They all understood what it was like to get bad press, but the consistent hatred that Spidey had to deal with was just wrong, especially after meeting the man and knowing of his pure-hearted desire to help anyone no matter how small the issue may be.
But as much as the Avengers disliked the negative view that the media presented for Spider-Man, they often found themselves unable to avoid it- much like tonight- they were all casually watching the news after a training session, chatting peacefully as the tv played in the background, waiting for the food they ordered to arrive, when they all snapped to attention as the reporter on-screen mentioned Spider-Man.
“There are many differing opinions on Spider-Man, from being called havoc bringing masked menace, to a humble hero from home, it’s hard to know just who exactly Spider-Man is, and wether is heroics are helping or hurting.
“We interviewed the photographer responsible for some of the nearly impossible-to-get Spider-man photos in the Daily Bugle. He’s one of the few people who have been able to successfully, and regularly catch Queens local web-slinger in action.”
The imagery on the screen changed to the familiar scenery outside ‘The Daily Bugle’ , showing two people- one of which was clearly the reporter there for the interview, standing neatly and calmly before the camera- while the one being interviewed looked quite young, no more than nineteen- obviously nervous about being in the news- was clearly a student, who looked to be desperately in need of a coffee.
“Mr. Parker, you’ve seen Spider-Man work up-close for almost every one of his fights.” The interviewer on the screen stated, “So please tell us- what are your thoughts on the web-slinger from Queens? Are his heroics benefiting the city? Or should the hero hang up his mask and leave the superhero escapades to the Avengers?”
The boy looked dead-beat tired, but his response was almost immediate as if he had been waiting to speak his mind on this subject for an unhealthy amount of time.
“He should leave it to the Avengers if you ask me-“ the kid started, “I mean, yeah, he has a suit and some weight-lifting skills, but other then that? He’s been bringing up more trouble than necessary, and he’s not even an Avenger, so yeah, do we need him? No. Heck, I could put on a colourful onesie and do the same stunts as him, but do I? No, because I have more to do with my life than just pretend to be a her-“
The tv went silent, as did the room. The Avengers had been so caught up in the interview that they hadn’t noticed the window open as someone entered, nor the thwip when a web had shot at the remote, which now was being held by the person in question.
It was hard to tell what he was feeling since his expression was hid behind the mask, but no one could be feeling anything positive after hearing something like that. It wasn’t a surprise that the normally talkative vigilante was unusually silent, but seeing his downtrodden stance, he seemed so heartbreakingly… defeated.
Natasha was studying him as if she could see right through the mask to the rejection that he was probably feeling, while Steve tried to go for a comforting glance, but it came out a more of a grimace. Rhodey and Clint were both giving him looks of pity, but Sam kept his eyes on the screen as if his glares at the photographer would carry through to the other side. Vision seemed mostly confused by the interview, and Wanda kept her head down, knowing all too well what it was like to be told you were useless and a danger. Tony had turned away from everyone in the room, attempting to hide his anger, but he was visibly vibrating with emotion, as Spider-Man just continued to stare at the screen intently.
“Say that to my face you limp noodle.” Spider-Man chided at the tv.
All the Avengers stared at Spidey in utter shock/confusion. Except for Tony who now had both hands covering his face, and was still turned away from the others.
Steve was the first to recover from the shock.
“Spider-Man… I’m sorry, I know this is hard to go through, we’ve all experienced it, and truthfully, it never gets easier. But what matters is the people you’re able to help, not the publicity-“
“I know Mr. Rogers,” he cut off shortly, obviously trying to hide his pain. He winced as the words came out, “I-I mean, th-thanks um, but I’ll be fine, just uh, this guy sounds like a real jerk, y’ know?”
“Tell me about it,” Natasha spoke up, “I’d love to talk to this guy, I’m pretty sure I could have him apologizing pretty quickly.”
“I mean, does this punk seriously think it’s that easy to become a hero?” Sam adds, “Let me tell you Spidey, even if he did have the same powers and skillsets as you, he wouldn’t be able to become Spider-Man, not like you. He wouldn’t have the mental or moral strength to deal with all this.”
“Th-thanks Mr. Wilson…” the vigilante mumbled, obviously embarrassed but pleased with the attention.
It was at this point that Tony finally decided to leave the room, his emotions getting the better of him.
Clint gave out a small laugh. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Tony was going to have that Parker kid fired right now for his awful interview.”
“Hey! It wasn’t that bad. Sure he seemed a little nervous, but considering it was last minute and they just swarmed him after school, he still seemed pretty collected if you ask me, and like, he gave the best response he could think of, right? So it’s hardly his fault for having his own opinion, he def-definitely shouldn’t get fired over this is what I mean,” the arachnid defended, crossing his arms.
“Spidey,” Wanda said curiously, “why are you defending the interview? It was literally just about how this kid hates you.”
“Oh! Um, well, I’d hate for him to lose his job, y’ know? I mean, he could be in a really tough spot financially, and like, have to earn money for his family- whatever’s left of it, since he could be an orphan, and like yeah! What if his parents are dead, and like, he only has an aunt or whatever, and things are kinda tough for them? So whatever little money he earns he needs and stuff, and I’d uh, hate to make it worse, y’ know…”
Another uncomfortable silence filled the room before someone dared to respond.
“Woah,” Sam finally said, “you just came up with a tragic backstory to defend a random child who you’ve never met before, who hates your guts.”
“Yeah, well, I kinda hate myself too, so we already have a lot in common. And just remember- nobody can hate you more than you already hate yourself.” Spider-Man said with a small chuckle in an attempt to hide the fact that his voice was breaking towards the end.
“Are you sure you’re ok Queens?” Steve asked softly.
“Of course I’m fine, I’m pretty used to being bashed out by the Daily Bugle anyway, so just having some whiney photographer of theirs - who I’ve never met - hate on me, isn’t really gonna upset-“
“But that’s the thing,” Natasha cut in, “I’m pretty sure I’ve met him. We’ve all met him.”
A mixture of surprised reactions and murmured questions filled the room until Wanda spoke up clearly: “She’s right, we’ve all met him- Stark’s intern, I think. I talk to him sometimes, he helps personally repair our stuff in Tony’s workshop.”
There was another wave of silence as this all clicked in with them.
“Shit, wasn’t that kid just a high schooler?” Clint asked.
“He seemed like such a nice boy.” Steve nodded, as Rhodey went through a mixture of expressions with this new information.
There were various other agreements from the other Avengers. It was understandable why Tony was so mad now; his own intern, a special exception at that- he was younger than any of the other interns and given access to Stark’s personal lab- and he had gone and hated on the one person that seemed nearly impossible to hate. Sure Spider-Man could be annoying at times and had an unhealthy disregard for his own safety, but he wanted to help people more than anything, even in the smallest ways.
“I almost feel bad for Peter,” Natasha broke in, “Stark is going to ruin his life.”
“Yeah, I bet,” Spider-Man said miserably. It was clear that he wasn’t as fine with the negative interview as he said he was. As he left to go get food from the kitchen, the Avengers went silent.
“So who here wants some revenge on Peter?” Wanda asked after a moment.
“I’m in,” Natasha responded immediately, causing the others to stare questioningly at her. “What? Us spiders need to stick together, not to mention he’s earning money off of Spider-Man just to fuel the papers that give him the most hate.”
“Me too,” Sam added. “No one gets to pick on him but us.”
“Guy’s, revenge isn’t the right thing to do,” Rhodey interrupted, “and if Tones has anything to say about it, the poor kid’s life will already be ruined- plus I doubt Spider-Man would be on board with this.”
“Relax, we aren’t going to tell Spidey about it, and we won’t ruin the kid’s life, just have a nice little chat with him…” Natasha had a glimmer of cruel joy in her voice.
As soon as Tony was safely in his lab alone, he allowed himself to burst into laughter as he remembered the kid’s awkward stance as he came in to see himself on the tv. He would’ve done anything to see Peter’s facial expression, but he settled for what little emotion the mask could explain with the eyes expanding and dilating like pupils.
He had just barely been keeping it together when the interview first came on because one- Peter had told he had gotten a job, but he hadn’t mentioned that he got a job taking selfies of himself throughout the day. Two- Peter was now doing an interview, on a state-wide broadcasted channel, about himself , but he had to speak in third-person the whole time. And thirdly- it essentially just ended up being Peter hating on himself.
He was slightly concerned if Peter had really meant what he'd said about himself in terms of unworthiness, and made a mental note to talk to him about it later, but first...
“F.R.I.D.A.Y, do you have the footage from the living room, just a few minutes ago?”
“Yes, boss. Would you like me to play it?”
“Yes, and add it to my favourites would you?”
“Sure thing boss.”
The recording started to play, showing the Avengers as they had been before Peter entered: watching the interview with shocked, angry, confused, and hurt expressions (other than Tony whose hands were covering his face). They weren’t doing much in the video, but already Tony was dying from laughter.
Peter wanted to disappear.
At the time it had seemed like a good idea: no one would expect you to give yourself bad publicity, so it would help with the whole secret identity thing, plus, it would help him avoid the worsening amount of questions about how only he was able to get good photos of Spider-Man so far.
But, he forgot that the Avengers were real people and that they would see the interview too. It had been a super-awkward conversation, seeing as they were trying to help him feel better by getting angry at the other him, but now it was over, and everyone would probably forget about it soon- after all, who even remembers what some random high schooler said on the news a week ago? They had all been doting on him since he was the newest member of the team, which was nice, but at the same time a little embarrassing. At least it was over with now, and the most he would be getting was a few looks of pity throughout the day.
And maybe they would let him choose the movie for tonight…
The only person who most certainly not forget about this was Mr. Stark. He practically had to run from the room he was laughing so hard.
He was probably saving the files at this moment. Just then, Peter’s phone started to buzz.
“PETER!!! THE NEWS!!! BRO WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???”
Oh yeah, and Ned, Ned would definitely never let him live this down.
Rhodey still wasn’t sure where he stood on the whole ‘Spider-Man identity’ thing.
On one hand, he could believe what actual trained spies were telling him, along with the rest of the Avengers, that Spider-Man was an actual man (as in age) and had a wife and an actual child .
Or, he could believe what he had been seeing this past while- the stuff he hadn’t even been trying to see but saw anyways- the way Tony acted with both Spider-Man and the kid were way too familiar considering how he didn’t see them together that often. If you considered the combined amount of time together though? Then they were practically as close as him and Tony, or hell, even Pepper.
So yes, he was almost fully sure that Spider-Man was Tony’s intern that he had had such an odd interaction with. So for the sake of his friend, the colonel was doing everything he could to forget what he saw that night- his face, his name- part of him felt bad to try and purposely forget the kid, but he knew it was for the best. Unfortunately, though, he didn’t do a good enough job trying to forget, since the moment he saw the face onscreen, he realized how familiar the person looked… but it could be anyone since he didn’t get a good look at his face, jeez, now every kid he looks at he’s thinking is Spider-
The kid spoke.
Yeah, no, that was the intern.
But was it Spider-Man?
The interview was stopped. Spider-Man was there.
“Nobody can hate you more, then you already hate yourself.”
Wow, this guy was not subtle- how did he have a secret identity again? Still though, as the conversation went on, he continued to drone it out, considering it all in his head, still fighting the inevitable result that Peter- oh great, he couldn’t even forget the kid’s name - was quite possibly Spider-Man.
No, no it wasn’t him- and he would keep telling himself that until Spidey confirmed or denied it in his own time . It was the least he could do.
Peter was on his way home from school, but he found himself walking at a quicker pace than usual…
Maybe he was just going crazy. It was about time he finally snapped, he knew he had it coming eventually… Peter whipped around, only to see relatively safe surroundings for what must’ve been the millionth time that day.
He had felt like someone was following him since early that day as he made his way to school, and at this point, he wasn’t sure if he was just overly-anxious, or if his spider-senses had just hit the ‘eternal vibrate’ button, but it’s was really starting to get on his nerves.
Ned had been concerned over him pretty much the whole day, and even MJ noticed that he was jumpier than usual (though she was pretty perceptive). He had just shrugged them off and said he was fine, even convincing himself to a point, but as soon as school was over and he split ways with Ned, he felt himself become on high-alert again as the presence became even stronger.
He was in New York, and there were people everywhere, it was stupid to think someone was following him, right?
He spotted Delmar’s up ahead, where he had been planning to stop, but instead, he walked past. He was going home. Now.
The alleyway he usually got changed into his suit looked appealing- well, the thought of changing into his suit was appealing, not so much the alleyway- but he passed it, not wanting to place his identity on the line. Maybe he should just take the bus home… sure it was kinda pricy for a distance he could easily walk (or swing) but he was sure May wouldn’t mind as long as it was for his safety (if she knew it was about his safety she would’ve begged him to take the bus despite his powers).
Before he could consider where the closest bus stop was, his spider-senses bleared randomly, and he quickly ducked into the ally without a second thought and quickly ran to hide behind the dumpster. He could’ve run through to the other side of the ally, but something told him that whoever was chasing him would have both sides covered… worst-case scenario, he could just climb the walls and pass it off as really good bouldering…
He heard soft footsteps approaching from either side of him. He sighed and prepared to fight- he may want to keep his identity hidden, but that didn’t mean he was about to let himself be mugged without putting up as much of a fight as possible without overusing his powers.
Peter stood up and prepared to face whoever had come his way, knowing he probably should’ve called Mr. Stark or May by now, but he’d faced enough muggers to know what to expect by now…
Until he saw the faces of his supposed muggers.
It turns out, he did not know what to expect.
Admittedly, Wanda, Sam, and Natasha did feel bad for scaring the poor kid so much, but on the other hand, this was also the kid who had the guts to badmouth one of their friends on tv, so it was pretty equal ground.
Wanda and Sam stepped into the alleyway on one side as Natasha made her entrance on the other (Clint had wanted to come with them as well, but it was his week off). They stepped closer but the kid still didn’t show himself, so Sam quickened his step until he came face-to-face with the kid, staring him straight in the eyes, more terror than relief being displayed in them once he realized he had been surrounded by three Avengers.
Sam crossed his arms, not dropping eye contact with the teen, although the kid did everything in his power to lose eye-contact with Sam.
“Um, can I help you guys?” The kid asked weakly, still not looking up.
“Yes, actually,” Wanda spoke up. “We wanted to ask you about that interview last week on Spider-Man,” she informed, though this only caused the kid to look up in confusion.
“Yo-you’re only here because of the interview?” He asked in almost hopeful relief.
“Yes…” Natasha confirmed. “Why do you look so happy about that?”
“Wha? I-I’m not happy about it,” he stuttered. “It’s just, it’s super cool that you guys saw it and stuff, I-I didn’t think you watched stuff like that…”
“'Stuff’ like the news?”
“Yes, I mean, no, I know you guys watch the news, just like, it’s kinda surreal that you saw me on the news, y’ know?”
“Yeah, we happened to hear what you said about our friend too,” Sam regarded.
“Oh- oh , you guys are- are you here about that? Th-that’s why your here, is cause your mad at me?”
“Well, we aren’t exactly here to congratulate you.”
“Shit, um, I’m sorry for talking bad about Spider-Man, ok? It was wrong of me, just please, my aunt will freak if she sees I got hurt, so-“
“Whoa, slow down kid, we aren’t going to hurt you,” Sam said raising his hands in defeat.
“Who exactly do you think we are? You know, there’s this thing that Spider-Man always says, about how with great power comes responsibility too. Look, kid, what you said last week was broadcast to thousands- do you know what kind of impact that has? That’s a lot of power right there, even if it was only a few seconds long, those words still stick in peoples mind’s, even if they don’t remember who said it- what I’m trying to say is, that you could’ve used your words to have a real effect on others, not just talk bad about Spider-Man,” Sam finished, still trying to make eye-contact with the kid, but his head was lowered in shame, or possibly thought.
After a few seconds of silence from the four in the alleyway, the kid lifted his head a little and look sam in the eye.
“But what if I don’t think Spider-Man is a worthy hero? I mean, I live in Queens, I photograph him a lot, so I’ve seen all his successes first-hand, but I’ve also seen every single one of his failures too- ones that you guys probably don’t even know about- so what if I really believed it was better for him to leave it up to the Avengers?”
“I’ve made plenty of mistakes,” Wanda spoke up. “But I’m considered an Avenger. So, do you consider me a hero? Or am I not worthy of the Avengers either?”
“What? No, of course, you’ve saved like, so many people- you’ve saved the world!”
“So what makes Spider-Man any different?”
“He hasn’t saved the world…”
“Alright,” Sam said, his annoyance starting to creep into his voice a little. “I’ll admit that I hardly keep track of anything that guy does but-” the kid low-key looked offended when he said this, but he continued, “-that guy does way too much for me to keep up with in the first place, like sure, he hasn’t saved the world on a global scale, but he has saved some people’s entire worlds.”
The kid still looked confused, so Sam explained. “You’ve seen him stop muggings right? Or someone from being raped?” The boy nodded. “Well, that was probably easy for him to fight, but for those people? Sometimes that’s the last of the money they so desperately need, or the people he saves from rape- I don’t think I need to explain what that can do to people- so like I was saying, he hasn’t saved the world before, but he has saved the worlds of so many individuals in the city, and I can guarantee you that when the day comes, he’ll save the world too.”
“T-thanks…” the kid mumbled, sounding slightly like he was choked up for some reason. Must be getting sick, or allergies, maybe?
“Why are you thanking us?” Wanda asked confusedly under her breath, but strangely enough, the kid heard her.
“Uh, I meant that- um, thank you for explaining it to me…”
Sam laughed and patted the kid’s shoulder. “Y’know, you're a pretty good kid when you aren’t trash-talking my friends. I can see why Stark chose you as his intern.”
“You… you remember me?”
“Yeah,” he said casually as if it hadn’t been Natasha who’d reminded them when they first saw the interview. He sure as hell wouldn’t have recognized him, all teenagers looked the same to him- like the one he had met in Washington with the British accent looked eerily similar to the kid in front of him. But that didn’t seem to matter right now since it had seemed to make the intern incredibly happy.
The three said their goodbyes to the kid who had overall seemed pretty casual about the whole thing, but then again, he did intern for Stark, so maybe he had grown a sort of indifference to things like that.
“So that’s what it was, huh?” Rhodey stated after hearing the three recount their story.
“Yeah, I actually feel bad now,” Nat admitted. “We didn’t do any real harm, I mean, but still, we gave that poor kid a scare.”
“You guys really didn’t have to do this,” Spider-Man commented, his emotions hard to place.
“You’d do it for us,” Sam stated, “we have your back Spidey, whether or not you like it.”
Natasha glanced over to Tony, whose face looked strained as he thought over the new information.
“Stark,” the Spy waited until he looked up to show she had his attention before continuing. “I know you had a lot of trust for Peter, and I know you felt betrayed by all this, but he’s a good kid, and he didn’t mean to cause any harm. It’s not up to me, but I think you should give him another chance before you fire him.”
Tony hummed and faced Spider-Man.
“What do you think Spidey? Should I fire the kid for you?”
Spider-Man’s eyes drastically widened as he shot up straight in his seat.
“No Mr. Stark! I can’t…. have someone suffer for, uh… this?”
“That was a pretty weak refusal, I’m getting the sense that you do want him fired.”
“I-I don’t. Want him fired.”
Tony stared down the arachnid a moment before deciding, “I’ll let him stay, on account that he doesn’t talk like that about you again. Deal?”
“I’m still allowed to talk bad about myself?”
Tony frowned at this comment, but Spider-Man interrupted him before he could say another word.
“It's a deal, Mr. Stark.”
The Avengers stared back between the two, knowing something had just happened- something that they had missed- and they didn’t know exactly what it was.
Pepper had asked him to go and convince Tony to leave the lab for a bit, and maybe actually eat, so that’s why he was currently in the lab, which Tony was in fact, not currently in. The kid was there though.
He wasn’t entirely sure what to do, but he didn’t have much time to think it through (and he was pretty tired), so he kept it friendly, and to the basics.
“Hey Peter, is Tony in here?”
“No, he uh, he went to get some food, he’ll be back soon though I think, or he’s probably in the kitchen right now, or-“
He held up his hands to prevent him from listing off every possible place in the compound. “I gotcha- thanks Spidey, see you tomorrow,” he was slightly amused when he thought about how frequently the vigilante rambled. Usually, he’d be happy to listen, but he was already pretty tired as it was, and he was sure the kid would understand.
“Uhm… ye-yeah, goodnight sir?”