?" Peter still wasn't sure. All he knew for certain was that Ludwig had bled out on the concrete below him.

"Oh God," Peter whined out, pressing his hands against his face and rocking back and forth. "Oh God, I killed him, Mr. Wesley. I killed him, oh my God—"

"What?" That was not Mr. Wesley. The voice was sharp and raspy and grated on his ears, making him flinch. 

"Sir, please." Why was Mr. Wesley whispering? Didn't he know that when Peter's senses were dialed up like this it wouldn't make a difference if he was whispering or shouting? Or maybe he had shouted, and Peter was so fogged over he couldn't tell. Everything was spinning out of control. "Mr. Parker—Peter, are you with me?" Yes, Peter was with him, or at least he could hear him. He must have given some kind of assent, because Mr. Wesley rubbed slow circles against his back. "Breathe with me. Just like in the lab today. In one-two-three, out one-two-three."

Slowly—very slowly—Peter felt his body come back under his control. The dim light of the office filtered through his senses, revealing deep red carpeting and dark wooden furniture. He was sitting on a black leather couch that creaked every time he or Mr. Wesley shifted. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a thick arm and torso. He looked up to see Mr. Fisk staring down at him. In the low light of the office, it almost looked like the entrepreneur was glaring at him. Peter shivered, trying to blink the wetness out of his eyes. 

 

"Mr. Parker," he rasped, and Peter recoiled a little at the harshness of his tone. "What did you mean? Who did you kill?" Peter whimpered and shook his head, not sure if he could answer. "Mr. Parker!" The giant barked, making Peter flinch. Mr. Fisk was never that mean to him before. "This is important. I need to know what happened."

Ice flooded Peter's veins and he shivered, violently. "I-I didn't mean it," he whimpered, hunching in on himself. "He pushed me into the street.... He ran at me and I couldn't dodge him, but he must have tripped after me—"

"Who, Mr. Parker. Who?" Mr. Fisk leaned closer and wrapped his hand around Peter's shoulder, and for a second the boy thought the man meant to shale the answer out of him. He stilled very suddenly and held his breath until he figured the hand was probably meant to ground him and prevent him from spiraling into another panic attack.

"I—Ludwig. The weapons guy," Peter whispered. 

Mr. Fisk stared at him thoughtfully, then released his shoulder and stepped away. Peter felt Mr. Wesley relax at his side. He didn't realize how tense the man had become.

"Mr. Parker—"

"Oh God, Mr. Fisk, I didn't mean it! I didn't mean to kill him—"

"Be quiet." Peter instantly shut his mouth, staring at Mr. Fisk with wide eyes. The man didn't sound mean, like before, but he was still stern. "It doesn't sound like you've killed anyone." Peter opened and closed his mouth a few times, trying to think of what to say. Wasn't Mr. Fisk listening?

"Mr. Parker," Mr. Wesley said softly, "it sounds like you never even laid a hand on that man. In fact, it seems like it was his own stupidity that got him killed." 

Peter shook his head. "No. No, if I hadn't gone after him, he never would have—"

"Is it a doctor's fault if a patient refuses treatment?" Mr. Wesley pressed.

"No, but that's not the same thing!"

"Very well. Is it a police officer's fault if a suspect kills himself during pursuit?" 

"Of course not—"

"Then why is it yours?" Peter blinked, momentarily stunned. "Put a police officer in your exact position, Mr. Parker. Would you blame him for Mr. Carson's death?" Peter mulled over the idea before slowly shaking his head.

"Mr. Parker," Mr. Fisk said, lowly. Peter turned to face him. "I am," he paused, searching for the right word, "saddened to hear of Mr. Carson's untimely end," Peter sank further back into the couch, trying to escape the disappointment and quiet anger that overtook Mr. Fisk's features. "But circumstances were well beyond your control. I only ask that you are more careful with Mr. Pearson."

"Sir?" Peter didn't understand. How could they be talking about Pearson when the weapons guy had just become hamburger on the street?

"This mistake may not have been your fault, but it was still a mistake," Mr. Fisk said firmly, "and I cannot tolerate another. Do you understand me?"

Peter trembled under that steady gaze. Apparently, whatever happened to Ludwig was unimportant now. The boy swallowed and nodded his head, then cleared his throat at the raised eyebrow that was being levelled at him. "Yes, sir."

"Good. Now I know it's starting to get late, but I really must insist that you locate Mr. Pearson as soon as you can. It is imperative that I see him as soon as possible, especially considering your earlier mishap." Peter felt his face flush as shame filled him. They may not have blamed him for Ludwig’s death, but he certainly felt responsible. He also hated the look of disappointment Mr. Fisk had given him. It made his insides turn to lead.

 

“Sir,” Mr. Wesley began, somewhat earnestly. “Mr. Parker has had a rather trying day—is it absolutely necessary for him to locate—”

 

“Wesley,” Mr. Fisk said sharply, “you know precisely how necessary this is.”

 

“He’s right, Mr. Wesley. I’m so sorry, Mr. Fisk,” Peter said, twisting his hands together. “I’ll find Mr. Pearson. I’ll find him tonight,” he said, adamantly. He couldn’t bear that upset, troubled expression on Mr. Fisk’s face. After everything the man did for him, finding this Pearson character was the least Peter could do.

 

“Thank you, Mr. Parker. Wesley, make sure he gets out unseen.”

 

“Yes, sir,” Mr. Wesley said with a sigh, leading Peter out of the room. Peter replaced his mask and followed Mr. Wesley back to the roof, hanging back around corners and in alcoves the few times others had crossed their path.

 

They made it back to the rooftop, and Peter readied himself to swing away. Mr. Wesley stopped him with a hand on his arm. “Mr. Parker,” he began. Peter turned to look at him. “Please tread lightly. Pearson is tricky, and difficult to find. I cannot stress how important it is to Mr. Fisk that you retrieve him.”

 

Peter shook his head. “I understand, Mr. Wesley. But, why does Mr. Fisk think this guy is so important? He kidnaps people. And sells them. Part of me kind of wants the Devil to find him before me,” Peter said with a wince. Mr. Wesley frowned, eyebrows creasing. “I don’t mean—it’s just, I don’t know how Mr. Fisk thinks he can be reformed. I’d rather take him straight to the police.”

 

“Mr. Parker, do not disobey Mr. Fisk’s wishes under any circumstances. The results would be—dire. Please, don’t listen to whatever Pearson has to say to you, and don’t let your own judgements and biases govern your actions. There is a very important reason Mr. Fisk wants you to deliver Pearson to him, the details of which I cannot give you.” Peter sighed at hearing this. “I am most serious. Please do as you’re told. Are you sure you’re alright? That you’re able to do this?”

 

Peter nodded firmly. He wouldn’t mess up again. Mr. Wesley nodded his head in return, and Peter leapt off the roof, swinging downtown with a vengeance. Before he happened upon Ludwig the Weapons Guy, he was on a really good trail for Pearson. The crooks he ran into had no qualms giving away his secrets, seeing as his main targets were their family members. Poor people disappear a lot easier than wealthy people, and they’re not looked for near as hard or as long. Peter knew the last place he was operating was an abandoned factory in the industrial district. Peter made his way there in record time. Peter figured his luck would run out here. He had heard from several people that Pearson was coming to get some last, crucial pieces of evidence out of the way that tied him to the operation, and that was at least an hour ago. Most likely the man would be long gone.

 

Surprisingly, his luck held. When he got to the factory, he not only saw Pearson, but the man didn’t see him. He didn’t even hear him come in. Peter creeped into the factory, sneaking along the walls and up the ceiling until he was just above the man. Pearson was tucking some paper documents into a manila envelope, completely engrossed in his task. Stealthily, Peter pressed his hand forward and shot a web at the man’s hands before dropping down from the ceiling after the crook let out a startled yell. While the man was stunned at his sudden appearance, Peter quickly webbed him up, wrapping him in a cocoon of sticky, durable, manufactured spider silk. Satisfied with his work, he pushed the man down to the floor and started to pull out his phone. After all that had happened, Pearson’s capture felt pretty anticlimactic. Peter knew better than to look a gift horse in the mouth, though.

 

“Man, you definitely messed up,” he said, scrolling through his contacts. “Kidnapping people? Stealing kids? That’s pretty low, but selling them after?” Peter whistled. “All your crook buddies gave you away so quick, it felt like I was getting a deal downtown on Black Friday,” he shrugged a little at the lack of response, eyeing Pearson as much as the man was eyeing him. “Because you know, they’re really good, but they disappear before you can get your hands on them unless you deck someone?” Peter was met with silence. He sighed and rubbed the back of his head. “Yeah, you’re right. Not my best line. It’s been a long day, though, dude. Cut me some slack.”

 

“Do you work for Kingpin?” the man asked suddenly. Peter sighed. If he heard Kingpin’s name one more time, he was going to lose it.

 

“Who’s asking?” he responded, recalling Aaron’s nonchalance when he asked the man about the elusive baddie.

 

“I’ve heard that the rumors are wrong—please, Spider, it’s important.”

 

“Spider-Man,” Peter said, finally getting Mr. Wesley’s contact card up. His thumb hovered over the green call icon.

 

“Spider-Man,” the man allowed, scooting towards him on his butt. Peter signed and looked down at him, shaking his head.

 

“Look, man. I don’t owe you anything. I don’t have to tell you anything. I don’t have to give you shit,” he said, venomously. “Because you know what? You’re the one who snatches people right off the street, and that makes you a whole new kind of low. But I’m real sick of hearing crooks asking me if I work for an even bigger crook. So to answer your question, no. I don’t work for Kingpin. I know absolutely nothing about him, except that he is apparently a bigger dick than you. Happy?”

 

“You really don’t work for him?”

 

Peter stared at him. The man recoiled slightly, and Peter wondered how villains must really see him in his mask. He got the feeling he cut a somewhat menacing picture, considering the reactions he got. “No. I don’t work for anyone but me,” he replied. It was mostly true.

 

“Spider-Man, you’ve got to help me!” the man begged. Peter let out a startled laugh. “Please, please Spider-Man. I just want to get my family out. You’ve got to believe me!” Peter shook his head, incredulous. “Listen, man, please. Listen. I work for the Ranskahovs! The Smiley Twins! They’re the ones who actually run this racket, and I just got caught up in it! I owed Kingpin a favor, and I couldn’t get out!”

 

Peter paused, lowering his phone. “Wait, you know who he is?”

 

“Not—I mean—no one says his name, but I can tell you everything I know!”

 

Peter shook his head and let out a little chuckle, feeling light-headed. It had been a long day. When he got home, he would need to check for any serious bleeding, and probably eat a ton of leftovers. “Yeah, you sure sound like you know a lot.”

 

“I’ll tell the police everything, Spider-Man. I’ll confess to everything. I’ll tell them everything I know about the Kingpin and the Smiley Twins! Please, just let me call my wife to tell her to leave now, please. She hasn’t done anything. She doesn’t know anything, I swear to God, please.” The man was sniveling, trying to hold back tears. Peter watched him for a minute, thinking about what Mr. Fisk and Mr. Wesley said. Ultimately, they told him not to make the same mistake as before, right? To not put Fisk’s friend in danger? He was willing to turn himself in, and Mr. Fisk had always talked about how he wanted to talk to these guys to help them reform, then turn them in himself. It seemed like delivering him to Mr. Fisk was an unnecessary extra step. If Aaron was right and Kingpin did have some weird control over the city, he imagined Pearson probably had a hard time going against the crime lord’s wishes.

 

Peter sighed and opened the dial pad on his phone. “What’s her number?”

 

Pearson thanked him profusely and gave him the number, then waited patiently for her to answer Spider-Man’s call. Peter left the phone on speaker and listened to vague instructions and a worried I love you from the woman on the other end of the line. Duty done, Peter hung up his phone and brought Pearson to the nearest precinct, leaving him webbed up outside with a note that told the police to ask for his confession. Peter waited around to hear it, too, and watched as the man admitted to his crimes while the police brought him inside.

 

Wearily, Peter made his way back to Fisk Tower. He went inside—through an unlocked window in Dr. Ohnn’s lab—and walked over to the place he stashed his clothes, wincing with every step. He was pretty sure his bones were creaking, and he was thankful the eccentric scientist was nowhere in sight. After he changed, he bundled his suit into a small, secret pouch he had in his messenger bag. He slung the bag over his shoulder and tiredly made his way down the elevator and out of the lobby of the building. He frowned as he glanced at the time. It was late. Or early, depending on your point of view. School was going to be a nightmare tomorrow—er—later today. As he crossed through the double doors, he saw a familiar town car parked out front. Peter winced. He should have known they would have noticed he hadn’t called before going back into the building.

 

The door popped open and Mr. Wesley got out, frowning at Peter. Peter sighed and geared up to defend his actions.

 

“Get in the car, Mr. Parker. We have much to discuss.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“Sir, I really just want to go home—”

 

“Get in the car.”

 

“Why? What’d I do wrong? I caught the guy—”

 

“Mr. Parker.” Mr. Wesley’s tone brokered no argument. Peter sighed, gingerly sliding into the vehicle. After he was settled, he tugged at the cuffs of his jacket. Mr. Wesley got in after him and pulled the door shut. Peter stared at the carpeted floor of the limousine, frowning under the scrutiny he received from his fellow passenger. Finally after he couldn’t stand it anymore, he looked up, clenching his hands into fists.

 

“What?”

 

Mr. Wesley stared at him for another few heartbeats before he carefully reached up and knocked three times on the partition behind him. The familiar zing of danger crept up Peter’s spine, but he ignored it as he often did when he was with the man. The car started moving and Peter leaned back against the seat with a sigh. “I don’t understand what I did wrong,” he said quietly, twisting his hands together. Mr. Wesley raised an eyebrow. “Seriously! I caught him! Not only did I catch him, but he said he’d tell the police everything, and he actually did! I heard him as the cops brought him in. It’s gonna be a full confession, he’s in jail, Mr. Fisk has less he has to deal with—”

 

“What our employer has to deal with is not your concern.” Wesley said, sharply, causing Peter to bite his tongue. “You had explicit instructions to deliver Mr. Pearson to us directly.”

 

“Yeah, I know, but—”

 

Mr. Wesley cut him off. “When Mr. Fisk or I give you explicit instructions, you are to follow them. Is that clear?” Peter frowned and looked away. “Well?” Mr. Wesley demanded, leaning forward.

 

“Yes, sir,” Peter mumbled. Once he was still, he could feel the way the night had worn him down. His whole body felt like a giant bruise. He winced every time the car jostled him; however subtle it was. Getting knocked around by those cars was not pleasant. He had the feeling he may have fractured a bone or two, but he had no way of knowing without going to the hospital, which wasn’t an option. It didn’t matter. They’d heal up soon, just like always.

 

Mr. Wesley’s phone rang. He answered quickly. “Wesley,” he said monotonously, still staring at Peter. “Yes sir? Yes sir, I have him. I’m speaking to him now. Of course. I’ll do that—I’ll take care of it.” Wesley pulled the phone away from his face and tapped the screen to hang up, then replaced it in his pocket.

 

“What did Mr. Fisk—"

 

“What did you think you were doing?” Mr. Wesley cut him off.

 

Peter flushed, angry at the accusatory tone. “I did my job! I did what I’m supposed to do!” he said, looking at Mr. Wesley head on. His own face was reflected back at him in the lenses Mr. Wesley wore on his face. “I don’t know what happens to the crooks that I bring you guys, I never hear anything about them again! I don’t know if they get away, or get rehabilitated, or get brought to the police, but this guy—he knows things. He knows about Kingpin! I couldn’t risk it. He said he’d confess everything he knew about the guy, and the more the police know, the better!” Peter exclaimed. “Maybe now they can actually let the public know and we can do something about him.”

 

“I see,” Mr. Wesley leaned back, calm façade in place once more. Peter seethed. Between Mr. Wesley’s nonchalant expression, the aches running through his body, and the headache his spider-sense brought on, he was extremely irritated. “So you ignored direct orders because, what, you thought you knew better?” Wesley folded his hands in his lap and cocked his head, examining the teenager and making Peter fidget. “You thought this was the only way to see justice done.” Peter nodded slowly. “You didn’t want this man to slip away, right?” Peter nodded again. “Because you wanted to make sure he gave the police what they needed to go after a much bigger fish, and him rotting in lockup for human trafficking was icing on the cake, right?”

 

“Mr. Wesley, he was a monster. He told me he had to do it because of the Kingpin, but he… he took kids—"

 

“I am quite aware of what he did, Mr. Parker.” Mr. Wesley’s eyes pierced through him, his gaze like ice. Peter felt a chill in his chest. “I know of what kind of sick ways Mr. Pearson tried to make money, and believe me, it is one of the many reasons our employer wanted to deal with this issue himself.” Mr. Wesley sighed, shaking his head a little. “I regret to inform you that your plan did not work the way you intended.”

 

Peter straightened up at that. He had been to enough police stations with Mr. Wesley to know he could ask about pretty much any criminal in holding and get an answer. “What? Of course it did. He confessed,” he said, confidence wavering.

 

Mr. Wesley nodded once. “Yes. He did.” Peter let out a relieved breath. “But not on paper. He committed suicide in his cell before any of the police officers there could get a signed confession about what he knew, or what he had done.”

 

Peter felt very cold, as if all the blood was draining away from his body. “W-what?”

 

“I don’t think I need to repeat myself.”

 

“That—what?” Peter whispered, shaking his head and wringing his hands. “But… but how?”

 

“Hung himself with his bedsheet while the guards were otherwise occupied.” Mr. Wesley looked at Peter sadly. “Mr. Parker. Don’t you understand how this system works?” Peter started blinking, shock filling him. He was the only link Peter had to Kingpin—the only way they could start getting information out so he could pick up a trail, and suddenly he was dead.

 

Peter shook his head. “But—he swore,” he said, somewhat childishly. “He—he swore he’d tell—"

 

“He was a criminal, Mr. Parker. Criminals lie.”

 

“No!” Peter cut off the assistant, slapping his hand against the seat. “No, that didn’t happen. That couldn’t have happened, there was no time!” Peter had just gotten him to the precinct. There was no way he could have been processed in time for a cell. “He would have gone to holding first… there aren’t beds in holding, so there aren’t sheets! There’s no way—"

 

“Due to the severity of his crime, and his particular targets, the officers there deemed that it would be safer to give him a private cell. They feared the others in lockup might hurt him,” Mr. Wesley shook his head and scoffed, “for all the good that did them.”

 

“No,” Peter whispered.

 

“Yes, Mr. Parker, and if you had just listened and done as you were told, our employer would be dealing with Mr. Pearson, and perhaps he would have gotten the information you were so desperately seeking.” Peter covered his mouth with his hands. “Instead after the events of the night, two men are dead.” Pete could hear what was unsaid. Because you screwed up.

 

Guilt was twisting hot and sharp in his abdomen. His chest constricted and he tried to take a deep breath through his nose. He didn’t think his body could handle it if he had another panic attack. Slowly, as air filled his lungs and oxygen made its way to his brain, those same puzzle pieces shone brightly in Peter’s mind. The pieces that just wouldn’t fit together. The story Mr. Wesley was telling didn’t add up. Kingpin’s name came up like a whisper in the dark, and was somehow tied to Spider-Man. Even though Peter didn’t find many who knew of the crime boss, the ones he did find were utterly silent on the matter, until Pearson. He was the first guy who was willing to confess anything about the Kingpin.

 

“He’s everywhere though, man. Practically has the city in his pocket. He’s got all kinds of crooks working for him, from the top of the food chain to the bottom, and they’re all loyal to him.” Aaron told him that. At the time, Peter was certain he meant actual criminals: drug lords, weapons dealers, burglars—but what if he was saying something else? What if he was talking about the unknown villains? Like dirty cops, or shady lawyers? What if those were the kinds of people the engineer meant? The Kingpin could probably have all kinds of people to do his bidding.

 

“There’s usually a reason for loyalty, and with Kingpin, there could be lots of reasons.” Peter could see it, too. Money delivered to a congressman as some kind of campaign donation. A cop trying to protect his family from an unseen but deadly threat. A kid who made a mistake, but was given a second chance—

 

Peter swallowed. No. No way, he thought as he glanced up at Mr. Wesley, wondering again about his ever-present spider-sense. It always tingled in his presence, and in Mr. Fisk’s presence, too. The man was made of money—he could easily buy off a ton of people so he could operate, and what kind of business mogul wants to save criminals? The man did so much good though. His charities had helped so many people in the city, including him and May. How could Mr. Fisk be some kind of mob boss? In every mafia movie he ever saw everyone knew who the boss was. This wasn’t like that at all.

 

Then again, those were movies, not real life, and wasn’t Michelle always telling him about how the media lied to them all the time? That it sensationalized the wrong things on purpose so people would be oblivious sheep? May was always telling him that he had good instincts and should trust them. Hell, his own body told him every time something was about to kill him.

 

Maybe his body was trying to tell him something about Mr. Fisk all along.

 

Peter swallowed, shifting and wincing in pain again. “Mr. Wesley,” he croaked and cleared his throat. “I don’t think Pearson was brought to the private cell because the guards were trying to protect him.” Mr. Wesley raised an eyebrow at him. The car stopped moving. “I-I-I think they were the o-ones that killed him,” he clenched his hands tightly together to stop their trembling. A small part of him was shouting, begging him to shut his mouth, walk away, and not to look back, but it was washed out by a louder voice. A voice that reminded him of all the good and generous things he was given. A voice that reminded him that he was comforted and possibly cared for by the person he was thinking these ill thoughts of. How could someone as kind and charitable as Mr. Fisk possibly be a notorious criminal? Peter needed some kind of confirmation to quell it. “I think—I think they’re on Kingpin’s payroll.”

 

Mr. Wesley merely stared at him with his brows quirked in a questioning way. Peter swallowed again.

 

“I think Mr. Fisk knows more about the Kingpin, and the people on his payroll, then you’ve been letting on.” Because that was it, wasn’t it? Ultimately? Every guy he targeted was on Kingpin’s list. The Devil was exceedingly volatile with his brand of justice, but the only criminals Mr. Fisk cared about were people who were afraid of the Kingpin. Mr. Fisk knew their movements way before anyone else. Mr. Fisk was the one who spoke to them, rehabilitated them, took care of them—Peter just hadn’t realized what he meant before now.

 

“And I think that you and I might be on that payroll, too.”

 

Mr. Wesley let out a sigh and reached his hand into his jacket. Suddenly, Peter’s spider-sense flared sharply, distinctly noticeable from the dull buzz he had been feeling the whole time in the car. The world slowed down as he saw a hint of leather beneath the coat and a glint of silver sliding away from Mr. Wesley’s body. Peter reacted instantly, diving towards the door and pulling the latch to let himself out as he heard the crack of a gunshot in close quarters. The smell of ozone hit his flared nostrils, shooting a new wave of panic up his spine as he leaped from the car to the world outside, only to crash into something hard and heavy and white. His spider-sense was still screaming at him, lighting his nerves on fire as he felt a vice-like squeeze around his arms. The world spun and his back slammed down against something hard and jagged. He blinked, a little stunned that he could hurt so badly, and stuttered as he tried to draw breath. As he struggled, a dark shadow loomed over him and he stared up into the face of Mr. Fisk.

 

The face of an angry Mr. Fisk.

 

The scowl marred his features in such a shocking way that Peter momentarily forgot he needed to get away. A thick, heavy fist crashed into his nose, and he felt a sickening squish and crack across his face. Something warm and wet was gushing out of his nose, and he breathed in sharply, choking on the coppery fluid that was suddenly in his mouth. The fist came again twice more before Peter remembered to fight back. He jerked away, instinctively pressing his fingers where his webshooters would be if he were in his suit, hesitant to strike back with his legs or fists. Mr. Fisk grabbed his face and pulled his head away from the ground below him, slamming it down three times in quick succession. Peter was dazed, unsure of how to move as blows were rained upon his torso and face. Weakly he brought his hands up to try to protect his head, and he heard a terrible pop as his wrist was twisted too sharply and too far. His world went white for a moment then dark, and all he knew was the sound of flesh beating flesh, followed by what he was certain was pain that wouldn’t register correctly. His vision cleared momentarily as Mr. Fisk drew back, and he sucked in a deep breath and gagged on the wetness trickling down his throat. As he moved to cough, he felt a solid weight pressing into his throat, obstructing his airway. His eyes bulged as he took in Mr. Fisk, seeing the man grit his teeth angrily as he stared down at Peter, meaty hands wrapped around his neck. The boy’s blood was splattered over his face and jacket. Peter jerked and twitched, trying to make his useless body move unsuccessfully. He couldn’t breathe—he was being choked to death. Peter felt a sharp spike of pain lance through his head as panic shot through him. His world greyed around the edges, and Mr. Fisk became nothing more then a flesh colored blur above him, backlit by amber streetlamps. Peter felt his heart beating frantically in his chest and in his ears, feeling his blood rush all over his body. Everything faded out. His world went dark again, and the last thing he knew was the sound of Wilson Fisk screaming in rage.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter startled and winced, feeling his body being jostled and moved. His eyes opened, and he realized he was being pulled from the limo.

 

When did he get back to the limo?

 

Did I even leave the limo?

 

Peter’s body screamed in agony, from his face to the tips of his toes. That semi really did a number on him—

 

Wait, no, that wasn’t right.

 

Was it?

 

Because for some reason, all he could visualize was a thick, heavy fist being launched at his face again and again—

 

Peter gasped as his body was dumped against a brick wall. He vaguely realized he was near a dim streetlamp. A horrible, pulsing pain thrummed throughout his body and he suddenly gagged at the onslaught of sensation assaulting him. He felt like he could barely breathe. He coughed, feeling something congealed and wet slide from the back of his throat to his tongue, making him gag again until he managed to get the copper tasting thing out of his mouth. The boy let out a sob, unable to do much else. He was already in agony from the chase and his fiasco with the vehicles in the street from earlier. Now it was like every bruise on his body had been bruised again and again, repeatedly until his skin only held mush. He didn’t know he could hurt so much. He didn’t know just his face could hurt so much. He jerked and looked around, crying out at the ache in his shoulders and neck. Finally, his eyes landed on the sharply dressed, bespectacled brunette looming over him.

 

Mr. Wesley regarded him coolly, face impassive. Peter felt tears slip out of his eyes. “P-please,” he whined. He needed help, and no one was going to come for him. The only person he could ask was right in front of him. The fact that the man tried to shoot him earlier didn't matter. “Please, Mr. Wesley. I—”

 

“Your phone is on the ground, Mr. Parker. Pick it up. Peter looked to the side and saw several things that were in his bag strewn around him. The bag itself, along with his wallet and spider-suit, was missing. He blinked and looked back up at Mr. Wesley, confused, but too hurt to ask what was going on. His old, cracked phone was lying on the ground beside him.

 

“Sir?” he croaked out.

 

“Pick up your phone,” Mr. Wesley repeated. Peter cringed as he carefully moved his arm to grab his phone. He slowly wrapped his fingers around the hard case, and he brought it to his lap. “Very good,” Mr. Wesley said. Peter cried harder at the gentle tone in his voice. “Can you see?” Barely. Peter nodded. “Alright. You have five people listed on your speed dial, right? Your aunt is one of them. I want you to call her.” Peter panicked, shaking his head. She had to stay away. It was dangerous. He was dangerous—

 

“Mr. Parker, I am not going to ask again.” Peter moved shaking fingers over the screen of his phone, and tears blurred his vision as his thumb hovered over the icon. “Now call her and ask for help.” Peter lifted his head, eyes wide. “That’s what you would do if I weren’t here. Go ahead.”

 

Peter shook his head again. “No, Mr. Wesley, please, don’t hurt her—”

 

“She will be fine if you do as I say. Can you do as I say?”

 

“Yes, sir,” Peter nodded his head as fresh tears streaked down his cheeks.

 

“Good. Call your aunt. Now.”

 

Peter’s fingers trembled as he pressed the 2 on his dial pad. “Put it on speaker,” Mr. Wesley said. Peter did as he was told and awaited further instructions, in a daze from the pain. Peter wondered briefly if he was supposed to feel more cold than hurt.

 

“Again, Mr. Parker.” Peter dialed May again, hands shaking more violently than before. Again the phone went to voicemail. He let out a sob before he disconnected, knowing May probably wouldn’t have her phone until she got another break. Wesley told him, again and again, to keep dialing his aunt. Each time it went to her inbox and Peter felt his anxiety spiking higher and higher each time she missed a call. What if she never picked up? Would he die out here? Cold and miserable and alone? Mr. Wesley’s voice started to fade into the background as he tried to reach May for help. As he heard her recorded message over and over, he couldn’t seem to control the desperation he felt. Tears blocked his vision and sobs choked his voice and soon he was pleading with the voicemail, telling May he was hurt and scared and begging her to pick up, “Please May, please pick up—"

 

“Now call me,” Mr. Wesley said, after the last time he disconnected the call.

 

“W-what?”

 

“I believe I am on your speed dial, too.” He was. Peter added him shortly after he began his internship, because of how much they had to talk to organize he schedule. “Call my phone, Mr. Parker. Keep it off speaker, this time.”

 

Peter stared at him with his mouth hanging open, not making a sound. Mr. Wesley raised an eyebrow at him and lifted his wrist to check his watch—a deliberate move on his part, urging Peter to hurry up or suffer the consequences. Peter pressed and held the 5 on his dial pad. A moment after the ringing started in his speaker, he heard the buzzing of Mr. Wesley’s phone in his pocket. Mr. Wesley stared at him, face blank as he pulled the device out of his jacket. Peter heard the click of someone picking up through his own phone, and watched as Mr. Wesley placed his phone against his ear, still staring at Peter. “Wesley,” he said, masking his voice to make it sound rougher. He cleared his throat.

 

Peter opened and closed his mouth wordlessly. He swallowed, causing him to cough and gag into the receiver. Mr. Wesley pulled the phone away from his ear for a moment as a grimace of disgust flashed over his features. “Hello? Mr. Parker?”

 

Peter sobbed, almost certain the call was being recorded. According to Aaron, Mr. Fisk was notorious for this sort of thing. He never understood why until now. The last place Peter was seen was at Fisk Tower, in an area that normally didn’t attract muggers or criminals because of the busy streets and quick police response to many things reported. People in the company itself would be suspects for Peter’s disappearance due to the area they were in alone, but not if someone from there called him in missing and offered a recording of his call, crying for help. Mr. Wesley was going to kill him and this was his alibi. This covered Mr. Wesley’s tracks—if they were even being looked for in the first place. Peter stared at Mr. Wesley’s chest where he knew the holster to be, babbling words he wasn’t sure could be understood in any way. He didn’t want to die. He didn’t want to blink out of this world into nothingness. He begged for his life, not neatly, not prettily, but it was the best he could do, and he prayed to whatever God was listening that he would be spared.

 

“Mr. Parker, where are you? I can’t understand you—” Peter was suddenly dizzy and his hand fell away from his face, taking the phone away with it. The dark spots from before danced over his eyes and he moaned, feeling them fall closed against his wishes.

 

The world took on a surreal edge after that, flashes of dreams shined brightly through the periods of black. Mr. Wesley’s face close to his own while his free hand touched his face and chest in a firm, assessing way. A metallic ceiling with bright lights and two strangers bustling over him. The scrape of something hard lodging itself in his throat while he was forced to stare at a bright white ceiling in a well-let room. A warm, slightly weathered hand clutching his tightly. May’s voice delivering soft and soothing platitudes to his ear.

 

The pain woke him.

 

He moaned, shifting against something padded beneath him, and as he tried to swallow, he felt something in his throat. He whined, sharply, lifting his hand so he could grab whatever was on his face and pull it out of his mouth, when he felt soft hands rubbing over his and gentle shushes.

 

“Peter, Peter baby it’s a ventilator. You can’t fight it, okay, just let it work. It’s okay—” he blinked at the sound and turned his head, whimpering when he saw May at his side. She looked haggard. Her hair was falling out of her ponytail in messy chunks all around her face. Her eyes were bloodshot behind her wire-gold glasses, and she had dark circles under them. She sniffled and offered him a small smile, and Peter felt tears slipping down his own face as he whined again. “I know it’s not comfortable, but you’re awake now and your oxygen levels look really good. It’s possible they will think you can breathe on your own now, okay? I just need you to be calm for me, baby. Can you do that?” Peter nodded and winced at the sharp pain that lanced throughout his body. “Are you hurting?” Peter nodded again, closing his eyes against the tears that couldn’t stop falling.

 

What even happened?

 

Peter was—he was leaving Fisk Tower. He left Fisk Tower and then—nothing. Was this all from that truck earlier? He’d never been hit like that before, and he avoided being hospitalized since before the bite. They were awful places. He sifted through his memories, trying to fill the blanks, frustrated that they were just out of reach. Peter heard two voices talking and cracked open his eyes to see his aunt talking to another nurse. He closed them again, sensitive to the bright lights in the room. Soon he felt a cool rush of relief and he sighed, sagging back into the bed. He didn’t even know he was tensing.

 

“—worried, May. He doesn’t seem tolerant of most treatments, and we’ve had to give him the maximum of several analgesics. He’s not responding well—”

 

“I know,” May said with a sigh. Peter opened his eyes again and squinted in the harsh light, finding his aunt with his eyes. She glanced back at him and scrunched her face when she saw his expression, then moved over to dim the lights. Peter let out a relieved noise as he opened his eyes more fully. May gave a watery chuckle and shooed the other nurse off before she returned to her seat. “Does that help, hon?” Peter nodded, blinking his eyes blearily.  May held his hand again, running her thumb in gentle circles over it. “Good. Darlene went to get Dr. Snow. He’s been seeing to your recovery. Let’s… let’s see if Dr. Snow thinks it’s okay to take out the ventilator now.” She craned her head to the door and stood up. “I’ll be right back, sweetie, I’m just going to make sure he comes right away.” Peter’s eyes drooped as he watched her leave the room. His head was fuzzy, making his vision blurry again.

 

Again?

 

When did the room get so bright? May had just turned the lights down. He squinted when May appeared, holding his hand as a blurry figure reached around him. He heard the gentle cadence of his aunt’s voice, instructing him to relax and not fight the doctor. His eyes drifted shut and he felt a weird slide against his throat. It constricted automatically and his whole body tensed. Peter was choking on the tube in his throat. He felt the gentle hands of his aunt brushing against his neck and face and he relaxed again, wincing as the object slid out of his throat and mouth. He let out a cough and took a deep breath before trying to relax again. The ache was back, and he felt it increasing as sharp jabs throughout his chest, back, neck and face. He closed his eyes tightly and grit his teeth, trying to take even breaths.

 

“Peter? How do you feel?” that was a man’s voice. Peter shook his head as he felt a small warm hand—May again—holding his.

 

“Hurts—” he gritted out. “Hurts—May—May it hurts. Please, make it stop,” the pain returned fully, a dull ache in his back and ribs, and a tight, hot squeeze at his chest and neck. His face was sore and extremely tender, and he could feel agonizing discomfort every time he moved. He couldn’t even open his mouth all the way. He had never been beaten up so badly before. Even when he got caught by that knife, he was only seriously hurt in one place. This was a whole new level of awful for him.

 

“Honey, I’m so sorry. You’re not—your body isn’t reacting properly to the treatment,” she said, tearfully. Peter opened his eyes to a dim room again, seeing a man standing behind her. As the pain returned, everything came back into sharp focus. “We—this isn’t something that normally happens, but I know it has happened to some patients in the past. They’ve already given you the safest amount allowable—any more will make you sick.”

 

“I don’t care—May please—”

 

May shook her head and the doctor cleared his throat. “Peter,” he said calmly. “What we can do is offer you a sedative—that will hopefully be enough to allow you to sleep while we tackle this problem, okay?” Peter sniffled and nodded, and May gently brushed his curls out of his face. “I’ll have Darlene back here with the medicine in a moment,” he said quietly before he left the room.  Peter tried to press his head into May’s touch, shivering. May adjusted his blanket, telling him she would ask the nurse for another when she came in.

 

“Honey, what happened?” she asked, quietly.

 

“I don’t—I’m not sure,” Peter whined. “I remember leaving the office, but I can’t—”

 

“Shh, it’s okay. I’m sorry, I know you’re in pain, honey. It’s okay if you don’t remember.” Peter shut his eyes as he heard a soft tapping, trying to focus on the feeling of gentle fingers in his hair instead of the throbbing pain all over his body.

 

“Mr. Wesley!” Peter’s eyes snapped open as May’s hand left his head. He tried to tilt his head up to look towards where the door must be, but the movement was too difficult in his current state. It was needless, in the end. Soon, Mr. Wesley stood next to his aunt, sharply dressed and put together as ever. Peter stared at the man, unsure why he was suddenly so nervous to see him. He saw his aunt speaking to him, glancing at Peter occasionally, but he was unable to make out the words over the angry buzzing in his ears. Soon the man ushered his aunt away from the bed, only to return alone a moment later. Peter’s eyes drifted to Mr. Wesley’s chest, and he wondered if his gun was holstered there again.

 

The gun.

 

Peter gasped and tried to jerk back, but found there was no where he could go. Tears started filling his eyes again as it all came back. Pearson’s mysterious death, Mr. Wesley’s lecture, and Mr. Wesley shooting at him right before Mr. Fisk—

 

Peter was going to be sick.

 

Mr. Wesley was quick, though. He had the blue, plastic bag under Peter’s mouth and a gentle hand under his head, helping him to sit up so he could vomit unhindered. He twitched and shuddered, knowing he had to rely on this man for any kind of help while his aunt was away. Mr. Wesley rubbed gentle circles into his back as he heaved up nothing, the same as he did in Dr. Ohnn’s lab, and later in Mr. Fisk’s office.  He trembled and shook his head, trying to lean away. Mr. Wesley immediately ceased his movement and pulled the bag from him, leaving his side to dispose of it. He came back and sat at the edge of the bed, staring at Peter and adjusting his glasses.

 

“Our employer doesn’t like giving lessons like this, Peter.” Peter gaped at the man incredulously. Was he seriously going to pass this off as some sort of teaching moment? How dumb did he think Peter was? Mr. Wesley caught his expression and scoffed a little. “That has always been how he has seen this sort of thing. If he wanted you dead, you would be. Instead you’re here, receiving proper care.”

 

“They’ll know something is wrong with me,” he rasped. The thought hadn’t even crossed his mind before now, but his tests would come back weird. That spider-bite changed him on a genetic level. “They’ll know that I’ve mutated—”

 

“Only the ones we want to know,” Mr. Wesley replied, confidently. Peter blinked and shook his head a little, wincing at the movement. “How many times have we visited this very hospital, Peter? How many times have we conversed with Dr. Snow?” Now Peter could recall with perfect clarity every meeting they had with the doctor. Wesley following up on patients, or research, or even things happening in the man’s personal life. Did Mr. Fisk really have doctors working for him? “Your bloodwork won’t see the light of day. All your aunt will see is regular discharge paperwork.”

 

“But he tried to kill me. Why is he helping me?”

 

“You’re useful to him.”

 

Peter shook his head. “I won’t be, anymore. Not now that I know who he is. I can’t do this anymore, Mr. Wesley. You may as well have l-l-left me there.”

 

“That wasn’t what he wanted. He treats his employees well, when they’re deserving,” Mr. Wesley folded his hands in his lap and stared at Peter with an expression that was asking for something. Forgiveness? Understanding?

 

“Mr. Wesley—”

 

“He bought you a new wardrobe and laptop.”

 

“I know—”

 

“He offered you a job, barely knowing what you could do.”

 

“That doesn’t excuse what he did!” Peter croaked again. He couldn’t seem to get any volume, and the strain on his throat made him shudder. He hurt too much to be having any kind of conversation, let alone this one.

 

“Perhaps not, but he was the one who selected your aunt’s application when she applied for the financial aid from the Marlene Vistain Mothers and Children Foundation.” Peter’s jaw hung open a little. Mr. Fisk was involved in his life, even back then before they had ever met? “He was the one who ensured your uncle’s paperwork would finally go through.” No, no that wasn’t possible. They were union. There were steps that had to be taken. One person couldn’t just move someone to the front of the line no questions asked. Could they?

 

“Oh, has May spent any of her sweepstakes winnings yet?” Mr. Wesley asked, casually.

 

No way.

 

“You must see all the good he has done for your family. Yes, he has a temper when you don’t follow instructions, but he won’t ask you to do something you can’t do. He hasn’t asked you to do anything outlandish. He has you working on medical and rescue equipment in the labs at work, and he only wants you to capture criminals. He knew from the beginning you wouldn’t kill, and he won’t ask you to.”

 

“But—no. No, I don’t care, he can’t just—”

 

“Peter—”

 

“No, Mr. Wesley!” he exclaimed, feeling his heart pound harder. “He tried to kill me. H-h-he choked me,” Peter croaked, wondering if he would ever stop crying. “And I… I didn’t… I could have fought back and didn’t. That won’t happen again. I will never let that happen again. He won’t have that power over me,” Peter said, resolve firm. Mr. Wesley leaned back, the imploring expression morphing to one of indifference.

 

“I see,” he said, coolly. “So I suppose the fact that he knows your secret identity, especially with all this talk of the Accords, is of little importance?” Peter’s lip trembled as he nodded his head. His identity didn’t matter. What the government did with his life didn’t matter. At least they had to have some kind of morals in dealing with enhanced, right? Mr. Fisk—Kingpin—didn’t have any scruples whatsoever. Mr. Wesley hummed in thought. “You’re right, you can absolutely protect yourself. Our employer wouldn’t have that edge over you again, and if you’re unafraid of these regulations for mutants,” Peter flinched a little at the word. It felt like some kind of slur, they way Mr. Wesley said it. “I suppose there is nothing that can be done.” Peter’s eyes narrowed a little. There was no way it could be that easy. Mr. Wesley looked away from him, staring at some point on the wall in front of him. “I should see to May.”

 

Peter’s heart stopped.

 

“She’s going through such an ordeal,” Mr. Wesley looked back at Peter, calm and calculating. “I believe our employer would like me to take care of her, while you’re incapacitated.”

 

“No… no please,” he whispered.

 

“Can you protect her all the time, Peter?” Peter started shaking. “Or your friend Ned? What about Michelle? Can you keep an eye on all three of them at once?”

 

“Please, Mr. Wesley, don’t hurt them.”

 

“I don’t want to, Mr. Parker,” Mr. Wesley said, staring straight into his eyes. “Our employer doesn’t want me to if I don’t have to. After all, you have very bright friends, and your aunt is a kind, lovely woman. So tell me, do I have to?”

 

Peter let out a new sob. Mr. Wesley made no move to touch him. He cocked his head to the side like some kind of predator, waiting. “Please—what do I have to do?”

 

Mr. Wesley smiled. “What you’ve been doing.” Peter shook his head again. “You yourself said you don’t know what happens with those criminals, or what goes on behind the scenes. You still catch the people we want; you still work at Fisk Tower, no one needs to know what happened. No one needs to know what you learned about the Kingpin.”

 

“But now I know what he does—”

 

“Do you?” Mr. Wesley asked sharply. “Can you honestly say you know what he talks to these people about? Do you really know what happens to the criminals he wishes to speak to?” Peter pressed his lips together. Truthfully, he didn’t. He did, but he didn’t know for sure. He could lie to himself about it, if it was to protect his friends.

 

He would absolutely do it to protect May.

 

He had no one else left.

 

“Nothing has to change,” Mr. Wesley stretched out a hand and let it hover over Peter’s head, like a person who found a skittish stray he wanted to pet. Peter bowed his head, and the man patted him gently. “You’ll still get your stipend as long as you do what he asks. Besides, it looks like your aunt has just submitted an early application for an apartment that is going to open up at the end of June. Our employer has some influence there, as well.”

 

“Why?” Peter rasped, voice robbed entirely by the conversation and emotional strain.

 

“He wants to teach you. He really does see a lot of potential in you. Will you let him, Peter? Will you keep working with us, despite this bump in the road we’ve run across?”

 

Peter shuddered. “Yes, Mr. Wesley. I…. I can.” Mr. Wesley smiled, pulling out his phone and sending a quick text.

 

“I’m glad we can continue to do business, Mr. Parker,” he replied, standing up at the Doctor and May both came in. May looked flustered and hassled, flare of anger in her eyes as Dr. Snow moved calmly toward the bed.

 

“I’m sorry, Peter. The nurse attending you is swamped. Your aunt has been trying to tell me, and considering how little the narcotics are affecting you, and how short-lived they are, I decided to come in and give you the medication myself.” He unwrapped a needle and pulled an unopened vial from his pocket. He moved away from the bed, and Peter was pretty sure he was preparing the shot to give him. Peter glanced up at Mr. Wesley, who merely shrugged slightly and adjusted his tie.

 

“Thank you for waiting with him while I got Dr. Snow, Mr. Wesley. I can’t believe you found him—” she said, dabbing her eyes, a small smile on her face. Peter looked over at Mr. Wesley who cocked an eyebrow at him. “He doesn’t remember what happened,” she said, quietly, as Dr. Snow approached again. He injected the medicine into the port of Peter’s IV, and suddenly he felt a new, fuzzy feeling take over. It wasn’t a pain reliever, exactly, but he felt very sleepy. His brows furrowed as his eyes started to close. May ran her fingers through his hair again, smiling. “It’s alright, Peter. You’re just going to sleep for a while. Everything will be okay.”

 

Peter closed his eyes as her words washed over him, thinking how wrong May was.

 

Nothing would ever be okay again.  

Chapter Text

Peter was released from the hospital two days later to recover at home. They couldn't give him much of anything in the way of medication, and the hospital was loud and bright and uncomfortable. He passed the 36-hour mark for possible unseen damage from "the strangulation attempt," as Dr. Snow called it, and the bright lights and sharp sounds of the building made Peter sick and dizzy due to his enhanced senses. Even though it was a little unorthodox to do so, the doctor decided to release him, especially considering how well he was recovering. Peter was pretty sure he had Mr. Fisk to thank for that. Or maybe Mr. Wesley.


Being grateful to them for the relief left a sour taste in his mouth.


Mr. Wesley used his time in the hospital wisely. One day he convinced May to go and get some proper rest and a shower, and that he could watch over Peter when she was gone. It was a bit of a nasty surprise for Peter to wake up to. The same blonde from the gala had accompanied the man with her black and silver case. Mr. Wesley told him he was healing too quickly, and Felicia was going to teach him how to apply makeup to make a convincing bruise. Felicia, to her credit, asked no questions while she gave the lesson, and Peter found he was glad to have this skill. If he was bruise free too soon, May would get really suspicious. The rapid healing of his black eye from Flash was one thing, and it took a lot of circular reasoning to get her off track. An injury of this magnitude disappearing too quickly would be impossible to explain.


After Peter recovered, it took a while for him to stop flinching at every. Little. Thing. His senses were constantly dialed up to eleven. He was hyper focused everywhere he went, and it was impacting every aspect of his life. May treated him like he was made of glass. She coddled him to the point that one day he snapped at her hushed voice and wary touch. He instantly apologized, and of course May forgave him, but he couldn't miss the wounded look in her eyes. He felt especially like an ass when that very same night, he woke up screaming from a nightmare to her petting his head and wrapping him in her arms while he cried.


At school everyone knew. Well, everyone thought they knew. They all heard how he got mugged and beaten up in Hell's Kitchen one day after he left his internship, and that his new bag and almost everything in it was taken and most likely hocked. Everyone walked on eggshells around him, even Ned. Their behavior was infuriating, and he thought it was totally unnecessary. Then one day, out of the blue, Flash approached him from behind and he was so startled, he reacted without thinking and slammed the bully into a locker, to the surprise of both of them. He was even more startled when Flash clapped a warm hand on his shoulder afterwards and asked if he was okay. It was the most serious tone Peter had ever heard from the other boy. He... still wasn't sure what that was about. It was nice to have the reprieve from Flash, but at the same time it was a rude awakening. His classmates' actions were not without merit.


Going back to the tower was also a strange endeavor. In the week he was gone, Dr. Ohnn had up and left. His device was gone, too. According to Mr. Wesley, the night of the city-wide blackout was the last time anyone at work saw him. No search had been sent out though. Apparently, this was normal behavior for the man, and he had done this with other employers in the past.


Peter wondered what Dr. Ohnn did to piss the Kingpin off.


When he first got back for a lab day at Fisk Tower, Aaron took one look at him and his (fake) bruises, shrugged and told him how he came to work for Mr. Fisk. He spun a tale depicting a younger Aaron taking a dive for his brother so he could get out, without Jeff ever knowing. It was an uglier story than Peter's, and to this day Aaron's brother (who didn’t have any knowledge of what Aaron had done) still held animosity toward him. Peter didn't ask the engineer how he knew, because Peter recognized the same inkling of admiration/anger/fear of Mr. Fisk that he now had inside himself. He was honestly more surprised by how few of Mr. Fisk's employees had that spark that he and Aaron shared.


He wondered if it would be okay to tell Aaron he was Spider-Man.


He decided the cons outweighed the pros, especially if Mr. Fisk found out.


Then things slowly started returning to normal. He and May ate takeout when she burnt the meatloaf. Flash went back to acting like an asshole at AcaDec practice. Peter and
Aaron started a new project drafting a better pump for the water treatment facility. Freddy still drove him home.


He stopped flinching whenever he saw Mr. Wesley or Mr. Fisk.


That was pretty impressive progress.


Peter still got in whatever car Mr. Wesley sent for him after he finished a job. He was a little less chatty on these jobs, and he didn't dispute it when people claimed he worked for a crime boss. They were right, after all. Mr. Wesley gave him sound advice on his homework on the way back to his apartment, and on their internship days he learned a lot more about some of the seedier deals the Kingpin was involved with. Some of them made him sick to his stomach. Well, most of them made him sick to his stomach. Some were kind of interesting, though. It was pretty amazing how Mr. Fisk knew what made people tick. Watching Mr. Wesley exploit those traits was fascinating, despite the fact that the very same behavior was what snagged him in their weird mob-family.


Because really, despite the fact that they were underhanded and abusive and just bad, Peter felt like he was part of a family, with them. He had peers. People trusted and respected him. He even had protection as Spider-Man. Before, most cops would chase him down and try to arrest him. Now they were either occupied or turned a blind eye. Everything operated the same as before, except instead of being at the kids table, he was included in the conversation with the adults.


Aaron was especially kind to him. He still played around, teaching in the same chaotic way as always, but any time Peter seemed nervous around Mr. Wesley, he acted as a buffer. He never asked what happened, who did what, or how Peter's trust was broken. He also noticed that Mr. Wesley was Peter's only decent help in Spanish and came up with a good fix for his problem.


"¿Cuándo fiesta?"
Peter said staring at his book.


"Eres malo en esto, broki,"
Miles replied with a smirk. They had met up in Aaron's apartment on a Saturday afternoon. Miles brought his chemistry project (which Peter was more than happy to help with), and Peter brought his dreaded Spanish homework.


"What?"


"En Espanol, mi mano."


"¿...que?"


"Muchos gracias. Inténtalo de nuevo.”


"¿Cuándo es la fiesta?"


Miles nodded at the correction. "La fiesta es el sábado. ¿Quieres venir conmigo?"


"... Si, por favor."


"Okay what did I say?"


"The party is on Saturday. Do you want to go together?"


"Great job, man!" 


Peter rubbed his eyes and dropped his book on the counter. "What does broki mean?"


"Huh?" Miles stared at him, perplexed.


"You called me broki, I think. What does that even mean?"


Miles furrowed his eyebrows. "Uh... Huh. I guess it means... Well it means brother, but it's more like bro. Or buddy."


"I thought that was mano, or hermano," Peter responded


Miles rolled his eyes. "Different dialect, man. Don't just go calling anyone broki though, okay? It's for close friends." Peter felt his heat swell a little. 


"Thanks, Miles," Peter grinned. Aaron coughed and the boys looked over at him.


"I just love watching bros becoming bros. I'm getting a cavity over here," the older man smirked, reclined in the sofa. Peter blushed and rubbed the back of his neck as Miles laughed, telling his uncle he was just jealous that he wasn't included.


Aaron waited until after he dropped Miles off at his place to bring up how work was affecting him. 


"Hey," he said after they got back on the road, heading towards Peter's apartment. "You uh... You good?" 


Peter glanced at Aaron, a little confused. "Um.... Yes?"


"I mean with Fisk and Wesley." Peter flushed and stared at his feet. "It's just that it's been a few weeks since, uh, well, you know." Peter shrugged a little. "The thing is, kid, you gotta be good with this situation. I've been watching the news, and of these Accords go through, it ain't gonna be good for you."


Peter felt his hands shake a little.


"Wha--" he croaked and cleared his throat, "what are you talking about?"


Aaron shook his head. "Come on, man. I'm not stupid. I don't know what you do for Kingpin, but I know you do something. Just like you know I do something."


"I don't--"


"I'm not asking what. I value my neck. I'm not gonna put it on the line to satisfy some sick curiosity," Aaron interrupted, smoothly. "But I've known you were a mutant for a while."


"I'm not a mutant."


"Sorry, enhanced,” Aaron corrected himself, with a small eyeroll. His expression seemed to be annoyed with the Political Correctness of it all.


"I'm not--"


"Pete, come on. I saw you pick up a hundred-pound engine like it was nothing." Peter winced. He didn’t realize he was being so obvious. “I’m just saying, with all the talk that’s going on, you need to watch your back. Fisk and Wesley will protect you as long as you’re loyal. Don’t give them a reason to throw you under the bus.”


Peter had been following the news about the Sokovia Accords that were proposed by King T’Chaka of Wakanda, and at first, he didn’t think Aaron could be more wrong. Sure, Mr. Wesley said something about them in the hospital, but Peter had been reading up on it since, and figured the man was probably trying to scare him. The Accords were to hold people like the Avengers accountable. It was meant for people who misused their powers and caused destruction or death. It was reasonable to want some kind of leash around them. If someone like the Scarlet Witch suddenly went rogue because she thought she knew better and there weren’t consequences for her actions, anyone could be in danger. It wasn’t for people like him. All he did was stop muggers.


As it was such a hot topic, they were discussing it in school, and they had a debate in Social Studies. Michelle had a lot to say on the topic, and Peter discovered how very wrong he was about the whole thing. He knew the Mutant Registration Act was awful. To target people who were born a little differently—it was barely any different from any other civil rights issue that ever happened in the past. History shouldn’t repeat itself, and everyone with a lick of brains knew it was wrong. Stupid people believed all kinds of awful things the government had said. Jewish people would steal your money. Black people would rape and steal. Women would be too weak to lead. Homosexual people would corrupt children. Muslims would commit acts of terrorism. Each wave of prejudice and fear was fought against, until education started to win out and laws for human rights were upheld. The prejudice against enhanced people was no different. Hearing that the Sokovia Accords was basically the Mutant Registration Act wrapped up in shiny, pretty packaging to distract the public was disconcerting.


“Miss Jones? Would you like to respond to Mr. Thompson?” Their Social Studies teacher asked. Currently the room was divided into the group that was for the Accords and the group that was against, and Peter happened to be on Flash’s team—the pro-Accords side. The goal of the exercise was to persuade people to join their group. Flash’s team was doing pretty well. During his argument a few people had started to drift to his side of the room, agreeing that while everything the Avengers had done was good, there was still a lot of bad that came out of their actions. Ultron didn’t happen that long ago, after all.


“I just don’t believe that we should remove basic personal freedoms from any person, no matter their color, creed, gender, national orientation, sexual orientation, or genetic makeup. The Accords as written make it so any enhanced individual has no right to privacy—that multiple governments can have access to their information. Not only that, they also assign a threat level to each person,” Michelle said, coolly. She spoke with a no-nonsense tone of voice that was calm, but deliberate. “The Accords also require any person with innate abilities to wear a tracker at all times. Innate implying born with, which implies they are targeting mutants and enhanced individuals who were not government sanctioned explicitly. Does anyone know how Spider-Man got his abilities? Or Power Man? These Accords will target the people who are operating for the better good of the city and make it so they can be detained without trial, which is at best a violation of due process, and at worst unconstitutional.”


Peter stood up immediately, despite the fact she hadn’t finished her argument, and joined her side, picking up a copy of her written statement on the subject that listed her sources. Ned followed. After that he asked Michelle all he could about the Accords. There were things released by WikiLeaks that she used to get the information, and while it was public it was also buried—most likely by the government. This was Thaddeus Ross’s dream come true. Not only would it help him achieve his goal to start tracking mutants, it also wouldn’t even need to get public approval. Hell, it wouldn’t even need to get approval from either of the Houses! It violated at least four Amendments to the Constitution and targeted a specific population, meaning that the civil rights Title IX protected was worth nothing to the Secretary of State. It made Peter’s stomach turn. No one seemed to know about it though.


Peter and Miles came up with a pretty neat solution.


“You’re sure this is okay, Aaron?” Peter asked as they started unloading their spray paint—out in Brooklyn, of all places. Aaron scoffed, watching Michelle start to outline her sketch. Peter didn’t have all the details, but it seemed like she had another politically sound and abrasive plan up her sleeve. "I mean, I don't know how you got permission at 5Pointz before, man, but I know there aren't any legal walls in Brooklyn," Peter said with a head shake.


"Peter, come on. Let’s just do something cool," Ned whined. "Quit being lawful good."


"This will make a more impactful statement, anyway. It shows we don’t care if we get caught, our message is too important." Michelle added. Peter opened his mouth to argue when Aaron interrupted.


"Mr. Fisk owns this building," Aaron said, shortly. He sighed at Peter's sour expression. "We have permission as long as we're tasteful. Believe it or not, he's opposed to the Accords, too."


"Of course he is," Michelle said firmly, making bold strokes against the cement wall. "He's been fighting to reduce poverty, and he just made that statement about the disparity people of color face, and new programs and scholarships he is going to start funding to help. He understands the plight of those facing inequality."


“Come on, man,” Miles said, bumping shoulders with Peter. “This will be fun. We had a good time the last time we did this.”


“Yeah,” Ned added, sidling up to them. “Besides, how many other kids do you know that can say they spent their birthday doing this?” he added with a grin.


“It’s your birthday?” Michelle asked with a slight tone of surprise. Peter nodded.


“I thought you were very observant,” Ned said slyly.


Michelle huffed and turned back to the wall. “We went to elementary school together,” she said. Peter smiled. He was surprised she remembered that, seeing as when they met that year she didn’t offer any recognition. “I never once remember him bringing cupcakes or doing the birthday thing during the school year. I always figured it was in the summer.”


Peter shrugged as he pulled out his notebook with some of his ideas for his art. Michelle and Ned sat with him earlier and the three went over some plans and ideas for the message they wanted to make. “I never really celebrated at school. I didn’t have many friends, so I didn’t really want to do the cupcake thing, you know? Why give my bullies sweets?” Michelle hummed and resumed her sketching.


Aaron clasped a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “Well, this year you’re celebrating with friends. We’ll go grab ice cream after, if y’all are down. My treat.”


Peter opened and closed his mouth, blushing. “You don’t have to do that.”


“Yeah, I don’t. But I want to. Trust me, kid I don’t do anything I don’t want to. It’ll be a fun way to end the day. Besides, I could use some double chocolate chip cookie dough, and I know a place near here that has great ice cream.”


They all worked on their art for several hours, each one tackling a different aspect of the wrongness of the Sokovia Accords while Aaron sat back and watched, occasionally offering tips and advice. Miles had decided to do a picture of a woman trying to get away from some dark, ominous shape, while Spider-Man was behind her in handcuffs. Peter found this both touching and disturbing at the same time. It hit a little close to home. Ned decided to continue off of Michelle’s theme from before, and had a group of people together, some with X’s on their chests who were being shuffled to the side and ignored by their peers. Michelle was once again painting Ross, but this time his whole demeanor was gleefully demonic, and he appeared to be whispering something in a black man’s ear who Peter vaguely recognized. The man looked sad, but determined, and huddled before them was a group of people looking at them in fear. Peter had decided to draw Iron Man again, but this time he had his hands up in a defeated gesture while aliens were shooting up a crudely drawn cityscape behind him.


“Hey!” Peter startled and looked down the street, then dropped his spray-paint in shock. At the end of the sidewalk, not twenty feet away from him, was none other than Steve Rogers.


Captain Steve Rogers.


Captain America.


Ned also dropped his paint. Michelle and Miles kept their cool and continued working while Aaron came up with a friendly head nod. “What’s up, man?” he asked.


Captain America had a stern expression on his face. Suddenly, Peter had a mad idea that he was about to start lecturing about detention, or head lice. “What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be doing graffiti. That’s a crime,” he said firmly, hands folded over his chest.

Aaron laughed and held up his hands. “Not here, man. We have permission from the owner of the building.” Captain America stared and him and raised a disbelieving eyebrow. “Seriously, Wilson Fisk wanted to let the kids throw up some art about the Sokovia Accords they’re talking about.”


The blonde turned and looked over all their works, frown deepening as he took in the imagery. He seemed especially bothered by the Iron Man caricature. “Why do you have Tony standing by and doing nothing while the city is being destroyed?” confusion colored his tone.


Peter blinked and gaped a little before he remembered to answer. “Oh… oh um. Because… well, in the A-a-accords, none of the,” Peter paused to clear his throat, “none of the Avengers can act without permission from the government. It’s actually pretty well hidden in the document. The Article that relates to it says that anyone who signs the Accords isn’t allowed to take action in a country that isn’t their own if there’s a crisis, at least not without  permission, but if you weed through the language it’s pretty clear that the Avengers or any enhanced person who signs isn’t allowed to act in their own country, as well,” Peter said with a shrug. “I just thought about what it would be like if during the last alien invasion, none of you could start fighting without permission from the President or Secretary of State, you know? But this isn’t really the worst part of it. It’s kind of a smaller consequence when you look at the bigger picture—”


“Which is that human rights will be violated,” Michelle interrupted. “People will be made to give the government all kinds of personal information and sign these papers, forcing them to live without any legal recourse. Not only that, but they’re registered, and many will have to wear tracking bracelets, which will identify them as enhanced. I only read about WWII in history, Captain, but I know for a fact you lived it. How did it pan out the last time a power-hungry madman demanded people who were different registered how they were different with their government?” Peter felt a chill go up his spine. He didn’t even think about the Holocaust. This was one of the first steps, wasn’t it? Was history repeating itself here? What next, concentration camps?


Captain America frowned further and narrowed his blue eyes. “I had thought that the Accords were just a way to help keep the Avengers accountable, and maybe some of the vigilantes that are operating without any oversight. Are you sure they’re targeting mutants?”


Miles shook his head. “Hate to break it to you sir, but the government is always targeting mutants. Ever since the big showdown during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Professor X and his kids have been on the radar. It’s bad news.”


“Huh,” the soldier said, crossing his arms and furrowing his brow. He turned to Aaron. “You guys really have permission to do this?” Aaron nodded.


“If you want you can call the guy who owns the building. I’ll give you his number. I mean, you probably want to double check with the county website, but it’s Wilson Fisk. Me and Peter work for him,” he said, nodding in Peter’s direction. Peter flushed and stared at the ground, scuffing his toe against the sidewalk. The soldier looked at the site Aaron pulled up on his phone, and nodded at whatever information he saw there.


“Alright, I believe you. Carry on,” he said, turning to leave. “Oh, kids? Thanks for the information. I—wasn’t aware of the full ramifications here. I appreciate it.”


“You need to look at the blogs, Captain,” Michelle said. Captain America blinked and nodded again with a confused smile before waving goodbye and leaving. Soon after, the teenagers finished their work and posted photos online, hoping to generate some kind of knowledge among the people. Doing this calmed the ever-present anxiety that had thrummed to life once the Accords really had a chance of becoming a reality. If they actually went through, Peter was stuck with a choice between working for Fisk or being imprisoned indefinitely in some unknown location out at sea. Michelle had said there were rumors that the government built some kind of a ship prison called The Raft. Peter shuddered when he heard about it. Keeping people prisoner on the sea was considered cruel and unusual and he was surprised anyone in the US government could sanction such an awful thing. He sincerely hoped the Accords would never come to be. He already lost so much of his freedom; he wasn’t sure how he would cope if he lost more.


As promised, Aaron took them out for ice cream at a small shop in Brooklyn with a kind yet ornery old man serving them. After Aaron told the man it was Peter’s birthday, he offered a small, obviously rare smile, adjusted his glasses and threw on some sprinkles free of charge, with a gruff, “Happy birthday, kid.” Aaron drove them all back to Queens, and Peter sat quietly, listening to his friends’ chatter. All in all, it wasn’t a bad birthday.


When he got home, May smiled and asked about his day, giving him his favorite dinner (Pizza from Mario’s down the street) and a single cupcake from the bakery next door. Peter grinned at seeing it, feeling warm that his aunt could have the evening off to spend with him. He went through the small pile of gifts—more nerdy shirts and a PS4 (he shook his head at the extravagance of the gift, which May tutted), until he stumbled upon a couple of neatly wrapped boxes with different paper. His brow furrowed as he looked at May. She shrugged. “Mr. Wesley came by to drop that off. He said it was from Mr. Fisk for your birthday.”


Peter stared at the box, hesitant to open it. Things were… amicable… with Mr. Fisk. Peter mostly avoided him, and he was starting to calm down a little around Mr. Wesley, but he felt extremely uncomfortable taking a gift from the man, especially now. May was watching though, so he offered her a small smile and unwrapped the present. Mr. Fisk had bought him a state-of-the-art camera and new photo editing software. Peter didn’t ever tell Mr. Fisk or Mr. Wesley that he liked photography. The fact that something that was a relatively private piece of his life was known by them was disconcerting. A small note was included that read: “Mr. Parker. I hope you find this gift to your liking, and that you will be useful to you. Your continued effort with our company is very much needed, and very much appreciated. Sincerely—Wilson Fisk.” May crooned over the nice gift, and insisted Peter test out the camera by taking a picture of her with it. He slid next to her and flipped the camera around to take a selfie and smiled at how it turned out. His stomach still turned at the thought of working for Mr. Fisk, and even more at the threat he posed to Peter’s family, but there wasn’t much he could do but grin and bear it.


May put on the news and sighed. “If I hear one more thing about the Sokovia Accords—” she said, lifting the remote to change the channel. Peter glanced at the screen and told her to wait when he saw that it was a recap of a press conference from earlier. Mr. Stark stood at a podium, raising his hands and waiting for the group to quiet down.


“Everyone is wanting to know where the Avengers stand regarding the Accords,” he began when the room simmered down, “especially since it appears we will be impacted the most. This wasn’t an easy decision to come to, and the team is still discussing it, but overall we have decided that we will sign.” The group clamored loudly, shouting out questions. Peter felt his heart drop to his stomach. “It is important that we are held accountable. I know there have been actions we have taken part in that have had terrible ramifications for the public, and this will pave the way to help us fix the damage we have done. We have a responsibility with this kind of power, and we cannot abuse it.”


Peter shivered, suddenly cold. His mouth hung open. May scoffed. “Of course. He only cares about how he looks. Cannot abuse his power my ass. If that’s the case, why is it that every time he wants to go out to dinner, he reserves the whole restaurant? How ridiculous. He probably doesn’t even care what will happen to—” May cut herself off when she saw the look on Peter’s face. “Oh honey, I know you didn’t support the Accords—but maybe Michelle’s blogs are wrong, and they aren’t going to target enhanced people who are just trying to get by,” she said soothingly as she rubbed his shoulder blade. Peter shook his head. This wasn’t happening. He just saw Captain America—


Who didn’t know about the lesser known details of the Accords.


It seemed like Secretary Ross told them what they wanted to hear, not what they needed to know, and Peter knew how smart Tony Stark was. He was pretty sure the man had the full picture (or close to) before he made his decision. He didn’t care. He didn’t care about mutants. He didn’t care about the little guy and how this would affect them. He didn’t care about Peter. How could he?


Spider-Man was a small, little-know vigilante whose pseudonym was only known by locals in Queens. Peter himself was just a fifteen-year-old kid from Forest Hills. He was nameless and faceless in the grand scheme of things. Why would the consequences of what happened to him matter to a billionaire he would never cross paths with? Peter felt his stomach turn to stone as he watched the remainder of the press conference and the follow up from the reporters afterwards. It looked like he would be under Wilson Fisk’s thumb for the foreseeable future. Happy birthday, Peter, he thought to himself as he trudged to bed. He hoped things would look less bleak in the morning, and wondered how at the start of the year things were going so well, only to become this mess he was in now.


Then again, he should have known better. He was a Parker. His luck never stayed good for long.

Chapter Text

The bombing in Vienna was all over the news. Seventy injured and twelve dead—it was an alarming terrorist attack that shook the world. Blame was flying everywhere. Some were accusing hidden government organizations and sleeper agents, others held mutant advocates responsible, and some blamed the Avengers themselves. People protested and rioted in the street. Peter never thought dealing with an angry mob was within his skillset, but people were getting hurt so Spider-Man was on the scene, Accords or no.

 

“Hey buddy,” he shouted, shooting a web at a bald man who was grabbing a woman from behind, “no means no! Come on. Remember the song with me. That’s her no-no square.” He pulled the man away from her and webbed him to a nearby wall. The woman cried and ran away, trying to escape the enraged group of people. Peter sighed as he swung above, creating web barriers so people could leave the scene safely. So much for that peaceful protest, he thought. At school they were told that a group of people were meeting outside city hall, holding a silent protest against the Sokovia Accords, and if they got permission from their parents or guardians they could attend. Peter and Michelle had gone together with her parents. Then, all hell broke loose after the bombing of the International Center. After he made sure she and her family were safe, the teen suited up. Several reporters saw him on the scene as he guided people out of the madness, and approached with questions about how he felt, and if he would sign.

 

“Guys, it’s not a great time right now,” he replied, swinging towards some looters that were taking advantage of the chaos. Journalists were vultures. He perched on top of a building, glad that police officers and other emergency services finally arrived to take care of things. He pulled his cell phone out and winced at the time. Mr. Wesley and Mr. Fisk were not going to be happy with him. He sighed as he swung towards Hell’s Kitchen, dialing his employer. After a brief conversation with Mr. Wesley he waited in an alley near an old Persian Rug store, hiding behind some stacked up crates. Before too long, Francis appeared in that very alley with a long trench-coat that Peter threw over himself. He quickly pulled off his mask and slid into the car.

 

Mr. Wesley was waiting for him. As the car started moving, he handed the boy a neatly pressed suit and glanced back at his tablet, to give a semblance of privacy while he changed. Peter was too used to occasions like this to be bothered.

 

“Sorry about that, Mr. Wesley,” Peter said after he was dressed, grabbing a bottle of water. “Those riots are insane right now. We got permission to leave school for the protest, and no one expected things to escalate that way.”

 

Mr. Wesley hummed in response and put away his tablet. “Nevertheless, Mr. Parker, punctuality is important. I realize things have been a little rocky these past few weeks, but that’s no reason to forget your manners.”

 

Peter felt a small swell of anger at the man’s words. “Manners?” Seriously? Did Mr. Wesley honestly have the audacity to lecture him about good manners, after everything that had happened? Geez, he called, didn’t he?

 

“Generally speaking, when someone is picking you up, you let them know you won’t be at the designated location ahead of time,” he said, small smirk playing on his lips. Oh. Peter figured he probably had a point. Mr. Wesley didn’t know where he’d be after school without the added disorder from the protest. “We are meeting some very important people today, and they are—different—then most of the contacts we see.” Peter pondered the man’s words. Mr. Wesley either meant that they would be meeting with someone obviously seedy (like when he got to meet Mr. Owlsley—ugh), or someone who was genuine (a very, very rare occurrence). Peter was learning to read people like Mr. Wesley, and he wondered how long it would take him to figure out which it was. “I want you to be on your best behavior,” Mr. Wesley said, sternly. Peter rolled his eyes. He never behaved any other way.

 

Well, okay, he wasn’t at his absolute best with Mr. Owlsley, but the guy was super skeezy.

 

“By the way,” the man continued, “don’t tell them your name. We represent the company today, Mr. Parker. Do you understand?” Peter nodded in response as they pulled up near a rundown office building in the downtown area. Peter straightened his tie as he got out of the car and adjusted his backpack over his shoulder. Since he was “mugged,” he hadn’t replaced the fancier bag yet. On their way inside, Mr. Wesley told him Mr. Fisk was still deciding between a briefcase from J.W. Hulme Co. and a messenger bag from Gucci. Peter reminded him to let Mr. Fisk know he really couldn’t care less, and he would be happy with a bag from Target. Mr. Wesley looked scandalized. They made their way through the building, pausing at a door with a paper sign that read Nelson & Murdock: Attorneys at Law. It was written crudely in black permanent marker. Peter frowned. Skeezy it was.

 

Mr. Wesley rapped his knuckles on the door in quick succession and looked around while Peter stood beside him, hand wrapped around his backpack strap. They were waiting for a longer amount of time then he expected. Finally the door opened, and a pretty blonde woman peered out with a small smile. She opened the door wide to allow Mr. Wesley and Peter to come inside. Mr. Wesley put on his showman smile (as Peter dubbed it) and greeted them warmly, gesturing for Peter to follow him. “Hi!” he said looking around the bare office. “Do you do walk-ins?”

 

Other than the blonde lady—who introduced herself as Karen Page—there were two others in the room. One was blonde man with a warm and friendly face, and the other was a fit brunette wearing red sunglasses. Peter frowned, wondering why someone would wear such dark lenses indoors until he spotted a white and red cane in the corner. The blind man introduced himself as Matt Murdock and the blonde said he was Foggy Nelson. After he exchanged greetings with Mr. Nelson, Peter politely offered his hand to Mr. Murdock, asking if he wanted to shake it. Mr. Murdock seemed both surprised and pleased at his manners, and offered his own to Peter in a friendly way. Mr. Nelson rolled his eyes and had them all sit in the adjoining office around a chipped table while Peter reassessed the situation. It looked like these were new recruits, and most likely they were ones that were going to stay above board. Peter pulled his tablet out of his backpack to take notes and Miss Page did the same with a pen and paper. Mr. Wesley got to work, and Peter wrinkled his nose, no longer distracted by the new faces. Now that they were in an enclosed space, he swore he smelt blood. He wondered if he got nicked earlier. Mr. Wesley let words flow off the tongue, saying they represented a consortium with a variety of interests. Peter was fascinated. Mr. Wesley managed to describe Mr. Fisk’s endeavors to a T without giving away any names at all. Mr. Murdock and Mr. Nelson looked thoughtful as he spoke.

 

“Why approach us? Why not a larger firm Mister—” Mr. Murdock paused, waiting for Mr. Wesley to fill in the gap.

 

“Confederated Global Investments is our employer,” Mr. Wesley said smoothly, folding his hands together.

 

Mr. Murdock offered a small, possibly irritated smile. “That’s not what I was asking.”

 

Mr. Wesley chuckled. “It’s the only name relevant to this discussion, Mr. Murdock.” Mr. Nelson looked back and forth between them, then leaned toward Peter.

 

“Hey, kid?” Peter looked up from his tablet and offered a small smile, glancing at Mr. Wesley, who watched him out the corner of his eye. “Your name doesn’t mean much either?”

 

Peter paused, licking his lips before answering. “Look man,” he said rubbing the back of his neck. “I mean, Mr. Nelson, sir,” Mr. Nelson leaned back and looked affronted at the address. “I’m just an intern. If my boss tells you his name isn’t relevant to the discussion, I can guarantee you mine sure as heck isn’t.”

 

Mr. Nelson stared at him and shook his head, letting out a rueful chuckle. “Sure as heck—” he mumbled, sharing a smile with the blonde woman next to him. Peter realized his role very quickly. He was there to placate them. Mr. Wesley had a dangerous air about him, if you looked for it. Peter balanced him out with a charming grin and youthful charisma that only hard-working kids his age seemed to have.

 

Mr. Wesley cleared his throat. “I’m here because my employer does extensive business in Hell’s Kitchen, and who better to employ than two local Columbia Law graduates—cum laude and summa cum laude?” he said, gesturing to Mr. Nelson and Mr. Murdock in turn.

 

Foggy gave him a roguish grin. “The summa is politics,” he said, which Mr. Wesley laughed heartily at.

 

Mr. Wesley went on, letting them know he knew they were offered much better prospects in bigger law firms, but that his employer admired that they decided to strike out on their own. Peter made big eyes at them, hearing this. They were helping the little guy, too. He felt his stomach twist up in guilt when he realized that he and Mr. Wesley were probably up to no good, with them.

 

“You’ve done your homework,” Mr. Murdock said, coolly. Peter felt a little buzzing in the back of his head. He had the feeling this attorney would make trouble for them.

 

“My employer expects no less.”

 

“Then forgive me for being blunt—”

 

Mr. Nelson laughed, waving his hands a little. “Blunt is a strong word—” he began, trying to smooth over the rough edges of his partner.

 

“In my line of work, I find it refreshing,” Mr. Wesley responded, warmly. “Why, the first time I met our intern, here,” he said, clasping a hand on Peter’s shoulder. Peter smiled shyly, knowing this was the expression Mr. Wesley was aiming for, “he told me he was frightened of me. I can be rather intimidating, it seems.” Peter chuckled nervously and offered a little nod.

 

Mr. Murdock turned his head towards Peter and leaned forward slightly, a small frown on his face. He waited a beat and just as Peter felt his smile begin to falter, he turned his head back to Mr. Wesley. “I can understand why he would think that,” he said, lowly. “What is your line of work, exactly?” Mr. Wesley’s smile fell a little and his brow furrowed. He usually delivered every word and action deliberately when it came to enlisting people for Mr. Fisk, but as Peter looked at him, he wondered if the man was actually offended. It seemed odd to play-act his facial expressions for a blind person.

 

“I assure you,” Mr. Wesley said, firmly, opening his palms in a beseeching way, “all my employer wants is for you to continue to be ethical, decent men,” Peter had to work really hard to contain his scoff at those words, “and for nothing more than your exceptional skills and discretion—” he pulled an envelope out of his breast pocket. Peter felt his heart jump, seeing Mr. Wesley’s hand near the pistol he knew was holstered there, and Mr. Murdock cocked his head at him again with a furrowed brow as Mr. Wesley slid the envelope across the table to Mr. Nelson. “You’ll be fairly compensated.”

 

Mr. Nelson let out a long breath as he stared at the check that was within the envelope. “Oh… that’s very fair.”

 

Mr. Wesley smiled and gestured with his head toward Mr. Murdock. “Your partner doesn’t seem to think so.”

 

Mr. Murdock frowned a little deeper. “Like Foggy said, we’re particular about our clientele.”

 

Mr. Wesley shook his head and sighed. “I’m curious about your clientele,” he began, a small, confused smile on his face. “Do they all work for you when you get them off for murder,” he glanced over at Miss Page, “or is it just the pretty ones?”

 

Peter felt his jaw drop. “Sir!” he whispered harshly. Mr. Wesley looked at him and raised an eyebrow, but Peter stared at Miss Page who looked like she might be about to cry. Mr. Murdock asked her to leave and Peter got up with her, ignoring Mr. Wesley entirely. He may get in trouble for this, but that was just mean. Miss Page had been nothing but kind to them. She didn’t do anything to warrant an attack on her character like that.

 

“I’m so sorry, Miss Page—” he said after they shut the door to the main office.

 

She sniffled and gave him a watery smile. “It’s Karen, uh—”

 

Peter shook his head. “Miss Karen. Mr. W—I mean, uh, my boss in there is usually a lot better spoken then that. I don’t know what he was thinking,” he said, regretfully.

 

“It’s okay… can you really not tell me who you are? Not even your first name?”

 

Peter shrugged, “Right now, I’m just a face for a giant corporation that’s acting as if it has the rights of a person,” he quipped. Karen let out a loud laugh at that. Soon, Mr. Wesley left the room, and gestured Peter to follow him with a small scowl on his face. Peter gulped and said goodbye, and as soon as they get to the street he began to apologize.

 

“Why are you sorry?” Mr. Wesley asked, completely calm again. “You did exactly what I expected of you. Why do you think I didn’t give you the details of this encounter before we walked in?” Peter was flustered, and slightly indignant that he was tricked again. “Honestly, Mr. Parker, you would have been a liability if you knew more. We need to work on your skills in deception, but for now, and most of the time, I need you to just be yourself. It’s difficult, learning how to read the room and manipulate the players. You need some more experience,” Mr. Wesley said as he pulled out his phone. The made their way toward the car when Peter felt a faint spark—different then the lowkey noise that was always present with Mr. Wesley—at the back of his neck. He turned around and saw Mr. Murdock walking down the sidewalk. The man faltered for a moment but kept walking, slowly moving down the road. Peter narrowed his eyes.

 

“Sir,” he said, quietly. Mr. Wesley looked up from his phone and at Peter, watching his wary expression, but not following his eyes, smart enough not to provoke a potential threat. “I think we should get out of sight before you call our employer.” Mr. Wesley nodded and opened the door, getting inside. Peter watched as Mr. Murdock stopped altogether on the sidewalk. Peter was almost certain the man was looking right at him, as impossible as that would be. He slid into the car after Mr. Wesley and shut the door behind him.

 

Since Mr. Stark delivered his statement about the Accords, everything was going crazy. Mr. Wesley was constantly talking to investors, holding meetings at night, and moving back and forth between projects in rapid succession. For the time being, Peter couldn’t do his internship days with the man, which suited the teenager just fine. Mr. Wesley had begun to teach him how to lie effectively, and it made his skin crawl. Aaron had also been busy with some type of project for Mr. Fisk, so they had put the water pump on hold. To cap it all off, Peter had a new assignment: he was to locate Healy, who had just gotten off a murder charge by none other than their new lawyer friends. Peter found him pretty quickly.

 

It was difficult for a dead man with a pike in his head to go anywhere, after all.

 

After he recovered from being violently ill at the sight of the dead body, Peter apologized profusely to Mr. Fisk for not finding Healy in time. The man brushed him off, unconcerned. Mr. Healy knew a lot, yes, but it was unlikely he gave anyone any pertinent information. When he saw how shaken Peter was from the last target, he gave him a little break.

 

“We’re fairly busy with other things here, Mr. Parker. Now, I still need you to locate Mr. Larson before the week is out,” the giant said, referring to a drug manufacturer that actually operated out of Queens, “but you can have the rest of the week off. You’ll still be paid for your time, like usual, and then on Monday you can come to work a little more refreshed, hmm?” Peter let out a relieved sigh at hearing this. A whole week where he could just focus on school—which could not be better timed, considering he had finals to worry about. He was pretty sure outside of locating Mr. Larson, he wouldn’t be patrolling as Spider-Man. He could use a break. The next day he found an old DVD player on the subway on his way home from school. He figured he would tinker with it during study breaks.

 

“Hey May,” Peter sighed, shutting the door behind him and moving to drop his backpack off at the table. She was entertaining someone—most likely a friend from work—and he didn’t want to interrupt, so he tried to casually duck in and out. He really wasn’t up for entertaining company. Between school, random muggers trying to shoot him, and Kingpin breathing down his neck lately, he just wanted to sit in his room and take apart his latest find. Nothing was more relaxing than harvesting old, unwanted machinery and making it into something useful and new.

 

Peter kind of wished he could take apart his life and transform it the same way.

 

C’est la vie.

 

He’d have to ask Mr. Hernandez how that idiom worked in Spanish. Actually, no. Peter had a really hard time following his lessons and his teaching methods. He could probably ask Mr. Wesley.

 

Or maybe Miles would know.

 

“Hey!” May called as he ducked out of sight. “How was school today?” Peter started walking into the kitchen to grab a snack and head back to his room, resigned to a few minutes of small talk with his aunt and her guest. Maybe they’d be distracted by the tricked-out Audi with the pissed off driver parked out front. Well, not the driver. Lots of drivers were pissed off in New York. Peter was pretty sure if he drove outside of a parking lot, he’d be pissed off, too (he came close to losing it at Walmart. He didn’t need the negativity of the open road). The ride was pretty sweet, though.

 

“Okay. There’s this crazy car parked outside…” Peter lost his voice when he actually got a look at May’s companion. There, on his couch, in a charcoal suit that probably cost more than their rent (and Peter had a good eye for this now, considering he had two in his closet) was Tony Stark. Tony Freaking Stark. Billionaire. Genius. Philanthropist. Peter’s hero. Peter’s honest-to-God hero that broke his heart at his last press conference. He was just sitting there eating May’s walnut-date loaf, and oh God he was looking at Peter. He was looking at him and making eye contact and—

 

“Oh, Mr. Parker.”

 

Oh my God. It’s Tony Stark. Tony Stark knows my name!

 

Why the hell does Tony Stark know my name? Should he know my name? He shouldn’t know my name, unless—does he know? Does he know about Kingpin? Maybe he just knows Mr. Fisk and heard about me in passing conversation. But why would Kingpin talk about me to Tony Stark? Oh crap, oh crap I need to say something.

 


Peter managed to stutter some kind of greeting that for some reason included his name. How he managed not to smack himself in the face after he introduced himself to a man who already knew who he was, he wasn’t sure.

 

“Tony,” Mr. Stark introduced himself with a smile, fully turning to face him.

 

“What are you doing here?” he managed to stutter out. Peter briefly took in his face, wondering about the shiner before glancing at his aunt who very clearly mouthed, “what the fuck?” and yeah, Peter couldn’t blame her for that one. Iron Man showing up at their apartment on a Tuesday afternoon? Weird. At least she was subtle about it, hiding herself behind a curtain of her hair so Tony couldn’t see what she was saying.

 

“It’s about time we met,” the man said confidently. Peter felt his heart clench. Tony Stark knew he was catching people for a mob boss. He had to. Why else would he be there? Peter wasn’t special. Hell, even Spider-Man was fairly innocuous in the grand scheme of things, but Iron Man had intel on just about anything. Oh God, Iron Man was going to take him to the super-secret-ocean-prison. His life was officially over at fifteen. “You’ve been getting my emails, right?” the billionaire said with a wink. Peter again glanced between his aunt and his idol.

 

“Yeah?” he wondered if this was how Han Solo felt when he was covering for Luke at the Death Star. “Regarding the—”

 

“You didn’t tell me about the grant,” May interrupted, firmly but kindly. Unfortunately, this only threw Peter off even more. Thankfully Mr. Stark covered for both of them, spouting off something about a grant and an application and the September Foundation. May looked at him with beseeching eyes, asking him why she didn’t know about this as Peter put the pieces together.

 

“What did I apply for again?”

 

He did not put them together well.

 

After some more discussion, and a flirt attempt from Mr. Stark that went terribly wrong, he found himself alone in his bedroom with the superhero. At this point, Peter had enough bad karma to reincarnate as a cockroach. He decided he would just be as up front as possible because he really, really didn’t want to take something he hadn’t earned. Peter had learned that the strings attached were always messy.

 

Besides, he couldn’t do his job—well, jobs—with Iron Man looking over his shoulder.

 

Also, the fact that Mr. Stark was kind of, rude, made it a little easier to get him out of his hair. His Aunt’s Walnut-Date loaf was one of the best things she could cook. The fact that it was one of the only things she could cook would remain unsaid. Uncle Ben liked it, that should be enough for anyone else. “Look, Mr. Stark, I definitely didn’t apply for your grant—”

 

Mr. Stark cut him off before he could really get a word in. “Quick question of the rhetorical variety,” he said, pulling out his phone and projecting an image of Peter stopping a carjacking. “That’s you, right?” Peter could swear his heart stopped as he watched himself swing away in his suit.

 

Lie, Parker. Lie. Quick! Mr. Stark wasn’t having it, pulling up another video.

 

“Look at you go. Wow!” Peter remembered that day. His friend Cindy was in that car. “Nice catch. 3000 pounds, 40 miles an hour. That’s not easy,” he said smoothly, kindly. Peter narrowed his eyes. He knew this technique. For a minute, all he could hear was Mr. Wesley—praising him, teaching him—a kind man who offered him a safe way home from a time long ago when he was unable to see it for the manipulation it was. It set Peter’s teeth on edge. He was better than this now.

 

“That’s all on YouTube, though, right?” Peter said, pushing past him to fiddle with some stuff on his desk. “I mean, that’s where you found that.” Mr. Stark gave a short nod and glanced around the room. “’Cause that’s all fake.” Mr. Stark looked disappointed but nodded in agreement, offering another example about UFOs and Peter was relieved that he threw the man off track. Then he heard the creak of his attic panel and the fall of his suit. Quickly, he leaped forward to grab the offensive garment and shove it away in his closet. After a moment of silence Peter sighed and gathered his courage, looking Mr. Stark in the eye. He puffed himself up for the oncoming accusation and demand that he sign those stupid Accords.

 

“So,” Mr. Stark started, moving into Peter’s space. “You’re the Spider…ling,” Peter deflated. “The Crime Fighting Spider,” why would Tony Stark know his alter-ego’s name? No one knew his name. Oy. “Spider-Boy?”

 

“Spider-Man,” Peter said, reluctantly. Which opened up a chance for Mr. Stark to attack his suit. Peter scowled upset the man called it a onesie. Peter worked hard on it, and not everyone had millions of dollars at their disposal.

 

“I can’t believe this. I was actually having a really good day today, you know, Mr. Stark?” he said after pushing past him again. “Didn’t miss my train, I got a week off from my internship with pay, I found that DVD player just sitting there, and my calculus test—nailed it.”

 

Mr. Stark took a minute to assess him, like he was reading a diagnostic report. “Who else knows? Anybody?” and Peter was sure this was another trap, certain that Iron Man knew of his seedy dealings in Hell’s Kitchen and was trying to see if Peter would come clean about it, and for a minute Peter wanted to. He wanted so much for someone else to just come and fix this for him, to get Fisk and Wesley and all that off his back so he could be normal—at least as normal as a spider-themed vigilante could be.

 

Iron Man wasn’t that guy, though. He was an Avenger. Avengers signed documents to allow governments to target people who didn’t ask for their abilities. Avengers supported doctrines that forced people to register their genetic information (the most basic, private thing about a person) like a scene from that old movie, Gattaca. Avengers didn’t help people like him. They put people like him in jail when they weren’t ignoring them, depending on the threat level they presented. The news was pretty clear about that, and Peter was pretty sure the ability to stop a 3000-pound car going ten above the speed limit without breaking a sweat was a considered a high threat. Even if it weren’t, if Mr. Fisk ever found out he opened his mouth….

 

Well.

 

“Nobody,” Peter said with a shake of his head. Then Mr. Stark started asking about what May knew, and Peter couldn’t let her get in trouble for something he did that she had no idea about, which led him to attempt to explain their dynamic—what happened to them—but Mr. Stark didn’t seem to care. Once he got his answer, he launched into another question about Peter’s webfluid, then his abilities. Peter was getting the sense that Mr. Stark not only knew nothing about his illegal activities—besides being a vigilante—but also didn’t care one way or another about him on a personal level. To test it he started to go into the story about being bit at Oscorp—usually someone got invested in an origin story if they were really interested. After speaking for about two seconds, Mr. Stark started in on his suit again, this time questioning why he had to filter his lenses, poking and prodding at the innerworkings of the swim goggles. Peter wondered why he bothered to get his hopes up in the first place. Finally, they got to the why of the billionaire’s visit. Tony wanted to help him, supposedly.

 

Yeah, right.

 

The last time someone wanted to help him, he ended up beaten half the death before he discovered he was working for a Crime Boss.

 

“Why are you doing this? I gotta know. What’s your MO? What makes you get out of that twin bed in the morning?”

 

Peter could have said anything. He could have told the whole truth of it, that he had to do extra good to alleviate his guilt. For every bad guy (and they were bad, Kingpin knew that despite the threats he laid over Peter’s head, Peter couldn’t hurt an innocent person) he brought to Hell’s Kitchen for violating some agreement or other with Wilson Fisk, he had to save at least ten people to make up for it. Every moment he noticed himself emulating Mr. Wesley he had to catch someone nasty and throw them behind bars. He still felt the weight of the gun in his hands from when he was about to shoot Uncle Ben’s murderer—and he was forever indebted to a wolf in sheep’s clothing who stopped him from making such a terrible choice; a man who later tried to kill him. He still saw his uncle bleeding out in front of him, still felt his warm, sticky blood on his hands, still heard Uncle Ben’s last words and wanted to know why he couldn’t have saved him—wished he could have gone back to fix it so none of this could happen—

 

Peter took a deep breath, in through his nose, and out of his mouth. “When you can do the things that I can, but you don’t, and then bad things happen, they happen because of you.” Tony leaned forward against his knees, searching his face for some unknown answer Peter supposedly had.  

 

“So you want to look out for the little guy. You want to do your part to make the world a better place. All that, right?” Tony asked, very solemnly. Peter stared at him and nodded slightly, hoping it would be enough to get Mr. Stark off his back.

 

Mr. Stark stood up and walked over, looking entirely uncomfortable. Peter looked up at him, pondering his movements until the man asked him to slide over so he could sit next to him on his bed. After a long, uncomfortable moment of sitting next to each other, Mr. Stark clapped a friendly hand on Peter’s shoulder. Peter resisted the urge to flinch. He knew this move, too.  

 

“Got a passport?” Peter stammered out a negative as Mr. Stark kept going. “Have you ever been to Germany? Oh, you’ll love it.”

 

A lightbulb flickered to life in his mind and Peter realized that Mr. Stark was asking him for something. The ever-present string made itself known. He was interested in Peter, so much so he was willing to give him an upgrade—whatever the hell that meant—but not because he helped the little guy.

 

Peter firmed up. He stared down James Wesley on a bad day. He got his ass handed to him by Wilson Fisk and lived. He was made of steel. “I can’t go to Germany.”

 

“Why?”

 

So, so, so many reasons that Peter couldn’t even begin to go into, the first being that he only had until the end of this week to catch Larson and drag him back to Kingpin. He finally had that guy pinned down to one area. “I got… homework.” Sure Parker, that’s one way to put it.

 

“I’m gonna pretend you didn’t say that,” Mr. Stark said as he stood up and walked to the door. Peter tried again, keeping to his guns about staying in New York. Until Stark brought May into it.

 

He webbed Tony Stark to his doorknob, making it perfectly clear what he thought about Tony telling his aunt anything.

 

Which led to an uncomfortable car ride with the grumpy driver (“Happy, meet the kid. Kid, this is Happy,”) Peter saw not twenty minutes earlier.

 

It also led to an even more uncomfortable—and slightly terrifying—six-hour flight. Once they actually landed, they went to a pretty fancy hotel. Peter was glad to be able to rest—but Mr. Happy was insistent that he get ready now. Peter sighed and threw on his suit. At least he was used to being told to get to work, no questions asked. Peter was pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to be here, and not just because of his own discomfort. Not once did anyone mention anything about the Accords or signing them. All Iron Man said was that Captain America went crazy, and that he was wrong but thought he was right, so he was dangerous. Peter didn’t have an inkling to what was going on. The last thing he heard about Captain America was that he was seen in London for an old friend’s funeral. Peter didn’t think he could handle any more surprises today.

 

The suit was a big surprise.

 

Fighting Steve Rogers wasn’t so much a surprise as a suspension in disbelief that had started when he stole the man’s shield and ended when the superhero dropped a jetway bridge on him. Peter had a hard time reconciling him with the nice—but stern—man he met in Brooklyn.

 

Then that guy who could get little got real big, real quick, and everything spiraled out of control. After all was said and done, Peter was pretty sure the little-big guy gave him a concussion. He laid on the tarmac, gasping for breath as an armored but helmetless Tony Stark hovered over him, concern etched over his features. “Okay kid, you’re done,” he said. Peter couldn’t agree more. Before it could all sink in, Peter was in the back of a different Audi (still tricked-out), wondering how the hell this was his life.

 

The teenager tuned back in when Mr. Stark told Happy to grab “Peter’s suit.” He blinked and swallowed, stunned.

 

“I can keep the suit?”

 

“Don’t do anything I would do, and definitely don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. There’s a small grey area. That’s where you operate.” Wait, why did Mr. Stark want him to keep the suit? Why did it sound like he was giving him a directive for his Spider-Man patrols? Did Iron Man want Peter to work for him?

 

Peter felt a chill go up his spine. No freaking way. If Kingpin found out he left his job to go after some other priority without clearing it with him, he would at the very least be upset. If he found out Peter was working for Iron Man?  There might not be anything left of Peter to find.

 

Not only that, but Peter knew what it meant to accept a gift like that, because it wasn’t really a gift. It was a down payment. It was a tool used for barter. Peter was already working for a crime boss on the downlow. He couldn’t work for Tony Stark too. Those things did not go together. He would get caught. He would get caught, and then he would either be killed or imprisoned indefinitely, and May—

 

“I can’t take it.”

 

“Come again?” Mr. Stark lowered his glasses and raised an eyebrow at him.

 

“I can’t keep the suit. Really, Mr. Stark, it’s so amazing, but I can’t. There’s no way I can do anything to pay you back, it’s too much.” It was. It cost more than Peter’s full ride at Midtown. It cost more than his future education would. It cost more than the value of every single gift he received from Mr. Fisk combined, and that included his ongoing stipend for his internship. He would be indebted to Mr. Stark forever. At lease with the Kingpin there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually Peter wouldn’t be needed, and he would have proved his loyalty enough to get free. He saw it—other people who struck out on their own that Mr. Fisk willingly let go. The teenager could only offer his own efforts, and quite frankly between the good citizens of New York and the Kingpin, he didn’t have any blood, sweat, or tears left to give.

 

Mr. Stark stared at him until a knock at the window made Peter jump out of his skin. Peter turned to see Happy heaving the case up and looking at them. Tony gestured for Happy to go up while Peter shook his head vehemently. Happy glanced between the two of them before setting the case down and moving toward his door. He did not climb back into the vehicle.

 

“You’re not keeping the suit?”

 

“I can’t.

 

“You’ll find you can. It’s rude to refuse a gift, kid.”

 

“I know. I know and I’m sorry Mr. Stark, but—”

 

“Nope. No-no-no you know it’s rude, so we both agree there. You need to take it. When the billionaire gives you something scot-free, no strings, you take it, Parker. That’s a life lesson for you—”

 

“Nothing is no strings!” Peter shouted hotly, before shrinking back, shocked at what burst from his mouth. Mr. Stark eyed him again, and he felt his heartrate spike.

 

“Care to elaborate on that?” he asked casually, not breaking eye contact.

 

“I-I-I don’t… uh… that is…” suddenly he heard Mr. Wesley’s voice in his head, teaching him about lying. The easiest way to lie was to not lie at all. Deflection, Mr. Parker, is going to be the most useful thing in your particular repertoire. “Remember that really old movie—”

 

“Look kid, life isn’t like a movie.” Peter shut his mouth and swallowed. “But you’re right, most of the time when someone gives you something, they expect something in return. Very savvy. Very street smart. I like it. It’s a good look on you.” Peter hesitantly nodded. Mr. Stark continued on before he could speak. “So here’s the deal. That suit has some conditions if it will be left with you. First off, you operate during normal hours. If I hear from Aunt Hottie that you’re breaking curfew because of my influence, there’s gonna be a problem. Second, you stay on the ground, and leave the big guns to the people who work above your paygrade. Lastly, you stay alive. That suit is to save your skin and keep you operating as a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man. Capisce?”

 

Peter looked Mr. Stark in the eye unsure of what to say. Mr. Stark rolled his eyes and shook his head a little.

Jesus, Underoos, I can’t send you back out there in a onesie. You get shot at, okay? Ease an old man’s heart condition and just keep the suit. Happy is your point guy on this, so try not to stress him out. We’ll call you.” With that, Mr. Stark leaned forward and grabbed the door, letting Peter out.

 

Peter stood on the sidewalk after the billionaire drove away, holding the case in one hand and his duffle in the other, trying to make sense of the last 28 hours and finding he couldn’t. A car alarm went off in the distance, and Peter shook himself before turning around and climbing up the steps to his building. He had so much to do. He still needed to get Larson up to Kingpin before Daredevil found his hiding place. He had three finals left—all in his worst subjects—and he had to figure out what the hell he was going to say to May about this “retreat.” A thread of fear worked its way through his heart.

 

They’re gonna call me.

 

God help him when they did.

Chapter Text

Tony frowned as he tinkered away in his lab, puzzling over the enigma that was Peter Parker. He had never met someone who managed to be both enamored with and wary of him simultaneously, before. The billionaire knew where he stood with the aunt. She made her feelings clear the second he walked through the door. The woman was blunt, and despite the hippy-dippy vibe he picked up from the place, she made it clear she was a sharp woman with a quick tongue and protective spirit, and she was not inclined to feed her nephew to the corporate wolves that Tony seemed to represent. Underoos, on the other hand was much more difficult to figure out, which was all the more frustrating (interesting) because Tony was good at figuring things out.

 

The kid was shy and bashful—all stutters and blushes when he recognized the man. The idolization and hero-worship was plain as day. Tony was sure he understood how to deal with him the second he received that reaction. He felt a little bad, manipulating a kid like that, but needs must. He could feel guilty about it later, between thinking about the reasons Pepper left him and why no one could understand that the Accords would help them, in the end. Steve had gone nuts. He had forgotten about what was important, and what was at stake. Tony needed a heavy hitter to stop him and Peter Parker—shy, young and eager to please—was a shoe-in. A freshman in high school hearing that the one and only Tony Stark knew his secret identity? Confronting him and getting him over to his side would be a cakewalk.

 

The boy surprised him, though. He immediately shot him down about the grant, not wanting any part of it. When Tony showed him that first video, claiming to know that it was Peter behind the mask, the kid denied it so sincerely he could have won an Oscar. His eyes got all wide and innocent, and he barely stuttered—even laughed. Tony knew how to play this kind of game, though. He recognized that spark of admiration and the thirst to prove himself in the kid—nearly every young man had it—and when he analyzed what he knew about him (orphan, straight-A student, recipient of a very impressive internship with Wilson Fisk), he was sure that the way to get him on his side was praise and approval. But Peter proved him wrong. The second he started to ooh and ahh his abilities, the boy shut down. His whole demeanor shifted from warm to cold in a heartbeat. It was subtle, too. If Tony wasn’t watching him closely, he probably would have missed it.

 

The kid even had the audacity to ask Tony if he knew the stuff posted on YouTube was fake, and he did it looking him in the eye. If Tony wasn’t absolutely certain this kid was the Spiderling—no, Spider-Man—he would have believed him. Thankfully, he had some predictable behaviors. The best place to hide a superhero suit would be in the ceiling crawl space; it was the least suspicious place, and people would only access it for maintenance purposes. Tony smirked when he found it, ready to list his demands, waiting for the kid to brush is off and stammer an excuse when he pulled it from the philanthropist’s hands. His smile faltered though, when he saw Parker’s demeanor. He straightened up, and looked him dead in the eye, frown on his face. He looked like he was ready for a fight and wouldn’t back down. He defended his onesie with a fierce resolve that made Tony a little proud—and really, with what the kid had at his disposal, the suit was impressive. Tony also was a little surprised by his maturity. Most kids his age would be using those powers to benefit themselves. Peter used it to help others. His reasoning was vague, but Tony could read between the lines. He knew the kid must have seen something awful to feel responsible for so many because of his powers. He was just what Tony needed to get Steve to see reason.

 

Then the kid didn’t want to go to Germany.

 

What teenager didn’t want to go with a billionaire on an adventure half-way across the world?

 

What person, regardless of age, in the history of everything Tony ever knew, didn’t want to go with a billionaire on an adventure half-way across the world?

 

Clearly, the answer to that question was Peter Parker.

 

Tony didn’t think he’d have to resort to threatening the kid’s secret identity to get him to come along. He may have kept Iron Man a secret for all of two seconds, but he understood the value of keeping his identity hidden. Before he was Iron Man, he was recognized, sure, but it was minor in the grand scheme of things. It wasn’t like he was a movie star, or anything. Once he became Iron Man—once he revealed himself as Iron Man—the amount of people who stopped him on the street for an autograph or a selfie was alarming. The kid didn’t need that kind of stress, and Tony never had the intention of telling his aunt anything, especially considering what he learned about this family’s troubles. Peter didn’t know that though, and again, needs must. He had to have someone else on his side that was strong, quick, and smart, and Spider-Man was just the guy to call.

 

He was brilliant, too. The way he handled the Falcon and the Winter Soldier was on point. Tony couldn’t fault his technique. At first, he wanted to scold the boy for all the chatter he kept throwing around, until he noticed that it was distracting his opponents to the point that they couldn’t land a proper hit on him. It was too bad that same tactic didn’t work on Steve. Then again, the kid didn’t seem to have his heart in it as much, when facing Spangles directly. He had a feeling that if he wanted to, Underoos could have laid Steve out, no problem. Probably pretty quickly, too. The kid was good.

 

And the Star Wars plan? Absolutely brilliant. Tony wouldn’t have thought of it in a million years.

 

Well, he probably would have thought of it eventually, but by the time it would have crossed his mind, it would have been too late, and he never would have gotten a chance to catch up with Steve in Siberia.

 

Despite how much help Spider-Man was, though, he was also way too young to be there, and Tony couldn’t believe he didn’t think about that until he saw the teenager flung across the tarmac from a hundred feet in the air straight to the ground. Tony thought his heart had stopped as he went over, seeing the boy lying very still on the asphalt. He was incredibly relieved to see Spider-Man alive and kicking, panic running through his now exposed brown eyes—well, eye—until he realized it was Tony trying to turn him over. The fact that he just chuckled and said it was scary, and nothing else? It was a little unnerving. He showed a remarkable amount of maturity when Tony benched him. He knew grown men who wouldn’t stay down during a fight despite their injuries or mental state—himself included. Parker though, he had a decent head for this sort of thing. He was aware of his limits and kept to them.

 

Not the kind of attitude he expected from a teenage vigilante.

 

Peter was up to date on current events, too; more so than Tony liked. The first thing he asked Tony was who else knew about him, and if he had to sign the Accords. Tony gaped at him a little, surprised that he even knew about them, or that he would potentially have to sign. Tony sighed and said they would cross that bridge when they came to it, but Peter was adamant. He wanted to know what would happen to him. Would he have to give his identity to the government? Did it matter that he was underage? Would he even be considered a person anymore? He refused to be under the thumb of someone like Thaddeus Ross. He went after muggers for a reason, and that reason was important.

 

“Mr. Stark, no one else looks after regular people. The cops can only do so much. There are kids that are kidnapped right off the street and sold to human traffickers. It’s modern day slavery! If I’m not there to stop it, who will?” He said, drumming his fingers on the armrest of his seat on the flight back while Tony stared at him incredulously. “You guys won’t—never have. Captain America is always dealing with some Hydra conspiracy or other, you’ve got to worry about megalomaniacs with crazy tech, and all of you have to clean up when there are aliens falling from the sky. When Mr. Delmar gets robbed, none of you help, and cops respond on average in two to seven minutes. You know how quickly a bullet can kill someone? I do. I have to help them. There’s nobody else who can.”

 

Tony was baffled. He waved away the kid’s concerns, saying that was all unnecessary worry on his part. Peter was not satisfied with that response. He frowned the whole rest of the way back, not looking at Tony and merely giving short nods or grunts in response to the man’s questions when he wasn’t staring silently into space. The kid was entirely too serious, and he looked exhausted; he was way too tired for a high school student, even with the vigilante side-hustle. The bags under his eyes had bags. Tony was concerned when he really looked at him. Did he have those bags when Tony first recruited him? As the billionaire spent more time with the teenager, he found himself becoming more worried by the minute. He wanted to help him in anyway he could. He decided in that moment that he needed to give Parker every edge possible, if only so the kid could breathe a little easier. It may not be the most responsible thing, but Tony designed that suit for Peter. He would let him keep it. It would make his life a little easier (and put Tony’s mind at ease).

 

When Peter refused his gift, Tony was shocked.

 

The kid loved the suit. He made that clear when Happy showed it to him (Happy reported the kid’s reaction with an eyeroll and some irritated grumbling). He may not have said a word to Tony about it, but that suit and him were a pair made in heaven. Tony couldn’t have designed something better for the webslinger if he tried. Well, okay he could have, given some more time (and probably would in the future), but the way the kid intuitively grasped the controls, and the new freedom he moved with? It was fantastic. The only thing Tony didn’t try to mess with was the webfluid itself—that was clearly designed with more art than science, but everything else was well worth it, and the kid took to it like a duck to water. He moved with an ease that he had lacked in every video recording Tony had of him. That suit was perfect. How could Peter not want to keep it? It was one of the coolest things the engineer had ever designed (and he designed a lot of things). The boy’s reasoning boiled down to one word.  

 

Strings.

 

What fourteen (fifteen? Tony should figure that out) year-old thought about strings attached?

 

Not only that, he was also extremely suspicious of Tony. The kid’s doubts started in his bedroom in his apartment in Queens, and increased more and more with every moment of shared time between them. Tony couldn’t imagine what Peter thought he’d want from him. Well, he could think of some pretty awful things, but Tony was an eccentric genius, not a pedophilic pervert. He knew people said terrible things about him, but he was fairly certain that there was never a rumor about him raping and/or molesting children. He was very obvious with his enjoyment of mature people. Not kids with fresh acne scars.

 

Ew.

 

Then again, maybe Peter had some heavy hits in his life that he hadn’t recovered from yet. He was still really young, and he had a kindhearted nature that would be easy to take advantage of. Maybe the boy had put his trust in someone, and it didn’t turn out well for him. Granted, on the surface it didn’t seem like anyone would gain much from manipulating the kid like that (unless you knew about Spider-Man), but someone could have easily used him. There were stranger things that occurred every day in this universe.

 

Case in point, Tony had heard there were wizards in New York, recently.

 

Wizards.

 

When Tony offered him the suit and listened to his blatant rejection, he saw that kid’s expression; there was discontent and wariness and fear in his big, brown, bottomless cow eyes. Tony almost let it go. He was ready to say, “Okay,” and have Happy pack the thing away. He could wait until Peter was a little older to take on the mantle of Avenger-in-training. But this kid was still Spider-Man, and yeah, he dealt with low-key criminals (muggers, rapists, bicycle thieves), but they were still dangerous. They were still armed. A sweat-suit with some shitty shin guards sewn in was not enough to protect him from bullets. Not only that, but Tony gave him a taste of playing with the big boys, and that was something people like them had a hard time forgetting. He would get reckless—more reckless then he already was—and that would be on Tony. He couldn’t let it slide.

 

So when FRIDAY reported there had been no activity in the Spider-Man suit since their fight in Berlin over a week ago, but the news showed several sightings of the webslinger, Tony had to intervene. The whole point of making him keep the suit was to protect the kid when he went out and about doing his “patrols.” After some avid compiling of footage from security and traffic cameras, he managed to narrow down his search for the vigilante in a 10 block radius in Hell’s Kitchen. Manhattan was a long way off from Queens, but at least Tony didn’t have to go far to have some words with the reluctant teenager. He might include some about staying in his own backyard.

 

Tony actually caught sight of the kid cornering some guy in an alley as he flew overhead. Tony turned around and landed on the sidewalk just outside of the alley to find the kid shaking his head and writing something on a piece of debris that was most likely pulled from the nearby dumpster. He obscured himself behind a wall, peering down the alleyway. He wanted a chance to see the kid in action again.

 

Hearing him quip with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was hilarious.

 

“Come on, Spider-Guy—”

 

“Spider-Man, Jack. I took the time to learn your name, do me the same courtesy,” the boy replied easily, scribbling something with a flourish. The tall, thin man with pale skin and scraggly brown facial hair was webbed to the wall, both hands pinned up by his head. He pulled against his restraints, grunting a little.

 

“Spider-Man,” the crook—Jack—corrected himself. “I told you what I know, you can’t just leave me here like this, man.”

 

“Jack, Jack, Jack,” Spider-Man said with a shake of his head. He pressed the debris against the man’s chest and webbed it there. “You and I both knew it was gonna go down like this. Let’s not lie to ourselves, ‘kay? It was a good night—I mean, some flowers would have been nice, but overall, I had fun. Didn’t you?”

 

“Spider-Man—”

 

“Nope,” Peter said firmly, shaking his head. “I don’t want to hear it. I’m tired, man. It’s been a very long, very weird couple of weeks, and I gotta wrap things up here because Shavuot starts tomorrow night, alright? I need to go home and get some shuteye.”

 

The man scowled. “Of course you’re some money-grubbing Jew—” Peter webbed the man’s mouth shut immediately.

 

Oy vey,” the boy sighed, hands on his hips. “We had such a great rapport going. Then you had to spoil it by being a bigot. See what happens when you’re a bigot?” he said. “Anyway, buddy, thanks for the info. Cops will be here when they get here. That webbing dissolves in two hours, though, so maybe you’ll get lucky.” Tony pulled himself forward and stood in the mouth of the alleyway, smirking at the criminal’s eyes widening at his appearance.

 

“Probably not, Spider-Man,” he said. Peter flinched and spun around. Tony could almost see the kid’s expression. His whole body looked surprised, and oddly tense. “FRIDAY, contact the authorities. Tell them we’ve got a—” he craned his head around to get a good look at the sign, “—drug dealer that needs to be picked up. Kid, do you really have to insult the town you’re in?” Tony sighed, shaking his head. Peter stared at him a moment before looking back at the sign, which read, Drug Dealer number 10—you guys need to get a handle on all the self-medication. <3 Spidey.

 

He honestly wrote a < and a 3 in the shape of a heart, like some goddamn gen-z text.

 

Maybe it was a millennial text.

 

Whatever. It was a stupid way to symbolize a heart.

 

The kid shrugged when he turned back to Tony. “Well, I’ve found a lot of dealers out here, Mr. Stark.”

 

Tony chuckled and gestured with his head up to the roof. “Got a sec?” Peter nodded and shot his webs, pulling and crawling his way up to the rooftop Tony pointed out. Tony beat the kid there, despite the head start, and waited in the middle of the roof for the wallcrawler to show up. He was there in less then a minute, gracefully pulling himself over the edge that made Tony a little jealous. He found himself missing the ease that came with being young.

 

Well, okay, so maybe it also was the fact that he had weird, crazy spider-like agility, but youth was an important factor.

 

“So…” the boy began, waiting for Tony to say what he wanted to say. “Mr. Stark, I got some important stuff I need to do, and I really need to get it done before tomorrow evening because May and I have a thing—I mean, I don’t know what you heard down there, but I’ve got a long weekend ahead of me. Can you tell me what the heck you need to talk about?” Peter rambled, folding his arms over his chest. “Also, the stalking thing is a little weird, and I’m lowkey upset about it, not gonna lie.”

 

Tony blinked as he processed the teen’s words, not sure if he was joking. He wished the kid’s mask was off so he could get a better read on him. “Well, you’re not wearing the suit,” he said, slowly. Peter cocked his head to the side. “I distinctly remember giving you a suit and asking you to wear it. Remember? Criminals shoot you? My heart condition? Happy’s EKG?”

 

“You never mentioned an EKG.”

 

“See this face?” Tony asked, having the faceplate and helmet open up to reveal his expression. “This is the face of someone who is not amused.”

 

Peter deflated slightly. “Mr. Stark—”

 

“Oh no, I can’t say I like that tone. It sounds like you’re going to say you can’t or won’t wear the suit that will offer a lot more protection from bullets then sweatpants.” Peter shifted a little at that. “Kid, if you’re not gonna take me seriously—”

 

“What?” Peter lashed out quickly, straightening up. “You’ll give my name to your buddy Ross?” Tony felt a flicker of annoyance and he scowled at the mention of the Secretary of State. God, was every enhanced person he came across going to be this hostile because of his agreement to the Accords? Tony was willing to sign them, too. He was just as much on the hook as anyone else. More so, really, He actually had the funds to pay for the things the Avengers (and others) would be held accountable for. It wasn’t like he would leave them hanging out to dry. He had some plans to rework the wording and legality of the documents to offer protection for mutants.

 

He was working especially hard on that, ever since he saw the conditions of The Raft.

 

“Me and Ross are not ‘buddies,’” he said, quoting the word with his fingers in the air.

 

“Could have fooled me,” Peter retorted.

 

“Kid—”

 

“Mr. Stark, I’ve been doing this for months. I don’t need your high-tech suit, okay? I’m fine on my own.” The boy stood firmly, shaking his head and not budging in the slightest. Tony wanted to scream at how frustrating this was. How could Peter possibly think that he was safe enough doing what he did in that getup he ran around in? His webshooters didn’t even have an indicator to show if he was low on webfluid! What if he was stories above the ground (like now) and his webbing just gave out on him, mid-swing? It made the billionaire shudder just thinking about it.

 

Tony sighed and opened the suit, climbing out. Peter stepped back, surprised by the move. Tony put on his most serious expression. Time for the big guns.

 

“Yeah? And what’s May gonna do if they find your body shot up in an alley somewhere?” Peter stilled completely, tension radiating off of him. “How the hell do you think she’ll cope if she loses the only family she has left? You talk a big game, Spider-Man, but you’re not infallible. If you’re not gonna protect yourself for you, you should at least do it for her.”

 

Peter took a step backwards, then another. “I—I gotta go.”

 

Tony held out his hand and took a couple of steps toward him. “Pete—”

 

“Don’t follow me anymore,” the boy said curtly before flinging himself off the roof and swinging away. Tony sighed. That could have gone better. He shook his head, got back in his suit, and flew home, wondering if he laid the guilt on a little too thick. Probably, considering the kid’s reaction. Stupid, he thought. Peter just wouldn’t listen. Tony tried and tried to get through, but he struggled to connect with the teenager on a basic level. He was willing to bet the kid hadn’t even fiddled with the spider-light he snuck into his webshooters. He probably missed Tony’s message to join him at the lab entirely. Or worse, he saw the message and ignored it, and had decided Tony wasn’t worth his time, which would definitely be a new low for him.

 

He wished he could talk to Steve about the kid. They were stubborn in the exact same way. Capsicle would know exactly how to get through to him. Tony groaned and pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes, ready to tear his hair out. Nothing was going the way it was supposed to. Steve was supposed to understand what the hell Tony was talking about with the Accords and side with him. Yeah, they’d be working with Ross who was an asshole, but better the asshole you knew than the asshole you didn’t. One day they were on the same page, then all of a sudden, he waltzed in and started spouting off about mutant rights and government control without giving Tony a chance to explain how they would be able to fix it, then he left the way he came.

 

Then Natasha left him hanging high and dry in the middle of a fight where he was counting on her, with a 28-hour deadline hanging over his head. He knew Ross was going to capture them up if he didn’t deliver Barnes. He knew his friends would be trapped some godforsaken prison that he would most likely have a very difficult time breaking them out of. His fellow Avengers were locked up, and his best friend—his brother—was paralyzed because Tony involved him in the whole mess. Of course, to top it all off, Steve lied to Tony. He lied to Tony about something so integral to his life and being, and it was all for a traitor. When did Steve get to decide what Tony was and wasn’t allowed to know about his parents’ deaths? But no, he knew best, and he chose which friend was more valuable—and if that friend was a double agent, so what? Tony shook his head, frustrated and hurt and confused by the whole thing. Yes, the Winter Soldier used to be Bucky Barnes, but that ship had sailed a long time ago. It wasn’t like how Barton was spelled by Loki. Magic could be undone. Brainwashing? Hydra brainwashing? No dice. Steve was adamant, though. He protected Barnes to the point that he was willing to leave Tony for dead in the frozen wasteland that was the abandoned Hydra base in Siberia. Thank God FRIDAY had a protocol to alert his backup armor to get him out of there.

 

Tony didn’t think his heart could break anymore after Pepper.

 

How very wrong he was.

 

He could only hope that this thing with Peter was going to be okay. His reluctance to accept help was going to kill him. Tony didn’t care if the kid liked it or not, he was going to watch out for him. He dragged him into this mess. He would sure as hell make sure the kid could navigate through it as safely as possible. As far as Tony was concerned, Peter was his responsibility. The boy’s words from their first meeting echoed in his head. Tony had the power to do a lot of things, both good and bad. If he didn’t use that power to protect Peter, and something bad happened, it would be because of him. He’d back off though, for now. Give the kid some time to think about what Tony said and try to let him come to the same conclusion on his own. If he didn’t, Tony would find a way to force the kid to have an epiphany.

 

Not that epiphanies worked that way, but still.

 

Tony watched the local news all weekend, looking for anything Spider-Man related and coming up short. FRIDAY hadn’t seen hide nor hair of him through her own monitoring systems. The man briefly wondered if he put the kid off the superhero gig entirely before shaking the worry away. Even if he had (which he was sure he hadn’t—people like them couldn’t stop doing this gig), that meant Parker was sitting out on his own free will. Being benched meant not getting hurt. If that was the choice he made, Tony could definitely live with it. He decided to set a protocol to alert him if Spider-Man was back in action.

 

FRIDAY pinged him on Tuesday afternoon.

 

Tony startled in his lab once FRIDAY sent him the alert, dropping his tools. The billionaire quickly had FRIDAY pull up the source that showed Spider-Man in action, biting his lip in worry. The AI pulled up a local news story about how a jewelry thief was stopped in Queens by Spider-Man. When the image changed to shaky footage that had clearly been taken by a cell phone, Tony gripped the edge of the table he stood at. A slow smile spread over his face as he watched Peter was swinging through Queens in the suit Tony made him. He turned away from the news and had FRIDAY pull up the feed directly from the Arachnid Nanny Networking Enterprise program in the suit itself. Tony sighed in relief when he saw the world through Peter’s eyes. The boy was reaching into a tree to pull a precocious kitten off a high branch, cooing and clicking at it.  

 

Tony was thankful his words didn’t backfire on him. Yeah, the kid taking a break (permanent or otherwise) from being a superhero would keep him safe, but Spider-Man did a lot of good that the Avengers just didn’t. Tony figured it was more likely that Peter would keep his ridiculous onesie and find a way to send the suit back to the Compound. Considering everything that happened lately, he wouldn’t have been surprised if the kid had completely rejected him like everyone else. He turned off the feed, allowing Peter the usual amount of privacy he had. If he were up to anything dangerous, ANNE would let FRIDAY know. He went back to work, fiddling with some of the finer components of his new project when another thought crossed his mind.

 

He never found out what on Earth Peter was doing in Hell’s Kitchen.

 

Tony shrugged. He’d save that question for another day.

Chapter Text

Peter sighed as he adjusted his faux-leather Gucci messenger bag over his shoulder. The first day of school lined up with an internship day, so he was in his designer clothes and carrying a thousand-dollar bag over his shoulder. He told Mr. Wesley this was a surefire way to convince someone to try to mug him, but the man laughed him off and told him he would need to be more comfortable with some of the finer things, not addressing his concern about being attacked on the train at all. Then again, he was Spider-Man. Peter saw that episode of the Flash when Barry Allen got mugged. Peter was pretty sure he would be equally as excited if that happened to him, too.

 

Besides, he’d most likely fit in a little more than usual with his classmates today, and the bag had a pretty convenient pocket to hide his new suit.

 

Peter panicked when he had to come clean to Kingpin about Germany, but Mr. Stark had made a good point. He forgot sometimes that he wasn’t invincible. He almost died because of a Spider-Man related thing. The fact that it was someone he was supposed to trust who nearly beat him to death made no difference. Maybe he would have been able to withstand the blows better if he was wearing something more durable, or maybe he could have sent a distress signal to someone. That was something that would be useful if Mr. Fisk every went crazy like that again. All in all, that suit Mr. Stark made was really helpful, especially when dealing with people that were just plain nuts. It was better to have something else that was actually durable to rely on, instead of hoping his spider-sense could tell him when to dodge. Mr. Wesley and Mr. Fisk had proved that it wasn’t infallible.

 

When he told the large man about his transgression and presented him with the suit, Peter felt fear well up in his chest.

 

“Let me get this straight,” the giant rasped, pressing his fingertips together. Peter stood on the other side of the large, mahogany desk in Mr. Fisk’s office, twisting his fingers together and staring at the floor. “You left the country at the whims of none other than Tony Stark, and you sat on it for weeks before you decided to tell me?”

 

“Well it was only two weeks,” Peter said, scuffing his foot along the floor. Mr. Fisk was not amused. “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t think—”

 

“That’s right, you didn’t,” Mr. Fisk said curtly. Peter winced at the short tone. Mr. Fisk sighed. “This suit, it looks interesting. Stark designed it himself?”

 

“I think so, sir.”

 

Mr. Fisk hummed in thought, touching the fabric. “Very well, Mr. Parker. I have to say, I can understand the advantage of having something like this on hand. You do very dangerous work, and any additional protection you can be afforded is nothing but beneficial.” Peter looked up in disbelief, letting out a relieved sigh when he saw the smile on Mr. Fisk’s face. “To be honest, I’ve been trying to come up with a discreet way to ask Mr. Davis how to develop something like this for you.”

 

“Really?” Peter asked, his voice cracking a bit.

 

“Yes. It seems Stark has done me a favor, in that regard. Be cautious with anything you say or do in this suit though,” he said. Peter blinked, confused by the statement. Mr. Fisk let out a rueful chuckle. “Stark—well he doesn’t trust very easily. Your suit most likely has recording devices and possibly a tracker.” Peter’s heart fell at that and he grimaced. Of course Mr. Stark didn’t just trust him to behave with a multimillion-dollar suit. This was another unknown expectation for keeping the stupid thing. “You can continue to work as you have been, though. Mr. Wesley told me you’ve been quite diligent in keeping my name out of that ugly business. I have to say, I’m impressed.” Peter automatically preened at the comment before his head caught up to him. “Now, I want to go over the details of your next target. This one is very personal to me.”

 

The first day of classes was uneventful. Peter was called Penis by Flash about ten times throughout the day, and the address was usually accompanied by some physical action, like knocking his books out of his hands or tripping him in the hallway. Cindy frowned at him when she found out they wouldn’t be in band this year, upset that he dropped, but found it understandable considering the workload he had with school and his internship. Liz sought him out that afternoon and for a brief and glorious moment, Peter thought she was going to ask him out. Instead, she gave him the new AcaDec schedule. The highlight of his day was when Ned invited him over to build his new Lego set.

 

“Join me and together, we’ll build my new Lego Death Star,” Peter straightened up and turned to his best friend who stood behind him with an impish smile, and a Lego Emperor Palpatine in his hand.

 

“What?” Peter exclaimed, a small grin forming on his face. “No way, that’s awesome. How many pieces?”

 

“3,803,” Ned replied.

 

“That’s insane,” Peter said excitedly, shutting his locker. He caught sight of a couple of boys who were obviously making fun of them and narrowed his eyes. The boy chuckling stared at him a for a moment, smile faltering. He scoffed a little and he and his friend wandered off. Ned and Peter started down the hallway towards the exit.

 

“I know! You wanna build it tonight?”

 

Peter really wanted to build it tonight. He sighed, adjusting his bag. “Man, that’s cool. But I’ve got my internship today—”

 

“It’s the first day of school. How do you have an internship day on the first day of school?” Ned huffed. “You always have that internship.”

 

Easy, Peter thought. O’Connor literally stole money and product from my boss, sold some information about some of his drug trafficking buddies to the cops then went off grid, and that pissed him off to no end. “I don’t know. Aaron and I really need to finish up that project for the Brooklyn Water Treatment Facility.” Ned didn’t need to know that he and Aaron finished the pump last week. He was a little nervous about the nuclear power supply, but it was well contained, and the whole unit had a failsafe in the event of a potential melt down, so he tried to let go of his anxiety over it. Mr. Fisk may not be the most altruistic person, but he wouldn’t intentionally sign off on something that would put the city in danger. He and Aaron checked that device from every angle, and it was approved by three boards before it was approved by the city itself. The only way it would malfunction was if it was tampered with. Peter shrugged, helplessly. “I’m sorry, Ned,” he said. Then again, there was no way he’d find this guy tonight. “It’s probably going to be an early day though, so—"

 

“Yes! Okay, here’s the plan. You know how MJ’s been saying we haven’t been hanging out enough this summer?” Ned rambled something about meeting Peter later, but the boy was distracted when he caught sight of Liz at the end of the hall. God, she was gorgeous. Ned nudged him a little, “okay, Peter?”

 

“Yeah,” Peter said, shaking his head a little as the boys left the school and approached the parking lot. “That’d be great.” Freddy stood in front of the company car, smiling when he caught sight of Peter. Peter smiled back and started to head that direction, Ned in tow.

 

Ned bounced up and down a little, clearly excited. “Alright man!” Peter grinned and exchanged his handshake with Ned before saying goodbye. Freddy raised an eyebrow at him as he opened the door, allowing Peter to climb inside.

 

“That was some handshake,” he said after he started the car. Peter blushed and gave a rueful smile.

 

“Yeah, but you know, it’s our handshake, so,” he trailed off, rubbing the back of his neck.

 

Freddy laughed. “Hey man, I had a shake with my best friend, too. You’re fine.” Peter gave a small smile and stared out the window as they headed towards Hell’s Kitchen, listening to Freddy go on about his course load for the new semester.

 

Things had changed over the summer for his internship. Aaron was a little more forthcoming on how several projects they had designed had dual purposes. The anti-gravity climbers were shot down by the city, considered to be too dangerous, but Mr. Fisk seemed to think they may be useful to outfit one of his people with—apparently the man did some delicate work which sounded similar to Peter’s, so the devices would come in useful. He still hadn’t heard anything about Dr. Ohnn, but Mr. Fisk had employed a new person with an aptitude for biophysics named Olivia Octavius. When Peter got the opportunity to meet the woman, he wasn’t sure what to think. She had long, frizzy dark hair with purple highlights that was half-dreadlocked, pale skin, and oddly shaped glasses in a thick wire frame. Dr. Octavius ate granola and rode her bike everywhere, citing how they were responsible for lowering the carbon footprint. Despite her altruistic attitude, Peter thought she was really creepy, and his spider-sense would not let up when she was around. He was glad he wouldn’t have to work with her. Between his workload with Aaron and Mr. Wesley, he just didn’t have the time.

 

The more time he spent with Mr. Wesley, the more involved he became in the seedier side of the business. Previously, he learned how to be discreet and how to lie. Now he was learning how to be intimidating. Mr. Wesley was not a very large or frightening man, but people listened to him, both out of respect and fear. Peter was observing him, learning how a shift of his body or slight change in tone of voice would knock people in line. For those that the tactic wouldn’t work on, Peter was there. He had begun new duties as muscle for Mr. Wesley when it was needed. He was easier to sneak into these confrontations as no one expected a scrawny fifteen-year-old to be able to pin them to a wall.

 

Once they arrived at Fisk Tower, Peter thanked Freddy for the ride and walked in, signing in with the receptionist up front before getting on the elevator. He went to the top floor and slipped into a room that was for his private use. Quickly he changed into his suit, and once he was dressed, he flung himself out the window, swinging towards the warehouse area his target was last known to be.

 

After he found Healy dead on the street, Peter became even more wary of the Devil. He knew the man didn’t watch his fists or his strength and that he had no qualms about killing people, but he didn’t know the man would stab someone through the eye to do it. It was gruesome and unnecessary and just plain scary. Over the summer he saw more and more signs of the man’s activity. The trails he followed were now mucked up, and there were indications of fighting that had never been present before. Not only that; he was starting to find injured men in the Devil’s wake. Between the trail of bodies left behind and the fall bringing night early, Peter was spooked at everything in Hell’s Kitchen. The sound of a dumpster shutting made him jump, and if a streetlamp flickered out, he found himself off the ground and up a wall in a heartbeat. It was starting to affect his work, and he finally reached a point where he had to rely heavily on his spider-sense. It was way more effective at detecting true threats near his person than the alert system in his suit.

 

Peter sighed and patrolled nervously, the sun setting in the distance. His earlier assessment was right, he wasn’t going to find O’Conner tonight. The man hid well, and his acquaintances were not forthcoming. The boy would have to take another approach. He thought about how he may need to find friends of the people the guy was responsible for jailing. They’d be more likely to sell out his location. Peter started climbing up a brick wall, ready to contact Mr. Wesley and call it a night (tomorrow was the second day of school, and he was certain they would be starting homework and projects, so he had to be at his best). A sharp gasp escaped him as he felt a zing up his neck and he stilled against the wall, halfway between the rooftop and the asphalt below. There was a quick movement in the shadows as the sky started turning and orangish-gold color.

 

Peter felt his heartbeat increasing, and he carefully dropped down to the ground to investigate, fully alert. He crept toward the darkened alleyway. As he toed down the empty road, he turned his head back and forth, trying to hear if there was someone, or something, down here with him. Then, he caught the quiet rustle of fabric and the whoosh of air being displaced by something fast and heavy, and he ducked down, seeing a foot fly over his head. Peter sprang up and spun around, then dropped his jaw at what he saw.

 

A muscular man stood before him. He was slightly taller than Peter, and was clad in black with a half-mask that covered his hair and eyes. His whole body was loose and ready to fight. This must be the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. Peter swallowed and took a step back, putting his hands up. Apparently, this was the wrong move, because the man suddenly launched himself forward at the movement, throwing punches at Peter. Peter kept moving backwards, sidestepping all the hits until his back was pressed against the wall, not sure of what to do. He still hadn’t punched anyone, yet. He didn’t know how hard he should hit and was constantly afraid he would do some serious damage. The Devil was getting in too close for Peter to use his webs, though. Peter covered his body with his arms, trying to block the oncoming punches while he thought of a way out of this. Peter grunted when a punch hit his ribs and the Devil faltered, giving Peter a chance to shove him away so he could scuttle up the wall. Once he was well above the other vigilante, he let out a relieved breath. “Hey, man, what’s your problem?”

 

The other man cocked his head in a weirdly familiar way. He looked up at him, and Peter clearly see the heavy frown that marred the lower half of his face.   

 

“You’re a kid,” he said, gruffly, staring up at Peter. Peter gulped.

 

“I’m Spider-Man.”

 

“Okay, sure. Spider-Man,” the man responded. “You’re still a kid. What the hell is a kid doing running around after criminals in Hell’s Kitchen? Don’t you have homework to do, or something?”

 

“I’m not a kid,” Peter frowned, crawling down the wall and closer to the man, cautiously.

 

“Lie.”

 

Peter’s heart skipped a beat. “Yeah, ‘cause you’d know,” he responded, sullenly.

 

“I would, actually,” the man quipped back, taking another step towards Peter’s perch. Peter moved higher up on the wall again.

 

“Look man, I’m not causing any trouble. Way less trouble than you cause, anyway. I’ve been going by your messes, lately. Nice to know the new vigilante on the block is perfectly happy to kill people.”

 

The man scowled at him. “I haven’t killed anyone. Hurt them, yes, but they were all alive when I left.”

 

Peter scoffed. “If it weren’t for me getting ahold of the authorities, most of those people wouldn’t have survived.”

 

“You would have a child rapist running around the streets? You think that kind of monster deserves freedom?” the Devil scolded. Peter flushed angrily.

 

“You don’t get to decide who lives and dies, and you certainly don’t get to decide the method of execution!” Peter shot back. “I saw what you did the Healy. That was messed up, man.”

 

“How do you—oh,” the man nodded his head up and down as though he just solved a puzzle. “Healy did that to himself.”

 

“Yeah, right,” Peter responded, rolling his eyes.

 

“I barely touched him. I wanted information, and he had it, so I roughed him up a little. He told me I should have just killed him, with what the Kingpin would do to him if he said anything. But you’d know all about that, wouldn’t you?”

 

Peter blanched. “Wh-wh-what are you—”

 

“I know you work for him, kid. I know you catch his wayward delinquents for him, and I’m pretty sure you know a lot of important things about him. I still need information.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Peter said with a shake of his head, scuttling back further. “Look, man, I don’t have any information I can give you,” it was true. Peter would be six-feet-under if he ever came close to opening his mouth. The man crossed his arms across his chest.

 

“You’re lying.”

 

“You know what, I don’t know what kind of fakakta enhancements you’re using to tell whether or not I’m lying, but I don’t think it works as well as you think it does,” Peter said, mindful of the possible recording device in his suit. “If I knew anything—which I don’t—I couldn’t say a word. You obviously know about the Kingpin. If I told you a single thing about him and he’s as messed up as you say he is, how do you think that would work out for me?” The man continued to stare up at him, unmoving. Peter sighed.

 

“You didn’t throw a punch,” he said, softly. Peter blinked and stared down at him again, confused. “When you and I were fighting. I landed quite a few hits on you and you didn’t fight back. Why not?”

 

Peter scratched the back of his head. “I—well I don’t know my own strength. I didn’t want to hurt you.”

 

The man dropped his arms and took a step back, then another. Finally he turned and started leaving the way he came. Peter’s heart was pounding. Was that it? “Kid,” the man called. Peter made a noise in acknowledgement. “You should get out while you can.”

 

Peter shook his head and climbed higher up the wall, figuring ending things in a stalemate was best. He pondered the man’s words and heaved a reluctant breath. “It’s already too late,” he whispered. It didn’t matter. No one would hear him, anyway. Peter sighed and called it a night, calling Mr. Wesley for a ride. Soon, Francis arrived at his location, and Peter climbed into the car. As they slowly moved through the traffic, he looked around the backseat of the car. “Hey, Francis?”

 

“Yes, Mr. Paker?” Francis replied. When it was just the two of them the partition remained open. Peter figured it was just so the chauffer could keep an eye on the vigilante, seeing as any attempts Peter made at conversation fell by the wayside.

 

“Where’s my bag? With my clothes?”

 

Peter saw Francis furrow his brow in the rearview mirror. “I’m afraid we may have left your things behind again. I don’t think Mr. Wesley was prepared for you to finish so early tonight.”

 

“Well, it’s the first day of school,” Peter said, rubbing the back of his neck.

 

“We will be sure to get your bag back to you later tonight,” Francis said, eyes back on the road. Silence descended over the vehicle once more.

 

Peter wished he could have a day to do a normal patrol in Queens. He felt like he had been ignoring his neighborhood, lately. He missed being able to just operate without having to worry about a deadline. Peter longed for the days when he first started, when it was just him, his webshooters, and the open sky. Nothing could compare to the rush of catching a bike thief mid-heist. There was something inherently awesome about being asked to do tricks and flips by the locals. His heart swelled when he helped little old ladies find their way back home, or when he guided wayward children back to their parents. He wasn’t sure when he last got to go to Delmar’s and order his usual, practicing his Spanish with the shop owner and giving as good as he got after all his work with Miles.

 

Suddenly nostalgic, Peter asked Francis to drop him off near the sandwich shop.  After he got out of the car, he climbed up the side of the building and swung across to another, taller one, settling down on a fire-escape. The teen stared at the horizon over the tops of buildings, watching pink tinge the sky as the sun completely disappeared from view.

 

Peter caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Across the street from Delmar’s, a group of men were creeping into a bank vestibule. Peter smirked, glad that he’d be able to balance the bad work he had done in Hell’s Kitchen with good work he could do for his neighborhood. “Finally, something good,” he mumbled as he swung his way to the ATM entrance. He snuck in and positioned himself by the door as the criminals started pulling money drawers out of the wall. Peter frowned as he leaned against the door frame, wondering how they managed to do that much damage in such a short period of time. “Hey guys, you forget your pin number?”

 

The men all looked up to reveal they were wearing plastic costume masks. “Whoa!” Peter said in mock amazement, pointing at them. “You guys are the Avengers! Wow, I’ve always wanted to meet you guys,” he said, jumping up to the ceiling as one of the men rushed him. He dropped one hand and shot a web at the nearest man, tethering him to the wall.  He grabbed the next with his hand and launched him toward his buddy. The man in the Iron Man mask tried to scramble away, but Peter caught him by the back of his shirt. “Iron Man, what the heck are you doing robbing a bank? I thought you were a billionaire.” Suddenly, Peter felt himself being pulled from the ceiling and hovering over the floor. “This feels weird,” he shouted as the man in the Captain America mask stood in front of him, holding some freaky sci-fi gun and tossing Peter between the ground and the ceiling. “I’m starting to think you’re not the Avengers,” he grunted, sticking his fingers to the ground and holding on with all his might. “Okay guys, let’s wrap this up. I’ve got things to do, people to see,” he said, pulling a cash drawer out of the wall and swinging it toward Fake Captain America. The man dropped the gun and Peter launched himself to another wall, webbing Fake Hulk and Fake Thor up as he went. Fake Iron Man grabbed the gun and started charging it, but Peter webbed the gun to the glass wall behind him, shaking his head as he approached. “How did you get tech like this, anyway?” he asked, examining the gun.

 

Suddenly that zing went up his back and he turned just in time to hear a sharp whining from behind him. The man in Cap’s mask was holding a different weapon that was emitting a high pitch, and Peter had only a second to react before the thing went off, pulling Fake Iron Man free of his webbing and tossing them both across the lobby and away from the blast. A bright, purple light shot forth and Peter could smell ozone and smoke in the air as it discharged, cutting a hole through the glass and walls of the vestibule. Peter’s eyes widened when he saw that right across the street, Delmar’s was on fire. Peter knew Mr. Delmar was in there. He didn’t hesitate. He threw himself away from the bank and into the shop on the corner, diving around flaming pieces of merchandise to get to Mr. Delmar, who was huddled behind his register. Peter dove down to get him and saw Murphy growling on the counter as he pulled Mr. Delmar up. He tossed Mr. Delmar over his shoulder and tucked the giant, growling cat under his arm, then ran out the door, gasping as he went. He settled Mr. Delmar by a streetlamp and took several deep breaths. That was way too close. Peter turned back to the bank and frowned, seeing none of the criminals remained. “Aw, man—” he said, adjusting the cat in his arms. He sighed and turned back to Mr. Delmar, offering him the small beast before starting his trek back home, wondering what the hell he could do about this. Finally, after some consideration, he pulled out his phone.

 

“This is Wesley,” the man picked up after three rings. Peter let out a relieved breath, glad he could get through so quickly.

 

“Mr. Wesley! Oh man, something really crazy just happened,” Peter said, launching into the tale of the group of men with high-tech weapons. Mr. Wesley stayed quiet throughout, only offering encouragement for the rest of the story when Peter paused for breath. “So now there are guys running around in Queens with guns that shoot purple lasers. What am I supposed to do?”

 

“Calm down, Mr. Parker. I’ll give this information to our employer. It may prove useful to him. We have several informants in Hell’s Kitchen who have been telling us about these weapons as well. For now, try to relax. Go home and we’ll let you know the next step as soon as we have a plan,” Mr. Wesley said, gently. “Sure, sure Mr. Wesley, I can—oh wait.”

 

“Mr. Parker?”

 

“I didn’t get my bag or clothes,” Peter sighed, reluctantly.

 

“I know, Mr. Parker. I hadn’t gotten your bag to Francis before he took off to pick you up. Don’t worry, we have someone who is keeping in touch with our contacts in Queens, and your bag will be given to you by one of them.”

 

“What contacts in Queens?” Peter asked, voice cracking a little from nerves. He hadn’t heard about this before now. “Why don’t I know about the contacts in Queens?”

 

“Well, their primary purpose is to keep an eye on our asset that resides there.”

 

Peter shuddered at the calm, collected voice on the other end. “So, what, you’re following me, now?” he asked harshly.

 

Mr. Wesley chuckled. “Remind me, who was it that went to Germany without clearing it with our employer?” Peter deflated. Of course he had a tail now. For all Mr. Fisk knew, Peter was working for Iron Man against him. The man was exceedingly paranoid. Peter was frustrated that he could barely twitch without someone ratting him out, but he wasn’t really surprised. It would take a while for Mr. Fisk to trust him again. “At any rate, someone will be by your apartment tonight to deliver your bag. I recommend you get there soon so you can receive it.”

 

Peter said his goodbyes to Mr. Wesley and swung his way home, staying out of sight as he crept up to his bedroom window. He carefully tugged the pane down and crawled inside, sliding the window shut with his foot. He slowly sneaked forward on the ceiling, eyes on May moving back and forth in their kitchen. He wasn’t sure if not having a long hallway between his room and their living area was beneficial or detrimental to his nightly activities, yet, but today it was pretty handy to be able to see May coming and still when necessary. No body looked up, after all. Once he got to the door, he pressed his fingers to it, then slowly pushed it shut. Once the door was closed, he carefully lowered his body until only his fingertips held onto the ceiling, dropping down as silently as his namesake. Peter let out a relieved breath as he pulled off his mask, turning around. He froze at what he saw.

 

Ned sat at the edge of his bed, a mostly constructed Lego Death Star in his hands. MJ sat in the corner of his bed near his pillow pressed up against the wall. Both stared at him in shock. Peter’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open in surprise. MJ held her sketchbook loosely in her fingers. Her eyes were wide open, and her brows raised. Peter never thought he had seen that much expression on her face before. Ned gaped at him, mouth hanging open. His hands were visibly trembling. All three stared at each other for a moment in silence. The only thing that was remotely okay about this situation was that May was in the other room, distracted by cooking. If she found out about Spider-Man like this, Peter didn’t know what he’d do. He silently thanked whoever was watching out for him on that front. Peter saw how much Ned’s hands were shaking, barely hanging on to the Lego set.

 

Peter gulped. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

 

The Death Star started tumbling from Ned’s grip, almost in slow motion. The toy smashed to the floor, hitting the ground with a deafening crash.

 

Shit.