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Aunt May says Peter doesn’t owe Tony Stark anything.  That he’d started Spider-man on his own and can continue that way as long as he pleases.

And that’s true.

Or, like ...almost totally true?

It’s like this: yeah, he had started his Spider-man gig solo and had done a perfectly fine job - thanks you very much!- but ...his suit is next level.  Would he ever have managed these updates without Stark tech?  Probably not.  He’s confident he would be way past glorified pajamas, but without access to the raw materials Stark could bring to the table ...well, Peter would’ve had to execute some high-end theft, and that was counterintuitive to precisely who is he. So, no dice.

Does Stark take a little too much credit for Peter’s success sometimes?  Mmmmm, yeah.  He does, yeah.

Strike one.

Does Stark think Peter should constantly be able to drop everything to help The Avengers?  Yup.

Strike two.

But, hey-o, had he hired Peter onto one of his engineering divisions after college while he decided when and why he’d go to graduate school?  Sure did.

Minus one strike.

Wade says May is 110% correct and that Stark can eat a bowl of dicks.

Peter thinks that’s a step or two too far.

May thinks Wade’s humor is on point.

In any case, Peter happily works for Stark Industries.  It’s fun.  It’s innovative.  He’s met some great people who have been a blessing, from encouraging him to go back to school to helping him determine a focus for his research and what he thinks he wants to do with it all.

He likes it.

Except for today.

Today is ...awkward.

He had certainly thought that high school visitation day had sounded like a good idea. Peter would have loved, loved, loved to tour this place when he was in Honors Physics.

But this.  Nope, he doesn't like this at all.  He had failed to take into account that high school had not been his sweet pot.  Not even a little bit. No, he hadn't started to come into his own until college.

High school kids are evil.  They are bullies, and also they smell.  All of those facts came back to him as soon as the first group of goofy little creatures showed up on the 16th floor research labs.

And its beyond weird that they all seem to be fans of him - what the fuck is that?

Sandra, one of the interns, says it’s because the nerdy hipster vibe is in, and he also has appealing cheekbones.  This begs the question: do people think he’s a hipster?  Also: did Sandra just admit she has a crush on him?  Wade calls his ass sexy, but this feels different...

He’s already tabled that concern for now.

Avi, the head of their division, says it’s probably because Peter is young, and the students can actually see themselves in his and Sandra’s shoes.

Peter likes that one much better.

Still, it’s strange.  People this size and age do not - say it louder for the folks in the back: do not - like Peter Parker.  They think he’s weird and too quiet.  They push him against lockers because he’s a bit short and a bit skinny.  Even when he’s not so short and not so skinny anymore, they don’t know what to say to him because his Uncle just died gruesomely and it’s just easier to ignore him.

“This is my nightmare,” Peter sighs slowly when another class files in.

He’s complained one too many times today to believably “go home sick.”  He may as well complain just a bit more.  There’s no harm in it.

“I thought you said this was your childhood dream,” Sandra unhelpfully reminds him.

He glares at the girl.  He figures he could probably sabotage her internship if he tried, but he doesn’t need any bad karma.  Plus he would have to help train her replacement, and he would just feel guilty the whole time.

Not worth it.

“Yeah, if I was still a child.  I forgot about that part ...I would’ve wanted to meet scientists when I was them.  I don’t want to meet teenagers now, though,” and he doesn’t see why he should want to.

“Shouldn’t you be over your teenage angst by now?” the perky college student smiles.

Peter has the sense that Sandra had probably had many friends in school. 

“Didn’t you call in sick two weeks ago and pout for days over a fight with your ex-boyfriend?” he clearly recalls this.

Low.

Also true.

“...you should be more altruistic,” Sandra glares right back.

“I’m plenty altruistic.”

She has no idea.

They stare each other down for a few moments longer and then suck it up to paint smiles on their faces.  It’s their turn to tell the students about their current semiconductor work.

Luckily Peter thoroughly enjoys this topic, so he doesn’t let himself be too bothered by the girl in the back of the small group tapping away on her phone.  Nor is he distracted by the fact that the kid standing closest looks a little like the starting point guard in his grade at Midtown High.

For the record, he knows that Sandra is right, that he should be over it.  He should just be flattered if they think he’s a young, cool scientist, but it’s just uncomfortable instead.  And he knows front-row-boy could never lock him in a custodial closest.  He has super strength, asshole; he’ll bust straight outta there.  His head has just gone straight back to high school.  It’s not rational but it’s true. And it sucks because he isn’t this person any more, not really anyway.  He’s confident in his work here; he feels comfortable in the lab.

Teenagers are just the worst.  The ever-loving worst.



But that doesn’t mean he won’t save one...

He only gets about  a six hour reprieve from puberty-ridden humans.  It’s not exactly fair, but whatever.  As Spider-man, Peter is better at ignoring any and all discomfort.

Plus, he undoubtedly dislikes gang violence more than he dislikes teenagers.  So when he hears the shouting and the scuffling and the threats, he dives head-first towards the street and then swings in an arc towards the alley.

Once there, he webs up the guy with the gun first, catching his arm and yanking hard enough on the web that he hears the shoulder dislocate - whoops. The other aggressor looks around and appears shocked to see Spider-man, then angry once he takes a glance at his friend grunting painfully on the ground.

“Trust me, you don’t have the right amount of staying power,” Peter tries to warn him.

It’s no good.  The man charges.

“Can’t stay I didn’t try,” Peter sighs and grabs a forgotten hubcap off the floor with a line of web so he can slap the guy across the side of the head with it.

He slumps straight to the ground.   Peter's thoughts flash to the patrol with Deadpool a few weeks ago when the merc had sung ‘Momma Said Knock You Out,’ surprisingly on-key while fighting thieves near Shea Stadium.  Maybe he shouldn’t be finding humor here but, once again, he had given warning.

So he webs the guys to the ground without second thoughts.

Then he’s left in the alleyway with a tween ...or maybe already a teen?  Fourteen at the most, probably.  Peter isn’t always great with ages, thinks maybe he needs to be a bit older still to get a handle on that particular guessing game.

“You okay, kid?” 

The boy looks fine, no apparent injury or pain.

“Yeah,” he nods, his eyes wide and unmoving from the vigilante.

Typical reaction.

“Alright, good ...I’m going to call the cops if you want to stick around to give a statement...”

“No!” the boy startles.  “Nope, I can’t do that...”

Yeah.  Alright.  Not the first time Peter has heard that.  It used to bother him more.  Now that he’s had to chase and beat down some of the same criminals multiple times after they’ve rotated back to the streets ...well, he kind of gets it.

“Head home then...”

The boy doesn’t do so.  Fear, perhaps?  Peter’s used to that, too, so he nudges the kid’s shoulder to turn him around and then starts walking with him down the alley.

“I’m Dimitri,” he offers, unsolicited.

“Spider-man,” Peter raises a gloved hand.

“I know!  I live close by - you’re our guy!”

Again it’s just so fucking weird that this kid thinks he’s cool.  Not him Peter, but Spider-man is still him, too.  A part of him.  It’s still dissonant in the same way it had been when his old principal had mentioned their local Spider-man at an assembly and people had cheered.

“My mom loves you.”

“Tell her thanks...” Peter smiles hesitantly behind the mask because he's much better with quips and criminals than kind fans. 

“Says you’re what the city needs ...says you’d kick my ass if I joined one of the gangs ‘round here,” Dimitri goes on as Spider-man continues to walk him through the alleys.

"Eventually, yeah.  Definitely a possibility...”

Peter hopes what Dimitri saw tonight reinforces his mother’s reasoning.  That’s your friendly neighborhood Spidey- straightening out hearts and minds one alley at a time.  No need for applause, people; no need. He’s just a humble man.

“Says I gotta keep my head down...”

“She sounds like a smart lady.”

“Yeah, but she says it like it's simple, though ...like, c’mon, what am I supposed to?” the boy continues, waving his hands animatedly.  “Some of my own classmates are selling drugs already, and ...” he glances back where they’d come from. 

Peter catches his shoulder and twists him around again to continue their stroll.

“Empty promises, kid.  That doesn’t went well...”

“Easy money, hard life.  Yeah, I know,” he heaves a sigh, the narrow shoulders of his spindly form slumping.  “And mom would have my ass anyway...”

“Good”

“Calls it a good, old-fashioned ass-whoping,” the kid snorts.

Peter grins.  Aunt May had never been down with corporal punishment, calling it a practice of irony, but Dimitri is talking about his mother in an enthusiastic and reverent sort of way so it must not be too big of a threat.

“It ain’t easy, though,” he sighs again and Peter remembers the days he’d have killed for more kids this age to talk to him.  “But I can’t get in trouble, man ...she doesn’t need more worries.  She’s doing it all on her own, ya know?”

Alright, shit, he’s gotta say something to that.  The kid is really getting down to some shit. The real kind.

“...she’s not alone as long as she’s still got you,” Peter tugs advice from the sentiments he has for Aunt May.

The implication being that he better not do anything to actually leave his mother alone.

“Exactly!” Dimitri smiles wide and snaps his finger. “S’why I gotta stay straight.”

Yeah.  Alright.  Cool.  They’re on the same page now, right?

“You doing okay in school?” he tries.

“Wooooo, nerd alert!”

Dimitri jumps and Peter sighs his own little sigh.

“You should probably head home, kid...”

But Dimitri is already craning around him towards the approaching footfalls.  Too late.  Kid’s really gonna be uneasy now.

“What? Why should he leave?  What’s up, Spidey?” Deadpool claps him heartily on the shoulder. 

“I didn’t know there was ...two of you?” the boy muses quietly, still looking quizzically between the pair.

“Well there is!” Deadpool cheers.

“Sort of,” Peter overrides him.  “We’re friends.”

Dimitri brightens at this and now looks amused.

“So are you done with the PBS special now?” Deadpool jerks a thumb at Peter. “You should forget study hall and learn to kick ass instead; then they might leave you alone,” he’s clearly already spotted the scene they’d just left behind.

“Fighting’s on ma’s ass-whooping list.  She says once you get a reputation people won’t forget it; they’ll lower their expectations, and then you’re fucked...”

Deadpool slaps a hand over his heart when Dimitri regurgitates this.

“Fuck.  She’s onto something there.  Goddamn, she’s a smart lady,” he reels back and then straightens up when Dimitri laughs.  “But Mr. Miyagi was smart, too, and he always knew that you gotta be willing to do a face kick even if it’s illegal...”

“Nope.  No, that’s not--”

"Hush!"

“Huh?” Dimitri squints between the two. 

“Oh, just gimme a firm one-two,” Deadpool throws up both hands flat with palms out.  “Go on...”

Dimitri glances at Spider-man, who shrugs.  There’s not much backtracking now, is there?

“Um,” he hesitates anyway.

“Spidey, you show him,” Deadpool twists his gloved palms to Peter, now.

Dimitri’s eyes widen.

Silly teenagers.

Peter squares up anyway.  He reminds himself that he’ll easily break Wade’s wrists if he’s not careful, and then he jabs and punches with soft, but still mildly satisfying, ‘thwaps’ against his leather gloves.

“Cool...”

“Totes,” Deadpool agrees and faces the boy again.  “Do the damn thing, then,” he shakes his hands enticingly.

Dimitri nods and shifts.  Then he raises his fists and wiggles his shoulders a little bit a second time.

The ‘thwap’thwap’ of his hits are much fainter than Peter’s, but he grins in satisfaction anyway.

“There you go,” Peter’s oddly surprised to hear an actual smile in Deadpool’s tone, too.  “Do it again.”

‘Thwap, thwap!’

“Alright.  Again...”

‘Thwap!’ ‘Tap!’

“Uh-huh ...yeah..."

A jab.

‘Tap.’

“C’mon.  Really lay it on me," Deadpool dares.  "So I feel it...”

‘Thap! Thap’

“Not bad ...don’t let your guard down, though.  Bitches hit back...”

In fair, slow motion Wade takes a swipe back at Dimitri, who leans his torso away and stumbles back a step.

“Okay, yeah ...or, ya know, duck,” Deadpool suggests.  “You’re short.  You can duck.”

“I am not!”

“Prove it,” Deadpool snorts, hands up again.

‘Tap-tap!’ Thwap! Thwap!’

“Hoooo mama ...alright, kid,” Deadpool stands up properly and plants his fists on his hips above his utility belt.  “Now just do that to someone’s face and you’re golden.”

A silly laugh bubbles up through Dimistri’s throat.  Nothing malicious, just amused.  Maybe relieved, even.

Peter smiles a small smile behind his mask.

“Or walk away.  That’s valid, too...”

“Course,” Deadpool concedes, then pretends Peter can’t see him shake his head at Dimitri and tip his thumb downward.

The boy laughs again.

“Don’t tell your mom, though,” Deadpool adds in a growl and points a threatening finger at the teen ...probably teen.

“Hell no!” he laughs again because he’s clearly not sure who Deadpool is.

Deadppol doesn’t seem perturbed that he hasn’t actually scared the boy.  He just takes a second swipe, which Dimitri only ducks because the merc is playing slowpoke again.

“Hah!” he pops back up with his fists tucked up like he’s seen ‘Rocky’ a few times, springing lightly on his toes.

“Yikes,” Deadpool throws up his hands in an act of surrender.  “Uh-uh.  Too rich for my poor blood.”

Poor and weak being two things Wade is not, Peter snorts.

“What, you think you can take him?  Give him hell, kid,” Deadpool orders and points to Peter. "Attack!"

“Nah,” it seems taking on Spider-man is too rich for Dimitri’s blood, so he drops his hands loosely, smile tilting.

“Aw, give it a try!” Deadpool goads again.

“I can’t,” the boy’s chuckle is nervous now.

Peter feels bad about that and sighs deeply.  He’s feeling compelled to stoke the kids confidence, too, despite the initial intention to walk him off to a different street and be done with it ASAP.

“Go on,” he squats a bit into a fighter’s stance to bring himself closer to Dimitri’s level.

“Boy-howdy! D-man vs. Spider-man!  Ding ding ding!” Deadpool's cheering is a little obnoxious and, frankly, might draw attention at any moment.

Dimitri smiles a little bit but still shrugs his arms lightly.

“I can’t...”

“It’s fine,” Peter allows.  “Land a pop to my head and I’ll swing you around the city...”

“Fucking really?!” Deadpool breaks character as professional commentator.

Peter doesn’t answer because he’s ducking left, then leaning right ...back and forth a few times.  Then leans back Matrix-stile, which does make Dimitri laugh again. 

So, okay, Peter’s not the buzzkill.  There’s a score.

Dimitri wears himself out while Spider-man bobs and weaves, shuffling this way or that a bit.  He’s panting softly when he drops his arms and declares he guesses he’s done.

“...and I’m probably running late, anyway.”

“Blame it on Spider-man,” Deadpool immediately helps with a suggestion.

“Are you kidding?  My mom and sister ain’t gonna believe this.  Not ever!”

“Yeah, yeah, we’re hella amazing.  Go on,” Deadpool waves his arm with brand-typical dramatics.  “Be gone!”

Dimitri seems somewhat non-plussed by this unceremonious dismissal, as if he’s not sure it’s serious.  Couldda shown a little more love and all that.

“Don’t make me throw rocks at you, kid - go on!  Get outta here,” Deadpool raises his voice a little.

Rocks...

“Dude. Are you trying to quote 'White Fang'?” Spider-man twists towards Deadpool with his wide eyes narrowed.

“What?” he widens his arms. “It’s classic,” Deadpool shrugs.

And that ...seems to fit.

“Adults are weird,” Dimitriy decides.

Rude.

Kids are friggin’ weird.

“Bye then,” Deadpool chirps.

“Sure ...thanks Spider-man.”

Peter nods and once Dimitri’s beating a retreat he finally fishes out his phone to call that tip in to the cops.  Dimitri might not be willing to give a statement, but those goons probably have something illegal on them.  Maybe they even have warrants out or something.

“Why’d he only thank you, huh?” Wade gives Peter a hearty shove once he is off the phone.

“Oh, I dunno ....because I saved his butt?” Peter shoves back. 

“You could say ass, ya know,” Deadpool’s next push makes Peter’s trip on the curb so he somersaults to save an air of grace about himself.

“Ass,” Peter’s curse is an accusation and he hip-checks Wade roughly so he stumbles into the facade of the apartment building they’re passing. 

“Sassy!  Daddy like...”

Peter makes a face at this flirt - sometimes Wade’s teasing can be a bit off-point.

“What? Daddy-pool ... ...not into it?” Deadpool’s white eyes are mirthful and his tone pleased.

“Ugh,” there’s infatuation for Wade, yeah, but not for this particular bit.

“Fine, fine ...have it your way,” Wade tickles at Peter’s ear through his mask.

Peter swats the hand but Wade skitters away.  Peter alternatively gives him a shove instead.  The merc stumbles out into the street but skips right back over to Peter.

“If Dimitri gets grounded it’s your fault...”

“I’ve been accused of worse,” Wade doesn’t seem to care. “And he’s a good kid.  Just gotta toughen up a bit, ya know?  Chew some nails ...drink some raw eggs.  The fuck ever...”

Peter tuts because it shouldn’t have to be so.  Additionally, there’s a fine line between self defense and asking for trouble - now there’s a lesson Wade might have gotten off Karate Kid if he’d tried.  Peter’s seen enough people on the wrong end of that equation. On the other hand, he supposes Wade’s not wrong; Dimitri did seem like a smart kid.

“How’re you so good with kids, anyway?”  Peter realizes.

How was it Wade hadn’t just dropped in and spooked Dimitri off?  That seems a lot more up Wade’s alley than showing up and having a little fun with a juvenile non-delinquent he’s never met before.  Wade scares lot of people. A teenager trying to do good should've been one of them. 

Not that Peter wants Wade to frolic around scaring minors, it just ...is sort of easy to imagine.

“Huh?”

“You just ...I dunno, you were cool with him.”

“Yeah, that’s because I am très très cool, baby boy,” he fist-pumps.

“It just...”

“What?” Wade smirks.  “I thought you said I wasn’t Frankenstein...”

“You’re not!  No ... ...I don’t mean that.  Just ...I’m awkward around kids,” Peter admits with a frown.

“Well, yeah, talking about school and shit,” Wade groans.  “Like a real bummer...”

“Never mind...”

Wade chortles but cuts a glance to Peter.  He thinks of the scrawny kid in his apartment building growing up who’d also had a hunk of shit for a dad.  Thinks about Dimitri not being the first kid he’d taught a proper right-hook.

And he thinks of his own little Ellie, who next to no one knows about.  He considers saying something, telling Peter he absolutely does have a reason to be good with kids.

Only he stays mum.

Peter would honor that kind of shit, take it to the grave and all that.  Probably make some kind of blood oath about it if Wade ordered it and, yeah, maybe he would demand that level of fucking secrecy.  It just ...doesn’t feel right.  Not yet, anyhow.  That’s a treasure he’s buried deep down in his chest that he isn’t willing to let someone in on again ...not yet.

He’s a damn hypocrite for having been a little relieved that Peter finally let him into the Aunt May region of his life, but what the fuck ever.

His fucking prerogative.

“So. Ice cream on me?  You know, for breaking-up your cool dude teacher moment...”

“I wasn’t trying to be a cool teacher,” Peter argues, swiftly distracted. “I had enough of that today, thank you very much...”

“Oh, do tell,” Wade wheedles and begins to poke and nudge at Peter to steer them towards a corner store he knows will be open that also has an adequate ice cream selection in its freezers.

“I don’t even know where to start ....yes, I do.  Sandra...”

“Ugh, fuck her!” Wade is ready to take sides.

“Umm, I mean ...maybe not that far,” Peter smiles but reigns it in.

“Okay, yeah, sure.  Go on...”