Spidey was having a slow day.
Only dumb criminals would think about doing business in full daylight in the “quintessential superhuman capital of the world” (as clickbait-y news sources are calling it), so for most of this morning he’s taken to cat-napping between skyscrapers or lazily making patrol around the busier parts of Manhattan.
On days like this he also makes sure to meet a few particular people during his rounds.
Catching up with the homeless, check.
Giving Times Square tourists a mantle-worthy snapshot of NYC’s resident spider, check.
Stopping by his favorite hot-dog vendors, check-a-roonie .
And lastly -- for his own enjoyment, mainly -- swinging by the dog parks.
He takes his favorite route that blows him through the sweet-smelling aroma of a nearby cafe, surveying the small green space smushed in between buildings as he flies through the perfume of lavender and fresh-baked pastries.
Peter rarely gets the chance to go into the park and play with the pooches, but he can usually tell the regulars apart from afar. He waves to a few of the barking dogs that notice him as he dipped low to swing by.
Yep, the dogs are cute as always, check, check, check.
As he pulled upwards on his webline to regain lost height, he spotted something out of the corner of his eye, something small wandering aimlessly at the far end of the dog park.
It was a puppy! Dragging around a leash on the street corner below, it meandered in between pedestrians on their way to work, very few of whom gave the animal a second glance.
Tamp! Peter let go of his webline and dropped onto the sidewalk in a signature crouch. New Yorkers immediately gave Spider-Man a wide berth, like he had a two-meter forcefield around him, while others began to wildly look around for the approaching danger that usually follows capes.
The sound of the colorful hero touching down to the pavement also caught the puppy’s attention. It spun around to face Peter, tongue lolling out of its mouth, before sauntering towards him.
“Hey there pup, what’s your name?” he cooed. Spidey felt around its collar for any sort of name tag, but found nothing but the attached leash. “Huh...”
The dog looked well-groomed, Peter thought as he absentmindedly tousled it's perfectly trimmed fur, and the pink collar hidden by brown fuzz was studded with jewels. It was obvious that even if he found it without the owner-less leash collecting dirt on the sidewalk, this puppy was not your average stray.
The poofy yorkie started to lick at his gloved fingers.
“Hey buddy, you lost your mommy? Daddy? Do you know where they are?” In reply, the puppy rolled over, exposing his belly to the hero.
He obliged, rubbing the dog’s belly as he looked up and down the street for anyone who seemed to be searching for something, but only saw hurried pedestrians for blocks.
“No idea, huh?”
The dog looked up at him with a goofy smile -- just happy to have some attention after who knows how long -- and Spider-Man’s heart melted.
Whoever lost this bundle of face-squishing cuteness was definitely missing him dearly.
“Let’s see if we can find your parents.”
Spider-Man’s never been the detective type.
Peter’s always left that to more technology-based heroes, who could scan entire cities and buildings over their morning cup of coffee, or to the few police officers that tolerated his antics enough to give him periodic updates on their ongoing investigations. Anyways, aside from his spider-tracers, he doesn’t have all the quirky gadgets and gizmos that would make him a modern-day Batman.
So, needless to say, without any clues he’s kinda at a loss as how to find Puppy’s owners.
At first Spider-Man was just holding the small dog out to passersby on the street corner, asking if they knew whose it was, if they’d seen it around before, but most frantically shook their heads or straight-up ignored him.
Next was the dog park near where he found Puppy. Same story there, although at least they weren’t as hesitant to talk to him -- even if it was mainly fawning baby-talk about Puppy’s charm and good looks.
So now Spidey sat on the curb outside the sweet-smelling cafe, where his latest attempt to get information failed abruptly when a broom-wielding owner chased him out of the establishment, angrily gesturing to the ‘No Dogs Allowed’ sign on the door.
Chin resting in palms, Spidey watched Puppy yip at some street trash as he thought of what to do next. Pedestrians started to stop at the curious sight of the hero holding a cutesy, pink leash attached to an equally adorable puppy knocking around an empty 7-11 cup. The collecting stares were starting to make Peter’s skin prickle.
He started as someone lightly tapped him on the shoulder.
“Are you watching him for someone?” a woman softly asked, her boyfriend eyeing the vigilante from a distance.
“Ah, no,” he tilted his head, lenses squinting. “Well, kinda, I guess. I found him on the street corner over there.” The hero stood, scooping up Puppy before he could start rolling around in a dirty puddle. “Why, do you know him?”
He held the dog out to the woman, who pet its head affectionately, smiling. “No, but if he’s lost, have you checked if the little guy’s chipped?”
“Microchip, it’s like an electronic set of tags. Vets can scan them for you,” she answered, retreating from the hero as her boyfriend tugged her away. “He’s a real cutie-pie, I hope you find whoever lost him, Spider-Man!”
Spidey made Puppy’s paw wave bye-bye to the couple before spinning him around, stubby snout-to-mask. “Microchip, huh? You know if you have one of those lil’ buddy?”
The closest veterinarian was in East Village, if he remembered correctly; he went there once when Mary Jane’s foster kitten got the sniffles. But it’s quite a distance from where he was now, especially since he can’t just web-swing there with a whole dog under one arm.
Puppy gave his mask a sloppy lick, saliva making Spidey’s world blur.
Gently, Spider-Man began to weave a web over and around his body, securing the puppy flush to his chest. A quiet chorus of ‘oh my god’s came from the outdoor seating section of the cafe, some snapping pics of what the media would later dub the “web-papoose”.
After making sure Puppy wouldn’t slip out of the web, Peter carefully crawled up a nearby lamppost, gauging the dog’s reaction to heights. “You ready to fly, big guy?”
The dog didn’t squirm or whine, and his little legs dangling out of the web-papoose didn’t flail about in fear.
“Aww-right Puppy, hold onto your fuzz,” Peter leapt off the lamppost into a smooth arc, “The Spidey-Express is leaving the station!”
The wind whipped the dog’s ears and tongue around as Spidey swung as gently as possible. He was taking it smoothly -- so smoothly, in fact, that pedestrians were reflexively ducking as he skimmed over their heads.
It wasn’t until he was thwipping a hasty U-turn over the banks of the East River that he realized he may be a tad lost.
“Ehh, did I take a left at that Kroger back on 1st? Or a right…”
Puppy was holding up great. More than great, it seemed like. Spidey could feel the front of his thin suit starting to dampen with all the drool flinging from the dog’s mouth.
He propelled himself over to where a few officers were gathered outside of their cars, softly landing on top of an ornate lamp post.
One of the cops, distracted from the urgent conversation going on between them, snapped his head up to meet the vigilante’s curious gaze. His hand flew to his gun holster in reflex.
“Whoa, whoa!” Peter put up his hands. “Neither threat nor menace today, officers! I just need directions!”
His voice caught the attention of the other two young cops.
“Baby on board! Baby on board! ” Spidey shouted as the more nervous of the bunch fired off a taser in his direction. He swung around the lamppost, dodging the charge, landing back into a smooth crouch.
This revelation about a baby combined with the web-papoose had the opposite effect Spider-Man intended, and all three officers drew their service weapons.
“ A dog-baby! A puppy!” Spidey panicked and straightened up on the lamppost, allowing the officers to get a clear look at the yorkie glued to his chest. “Not a real baby!”
All three rookies slumped in a mixture of relief and confusion.
“Now,” Spidey shimmied a little down the pole, “Could one of you point me in the direction of the closest vet?”
One rush of apologies from the rookie cops and an autographed coffee cup later, Spidey was back to making a bee-line (spider-line?) for the clinic, Puppy still snug under his chin.
Apparently, the rookies had been instructed to watch out for an unnamed costume that was stalking around the city, and thought they hit pay dirt when Spider-Man appeared out of nowhere.
Peter didn’t think much of it. If the NYPD was putting fresh-out-of-academy guys on the beat by themselves to look for this mystery cape, they had to be a real D-lister. Leap-Frog maybe?
Puppy yipped as they blew through a flock of pigeons.
Trapster? Slyde? Peter grinned underneath the mask, trying to guess who it could be. Grizzly? Ha , that sounds more like an animal control problem.
Soaring past an alleyway, Spidey caught a glimpse of long, silver legs the next street over.
Spider-Man slung himself onto a billboard. The villain was hurrying away, fashionable clothes piled high in the arms of his silver suit. If he had turned to look at the spider-hero, they would have been eye-level.
He looked down at the puppy attached to his chest, then back at the villian struggling to maneuver in between New York traffic with his extendo-leg-thingies.
Puppy made eye-contact with the hero -- big doe-eyes meeting buggy lenses -- and Peter scratched at it’s chin. "Hmm."
It’s Stilt-Man , Peter thought. The poster-child for 'Baby’s First Super-Villian'. A guy with the proportionate strength of a dude with a really tall ladder. This is a no-brainer.
Peter leapt off the billboard and into the fray.
It was over quick, super quick. Spider-Man had broken more of a sweat trying to catch the bus.
(Because, c’mon, it’s Stilt-Man .)
Wilbur Day sulked from his position against a lightpost, expensive clothing items stuck in the thick layers of webbing that secured him to the object. He looked somewhat embarrassed, and his greying hair stuck out in odd angles under the cracked, domed helmet.
“Willy, Willy, Willy...” Spider-Man admonished from his perch on the knotted remains of Stilt-Man’s legs. “I thought DD had a talk with you, you have’ta pay for goods and services.”
“I know…” Wilbur said, glasses sliding off his nose.
“What’s with the clothes?”
“A wedding invite. I don’t have a tux,” Stilt-Man explained. He pulled a hand out of his suit and pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose, meeting the spider’s mask eyes. “Not like I’m going anyways after…” Wilbur’s brows furrowed in confusion. “A dog?”
Spidey startled, “What! Where?” He animatedly looked around himself, Puppy’s limbs jostling back-and-forth with the movement of his torso. “C’mon man, you’re just now noticing the dog glued to my chest?”
Wilbur soured. “Heat of the battle, I didn’t get a good look.” His face softened again at the puppy slung around Spidey’s body. “He got a name?”
“Uhh.” Spidey looked down at Puppy, his soft brown, wind-blown fur jutting out in weird directions. “Wheatcakes. Wheaties for short. He’s lost.” Spidey settled down on the mess of Stilt-Man’s suit. “Was on my way to see if he has a microchip or not when I saw you tip-toeing down the street in three-story tall platform shoes.”
“Oh! Microchips? I have an RFID scanner, if you want to borrow it,” Wilbur said, pointedly ignoring the jab at his technology. He slipped his other hand free of the Stilt-Man suit and yanked a device free from a glob of nearby webbing. “Bring the little guy here.”
Spidey did -- the guy was restrained and Stilt-Man , after all -- and Wilbur awkwardly ran the device over Wheatcakes’ body encased in the web-papoose. It didn’t beep or jingle.
“No chip?” Spidey groaned, “Great. Square one again.”
Wilbur hummed and pat the dog sympathetically, Wheatcakes giving his hand a few experimental licks. “He’s sweet. Pretty expensive collar too. Have you tried the lost and found section on Craigslist?”
He reached back inside his suit, and after some digging around, produced a smartphone.
Confused officers were starting to mill about, all watching Spidey plop himself down on one of Stilt-Man's busted metal thighs, trying to peer at what Wilbur was typing away at.
“Aha!” Wilbur beamed before triumphantly showing the screen to Spidey. “Someone in the financial district lost a dog, matches your guy there to a T.” He booped the dog on the nose to emphasize the point.
Spidey jumped up, “Willy I could kiss you!”
Spider-Man took note of the address before launching away from the scene. “Stay out of trouble, yadda yadda yadda,” he called as he swung out of sight, “And sorry about the wedding plans!”
Spider-Man excitedly climbed the last few floors up to Wheatcakes’ home -- an opulent granite apartment building with windows much larger than Peter’s body and a historical facade. He peered down at Wheatcakes, who was leaving a trail of drool down the side of the building. “Almost there buddy, does it smell like home yet?”
Spidey crested another floor, resting on the narrow lip of the windowsill. If he counted correctly, this was where he’d find Wheatcakes’ lucky owner.
Peter went to tap on the glass -- fully prepared to surprise the owner with the concept that not only did they get their puppy back, but a bonafide superhero had found him -- when he discovered that the window was slightly ajar, allowing a muted conversation to spill outside.
“No, I don’t -- No, it’s fine,” a woman spoke on the phone to someone, her tone harsh, “ Yes , I looked for it... How long?”
Spidey thought he heard heels clicking into the room he was peering into before he realized it was another puppy. Its nails click-clacked on the marble floor as it made its way around a sofa to hop up on the windowsill, greeting him with a familiar goofy smile.
“Long enough! I looked for it long enough to see that it apparently doesn’t like me! At least not enough to stay in my sight for more than two minutes!” The woman was near-shouting, the sound echoed around the lavish apartment and made Peter’s spider-sense buzz minutely.
The dog in the apartment craned up at him, tongue lolling out of its mouth. It was like looking into a mirrored image of Wheatcakes -- an exact copy down to the pink, jewel-encrusted collar around its neck. The only difference being the wind-whipped hair-styling of Spidey’s companion.
Spider-Man knocked on the window. The conversation ceased inside, replaced by quick footsteps.
Suddenly, a blonde woman flew around the corner, plastic red nails curled around a phone cradled to her ear, her eyes sharp as needles.
“What do you want?” She spat. “No -- I wasn’t talking to you, Daniel -- ”
Spidey held the swaddled yorkie up to the window. “I...found your dog?”
A flicker of recognition crossed her face, which dissipated just as quickly. “I don’t want it.”
Peter staggered, “Wh -- huh?”
She hung up the phone. “I said, I don’t want it,” she curtly bit back.
“He’s...He’s your dog, though, right?”
“No, that dog ran away,” she pointed to Wheatcakes, who tried his best to sniff the other yorkie in the apartment. “ This dog is mine, I got a new one.”
Spidey clung to the window. “He’s...your dog,” he repeated, dumbly.
She huffed out a frustrated breath. “No, he’s your dog now.” She started to redial someone on her phone. “My complex raises rent by $300 for each pet anyways. Now get off of my window before I call the police, you’re leaving handprints.”
Spidey stared at the no-kill animal shelter across the street, legs dangling over the edge of the opposite building.
The webbing on the papoose had dissolved long ago, and he absentmindedly watched Wheatcakes roll around on the roof tile to his right, dirt accumulating on the bits of leftover spider-silk clinging to his fur.
Peter can’t take Wheaties back to his cramped studio apartment, Mrs. Mullins made it clear from the get-go that pets were akin to a mortal sin in her complex, and he really can’t afford to get on that grouch’s bad side anymore than he already has.
Aunt May, however, always said she wanted a little lap dog (and Peter’s doubly sure she would appreciate his stellar name choice), but deep down he knew that supporting a small dog’s needs while working full-time would put too much of a strain on her.
There really was no getting around this.
“Mmph.” Peter flopped back onto the rooftile. The puppy licked at his mask. “Sorry your mommy was crazy, Wheats.”
Just then, a soft song floated up from the street. Spidey sat up, spying a little girl dragging her frazzled mother down the sidewalk, humming an improvised tune. They stopped at the entrance of the shelter, the smiling mother kneeling down to murmur something to her daughter. The little girl bounced excitedly in response.
Watching them disappear into the establishment, Peter felt a lightbulb go off in his head, shining light on memories of a Disney movie he watched with MJ forever ago.
“Hey Wheaties, you ever seen Lilo and Stitch ?”
Spider-Man clung upside-down on the shelter’s ceiling, the puppy cradled gently between his belly and the ceiling tile.
Below him, the little girl wandered about the kennel cages, tutu bouncing as she eyed some of the large dogs.
Carefully, Spidey attached a delicate webline to Wheatcakes and lowered him down like a drooling pop star to the kennel floor.
The girl noticed him almost immediately, and hurried towards the yorkie, scooping him up into a hug. She gasped as Wheatcakes licked at her face. “Puppy!” She ran her fingers through his soft fur, giggling.
Spider-Man lowered himself down on his own webline, dangling from the ceiling upside down. The girl’s mouth made a huge ‘O’, eyes blown wide.
“Hiya! You’re looking for a puppy, right?”
The girl didn’t reply, but had the biggest smile painted on her face. Between getting to pick out a new dog and meeting a superhero, Peter guesses that she’s having the best day a little kid could have.
“Will you look after that lil’ guy for me?” Spidey flipped down onto the floor in a crouch. “He needs a really good home.”
Wheatcakes tucked under one arm, the little girl barreled into the hero, crushing his windpipe in a monster of a side-hug. “Spidey-Man! Thank you!”
“I guess that’s a hard yes, then,” the spider laughed a little, “What are you gonna name ‘im?
“Uhmmm…” The kid’s expression pinched and she stared dramatically into the yorkie’s fluffy face. “I’ll name him...Spidey-Man.”
Spider-Man’s lenses widened. “Uhh, well...I’ve been calling him Wheatcakes…”
The little girl’s face twisted in confusion. “Nuh-uh. He’s Spidey! Spider-Man!” Spider-Man’s tail wagged as she cradled him in his arms, beaming into Peter’s white lenses.
“O-Okay, Spider-Man, that’s... a good name.” Peter scratched the back of his masked head. “I guess. A little unconventional, but -- oof! ”
She wrestled him into a hug again, gently squishing the newly christened Spider-Man in between their bodies. “I’ll take good care of Spidey, Spidey! I promise!”
She eagerly wrapped a pinky around Spidey’s gloved one, “Pinky-promise!”
Spider-Man dutifully watched as mother, daughter, and new companion left the shelter. From what the vigilante could overhear, the mom seemed just as stumped as he was at the kid’s choice of name, but took it in loving stride as any good parent should.
The little family eventually became one of the few regulars he saw whenever he blew past the dog park -- the one where the cafe’s aroma of blueberry muffins and honey swirled thick in the wind -- and his patrols in that area gradually became more of a common occurrence instead of a simple detour on a quiet day.
He'd always dip a little lower in his arc when he spotted them, making sure to give a friendly wave or salute if they noticed him zipping by. The little girl always waved back, shouting as Spider-Man wildly chased his speeding form from one end of the dog park to the opposite, drool slinging from his mouth.
Spidey had been spotted in that area so often after the 'web-papoose' incident, in fact, that it was soon rated "Safest Dog Park in NYC" by the local papers. And almost immediately, the small green patch was regularly overrun with happy crowds whenever he flew by.
Even through the new swarm of people and dogs, if he looked hard enough, he could sometimes spot the tell-tale shimmer of a pink collar and matching tutu.