It wasn’t obvious to Peter at first, but there came a time as he moved through the night city that he realised he was noticed. Known.
There would be eyes glinting out of windows, a slight twitch of net curtain, a stopped car; the subtle ripple of movement as the workings of the city moved to accommodate him. Sometimes there would be a ladder conveniently left down where he could get at it, or a truck would stop where he could conveniently bounce off it. Sometimes there’d be a cup of takeaway coffee, steaming in an unlikely place, and when he looked for the owner he’d get a brusque nod and a gesture to take himself off with it. Streetwalkers would point him the way, cops would throw him donuts and look past him, as if embarrassed. And of course, there were always the cranes.
There had been that one night when all hope was lost and the cranes had lined up along the avenue and he had loved New York City. He’d always had a soft spot for construction workers, since first his uncle had taken him to a worksite, and they’d laughed at him and ruffled his hair and called him an egghead like his dad. But their egghead. And somehow it had turned out that New York loved him back.
When the skies had opened over Stark Tower and all hell had broken loose, Peter had been a couple of blocks away on a photography assignment and held two buildings together long enough for the people inside to evacuate. He’d built sky bridges across streets, plucked people off balconies, stitched the cranes into an intricate web that held the streets together… a couple of hours in, he heard a fireman calling: “Spiderman! Spiderman!” and he’d swung down to pull the guy out of trouble. Instead, he was handed a walkie talkie, and spent the rest of his afternoon taking calls from the emergency controller.
At six, when the shouting was over and news crews flocked the ruined central city, Spiderman was underground holding pipes together while the City sanitation crews hurriedly threw patches on cracks and built bypass pipes, and he thanked the ghosts of Louis Pasteur and John Phillips and the nameless workers who’d made the water and sewage systems that saved them all from the cholera.
At midnight, Peter was clean and eating cereal in front of his computer. The news was full of lurid pictures and speculation, Youtube clips, billionaires, secretive agencies, massive crashed airships, conspiracies… Some strange new group of rich people calling themselves the Avengers. Peter smiled and kept eating. They could have their limousines and helicarriers, their suits and spies and playboy philanthropists. To Spiderman went the crane operators and the sanitation workers, the shop girls and the firemen, the beat cops and the diner waitresses. He was the hero of the working class: he had the better part of it.