Today was going to be the best day of Peter Parker’s life.
To be completely fair, most of Peter’s life was complete shit. He’d had days that were better at the time: the day he’d met Gwen, the day he’d first kissed Gwen, any day involving Gwen in any way, in fact. Any day involving his Uncle Ben, for that matter. In retrospect, though, these were now all unbearably painful and had ended in complete and awful disaster that he would now regret for the rest of his (likely short) utter shit life. Peter was certainly due some happy days without baggage, but he was just as certainly unlikely to get any.
Peter was still an optimist, though, and was positive today would be different.
Today, Peter was honest-to-god going to see Captain America himself up close, in person, and not from a rooftop or tiny crevice like a creepy stalker fanboy.
Even better, he was going to watch Steve Rogers make history by soldiering his beleaguered way through the most intensely awkward and honestly ridiculous press conference in the history of ever-- jaw thrust out and spine ramrod straight. Trying hard to be polite and respectful in the face of adversity.
While a bunch of assholes with cameras and microphones shouted at him about Iron Man’s adolescent dick.
It was going to be a train wreck. An amazing, glorious train wreck. And if he was very, very lucky, Peter was finally going to personally record Steven Grant Rogers saying the word “penis” in public.
Granted, this was a long shot. Whenever Captain America spoke to the press, he was unfailingly polite and polished. But from the totally-not-stalking Peter had definitely not done, he was certain the captain threw in a lot of shouted naughty words when he was getting blasted in the face with blue nazi radiation or similar. Peter was just never close enough to document it, and he needed Captain Rogers saying “penis” as his personal ringtone. He needed it. For reasons.
Peter’s life was shit, it was always going to be shit, and he deserved to hear Rogers saying a bad word every time his aunt called in the middle of a fight to see if he’d picked up eggs. Just imagine his enemies faces. He would probably get three whole seconds of dumbfounded staring, which was a lot of time to squeeze in a roundhouse kick to the head.
There was a 50-50 chance of something horrible showing up and saving Captain America from abject mortification by trying to kill someone, but Peter wasn’t worried. While the betting pools were leaning pretty heavily on the side of surprise aliens, the smart money was guessing Rogers would either:
- Publically announce that the queer folks were a-okay with him and the Avengers, would people please stop asking, no really, he never wanted to think about Iron Man’s hard-copyuniversity dick pics ever again regardless of what gender he’d given them to,
- Publically announce that he was a historical artifact homophobe, later respectfully watch a few “it gets better” links his furious teammates forwarded to him, cry manfully (probably), and have another press conference to let everyone know he was very sorry and that the queer folks were a-okay with him and the Avengers, or,
- Give up and start banging his face on the podium while Tony Stark cackled in the background.
Peter himself was leaning away from 2, since it was unlikely that Captain America would be talking about Tony Stark’s penis in Tony Stark’s building with Tony Stark present, but without anyone knowing what he was about and pre-emptively forcing him to watch Brokeback Mountain. The rest were probably still on the table. Hopefully if 3 won out, there would be someone to cough nervously and pat the Man with a Plan on the back when he lost the will to live partway through the event. Peter felt a little bad, but not bad enough he didn’t want to watch, honestly.
Peter jerked and looked up, startled, into the face of a bored, stocky, armed security guard. He glanced quickly behind him and saw everyone with their own passes organized and out already. “Oh. Right. My ID,” he stammered, panicking. “I’m definitely supposed to be here. Yes. Hold on. I’m a reporter. I m no way stalking or creeping in any way, no way, not at all. Way.”
The guard looked unimpressed and crossed her arms, waiting.
Peter reached for his filched Daily Bugle credentials and immediately dropped everything he was carrying. Pens, thumb drives, cards and crumpled papers skittered across the perfectly polished floor with alarming speed in all directions, sliding under pretty much every piece of furniture and equipment in the hallway while Peter froze in horror.
His life was such shit.
“I’ve got—Hold on,” he begged, dropping to his knees to reach under the x-ray machine.
“Sir, you can’t touch that,” the guard said, jumping up and looking alarmed.
“No, no I saw it go under here, it’s somewhere here, I swear, I have it.” Peter went on his belly and squeezed in as far as he could, just brushing his fingers against what he was pretty sure was the wallet he’d tucked the right cards into. How heavy was a conveyor belt, really? Too heavy for a normal teenager to shift? Maybe no one would notice. Oh god. He probably wouldn’t be immediately Tased and locked away in a lab somewhere if he moved the conveyor belt, right? Probably?
“Sir.” Peter could hear the snap of her pulling out her Taser. Shit. “You really need to move away from the equipment.”
Her voice had gone cold and firm, and Peter rolled slightly to look up at her with tears in his eyes.
“I have credentials. I have them. I swear. I’m a photographer at the Daily Bugle and I can show them to you I just have to get them they’re right there and—“
“Move. Your. Hands.” Everyone in the line behind him was snickering or muttering now. Most of them had seen him around enough that they weren’t worried about him setting off any bombs and were having a fun, entertaining start to their day at his expense. God, that asshole Gary from TheSplash! was cracking up. Asshole. Peter slowly withdrew his hands and held them up. “I really do have a badge. I swear I do. I really really do,” he begged, but he could tell she was a) unconvinced and b) unmoved.
He was about to get kicked out. He would never get a recording of Captain America repeating profanity, and he was never going to have the guts to approach the Captain in real life now that someone would probably tell him about this stupid scene.
His life really was for shit. For shit.
Then the security guard looked up at the rafters for a moment, pursed her lips, the light of god or whatever probably shone down and she said, “Look, just—pick up what you can that’s not under here, put your bag on the belt, and go wait in the additional security area.”
Peter felt his mouth drop, then stretch into what was probably a manic, creepy grin and tried to tone it down. “Thank you,” he breathed. “Thank you. Thank you so much, oh my god, I—“
“Yes, right, fine, move,” the guard cut him off, and Peter scurried around on his knees retrieving his thankfully intact camera and storage devices before abandoning the rest and practically skipping over to get professionally groped by a stranger.
Peter hadn’t even needed the stolen pass. He was pretty much James Bond. He should probably have brought a martini with him. Maybe in a thermos.
The final upside to the morning was that while many of Peter’s problems stemmed from his own terrible, terrible ideas, the biggest ones usually came from seemingly nice guys going apeshit and trying to kill him. Here, he felt pretty secure in the knowledge that if his high school math teacher turned into a giant penguin and attacked, it would have to go through some seriously heavy hitters before it could waddle its way over to him.
Peter had no shame and would absolutely hide behind Captain America from Mrs. Maxwell if the chance arose.
He got through his screening and edged his way over to a back seat just as the low hum of talking, typing and shuffling burst into a manic roar. Steve Rogers, out of uniform and stern as hell, made his way from a side door to the center of the platform. He smiled vaguely then ignored them, opting instead to watch his teammates troop in behind him.
Peter had assumed most of the chairs up front would be for random Stark Industry people, but it looked like most of the Avengers would be showing up—apparently everyone who was in town. The Black Widow looked darkly amused, Hawkeye looked bored, Tony Stark looked way too uninterested in what would evidently be a half an hour of his entire team talking about his penis, and—
And shit. The Winter Soldier even showed up.
He stalked in slowly, menace clear in his every move, dropped into a seat at the corner of the platform, and kicked his feet up on the table in front of him with a terrifying thunk. He ignored the reporters nearby cringing away, and returned Captain America’s disapproving Look with not one shred of regret
Captain America had an amazing Look. The Look could stop a murderer in a second flat, make him rethink all his life choices, and maybe call his mother once in a while. Barnes didn’t even bat an eye.
Going to the Avengers for help was a bit of a mixed bag nowadays. On the one hand, you might end up with Captain America, who would save the day and rescue your kitten from a tree on the way back. On the other hand, they might send Bucky Barnes, who was apparently a great guy back when but now gave the distinct impression he would rather just shoot you in the face but didn’t want to deal with the paperwork.
Cap sighed and turned the Look on the crowd of uneasy reporters, where it got a much better reception; even Greg-that-asshole was cowed. No one willing to risk standing on the receiving end alone. Rogers glanced across room, then stopped for a moment to squint a bit at Peter, who tried very hard to look like he might be over twenty. Cap frowned, but eventually turned to the notecards in front of him and cleared his throat. The Winter Soldier, on the other hand, zeroed right in on Peter and narrowed his eyes.
Captain America would probably protect him. Peter sank down a bit in his seat.
As it turned out, Captain America would be going with option 4: I’m very disappointed in all of you. Apparently spreading, viewing, and sensationalizing private mementos and especially nude photographs against the subject’s will was a violation, sexual harassment, and unacceptable; which it was, but it was a lot worse being called out on it by a symbol of freedom wearing his dad face. A few of the people who had published the pictures directly even looked embarrassed.
Throughout, Tony Stark fussed around on his phone, Hawkeye gazed into the middle distance, and the two assassins stared into the crowd like snakes. Peter tried not to look at Barnes, in the hopes that ignoring him would make him disappear.
It wasn’t working. Barnes was definitely watching him.
Everyone (including Peter) was probably hoping someone else would ask the big question, so they could tsk judgmentally but still record the answer. Luckily one of the mouth-breathers from the supermarket tabloids finally took one for the team.
“Captain America, what do you say about the recent talk about your. Uh. You’re in a few of the poses, and--”
“I wasn’t actually there, you realize. I was buried in ice at the time,” Cap leaned on the podium and raised an eyebrow. “There’s this newfangled thing called photographs; you can put a picture up of someone anywhere you like. I think you’ve published a few yourself, actually.”
The tabloid smear tried again. “You don’t… mind?”
“No.” He didn’t elaborate, which was really too bad, because all Peter and everyone else in the room wanted was a soundbyte of Captain America explaining that really, he was completely fine with Iron Man rubbing his dick on Rogers’ (photographic) face when he was seventeen.
Greg-that-asshole rallied and jumped in. “Some people are speculating that you’re okay with it because you’re a homosexual,” he said, by which he meant ‘I am speculating that you are a homosexual’.
Peter spoke fluent muckracker.
“You know, I was listening to some radio programs the other day,” Cap started, and Iron Man and Hawkeye both dropped their heads in mutual dispair.
“Oh god, he’s giving another Moving Speech,” Peter heard Stark mutter behind his phone, quiet enough no one else could pick it up. “He’s going to give a Moving Speech about my dick.”
“He always starts these with ‘you know’,” Hawkeye hissed back, lips not moving. “Have you noticed? Every damn time.”
“There was a story about an American tourist visiting a Jewish cemetery in Europe,” Rogers continued, undaunted. “He was looking around and some of those new Nazi toughs threatened to rough him up and asked if he was Jewish.” Cap shrugged and looked sad. Everyone hesitantly nodded along: yes Nazis are bad what does this have to do with penises sir. “He swore he wasn’t, and they left him alone, but later he felt guilty and couldn’t figure out why. He ended up telling his wife about it, and I thought her answer was really thoughtful.”
“Tell us, Old Man Rogers,” Stark murmured, not even pretending to be interested. “Tell us about this whizz-bang thing called NPR radio archives.”
“The week he found out about The Splendid Table was the worst,” Hawkeye added, “Remember? He would not shut up about the right way to cure prosciutto.”
“Remember when he tried to grow barley on the roof?”
“Oh god, don’t remind me, he--”
“If you two don’t shut the fuck up,” the Winter Soldier hissed at them, “I will rip out your intestines through your belly and put them back in again through your teeth.”
The Black Widow gave a slight nod.
Peter would have turned green and shut up, too.
“It really stuck with me,” Cap continued, pretending he hadn’t noticed the sotto-fight that was definitely audible to super soldier hearing. “The wife said, ‘They divided the world into two sides: their side, and the side of the Jewish people’.” He shrugged. “’You chose the wrong side’.”
“Wait,” Greg said, looking like Christmas might be coming early but it could easily be a false alarm, “Are you saying—“
“You don't’ actually want to know if I’m queer,” apparently-coming-out-because-of-spite-Captain-America said sternly. “You want to know which side I’m on. The answer is that I’m definitely not on yours.”
“To be fair,” Tony interjected, “They also want to know if you’re gay.”
“Did you just—“ No one in the room seemed quite sure what to make of this answer, least of all Greg-the-asshole. “Did you just sort of come out because you want to show solidarity?”
“Also probably because he has a boyfriend,” Hawkeye said to the ceiling, clearly bored out of his mind.
“That too,” Captain America nodded.
The room went insane.
Suddenly-out-Captain-America stood stoic and silent, waiting for everyone to calm down.
“Your boyfriend,” Greg-the-asshole shouted above the din. “Who is he?”
And then the Winter fucking Soldier raised his goddamn hand, looking as smug as could be expected when he was taking credit for presumably sleeping with the country’s greatest icon of peace, justice, and the American way. Captain probably-going-to-lose-his-dick-at-some-point-lets-be-real smiled at him as though Barnes hadn’t shot some dude in the crotch just last week and claimed, despite having never missed in the past seventy years, that it had been an accident.
That was the last point in the conference anyone managed a coherent sentence, and eventually the Avengers just gave up on the hysterical din and walked out.
Peter tried really hard to be cheerful. He still hadn’t recorded Rogers actually saying “penis,” but he’d just watched history being made in person and really, that was a lot more important that giggling at dirty words when his phone rang. It was. He was sitting in the now empty room, watching the last of the screaming mob crowd out of the doors after the retreating Avengers, still trying to convince himself he was actually feeling pretty okay about it all, when a miracle happened.
“Well you’re a fucking romantic,” Bucky Barnes said over the speakers. “You just outed us at a press conference about Tony Stark’s dick. Happy coming out of the closet to you, too.”
Peter almost broke his phone scrambling to get it back out and turn on the recording app, because the Winter Soldier had forgotten to turn off his mic.
“I didn’t out us at a press conference about Tony Stark’s dick,” Captain I-don’t-know-how-to-turn-off-my-mic-either protested. “I came out at a press conference about personal privacy and respect. Tony Stark’s dick was just a side-note.”
“Yeah? Well I tell you what, lets pull out a phone and check twitter. See who agrees with me, and who agrees with you. Oh look! Everyone agrees with me.”
“Okay, yes, fine, I outed us at a press conference about Tony Stark’s dick, quit your grousing. I didn’t even mention you, you just jumped on board and outed yourself like a—“
“Boys,” Pepper Potts voice came, distantly, “It might interest you to note that your mics are still live.”
“What?” Barnes blurted, “Shit, fuck—“
“Tony, fuck you,” Cap swore, “instead of sitting there laughing you could have told—“
The speakers went silent and Peter let the elation of having one thing in his life be absolutely perfect seep through him.
Finally. Finally something in his useless waste of time life had gone right, and it had gone so right. He’d witnessed history. He had an actual, real, not-secretly-stuck-to-a-window-outside press conference attendance under his belt. He’d been in the same room as the Avengers, and he had a recording of Captain America saying “Tony, fuck you,” sitting on his actual phone in his actual hand like a gift from heaven.
Peter was wandering blindly in a joyous haze down the hallway, programming his phone to say, “I outed us at a press conference about Tony Stark’s dick,” when fate caught up with recent events and righted itself. He immediately ran
And bounced right back off, eyes wide and hands fumbling, desperately trying to turn off the new ringtone before someone chose that exact second to call him about eggs, probably, and--
The Winter Soldier looked at him, then looked at his phone.
“I outed us at a press conference about Tony Stark’s dick,” Peter’s phone suddenly announced cheerily, display reading AUNT MAY. Damn. It. “I outed us at a press conference about Tony Stark’s dick. I outed us at a press conference about Tony Stark’s dick.”
“I just want you to know,” Peter said hoarsely, “that I have never believed the rumors about you and I know you are definitely not going to murder me right now.”
“Of course I’m not going to murder you,” Barnes replied testily, still staring at the phone. “There are way too many cameras in this building, it would be a huge hassle.”
“I outed us at a press conference about Tony Stark’s dick,” Peter’s phone continued. “I outed us at a press conference about Tony Stark’s dick.”
Barnes tilted his head, looking at Peter now. “You look a lot younger when you’re not wearing red and blue spandex,” he mused, thoughtful.
“Uh,” Peter managed, mind whiting out in terror.
The phone went blissfully silent, then started up again. “I outed us at a press conference about Tony Stark’s dick. I—“
Barnes reached out, plucked the phone from Peter’s unresponsive grasp, and crushed it without breaking eye contact. The shattered components sprinkled over Peter’s feet.
Right. Okay. Fair enough. It wasn’t Peter’s head, was the main thing. Had he remembered to upload the recording to the cloud? He couldn’t remember if he’d uploaded it to the cloud. It didn’t matter if he’d uploaded to the damn cloud, he couldn’t use it anyway because The Winter Soldier would find out and then crush his head like he’d just crushed his phone. No one with a crushed head needed recordings of Captain America saying “dick” on the cloud.
Peter needed to apologize. Abjectly. He took a deep breath.
“I’ve got another year and a half before my next upgrade,” was what Peter came out with instead. Upside of the situation, he wanted to die now and it would probably be doable.
“That sucks,” Barnes told him, unimpressed. “If only you hadn’t recorded Steve acting like an idiot at the press conference I was nice enough to get you into in the first place, then you might still have your piece-of-crap phone. Darn.”
Peter paused, frowned, and replayed the day’s events.
“Were you just sitting alone in the rafters watching reporters for three hou—“
“Hey,” Barnes interrupted, scowling, “don’t make this about me.”
Peter pointed an offended finger at him, indignant. Barnes glared at it. “Was I actually beating myself up over stalking Captain America for months at the exact moment his own boyfriend was stalking me?”
“No, because I wasn’t stalking you, you smartass squirmy little shit,” Barnes growled, “I was keeping an eye out and let you in, a fact I’m regretting more and more. And which I can still fix.”
“You know who I am! How long have you been watching me?” Peter demanded.
“I’m not sure,” Barnes shot back, “how long have you been stalking my boyfriend??”
“Uh,” Peter said. Thought about it. “It’s really weird to hear you call him your boyfriend, by the way, you’re, like, this big scary badass and then—“
“I regret everything,” Barnes muttered, grabbed Peter’s collar before he could react (which was very fast), and frog marched him down the hall. Peter tried not to let his eyes bug out in panic. “You got your suit with you, or did you dump that under the metal detector when you upended your life on the floor this morning, too?”
“Buddy,” Peter told him witheringly, “I upended my life way before this morning. And yes, my suit wasn’t in the same pocket of--”
“Well,” Barnes replied cheerfully, “your upended life is probably going to be about to get worse. Put on your suit. No way Steve’s going to consider letting a twelve year old join up, even if it does stop the kid stalking him like a mini-creeper.”
“Get dressed,” Barnes ordered, shoved him in a random conference room, and strolled off shouting “Stevie! Gotta surprise for you!”
Peter Parker was halfway naked before his brain re-engaged and he frowned at the door. Bucky Barnes was trying to get him into the Avengers.
The Winter Soldier was trying to get him into the Avengers.
Captain America’s boyfriend was going to talk the man into letting Peter into the Avengers.
Peter Parker was going to be an Avenger.
This was the best day of his life.
Peter yanked his mask on, hopped around a bit shimmying the spandex up his hips, and stuffed the rest of his things back into his knapsack.
He heard Barnes coming back down the hall and stuck his head out.
“I’m not twelve, you know,” he shouted. “I’m seventeen!”
“You’re only seventeen??” Captain America asked as Peter froze in horror. He turned a glare on Barnes.
The Winter Soldier stared right back. “Bucky,” he said in a chirpy singsong, “it don’t matter how old I am, I can still make a difference. Protecting people is everyone’s responsibility.”
“That was different,” Captain America told him, crossing his arms and jutting his chin out. “I only said that because I was seventeen.”
“Oh,” Barnes shot back, raising his eyebrows in mock surprise, “is that how it was? Maybe I just forgot, because amnesia, but I could swear you said something similar just yesterday.”
“I’m not too old to fly a jet, Bucky, years frozen in ice don’t count!”
“Since you keep jumping out of them without parachutes, I think I’ve got a pretty solid case for dementia, pal!”
Peter watched them bicker, mouth open and head snapping back and forth like he was watching a tennis match.
He was going to get to see this shit all the time now. Because he was going to be an Avenger.
This was the best day of Peter Parker’s life.
He watched happily for a moment, then pursed his lips and pulled out his backup ipod.
He still didn’t have a recording of Captain America swearing, after all.