“Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a criminal can. That’s what I say! Heroes don’t wear masks, criminals do! Damn it, damn it, damn it.”
J. Jonah Jameson, the publisher of the Daily Bugle, was having another one of those days where he hated Spider-Man so much it made his hair turn grey. He was inside his office, reading a newspaper that was more famous than his own simply because it always included a story about Spider-Man and what amazing things he had done again. This time Spider-Man had stopped a burglar and blablabla. Jameson banged his desk a few times as he continued reading the story, eyes piercing to the picture of Spider-Man like he was looking for a fight with the masked hero. When his cigar was burned to the last cent, he spit it out and simply lit a new one between his lips.
Then he suddenly stood up, stomped out of his office and looked over his employees with a piercing gaze, before continuing his way over to one of the desks that was much more organized than the other ones.
“Quentin Beck!” he shouted. Quentin wasn’t at his desk. In fact, he was just entering the office with a load of papers and a few photos in his arms. Quentin always looked like he was in a hurry. His glasses were slightly tilted over his nose, his dark brown hair was standing up a little after a restless night, and his dull-colored flannel shirt wasn’t fully tucked under his pants. When Quentin saw his boss, his face went pale and he rushed over to his desk, greeting the fuming man with a smile despite not feeling like smiling.
“I want pictures of Spider-Man”, Jonah Jameson spat out loud and clear.
Quentin looked around a bit nervously. “Okay … But I thought you hated him.”
J. Jonah Jameson did hate Spider-Man. Everyone knew it. He was old fashioned and cranky. To him it was weird seeing someone in a Halloween costume saving the city and pretending to be the new Jesus. In fact, Jameson was sure Spider-Man was actually a criminal in disguise, secretly wanting to take over New York city. “I do hate him. But the other papers are in success for writing about that fool, and that’s why I want a story about him, too!” Jameson raised his voice again.
Quentin chuckled as he laid his paperwork down on his desk. “I don’t know if I’m best for the job. It’s hard to capture him when he is swinging from rooftop to another.”
Besides, Quentin specialized in writing stories, not photographing them.
Jameson slammed his hand down, causing the papers to stumble and fall all over the floor. “I don’t care how hard it is! If you want to keep your job, Quentin, I suggest you start being useful”, he said. Quentin just stared down at the papers on the floor, then raised his eyes back to his boss, lifting his glasses better over his nose. Now, Quentin Beck wasn’t alarmed by this kind of treatment. He was used to it after that one time he made an article with a few typos, or that time when he had over thousand photos but none of them were good enough to be published. Or that one time years ago when he spilled hot coffee over his boss. Quentin was used to being not very good at his job, but this was the first time Jameson had threatened to fire him. Now that was a bit scary.
Before Quentin could go down on his knees and pick up his papers, he shared some intense gazes with his boss. “You have grown a stubble”, Jameson commented.
Jameson’s eyes wandered somewhere else for a moment before returning over to Quentin. “Don’t shave it off, or you’ll get a baby face like his.”
Jameson gestured behind Quentin before walking back over to his office. Quentin looked over to his shoulder and saw their new intern, Peter Parker, holding at least six take-out coffees in his skinny hands, trying to give the right cup to its right owner. Quentin furrowed his brows a little. Of course Peter Parker had a baby face, he was only 17.
Poor Peter Parker. He worked at the Daily Bugle four times a week after school and he got paid so little. Apparently he wanted to help out his aunt by earning his own money, one way or another. In a way, Peter Parker had found the perfect place to work as an intern since he wanted to be a photographer and the Daily Bugle was one of the only places that accepted him in with pay and not college credit. Sadly, Peter Parker had turned into a damn coffee boy who got everyone’s order always a little wrong. He also cleaned up everyone's mess and was there just as a third arm, and not as an actual employee trying to get some work experience. Bit of a sad situation, but Peter didn’t complain. He always seemed grateful to be there. Always so cheerful no matter what.
When Peter had one last coffee to serve, he walked over to Quentin with a smile and placed it on his desk. “Black coffee with three sugars. Right?” he asked.
“Wrong, but I’ll drink it anyway”, Quentin laughed as he got down on his knees and started finally collecting the papers his boss had dropped. Peter Parker got down on his knees too and started to help him get the papers back in order. Now this is why Quentin liked Peter so much. He was eager to help others, even if they didn’t always appreciate the help. His coworkers probably caught the bad mood their boss always had and put it on poor Peter. Luckily, both Peter and Quentin seemed to be immune to Jameson's constant yelling.
“I guess boss isn’t feeling too bright today, either”, Peter joked and peeked over the desks over to his office. The said man was crumpling a whole newspaper into a large ball, then threw it at his window while cursing about how ‘Spider-Man was overrated’.
Quentin chuckled. “You sure you still wanna work here?”
“Of course. You make it fun”, Peter said, picked up the last papers and then put them neatly onto the desk, making sure they were as straight as possible. Quentin smiled at that. He liked keeping his desk so clean and organized that even his pen had to be right in the middle and perfectly straight. He was glad Peter noticed AND respected that.
“Ass kisser”, he smiled. With a few groans Quentin managed to get back on his feet and sat down onto his chair. Like an obedient dog, Peter stood next to him waiting for orders, or a permission to leave. Now the thing about Peter being an intern was interesting. J. Jonah Jameson didn’t want Peter around him too much so he had told him to just go and help whoever needed help. The other employees weren’t too interested to have a kid interrupt their work, so Peter had ended up following Quentin Beck, the only guy who had actually let Peter participate in his work. Quentin still remembered that one day he and Peter had witnessed a car accident, and he let Peter take a picture of it. The boy took so many pictures from so many angles, but hey, one of them made it to the paper. Thanks to Quentin for giving the kid such an opportunity, Peter had bought him donuts. Hey, being nice is apparently worth it. Quentin felt good being a guide for the kid, showing him how this stuff was done so maybe one day Peter Parker can take his place in this office, then take fucking Jameson’s place, too.
But if Peter was too polite to even sit down without having a permission, he wasn’t gonna get very far.
“Peter”, Quentin called out to him.
“Sit your butt down.”
Peter looked around and saw an empty chair, and took it for himself. He moved it next to Quentin’s chair and took a seat, sitting with his back as straight as possible. Peter fixed his hair a little (for whatever reason) and straightened his shirt and hoodie, quietly commenting how he should maybe try to look more professional. Not like it mattered. This place had no dress code.
“So what’s the plan for today?” Peter asked. He flashed that perfect smile like someone was taking a picture of him and his hands rested over the desk. At least he seemed more relaxed now than a few weeks ago. When Peter first came here, he was so afraid to touch anything. He didn’t want to mess up or break anything. Now he had much more confidence in him.
“Just gonna edit some photos and read through some articles before passing them on to some other dickhead”, Quentin sipped from his cup of coffee. It wasn’t very good since it wasn’t what he ordered, but he was still gonna drink it just to make Peter happy.
Peter nodded, sighing a little about the boring schedule they were going to have. “What was boss yelling about earlier?”
“Just call him Jameson or something, ‘boss’ sounds weird”, Quentin said as he clicked away on his computer. “He wants me to get a picture of Spider-Man to prove my worth.”
“Oh.” Peter’s face seemed to go a little pale and his body stiffened up. “Why Spider-Man?”
“Because whenever a newspaper has a picture of Spider-Man on the front page, the sales are crazy. I guess Jameson is afraid his company is falling apart or something”, Quentin said. He wasn’t too excited about his new job assignment. First of all, he had to work under the pressure of maybe getting fired for sucking at this job. Second of all, it’s fucking Spider-Man. Getting a good picture of him was going to be difficult, maybe even impossible. Most of his pictures were fake anyway, just other people posing while wearing cheap costumes. But Quentin only needed one good picture of him and he would be praised like a God. Quentin cracked his knuckles.
Spider-Man was going to be his top priority now. He was going to do everything to get a good picture of---
A flash made Quentin squint a little and he turned to Peter who was holding a camera. The kid smiled widely and looked at the photo he had just taken with Quentin’s own personal camera before showing it to him. It was a picture of Quentin’s side profile, his hand holding his chin up, one finger over his lips and eyes pierced to the computer screen. It was a pretty good picture considering the fact that the lightning in this office was dull.
“Sorry”, Peter said as he turned off the camera and put it back down on the table. “I’ll focus on work now.”
Quentin smiled so widely his cheeks blushed a little red. He wasn’t sure why. “Good. Keep your eyes open, you still have a lot to learn.”
Taking a good picture of a masked hero who could be anywhere in New York was a challenge nobody could beat. You had to be extremely lucky to even be that close to Spider-Man, a hero everyone loved. During the first day Quentin Beck had just aimlessly walked around the streets, colliding against other people when his eyes had been glued to the sky. He had tried his best to find Spider-Man, but that fucker was nowhere to be seen. After an unsuccessful day, Quentin was ready to just give up and leave his job himself. But once he got home, he started searching about Spider-Man, reading all the news about him, watching all the viral videos on Youtube. Apparently two years ago Spider-Man stopped a bank robbery, webbing up seven guys with guns for the police to arrest. That was impressive. Quentin should walk more to areas where possible crime would happen.
Quentin watched a viral video of Spider-Man that had spread around the whole internet. It was filmed with some cheap phone and it showed Spider-Man just walking down the street, greeting people, giving high fives to his fans, taking quick selfies before he would continue his trip. There were a lot of stories like this, and Quentin started to realize that not all days did Spider-Man save the city from small crime. He also showed his support for New York in other ways, like helping an old lady walk over the road or supporting local businesses by buying a snack from them.
Quentin’s eyes focused on a video of Spider-Man at a cash register, apparently arguing with the owner about something. The video showed Spider-Man offering money for the sandwich he was trying to buy, while the owner told him it was on the house. At the end, Spider-Man left his coins on the counter and then swung onto the closest rooftop, the girl filming him giggling loudly for witnessing her idol so closely. Quentin could feel his heart skip a beat as he recognized the store Spider-Man had visited. Well, New York had dozens of those stores, but now Quentin at least knew where to search for this hero. Now that he had some kind of a plan, he felt more confident.
The second and third day weren’t so successful either. No sign of Spider-Man, even if Quentin had tried to visit all the places he had been seen in. It was like searching for damn Big Foot, Quentin joked to himself multiple times a day. But it wasn’t so funny when his boss asked if he had any pictures to publish every goddamn day, only to leave with low grumbles about Quentin not providing anything for the company.
At least Peter Parker cheered him own, even playfully suggested Quentin to climb on a rooftop and just wait. And for a few days he actually did. But no Spider-Man came around. How unlucky.
Until after maybe a week later, when Quentin was walking down the street. It was late, the sun was setting down and coloring the sky strongly in colors of orange, pink and purple, a view straight out of a fairy tale. The streets were still busy because it was New York, after all. Quentin hadn't been paying attention when it happened.
It started off so suddenly Quentin almost yelped in surprise. People were pointing up at the sky and screaming ‘It’s Spider-Man’ as the red suited hero swung past them while waving down at the crowd. The moment Quentin saw him, he took out his camera and snapped a picture. It was shaky and bad and rushed, and Quentin wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip past his fingers. So he ran. He started running after Spider-Man as fast as his legs allowed him. He didn’t pay attention to the traffic and even almost got hit, but he didn’t care. He needed to get at least one good picture.
He saw Spider-Man swing to the left, then disappear completely. Quentin slowed down as he entered an alleyway, completely out of breath, his legs feeling like they were going to give out any second now. Huffing strongly through his nose, Quentin kept his eyes on the sky and tried to see where the spider had went, but there was no sign of him. Damn it.
Then Quentin saw the fire escape stairs leading up to the roof. Maybe Spider-Man hadn't disappeared, he had just stopped moving. To hell with it. He slowly climped on top of this large green dumpster, then jumped up do he could reach the fire escape. His hands managed to grab onto something and he started pulling himself up. God, Quentin was so not build for this, but when he finally got back on his two feet, he started sprinting up the stairs, making sure not to look down. He wasn’t a fan of hights.
The fire escape stairs were shaky and clanking whenever Quentin took a step closer to the rooftop. He stopped once to catch his breath because his lungs felt like they were going to explode before rushing to the rooftop. Even the threat of falling down to his death didn't stop him from getting this picture.
The stairs didn’t lead straight to the roof. After passing multiple windows - and one lady who was confused seeing someone at the fire escape -, Quentin saw a ladder that could finally take him up to the roof. With his camera hanging from his neck, Quentin slowly climbed up, holding on tightly with his sweaty hands, and peeked onto the rooftop.
There wasn’t much to see there, obviously. Rooftops aren’t places people hang out at. Unless you were Spider-Man. To Quentin’s luck, Spider-Man was at the opposite side of the roof so he had a change to snap a picture and then leave quietly without being caught.
Quentin moved slowly. He made sure he wasn’t going to fall off the ladder as he moved his camera to stay at the edge of the rooftop. He pressed a few buttons to turn it on, then propped himself so he could place his elbows against the edge and hold the camera with both of his hands. He was holding his breath like huffing out too strongly would make him fall down.
Spider-Man didn’t seem to notice him. In fact, it seemed like he was going through a backpack. Most likely his own. Maybe he always left it here so no one could steal it or something? What did he have in there?
The hero picked out an obvious phone from his bag, pressed a few buttons before placing it against his ear. Quentin still seemed to be invisible as the hero stayed standing, gazing over the city view and the setting sun.
Then, he talked. His voice wasn't that deep. Quentin couldn’t quite figure out the words he was saying, and he didn’t care for now. His eyes were focusing on getting the perfect picture.
He snapped a photo, click. Spider-Man didn’t seem to notice. In fact, he raised his voice like the connection was bad and whoever he was talking to couldn’t hear him. Quentin took another photo.
“Wait, give me a moment, I can’t hear shit with this mask on”, he heard the hero mutter to himself.
Spider-Man’s hand grabbed onto his mask and pulled it off in one smooth move, and then his phone was back against his ear. “Can you hear me now? Ah, I hear you better, too.”
Quentin snapped a photo, then looked at the hero with his own eyes.
His face went completely pale and his mouth locked open.
That’s Peter Parker. The intern he has been working with.
Spider-Man … No, Peter still didn’t seem to notice Quentin. He turned his back to the man and all Quentin could do was to take another picture. He was completely lost, but didn't know if he should leave quickly or say 'hello'. Peter continued talking, every now and then laughing and then he turned to look at the view again, still unaware someone was watching him.
Quentin zoomed in with his camera, then pressed a button to take one last picture. Then, as quietly as possible, he moved down the ladder.
He didn’t stop going down until his feet hit the ground, and then Quentin literally fell down, taking a seat against the wall. He took deep breaths and blinked strongly, trying to understand if what he had witnessed was even real. His heart was going crazy and his legs were shaking like he had been flying for the first time.
When his mind was a bit clearer, he opened his camera again and looked through the pictures. One picture was when the mask was still on. A full body shot, publishable. But nothing exciting. The next picture was much more thrilling because you could see his identity. It really was Peter Parker. Spider-Man was really this mixture of shy, genious and funny mashed together onto a school kid. Quentin could recognize those eyes anywhere, those brown curls and that cheeky smile he always gave. That's him, no doubt.
One photo was of Peter’s back, showing off how fell he was build for a guy his age and how the suit didn’t even try to hide his muscles. Quentin’s eyes ended up staring at his buttocks for a long time before he checked the last photo.
Quentin was glad he had zoomed in. He had taken a perfect shot of Peter’s smiling face, the photo almost good enough to be published on the front cover of a magazine about men’s fashion, or something. Peter looked like a damn model with his perfect hair and skin. He was just so beautiful, and suddenly Quentin felt hot around his cheeks.
For a long time, he just sat there, thinking about what his next move should be. He sure as hell wasn’t going to show these photos to anyone, no matter how much money he would be paid. It was Peter. His friend. A damn kid who risked his life every day to keep New York save. Why would he expose a hero?
He didn’t know what to do. But the longer he looked at that photo of Peter Parker wearing that suit, Quentin’s need to print it out and frame it grew stronger. So he got up and started walking home, a weird crooked smile over his face as he imagined putting up these photos next to his bed.
Now he was very, very curious about Peter Parker.