Peter is still mostly asleep when it strikes him that something isn’t right. The ensuing swim towards consciousness is a struggle. It drags and pulls and Peter is almost awake when he starts to feel uncomfortable. Then his skin starts to crawl and itch and then hurt and, finally, he opens his eyes with a gasp, lungs burning.
He sits up, arms wrapped around himself and teeth clenched as the pain only grows more intense, more needling. It’s an all-over sort of pain, not something he can pin down to a specific limb or injury and, for a few terrible moments, it incapacitates him. He sits there, shaking with it, eyes shut tight, unable to do anything but pray it subsides.
It does subside, marginally. Or maybe Peter just adjusts to it, begins to subconsciously accommodate it. Either way, it doesn’t go away completely. But, eventually, Peter is able to breathe again, to move. The shaking stops. He forces himself to open his eyes and inspect the damage.
At first, Peter’s tired brain can’t comprehend the sight that greets him. He holds up his hands, turns them over and over again. The sleeves on his overlarge sweater fall back, revealing his wrists. Except they aren’t his wrists. Because his wrists don’t look like that, and neither do his hands. Not only are they larger, with thick, callused fingers, but they’re also covered completely in scars. And, he discovers when he explores further, so are his feet and legs, which are bare up to the knee. His skin all over is ridged, bumpy, and a patchwork of different colors. Some of the scars have faded to white, but some looks fresh and angry and red. Others fall somewhere in between, settling at various shades of flesh-toned pink.
Peter struggles up off the bed. His heart can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be in his throat or sink to his feet. It doesn’t help anything when he finally takes notice of his surroundings. Those, too, are unfamiliar. This isn’t his bedroom. Or, it’s not the bedroom he remembers having. This room is bare bones, barely lived in, not like his own.
Peter makes it to the attached bathroom, simultaneously desperate to look in the mirror and desperate to avoid it. The face that looks back belongs to a stranger. Like the rest of him, the skin is scarred. The eyes are brown, expressive, and the lips are turned down at the corners. Peter experimentally twitches them up, only to watch his reflection do the same.
He curses, turns, knocks his hand against the sink, curses again. He’s taller now, his limbs longer. He can feel it in the awkwardness of his stride as he begins to pace around the bedroom, agitated and confused. He shakes his hands out, pulls his sleeves over them, fidgets with the hem of his sweater, tries to recall the previous night. His brain is such a whirlwind of activity that it doesn’t come easy, but he definitely doesn’t remember being caught in a fire or angering anyone with magical powers.
He spots red. It brings him up short.
He kneels beside the bed, fishes out the red thing. Holds it up.
Deadpool’s costume, Deadpool’s scars, Deadpool’s bedroom. Deadpool’s body. It must be. Peter has never seen Wade out of his mask but- well. His appearance fits with the rumors that Peter has heard. He didn’t realize the scars came with this pain, though. This constant feeling of being stretched too thin, of being raw. Even the shifting of fabric against his skin is irritating.
Peter sits at the foot of the bed, holding the costume in his hands. Staring at it as though it might provide him with answers. He runs his fingers over the worn leather and wonders what the hell he’s supposed to do next.
His heart does another little jump as he realizes- if he’s in Wade’s body, then Wade must be in his. Because where else would Wade’s consciousness go? Surely Peter didn’t just evict him from his own body. His soul would have to go somewhere.
“Well, shit,” Peter says, with feeling.
He doesn’t even consider donning Deadpool’s suit. Instead, he snatches up the nearest pair of pants- and, as an afterthought, a baseball cap that’s been discarded on the nightstand. Peter isn’t even sure which team the logo is for. It doesn’t matter. The cap is just to keep him as inconspicuous as possible.
He finds Deadpool’s phone in the living room. He pockets it, just in case.
There are probably people, like the Avengers or the X-Men or Shield, who try to keep tabs on Deadpool, for the sake of everyone’s health and safety. Peter isn’t one of them. He’s not sure what to expect when he trots down the stairs of the apartment complex and out into the open air, because he’s not sure where on Earth Deadpool usually spends his time, much less where he might’ve happened to be last night. Deadpool could live in Zimbabwe for all Peter knows. It is, therefore, a pleasant surprise to find that Peter recognizes the neighborhood and, what’s more, it’s not all that far from Peter’s own apartment.
Far enough that he decides to catch a cab. He pays with a crumpled up bill he finds in Deadpool’s pants pocket, figures this constitutes an emergency and he can pay the mercenary back once everything goes back to normal. Assuming things do eventually go back to normal. And hopefully they will- soon. It’s difficult to ignore the looks the cab driver keeps throwing him in the rearview mirror.
Peter tries not to think about it. About anything beyond finding Deadpool- or, rather, himself. He crosses his fingers that his body is right where left it. Safe and sound and asleep in his bed. Better that than Deadpool running around wreaking havoc as Spider-Man. If Peter can get to him before he wakes up then he can put a metaphorical leash on him. Reign him in while they figure this out together.
He tromps up the steps to his apartment with all the grace of a newborn giraffe. Twice he misjudges his own leg length and nearly sends himself sprawling. After that, he forces himself to slow down. He hadn’t realized he was rushing until suddenly he isn’t anymore.
The door, he discovers once he reaches it, presents a problem. It’s locked, of course, and Peter no longer has a key. The key is on the other side of the door with, presumably, Wade Wilson.
Peter takes the phone out of his pocket. The background is a black and white picture of Bea Arthur. He dials his own number.
It goes straight to voicemail. He forgot to plug it in last night. It’s probably lying there on the bedside table, dead as a doornail.
Peter groans in frustration. He takes to banging on the door with his palm, stops just short of yelling at Wade to open up. It’s still early in the morning. Too early for yelling.
It’s right as he’s about to give up and go beg the super for a key that Wade finally makes it to the door. He struggles to unlock it- or, at least, that’s what it sounds like. But Wade wouldn’t know that the lock sticks, that you have to sort of shake it in this one particular way to get it to open. He does eventually get it, though, and the door swings in to reveal a very sleep-rumpled and confused Peter Parker.
Peter thought he’d mentally prepared himself for… this. For seeing himself outside of himself. But it turns out he wasn’t prepared at all.
Wade evidently wasn’t prepared either. He looks Peter up and down, expression growing more and more incredulous. “What,” he says finally. “The fuck.”
That’s Peter’s voice coming out of his mouth but it doesn’t sound the same, somehow. Like Wade carries it differently.
Peter pushes bodily past him and into the apartment. Wade just stands there gaping until Peter gestures hurriedly for him to shut the door. He does, but only perfunctorily. Like a robot. He’s still staring.
“You looked in the mirror yet?” Peter asks, gesturing to the one that his Aunt May hung on the wall when he moved in. It wasn’t her only contribution to the décor. She had a lot of opinions on accent pieces, it turned out.
Instead of replying, Wade moves to do just that. He examines his reflection in the small mirror, turning his face this way and that. He runs his fingers along his jaw, then stares at his hands. Peter wonders idly what he thinks of his new body. His expression gives nothing away except confusion.
“Alright,” Wade says eventually. “Who am I? And who are you?”
His mannerisms are different from Peter’s. Everything about the way he moves just looks wrong when he’s wearing Peter’s skin.
Peter knew as soon as he realized Wade was probably inhabiting his body that there wouldn’t be any keeping his identity secret but it’s still with no small measure of wariness that he beckons Wade toward the bedroom. Wade follows at a snails pace, eyes catching on the nearest window, on the door. On escape routes. But he does follow.
Peter throws open the closet door, digs around at the back of it until his hand closes on what he’s looking for.
He holds up the Spider-Man mask. It speaks for itself.
Wade’s eyes go comically wide. The noise that comes out of him is akin to a squeak. He goes back to the mirror, studies his new face again with better understanding. “Shit,” he says emphatically. “I knew it. I fucking knew it. You’re like some kinda catalogue model under that mask.” He blinks his eyes experimentally, purses his lips, sweeps his fingers through his hair to tame it somewhat. He runs his hands over his arms, his chest, undoubtedly marveling at the difference.
Peter watches with a dour expression, fiddling once again with the hem of his sweater. Wade’s sweater. Whatever. “Hey, hey,” he says when he sees Wade’s hands wandering toward his ass. “None of that. No feeling me up.”
Wade pouts. It looks weird on Peter’s face. “Lame,” Wade declares, but he does drops his hands. “Do I get to know your name or what? Be nice to know who’s piloting my body around like a mech suit.”
“Peter. Peter Parker.”
“Peter,” Wade parrots, trying it out. Attaching it to the face he sees in the mirror. “Suits you. And now I know Spider-Man’s secret identity. How fucking cool is that?” Peter opens his mouth but Wade beats him to the punch, whirling around and adding, “Not that I’ll tell anyone! Nope, your secret is totally safe with me, Spidey. My lips are sealed!”
Wade does a lot more gesturing than Peter. Peter sighs. “Even after we switch back?”
“Of course! And speaking of-“ Wade plants his hands firmly on his hips. “Why the fuck is this happening? Who did you piss off?”
“Me?” Peter sputters. “Why’s it have to be me?”
“Because you,” he says, jabbing a finger in Peter’s direction. “Definitely got the short end of the stick here. I mean, I feel better than I have in years and now I look like a walking underwear ad. But you…”
Peter isn’t sure if Wade is thinking of the chronic pain or the scars. Or both. He shrugs. “It’s… not that bad,” he hedges, uncomfortable with the scrutiny Wade is now subjecting him to. Peter can barely look at his own body moving around without him in it. Too weird. But Wade evidently doesn’t have that compunction. “And anyway, this definitely isn’t my fault. All I did yesterday was go to work.”
“So did I! I mean, sure, I did get in a teeny tiny little fight… or two… But not with anyone who’d do this. Or could do this.” They fall silent, both of them pondering. Wade snaps his fingers like he’s had an epiphany and announces, “We need to learn a lesson!”
“You know- like in the movies. Freaky Friday? Ringing any bells? They get swippity swapped because they need to learn a lesson about… Togetherness or some shit. I don’t know. But once they learn the lesson, they go back to normal.”
“But… We don’t even know how we got swapped, so how are we supposed to know what lesson to learn?”
Wade shrugs. He goes and plops himself down on the sofa, the picture of nonchalance now that he thinks he’s solved the mystery. He looks up at Peter. “Just gotta let it run it’s course,” he says, dismissive. “Like a virus.”
Peter sinks down next to him, feeling tired all at once. “I don’t have time to let it run it’s course. I’ve got work and- what about Spider-Man?”
Wade’s eyes light up in a way that puts Peter on edge. “I could be-!”
“You can’t be Spider-Man,” Peter interrupts. “No way. Not happening. Forget it.”
“What- why not? I’ve got all the- the spider powers, right?”
They blink at each other, both realizing in the same instant that neither of them had thought to check. Peter did notice his enhanced strength missing, but it hadn’t occurred to him to test Wade’s healing factor.
“How do you do it?” Wade asks, sitting up. He resembles an excited puppy. “The sticky thing.”
“’The sticky thing’,” Peter repeats, rolling his eyes.
“Yeah the- the thing.” Wade flexes his fingers to demonstrate.
Peter is saved having to answer by Hollaback Girl, which starts emanating from his pocket. Peter and Wade both pause and look at each other. Peter pulls out the phone to check the caller ID.
“No idea,” Wade admits when he sees the number.
Peter sends the call to voicemail. “If it’s important they’ll leave a message,” he reasons.
“’S probably about a job,” Wade says, still eying the phone. “You’re already costing me money, Parker.”
Peter ignores him. “I guess we should discuss what we’re gonna tell people.”
“We’re not, right? Who’d believe us?”
Peter has seen a lot of strange things working with the Avengers, but it’s true that this is a little… hard to swallow. Even for them. When he pictures himself attempting to explain the situation to Tony, he also pictures Tony laughing in his face. Not to mention it’s a bit… embarrassing.
If it were someone other than Deadpool, maybe. Someone with an untarnished reputation. But Wade is known for being a little unhinged. He’s a troublemaker- not someone whose word people would be likely to take at face value.
“Maybe this is a twenty-four hour virus,” Peter speculates hopefully. “Maybe we’ll be back to normal in the morning.”
Wade looks, for a second, like he’s going to contradict Peter. But maybe he doesn’t have the heart because in the end all he says is, “Maybe.”
“And in the meantime,” Peter continues. “All we have to do is lay low. Right? If we just… stay here, away from people…”
“Sure. And while we’re laying low, we can do some research.”
“Yeah, about our… condition. You got Netflix?”
Peter sighs. “If we’re gonna have a movie marathon, I need breakfast first.”
Wade brightens. “I make some mean pancakes.”
“I’ll show you where everything is,” Peter says, leading the way to the kitchen.
Said kitchen is a mess by the time Wade is finished. Like Peter, he seems to be having trouble adjusting to his new height. All his usual grace is gone, which means things get knocked to the floor and dropped and splattered. But, at the end of it, Peter has pancakes, so he isn’t that upset.
Well, not about the mess, anyway.
“Hey,” Wade says as Peter picks at the remnants of his last pancake. He taps Peter’s foot under the table with his own. “It’ll be alright. Like you said, maybe things’ll be back to normal tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” Peter says, but it’s hard to be hopeful.