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Angel of the Morning

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“Just give me the fucking money, bitch!”

Well, that’s not good.

Peter shoves his mask onto his face and leaps off into the night. The voices came from two blocks over, on 59th. He swings through the night sky, dropping to a neat stop twenty feet from the assailant, who is brandishing a knife at a middle-aged woman clutching her daughter.

“Damn it,” Peter whispers to himself. He always hates it when he finds someone threatening a kid. “Yo, raz-ma-tats, I’ve got a roll of quarters for you!”

… not Peter’s best line. He grimaces and tells himself that this is his fourth criminal tonight; the world can cut him some slack on this one.

The man stops in his tracks. He turns to Peter, disgust etched onto his face. “What? I’m not gay.”

Peter flushes red hot under his mask. “No, not like that!” He groans. “Ugh, whatever.”

He somersaults through the air and punches the guy in the side of the head. The man crumples at his feet, knocked unconscious and Peter lands, surprised. That was easier than he expected it to be; they usually put up more of a fight. Nice. Peter webs the man’s hands and feet together, just in case, and turns to the family.

“Are you two alright?”

“Don’t hurt us!”

Peter blinks. Well, that’s new. He squats down to the girl’s level, slipping effortlessly into damage control mode. “Hey, now. Who says I’m going to hurt anyone?”

“Everyone!” The girl cries. “You hurt people!”

The mother, still shaken but starting to regain her bearings, clasps a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “She’s not wrong. I never really believed what the Daily Bugle said about you, but it’s not just them anymore. You stay away from us. Please.”

Peter stands, flummoxed, and raises both hands. “Who saved who, here? Why would I have taken this guy down— non-lethally, I might add— if I wanted you dead? Why not let him keep going? It would have saved me a whole bunch of work.”

The mother looks scared again, and Peter grows even more confused and impatient. What is going on here? “That’s not your M.O,” she says knowledgeably, and Peter wants to shake her because his M.O. ? Seriously? “You find crimes, you kill the bad guy… then you kill everyone else.”

The Daily Bugle is going too far here. Peter frowns, dismayed. If this is what the media is telling the public, no wonder they’re afraid of him. “I’m sorry,” he says helplessly. “I don’t know where you’re getting this from, but I promise I’m not hurting anyone.” He glances down at the stunned man at his feet. “Well, no one innocent, and nothing permanent either way. It’s my job to help people. I can’t do that when they’re dead.”

The woman’s face is like stone but her shoulders shift. Peter thinks he might be convincing her after all. “You’re not going to kill us?”

Jesus. “No,” Peter says, throwing his hands up. “Of course not. I’m Spider-Man. I’ve been pulling bad guys off the streets for years. That’s my M.O.”

“Liar!” the little girl cries. “You’re mean! Nas’sy!”

Something in Peter breaks. He likes most of his job as Spider-Man, but his absolute favorite part is getting to play with the kids. He loves seeing Spider-Man merchandise on little ones, even though it still, to this day, boggles his mind that he had merchandise . He always makes some attempt to make kids whoop and holler, because he loves knowing that he’s helping them believe in something good. It hurts to hear a child fear him, more than he’d imagined.

“I promise I’m not,” he replies, stooping again. “I mean, I may be nasty, but that’s because I’m a boy. Right?”

The girl looks uncomfortable but nods. “Super gross.” She sounds very informed. Peter appreciates that.

“And what does that make superhero boys? Super, super gross, am I right?”

The girl grins despite herself. “Yeah. Yuck!”

“So I may be nasty because I’m a boy,” Peter says, “but I know I’m not mean. Okay?”

The little girl looks up to her mother, who seems relatively convinced by Peter’s display. It’s enough to make the girl nod her head. “Yeah, okay.”

“Alright,” Peter says, relieved. “What’s your name?”

“Lisa,” the little girl says promptly. “And this is Mom.”

“Hi, Mom,” Peter says cheerily up to the woman, who blushes slightly. “Cool name.”

“Karen,” she mutters. “Sorry.”

“No reason to apologize,” Peter says, rising to his feet. He feels more comfortable now that things are back on track, and he can start figuring out why they were scared of him in the first place. “I’m sorry there’s been some confusion about, uh, my desire to kill people. Wow, that’s weird to say. Where did you hear about this?”

Karen looks even more flustered. “It’s all rumors,” she says, brushing Lisa’s hair back nervously. “I’ve heard people talking. Spider-Man—I mean, you —come into the scene with some kind of sword, take down the bad guy, and then take down everyone else. They say you whistle while you do it.”

That sounds like something out of Peter’s nightmares. He saw an episode of Star Trek once where the cast met evil versions of themselves in an alternate universe; this sounded a lot like that. “Well, that’s alright then,” he jokes blindly. “I can’t whistle. There’s that sorted. And where do I have room for swords? I’m swinging around on spiderwebs, here!”

Karen laughs semi-hysterically. “It all seems so stupid!” she agrees. Peter sees her eyes glisten, and her hands tremble as they wipe the wetness away. “Who would do that, anyway? Kill people just for fun like that? In Spandex ? It’s so foolish.”

“No, it’s not,” Peter says firmly. He can tell she’s emotionally fishtailing, and he needs to fix this properly before she swerves right back into unstable territory. “It’s not foolish, Karen. I’m sorry someone out there is spreading lies about me, but I can understand why you think it’s frightening. I’m pretty horrified, myself. I’m not pleased that someone is making me out to be a villain, especially after I’ve spent all this time fighting to look like the good guy. I’d like to think I’m established by now, you know?”

Karen takes a breath, settling. “Yeah. You’re right. You’ve been doing good in this city for years, Spider-Man. I’m sorry I doubted you.”

“No trouble!” Peter replies, patting her on the shoulder. “You’re being smart. Never apologize for that. I’m going to try to get to the bottom of this rumor business, because I can’t have civilians and criminals fighting against me. Would you like me to walk you home?”

“Yeah!” Lisa cries at the same time as Karen goes, “That’s alright.”

Peter laughs. “Dissent in the ranks, I see. Come on, at least let me see you to the subway, or something.”

He falls in line with Karen, who leads him out of the alley and into the street beyond. He makes conversation with Lisa, who’s just started kindergarten and has lots of stories about her best friend, Tara. Peter is happy to listen, taken in by the effortless joy of Lisa’s life, and hikes her up to sit on his shoulders when she asks. He notices people glancing over at him as he goes, and Karen straightens her spine like she sees it, too. Some people are starstruck as usual, but many faces turn away quickly, clearly scared. Whatever Karen heard, it’s all over the city. Peter files this information away silently and prompts Lisa to keep babbling excitedly about her life.

They make it to the nearest subway station and Peter lets her go. “I’m sorry again about the confusion,” he says seriously to Karen. “I’ll settle this. Thanks for letting me know about it.”

“Thanks for not killing us,” she returns, a small smile playing on her lips.

Peter laughs and ducks down to Lisa’s level. “Have fun in kindergarten,” he says. “It’s a very important year. I remember. Tell Tara I say hi, and that I will totally get a henna from her if she takes over her mom’s business, okay?”

Lisa beams at him. “Kay. Thanks, Spider-Man!”

“No problem,” he says. He goes to high-five her but she leaps into his arms instead, squeezing with all the force her tiny arms can provide. Peter beams behind his mask and hugs her back. “You raised a good kid, Karen.”

“Yeah,” she says, smiling faintly. “I did.”

Lisa springs off him just as enthusiastically and tugs her mom down the steps into the stop. Peter waves goodbye, stretches his back, and lunges off into the city. He drops the thief off at a nearby police station, making sure that no one sees him do so, and heads home. As he webs and leaps his way toward Queens, he ponders what Karen said.

As much as he would like to call this idle fearmongering, he has a niggling feeling it’s something deeper. The Daily Bugle loves to call Spider-Man a menace, but it’s never cooked up a story quite this monstrous. There’s a line between biased reporting and slander, and this crosses it. So either the rumor mill has nothing better to do than outright lie about Spider-Man, or someone out there really is using his image to kill people.

Peter swallows and his throat clicks, dry. He really needs to do some research.

He lands on the roof where he stashed his clothes and tugs them on, making his way down to street level to walk the rest of the way home. Aunt May is already in bed by the time he lets himself in, so he grabs something microwavable from the fridge, cooks it, and carries it up to his room.

Preliminary Google searches offer little more than what he learned from Karen. According to a handful of questionable sources, Spider-Man has taken to gleefully murdering whomever he stumbles upon, criminal or not. Some websites say he uses his webs to strangle his victims while others say he disembowels them with katanas. Again, why with the swords? How is he supposed to leapfrog around the city with metal rods strapped to his back? It’s preposterous.

He spends a couple hours clicking around the Internet, but no one has tangible evidence to either prove or disprove the story. And as much as Peter hates to say it, without evidence, no one can do anything. He has superpowers, but he can’t fight the power of gossip; he’ll have to defend himself to every person he helps, one at a time. It will take a lot of patience and a lot of work, but he’ll ride it out—just like he always does.

Peter crawls into bed, unsatisfied but determined nevertheless. It’s probably just another story, he bets. A very horrible, cruel rumor. He’ll deal with it in the morning.

 


 

A phone call wakes him at some ungodly hour. Peter grumbles as he answers it. “’Lo?”

“Peter,” Coulson says pleasantly. “How are you?”

Peter sits upright, suddenly alert. He’s heard from Coulson a handful of times in the last four years, and every talk has involved Very Serious Business. More than once, Spider-Man had to assist in taking down some super-charged enemy of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s. “What’s wrong?”

“Pleasantries are utterly lost on you,” Coulson sighs.

He’s grown more casual with Peter over the years, likely because nowadays, Peter is an official S.H.I.E.L.D. associate. Peter likes the subtly snarky side of Coulson best, he thinks. It’s spunky.

“I’m so sorry,” he says facetiously. “Phil! Old buddy, old pal! How’s business? Any missus to gripe about? How’s the team?”

Coulson sighs again and Peter grins widely, tiredness forgotten. “I’m calling about the criminal running around in a red jumpsuit, pretending to be you. Heard anything about it?”

Peter sobers immediately. “Yeah, but I just heard about it last night. Tried to do some research but it all sounds like a bunch of rumors.” A lump of dread forms in his gut. “But since you’re calling me at this unspeakable hour, I’m guessing that’s not the case.”

“Astute as always, Peter. I wish this were just a rumor. It would make my job a whole lot easier. S.H.I.E.L.D. has been aware of this individual for quite some time. We’ve made attempts to track him but he always manages to evade us.”

“Really?” Peter whistles. He’s never gotten a solid answer about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s scope of surveillance, but he’s always assumed they hear all and see all, the same way he’s always suspected the CIA tracks Internet usage. S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been able to keep impeccable track of him, either way. For someone to be able to escape S.H.I.E.L.D.’s eye, they must be pretty skilled. “That’s impressive.”

“Indeed,” Coulson says. “Were he not a mass murderer, I’d consider recruiting him. As is, he’s a mess. He has no regard for the law or any type of moral code, from what we can tell. He seems to be a mercenary.”

A Spider-Mercenary. Peter pinches the bridge of his nose. That is not good at all. “And he’s in New York?”

“He’s in New York,” Coulson confirms. “He’s been spotted in Hong Kong, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Venice, Athens, Glasgow, Paris, London… the list goes on and on.”

“So he won’t stay here for long?” Peter is not proud of the hopeful note in his voice—it is his job to take down bad guys, not wait for them to leave—but this guy sounds like a real piece of work, and he’s giving Spider-Man’s reputation a body count.

“We have no idea,” Coulson says apologetically. “He has no discernable migration pattern; he could be there two weeks, he could be there six months. This is more a warning than a call to action. His suit isn’t identical to yours, Peter, but it’s damned close. Be vigilant. It might be smart to retire the uniform for a while, until he leaves town.”

Peter bites his lip. It feels weird to be having this conversation in his pajamas. “Thanks, but we both know that isn’t going to happen. I’ll do what I can to learn about this guy on the streets and try to prevent my name from getting dragged through too much mud. If I disappear entirely, people will have no reason to doubt we’re not the same person. I have to try to fight this thing proactively.”

“Of course.” It might be wishful thinking, but Peter thinks Coulson almost sounds proud of him. Despite everything, the idea warms him.

“Is there anything more you can tell me about this guy? Is he really masquerading as me ?”

The line is silent for a moment. “No. He has a name.”

Peter exhales. “A name? Good! Okay. It’s not, like, Ant-Dude or something stupidly similar to mine, though, right?”

Coulson chuckles. “No, Ant-Man is someone else entirely.”

Peter laughs ruefully. Honestly, he should know better at this point. “Of course. Ant-Man is someone who exists. Naturally. Of course he does.”

Coulson hums. “If I tell you his name, promise me you won’t go looking for trouble. This man is dangerous, Peter. He’s killed countless people.”

“Of course,” Peter lies. “I’d never do that. Pssh. Me? No way.”

Coulson sighs yet again. He does that a lot, Peter has noticed. “Just don’t get yourself killed. His name is Deadpool.”

Peter inhales. Part of him is impressed; that’s a far better name than Ant-Man. “Alright. Thanks, Coulson.”

“Be safe,” Coulson says. “Call if you need us. I don’t want to call in our big guns unless we have to, so make sure you don’t antagonize him into a genocide. I have a boss to answer to, and they don’t call him ‘Fury’ for nothing.”

“Yessir!” Peter is already shoving his pajamas down his legs and looking around for his suit. “Ix-nay on the enocide-jay. Got it!”

He hangs up and jams his feet into his suit. A quick glance at the clock tells him Aunt May has already left for work, so he makes no effort to move quietly. He shoves a granola bar in his mouth and chews while he pulls the suit up his body.

Ant-Man would have been an easier figure to antagonize, Peter thinks as he pulls on street clothes and leaves the house. Hey there, Ant-Bro. Prepare to meet your magnifying glass.

Deadpool, in comparison, is just too difficult to belittle.

Peter makes his way to a new rooftop and stows away his clothes. He tugs on his mask.

“Alright Mr. Pool,” he tries, already hating himself. “Prepare to be dead. Pooled. Prepare for your deadpool to drain dry. Prepare… ugh.”

Oh, this is not good at all .

Chapter Text

It takes a week for Peter to meet Deadpool properly. In the interim, the rumors about Spider-Man Gone Evil have exploded across every media source in the city. The Daily Bugle was the first, followed closely by the local news and spreading from there. No one seems to realize that Spider-Man and the masked murderer are different people; without photographic evidence, Peter can’t do anything about it.

It’s a good thing he knows a photographer.

Selling pictures to the Daily Bugle is a fun job, if not a lucrative one. They pay him pennies, but he likes knowing that he has a finger in the cookie jar that’s trying to bite his hand off.

Regardless, he makes sure the only pictures staining the news are his, and he gets paid to do it. It works. If he can grab some decent pictures of Deadpool with Spider-Man, he can try to convince the city that they’re not the same man.

The problem, Peter quickly discovers, is that he has no way to set up the shot. He can’t get pictures with Deadpool unless he finds him, and Deadpool is annoyingly hard to find.

Until he isn’t.

 


 

Peter lands on the roof of a skyscraper. He’s just finished taking down a few kids trying to form a gang, and he needs a breather. When he sees another person in a tight, red suit on the same roof, he freezes.

“So you’re the one pretending to be me,” he says before he can think better of it. “Hi.”

Deadpool is shorter than he expected. Maybe being tiny makes for better mercenary work? Peter knows his own small frame comes in handy for acrobatics. Their suits are very similar, and Peter instantly understands the confusion, but from twenty feet away it’s also easy to see their differences. Deadpool has two swords strapped to his back so they form an X, with a hilt jutting from each shoulder. That’d be the katanas, Peter thinks. Does this mean the disembowelment is true, too? His gaze drifts down to Deadpool’s utility belt, where he can see smaller daggers, two pistols, and a row of grenades peeking out between compartments. He’ll take that as a yes.

Peter has to admit, Deadpool looks totally badass, in spite of Peter’s aversion to hardcore weaponry. He’s almost envious of this guy.

Deadpool turns and throws his hands up. “Fucking finally, bro, I’ve been hanging out on rooftops for-fuckin'-ever, you feel?”

O… kay? Peter stared at him blankly. “You have?”

“Yeah, dude. But you’re here now!” Deadpool swings his hands happily. “Hi! I’m Deadpool.”

Peter is at a loss. “Spider-Man.” He raises two fingers in a half-hearted wave. This is the man killing ‘countless’ people? Peter expected him to be a little more… deadly.

“This is so fuckin’sweet, dude!” Deadpool’s voice is little more than a rasp with pitch, but it’s still higher than Peter expected it to be. “Fucking Spider-Man. Fuck yeah.”

He also really likes his F-bombs.

“So is that it? You’re a fan who decided to, what, copycat me?” Peter knows he should tread lightly, because any man willing to kill dozens of people should not be poked. That said, now that he has this Deadpool guy in his crosshairs, he’s more than a little pissed at him. He can barely cross the street without someone shying away from him these days, and the man causing this terror isn’t even trying to start a fight. It’s downright rude, is what it is. He tells Deadpool as much.

“Hey, fuck you too, bro,” Deadpool bites back. His cheery demeanor transforms instantly into something red-hot, and suddenly Peter sees exactly how dangerous this man could be. “You know, here I am, trying to find a fuckin’ decent chimichanga stand in this goddamned city, tryin’ to get by like a proper lady should, and everyone thinks I’m you! My suit is red like my fuckin’ flag, okay? God bless Canada, land of the maple and home of the pseudo-French. You ever been to Canada, Spidey? Fuckin’ beautiful, it is. Lakes like Angelina Jolie’s panties. Wanna just jump into them and never leave. That reminds me, Tomb Raider just didn’t do the games justice, did it? I mean they tried, I feel it, I do, but man. Can’t beat good ol’ video games, no sirree.”

He’s cheery again. Peter is at a loss. “I… like Tomb Raider.”

Deadpool does a double fist pump and cheers. “Oh, we are going to be such friends, Spidey. I can see it now.”

This isn’t going at all like Peter expected. He can’t seem to maintain his anger, justified as it may be. Instead, he’s torn somewhere between shock and bemusement. “So you’re Canadian, then? Are you a mercenary?”

Deadpool pulls a cigarette out of nowhere and jams it into his mouth through the mask. He doesn’t light it. Faintly, Peter thinks, It’s a metaphor. “Oh, ho ho, a lady doesn’t reveal all her secrets at once. You want my nitties and gritties, you have to earn them. See you around, Spidey!”

Before Peter can ask him to stop saying “Spidey” or make some sort of spluttered noise over “nitties and gritties,” Deadpool runs straight off the edge of the building. Peter shouts and races to the edge of the roof, terrified. There’s no way Deadpool could have survived that. Peter peers down to the street below, where Deadpool lay in a heap of unnatural angles. Peter sucks a breath in through his teeth; the heap is moving.

Stunned, Peter watches as Deadpool shifts and twists his way upright. Peter thinks he hears pained grunts, but with all the ambient noise it’s hard to tell. He definitely hears a loud crack when Deadpool shoves a shoulder into place, spinning it experimentally to make sure it works. Which, somehow, it does. Back to sorts, Deadpool looks up and waves jauntily before darting off down the street.

Well, okay then. That’s new.

Peter sits down right there on the roof and, once he’s sure there are no cameras around, pulls off his mask. He can feel a stress headache pounding ominously behind his eyes and assumes he might have to get used to them. If Deadpool can survive a ten story drop, he’s not going to be easy to subdue.

He’s not sure what he expected, but this isn’t it. Peter always thought serial killers were quiet loners with deep-seated mental issues, not colorful characters with no verbal filter whatsoever. He supposes his imaginary Deadpool was a Bruce Willis wannabe, all brooding eyes and hulking muscle. How could someone so effervescently happy kill people for a living?

Somehow, it makes Deadpool impossibly scarier. This is a man who kills because he finds it genuinely fun. He’s no tortured soul: he’s categorically insane. Peter drums the back of his head against the low wall of the roof. What does he do now?

The answer, half an hour later, is mind-numbingly simple: Nothing. He’ll do nothing.

Deadpool clearly plans on sticking around for a while and befriending Spider-Man, much to Peter’s chagrin. Perhaps he can use that to his advantage. He’ll make his rounds around the city, defuse as much of Deadpool’s mess as he can, and let the mercenary come to him. And, once he’s gotten to know the guy, Peter can turn him in to Coulson, get Deadpool off the map for good, and get a pat on the back for a job well done. Bada bing, bada boom. He’d rather take Deadpool down himself, of course, but Peter suspects that taking down Deadpool would take far more than some webs and artful kicks, and he knows better than to plunge head first into a suicide mission.

On the bright side, it seems that Deadpool is just as upset about their commingling identities as Peter, which means he’s probably just as eager to clarify that they are, in fact, two separate people. He might pose for this picture.

Peter can only hope.

 


 

After that, it seems like Deadpool is everywhere. Peter can’t turn around without seeing some indicator that Deadpool’s been there before him. He’s found no less than four criminals tied up on rooftops with massive red bows around their necks. They’re always dead, and Peter always throws up after he finds one.

Eventually, he prints out a note and makes a hundred copies, leaving one on each rooftop he visits that night. STOP KILLING THEM.

To Peter’s stunned surprise, Deadpool complies, albeit reluctantly. The day after he leaves the notes around, he finds a trussed up—but very much alive—criminal with a paper stapled ( stapled ) to his chest. A red and black frowny face dominates the page, and under it reads, WHY?? Peter gnashes his teeth and resolutely pretends that his lips are twitching in anger, not amusement. He mostly succeeds in convincing himself.

From that point forward, Deadpool ties the criminals up using sturdy white rope and stupidly complex knots, and leaves them wriggling around like flies on a web for Peter to scoop up as he pleases. Peter has to admit, it’s nice to have someone out there helping out, even though almost all of the criminals seem to be suffering from some sort of recent injury, like a broken finger or a painfully fat lip. Peter wouldn’t have suspected a thing, had the criminals not insisted that the injuries were inflicted after they were tied up. Well , he tells himself, at least they aren’t dead .

It almost makes him like Deadpool. Almost. Except Peter still hears reports of bodies turning up all over the city, which means Deadpool is still killing people, and Spider-Man is still getting the rap for it. Peter is on a mission to take Deadpool down, not actually befriend him.

But, well, who says he can’t enjoy himself in the meantime?

Peter finds himself on a roof one evening, cradling a massive bag of Mexican food and hoping to see Deadpool so they can talk. If he can just get through to him, one Spandex fan to another, Deadpool might relent. It’s worth a try.

It takes an hour, during which Peter beats his personal best time in Freecell on his phone, for Deadpool to show up. “If it isn’t my favorite arachnid-human hybrid superhero!”

Peter looks up and frowns. “I’m the only arachnid-human hybrid superhero.” He thinks of Ant-Man, and wonders how many bug-related superheroes might be out there in the world. “Probably.”

“Precisely!” Deadpool flings his arms up. “It’s a greeting that says nothin’, baby boy! I love it!” He stiffens. “Ohhh my fuckin’ god, Spidey, that smells like chimichangas. There better be some motherfucking chimichangas in that bag or I’m going to take Bea, here, and make that suit of yours a whole lot more red.”

He pats one of his katanas and Peter blanches beneath his mask. Thank God he actually did buy chimichangas, because he very much doubts that was an empty threat. He has a feeling Deadpool doesn’t make those too often. “Well, you said you hadn’t found good Mexican yet, so I thought I’d help out. This is my favorite Mexican place in Que—where I’m from.”

“Oh, you’re from Queens?” Deadpool asks, tactless and delighted. “I love Queens. Or, well, I love any borough that contains a neighborhood called Astoria, because that’s a fuckin’ pretty name, and Queens is the one that has it, so I love it! Where abouts in Queens?”

Peter clears his throat. “Like you said, a lady needs some mystery.” His heart is beating so fast it almost hurts. Deadpool cannot find out about Aunt May.

“Fuck yeah, she does,” Deadpool says gleefully. “Nah, it’s cool, bro. Wouldn’t want someone like me nosing about my privates, either. But fucking seriously, Spidey, give me food or give me death right now, I swear to god.”

Peter releases a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding and passes over the bag. After that death threat, everything about Deadpool screams danger in a way that settles over Peter like a blanket made of insects. He has a feeling befriending Deadpool will be like defusing a bomb, but without someone on an earpiece telling him which wires to cut. Peter’s on his own, and it’s terrifying.

Deadpool groans happily and sits. “I might orgasm right now,” he informs Peter, who coughs in shock. Deadpool tears through the bag, sorting his goodies into piles right there on the roof. He coos over the chimichangas like they’re made of kittens and sunshine, cradling them in his lap so taco sauce pours onto his boots. “Come on, Spidey. You’ve dined me; get down here and wine me.”

Peter trips over himself. “That’s not—this isn’t a date, I just—”

Deadpool flicks out a knife and spins it casually; the blade is a blur of silver in the air. “Join me.”

Alrighty then. Peter drops down across from him on shaky legs, stowing his phone in the pocket on the back of his mask. He doesn’t like being within stabbing distance of Deadpool, but he has no choice. (And part of him acknowledges that “stabbing distance” could be any number of feet away, knowing Deadpool’s reputation.) Hopefully his spider-senses will keep him from stepping on the wrong string of the web, here. “So you’re Canadian, huh?”

Deadpool shoves his mask up to just under his nose. Peter can’t see that much, but the skin he can looks raw and mottled. Something about that tugs at him uncomfortably, but he can’t put his finger on what. “Yep,” the mutilated mouth says, popping the P. His lips crinkle, and the gnarls of scar tissue twist painfully. He takes a massive bite of food, so his next words come out garbled. “Vancouver, born and raised. Or raised at least; I don’t remember the birthin’, so much. Would’a been fun, though, right? I know I usually cry a lot when a woman forces me out of her ladybits, so maybe that’s me reliving the experience.”

Peter clenches his jaw and swallows back bile. Was that a rape joke?

As if on cue, Deadpool continues, “Or rather I would, you know, if a woman let me near her ladybits. I may like killin’ my fair share, but a lady knows her limits and forcing people into sex is one of them. Just like killin’ kids, you know? I never do that, either. It’s just wrong. Most people got somethin’ in ‘em that deserves dying, but there’s a line, you know? A big one. With fuckin’ sparklers and shit, like the motherfuckin’ Fourth of Ju-ly.” He stretches this last word out as he gesticulates with a taco, causing shreds of lettuce to spray everywhere. Funnily enough, it vaguely looks like a firework.

Something in Peter relaxes at finding out that Deadpool has at least some semblance of a moral compass. In fact, it’s probably one of the best things he’s heard in a long time. “I hate criminals who attack families,” he says quietly. “Kids deserve better.”

Deadpool stills, staring him straight in the eye. “Couldn’t agree more, Spidey.”

And Peter, despite himself, grins. He hates murderers just like he hates almost all cold-blooded criminals, and he’s still ready to leap away from Deadpool at the slightest threat, but damn it, he kind of likes the guy.

“How’s the food?”

Deadpool murmurs to himself for a moment, and Peter thinks he picks out “... great ass… impossible… try.” Deadpool growls to himself and jams the forgotten knife into his thigh, wrenching the blade. Peter lets out a manly shriek and leaps to his feet. To do what, he has no idea. Part of him wants to run, because there’s blood on the foil of a burrito now and it’s spreading towards the bowl of refried beans, but part of him wants to web the wound closed and make sure Deadpool is okay.

He should leave. He should sling himself off the roof and never look back.

But then what? He ruins all the progress he’s made? If he’s gotten Deadpool to wrangle a few criminals after one meeting, what could he do after five? Ten? He might be able to minimize the number of people Deadpool kills before he turns him in.

Or it might backfire, and Deadpool might go off the deep end, but that’s irrelevant. He never got to help Dr. Connors, he blundered his way through helping Electro, and he obliterated his chances with Harry. Every time he has hesitated to take action, people have gotten hurt. And after Gwen… Peter cannot and will not throw away his chance to save more lives, if he can.

He must have zoned out for a minute or two, because when he refocuses Deadpool is wiping the blood off the burrito with the sleeve of his suit, and the cut is all but scabbed over. Peter squints. He takes that back: the cut is gone.

“—sorry about that,” Deadpool is saying. “Gotta keep m’self in line sometimes, you know? Won’t do no good to let my head float off into the clouds. I did that once, actually! Cut it off, tied it to a big ol’ balloon and let it soar up, up, up into the sky. It was fuckin’ freezing, let me tell you what, and then the balloon popped and my head fell splat onto some poor old woman’s geraniums. Took me forever to find myself, and that ain’t no metaphorical shit. You try wandering around with no head, it’s no good at all. What was the question?”

Peter plops back down, light-headed. “You… what?”

“The question, baby boy,” Deadpool says impatiently. “Keep up, eh?”

“I— did you really cut off your own head?” Peter asks after a moment. “Wait, is this for real? How are you alive right now?”

Deadpool goes perfectly, petrifyingly still. “The question, Spidey. I won’t ask again.”

Right. Peter’s going to have to take this one in stride, because his leg will recover from a knife wound, too, but he really doesn’t want to deal with that. It’s probably a lie, anyway. He suspects a lot of Deadpool’s ramblings are mostly made up. No way he chopped off his own head. Right? Crap, what was the question, again? Oh! “How’s the food?”

“Oh, right!” Deadpool throws up his hands, and everything is perfectly companionable again. “It’s okay, don’t get me wrong, but it could be spicier. My tongue’s had some trauma, you know, and not the fun kind where it gets tired from working for too long, if you catch my drift. Nah, this bad boy’s been through some shit. Turns out interrogators like to cut it out when you talk too much, you know, but that’s never deterred me! I’ll talk with a tongue, without one, you name it! But it’s gotten a little world-weary from all the choppin’. Takes a bit more kick to get my motors turning.”

Deadpool sticks out his tongue and Peter blanches. It’s covered in thin lines of scar tissue, so much so that he can barely pick out the healthy tissue from the rest. It’s also covered in flecks of taco meat. “I bet you’d plow right through one of those hot pepper challenges,” he offers weakly. Maybe Deadpool really was telling the truth about his head, after all.

Deadpool laughs and inhales a chimichanga. “You bet I could! It’s the coming back out that’s the problem. That stuff burns, Spidey. Burns like that time that Yakuza asshole chained me up over a fire, ass first. That was no fun at all, and I’m usually a silver linings kind of guy. I mean, the ‘I’ve got a hot ass’ jokes got old within the first hour, you know?”

He devours the last of the food. Peter, again, accepts the (possibly true) story without comment, and chooses instead to marvel at Deadpool’s appetite. He brought enough food for three meals, and Deadpool ate it like he was still going through a growth spurt. He clears his throat. “So you liked it, then? The food, not the, um, burning.”

“I didn’t save you any,” Deadpool realizes belatedly. He sounds devastated. “Here I am, havin’ a grand old time with me, myself, and Irene, and I totally forgot to offer you anything! Oh man, I’m going to have to hang myself over this one, eh? Fuck, maybe there’s some guac left—”

Peter stops him from rooting around with a hurried hand. “It’s fine, I’ve already eaten. No need to, uh, hang yourself. God, no, let’s make that a rule: Don’t hang yourself, Deadpool. I’m fine.”

Deadpool stares at the hand on his, and Peter freezes. He hadn’t even thought about it, but now he thinks that was a stupid thing to do. You don’t reach out and touch serial killers, Peter, come on. He goes to remove it but Deadpool is too fast, grabbing his hand by the wrist. Peter gasps, sure he’s about to lose the hand, webshooters and all, and looks up to Deadpool.

Who is beaming. Peter swallows, thrown. What is happening right now?

Deadpool’s grin grows impossibly wider, so wide one of his scars goes white from strain, and then fingers are working their way between Peter’s. They’re holding hands.

“Yeah, okay, Spidey,” he says, voice soft. “No hangings. I can do that.”

Deadpool’s thumb works over the suit on the back of Peter’s hand. It’s tiny, like the rest of Deadpool, but unmistakably strong. Peter imagines Deadpool could kill a man with that thumb. Hell, at this point, he wouldn’t be surprised if he had.

And that thumb, that thumb that’s probably popped eyeballs and dug into jugulars and been sawn off more than once, is stroking his hand with all the gentleness of a lamb.

It’s oddly wonderful, Peter thinks.

“There’s a lot you can do without killing yourself,” he says slowly. “Death doesn’t have to be the answer.”

The thumb stills and Deadpool pulls away, leaping up to his feet. “Sorry, wrong answer,” he says, overly chipper. “Thanks for the grub, Spidey, it’s been real fun.” He tugs his mask back down and walks backwards toward the roof’s edge. “I’ll be seeing you around!"

And there he goes off the roof. Peter assumed after the last time that he had some sort of indestructible skeleton, or something. Now he suspects that Deadpool is just as fragile as everyone else, he just heals it all.

Maybe even more fragile. The way he reacted to Peter’s touch was more telling than anything else Peter had seen from him so far. No one reacts to simple touches like that unless they haven’t felt them in a long time. Whoever this guy is, he is desperately lonely. Peter hangs his head, disappointed in himself for ruining their moment, and feeling painfully guilty about using friendship to double-cross someone who clearly needs a real friend. As much as he wants to get Deadpool off the streets, Peter suddenly hates the idea of betraying someone who gets warm fuzzies over being asked not to die.

Peter scoops up the trash from the food and bundles it into the bag. He takes a circuitous route home, just in case Deadpool decided to follow, and picks up a carton of milk for Aunt May. She’s already home, so he shouts a hello as he changes into comfortable clothes. By the time he makes his way downstairs, she has a steaming mug of hot cocoa waiting for him, marshmallows and all.

“You really know how to treat a guy,” he groans, cupping the mug gratefully. “How was your day?”

Ever since he lost Gwen, Peter has made an effort to be more present at home. It’s difficult, with Spider-Man and his jobs and the occasional night class, but he makes it work. They try to have a dinner together at least once a week, often more. It has become a lot easier since he found out Aunt May knew about Spider-Man months before he decided to tell her. He no longer tiptoes around the house like he has something to hide, and she tries her best to be as supportive as she can. She even helps him mend his suit, sometimes. (He’s the better seamstress, but he’ll never tell her that.)

“Busy,” Aunt May replies, smiling tiredly. “How was yours?”

Peter sits and mulls the question over. “Interesting. I ran into him again. Deadpool.”

May sits opposite him, suddenly alert. “Are you okay? Did he do anything to you?”

Peter thinks of a warm thumb sliding across the rubber ridges on his hand and shakes his head. “I’m fine. He’s… he’s something else, Aunt May. I don’t know what to make of him.”

She tilts her head thoughtfully. “Is that a good thing?”

Peter chuckles and blows steam off his cup. “I don’t know, Aunt May. I really don’t know.”

He tells her what he knows and the way Deadpool reacted to him. He leaves out the hand holding, though. It feels wrong to tell anyone about that. Everyone deserves to have weaknesses, and Peter has no interest in discussing Deadpool’s with anyone.

Or, at the very least, he’ll give himself time to understand it before he talks about it. He’s emotionally exhausted right now; Deadpool is an exceptionally draining person to spend time with. Peter can hardly keep up. He’ll take a day or two to sort himself out, then he’ll consider what it means to have a possibly insane serial killer stroking his hand fondly over take-out Mexican food.

Okay. Maybe he’ll take a week.

Aunt May, as usual, is concerned and wants “only what’s best for him.” She seems reluctant to offer advice, but eventually she says, “There are things that change us, Peter. I can’t pretend to know what’s right, but I know how different you’d have been as Spider-Man without support behind you. No one can be totally independent and survive. Now, I don’t know much about this Deadpool man, but I can’t imagine he has many friends. Maybe all he needs is someone to tell him that it’s okay to be scared and lost sometimes. Maybe he needs someone to lend a hand.”

Peter sucks in a breath and hides his face behind a sip of cocoa. Aunt May confirming what he had been thinking all along cements the idea in his head: Deadpool needs a friend more than anyone else in the world right now, and Peter’s job is to protect people. Even if that means protecting them from themselves.

He’s going to be the best fucking friend Deadpool ever had, even if it kills him. Which it very well might.

Chapter Text

Befriending Deadpool is actually… not terrible. Scratch that, it’s damn near fun. Granted, Peter constantly frets over the moral dilemma of knowing his friend is a heartless murderer, but he’s working on that.

The murderer part. Not the dilemma part. He’s onboard with the dilemma part. He constantly reminds himself that he has given Deadpool his friendship to put an end to the killings, and in his opinion, that validates his continued interest in spending time with him.

But apart from that (admittedly large) hangup, Deadpool is a fun guy. Peter never knows what to expect, and that’s somewhat delightful. When it’s not pissing-his-pants scary, that is. Deadpool never stops being scary. Peter is learning to handle it, though, because Deadpool hasn’t hurt him once. In fact, he would venture a guess that Deadpool takes special care to make sure none of his blades or gadgets wander into Peter’s personal zone. Personal zone being, of course, his physical person. Deadpool doesn’t seem to notice personal bubbles that extend past flesh and bone.

That takes some getting used to, but Peter has found that he enjoys it. He’s a very tactile person, after all, and getting to be buddy-buddy with someone as strong and nimble as himself has many benefits. They even spar once, after Peter patiently waits for Deadpool to disarm. (“Even the blade tucked in your mask, dude. Come on.”) Deadpool obviously feels a little out of sorts using his bare hands, but he still keeps pace marvelously, and he manages to stop himself every time he is primed for a kill move. Peter loves every minute of it.

The truth is, it’s easy to forget Deadpool is a murderer when they spend time together. Yes, he’s horrifyingly careless with his own well-being and he never stops fiddling with some kind of weapon or another, but it feels innocent, somehow. Puppies have sharp teeth, but they are wholly faultless when they cause pain. They have no idea what they’re doing. Deadpool feels the same.

But he’s not faultless. Deadpool is no puppy, and his fighting skill suggests that he is very much in control of himself, which is a scary thought considering he seems to have no interest in stopping the violence. As much as Peter would like to ignore that side of Deadpool, he already decided to take responsibility for ending Deadpool’s murders. That doesn’t change because the guy knows how to crack a joke or two. If it turns out that Peter is out of his depth, then, like it or not, he’ll have to call Coulson.

For now, though, because he knows he hasn’t pushed the issue as much as he could, Peter will hold off.

In the meantime, he has someone who jokes around with him, keeps him on his toes, and gives him tiny glimpses of a broken man that make him want to comfort and protect Deadpool forever. Deadpool is a great, great friend, if not a good person. He even posed for the picture of them, and Spider-Man has since been exonerated from Deadpool’s crimes in the public’s eye.

Despite Peter’s best efforts, the Bugle’s next headline reads “Spider-Man Fails to Turn in Masked Murderer: Is He Inept or Involved?” There is no pleasing them.

Peter sighs and pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose. (They’re blanks, but Peter thoroughly enjoys the feeling of putting on his glasses just so he can take them off and rub his eyes when he gets frustrated. It’s the little things.) He puts down his copy of the paper, frustrated, and decides to start working on his project, despite being early. He bought the paper on the way to work to fill himself in on the Spider-Man gossip of the day, but it’s just not worth it to get a Bugle-induced headache this early in the morning.

After high school he tried to support himself with his job at the Daily Bugle, but after a month or two, he realized it wasn’t working out. He made nothing, and Aunt May was working herself to the bone to compensate. He eventually started applying for any and every position he could, until he got one of those Very Serious Business calls from Coulson. Coulson—beautiful, sweet, god-like Coulson—pulled a few strings and found Peter a decent job working in Stark Tower. It was a low-level research position, but it should have required a college degree, and somehow Coulson worked around it. That was three years ago, and Peter has since wriggled his way slightly up the totem pole. He’s still essentially a glorified research assistant, but now he works on more advanced projects. More awesome projects.

Peter’s current project involves working with tardigrades to better understand their biology. Tardigrades can survive in a variety of inhospitable conditions by falling into a dormant state. Once they enter an environment in which they can thrive, they rehydrate and come back to life. It’s fascinating.

Whatever they uncover here will be the basis of Phase Two, which involves translating those organismal processes into workable information for more generalized uses. Generalized uses like functional cryogenic freezing.

Peter fucking loves his job.

It took him months to get used to working in Tony Stark’s company. He’s always admired how Stark Industries works to merge technology with biology—especially Tony’s Iron Man suit. Peter has fantasized more often than not about a Spidey suit integrated with Stark tech; how many fewer Spandex holes would he have to repair? How much more would he be able to notice and control? He would relish any chance to use Stark’s top of the line tablets and displays. The best part, though, Peter thinks, is when Stark himself makes his surprisingly frequent trips to the lower floors to check on their research.

Granted, his visits to Peter’s old lab down on Level 24 usually consisted of a thumbs-up and a “You’re doing great!”—but here on Level 37, he’s a bit more thorough. Mr. Stark clearly has an interest in the more advanced projects, and loves to spring impossible challenges on his research teams, much to their frequent chagrin. A lot of scientists in the Tower get frustrated with Stark, because they dislike acknowledging the limitations of their own research before it’s even finished, but Peter adores it. Stark makes Peter remember that every experiment has a purpose and while Stark’s ideas may be far-fetched, the concept of having those ideas is remarkable. Stark sees every discovery as a tool with which to delve into the future.

Peter wants to be Tony Stark when he grows up.

Friday afternoons are typically slow in the lab, but this particular Friday drags on like molasses. Peter’s sample of tardigrades refuses to stay put, and Peter can’t be bothered to mind. He plays a game on his phone when no one is looking and gives his tardigrades some moss to eat.

“Mr. Stark!”

Peter jerks and drops his phone in surprise. Stark is at the doorway of their lab, talking to Peter’s supervisor, Tom. Peter rushes to arrange his notes around his desk, frantically hiding his phone in his desk drawer. Stark asks Tom a question, scanning the room, and Tom points—oh no—right at Peter. Stark nods to Tom and makes his way across the lab. A rumpled man roughly Stark’s height follows close behind.

“Peter Parker?” Stark takes an assessing look around Peter’s desk.

Peter swallows and tries not to look terrified. “That’s me.”

“Tony Stark,” Stark says, offering a hand. Peter shakes it and prays his microhairs behave themselves; they have a habit of reacting uncontrollably when Peter is nervous, and he doubts Tony Stark would appreciate having a lab tech stuck to his body. Thankfully, they stay put. “This is my associate, Bruce.”

“Good to meet you,” Bruce says, shaking Peter’s hand as well. He seems like the sort of man who looks perpetually tired but refuses to make sleep a priority, which Peter understands all too well. He gestures to the petri dish on Peter’s desk. “Did you think overweight water bears would yield better cryogenic results, or are your subjects on lunch break?”

Peter feels his face turn hot. “I thought I might give them a cheat day?”

Blessedly, the joke lands; Stark’s lips quirk while Bruce smiles. “I’m sure they appreciate it,” Stark says, humoring him. “I won’t mince words, Parker: Coulson approached me and told me you assisted his team in an experiment. He’s the reason you have this job. Your qualifications are certainly lackluster and you don’t exactly have any other relevant work experience.”

Peter’s body runs cold. “Oh.” He should have been working harder, he realizes all too late. He didn’t think Stark would fire him personally—isn’t that what supervisors are for?—but it doesn’t really matter. What is he going to do without this job? He’ll have to find something else, and fast. He might have to retire the suit for a few weeks while he searches classifieds, which has the unfortunate side effect of stifling his friendship with Deadpool. Hopefully he’ll understand.

“Tony,” Bruce says, exasperated, “the kid’s white as a sheet. Be nice.”

“Oh!” Stark shakes his head, raising his hands reassuringly. “Oh, you’re not fired, Peter. Can I call you Peter? I’ve been keeping tabs on your work for Phil, and he was right to recommend you. You’re fine.”

Peter takes a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “Oh, okay. Good. Thanks. Uh, seriously, thank you. For this job, and everything. It means a lot.”

Stark waves him off. “Yeah, whatever. Just keep it up.”

“We’re here to ask you to settle a little dispute,” Bruce clarifies, clasping his hands behind his back.

Stark rolls his eyes. “The reason we’re here, Peter, is because Coulson seems to think you have some very valuable experience with radiation and how it affects the human body.”

Peter feels sliced to the core. What did Coulson tell Stark to get Peter the job? How much do they know about Peter’s past? About his abilities? He works to regain control of himself before either men notice. “In my experience,” he manages, “they don’t mix well.”

Both men chuckle. “We don’t disagree with you,” Bruce says. “Countless experiments have shown that mutagenic radiation therapy almost always backfires, with very few exceptions.”

Peter has witnessed a number of those “backfires,” and his memories of their suffering aches inside him. Dr. Connors, desperate to regain his lost hand, mutated into the abominable, misanthropic Lizard, who tried to mutate the people of New York into fellow monsters. Harry took a radioactive serum to save himself from following his sickly father’s diseased footsteps, and instead went insane as medicine became poison and his body rejected the dose. Every time Peter has encountered radioactive mutation, he’s lost someone important. He has no idea what Stark and Bruce are up to but, whatever it is, they had better be careful.

“... Captain America, for example,” Stark is saying, and Peter realizes he zoned out, and forces himself to refocus on the conversation. “Although some might argue that it turned him into a self-righteous prick, but that’s neither here nor there.”

“I’d imagine Steve’s always had a self-righteous streak,” Bruce says, smirking.

“And, we have no proof,” Stark continues, blatantly ignoring Bruce, “but I’d imagine our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is a radioactive mutant, too.” Stark crosses his arms. “But you’d know more about that, wouldn’t you, Peter?”

Peter’s breath catches in his throat. “I don’t know what you—”

“You’re his photographer, are you not?” Stark’s eyes narrow, and Peter suspects he knows more than he’s letting on. “It seems to be a pretty exclusive arrangement, too. No one else can get action shots quite like yours. Has Spider-Man ever talked to you about his powers?”

“No.” The word comes out shaky, and Peter clears his throat to try again. “No, sorry. But I can see how you’d think he got them from radiation therapy. Do you think he participated in a program, like Captain America?”

“I doubt it,” Bruce says, running a hand through his curly hair. “His powers are too specific, and I’ve never heard of a clinical trial to give people the abilities of an arachnid. No, I’d imagine Spider-Man got his powers by accident, and chose to make himself a superhero. Very admirable of him.”

Peter would appreciate the inadvertent compliment, but he’s too busy panicking. These guys know way too much for his liking. Either they’re incredible at deduction, or they have intel implicating the truth. “With all due respect, what does this have to do with me?”

“We’ve found ourselves in a bit of an ethical pickle,” Stark says wryly. “We’re conducting some research into radioactive mutations, and whether or not they’re reversible.”

Peter’s breath catches in his throat. Reversible mutations? As in, all of those people Peter grieves for could regain their humanity? He could go back to normal? But this is wonderful. Dr. Connors could go back to his research. Harry could return to Paris and date models for a living. Everyone could be okay.

But they couldn’t. Not really. Dr. Connors and Harry were put in prison without parole not because they turned into something dangerous, but because they chose to do dangerous things. The mutations changed their minds as well as their bodies, and Peter doubts more radiation therapy could reverse that. And if Peter went back to normal, he doubts he’d be happier. He’s gotten so used to his super strength, flexibility, and rapid healing, he’d have to relearn everything about himself just to avoid injury.

“Well,” Peter says, gathering his thoughts, “I can see your dilemma. What conclusions have you drawn?” He wants to know exactly how much they have figured out before he shows his hand.

“Bruce, here, thinks that any hope of reversing radioactive mutations is worth pursuing. I think that, without any knowledge or guess of what might happen, the research could be unjustifiably harmful.”

“Our tests would be small-scale,” Bruce replies, as if he’s said this before. “Any risk would be minimal until we find something worthy of testing on more complex subjects. I think that people who are forced to live with unwanted mutations should have the choice of a cure. Of course the process will be risky, but that’s a risk we should take.”

Peter sighs, letting his cheeks puff out. “I’d need to think about this for a few days to offer you anything justified,” he warns them, “but… I’m hesitant to see this as a cure-all, and I’m hesitant to promote mutagenic research if I don’t believe it will reliably work. And I don’t. We’re not computers that you can just wipe clean; whatever happens to us leaves an imprint. We grow and adapt around our internal and external environment. Even if you can reverse mutations, I’m not sure you should.”

“My argument exactly,” Stark says triumphantly, snapping his fingers. “I knew I hired you for a reason.” Bruce, by his side, looks defeated.

“That said,” Peter continues, because he dislikes the idea of upsetting a man who clearly wants this research to work, “I still think the idea has value. I don’t see this as a treatment for people who have adjusted to their mutation, but… it could work for people who have yet to get used to their powers. Take Spider-Man, for example. Now, after getting used to swinging around the city and saving people, I doubt he would transition back to civilian life very well. But, okay, let’s say his powers were an accident. That means the guy had to go through some time when none of his powers made sense. If you found that kid and offered him the opportunity to take it all back, he might take you up on it.”

“Spider-Man has saved thousands of lives,” Stark points out. “Is it ethically sound to take that from the world? What if the people we treat could have saved lives?”

His words give Peter an epiphany, and he can’t help but laugh. “This is an abortion debate.”

“Pardon?” Bruce looks flabbergasted.

“Think about it.” Peter gestures to Stark. “Mr. Stark’s argument rests on the concept that potential powers, like potential life, could yield some unknown social benefit, and that aborting those powers is ethically wrong because of it.” He nods toward Bruce. “Your argument holds that the individual should have a right to choose their own future, regardless of the social consequences.”

The men sit in a moment of stunned silence. “Oh my god,” Stark groans. “How did we not see this? I’m pro-life.”

“I stand by my opinion,” Bruce says, clearly amused.

“Maybe I’m showing my political leanings, here,” Peter says, grinning briefly, “but I think I tend to support the idea of choice more, overall. The idea that every mutated person could be the next Superman relies on circumstance, which is historically unreliable. We can’t reasonably expect every person not only to learn how to control their powers, but also recognize what is and is not morally sound with no internal biases, and feel driven to enforce that morality with vigilantism. It’s a lot to expect of anyone, and I think it’s unfair to place that on someone undergoing as big change as mutant powers in their life.

“But I still support what I said earlier: Even a perfect result might not be a cure. You would have to analyze every case individually, make sure the person could survive further radiation, let alone survive without their mutation, and still hope that they turn out functional. And that’s if the treatment works.”

Peter takes a breath. He just said a lot, and none of it was a glowing endorsement for either scientist’s agenda. Peter simply can’t see an easy answer either way.

“This changes things,” Stark says to Bruce, who frowns. “This changes our goal.”

Bruce sighs, looking far more tired than when he walked up to Peter’s desk. Peter feels sorry for him. Whatever Bruce has invested in this research clearly means a lot to him, and Peter knows what it feels like to have that kind of hope extinguished. “It doesn’t matter,” Bruce says softly. “Our goal… it’s fine. People deserve to have a choice, Tony. If I can help give them that choice, I want to. But I’ll understand if you’ve lost interest.”

Stark doesn’t reply. He looks more troubled than Peter has ever seen him before. Peter turns back to his desk to give them some space, and tries not to listen in. He fails miserably.

“I can’t be liable for this,” Stark murmurs helplessly. “If Stark Industries offers this treatment and it goes wrong, we’re finished. I can’t afford another mistake like Ultron.”

“I understand, Tony.”

Stark scrubs a hand over his beard. “But… Jesus Christ. If I let the board’s interests dictate my own, I’m no better than Obadiah. We have the power and resources to make a difference, here. We have an ethical obligation to explore that option. I’m in, Bruce. God help us both.”

Peter resolutely does not turn around, no matter how much he wants to. He’s happy Stark wants to help, but the implications of this research are profound, and Peter doesn’t know what to make of them. If someone came to him after he was bitten and offered him a cure, would he have taken it? In this hypothetical situation, should he have? How would his life have changed, if he had gone through some sort of corrective treatment? How many lives would be lost?

How many would be saved?

“Thanks for your help, Peter,” Stark says abruptly, pulling Peter from his reverie. “This was a big question. You did well. Tell me, are you particularly invested in freezing bugs?”

Peter frowns. His tardigrades aren’t bugs. “Why?”

“I don’t employ idiots,” Stark says, “but you’re wasted here. We have more advanced projects further up that could use someone like you. You’d have to take some classes in biomedical engineering, but it would come with a pay raise, some benefits… interested?”

Gwen was going to Oxford for medical engineering. She was on her way to the airport when… Peter clears his throat; he can’t afford to think about that right now. But she would have loved an opportunity like this. “Uh, sure, I’m interested. Can I take some time to give you a final answer?”

“Of course.” Stark claps him on the shoulder. “Think it over. I’ll have someone draft up the logistics for you. Until then, back to work! Cryogenic freezers can’t make themselves, you know.”

Stark shakes Peter’s hand and leaves to talk to Peter’s supervisor, most likely about Peter’s potential departure from the lab. Bruce lingers behind. “I appreciate your input,” he says softly, though Peter can’t shake the feeling he definitely gave Bruce bad news. “This is a complicated issue we sprung on you. I respect the thought and consideration you gave it, even if your conclusion… excludes certain people.”

Peter bites his lip. He can’t afford to reveal too much information about himself, but he also can’t help but try to comfort Bruce a little. “I don’t know how much Coulson told Mr. Stark, or what you’ve heard about me, but... From what I know about radioactive mutation…. If you have something invested in reversing a mutation, I’m truly sorry I couldn’t give you a better answer. I hope I’m wrong about this.”

Bruce gives him a sad smile. “It was nice meeting you, Peter.” He shoves his hands in his pockets and joins Stark at the front of the lab, looking all for the world like someone kicked his puppy.

Peter sighs miserably and, spinning back to his desk, props his chin on both hands. Bruce seems like a genuinely nice guy. Peter wonders what could have gotten him so invested in mutagenic radiation research. It must have taken something significant to make him this desperate to reverse mutations. It’s a shame that he’s been so negatively affected by this, Peter thinks. It’s a shame that anyone has to deal with it.

The question Peter asked himself earlier nags at him, now that he is alone at his workspace. What if he had had a choice? Would Spider-Man ever have existed? Would Peter have known to question a miracle cure, or would he have agreed to it instantly?

Peter imagines a life without Spider-Man. Uncle Ben would still be alive. Aunt May would never have taken the second job to cover their finances. His family would be whole and happy. Peter would be in his senior year of college.

Gwen would be….

Peter sucks in a breath and presses the heels of his hands into his eye sockets. He has never once stopped missing her; it still feels like yesterday that he watched her fall down the clock tower. She should be at Oxford now, helping change lives. Spider-Man took that from her. Can he herald his achievements as “socially beneficial” when they took Gwen from the world? How many lives must Peter save before he feels like he has made up for destroying hers?

His mood continues to deteriorate through the rest of the afternoon. By the time he gets home, all Peter wants to do is put on his saddest music and cry into his pillow until he falls asleep. He spends several moments seriously contemplating doing just that, but he remembers how he felt just after he lost Gwen. He had felt so useless—until he resolved to help people every time he started to throw a pity party.

If Spider-Man has taken this much from his life, Peter wants to use him to help as many other people as possible. This has to benefit someone.

Chapter Text

He patrols for half an hour before he hears a commotion. He swings down to an abandoned parking lot and sighs. This is the last thing he wanted to deal with.

“Listen, toots, you'd better mind your own fuckin' business while I show your boytoy, here, what’s what. Shut up and get the fuck outta here, eh?”

“Deadpool,” Peter calls. He can see a body lying at Deadpool’s feet, and it makes his already fragile mindspace take a turn for the worse. “Stop it, dude.”

Deadpool spins and his dress— why is he wearing a dress? Peter wonders—spins around his knees. “Spidey! Oh, baby boy, am I happy to see you!”

He abandons the woman, who immediately runs away—probably to call the police. Peter sighs. He’s so not in the mood for this. “Wish I could say the same.”

Deadpool visibly deflates. “What? Spidey, you okay?”

Peter turns away, disgusted and defeated. He doesn’t want to deal with this right now. He’s just going to leave and let Deadpool do his thing. He’ll handle the aftermath tomorrow. “Goodbye, Deadpool.”

He makes it two steps before something leaps on his back and takes him to the ground. He fights Deadpool for a minute, uncaring of the consequences. He needs to get out of here now.

That is, until he feels the light pressure of a knife pressing at his throat. He stops fighting instantly and his heart thunders in his chest as he tries to stay still.

“That’s better,” Deadpool says pleasantly. “Now talk, before I cut out all the important bits.”

“Deadpool,” Peter says, enunciating clearly, tilting his chin away from the knife. “I’ll never be able to speak again if you do that. I can’t grow my tongue back.”

It’s half a lie. He has no idea what kinds of things he can heal, but he really doesn’t want to find out.

“Then you should get talking, baby boy.”

Peter sighs and lets his head fall to the ground with a thud. “Something happened today that brought back a lot of old memories—bad ones—and I really wanted to just come be Spider-Man and forget about them for a while.”

“So do that with me!” Deadpool says, shrugging. “What’s the fuckery in this ass, bro?”

Peter barks a surprised laugh despite himself. “What? That’s not an idiom.”

“Yeah,” Deadpool says, nodding his head side to side, as if weighing his options, “but it makes sense.”

Peter has to concede that one. He takes a deep breath. “I dunno, dude. I just… I saw you standing over a dead guy and I thought, come on. Not tonight.

“It really bothers you, doesn’t it?” Deadpool asks, tilting his head. “That I kill people, I mean. That really grinds your gears.”

“Well, of course it does, Deadpool,” Peter grits out. He really doesn’t want to be having this conversation with Deadpool on top of him in a dress, especially with a knife in against his throat. “I care about whether people live or die.”

“Why? We’re all tiny cogs in the big ol’ machine of the Universe, Spidey. Like seriously, massive fuckin’ machine, here.”

“But that’s just it!” Peter says desperately. God, he wishes he were standing right now. “That’s the point of cogs, Deadpool. They’re all important. You never know if the cog you take out is going to be the one that sends that massive machine careening towards disrepair. What if that guy over there was a doctor? What if he helped little kids with cancer? What if he helped? You just ended all of that.”

“Oh come on, Spidey, give me some credit,” Deadpool whines. “That guy? Please. Our little ‘kiddy doctor’ over there enjoyed long walks on the beach, beating his girlfriend, and spending quality time with hookers. Whom, for fuckin’ symmetry’s sake, or some shit, he also beat.”

That stops Peter cold. “What?”

“And, more importantly—or not, depending where you stand on that whole domestic violence issue—he worked at a chop shop that snuck drugs into all its outgoing vehicles. Keep up, eh? I’m a mercenary, baby boy. Wham, bam, thank you kind corpse for your business.” Deadpool points sharply at the body with the dagger. “He was a target, dude. A means to an decently lucrative end."

Peter squints up at him, though he knows Deadpool can’t tell through the mask. “Who paid you?”

Deadpool scratches at the back of his head, uncharacteristically shy. “Uh… technically? No one. His girlfriend—not the girl you saw there, just so’s ya know; that was one of his many side pieces—sent out a request on the D.L. a few weeks ago. Sweet girl. She couldn’t offer money, because that asshole—” he flings his dagger at the body and it sticks into its side with a sickeningly wet noise— “would have killed her if he found out. Paid me in dark chocolate orange cupcakes, instead. I know, I know—Deadpool? Taking out low-level scum for baked goods? Fuck you, man, those things were delicious, and ain’t no price too small to take out a cheating motherfucker like that, no sirree. That’s some low-ass shit.”

His tirade dwindles to nothing but a diatribe of angry murmurs that Peter can’t quite make out. Eventually, he decides to interrupt it. “So this was a job. She asked you to take him out, and you did it. It wasn’t random?”

Deadpool tilts his head down at him. “Very few of my kills are random, Spidey, and none of them are purposeless. You haven’t figured that out by now?”

Peter lets out a rush of breath. “No. I hadn’t.”

It makes sense. Well, no, it doesn’t. Peter has no idea what to make of this revelation, but it fills him with relief regardless. Deadpool’s victims aren’t random. He isn’t completely insane, after all.

Oh, he’s muttering again. Emphasis on the completely, then. Deadpool is still very much insane.

“Are they all contracts?” he asks quietly.

Deadpool leans back and crosses his arms. “I’ll make you a deal. Let’s get some grub. You tell me your sob story, I’ll tell you mine.”

Peter considers it. He just had dinner, but he can always eat more, and he really wants to know more about Deadpool’s kill pattern, now that he knows he has one. On the flip side, he very much doesn’t want to rehash the drama of his day.

“Fine,” he says, “but you and your blood money are buying.”

Deadpool, the child, actually claps his hands. “Yay! Oh my gosh, our first date! This is so exciting. Do I get to grope that ass-mazing butt of yours at the end? Or—ooh , can I lick it? Oh, pretty please!”

“Oh my god, Deadpool, no. You cannot lick my ass.” On a list of things Peter ever expected to say, that’s at the bottom. Oh, if Coulson could see him now. “And by that logic, our first date was the night I brought you Mexican. Remember?”

The words escape Peter before he can think better of them. He can feel a flush creeping down his neck and really wishes Deadpool weren’t on top of him right now.

Deadpool leans over so his face is right above Peter’s. Peter can see the stitches in his mask. It’s well-made, and he absentmindedly wonders if Deadpool makes his own suits or has them made for him.

“So it was a date?” Deadpool breathes, sounding awed. “Wonders never cease.”

Peter flushes darker under his mask. “Shut up and let me stand, Deadpool.”

“Only so I can knock you right back off your feet!” Deadpool cries, leaping off Peter in an effortless bound. He grabs the dagger from the body and wipes it clean on his dress. Pity, Peter thinks. It was rather fetching. “Oh just you wait, Spidey, I’m going to woo the fuck out of you. Hopefully literally.”

He bows dramatically, doffing an imaginary hat, and Peter laughs despite himself. He shouldn’t be condoning this, not with his track record for romance and certainly not with the likes of Deadpool, but, fuck, it feels good. “Put your money where your mouth is, big boy. What do you want? I know a place that makes great soup dumplings.”

And Deadpool, tiny and lightning fast, slides right into Peter’s personal bubble. “Oh, baby boy,” he coos, trailing the flat edge of his retrieved knife down Peter’s sternum. “What don’t I want?”

“Alright, alright,” Peter says, grinning. It says something that the knife doesn’t faze him now, even a little. “Keep your Spandex on. Let’s get some Chinese, come on.”

Deadpool downright skips the ten blocks to the nearest Chinese place, and confidently orders the three hottest dishes on the menu, plus two servings of soup dumplings. The money he gives the cashier has actual blood on it, and Peter winces guiltily at the horrified look she gives Deadpool when she realizes what it is. Deadpool blows her a kiss, unrepentant, and skips back out, Peter trailing not far behind.

“I’m sick of rooftops,” Deadpool says when Peter makes for a nearby building. “Let’s go to the park.”

Peter hesitates. He’s already feeling trepidatious about lifting even just a part of his mask to eat in front of Deadpool; he really doesn’t want any errant photographers taking advantage of it, too. He can see the headline now: This Just In: Our “Friendly” Neighborhood Spider-Man has a CHIN!

“We’ll find someplace dark,” Deadpool says, as if reading his mind. “Someplace nice and secluded.” The brow of his mask shifts up and down, and Peter laughs.

“Lead the way, Casanova.”

Deadpool takes five to scout out the park while Peter waits with their food. When he finally picks the perfect spot, he hustles Peter into place and spreads his arms. “See? S’fuckin’ perfect, baby boy!”

It is, admittedly, beautiful. A thin line of trees separates a picnic table from the bank of a pond, so they can hear the sound of water lapping against the shore and the hiss of a fountain bubbling as they eat. They’re far enough from any lamps to be all but invisible, but the light filtering in through the trees is enough to see their food. Deadpool hurriedly pulls their takeout out of the bag and onto the table, opening all the containers at once. He passes Peter a set of chopsticks and tugs up his mask. In the shadows, his scars look even deeper and more painful. They almost look like they’re shifting in the dim light.

Peter folds up the bottom of his own mask, self-consciously making sure it covers his nose. The spice from the food is strong enough to make his eyes water, but he reaches for a set of chopsticks, anyway. He’s still full from dinner, but one or two dumplings can’t hurt.

“Alright, Spidey, who do you want to go first,” Deadpool says around a mouth of something bright orange, “you or me?”

Might as well get this over with. “I’ll go.”

Deadpool shoves two soup dumplings into his mouth at once and nods for him to continue.

Peter plays with his chopsticks, stalling for time. Now that he’s volunteered to talk, he doesn’t want to say a word. He doesn’t trust Deadpool enough. He bites his lip, ashamed; he promised himself that he was going to be Deadpool’s friend. He’ll never get anywhere unless he gives Deadpool the opportunity to be Peter’s friend in return. “I met someone right about the same time I turned into Spider-Man. I mean, I knew her beforehand, but we never really went out until after. She was perfect. Beautiful, smart, funny, hands like satin…. And she didn’t care about the Spider-Man thing. She just wanted me to be safe—”

Peter chokes on the last word. He hasn’t spoken about Gwen in years, and talking about her now feels like drowning. He remembers her so clearly, it’s like he saw her yesterday. After the accident, she featured in his dreams so often that all the details—the way her nose would crinkle when she tried to hide her amusement, the curve of her spine, the way her hair fanned around her as she lay at the bottom of that clock tower—burned themselves in Peter’s mind.

He puts down his food, having lost his appetite, and tries to focus on getting the story out as quickly as possible. He doesn’t want to linger on this and give Deadpool more information than necessary.

“Her father was a pretty influential guy and didn’t like that Spider-Man was out on the streets. He thought I was a menace, and it changed the way I saw myself. I’d never really considered how my vigilantism might affect the people I cared about. So I tried to distance myself from her, but I… I couldn’t. She was so irresistible, you know? I couldn’t stay away.”

Peter remembers the crystalline tears in Gwen’s eyes as she fell down the clock tower. Not for the first time, he reminds himself that she was crying because of him. Because he couldn’t just leave her alone. He sucks in a breath and feels tears seep into the mask on his cheeks. Goddammit, he wasn’t supposed to cry, not in front of Deadpool.

“I warred with that for a long time. I think it really hurt her, how much I flip-flopped, but I didn’t know how else to handle it. I was just a kid. I still kind of am, in some ways.”

“Preachin’ to the motherfuckin’ choir, man,” Deadpool says. His chopsticks are shoved in his gums so he looks like a walrus, and Peter wants to scream at him for the indecency of it.

Peter smiles tightly, biting his tongue. “Yeah. Well, anyway, the next time a Big Bad came around, I tried my best to keep her out of it, but I was too weak, and… she paid for it with her life. It hit me… really hard. If I hadn’t become Spider-Man, if I hadn’t asked her out, if I had kept my word to her father, she’d still be here. And at work today, a lot of those old issues came back up. And it’s hitting me really hard again.”

Deadpool skewers a shrimp with one of his chopsticks and pops it into his mouth. “Bitches, man.”

Peter closes his eyes behind the mask and tries not to punch Deadpool in his scarred, nasty face. He should have known better than to think Deadpool would be sympathetic. Hell, he doesn’t even know if Deadpool can feel sympathy. He hangs his head and rubs his hands over his mask, taking some small comfort in the familiar drag of rubber on rubber.

“I know he’s distraught,” Deadpool whispers suddenly, sounding furious. “What do you think I should do, eh?”

Peter glances up at him. Deadpool is kneading at his temple with one hand, the other clutching his chopsticks tightly, as if he’s in pain.

“That’s fuckin’ stupid,” he continues in the same hushed tone. “Killing him won’t solve anything.” After a pause, “Neither will kissing, yellow! He’s broken up, can’t you see that? Bad touch, dude.”

“Are you okay, Deadpool?” Peter asks, unsure.

Deadpool startles and fixes Peter with one of his wide, agonizing looking smiles. “Peachy keen! Just settling a little dispute between me and the boxes. Ya know.”

“The boxes?” Peter looks down at their takeout, confused. “Is… is our food yelling at you?”

Deadpool snorts. “Not those boxes, dummy! The ones in my head. There’s just the white one and the yellow one, mostly. I think there used to be someone else, but they’re pretty much gone by now. I think that one was green, or gold, or something. Something with a G. Goldenrod?”

Dread settles in Peter. Here it is: proof that Deadpool is as insane as Peter always suspected he was. “You hear voices, huh?”

Deadpool cocks his head, like he’s listening to something. “White says I should tell you my story now. Cool?”

Peter sucks a dumpling into his mouth and, as he has a thousand times before, pushes his grief to the back of his mind. “Yeah, go for it.”

“Actually, before I do that...” Deadpool shifts so that he can sling an arm around Peter’s shoulders. He smells like gun oil and leather. It’s oddly comforting. “I’m sorry you had to relive that, dude. Seriously. I’ve seen my share of tragedy, and it seems a shame that a sweet guy like you should get shit on like the rest of us losers. Fate is a cruel bitch with a big strap-on, is she not?”

Peter chuckles and, because he always craves physical affection when he’s hurting, rests his head on Deadpool’s shoulder, even though it cranes his neck at a weird angle. He’s surprised Deadpool managed to rustle up some empathy, but it’s very, very welcome. He should know better by now than to make assumptions about what Deadpool is or isn’t capable of. “Thanks, man. That means a lot.”

Deadpool breathes shakily and rests his head ever so lightly on top of Peter’s. When he speaks, his voice is a quiet rasp. “The long and short of it is that I have no idea who I am, where I came from, or why I am the way I am. Sorta like Superman, ya know? I’ve just always been like this, but I know there’s way fuckin’ more to the story. It’s kinda messy.”

Peter raises his head slowly, so Deadpool has time to shift away at his speed. “You don’t know who you are?” Peter asks disbelievingly. “That’s… that’s terrible. Holy shit. What about ‘Vancouver, born and raised,’ or whatever?”

Deadpool shrugs. “My first memory is in Vancouver. Woke up on a table, with this absolute fucktwat dickweed standing over me, smirking like he just got a rimjob from Jesus, or something. Named Francis. What kind of fuckin’ name is Francis? Anyway, he tried to tell me that my life was his now, or some shit, and that I followed his orders. I, uh, disagreed. Got out of there, gave myself a name, a career, a fuckin' raison d’être, all of it. I am my own puppet master. Most of the people I kill, I do it for money. Sometimes I do it for free, when the target is a particular brand of asswipe. And a few… a few I kill for my own reasons. I’m hunting down Francis, slowly but surely. I’ve been tracking his contacts all over the world, and the most recent one dragged me here. So, here I am.”

“Huh,” Peter says. He can’t help but focus on one particular detail from the story: Deadpool has a name. He’d never even thought about that. There is a fully-formed person under that suit, not just a wide, scarred mouth and a petite frame. Suddenly, Peter wants to see it all. “Do you have a secret identity? What’s your name? Is that too personal to ask?”

“Of course not, Spidey,” Deadpool says, beaming. “I trust you, eh? Name’s Wade Wilson. Wade because I often have to wade out of my own blood, and that’s kind of cosmic symmetry, you know? And then Wilson after Tom Hanks in Castaway. He named that little fuckin’ ball Wilson, remember? Well, Wilson is to remind me that I’m my own goddamned Wilson. Don’t need nobody but me, myself, and Irene to keep warm on those cold winter nights.”

That is quite possibly the saddest, most horrible thing Peter’s ever heard in his life. “Wow. You, uh, really thought this thing through.”

“‘Course I did!” Deadpool says, beaming. “Didn’t have no squishy little parents to tell me what’s what, did I? No sirree, not even a little bit! What about you, Spidey? What’s your name?”

Peter looks at Deadpool—Wade—for a moment, trying to decide whether or not to share his name. Wade Wilson: the man reborn of himself, so thoroughly alive that he can’t manage to die. Sad as it is, Peter kind of likes that. Here’s a person Peter would never have to worry about in the heat of battle. Here’s someone Peter can’t mortally fuck over. Here’s someone Peter could love forever and ever, because Deadpool would fall down three stories and—

“—Spidey? You okay in there?” Deadpool—Wade—raps briskly on his head. “You hearin’ voices, too? I’ve found a bullet to the noggin shuts them up for a while, but they come back as soon as you do. Fuckin’ intolerable, ain’t it?”

Peter shakes his head to clear it. “I’m okay,” he says hoarsely and clears his throat. “What was the question?”

“Your name, baby boy,” Wade repeats patiently. “We’re trading diaries, aren’t we? I’ve got my sparkly pen out and everything.”

By God, he actually has a sparkly pen in his hand. Peter stares at it, considering his options. This is Deadpool, the masked mercenary who defiled Spider-Man’s good name and made his job a thousand times harder. This is the man who kills for a living and for fun. He’s the most dangerous man Peter has ever met, and he’s unpredictable at the best of times. The very last thing Peter should do is trust him with his name.

But then again, this is also Wade Wilson, a man borne of gore and mystery. He has no childhood, no family, and no friends. Something, most likely violence at the hand of this Francis character, drove him insane until he forgot everything about himself. Stuck with voices in his head, a supercharged healing factor, and no moral compass, what was he supposed to do? What would Peter do? He’s seen good men fall into the same trap of evil under far kinder circumstances. Can he really blame Wade for becoming Deadpool?

Peter swallows. No, he can’t. It’s clear to him by now that Wade is trying to make the best of a shitty situation. Granted, he could probably find more legal, moral work in the world, but so could Peter. They’re both hiding behind masks to protect themselves. If Peter can’t trust Deadpool, who can he trust?

“Peter,” he says, blinking himself back into awareness. “My name’s—oh.”

Deadpool is gone, along with all the takeout boxes. A napkin flutters around the point of a dagger, which has been driven into the wood of the table. GOT BORED, it reads in glittery pink ink. SEE YOU AROUND, SPIDER-MAN.

Peter tugs the dagger free and stares down at the handwriting. It’s a nearly illegible scrawl, but the heart drawn in next to “Spider-Man” is perfectly symmetrical. Peter feels the corners of his lips tug up, unbidden, and stows the napkin in the pocket of his suit.

Yeah, he can trust Deadpool.

Chapter Text

Peter expects to spend the next few days dwelling on his relationship with Gwen, visiting their old haunts and looking through pictures saved on his computer, but he doesn’t. He wakes up the morning after dinner with Deadpool feeling surprisingly okay—maybe Deadpool’s cavalier attitude did him some good, after all—and spends the next few weeks kicking criminal ass. He’s spent too long regretting his transformation and the losses it brought him; confronting his grief with someone like Deadpool, who has been dealt the shittiest cards in the deck and still manages to have fun with his life, gave Peter hope. He can never get his old life back, but he can make the most of the one he has now, and he plans to do just that.

Gwen wouldn’t have wanted him to suffer. He will never forgive himself for what happened to her, in the end, but he can honor her memory by embracing the memories he has of her instead of staining them with guilt. He's living for both of them now. He's going to make his life worth it.

He throws on his Spider-Man suit one Tuesday night and heads out early to patrol. His night is mostly uneventful until he finds a gangster stripped down to his boxers, tied up in what appear to be fake cobwebs. By his head lay a box of chocolate-covered insects. Peter laughs so hard he cries, then eats the box of chocolates.

They’re surprisingly delicious.

He ignores how pleased he is that Deadpool seems to be serious about wooing him. He just likes the attention, that’s all. It’s nice to feel wanted. That’s all this is. It’s nice.

Since Peter Parker’s incredible shot of Spider-Man duking it out with Deadpool went viral, Peter’s had no trouble roaming the streets of the city. The Bugle continues to bleat indignantly about "Ineffectual Spider-Man" and “His Villainous Accomplice,” but no one listens to them. The body count has fallen steadily since the beginning of Peter and Wade’s friendship, and most of New York loves him again. A few civilians continue to glare at him distrustfully, but he’s used to that by now. Haters gonna hate, he figures. At least he can do his job unencumbered.

On the flip side, the public has gone into a terror over Deadpool. When Peter asks him about it, he cheers and says, “This is great publicity, Spidey! I am the one who motherfuckin’ knocks, bro! You want ‘em dead, you know who to call. Oh my fucking god, Spidey, I’m like Ghostbusters!”

Well, as long as he’s happy, Peter won’t complain.

He spends a week carefully crafting questions about Wade’s past, particularly about this Francis fellow Wade seems to hate. Despite his planning, as soon as he mentions Francis’ name, Wade shuts him out and loudly starts talking about the perfect tits-to-ass ratio, or something similarly off-topic. Nothing Peter does can encourage Wade to open up. Determined to get answers—partly because he thinks that solving this mystery will help prevent Wade from killing people, and partly because he wants to help Wade find peace with himself—Peter eventually accepts that he might need outside help to get to the bottom of this.

He immediately discards calling Coulson outright; Coulson might have noticed the body count drop, but chances are, he still views Deadpool as a dangerous criminal that needs to be stopped. Peter sees that as a last resort. He does need someone with Coulson’s resources, however.

The answer comes to him one day, as all brilliant ideas do, in the shower. Struck by the epiphany, he gets shampoo in his eye and curses a blue streak as he rinses off. Throwing on old pajamas and toweling his hair dry, he sits down to his computer while his hair is still dripping, and makes the call.

“Who are you and how’d you get this number?”

“Ouch, Fitz,” Peter says, smiling. “At least let me turn my back before you shove the knife in it.”

“Peter?” Leo Fitz asks, sounding delighted. “Is that you?”

Is that Peter?” Peter hears Jemma Simmons ask from what sounds like across the room. “Oh, get him on visual!

“He doesn’t have a S.H.I.E.L.D. tablet, Jemma,” Fitz reminds her fondly. “He can’t do that.”

Peter met the two scientists four years ago, after Harry injected himself with radioactive spider venom, when Coulson recruited Peter for an experiment in mutagenic therapy. Half a year later, Peter left the team, ashamed and horrified by his own failures and their consequences.

He could never quite work up the nerve to talk to FitzSimmons after he left. At first he couldn’t bear to confront his own shame; once he overcame that, he believed that they wouldn’t want to hear from him anyway. Their warm reaction to him now, though, suggests that he was wrong.

“I have Skype?” Peter offers. He fusses with his damp hair for moment, suddenly feeling disreputable in his shabby t-shirt and basketball shorts.

Fitz and Simmons laugh. “Skype, yeah,” Fitz snorts. “Yeah, that’ll do.”

“Hey,” Peter says defensively, giving up on his hair, “Shut up, it’s the best I’ve got.” FitzSimmons have access to the world’s most cutting edge technology, and what they don’t have, they invent and develop on their own. Working with them in their lab was like falling into a science fiction movie.

He opens Skype on his desktop. He already has a request from a user called ThisIs8Bit.

“Oh, screw both of you.”

He adds the new contact and a video call pops up on his screen almost instantly. He accepts it and ends the phone call.

“Oh look at you!” Simmons cries, leaning into the screen. Her hair is shorter than Peter remembers. “You look so grown up, Peter!”

Peter flushes, feeling faintly like a child getting their cheeks pinched. “Thanks.”

“How’re things, mate?” Fitz asks as Simmons wheels over a chair. “It’s been a while.”

Peter looks away guiltily. “I… thought you might not want to hear from me. Sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologize, darling,” Simmons says softly. “We understood. I can’t imagine what you went through.”

A familiar pull of sadness tugs at Peter’s chest, and he breathes through it. He needs to have this talk with them. They deserve it. “I haven’t been the same since… it’s been—I’ve had a hard time moving on. It’s still hard, sometimes.”

Simmons reaches for Fitz’ hand and he grips her back. “You know you did your best, don’t you, Peter?” Simmons’ eyebrows knit together, concerned. “You did all you could—”

“That’s not why I’m calling.” Peter says, cutting her off. Memories are coming back in hot, vivid flashes and he can’t afford to give them his attention right now. He neither needs nor wants a pity party. “I need your help with something. I’m trying to find information on someone, and all I have is his first name.”

Simmons looks like she wants to say more, but Fitz speaks before she can. “Of course, Peter. Who is he?”

Peter bites his lip. “Before I tell you anything, I need you to promise me that Coulson doesn’t hear about this. It’s… a personal mission, of sorts. I don’t want S.H.I.E.L.D. getting involved.”

Both scientists look uneasy. “I don’t know, Peter,” Simmons says, shifting in her chair. “We don’t keep secrets from Agent Coulson.”

Fitz rolled his eyes. “Yes we do, Jemma.”

“Be quiet, Fitz,” Simmons hisses, giving him an angry look.

“A moment,” Fitz tells Peter, and the screen goes black. Peter sits back in his chair, nervous. Maybe this was a bad idea. If they tell Coulson he called, Coulson will turn up on his doorstep, and then he’ll have to kiss his friendship with Wade goodbye. His heart starts to beat faster as he realizes just how much he stands to lose from this call. He should have kept his mouth shut and figured things out on his own. Even if FitzSimmons help him, who’s to say Coulson won’t find find out eventually anyway?

“And we’re back,” Fitz says, and the screen turns back on. Simmons has her arms crossed, looking disgruntled. “We’ll help you.”

“It’s okay,” Peter says, fully convinced he should extract himself from the situation. “I don’t want to put you in a sticky position. Again.”

“It’s okay, Peter,” Simmons says, sighing. “Fitz is right, we hide things from Agent Coulson more often than we probably should. And we trust you to know what we can and cannot condone, both morally and professionally.” She looks at him meaningfully.

Peter flushes red hot with shame. “You shouldn’t,” he tells them quietly.

“Hey, now—” Simmons starts, but Fitz cuts her off. “What did you need, Peter?”

Right. “I’m looking for a man named Francis,” Peter says. “I don’t have much to go on. I know he works in Vancouver. Or at least, he did. He does something involving human mutation, possibly brainwashing? I think?”

“What have you gotten yourself into?” Fitz asks, dismayed. Simmons, by his side, reaches for a tablet and starts tapping on it quickly. “Is this... another experiment?”

That hurt, but Peter thinks he deserves it. “Of course not.” He deliberates for a moment on how truthful he should be. He doubts FitzSimmons will accept his friendship with Deadpool at face value, but he also acknowledges that he’s already asked them to hide this favor from Coulson anyway, and they agreed. He doesn’t know what information could be key to solving this mystery, so it would serve him best to share it all. He takes a breath. “Okay. How much do you know about Deadpool?”

“The mercenary?” Simmons asks, looking alarmed. “He kills for money as well as sport, and he’s eluded S.H.I.E.L.D. surveillance for years. He’s a highly skilled, highly lethal killer with no regard for human life. He’s bad news, Peter.”

“We heard you fought a few weeks ago,” Fitz continues. “Do you think finding this Francis guy will help you take Deadpool down?”

The lie falls into place perfectly. “Yes,” Peter says instantly, latching onto it. “That’s why I need to figure out who he is. Deadpool mentioned the name during our, uh, fight.” He hides a wince, hoping they’ll buy it. He dislikes lying to them, but he would rather get to work than spend another hour arguing with them over the moral salvation of serial killers.

“Oh, well then, that’s alright!” Simmons says brightly. She types some more on her tablet. “Nothing comes up in the S.H.I.E.L.D. database under ‘Francis.’ Hm. Give me a moment.”

Fitz narrows his eyes at Peter while she works. “I’ve been meaning to ask, how did you survive that fight? Deadpool has never left survivors before. And, with all due respect, I’ve seen him take down stronger opponents than you.”

“He’s a fan, apparently,” Peter says, shrugging. It’s easier to lie with the truth than to make something up, he’s learned. “You’re right, though, he could have killed me at any time. It was almost like he just wanted to see what I could do.”

“That must have been terrifying,” Simmons sympathizes, glancing up from her screen. “I’m glad you’re alright. We both are. We almost flew to New York when we heard about the attack, but you were already safe at that point. Or, well, not dead, at least. I doubt you’re ever safe.”

Peter remembers the weight of Deadpool’s head resting on his own and feels a warmth in his chest. “I’ve dealt with worse.”

“Got something!” Simmons says, showing her tablet to Fitz. Peter straightens in his chair and refocuses. “Okay, I can’t find anything with the name “Francis,” but I do see something about Vancouver. Homeless people have gone missing over the past six years, all of whom had some record of terminal illness. Not many—it’s barely a trail—but if I were conducting research involving human mutation… I’d use people who were about to die.”

A icy-hot wash of guilt, shame, and grief hit Peter like a wall. He inhales sharply and looks down to hide the sudden dampness in his eyes.

Jemma.”

“Oh my god, Peter,” Simmons says in rush. “Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry. I didn’t think—”

“It’s fine.” Peter clenches his jaw and wills the emotions away. “I’m fine. You’re right, that makes sense. Um, any record of them turning up at all?”

Simmons hesitates. “Don’t you want to talk about—”

“No,” Peter says firmly. He looks at her face on the computer screen and wills her to understand. “Please.”

She sighs. “I don’t see much of anything.” She scrolls through something on the tablet. “Give us some time to look into this?”

“Definitely.” Peter wants to end the call anyway. He can feel old, familiar pain creeping into the periphery of his mind. This is why he avoided talking to them for all those years. “I’m going to go. Lots of work to do. Text me if you get anything?”

They look disappointed, but Fitz nods. “You got it, buddy. Stay safe.”

Stay safe, bug-boy.

“Will do.” Peter shoots them a weak smile and disconnects quickly. He needs to get out of the house, and fast.

He wants to see Wade, who, without fail, manages to cheer him up when he’s feeling down. Except he has no idea how to find him, he realizes as he heads towards Manhattan. He should get the dude’s number, or something. He has a phone, right? Everyone has a phone. Don’t they?

He spends half an hour swinging around the city while he looks for Wade. He stops by Times Square and does some stunts for the tourists. It helps him feel a little better; being Spider-Man is more trouble than Peter ever asked for, but he loves it regardless. The freedom of flying through the air is intoxicating, and hearing cheers from the people below reminds him of how many lives he’s saved, how much good he’s done. After his talk with FitzSimmons, Peter needed that.

In the end, it’s Wade who finds him. Peter is on a rooftop near Times Square, catching his breath and stretching his overworked muscles. He raises a weak hand in greeting.

“Howdy doody, there, buddy,” Wade greets. “Having fun?”

Yeah, I am,” Peter says, surprised to realize that it’s true. The talk with FitzSimmons brought up some of his worst memories, and part of him knows he’s dangerously close to  a breakdown, but seeing Wade reminds him that, while he’s lost a lot, he might have something really good here, in Wade. It makes something bright and heady burst in his chest. “I’ve had a weird day, but I’m better now. Now that you’re here.”

Wade clasps his hands over his chest. “Well shucks, you know how to make a girl feel special! I’m all aflutter! Fly away with me, loverboy.

Peter laughs and has a sudden, crazy idea. “Actually… say, Wade, d’you wanna go for a ride?”

He extends a hand and Wade’s smile stretches his mask. “Thought you’d never ask, baby boy. Or, oh, did you mean in the thwip thwip way? Yeah, that’s cool, too.”

It takes a bit of maneuvering, two threats involving a dagger, four threats involving a serious amount of webbing, and two minutes of nonstop laughter to get Wade securely clinging to his back. They finally manage it, and Peter leaps up, webbing to the nearest light pole, and up to a low roof from there.

Slinging through the city with Wade is a blast. The added weight means Peter falls a little heavier and has to recalculate his webs to compensate, and the burn in his arms is revitalizing. They climb higher as they reach the heart of Manhattan, and Wade becomes a mass of wriggling excitement at his back.

I can show you the world,” he rasps off-key. Peter nearly drops them both as laughter bubbles uncontrollably from his gut. His web catches them hard on a downswing as he miscalculates the shot, distracted, and his stomach somersaults with adrenaline. He tries to be more careful, but then—“Shining, shimmering, splendid. Tell me princess, when did you last let your heart decide?

“Hey, isn’t that my line?” he jokes over his shoulder as they hurl around the corner of a building.

Wade clenches his arms tighter, and it takes Peter a moment to realize Wade just hugged him. “The stage is all yours, Spidey.”

Peter veers off their route toward the Chrysler Building to buy some time. He can’t believe he’s doing this. “I can open your eyes,” he shout-sings, stopping to laugh. “Take you wonder by wonder. Over, sideways, and under, on a magic Spidey ride—

A whole new world!” Wade shrieks from behind him, cutting him off and startling a flock of pigeons on the rooftop next to them. Peter does drop them this time, and when he manages to catch them on a bit of scaffolding, his mask is wet with tears of laughter. Wade’s voice is horrible, but somehow, that makes it even better. “A dazzling place I never knew! But when I’m way up here, it’s crystal clear, that now I’m in a whole new world with you.

“I can’t,” Peter gasps as he almost misses his shot again. “Wade, I’m going to splatter us both.”

“Mmmm, sounds kinky,” Wade purrs, taking advantage of their position to grope at Peter’s chest. “If you want to make a mess of me, all you gotta do is ask, puddin’ pop.”

Peter hightails it toward the Chrysler Building in lieu of a response, terrified at the prospect of dying because of terrible pick up lines.

“Ride like the motherfuckin’ wind, wildfire!” Wade hollers behind him, blessedly keeping himself still. Peter sees their destination ahead and picks up speed.

They swing up to the top of the Chrysler Building and tumble onto its angled roof. Wade jumps off him and hops around. “Fuckin’ A, Spidey, that was some boss shit, eh? God, I gotta get me some of those webs, man, fuck. It was like that time in Baghdad I got thrown out of a plane.”

Peter, trying to catch his breath and stretch his sore muscles, blanches under his mask. Wade was thrown out of a plane? He wants to ask about it, but Wade is one step ahead of him.

“Yeah, it was all fun and games for like thirty fuckin’ seconds, but man, that ending. That took a couple days to heal, let me tell you the fuck what. Had to use a dismembered hand to push my eyeballs back into place; fuckin’ hurt like a bitch, too. But you gotta admit, baby boy, I stitched back up okay.”

“Yeah, you did,” Peter agrees, grinning. Wade shimmies his hips and Peter laughs, still half-sure Wade is somehow going to kill him with flirtation. He chooses to repress the mental image of a hand crawling around, shifting splattered body parts back together. After hearing Wade’s crazy stories for weeks, he’s getting used ignoring his own horror. “But sorry, the Spider-Tech is my thing. Hands off.”

“Okay, but hands on, though,” Wade counters, wriggling his fingers lasciviously. Peter swats them away, rolling his eyes under his mask. “Seriously, hot stuff, spill the beans. What’s got you so perky? Not complainin’, of course, never would do, but you’re in fine spirits and I’m burning to know what gets our friendly neighborhood Spidey-Boy this excited.”

You, Peter thinks, unbidden. He jerks a little in surprise at himself. He blinks to clear his head and reminds himself that he went looking for Wade for a reason. Whatever fun they might have had just now, Peter can’t ignore what he’s learned tonight. “You mentioned that sometimes you kill people for personal reasons. Are you trying to find Francis?”

Wade is on him in a flash, and Peter tilts his head to avoid the blade that is suddenly very close to his jugular. “I told you to leave that alone,” he hisses. “I don’t want to kill you, Spider-Man. You have to let this go.”

“I want to help,” Peter says, undeterred. His heart is doing its best to claw its way out of his chest, but strangely, he doesn’t feel scared. “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, Wade. You have no idea who you are, and this Francis guy does. If you want answers, I’ll help you find them. I won’t kill people, though, that’s non-negotiable.”

The knife presses closer, and Peter squeezes his eyes shut to avoid having to watch his own lifeblood pour out of him—but it disappears, and Wade’s weight leaves a moment later.

“You have no idea what you’re signing on for.” Wade’s voice is a gravelly whisper. Peter opens his eyes. Wade is standing at the edge of the roof, facing away from him. “You don’t know me, kid. You have no idea what I’ve done, how many people I’ve killed. I was selfish to get close to you, I see that now. I should go.” He clenches his fists and twists his head violently to the side. “Shut UP, yellow, I don’t need your input right now.”

“I’ve spent the last four years missing a girl I destroyed.” Peter takes a step towards Wade, praying he won’t jump before Peter has said his piece. “I never got over her, and I couldn’t risk letting anyone else in. I haven’t had a friend in four years. And from what I can tell, neither have you. I don’t know what exactly we have or if it’s even healthy, but I know that before meeting you, I hadn’t laughed like that in years.”

He takes a deep breath and another step forward. “I didn’t have a choice when I became Spider-Man, and it’s taken almost everything from me. I had all these dreams, you know? All these plans for my future that are gone now. But I do have a choice in this, and I am choosing to help you. Please, Wade.”

Wade doesn’t move, and Peter’s heart cracks. He was so sure this would work, he hadn’t considered what might happen if Wade rejected him. Has he ruined everything?

“What’s your name?”

Peter starts. “My name?”

“You never told me your name,” Wade says quietly. “That night. I told you mine.”

“Peter,” he replies hurriedly. “Peter Parker. I grew up in Forest Hills with my aunt and uncle.” He wants to say more, but he doesn’t dare ramble, lest it send Wade running. Does this mean he accepts the offer?

“Peter Parker,” Wade whispers, shaking his head. “What a fuckin’ wholesome name.” He tilts his head to the side. “Or, if you think about it, it could mean you park peters, which is entirely unwholesome. Fuck, do I want to see that in action. Why’d I think about it? Now it’ll be in my head all day.”

Peter doesn’t know if Wade’s rambling is a good thing or not, so he stays silent.

Wade claps his hands together and spins on his heel. Peter startles so hard, he has to catch himself from falling over. “Well alright, peaches, if we’re a team, we gotta come up with a team name. Or no, scratch that, it’s gotta come organically, or it’s no good. But we should have a team dinner. And team building activities! Team stuff! Team, team, team. Okay, have you ever said a word so much it loses meaning? Team. Blech. Fuck.” His raspy voice wavers a little as he races through the speech; he’s nervous, Peter realizes.

But it isn’t a no. “... I’m in?”

“Yep! Congratulations!” Wade throws both hands into the air. “You’ve bought a one way ticket to Fucked-Land, population us. But hey, you can heal, right? Kind of? Yeah, this’ll be fine.”

Peter doesn’t think about it, he just takes a last step forward and hugs Wade as hard as he can. Wade is stone in his arms for one, two, three seconds, and then melts into it. “Ohhh, you’re spoilin’ me, baby boy,” he says hoarsely. “I haven’t had a fuckin’ hug in….”

The silence speaks for itself. “Popped your cherry, huh?” Peter replies weakly. Wade was right, Peter has no idea what he just signed himself up for, but he hasn’t felt this alive in years. “The first time hurts a little, but you get used to it. It helps if you try to relax going into it.”

Wade shivers. “Keep talkin' dirty like that and I'll pop way more than a cherry, Petey.”

Peter groans. “Petey? Really?”

Wade cackles and Peter knows it’s game over. “Oh, Petey. As if I wouldn’t pick the most humiliating fuckin’ name out of all my options. Have you met me, motherfucker? Please.”

“I resent that,” Peter grumbles good-naturedly, pulling out of the hug. “I’ve never fucked any mothers.”

“Touché,” Wade says, chuckling. Peter beams at him from under the mask. They’re good, he realizes, which is more than he had hoped for. He sits on the edge of the building, listening as Wade regales him with a tale in which he has sex with no less than four mothers (which is probably—hopefully?—untrue). Peter closes his eyes and lets the sounds of the city soothe him to….

He wakes to the feeling of someone poking at his ear. “Whazzat?”

“As lovely as it is to know that my stories of thrill and adventure put you to sleep, you fuckwad,” Wade says dryly, “it’s three in the morning and I’d like to sleep on an actual bed tonight. Or a couch. Something not the Chrysler Building.”

Peter sits up, disoriented. “Oh.” He shakes his head, trying to clear it, but he’s feeling very foggy. He’s had a long day.

“Oh no,” Wade moans, sounding horrified. “Oh no, you’re an adorable sleeper, aren’t you? You’re one of those fuckin’ assholes with the hair every which way and the super growly morning voices, eh? God, I love those assholes.”

Peter wishes he could take off his mask so he could rub his eyes. They feel gritty. “If you take ‘assholes’ literally, there….”

“Excellent fuckin’ point, Petey,” Wade replies, nodding enthusiastically. “Those assholes also have hair every which way and growly morning voices.”

Peter stumbles to his feet and snorts. “Fuck off, Wade. Want a lift down?”

“You can go down with me any time, Petey,” Wade purrs. Peter sees the left eye of his mask twitch; Wade winked at him. “But seriously, yes please. I’d jump but I just fuckin’ relived that plane nightmare with you, and I’m not really feeling the urge to gather my parts after this lovely evening. We should really do this again sometime, by the way. But, you know, without you falling asleep on me.”

“Fuck you, I had a long day. Oh yeah!” Peter pulls his phone out of the pocket of his suit, flicking the screen until he gets to the New Contact page. “What’s your number?”

Wade swoons. “He’s asking for my number! Oh I do declare, this night just keeps getting better and better!”

Peter shoves his phone at him, rolling his eyes. “This city is too big to go looking for each other every time we want to hang out. This will make everything a lot easier, especially if we’re a team, or whatever.”

Wade takes the phone and let’s out a tiny huff of laughter. “Still not totally over the idea that you want to spend time with me.” It’s barely more than a whisper, and Peter thinks he wasn’t supposed to hear it. He bites his lip to keep from saying anything, and takes his phone when Wade gives it back. “Texted myself, hope that’s cool. Anyway, home? Bed? Sleepytimes?”

“Yeah.” Peter shoves his phone into its pocket. “I’m fucking exhausted.”

Peter drops Wade off on the ground and wastes no time in swinging home and collapsing into bed. He stares at his suit, which lay in a heap on the floor, and thinks about what exactly he's just agreed to. Does he really know what he’s signed up for? A month ago, he planned to betray Deadpool and turn him in to S.H.I.E.L.D.. Now, he’s agreed to help Deadpool take down a person who may or may not be evil, just because he thought it would make Deadpool happy—make Wade happy. Is Wade worth it? Peter curls onto his side, remembering the warmth of Wade's body against his, and thinks he already knows the answer.

Chapter Text

The more time Peter spends with Wade, the more he realizes he’s made the right decision. Wade has such a unique, talkative way of handling what life throws him that Peter can’t help but want to know more. They discuss everything from the political climate to the latest Kardashian drama—Wade loves the Kardashians. “Now, there’s some women who know how to exploit Uncle Sam, Petey! Look at those beautiful bitches. YASSSS, girl, get it, eh?”

“‘Yas girl, get it, eh,” Peter repeats dryly, laughter bubbling in his throat. “Wade. Wade, please no. Please.”

“Oi, fuck you, baby boy,” Wade replies, grinning despite himself. “Don’t fuckin’ mock me for being Canadian. Can’t help it.”

Peter throws his hands into the air and cries, “YAAASSS, EH?”

Wade throws a donut at him so hard, it splatters on his suit. Peter falls over laughing.

This is why Peter wants to help Wade: He hasn’t connected with someone like this, ever . He’s never considered himself a funny guy, or even a guy who surrounds himself with funny friends. He’s snarky enough as Spider-Man, though most of his quips are usually lost on his (admittedly scared) audience, but Peter Parker himself isn’t that comedic. Wade, however, is a riot.

Actually, Peter stumbled upon a video of a protest at the police station the other day, full of indignant people calling for Deadpool’s immediate arrest. He literally caused a riot. Wade was so pleased about it, he joined in. It took the rioters almost half an hour to realize one of their own was chanting “Free Chimichanga Thursdays!” instead of “Down with Deadpool!” Peter nearly wet himself when he watched the video.

He tends to forget that Wade is still Deadpool, who is a heartless killer in the eyes of the public. Deadpool’s killing spree has slowed to all but a stand-still these days, because Wade spends so much of his time tailing Peter or catching criminals elsewhere in the city.

Nevertheless, the occasional body still turns up every once in awhile. Peter has a hard time hearing about those, but it helps when Wade messages him with new details on the search for Francis. It’s not a perfect fix, and Peter still has bouts of gnawing anxiety over knowing his best friend kills for a living, but he recognizes that he agreed to this despite knowing exactly what was involved. It helps to know that he’s the reason Wade kills so few people these days.

His world grinds to a halt, however, when he gets a text message from Wade reading, Got a job out of town. I leave in an hour.

Icy dread fills Peter’s gut. It takes him a moment to realize that he’s scared Wade will never come back. Part of him wants to think of this as a vacation from which Wade will eventually, undoubtedly return, but a bigger part of him knows that Wade doesn’t like to linger in one place for too long. Coulson offered an entire list of cities Wade visited in the last few years; he can’t have stayed in any of them for as long as he’s been in New York. He’s overdue for a change of scenery, isn’t he? Peter knows that they’re a “team” now, but Wade was hesitant to agree to that in the first place. What if Wade decides not to return? What will Peter do?

He hasn’t felt this shockingly empty since he lost Gwen.

Okay, he texts back, fingers trembling. Can I say bye?

The reply comes almost immediately. Get to the Coney Island Hospital, fast. I’ll try to stall. Maybe I’ll make them get me some fucking chimichangas for the trip!

Peter exhales. He’s still in his lab coat, at work in Stark Tower. He gets off in half an hour. Does that leave him with enough time to change, fling himself to Brooklyn, and get in a goodbye? He doubts it, but his supervisor is engaged in a serious looking conversation over some equally serious looking paperwork, and Peter doesn’t want to interrupt it, even for this.

He must seem antsy, though, because his supervisor, Regina, sighs ten minutes before his shift ends and says, “Jesus, Parker, just leave. You’re making me nervous.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” Peter says, rushing to pull off his coat. “I owe you one.”

He races out of the building and makes his way to the nearest secluded rooftop to put on his suit. He has thirty-four minutes to get to the hospital. He can make it.

Peter takes a few deep breaths and sprints off the rooftop. He takes every shortcut he can think of, cringing when he clips a building with his foot and chips off a bit of stone. Hopefully no one was standing under that.

He makes it to Brooklyn in record time and takes a moment to check his GPS. He has no idea where this hospital is. He curses when his phone lags, hopping from foot to foot as it loads slowly. “Fuck!”

It’s very nearly on the southern coast, and he just came from Manhattan to the north. He has twenty-one minutes. Peter rubs his hands over his head, the rubber ridges of his suit jarring together, and takes off for the hospital. Hold on, Wade. Stall them.

He thinks he’s going as fast as he can, but as soon as he sees the hospital, he somehow, impossibly, gains speed. He can see a helicopter on the roof, which he hopes means Wade hasn’t left yet.

He swings onto the adjacent roof just as a large man in a suit ushers Deadpool into the helicopter. “WADE!”

Wade turns, sees Peter, and whoops. “Spidey!”

The man tries to stop him with a meaty hand on his chest, but Wade shoves it off, running for Peter. Peter runs, too, and manages to make the leap onto the other roof just as Wade reaches him. Wade flings his arms open and pounces, clinging to Peter with all fours. Peter stumbles, surprised, and laughs into Wade’s shoulder.

“You made it,” Wade says exuberantly into the curve of his neck. “God fuckin’ damn, Petey, you had me worried.”

“Sorry,” Peter says, not sorry at all. “I think I pulled a few muscles getting here, if that makes you feel better.”

Wade laughs and lets go of Peter, landing neatly in front of him. Peter swallows and ignores how uncomfortably light he feels without Wade weighing him down. Wade rubs a hand over the curve of his head. “Jesus, dude, that was, like, straight out of a motherfuckin’ rom-com. And you’re the one who raced to the airport, which makes you the guy. Well, fuck. Let me be Sandra Bullock, at least? She’s got the coolest nose.”

Of course this is how their goodbye plays out. Peter should have expected nothing else. “Fine, that makes me Ryan Reynolds, then. You know, The Proposal?”

Wade scoffs. “In an alternate universe, Ryan Reynolds plays me in my feature film. I get a fuckin’ film, by the way. Or I will? Timestreams confuse me sometimes.”

You confuse me sometimes,” Peter says, beaming.

“Only sometimes?” Wade sighs. “I’ll have to work on that, then.”

Peter’s breath catches in his throat, and his next words come out small. “So you’re coming back then?”

“... Of course I am,” Wade replies, tilting his head. “Did you think I was leaving forever?”

Suddenly shy, Peter scuffs the toe of his boot on the ground. “That’s kind of your M.O., isn’t it?”

“Sure, yeah,” Wade says, shrugging, “but let’s not forget that other thing where I’m completely unpredictable. It’s all crazy up here!” He knocks against his skull and puts his hands on his hips. “I’m not leaving forever, Petey. I’ll be back. We’re a team, remember?”

Peter nods furiously, feeling foolish. “I remember. Cool. Yeah. Um, any idea when you’ll be back?”

“Mr. Wilson,” the man in the suit shouts, barely audible over the sound of the chopper, “it’s time to leave!”

Wade turns and waves to the man, nodding, and panic clutches at Peter. He doesn’t want Wade to leave. Wade is an intrinsic part of him now, and Peter can’t handle living with another hole in his chest.

“I’m not sure,” Wade admits, turning back to Peter. “Sometimes these jobs are easy, and sometimes shit goes wrong and I find myself in pieces in various dumpsters around the city.”

Peter chokes on spit. “Don’t tell me that, you ass. Fuck, I’ll be worried sick now.”

“Oh, baby boy,” Wade replies, reaching up to clasp Peter’s shoulders. “You don’t gotta worry about me, eh? Just focus on work and, like, your family and shit. Whatever you used to get up to before I sliced my way in with Bea and Arthur.” He pats the hilt of one of his katanas fondly. “I’ll be back before you know it.”

“I live with my aunt,” Peter blurts. He’s never told Wade anything about his personal life, and now he feels guilty about it. “Her name is May.”

Wade’s mask stretches as he grins. “Yeah? That’s awesome. You should introduce us. When I get back.”

“When you get back,” Peter agrees, feeling light-headed. “When you get back, you can meet her. We’ll do dinner.”

Wade laughs. “Dinner. Perfect.”

Wilson ,” the man shouts, looking pissed. “Come on, or we’ll hire someone else.”

Wade flips him off and turns regretfully back to Peter. “That’s my cue.”

“Right.” Peter sucks in a breath. “Have fun. Don’t die. You’ve got someone to come home to. Be safe.”

Wade freezes, and for a moment Peter thinks he’s said something wrong. That is, until Wade lunges at Peter, tugging his head down so their masks mash together in a painful, perfect facsimile of a kiss. Peter’s brain sticks for a moment on Oh god, we’re totally dating, aren’t we? before he kisses back.

He wishes their masks were pulled up.

Wade pulls away and smacks him on the shoulder. “Why did this happen now?” he whines. “We’ve missed so many blowjobs, Peter.”

Peter chokes on a laugh. His head is spinning so fast, he can barely catch his breath. “Sorry.”

Wade shakes his head. “After. We have time after.” He laughs, gives Peter a double thumbs-up, and runs for the helicopter. He shoves the man in the suit on the shoulder, saying something that makes the man shake his head ruefully.

“After.” Peter repeats as the chopper takes off. He watches it lift up and speed off to the south. “Yeah. After.”

An uncomfortable chill settles over Peter as the helicopter fades from view, and he wraps his arms around himself. Loneliness sends a shiver down Peter’s spine as his microhairs rustle uncomfortably.

No. Wait. That’s not loneliness Peter is feeling, he realizes. It’s his Spidey sense. Something’s wrong. A moment later, Peter hears sirens blare from another part of Brooklyn. Really? he thinks. This has to happen now? He scrubs at his lips, wanting nothing more than to crawl home and overanalyze that kiss for the next week, and heads towards the commotion.

What he finds sends him reeling. The Hulk is loose in Brooklyn. He’s attached to the side of a low-rise apartment block, one meaty fist clutching the pane of a broken window while the other rips chunks of brick out of the wall.

“Shit,” Peter hisses. He remembers hearing about Harlem; four people died. He has to help. But how?

“Spider-Man!”

Peter whips his head around and spots a pair of muscular arms waving him over from across the street. He glances back at the Hulk and considers ignoring the man in favor of attempting to apprehend the Hulk with webs.

The Hulk tears plumbing out of the ravaged wall and crumples it between his fingers. Peter gulps. Okay, maybe not. No amount webbing is going to hold this guy down.

He runs toward the voice and stops in his tracks. He’d recognize that shield anywhere. “Captain America?

“Spider-Man,” Captain America says, offering Peter his free hand to shake. He nods toward the Hulk. “You know who that is?”

Peter follows his look. “That’s the Hulk, sir. A monster bent on destroying everything he sees. He tore Harlem to shreds.”

“He also tore apart alien invaders a few years back,” Captain America says sternly. “The Hulk is one of ours. He means well, which is why we need to contain him before he does anything he’ll regret.”

Peter nods quickly. “Sure, cool. Need help?”

Captain America frowns. He’s in civvies, which means he must not have had much time to prepare for disaster. Peter glances up at the destruction above, and realizes that they both must have gotten there just as the Hulk started his rampage. Peter blinks; that means Captain America must have been close by. What was he doing hanging around in Brooklyn?

“Try to catch the debris,” Captain America says finally. “Keep it from hitting anyone while we get sedatives in him.”

Peter nods. He wants to ask about “sedating” the Hulk, but the last thing he wants to do is disregard an order from Captain America himself. He crosses the street to the brick apartment building, where the Hulk is emptying out an apartment with great scoops of his hand, and weaves together a web between the lamps lining the street. He’ll do his best to catch what the Hulk hurls down, but this should catch anything he misses. Behind him, Captain America starts corralling the onlookers and distraught tenants away from the building, encouraging them down the street to safety.

The Hulk screams and flicks a couch towards the departing crowd, which scatters as people escape into various alleyways along the street. Peter leaps off the wall, barely managing to catch both himself and the couch before they crash to the ground. His web snaps taut, his arm wrenching with the weight of the sofa, and he grits his teeth against the pain. It feels like a tear in the muscle.

It’ll heal, he thinks. He can keep going.

He lobs the couch onto a pile of rubble, ignoring the way his arm complains, and makes for a falling bathtub. He wrenches the other arm.

This is going to be a long day.

Chapter Text

Peter feels like he has to have caught most of the furniture in the apartment building by the time Captain America, along with a crew of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in full SWAT gear—and holy shit, that’s the Falcon—sedate the Hulk. The apartment building is mostly demolished, though the outer brick walls fared better than the drywall and plaster inside. The sidewalk is piled high with beams of wood, shards of glass, and just about everything else these people had in their homes. Peter sees no less than six shattered plasma TVs. Ouch.

He stands at the edge of the pile, rotating his shoulders and making a mental note to put Icy Hot on them later. He surveys the destruction, hoping to get another chance to talk to Captain America before he goes home. He sees the Falcon talking to a team of agents a moment before he spots the Captain wrapping a blanket around a shirtless man’s shoulders and shielding him from the crowd. Peter squints. Where did that man come from? Peter would have seen him if he fell. And where did the Hulk go? Unless…

The Hulk can’t be the Hulk all the time, can he? The world would surely have been decimated by now. That means there’s someone behind the Hulk, someone inside him. And whoever that person is, he’s getting carried to a nearby SUV before anyone can see him. Peter gets a glimpse of salt and pepper hair before the doors close, and he quickly looks for something to do before he gets reprimanded for snooping.

He’s just webbing together a pile of broken tables when Captain America finds him. “Spider-Man,” he says, surprised, “I didn’t expect you to stick around.”

Peter looks at the destruction around him. “It’d be pretty shitty of me to—” he freezes. He just cursed in front of Captain America, national hero and famous good guy. “Wait! Fuck! No, shit! I—oh man. I’m sorry.” Wade’s been a bad influence.

Captain America smiles at him. “It’d be pretty shitty of you,” he agrees, eyes crinkling. Peter’s torn between heaving a sigh of relief and letting his jaw drop to join the mess at his feet. Captain America curses? No way. “Thanks. We haven’t had a situation like this in a while; it was nice to have some backup.”

“Speaking of,” Peter says, looking around, “isn’t this incident big enough to justify calling all the Avengers? Where are the rest of you?”

Jesus, Peter’s talking to an Avenger. He’s going to die about this later.

Captain America shrugs and Peter ogles the way the muscles in his shoulders shift. He isn’t sure if he wants to touch them or have them himself, but either way, Peter appreciates shoulders like that. Damn.

“Away,” Captain America says vaguely. ”But I’ll make you a deal. Let’s make sure this is settled, then you and I can go grab a cup of coffee. I have to admit, I’ve been wanting to meet you. You’ve done some interesting work around here.”

Screw that, Peter is going to die right now. “You… wha—?” He blinks and shakes his head to clear it. “I mean, sure! Yes! I would love to grab coffee with Captain America.”

Captain America laughs, beaming. “Call me Steve.”

Peter knows what’s coming. He knows what’s coming, and there’s not a thing he can do to stop it. “Steve,” he says breathily, turning bright red under his mask. “Hi.”

Steve coughs to hide his laugh. “Eyes front, soldier,” he orders. Peter wants to bury himself in the rubble at his feet. A series of black vans drive in and Steve nods toward them. “Stark Relief should be able to handle this mess. Good job catching all that debris, by the way. That’s some impressive stuff, that webbing. Synthetic?”

“Organic,” Peter replies, glad for a chance to redeem himself for his lapse into fanboy bliss. “It’s actual spider silk. It’s just super-charged. Kinda like me.”

“I can see that,” Steve says speculatively. “Say, you sure you’re not too tired for that coffee? You look like you’re about to fall over.”

Peter shakes his head, even though he really should take some Advil and sleep off the worst of the pain in his arms. “I’m all yours, Captain.”

Steve frowns. “Seriously, son, if you’re not up for it….”

“No, I’m fine,” Peter insists. “If nothing else, you made me earn the caffeine.”

“Fair enough.” Steve nods, smirking. “I know a place a few streets over. Let’s clear out so the rest of the team can do their job.”

He leads Peter away while several men carrying clipboards approach the crowd. Peter winces sympathetically as they pass. He wouldn’t want to be in their position.

Steve expertly navigates the streets of Brooklyn, taking Peter to a tiny coffee shop that smells of muffins and coffee beans. Peter shifts uncomfortably, thrown off-guard by walking into a café in his Spider-Man suit, following one of the greatest American heroes of all time like a lost puppy. He imagines Wade would love this: Captain America and Spider-Man sitting down for lattes. He would laugh for days.

He can’t believe they kissed. What was that? It all made sense when Wade was right in front of him, but now… Peter isn’t sure what to think. How is he supposed to come to terms with all of this? And god, his arms kill.

“—der-Man?”

Peter shakes his head lightly to focus. Steve is looking at him, concerned. “I’m sorry,” he says instantly. I was just thinking about my gay relationship with a homicidal maniac. How are you, Captain America? Christ. “What was the question?”

“Your drink?” Steve prompts, looking amused.

“Oh!” Peter peers at the menu. “Peanut butter mocha with three extra shots of espresso, please. Extra whipped cream.” He deserves a moment of indulgence, he thinks. “The name is Spider-Man.”

“And an Americano, please. For, uh, Captain America.” Steve says, quirking his lips.

“An Americano? ” Peter asks, snorting. “Are you serious?”

The barista turns away, and Steve gives Peter a small, mischievous smile. “I think it’s funny.”

Peter laughs. This is wild. He offers to pay, but Steve gives a card to the barista, shaking his head. “Next one’s on you.”

Peter wants to react to the idea of “next time,” but he’s too exhausted to summon up much more than a nod. “Sounds good.”

They find a seat in a corner while they wait for the barista to finish their drinks. “I’m glad I got the chance to finally meet you,” Steve says. “I’ve been reading about your vigilantism for quite some time.”

Oh. “I wouldn’t call it all vigilantism,” Peter hedges, rubbing his gloved fingertips over the tabletop. “I mean, a lot of what I do could technically fall under the role of a good Samaritan, if you think about it.”

“Spider-Man? And, uh, C-Captain America? Sir?” The barista behind the counter looks terrified and delighted all at once as she calls their drink order. Peter rushes to grab the cups before Steve can berate him for working outside the law. Taking shit from the Daily Bugle is one thing; personally getting called out by Captain America is another.

“You don’t need to worry,” Steve says as he accepts the drink. “I’m not here to lecture you. I’ve had my fair share of disagreements with the law.”

Peter gapes at him. “You have?” He tugs his mask up to his chin and slurps at his coffee, eager for a story. “When? Why?”

Steve opens his mouth, then seems to think better of it. “I wasn’t always like this, you know,” he says eventually, taking a more dignified sip of his own drink. He eyes Peter’s mask, but makes no comment. Peter appreciates that. “Before I was chosen for the super soldier program, I was... small and incapable of doing most things a soldier would’ve needed to to survive out in the field.”

Steve’s eyes are distant, but the smile on his face is fond. “My friend Bucky always said I had all the bark but couldn’t bite if I wanted to. I applied to the armed forces under false identities over and over, hoping that just once, I wouldn’t get rejected. It’s a criminal offense, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to help.” He smirks. “Sound familiar?”

Peter nods. “So how’d you work around it?”

“A doctor named Abraham Erskine found me after my latest failed attempt. He said he had a experimental treatment to help people like me. If I accepted, I could start training immediately. It was a no-brainer.”

“Just like that?” Peter cocks his head. “But what if the procedure went wrong?”

Steve smiles wryly. “You underestimate my, uh, natural state. I’d have been dead either way, son.” Peter looks at him, startled. “We didn’t have the medicine of today. Eventually I was going to have an asthma attack I couldn’t shake, or catch a bug I couldn’t fight off. To me, joining the war meant knowing that my inevitable death had a purpose. The super soldier procedure was the other side of the same coin; if it worked, I could live the way I always wanted to; but if it didn’t, I still got the chance to go down helping my country.”

Peter takes a sip of his coffee, curiosity piqued. A terminally ill man, deciding to undergo a potentially dangerous experiment and walking out with superpowers? It all sounded disturbingly familiar to him. Was Francis trying—and failing—to replicate the super soldier serum?

“That’s grim stuff, dude,” Peter replies. “Uh, sir.”

Steve shrugs. “It is, but that was life back then. Lots of people died from things that are preventable now.” He smiles. “When I came out of the procedure, my life was transformed. I was finally healthy. No one had to look out for me anymore.” He sobers, looking melancholy, and Peter feels like he’s missed something important.

“And then you formed the Howling Commandos, right?” he asks to change the subject. “You kicked Nazi ass and took down the Red Skull.”

Steve shakes his head ruefully, grinning. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that,” he confesses. “The way everyone knows my story, after all this time. It’s insane. But I did. I asked the Colonel for permission to put together a team, and got a group of volunteers who became the Howling Commandos; and then we took down the Red Skull.”

And then you, and everyone you know, died. Peter swirls his drink in its cup before he forces Steve to relive the end of his story. Waking up seventy years in the future, losing everyone he loved in the blink of an eye, must have been devastating. “And here you are, a functional member of the twenty-first century, still kicking ass and taking names.”

“Here I am,” Steve agrees, smiling lopsidedly. “Alongside some truly spectacular people, if I do say so myself. And I get to see young kids like you taking up the gauntlet the same way I did, all those years ago.”

Peter touches his bare chin self-consciously. “I’m not that young.”

“Yes, you are,” Steve says knowingly. “And you’ve been doing this for, what, four or five years?” Peter crosses his arms, ready to defend himself, but Steve holds up a hand. “Again, not here to lecture. People used to settle down when they were eighteen, because we couldn’t expect to live past our sixties. Times have changed, and I’m doing my best to accept that.” He leans toward Peter over the table. “But if you’ve found a calling you can’t ignore, I won’t judge you for answering it. I’d be a hypocrite if I did.”

Peter grins at him broadly. Steve is slowly but surely creeping his way to the number one slot on Peter's “Coolest Heroes” list. Sorry, Stark. No one has ever validated Peter’s choices so completely. “Things must really be different,” Peter comments.

“You have no idea.” Steve leans forward, eyes wide. “The things some people wear these days. We paid money to go see less.”

That throws Peter off-guard, and he barks out a laugh. “No doubt.” He swirls his coffee and takes another sip. “So, wait,” he says, remembering. “Why are you in Brooklyn? Why was the Hulk in Brooklyn?”

“He was visiting me,” Steve answers. “I live here.”

“Captain America lives in Brooklyn?” Peter grins. “Alright, yeah. That’s cool. Very hipster. Why not Avengers Tower?”

“I was offered a floor.” Steve grimaces. “I tried it for a week. Couldn’t stand it. Stark is a man best handled in small doses.”

Peter laughs. “I can imagine. From what I’ve seen, he seems pretty high-maintenance.” He would love to work with Stark personally, but he can see how his boss might clash with Steve.

“You know Tony?” Steve asks curiously.

Fuck. No, Peter knows Tony. Spider-Man knows no one. “Uh, not really,” he lies. “Just what I read about, you know.”

They both know he’s lying, but Steve is tactful enough to accept it without argument. “He does make quite the scene. Anyway, the, uh, Hulk and I were having dinner in my apartment, and something must have set him off. He punched a hole in the wall and crushed some cars and a road sign before taking on the apartment building.”

“Oh my god,” Peter whispers, stunned. Set him off? Does that mean the trigger is an emotional one? That would be horrible, he thinks; while some people might excuse themselves to the bathroom to collect themselves, or others start heated debates, this poor man turns into the walking personification of “‘roid rage.”

“That’s terrible. Will he be okay?”

Steve looks surprised. “You’re worried about him?”

“Well… yeah.” Peter’s spent the better part of the last few months getting to know someone hiding behind a monster mask. “I’m sorry about your apartment, of course, but it can’t be easy knowing you just destroyed hundreds of people’s homes. I mean, does he remember what he does as the Hulk? Because on one hand, it would be terrible to have first-hand memories of that kind of thing, but on the other hand, it would also be terrible to listen to someone else tell you exactly how much wreckage you caused.”

Steve leans back in his chair, eyes assessing. “Well put. You’re a smart kid.”

Peter feels vaguely like a schoolgirl getting commendation from the hot teacher. “Thanks.”

“He remembers some of it, from what he’s told me, but not everything,” Steve says. “My best guess is that he gets flashes, like pictures, that he tries to piece together.”

Peter frowns. “And he changes, just like that, from a normal guy into some... weapon of mass destruction? Like flipping a switch?” That sounds incredibly volatile, especially if his trigger is something as unstable as his own emotions. “What’s preventing him from changing in his sleep, or reacting very badly to a particularly loud car door? How can we know he’s safe?”

He doesn’t realize he’s gotten loud until he sees people staring over at him. Steve smiles at them winningly, but frowns at Peter. “This is a human being, Spider-Man. Have some respect. B—the man behind the Hulk has spent years training himself to be calm and composed. I’ve never seen a man with more control over himself.”

“Clearly, he could use some work,” Peter snorts.

“You’re out of line, soldier.” Steve’s voice has gone hard. He sounds every bit the military commander he is, and Peter instantly regrets his comment. “That man has lived in seclusion for years. He’s going to spend the rest of his life on guard. And I trust him with my life. Now, I don’t know what happened back there, but I do know we would be living in a garbage heap if the Hulk always had free reign. So we have two options: do we lock up an innocent man on the chance that he may have an incident, or do we let him try to lead a normal life and keep a close eye just in case an incident arises?”

Peter lets out a breath. “Hulk’s been here since the Chitauri invasion?” he checks. Steve nods. “If he’s been here the whole time, that’s pretty impressive. So it might be wrong to lock him up, but I repeat my question: what happens if you aren’t there?”

“We always are,” Steve says, sitting back in his chair. “He’s always got one of us by his side, and we’ve all spent time training with the Hulk to learn how to safely and securely contain him.”

It sounds like they’ve got this figured out. Peter feels a little foolish for making a scene, now. “Well okay, then. My bad.”

“It’s okay.” Steve reaches over and claps a hand on his shoulder. “You’re trying to protect your city, and that’s a commendable goal. If I didn’t know this man personally, I’d be right there with you. But I do know him, and I promise you that we’re being vigilant.”

Like I am, Peter realizes. After accepting that Wade could control himself, Peter firmly decided to act as a vigilant friend, not a whistleblower. He can’t fault the Avengers for making the same decisions he’s already made, himself.

“Just don’t let me catch him on my lawn,” he grumbles, hoping to lighten the mood.

It works. “Can do,” Steve chuckles. “I know it’s hard to take something like this on blind faith, especially after spending your afternoon cleaning up one hell of a mess. I appreciate it.”

Peter nods, and his body, as if sensing an opening, suddenly reminds him of just how much pain he’s in. “Yeah. Well, if you don’t mind, that ‘hell of a mess’ made me hellishly beat, so if it’s okay….”

“Sure,” Steve says. “I sense a nap in my future, too. But we should do this again! I’d love to hear about your work as Spider-Man.”

“I can do that,” Peter agrees, grateful that his outburst hadn’t turned the Captain off him for good. “Hey, that reminds me, do you need a place? To sleep, I mean.”

Steve smiles, looking pleasantly surprised. “Thank you for the offer, but I couldn’t impose like that. I’ll go to Stark Tower, bother Tony for a while until I can find a new place.”

“Okay, as long as you’re sure,” Peter says, secretly relieved that he won’t be surprising Aunt May by bringing home a national treasure. “So, do you have a cell phone? Let’s trade numbers and plan from there.”

“Oh! Yes,” Steve replies, rustling in his pockets for a minute before withdrawing his phone. Peter watches, enchanted, when Steve fumbles with the touch screen. “Okay, I’m… in the telephone.”

Peter, beaming, gives Steve his number and has him send a text message. “We’ll figure something out soon.”

“Absolutely. You’re paying, though.”

Peter stands and salutes. “I can do that.” He throws away his cup and makes for the exit. “See you around, Cap!”

Steve raises a hand farewell. Peter tugs his mask down as he walks out of the café and raises his arm to fire a web. It feels like his muscles catch fire, the pain hits him so hard. “Guess I’m taking the long way home,” he sighs.

People glance at him on the street, clearly wondering why he’s suddenly on ground level and not soaring above the streets, but no one comments. Maybe they’re still worried he’s a murderer. Right now, Peter doesn’t care very much about that. The last thing he wants to do is greet the masses.

He waves at a few kids who eye him curiously, refusing to let his exhaustion affect his reputation with the youth of the city (they’re his favorite part of this gig, after all), and hides away in a corner seat on the subway train. He can feel the various shocks of the day vying for attention in his mind—I kissed Wade. I met Captain America. I helped stop the Hulk. Wade’s gone for God knows how long. My arms are useless. I KISSED WADE—but he tunes them out as best he can. He’s too exhausted to think on them too deeply right now.

The closest subway stop is nine blocks from his house, and the monotonous rhythm of walking is nice. He’s going to make himself cocoa in his biggest mug, slather Icy Hot everywhere, and watch SpongeBob until Aunt May comes home. He realizes he’s forgotten his clothes on a roof somewhere when he’s a block from his house and swears loudly. He can’t go into his house without them; forget leading any errant stalkers straight to his home, he has no house key. He needs his bag.

“I’m so sorry, guys,” he whispers to his shoulders in apology. He grits his teeth and leaps onto a nearby wall, scaling it to the roof, then runs and jumps for the next one. He tries to jump as many gaps as possible, using his arms as sparingly as he can, but he can still feel his muscles tearing all over again. Make that Icy Hot and a bottle of Advil.

He finds his bag quickly and changes into street clothes. His trip takes an extra fifteen minutes, but at least he’s safe. And can enter his own house. That’s a perk.

He beelines upstairs to shower and put on his comfiest sweats before making his cocoa. He turns on the TV, intent on vegging out for the evening, but he can’t stop thinking about his day. Wade kissed him. If Peter were being completely honest, he can’t exactly say it shocked him; Wade has been making outlandish overtures since they met, but Peter never knew whether to take them seriously or not. He guesses he’s found his answer.

What surprises Peter is that he kissed back. He’s never thought about Wade romantically. Peter sighs, because he knows that isn’t quite true; he’s had too many stray thoughts about Wade’s super healing and uplifting demeanor to pass them off as anything less than a crush. But the guy is a menace … and the menace is a guy. Peter has no hangups about homosexuality—he came to terms with himself the day he decided to make his suit out of Spandex—but he never considered himself queer before. Is he queer now? Is that what kissing Wade means?

Peter sighs and lets his head fall back against the couch. SpongeBob’s laugh jeers at him from the TV, almost mocking him. Wade’s gender is the least of Peter concerns, if he’s being honest. Wade Wilson is a half insane serial killer with extreme self-esteem issues and no personal history to speak of. His only life goal is hunting down and killing a man Peter can only guess is also a serial killer. If Peter decides to make kissing Wade a regular part of his life, how much is he signing on for? They haven't even seen each other's faces yet; Peter doesn't know if he can start a physical relationship when they've shared so little.

Peter doesn't want to think about what will happen if he turns Wade down. Wade is unstable on a good day; he doesn't want to find out what a bad day will spell out, for himself or for anyone else. He’s stuck, and he doesn't want to be tied to Wade out of moral obligation. And if Coulson finds out… there’s no telling what kind of mess Peter will find himself in.

He can't imagine this ending well for anyone.

Yet he kissed back. Wade leapt into his arms, and Peter’s instinct was to catch him. And something in Peter tells him that he’d do it again. Apart from the masks, the worry, and the rush, kissing Wade felt… right. Natural, even. Peter has no idea how to approach the future, but he knows he wouldn’t take back what has already happened.

Peter groans and wishes he could drink a beer to relax, or talk to a friend about his troubles. Sometimes, his super powers make him feel paralyzingly alone. Even with two mutagenically enhanced friends in his life—not that Steve is a friend, yet, but Peter has his hopes—he doesn’t have someone to talk to.

Gwen would have known what to say. She was always so good at figuring him out, no matter how much Peter tried to hide from her. Peter bets she would have all the answers, even now. God, he misses her.

He tried dating once or twice after losing her, more to comfort Aunt May than anything else. He got up the nerve after a year and a half to take up his neighbor, Mary Jane, on her frequent flirtations. It was catastrophic. He broke down in the middle of the restaurant. Loudly. Luckily, she hadn’t taken it personally. They managed to salvage a friendly acquaintanceship out of it, but Peter still feels guilty every time he sees her.

He agreed to go out with a barista six months after that, because she had Gwen’s way of smiling down at her hands when she was pleased, but that hurt, too. Every moment of it felt like a trespass. He ruined Gwen; it felt wrong to try to glean happiness from dating when he knew exactly how it would end. Every girl he’s met has been as beautifully, woefully fragile as Gwen was. He can’t afford to lose someone else the way he lost her.

He hasn’t gone on a single date since.

But Wade is different. Wade is nothing like Gwen. He’s neither shy nor coy, and he won’t break if Peter drops him down a clock tower. Wade is loud, abrasive, and cocky. He couldn’t be less like Gwen if he tried.

Peter jumps when he hears keys rattle in the door; Aunt May is home. Peter scrubs both hands over his face and steels himself to act normal. She comes in looking as tired as he feels, rubbing at one shoulder while she drops her keys into the nearby bowl.

“Do you ever have one of those days that just does not end?”

Peter chuckles wearily. “You have no idea.”

He must sound beat, because she drops her hand and frowns, concerned. “You okay? Wait, why does the whole house smell like Icy Hot?”

Peter rubs at his shoulders and sticks out his lower lip. “You and I both had big days.”

Aunt May rolls her eyes and smiles as she moves toward the kitchen. “Have you eaten?”

Peter eyes his empty mug of cocoa. “Not really,” he admits. Loath as he is to make Aunt May cook, he knows he’d feel better with some food in his system. “Want help?”

“I’m making a lasagna,” she replies, pulling the box from the freezer. “No need. It’ll take an hour.”

“That’s fine.” Peter takes his empty mug to the sink. “Gives us time to swap stories.”

“Not much to tell,” Aunt May sighs. She preheats the oven and leans against it, crossing her arms. “The hospital needed me from five to one, and my shift at the diner started at one-thirty. It’s a lot of time on my feet.”

An all too familiar rush of guilt settles in the hollow of Peter’s throat. He knows he’s doing all he can to provide for their house, but, seeing the fatigue on Aunt May’s face every night makes him feel like it’s not enough. “Foot rub?” he offers.

The smile she gives him is radiant. “Sure. And you can tell me all about your big day.”

They settle on the couch, Aunt May’s feet in his lap, while he organizes his thoughts. This morning at Stark Tower feels like it was a week ago. When he woke up this morning, Wade was in town, their relationship was something Peter understood, and he had two healthy shoulders.

“Peter?” Aunt May prompts him softly. She nudges her feet against his stomach. “At least get started on my feet, if you’re going to sit there in silence.”

He meets her teasing smile and gets to work. It makes his shoulders ache to work his hands this much, but Aunt May clearly enjoys the attention so he ignores it. He starts talking and, once he gets going, he can’t stop. He spares no detail, though he hesitates over the kiss. It’s not that he worries about how she’ll take it—Aunt May has made her favorable opinion on gay rights very clear over the course of Peter’s life—but rather that he’s not ready to process it himself, let alone answer questions about it.

If Aunt May is surprised, she hides it well. Peter continues on through the Hulk fiasco immediately following Wade’s departure. Here, she does stop him. “You met Captain America?” she gasps. “Steve Rogers, Captain America?”

“The one and only,” Peter replies, grinning. He squeezes her toes. “He’s incredible, Aunt May. Like, physically he’s unreal, but he’s so nice, too. He’s as genuine as you’d expect him to be.”

Aunt May’s eyes drop to her lap and she smiles self-consciously. “I used to have the biggest crush on him, you know,” she confesses, to Peter’s delight. “Ben used to tease me about it all the time.”

Peter opens his mouth to tease her, because he never gets to see Aunt May this shy, but he has an epiphany, instead. “That settles it, then.”

Aunt May’s eyes flash suspiciously. “Settles what?”

“I’m inviting him to dinner,” Peter decides, grinning broadly. “I’m inviting Captain America to dinner. Here. You can meet him.”

“Oh, Peter, no,” Aunt May hisses, horrified. “I can’t do that!”

“Oh, it’s decided,” Peter says gleefully. This is perfect. “Aunt May, you are going to meet Captain America if it kills me.”

Aunt May has turned a brilliant shade of burgundy. “I’ll kill you,” she mumbles. “You’re the worst. I should take you back to the children store and demand a replacement.”

“Too late,” Peter sing-songs. “You’re stuck with me for-ev-er!” He pinches her toes a few times, giving her his hammiest smile.

Fine,” Aunt May grumbles good-naturedly. “If I must. What happens next in this great escapade of yours, then?”

Peter picks up where he left off, smirking his way through telling Aunt May about coffee. “... so, yeah. Left work early, raced to Brooklyn, said goodbye to Wade, helped stop the Hulk, coffee with Captain America. Ta-da.”

Aunt May nods slowly. “That’s one hell of a day, Peter.” She exhales and it puffs out her cheeks. “That’s… that’s something else. I don’t know where to start.”

“I know.” Peter lets his head fall back against the couch. Going through it all again did nothing to make him feel better about things. He has a friendship transforming into a something-else-ship, a childhood hero turning into a friend, and an evil scientist to track down. And he is far too tired to tackle any of it right now.

The kitchen timer goes off; their dinner is ready. Peter and Aunt May busy themselves with setting the table and serving up the lasagna before either of them speaks again.

“I can’t say I’m surprised about your friend,” Aunt May says finally. Peter raises an eyebrow—he was stunned, after all, and he’s the one in this relationship—but says nothing. “Wade, right? I assumed your friendship was just that—a friendship—but it’s not that big a leap. How are you taking it?”

“I’m not sure.” Peter stabs at his food with his fork. “I don’t know, Aunt May. There’s so much to consider. He’s a he, for one, but he’s… Deadpool. A few months ago, he was destroying my reputation. He kills people. Like, this is so much bigger than some identity crisis. This changes everything.”

“It may,” she concedes, “but it doesn’t have to. You love him, Peter. And don’t try to fight me!” She raises a finger and Peter, who was ready to object, clicks his mouth closed obediently. “Maybe you’re not in love with him, but you do love him.”

Peter bites his lip. “I do.”

“So if you can love him as a friend,” Aunt May says, eyes full of something incomprehensible, “why can’t you love him this way, too?”

“I know,” Peter sighs. “This is a Gwen thing. I know.”

“No, sweetheart,” Aunt May says, smiling sadly. “This isn’t a Gwen thing. This is a you thing. You need to trust yourself, Peter. I can understand wanting to avoid the dating scene—God knows it’s hard for all of us, let alone someone with your past—but it’s different when love falls into your lap. You have someone in Wade who can accept both Peter and Spider-Man, and who can participate in both of those parts of your life. That’s a valuable thing.”

“It’s just… it’s Wade,” Peter insists. He drags his fork in the pool of tomato sauce on his plate. “He’s impossible.”

Aunt May reaches for his hand and curls it in hers. Her smile just about breaks his heart. “The best ones are, dear.”

Chapter Text

Peter wakes the next morning hoping that sleep has brought him some clarity of mind, but by the end of his work day, he’s still confused. Aunt May seems to think a relationship with Wade makes sense, but Peter isn’t so sure. Deep down, he knows that some sort of relationship is inevitable; his only other option is rejecting Wade, which makes him instantly feel uncomfortable. That said, rushing through this emotional shift is an equally unsettling prospect. Peter’s entire world has upended itself in a day. He needs to let this settle.

Thankfully, he has time. As much as he knows he’ll miss Wade these upcoming weeks, he’s happy that he has a while to sort out his feelings before their next confrontation. The last thing he wants is to go into a meeting half-cocked (something in Peter cackles at that, sounding awfully like Wade) and hurt Wade’s feelings. Wade is clearly more confident about his sexuality than Peter is, never mind Peter’s misgivings about Wade, himself.

Peter never really thought much about his sexuality. He’d had a crush on Gwen since he hit puberty and always found himself attracted to people that reminded him of her. Wade is nothing like her, right down to his gender. Peter would like to think he’d be okay touching another man’s body, generally speaking, but he has no experience with it. He would hate to panic at the sight of a penis and unintentionally make Wade feel self-conscious about his scars.

There was that, too: Wade might be physically impervious to harm, but his emotional state is painfully fragile. Peter can’t rightly say that he wants to navigate a romantic relationship with someone as unstable as Wade.

But, Peter realizes as he leaves Stark Tower, he absolutely does. Fragile or not, Wade has proven himself to be exactly what Peter needs, and—if he’s being honest with himself—Peter enjoys flirting with Wade too much to pass it off as casual. Like it or not, Peter has a crush on Wade Wilson. That said, Peter is glad he has the opportunity to make sure he knows exactly what he’s doing when he goes into their next encounter.

The waiting makes him feel utterly useless, though. He contemplates heading straight home after work, most likely to stew in his own indecision more, but decides instead to treat himself to some ice cream instead. He could use it.

He could use a lot more than ice cream right now, if he were being honest with himself. He’s grown used to feeling alone, but kissing Wade has brought back a floodgate of desires he forgot existed. He wants to curl up in someone’s warmth and hear the soothing metronome of a heartbeat beneath his ear. He wants to drop his head onto someone’s forehead and feel the comforting weight of hands holding his waist. He wants the solace of having one person out there who will wrap him up in silent love like the softest blanket in the world.

He misses Gwen so much, it’s like he lost her yesterday.

The ice cream parlor is packed, so he pulls out his phone as he waits and hesitates over a new message. He can still text Wade, can’t he? He can’t have Gwen back, he’s accepted that, but… maybe, just this once, he can jump in with both feet and let the consequences fall as they may. What’s the worst that could happen?

He bites his lip and throws caution to the wind. I miss you, he sends to Wade.

He instantly feels foolish. He may be standing in a coffee shop, safe and sound, but he has no idea where Wade is right now. He could be infiltrating an enemy base or knees deep in blood. Hell, he could be missing his knees. Peter shouldn’t have bothered him, not while he’s on a mission. Stupid.

He shoves his phone into his pocket but it buzzes before he can remove his hand.

PETEYYYYYYYYY!!!!
I miss you too!
This sucks so much, dude, like fuck.
WHYYYYYY did I do this? Why.

Peter's fear melts away immediately. He beams at his screen. It’s your job, dummy. Make hella bank, remember?

The reply comes immediately. Roll that dough like a pretzel jockey, yeah yeah. I’d pay all the money back just to see you, though. Being half a world away blows donkey dick.

I’d pay all the money back just to see you.” Peter rereads the line a handful of times and grins broadly. Fuck it. Fuck the dilemma. Fuck spending these weeks worrying about whether dating Wade is a good idea or not. He’s actually happy, and he doesn’t want to give that up. Maybe he’ll end up hurt again, but for the first time in a long time, Peter is willing to take that risk. Whatever he experiences in a relationship with Wade will be a thousand times better than the things he might experience alone, and… that’s enough.

But first, he can’t help but tease Wade a little. ONE KISS AND YOU TURN INTO THE BIGGEST SAP IN THE WORLD??

Wade sends a frowny face. Not good?

Peter sends a winking face, grinning like an idiot. Not good. Awesome. I feel the same way. But, you know, without actually having the money in the first place.

Naturally, comes the reply. It takes a moment, but then, Fuck, Petey. We did this romance thing all backwards. This is the worst.

Can’t disagree with you, there, Peter types out. He shuffles forward with the line, giddily biting his lip. This has been the longest 24 hours, dude. You realize it’s been a DAY.

SHUT YOUR FUCKING GOB, PETER.

Peter chuckles and stows his phone in his pocket while he orders a strawberry waffle cone. It vibrates like mad, but he ignores it until he’s seated outside with his ice cream.

But good news
This job should only take a few weeks
Like
I’ll be back by the end of the fucking month
What made your day so big?
Petey?
ARE YOU IGNORING ME

After that follows a series of emojis Peter can barely decipher. He squints at his phone. Skull, poop, L? What?

Sorry! Bought myself ice cream, he replies. It’s dripping everywhere, bleh.

And it is. He shouldn’t have gotten a cone, because it’s melting all over his hand. He tries to mop up the mess before it reaches his sleeve.

Jesus
Thanks for the spank bank material
I’m in fucking Belarus dude
Tell me you’re licking it up and I’m buying a ticket back right the FUCK now.

Peter, who took a moment to hurriedly lick up all the melted ice cream so he could focus on texting, reads the succession of messages and laughs. He glances around, thinks fuck it, and snaps a picture of himself licking at his ice cream. This is exactly what he needed, he realizes. Ice cream and Wade.

FUUUUUCKKKKK MEEEEE
I hate you
Jesus Christ
I am weak
Seriously I am so turned on right now, I could drown this next baddie in my panties.
WAIT
YOUR FACE

Peter chokes on a strawberry.

He showed Wade his face.

He’s taken every precaution he could to avoid giving Wade a peep show, and he threw it all away on a selfie. He didn’t even think about it. He’s halfway to an anxiety attack when he sees the next few messages.

YOU’RE FUCKING GORGEOUS
Dammit. You’re too pretty for me. Fuck.
Maybe this is a bad idea, Peter. You won’t want me if you see me.

Peter’s breath catches. He comes to three realizations at once: One, Wade already knew his full name, so his secret identity was already compromised; two, Wade was eventually going to see his face anyway; and three, he wants to be open with Wade about himself, no matter the consequences.

An awful thought comes to him: Every time Wade has gotten upset in the past, he’s done something horrible to himself. Peter can’t be sure, but he figures this might be something that sends Wade over the edge. Now, more than ever, the idea of Wade hurting himself sickens him.

Wade, listen to me.
I don’t care what you look like. Seriously. This is a talk we should have in person, probably, but I genuinely love spending time with you. That hasn’t changed because we kissed. Please respond to me.

Peter waits for a few minutes and, when he doesn’t hear from Wade, loses his appetite. He throws his ice cream in the trash and sets off for home, dejected. Showing Wade his face was a stupid mistake to make. He’s seen Wade’s chin and, though Peter isn’t in love with seeing all those scars, he’s accepted it as a part of Wade’s person. He should have known Wade would be self-conscious about them, though. He should have thought about it.

A nasty, quiet voice in Peter’s head says, This is what happens when you care, remember? You’ve hurt the one person you thought was invincible to harm. Good job.

For the first time in a long time, Peter thinks the voice might be right.


Peter spends two days in silent, lonely misery. He doesn’t know if Wade is busy, incapacitated, or avoiding him, but it all feels like his fault. He keeps trying to tell himself that Wade would have seen his face eventually, but he knows that it should have been in person. He should have been there for Wade. Now, he’s not sure if Wade will even come back.

What made your day big?

Peter is at work when he gets the message, and he has to excuse himself to the restroom to avoid letting his coworkers see his reaction. Wade’s alive. He’s okay. He wants to talk.

Peter breathes shakily, hidden in a bathroom stall. Should he be angry? Should he demand answers? Should he let it go? He taps out a message. I missed you. I was worried.

It takes ten minutes to get a reply.

I’m sorry. I’m… not good at this.

Someone comes into the bathroom, and Peter jerks back to reality. He’s been gone from his desk too long. He takes a breath to steady himself and walks back to his workstation. George, from a few desks over, makes a joke about long bathroom breaks and Indian food. Peter laughs half-heartedly and sits down before responding.

Neither am I. I’m sorry I sent you a picture of my face. This should have been something we agreed upon, or at least talked about. I’m sorry I made you feel uncomfortable.

I can’t afford to talk about this right now.
What made your day big?

It stings, but Peter recognizes that they’ll have to table this talk until they can actually speak in person. He doesn’t want to compromise Wade’s mission. He pushes it to the back of his mind, sighing.

I don’t even know where to start, dude.
Like
The MINUTE you left, the world went to shit.
The Hulk got loose in Brooklyn and tore an apartment complex to shreds.
I had coffee with Captain America afterwards.
I’ve had like THREE separate internal crises about all of this.

The phone stays silent for a minute. Peter wipes his hands on his slacks and fills out part of the report form he’s supposed to be working on.

Jesus
Fucking
Christ.

Peter can’t help but laugh as the texts roll in, one by one. He knew Wade would go nuts over this.

HOW THE FUCK DOES THIS HAPPEN?? I AM SO JEALOUS. HAVE YOU SEEN CAP’S ASS? PETEY.

I have, yeah, Peter replies. Have you?

NOOOOOOOOOOOO FUCKING GODDAMN IT. BELARUS, YOU CRUEL FUCKING WHORE OF A BITCH.
But okay. I’m getting over this.
(No I’m fucking NOT BUT WHATEVER)
So the Jolly Green Giant got loose in NYC? What, too much spinach?

Peter snorts. That’s Popeye, dumbass. And no, I think it’s an emotional trigger. Like, dude gets angry, dude turns into rage monster, monster smashes everything. It’s kind of really sad, if you think about it.

He gets a normal life half the time? IDK, Petey. It doesn't sound that bad to me.

Peter inhales sharply. How traumatized must Wade be, to see the Hulk’s trigger as a blessing? That is utterly, desperately sad.

In his moment of sympathetic contemplation, Peter has missed a volley of messages.

So you helped the Avengers, huh? That’s pretty A-lister, dude. Congrats! I’d buy you champagne but I’m in FUCKING BELARUS.
How was coffee? Did you gossip over Black Widow’s dye job? Or HAAA Hawkeye’s?
Seriously Petey, what was it like?
Petey?
Petey.
PETEEEEYYYYYYY.

Oh my god, Wade, what.

And Wade sends him a link to “Danger Zone.” Peter, feeling like he shouldn’t have been surprised, laughs. Of course, Wade would make an Archer reference.

Thank you for that, Peter texts, grinning widely.

Well, you weren’t responding. Dick.

I’m sorry! I was thinking about something.

Unless it was how my mouth would look stretched around your dick, apology rejected.

Peter startles so badly, his phone clatters to the table and down onto his lap. Now that’s all he can see, and it’s surprisingly agreeable.

Too agreeable for work. No fair. I call foul ball.

Yo, you haven’t even seen them yet, don’t call them foul. Rude. XD

But seriously, I only have like five minutes before I’m supposed to meet with some arms dealer for info about my mark. Spill.

Fine. Peter makes another note on his sheet, because he’s still at work, dammit. As soon as you left, I heard sirens and tracked them to an apartment complex. The Hulk was there, ripping through the building like it was paper. It was insane. And Captain America (HE LETS ME CALL HIM STEVE) was there. I offered to assist, even though the Hulk is terrifying. Like dude, seriously. After they got the Hulk under control, Steve (STEVE) invited me out for coffee. And what do I do, say no? So I went to coffee with Captain America.

He sends that much and works on his sheet while he waits for a reply.

AND?!? How was he? How was his ass?

He was… exactly what you’d expect, I guess.
Strong, kind, commanding, intelligent, loyal. A total Gryffindor.
He’s a great conversationalist.

And his ASS?

Peter sighs impatiently. He’s in great shape.

Oooh, avoiding the question! Is that jealousy? That’s jealousy, isn’t it? OH PETEY.

Is it? Peter frowns. Does he even have the right to be jealous? They're not official or exclusive, or anything like that. Is Wade his boyfriend now?

Christ, Peter feels like he's in middle school again.

He takes too long contemplating it, and his phone buzzes before he can respond. Gotta go bring home some bacon. Talk to you later?

Of course, Peter responds. Be safe.

That night, patrol feels undeniably lonely. He often patrols alone, even when Wade is around, but it’s different when he knows that there’s no chance he’ll bump into him. The city is a sprawling swarm of people, but tonight, it feels empty.

Oh, that’s just too much, even for Peter. He grimaces to himself and heads to the heart of Manhattan to scout for crime. He has no idea how long Wade will be gone, and he can’t afford to get maudlin just yet.

He stops two muggings and an attempted rape by nine, taking extra care to leave that last perpetrator with a bright shiner. Peter carefully approaches the victim, a girl about his age named Kate, and makes sure she’s unharmed before offering to walk her home. She’s badly shaken, so he sits with her outside her building and coaxes her into conversation so that she can calm down.

They end up talking politics—she’s studying political science at NYU, he learns—until she insists that she has to go inside and finish a paper for her class the next day. She looks far steadier on her feet, so Peter says his good-byes and makes a mental note to keep tabs on her over the next week, just in case.

This is why he genuinely loves this job, he thinks as Kate walks into her building. It comes with no small amount of commitment, complications, consequences, and other long, terrible words that begin with C (he was constipated once, too, but that had nothing to do with his spidery half and everything to do with a gorgeous weekend of hot dogs, cheesy fries, and a gallon of chocolate milk), but it’s all worth it because it means he has moments like this. He saves people. Not nameless faces or terrified crowds, but real people, with lives and stories and dreams, all of it.

Peter isn’t alone, he realizes. Open skies, the world’s biggest jungle gym, and the unfailing confidence that he has a thousand opportunities to catch himself, should he fall. It’s the most liberating thing Peter has ever experienced.

The work does its job; after a few hours of patrolling, the city feels less empty than it did when Peter started. He shoots a few pictures of himself for the Bugle, because he hasn’t sold them any since his shot with Deadpool. He imagines they’re scrounging for dirt on Spider-Man. He hopes they print something entertaining.


September hits the city in a rush of seasonal advertising and pumpkin spiced everything. Peter knows this because Steve Rogers, ever the face of the American public, loves (LOVES) pumpkin spice lattes and orders one every week on their coffee date.

It’s been a couple of weeks—and a couple coffee dates—since Wade left for his trip, and Peter feels his absence more keenly than ever. They text every day, and Wade calls when he has an hour to kill, but it’s not enough. Peter misses his friend.

Aunt May does her best to keep him busy. She decides to start renovating sections of the house—”It looks the same as it has for the last thirty years, isn’t that tragic?”—and gives Peter all the hard jobs. He loves it. He hasn’t had much of a chance to use his powers around her yet, and it’s gratifying to see the size of her eyes when he props himself against the ceiling to paint the trim work in the living room.

“What happens if you fall?” she asks him the first time he does it.

He shrugs, upside down. “I catch myself.”

She makes an impressed noise. “Incredible.”

Peter’s coffee dates with Steve also help to keep his restlessness at bay. After Steve (clumsily) sent Peter a text about meeting again, Peter decided to go as himself, and not as Spider-Man. He was terrified, but he knew Steve could find out about Peter Parker anyway if he really wanted to. And, to be honest, he wanted to give Steve the benefit of the doubt. He was rewarded well for his decision. Steve understands Peter in a way no one else ever has. Peter can actually talk to him about his transformation from an average kid to a superhero, and the kinds of responsibilities he takes on because of his powers. Steve is the first person Peter has ever met who feels as driven to do good and help people as he does. It’s immensely gratifying to have Steve validate the emotions and urges he’s felt for so long.

One day, while Steve is telling Peter about his days in boot camp, he says, “There was something Dr. Erskine said to me the night before the procedure. I think… I think he was trying to remind me to think for myself. A lot of soldiers did the wrong thing for the right reasons—following orders isn’t always easy. But Erskine looked at me and said, ‘With great power comes great responsibility, Steve. Remember that.’ And I always did. Whenever kids sent me letters, I’d always write that in somewhere.” He smiles wistfully. “Not just because it was a good message, but because I wanted to remind myself that I was doing the right thing.”

Peter's head snaps up in recognition, then he ducks his head as a watery smile steals over his face. Looks like Aunt May wasn't the only Captain America fan in the family.

Steve shares stories from his past every time they meet—especially his life before Captain America. Peter suspects he hasn’t been able to open up like this with many other people, because Steve spares no detail in his storytelling. Peter, ever the attentive student, laps up this glimpse into history with zeal. Everything about Steve changes when he talks about his youth—his accent gets a little more Brooklyn, and his eyes grow a little softer—especially when he mentions Bucky. They lived in each other's pockets, from what Steve shares, and got into all sorts of trouble back in the day.

Sometimes, Steve loses himself so much in his stories, he starts saying things that—to Peter, and probably anyone else under eighty—make no sense. Peter has to bite his tongue to keep from asking what all the slang means, knowing that doing so would pull Steve from his nostalgia. He always looks it up when he gets home.

He dies a little when he finds out exactly what a blue movie is.

They spar once, and Peter nearly creams himself in excitement. Steve, like Wade, is a fantastic sparring partner, although in a completely different way. Where Wade fights dirty and leaves Peter constantly guessing, Steve moves gracefully through well-practiced forms, always finding a maneuver to block Peter’s attacks. Peter loves it.

He invites Steve over for dinner after their third coffee date. Steve, delighted, agrees and offers to make something called “Cola Marsh Ice” that Peter has never heard of.

“It’s amazing, you’ll love it,” Steve insists. “My mother used to make it all the time, when I was little.”

Peter couldn’t turn that down if he wanted to. “Sounds great.”

Aunt May, of course, has a fit when she finds out. “We’re still painting the living room!” she cries, gesturing toward Peter’s (beautiful, artful, even) trim job. It takes several attempts before Peter convinces her that they can have it all sorted by the time Steve comes over, and several more to assure her that Steve will eat whatever she makes.

Peter works, when he can, on pulling details about Francis from Wade, who both dislikes discussing the subject and remembers little about it. “I was kind of in a fuckin’ rush to leave, you know,” he says edgily when Peter prods too hard over the phone. “Didn’t have time to snoop.”

He manages to get the name “Ajax” from him, though, so when he calls FitzSimmons for more information, he doesn’t feel completely empty-handed.

“That’s really good, Peter,” Simmons tells him, while Fitz works on a computer nearby.

“Give me a minute,” he says without looking away from his screen. “I’m setting up an algorithm to search for ‘Ajax,’ ‘Francis,’ and ‘mutation’ in all commonly used ciphers. If this doesn’t turn up anything, we might have to add some code to break down encryptions.”

Gratitude swells in Peter like a balloon. “Thank you so much,” he says sincerely. “Thank you for taking the time to work on this for me. I know you’re busy with more important things, and I haven’t given you a lot to go on. You have no reason to trust me, and… it means a lot that you do.”

“Don’t get us wrong,” Fitz says. He finishes typing with a flourish and wheels over to join them. “We have a lot of questions.”

“But we do trust you,” Simmons finishes. “You’re affiliated with S.H.I.E.L.D., remember.”

“And we’ve worked with you in our lab.” Fitz shrugs. “Letting you use our tools and toys was a far bigger leap of faith. But, you know, if you do ever want to tell us what’s going on…”

“... we wouldn’t mind knowing.” Simmons smiles at Peter. “And the computer will take some time to complete its search. So….”

Peter laughs and contemplates telling them the truth. “Your promise still stands? You won’t tell Coulson?”

Fitz and Simmons share a glance. “If our results turn up anything that implicates harm to human life, we are professionally and legally obligated to report our findings,” Fitz recites, as if he has the words memorized.

“If this person we’re looking for is performing experiments on humans to mutate them in any way, we might have to step in,” Simmons translates. “We know you have humanity’s best interests at heart, but you have neither our technology nor our manpower.”

Peter purses his lips, annoyed. He’s happy he didn’t give them the intel to take down Deadpool; Wade would have hated S.H.I.E.L.D.’s brand of condescension.“With all due respect, if Francis is mutating humans under your nose, he’s doing so for a reason. I doubt he’s giving people superpowers, or whatever he’s doing, just for fun. If this is part of something more involved, going in guns blazing won’t solve the problem. S.H.I.E.L.D. is a blunt force trauma cure, and this might need something more precise. It would be smarter to find out who Francis works for, what he’s doing, why he’s doing it, and how to kill it at the root. If you take out Francis right off the bat, you might solve the problem… or you might just let the big players know that you’re onto them.”

The line goes silent for a moment while Fitz and Simmons absorb that. “... He’s right,” Fitz sighs finally. “I hate to say it, but S.H.I.E.L.D. historically treats symptoms first and cures the illness second. And you never know who might be working for H.Y.D.R.A. these days; if we ask around too much, someone dangerous might catch onto us.”

“What do you suggest? We defy the tenets we swore to uphold?” Simmons argues helplessly. “If we go rogue and start making our own decisions about what is and is not morally acceptable, we’re no better than H.Y.D.R.A., Fitz. You know that.”

Peter gets the feeling he should give them some privacy, but he knows he started this fight. “I’m not asking you to keep this from Coulson forever,” he interjects. “And if I’m really out of my depth, I’ll make the call myself. Promise. All I’m asking for is some time to make sure that when we do take this guy out, we’re excising the full wound. And like you mentioned, I’m with S.H.I.E.L.D., too. I want the same things you do.”

“So you promise you’ll come to us if you need us?” Simmons asks, eyes narrowed. “We know you, Peter. You’d rather act yourself and take on the consequences. We haven’t forgotten the experiment.”

“Jemma,” Fitz whispers, dismayed. Simmons' eyes go wide and she covers her mouth, obviously shocked by her own outburst.

Six months ago, her words would have wrecked Peter, he knows. Shame tingles in his chest, but what used to feel like an open wound now feels more like a fresh scar. “You know I was reacting impulsively. I did my best, and I don’t regret that.”

“I know,” Simmons says, chagrined. “I’m sorry, Peter, I didn’t mean that.”

“Yes, you did,” Peter replies, surprised by his own calmness. He’s expected to have this talk with them for a while, but he never expected to feel this level-headed about it. “It’s okay. I was rash. I’ve been coming to terms with it for four years. But I’m not seventeen anymore, and… well, the circumstances are different.”

“That they are,” Fitz says kindly. “You’ve grown up a lot, Peter. We both see that. We wouldn’t be helping you if we didn’t trust you.”

“We just want you to be safe.” Simmons leans forward, eyes pleading. “That’s all I’m worried about, Peter. You have a history of taking on more responsibility than you could possibly bear, and this Francis could be a bigger fight than you’ve ever handled before. The superhumans you’ve fought so far have all been relatively new to their gifts. An experienced criminal with backup is a different animal entirely. You see? It’s not that we don’t trust you, it’s that you have no idea what you’re up against.”

“That’s why I came to you in the first place,” Peter says, gesturing to his screen. “I know how to hack a database, guys, give me some credit. But I know that you have resources I don’t, and that I might have missed something that you two will find. I came to you. I am being safe.”

The computer behind Fitz beeps, and they all jump in surprise. “We found something,” Fitz says, wheeling over to the screen. He reads it for a moment. “Oh. This isn’t good.”

“What is it?” Peter leans into the screen, as if it’ll let him read the results, too. “What does it say?”

“Francis Freeman, also known as Ajax, has been linked to several military contracts in Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, North Korea… the list goes on. You’re sure he deals in human mutation?”

“That’s what I’ve heard,” Peter says grimly. He can draw the conclusion. “He’s making supersoldiers for military organizations. He’s selling people, isn’t he?”

“We can’t prove that,” Simmons says thoughtfully. “He could be mutating willing soldiers from within those organizations.” Fitz and Peter trade a look, and she pinks. “It’s just as bad, I know! But the distinction is important.”

He tried to tell me that my life was his now, and that I followed his orders. I, uh, disagreed.

“I don’t think so,” Peter says, shaking his head. He’s never felt more sorry for Wade, who must have been one of Francis’ potential soldiers. “The terminally ill patients, remember? People are going missing. I bet those same people are turning up in military outfits around the world.”

Peter starts when he realizes that this means that Wade was terminally ill, at some point. Wade, the unbreakable man, was on death’s doorstep when Francis found him. What other secrets hid in Wade’s past? Peter inhales sharply; Wade could have a family out there, somewhere. In Vancouver, perhaps.

Peter hadn’t considered the skeletons that might come out of the closet at the end of this wild goose chase. He swallows thickly. What if Wade chooses to reunite with his former life? Peter has never considered the possibility of losing Wade as a result of helping him. Hell, Peter hasn’t considered any endgame possibilities. He agreed to help Wade to put an end to senseless violence; now, he feels as if he's signed up for a war.

“You got this name from Deadpool?” Fitz asks as if on cue, wheeling back to the screen. “That’s not good, Peter. You said yourself that you got away only because Deadpool let you; imagine an army of Deadpools. If our assumptions are correct, Ajax has been manufacturing killers just like Deadpool for years, training them to be as deadly as possible, and selling them to the highest bidder. He probably kept his gold star pupils—or, at least, some of them—for his own protection. You can’t go this alone.”

Peter wonders if any of Francis’s other victims had the same doubts and fears as Wade. These aren’t just soldiers, they’re people who were taken and mutilated to serve a goal. Suddenly, the danger of facing Francis seems paltry compared to the danger of not acting. Peter has to finish this with Wade, no matter what that means for friendship.

“I won’t.” He gives Fitz and Simmons a smile he doesn’t feel. He might lose Wade. Peter genuinely thought he’d get to keep him; he doesn’t want to lose someone else to an act of “heroism.”

“I promise. Thank you again for helping me. I gotta go patrol before Aunt May gets home, okay?” He moves to disconnect.

“Peter, wait.” Simmons looks upset. Peter hesitates expectantly. “Please don’t be mad at me. I truly didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. You’ll be careful, won’t you?”

Peter softens. His worry over Wade must have read as aloofness. “Sorry. I’m fine, I promise. I accept your apology. We all say hasty things sometimes. I just have a lot to think about, that’s all. I didn’t really expect a name thrown at me in a fight to turn into this, you know?” He runs a hand over his face and rubs briefly at his eyes. “We should do this again. But, you know, without the shop talk. Catch up, or something. Okay?”

Simmons visibly relaxes. Fitz takes her hand, and they smile at each other. “That sounds great,” Fitz says to Peter. “Good luck.”

Peter salutes them with two fingers and disconnects. His room is oppressively silent. He leans back in his chair, overwhelmed, and tries to decide what his next move should be. He doesn’t want to offer Wade information that might renew Wade’s interest in killing informants, but he doesn’t want to conceal the truth from him, either. He hasn’t thought this through.

Simmons was right. He can’t tackle this problem on his own. He can barely handle one Deadpool that likes him; how could he possibly fight more that don’t? Peter has always stayed in New York City for a reason: He’s a small shrimp superhero. He’s accepted that. The way he sees it, someone has to take down the small time criminals, and he’s been more than happy to fulfill that role. His fights against bigger opponents have always brought destruction to his life; is he signing up for another tragedy if he takes this on?

Peter can’t lose anyone else.

If he doesn’t tell Wade what he’s learned, S.H.I.E.L.D. will eventually take over. They’ll kill Francis, fix as much as possible, and move on to the next big threat on the list. Peter and Wade will be lucky to see the action on the news, let alone get involved.

Wade would never forgive him for that.

Alternatively, if he does tell Wade, he officially involves himself in a takedown bigger than he ever could have imagined. Best case scenario, he and Wade make it out alive, and Wade gets all the answers he wanted. Peter goes back to New York and resumes his life, and Wade… Peter doesn’t know what Wade will do. It might involve Peter, it might not.

And worst case scenario, they both die horrible, painful deaths.

Peter likes it better when the worst case scenarios don’t involve the word “die.”

He has to tell Wade, of that Peter is certain. Like it or not, he’s opened a can of worms, and he would be a coward if he backed down now. He reaches for his phone. Hey. I got info about our project.

He receives a response instantly.

What fucking timing, Petey!
GUESS WHO’S BACK
BACK AGAIN
DEADPOOL’S BACK
TELL A FRIEND

Peter chuckles nervously. Well then.

Chapter Text

They agree to meet on the roof of a bank on the other side of Queens from Peter’s house. Peter could use the trip to clear his head, and Wade has no idea where Peter lives anyway, so it works out. As Peter swings his way over, he curses himself for letting the mission get the better of him. He’s been looking forward to seeing Wade for weeks, and now he can only think about how Wade will react when he hears Peter’s news about Francis.

He’s a pit of nerves when he lands on the rooftop, but it disappears as soon as Wade sees him.

Petey.” Wade runs and leaps into Peter’s arms. Peter stumbles but manages to catch them both before they tumble to the ground. Wade hugs him with all his strength, which, despite his size, is considerable.

“God, it feel so fuckin’ good to see you. Fuck, man, this trip was absolute murder in more ways than one, let me tell you. Turned out the company that hired me was running some sort of deal involving webcams and kids on the side, and you know how I feel about kids, right? So after I take out the target, who was a fucking terror—and that’s saying something coming from me, dude—I gotta go clear out that mess….”

He hasn’t loosened his grip on Peter at all, and Peter takes a moment to breathe in the smell of gun oil and leather. He missed Wade like hell. He should worry about the Francis thing, but right now, he can’t . It doesn’t feel urgent anymore, now that he has Wade around again.

… and Wade has yet to stop talking. “... I hope those kids get therapy, or something, and not just for what they saw me do. Anyway, I take out that little ring of fuckin’ sin, and then they don’t want to pay me! Outrageous, right? But I didn’t kill them, you’d be so proud, Petey. Just broke some legs, cut some ears—nice stuff, eh?—and had ‘em wire it to me! Easy fuckin’ peasy!”

“Easy fuckin’ peasy,” Peter murmurs back, tucking his chin over Wade’s shoulder. Wade falls silent, and his hug gets even tighter. “I missed you, too. Sorry your trip was rough. I’m happy you’re back.”

“You have no idea, Petey,” Wade whispers. He burrows his head into Peter’s neck. “Never had anything to miss before. It sucked.”

Peter wants to say something in return, but nothing seems big enough. So, instead, he blurts, “Well, I wasn’t aware it was a competition.”

Wade freezes, and for one terrible moment, Peter worries the joke might not have landed. The moment passes and Wade laughs, sounding delighted. “You fucknut.”

And before Peter knows what’s happening, Wade is tickling him. Now, Peter can’t keep himself upright. He falls instantly, panting complaints between bouts of laughter, and tries to fend off Wade’s assault. “Tries” being the operative word; Wade is relentless and nimble, and none of Peter’s defenses land. It is mortifying.

“No, no, please,” Wade says over Peter’s helpless laughter. Peter can hear the smile in his raspy voice. “Mock me, it’s fine. Tell me about your pretty boy problems, I’m all ears.”

“You’re—all—fingers—” Peter retorts, tucking his elbows in to protect his sides. He was never this ticklish before getting bitten, dammit. “I’m—sorry.”

“Fucking goddamn, I like the feeling of you moving under me,” Wade mutters, stopping. Peter, gasping in breath, chokes on air. His brain seems to fall sideways as arousal spikes through his exhausted body.

“You can’t just say that, Wade,” Peter grouses, willing to keep himself under control. Happy as he is to see Wade, he doesn’t want to get an erection against the guy’s leg.

“Can’t say what?” Wade sits fully on Peter’s lap and grinds, and Peter sees stars. “What can I say, Spidey, you get me all hot and bothered, with those pretty brown eyes of yours.”

Fuck, they still have to talk about that. Peter shifts up onto his elbows. “Wait, Wade,” he says, fighting valiantly against succumbing to his lust. Wade, who has started grinding rhythmically down onto Peter, is not helping. “My face. We need to… dammit, Wade, stop.

Wade sighs and reluctantly stops his hips. “Can we not, though?”

Peter tilts his head. “Not what?”

“Talk about this,” Wade clarifies, crossing his arms. “My fuckin’ mug, your face, all of that. At least for tonight. I just—fuck.” He pulls a dagger from his belt and digs it into his calf. Blood wells over the steel and stains the rooftop, and Peter yelps in worry, shifting away from the pool that’s forming there.

“Wade, no!”

“I know,” Wade gripes, wiping his blade on his suit and putting it away. “Whatever, dude. I should go.”

He stands and starts walking to the edge of the roof, clearly dejected. Peter, half-hard and now wholly confused, leaps to his feet and grimaces as his world spins. “Wait, Wade, what’d I do? Come on, talk to me!”

“There’s nothing to say, Peter,” Wade says sulkily. It’s the first time he’s used Peter’s full name since he learned it. It stings. “You gave me the tit, and now you want the tat, right? But once you see what I’ve got under this suit… fuck, baby boy, that’s the end of that.”

“That’s not fair,” Peter defends, frustrated. “I never said I wanted to see your face.” Wade’s shoulders climb to his ears and Peter groans. “And I never said I didn’t want to, you fuck. You’re putting words in my mouth, and I can’t win.”

“I’ll put something else into your mouth,” Wade jeers, slapping himself in the face a moment later. “Dammit, Wade, keep your fuckin’ gob shut. Yes, I know, white, thank you very fuckin’ much.”

“See that?” Peter says gesturing to Wade. “That’s why I’m with you—well, not the thing with the colors, because I still don’t fully get that. But you! You’re so funny, dude. I never know what to expect with you. You’re unlike anyone I’ve ever met. And I can’t—” Peter inhales deeply and powers on, “—I can’t break you. You’re just as strong, just as fast, just as durable as me. Do you know what that means for me? Do you, really? Because it means more than a face ever could, Wade.

“So you show me your face when you want me to see it. I’m happy to wait. But for now? I want to make sure you’re okay with seeing mine. That’s all this is. You saw my face and didn’t speak to me for two days. I just… don’t want you to leave. Please.”

“Goddamn, Petey.” Wade shoulders and head drop, and he mimes wiping a tear from his eye through his mask. “That was fuckin’ beautiful, man. Something out of a rom-com, or some shit. Like, Jesus, we’re even facing the same direction. Stick a camera over my shoulder and yell ‘action.’”

It’s not an answer, and anger scorches through Peter at everything Wade hasn’t said. He opens his mouth to retort, but Wade is still speaking, softer now, so Peter bites his tongue and listens.

“Could it be? Is this a rom-com? I thought I was a horror show, but we don’t get moments like these. This isn’t a horror story, is it? The plot doesn’t fit. Am I the prickly heroine who needs a love interest to give her self-actualization? Is that what this is? God dammit that’s a shitty role. Fucking hell, at least I look good in heels.”

Wade falls silent, and Peter can’t think of anything to say.

“I’d see that,” he offers eventually. “You in heels, I mean. You’ve got great calves.”

Wade snorts, then chuckles, which grows quickly into full-blown laughter. He bends double with it. “You know what?” he asks, turning from the edge of the roof. “I do. Hell, Spidey, maybe I do get the rom-com. What a fuckin’ laugh, eh? Stand aside, Jennifer Aniston, Wade Wilson is in the building. How fucked up is that? What a shit on fate’s doorstep! I mean, hell, it’s not like this’ll kill me, right? Let’s see what happens.”

“That’s the kind of attitude I look for when someone wants to be in a relationship with me,” Peter says, nodding knowledgeably. He can never manage to stay mad at Wade, even now. “‘Fuck it.’ That’s a sign of true love, right there.”

Wade’s mask stretches as he grins. “The best one. So, hey, Petey, I like-a you face. Can I see it again?”

Peter pauses. The last time Wade saw his face, it caused this exact fight, and he has to prepare himself for the possibility of Wade reacting badly again. He never knows what to expect. He takes a breath to steel himself and pulls off his mask.

Jesus.”

Wade moves in close, turning his head as if examining an interesting specimen of alien. Peter ruffles his hair self-consciously, feeling exceptionally naked. “Oh my god, you fuckin’ blush.”

Peter’s face grows hot.

“Oh my god, stop,” Wade says, sounding every bit the delighted teenage girl. “Shut up.”

Peter bites his lips shut and raises an eyebrow, thrilled that Wade’s reaction is such a positive one.

“No, don’t, don’t,” Wade says breathlessly, patting lightly at Peter’s lips with both hands. “Now I want to kiss you.”

“I’ve seen your chin,” Peter points out, licking his lips. He wouldn’t mind kissing Wade, he thinks. Not at all. “Or we can do it through the mask. Whatever works.”

Wade hesitates. “You sure?” He waits a moment, then peels his mask up his jaw. “Even now?”

It’s the first time Peter has seen Wade’s face in the light. His skin is mottled knots of white, pink, and red scar tissue. Peter can’t see a single millimeter of healthy skin. Even Wade’s lips are whorls of damage.

It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

“Even now,” Peter says, staring down at Wade’s exposed skin. “Even now, like this, I would kiss you.”

Wade grins, and his skin looks close to splitting apart at the seams. “Do it, then. I fuckin’ dare you. Triple-dog.”

Peter laughs and, never one to back down from a dare, bends his head down obligingly. Kissing Wade Wilson is incredible. Peter only has a split second to enjoy the warmth of Wade’s lips when Wade pulls away, gasping.

“You did it. You fucking did it, Petey—”

“Shut up,” Peter growls, tugging in Wade for more. He instantly falls in love with the way Wade feels. Wade’s skin is so alive with texture, Peter imagines every kiss he shares with him will feel different. He wraps his arms around Wade’s tiny torso and pulls him close, daring to part his lips ever so slightly. Wade shudders and opens his mouth fully. He tastes like tacos. His tongue is just as wonderfully textured as his lips, and Peter sucks on it just to see how Wade will react.

Wade doesn’t disappoint. “Fuuuuck meeee,” he groans, pulling away and resting his forehead on Peter’s chest.

“I’d have to see more of you, I think,” Peter whispers, feeling playful and dirty. “We could experiment with blindfolds, I suppose. I can do kinky, as long as I get to web you up sometime.”

Wade makes a high, keening noise. “I didn’t know it was possible to be this turned on,” he whines, clutching at Peter’s sides. “I’m going to jack off so much over this, dude, you have no idea.”

Peter is painfully hard in his suit. “I have some.”

Wade glances down at Peter’s crotch. “Well, lookee there. Is my name Dawn, or does that cock rise for just anyone?”

“... oh my god.” Peter bursts out laughing. Of course Wade would say something like that. “Uh… I guess you’re Dawn now? It’s not the other one. Unless your name is Charlize Theron. All bets are off if you’re Charlize Theron.”

“I could chop off an arm, pull off a nice Captain Furiosa,” Wade says, shimmying seductively. Peter makes a face as his dick reacts to the idea. “Oh. Or not. Shit.”

“I’ll probably never react favorably to the idea of you dismembering yourself,” Peter tells him, adjusting his suit with a grimace. “It’s not the you part of the equation, it’s… the lack of you?”

“Aw, look, he cares so much!” Wade coos, pinching both of Peter’s cheeks. “What a fuckin’ dish. I met a guy once who was super into amputees, actually, have I told you about that? It’s a pretty fucked up story; he was a surgeon, I guess, and he liked to hang out on college campuses and—”

“I get the idea of it,” Peter interrupts, revolted. “Please don’t finish that story.”

“Well, I killed the cocksucker,” Wade says, shrugging. “Hacked him limb from limb. You ever seen someone with no arms ‘n’ legs? They’re just, like, this rectangle, but like, with a fuckin’ head. So anyways, I told the guy, I says, ‘This should be right up your alley, No Leg Greg,’ right? Like, he won the motherfuckin’ jackpot on that one, eh? But I guess he’d lost too much blood to pop a boner at that point. What a disappointment. You can lead a horse to water....” He shakes his head sadly, then shrugs and claps his hands together. “So, you hungry? I haven’t really eaten yet, and I’m fucking starving.”

Peter must be getting used to Wade’s stories, because even after hearing all that, he could eat. “There’s a little Italian place two blocks down.”

Yes.

Peter pulls his mask back on and swings them to the ground, snorting when Wade pinches his butt and purrs as he climbs off his back. As they make their way toward the restaurant, Peter thinks over the last ten minutes and draws the conclusion that it went far better than he’d expected. A few months ago, a confrontation like that would have sent Wade careening off the rooftop, without giving Peter so much as a chance to explain himself or apologize. Today, Wade not only let Peter defend himself, but also gave Peter the benefit of the doubt and trusted him with an insecurity. Something inside Peter swells with warmth. Wade’s patience and tolerance have grown so much, and Peter is glad he has an opportunity to prove himself worthy of Wade’s effort. Peter thinks he could wait for months, if need be, as long as Wade never runs away from him again.

It’s so nice to have Wade next to him again that Peter can accept the attention they’re attracting by walking together. It’s stupid of him, because he has gone out of his way to separate himself from Wade in the public’s eye, but he doesn’t think he could distance himself from Wade, even if he wanted to. He grabs Wade’s hand and squeezes it.

“... like something out of Teen Beat,” he hears Wade mutter. He smirks.

They reach the Italian place, and by that point, Peter can’t ignore the trailing cluster of onlookers anymore. They need to find someplace more private, or their relationship will hit newsstands by tomorrow morning. “Where do you want to eat?”

“Your place,” Wade says instantly.

“My…” Peter falters, thinking of Aunt May. “Why?”

“Why not?” Wade shoots back, shrugging overly casually. “Unless you don’t trust me?”

Wade’s testing him, Peter realizes. Wade knows exactly how much trust he’s put in Peter and wants to see if it’s reciprocated. This is a chance for Peter to prove himself.

“I do,” he says cautiously. “I’m just, uh, surprised. It kind of came out of nowhere.”

“Those things—” Wade’s free hand twitches toward the crowd, “—have been tailing us for three and a half blocks. We’re lucky no one’s taken pictures yet. I’m a wanted man, Peter, and not in the sexy way.”

“Also in the sexy way.”

Wade’s mask quirks like he might have just smiled. “Well, okay, then. But seriously, when I see this shit, I run. When news crews come, I gain visibility, and that’s bad for my rep. Hey, you!” He points to someone in the crowd who’s reaching into his pocket. “I have a sword in my hand and the aim of ten ninjas. Lose the fucking phone.” The man rips his hand out of his pocket, and Wade turns back to Peter. “Like I was saying. I’m supposed to be unseen, unheard, and unnoticed.”

Peter can’t help but snort. “You? You sure?”

“It’s my job, Peter,” Wade insists. “You shouldn’t be seen with me, but I can’t be seen with you! Most of the clients that hire me would fucking flip if they thought I was getting close to a superhero. This hurts both of us. So we either part ways here, or we go somewhere helicopters can’t find us. Your place is close and private.”

“You thought this through,” Peter says, impressed. “I figured you just wanted to see my underwear drawer.”

“I’m a mercenary,” Wade reminds him. “Total situational awareness, dude. Also, yes, I gotta know if you Parker your Peter in boxers or briefs, you feel? So what’s it gonna be? Every second we waste is a second we lose.”

Peter thinks it over for a moment. “Yeah, okay.” Aunt May shouldn’t be home for an hour or so; hopefully he can get Wade fed and gone by then. “Come to my house. I’ll shoo everyone off. You go in and get food. I want a number nine, extra garlic bread. I’ll come get you once everyone’s gone.”

Wade visibly relaxes. “It’s a good thing you’re cute, Spider-Man.”

Peter preens for a moment. “Thanks.”

Go.”

“Right!” Peter runs up to the crowd and waves his arms above his head. “YO! PEOPLE OF NEW YORK! Thank you so much for showing your support, but I need you to LEAVE US ALONE NOW.”

“That’s that man!” a woman cries, pointing at Wade. “The one who kills people!”

“Hey, now. We both know the news get things wrong sometimes,” Peter replies. He sees Wade slip beyond the edge of the crowd and enter the restaurant, and continues. “Remember when I was a ‘menace,’ and then saved the city from a giant lizard? Remember when, less than a year later, the power went out for half the city, and I brought in the people responsible?” The crowd cheers, and the woman looks embarrassed. “Don’t believe everything you read in the Bugle! Now please, I’d love to stay and chat, but I’d also love to inhale some of Vito’s meatballs.”

“I thought you fought him, though!” the woman insists, red faced. “If he’s your friend, why were you fighting?”

“Oh, dear god,” Peter sighs to himself. He didn’t have time for an inquisition on a good day, and he certainly didn’t want to handle it now. “Iron Man and Captain America have been fighting in the news for years! Or are they not friends, now, too? Friends fight! At that point, I didn’t know who my friend was or what he did. Now I do. So disperse.”

“What does he do?” a man in the back shouts, and the people who were leaving pause and rejoin the clump.

Peter throws his hands up. “He buys me food, for one.”

“Let him be!” A teenager steps forward and faces the crowd. “Come on, it’s eight at night. Everyone here knows that Spider-Man is the good guy. If he says that the other man is cool, I trust him. Spider-Man owes us nothing, but he still protects this city night after night. If he wants dinner in peace, I say we give it to him.”

The crowd grumbles, but no one calls out another question. They slowly turn and leave. “Thanks, kid,” Peter says gratefully. “What’s your name?”

“Lindsey. I know,” the boy gestures to himself, “it’s weird. Family name."

"I get that," Peter says, nodding. "I was named after my grandfather."

Lindsey laughs. "Grandad Spider-Man, huh?"

“Something like that,” Peter jokes, liking Lindsey immensely. “It’s Swedish.” He wishes Wade were here for this exchange.

Lindsey laughs again. "Right. Well, I'll leave you to it. Stay cool, Spider-Man. Keep upholding the family name.”

“You too.”

Lindsey leaves, and Wade appears with bags of food. “That took fuckin’ forever, dude. When you said you’d handle the crowd, I thought you’d be good at it. Let’s go.”

Peter lets Wade climb onto his back and takes off, hoping none of the food jostling in the bags in Wade’s fist will leak onto his suit. Now that he’s headed toward home, Peter can’t help but feel nervous; if he and Wade ever have a falling out, he doesn’t know how much he can trust Wade with this kind of information.

But he has no choice. Wade’s argument was logically sound, and Wade would be immeasurably hurt if Peter outright refused to show him his home. Peter just has to hope for the best.

Peter brings Wade to the roof where he’s stashed his normal clothes. “We have to go on foot from here,” he says, pulling on his hoodie and jeans and stowing his mask in a pocket. He bounces on his feet anxiously. “Or, um, maybe you should find a discreet way in? No one in the neighborhood knows about my, uh, secret.”

“I can do that,” Wade agrees, giving him a thumbs up. “I’ll follow behind you. Covert is my middle name, amigo. Not really—it’s Eunice—but you get my drift, eh? Take me to street level, though. I’d survive the fall, the cannoli would not.”

“Of course,” Peter says, heading for the edge of the roof above a tiny, dark alleyway. “Gotta save the cannoli.”

“I’m glad we agree on this important issue.”

Peter carries Deadpool down and leads him to the curb. “My house is two blocks down, one street over,” he says, even though he knows Wade will be following him. “See you inside.”

He strides off toward his house, hoping he looks more confident than he feels. He expected to have more time to prepare to have Wade in his home than this, to hide the breakables and treasured mementos, as well as anything he thought might trigger Wade into an outburst. Like childproofing, but taller, he thinks. He trusts Wade (for now), but he also knows that Wade is very rarely careful with much of anything.

He reaches his home and pauses in front of his porch. This is it. One step forward, and Wade will know where he lives. He is committing to trusting Wade, once and for all.

He steps forward.

His hands shake as he fumbles for his keys and opens his door. As he walks in, he hears a thump from upstairs and, horrifyingly, someone moving pots in the kitchen. Someone else is in his house.

“Peter, honey, is that you?”

Fuck, no.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Aunt May,” Peter says faintly. “Yeah, it’s me.”

Wade, with all the grace of a rhinoceros, thunders down the stairs. “Wait, your aunt is here? I came in through the bathroom, picked the lock, hope that’s cool. Locked it back up again, don’t you worry, Petey, we’re safe as a nun’s virginity. Your aunt is here? You didn’t tell me, Petey, I don’t have my nice dress! I’m a mess! Just look at my hair!” Wade pats at his head frantically, where his mask is as smooth and hairless as ever.

“Is someone with you?” Aunt May calls from the kitchen, walking into the living room to greet them. Wade, like an idiot, won’t stop messing with his head. Peter’s face burns with embarrassment. “Oh.”

“I didn’t know,” Peter offers weakly, at a total loss. Wade, next to him, has quit messing with his head and has struck a conspicuously casual pose leaning against the entryway to the foyer. He’s nervous, Peter realizes. “You’re home early.”

“My shift ended early,” May says, never taking her eyes off Wade. “I thought I’d make dinner.”

“We have dinner!” And suddenly, Wade is back to normal. “And, hey! I got extra. I mean, I was going to eat all of it, but you know, the more the merrier! So you’re Peter’s aunt, huh? It’s fuc—it’s really great to meet you! I’ve heard so little about you! I’m Wade.” He shoves his hand toward her, and she takes it hesitantly. “Oh, we’re gonna get along,” Wade continues joyfully, pumping her hand for all its worth. “Peter’s flippin’ aunt.”

Peter’s head is spinning wildly. Wade cannot meet Aunt May tonight, wasn’t that the promise he made himself? And is Wade censoring himself?

“Sure,” he says faintly. “Join us for dinner.”

As Wade bustles into the kitchen to empty the bags, clearly making himself at home, Aunt May pulls Peter aside. “What is going on?” she whispers, eyes wide. “Why is your friend here? I thought you didn’t want to bring him here.”

“Are you guys talkin’ about me?” Wade asks, peeking his head out from the kitchen. He sounds delighted. “Oh, the gossip. Carry on.” His head disappears.

“I’m so sorry,” Peter says defeatedly. “We were in Queens. People saw us together and there were paparazzi, and this was the safest place to go. I can kick him out, if you want. It’s fine.” He sounds reluctant to his own ears.

It wouldn’t be fine at all, but Peter is more worried about Aunt May than he is about Wade. He can buy Wade a Spider-Man plushie and smooth things over; he can’t do the same with Aunt May.

“It’s… okay.” Aunt May darts a curious glance at the kitchen. Just as she looks, something shatters and Wade cries, “I’ll pay for that!” Peter hides his face in his hands, sure that this evening is going to end in some number of stabbings and cleaning blood stains out of the carpets. He might have grown used to Wade injuring himself as a form of self-punishment, but Aunt May has not. This is going to be a disaster.

“Honey,” May says, pulling at his hands. “I’m glad he’s here. I’ve heard a lot about him, between you and the news. This should be… fun.”

“If you say so,” Peter says doubtfully. Wade has taken to singing “My Humps” in the kitchen. Peter grimaces at his aunt. “I apologize in advance. He has, like, no verbal filter. Or physical filter. It’s a lot.”

“I say what I mean, and I mean what I say,” Wade shouts tactlessly from the kitchen. Aunt May jumps in surprise, and Peter wants to throttle him. “Food’s hot; get it while it lasts!”

When they walk in, the dining room table… is set beautifully. Peter takes it in with wide eyes. Wade has even set out glasses of ice water. “What is this, Wade?”

“Is it bad?” Wade knots his hands together. He’s found Aunt May’s frilly apron—a gag gift from Uncle Ben one Christmas—and it looks patently ridiculous on him. “You guys needed a moment, so I figured, why not?”

“It’s lovely,” Aunt May says in a hushed voice. Peter looks over at her and is shocked to see that she looks emotional. “We haven’t made an effort like this since….”

Since Uncle Ben died. Peter pulls her into his side with one arm and kisses her temple, suddenly emotional, himself. He never does well when she cries, especially about Uncle Ben. “Thanks, Wade. This is great.”

“... Right.” Wade looks awkward for a minute, likely feeling out of place, but shakes himself out of it. “Well, like I said, food’s hot, so I’m gonna eat. Now, Aunt What’s-Your-Face, I don’t know what Peter’s told you, but under this mask—”

“He told me,” Aunt May says, pulling herself together. She gestures toward the spot next to Peter’s. “Have a seat, Wade. You have nothing to hide, here. What are we eating?”

“Vito’s,” Peter replies, sitting down at his place. Wade sits next to him, still in Aunt May’s apron, and spoons a manicotti onto his plate. “I’d have gotten the chicken penne for you, but….”

Aunt May smiles understandingly at him. “It’s fine, sweetheart. I’ll try something new!”

“Oh, wait, you like the penne?” Wade races into the kitchen and rifles through what sounds like more Styrofoam. “Here! I got one of basically everything. My impulse control is shot—pretty sure that’s literal, too, because I’ve taken a few slugs to the head, and all—so I tend to try it all once, then go from there.”

He hands Aunt May a takeout box and skips back to his seat. Peter glances between them, not sure which part of that confession Aunt May will question.

“You’ve been shot in the head?” Aunt May asks, peering at Wade over the box. “Multiple times?”

“Oh yeah.” Wade folds up his mask, revealing the now (intimately) familiar knots of scar tissue on his mouth and jaw. Butterflies somersault in Peter’s belly and he forces himself to take a bite of pasta. “More times than I can count, probably. And no, that’s not because I’ve been shot; I can still count at least to a hundred, thank you very much.”

Peter should give his aunt more credit; she snorts and says, “Well, you’re doing pretty well, then. Thank you for the penne, it’s my favorite. Oh, and my name is May.”

Wade looks as shocked as Peter feels, but quickly hides it. “Hell yes, I am. Nice to see someone notice for once, Peter.”

Aunt May giggles and, just like that, the room relaxes. She’s surprisingly prepared to handle whatever Wade slings at her, and Wade, to Peter’s incredulity, seems to be on his best behavior. Peter is still convinced that they’re all one misplaced comment away from chaos but, for now, it’s more than he had dared hope for.

“Hey!” He raises his hands defensively, pausing to steal a breadstick and take a bite off the end. “What’d I do?”

“You never tell me I’m pretty anymore,” Wade despairs around a mouthful of spicy lasagna. “It’s like you don’t even care.”

“His Uncle Ben was like that, too.” Aunt May helps herself to a serving of shrimp alfredo, grinning. “You had to pull compliments from that man like teeth.”

“Do I have to pull your teeth out?” Wade looks at Peter, mouth agape. “Is that all this is?”

“You’re lovely!” Peter insists hurriedly. “I need my teeth, Wade, no .”

“You only need, like, two,” Wade points out. “Look at Mississippi, they’re living proof.”

Aunt May chokes on a bite of pasta and hides her smile behind a napkin. Peter takes the moment to smile affectionately at Wade. He doesn’t get to hear Aunt May laugh nearly enough and, ruinous as it might become, this night is good for them both.

“Damn, you’re too pretty to lose them,” Wade sighs, and his mask twitches as if he’s winking. “Fine. So, okay, let me tell you about this mark in Belarus…”

He launches into his story, which involves guns, violence, swearing, and, for a moment, nudity. It is completely inappropriate dinner conversation, Peter thinks as he watches Wade reenact a particularly bloody shootout, but Aunt May seems to be as enraptured as he is. Wade has a way of telling stories that makes them sound equally preposterous and probable, like a movie that promises to be based on a true story but dramatizes the details to sell more tickets. Peter knows most of these details are true, no matter how insane they sound, but he finds himself hoping that Aunt May takes the story with a grain of salt anyway. He doesn’t want her to get nightmares.

Yet, something tells him she won’t. Despite hearing Wade’s excessively graphic descriptions of fight scenes and gore, Aunt May continues eating her food, unperturbed, as she listens. She interjects with questions about a particular injury or interaction every so often—clearly putting her nursing know-how to use—and Wade, elated, answers them for her. Peter’s never seen him this engrossed in, well, anything. He makes a mental note to keep Wade talking more, because he’s beautiful like this. Peter wishes he could see Wade’s eyes, because he’s sure they’d be alight with excitement. One day, he’ll see them. He just has to wait.

“Hey, Petey, you gonna eat that?”

Blinking, Peter clears his head. “Sorry, what?”

“Never mind,” Wade says, deftly taking a hunk of chicken off Peter’s plate. “Where were you just now?”

“Thinking that I’m really happy you came over,” Peter replies honestly. “This is a lot of fun.”

For the first time ever, he sees the bottom edges of Wade’s cheeks turn an uneven, angry pink. Wade Wilson, killer and joker extraordinaire, is blushing. “Back atcha, hot stuff.”

Aunt May stands abruptly and busies herself starts clearing the plates. “I’ll take care of this,” she says, shooing them off. “You kids go on, now.”

It is painfully obvious that she is trying to give them space, but Peter appreciates it regardless. “Okay. Thanks, Aunt May.”

“I can help!” Wade offers, standing so quickly the frills on the apron flutter. “Is there something I can do? Oh, I, uh, broke your gravy boat thing.”

Aunt May glances into the kitchen. Wade has cleaned up the mess, but Peter suspects she plans to run over the floor with the vacuum, just to be safe. “That’s alright, hon. This’ll only take a few minutes.”

“Come on, I’ll show you my room,” Peter says, jerking his head toward the stairs. “But, uh, can you give Aunt May her apron back?”

“Oh! Right.” Wade takes off the apron and hangs it on its hook in the kitchen. “Lead the way.”

Peter’s chest thumps nervously as he leads Wade up to his room. He’s not sure what he’s worried about—his room is mostly tidy, and he has no fear of being alone with Wade—but something about showing off his private space has him anxious.

“Here it is.” Peter turns on his light and gestures expansively. Now that they’re in his room, he can’t help but notice the clutter that’s everywhere: The underwear hanging off his closet door handle, the pile of undershirts on the back of his desk chair, the humiliating mound of crumpled tissues in the trash bin in the corner of his room. “It’s, uh… I should clean.”

Wade walks to the center of his room and spins slowly, taking it all in. He takes a deep breath. “Fuck.”

Peter jerks his head back, confused. “Sorry?”

“Fuck,” Wade repeats, faster now. “Fuck fucking shit fuck goddamn titty fucker assfucking cocks. Fuckballs nutsacks piss. Fuck. Blow me.” He sighs loudly. “Whew! Just had to get that out of my system. Gets all pent up inside, fuckin’ words like that, makes me lose track of everything. What were you saying?”

“Oh my god,” Peter says, grinning. “Wade, were you restraining yourself ? You were!”

“God, I wish you meant that in a different context,” Wade groans. “In the least hot way, yes.”

That… is utterly romantic. Peter grins broadly and, before he can stop himself, he wraps his arms around Wade and kisses him thoroughly. Wade tastes spicy, and Peter tilts his head to get a better angle. Wade has been a perfect gentleman all night, he realizes. He bought dinner, set the table, made his idea of polite dinner conversation, offered to help clean up—the whole bit. Peter would expect less from Captain America. It makes him want to reward Wade in the filthiest ways he can imagine.

He opens his mouth and lets his tongue slide against Wade’s, rubbing it along the grooves of scar tissue he finds there. Wade rasps a groan and slides his arms around Peter’s neck, arching up so that their bodies make contact from chest to hip. Peter’s body sparks alive as he grips Wade’s waist and moves their hips together. Wade makes a broken noise, and then Peter’s hands can’t stay still. He scratches his nails up the side seams of Wade’s suit, then pushes the heels of his hands down Wade’s back until he can squeeze at Wade’s ass. Wade leaps up and wraps his legs around Peter’s waist, and Peter’s brain short-circuits when he feels heat—Wade’s heat—press up against his cock. Peter’s right hand grips at the nape of Wade’s neck, holding him close, while his left encourages Wade to grind against him and oh, yes. Wade laughs breathlessly and sucks at Peter’s neck, licking and kissing at the marks he’s made with that beautifully textured mouth of his. Peter’s fingers climb higher, feeling the curve of Wade’s scalp, and—

—Wade moves away at lightspeed. Peter clutches at air, trying to focus with less blood in his brain than usual. “Wait, what?”

“Sorry, sweetcheeks,” Wade says, panting as he tugs his mask back into place. “I just…”

Peter shakes his head to clear it, and realizes that Wade’s mask must have slipped up more than he had thought. “Your face,” he says dejectedly. “Right. I got it.”

“... I’m really fuckin’ sorry, dude,” Wade says quietly. “I… this isn’t something I can just turn off.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” Peter asks, willing his erection to fade quickly. Fuck. He’s going to be so sensitive after this.

“I mean, you don’t have to,” he continues quickly, “but it might help you to feel better about things if you get them out in the open.”

Wade fidgets. “Actually, I think I should go.”

Disappointment floods Peter like a rush of ice water. He hates Wade’s insecurity so much, he almost wants to fight him over it. After such a fun, eventful evening, can Wade seriously still be worried what Peter will think about his face? Isn’t it obvious how little he cares about that?

But it will solve nothing to fight, Peter knows. He remembers when people would push him about getting over Gwen, and it always made him feel worse. Wade needs to overcome this on his own; Peter can either be patient and encourage Wade to move at his own speed, or he can try to rush Wade and end up hurting them both. “I understand.”

"Fuck.” Wade scrubs his hands over his mask, upset. “You’re so—fuck. You deserve better than this, Petey. You know how Angelina married Billy Bob Thornton all those years ago, and everyone was like why?? That’s what this is like. You’re Angelina, dude. And I’m this schmo who, yeah, has some acting talent and a few solid credits in his belt, but really? You should have a Brad Pitt, Petey. You deserve Brad Pitt.”

“Oh, you missed that,” Peter realizes, even though he knows this isn’t Wade’s point. “You were overseas. Brangelina broke up.”

“... what?” The revelation seems to shock Wade to the core, derailing him. “No, you’ve gotta be lying, Petey.” His arms fall limply to his sides, and he slumps sadly. “Then… what does love mean? What’s the point of any of this?”

“The point is,” Peter says, happy for the chance to gain some footing and prove something important to Wade, “the point is, even the Brad Pitts of the world aren’t perfect. Brad Pitt and Billy Bob Thornton both have their flaws. But I want Billy Bob Thornton.” The words hit him a moment later, and he grimaces. “I mean, not really. That guy looks like a convenience store clerk from Nebraska who magically wound up on the red carpet. No. The point is, it’s Angelina’s choice, no matter what. This is my choice, Wade. We’ve been over this.”

“I know,” Wade says miserably. He sighs. “It’s just… it’s really gonna fuckin’ hurt when you find Brad Pitt. We both know they were perfect for each other. You’re going to find someone perfect for you, Petey, and it ain’t gonna be me.”

The anger leaves Peter in a flash. “Hey.” He walks forward and takes Wade’s hands. “Don’t you remember what I told you earlier? The things you can do… they’re worth more than I think you realize, Wade. I don’t want a Brad Pitt if he’s a liability. I can’t live like that, and wouldn’t even if I could. You , exactly the way you are, are what I like.”

Wade shakes his head, and Peter can almost see the insecurities running through his mind. “You don’t mean that."

“Okay, I’m going to be totally honest with you,” Peter says, hoping that some hurtful truths will drive the point home. Wade tenses, clearly preparing for the worst. “When we first met, I wanted nothing to do with you. You were killing people, and I couldn’t understand you at all. Like, when you talk… it takes a lot for—” someone sane “—someone like me to keep up.” Wade shudders, like Peter is confirming all his worst fears, so Peter pushes on. “But then you left me all those criminals. You tried. Fuck, you courted me. And tonight, you made Aunt May laugh more than she has in years. You’ve charmed the pants off me.”

“Literally?” Wade asks hopefully, unable to resist the chance to make a sex joke.

Peter laughs. “I mean, have you seen me tonight? I haven’t been this ready for action in years. You tell me.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Wade says, shifting his hands so he can clutch at Peter’s fingers. “Go on, keep telling me how awesome I am.”

“Aye aye, captain,” Peter says, grinning. “Truth is, I didn’t want to be your friend, but I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t stop letting you in. And it’s insane, because you kill people and that is specifically not my cup of tea. I should hate you. But I can’t bring myself to do it. I don’t think I ever will. I tried my best not to like you, Wade, and all it did was make me fall harder.”

“But you wish I wouldn’t kill people,” Wade says quietly. “You wish I were more moral. More normal. Probably more sane, too, because I know how cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs I am. I know it’s a lot to handle. You might like me now, but who says you’ll like it for long?”

Peter sighs. He should have known this would get complicated. “I can’t make you promises, Wade. Relationships don’t work that way. And yeah, it’s really hard to swallow knowing that you kill people, because it’s my job to take down people like that. But… it’s also kind of hot?” Peter startles as he realizes he's telling the truth. Since when—?

Nope, he shakes himself clear of the thought. Not gonna open that can of worms right now.

"Which," he manages, determined to see this thing through, "is something I am apparently struggling with right now, so don't pester it. I just… I like you a lot. I’ve tried really hard to talk myself out of it, and nothing has worked. Maybe in two or three years I’ll feel differently—I don’t know—but right now I want to enjoy dating someone like me. And I want you to be okay with it, too.”

“Two or three years,” Wade whispers. His fingers have gone slack against Peter’s in surprise. Peter hopes that means his words are starting to stick, because he doesn’t want to drill this into Wade’s head for another hour. It has been a very long day, and his bed looks more and more appealing every minute. “You want me for years?”

Yes.” Peter shakes his head lightly. “This is what you don’t get. I didn’t agree to help you take down someone who mutates people to be as strong and deadly as us for a living for fun. I did it because I like you. So please… let me like you?”

“Goddamn, Petey.” Wade gazes up at him, and god, Peter wishes he could see Wade’s eyes right now. “You fuckin’ like me. You little loser!” He squeezes Peter’s hands excitedly. “You have a crush on me. You haven’t even seen my face, dude! You’re lusting after me and you have no idea what I look like! You creep!” He sounds delighted.

“Hey!” Peter says, feigning offense. If Wade is joking around, he’s starting to accept everything Peter has been saying. Peter couldn’t be more relieved. Well, he could, in a very specific way, but he’ll take care of that later. He has more important things to focus on at the moment. “Rude! You had a crush on me before seeing my face!”

“Yeah, dude!” Wade wriggles their hands. “We’re creeps together! It’s fantastic!”

Well, it’s not what Peter expected, but he’ll take it. “So… we’re good?”

Wade sobers. “Yes and no. I can’t show you my face just yet, Petey. I got a lot of shit to work through before we get to that point. But we’re Gucci, you and I. As long as you’re cool with me touching dat ass, like, twenty-four seven. Please. Like for real, please.”

A part of Peter had been hoping that Wade’s fears would smooth over as soon as he fully accepted Peter’s feelings, and it wilts inside him. If Wade isn’t reassured yet, Peter doesn’t know what else he can do to get him there. He forces himself to look at the positive side of things: Wade won’t fight him about their relationship anymore. As long as Peter can wait on seeing Wade’s face, their relationship is all but solid. Or, in Wade’s words, Gucci. Peter can work with that.

“Okay.”

“Great!” Wade drops Peter's hands and, before Peter can protest, reaches around to cup Peter's bottom. "Ohhhh, yeah," Wade groans, kneading Peter's ass happily. "That's the stuff right there."

"I'm glad you're enjoying yourself," Peter says, surprised to feel himself getting aroused. Wade's hands are strong, and it's doing more to Peter than he'd expected it to.

"Fuck, your suit hides nothing," Wade comments, sounding hungry. Peter's breath hitches unevenly as he tries to pretend he doesn't know exactly what Wade is talking about.

"It's, uh, getting late," he says, clearing his throat when his voice comes out breathy.

"Yeah," Wade says regretfully, withdrawing his hands. "I should go. I haven't slept in three days. But first, cannoli?”

Peter agrees, and they go back downstairs to enjoy their dessert. Aunt May has gone to bed already, so they have the kitchen to themselves. Wade insists on leaving one cannolo for Aunt May, so Peter boxes the last one up and lets Wade stick a post-it on it reading, Thanks for having me! It’s stupidly sweet and considerate, and Peter kisses him robustly for it.

The length of the evening hits Peter as soon as Wade walks out the door. His talk with FitzSimmons feels like it was a week ago. Did he really only find out about Ajax today? Peter trudges up the stairs and peels off his suit, flopping onto his bed. He should shower.

Or, he thinks as he recalls some of the more heated moments of his evening, he could take fifteen minutes to imagine how Wade would react to Peter biting kisses into his thighs. Peter shivers and flips onto his back. Definitely better than a shower.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Peter finds the cannolo gone and the post-it stuck to the refrigerator door. Peter can’t help but smile goofily at it while he eats his breakfast. Even the sun seems to be shining just a little brighter, he thinks.

He’s dating Deadpool. It’s a thing.

Things hadn’t felt real until last night, when he had the chance to associate Wade’s physical body with the sappy text messages they’d been sharing the past few weeks. He had so many reasons to worry—what if the distance had somehow made them awkward? What if Wade had shut down during their serious talks? What if dinner with Aunt May had turned to chaos?—and they all worked out. Things with Wade always seem to work out, one way or another.

Which is why Peter isn't too worried about figuring out the rest of the kinks, moving forward. Typically, he'd want to find solid footing before putting any part of his heart on the line, but this time... he's actually looking forward to sorting things out as they go. It feels like an adventure, and Peter is ready to accept the dangers that accompany this joyride. He knows that Wade wants this as badly as he does, which means that wherever they might stumble, they’ll get through it together.

It’s something Peter never managed to accept with Gwen. Spider-Man was an impediment to their relationship because when he put on the mask, he left Peter Parker behind. But Peter Parker could never leave the mask behind, and that led to more forgotten dates than Gwen should ever have had to handle. He loved her dearly, but his sense of responsibility clouded their relationship so much that, by the end of things, Peter couldn't separate his feelings for her from his guilt over hurting her. Despite Gwen's unequivocal support for his decision to put on the suit—despite the continual shame Peter felt  for not deserving her love—he couldn't ignore his duties long enough to reciprocate that support back to her.

He trusted Gwen with his life, but he never trusted himself with hers. For good reason, obviously.

The thought hurts less than it used to, now that Peter has a second chance with Wade. With Wade, Peter will never have to cancel a date. If disaster strikes while they’re together, Wade can come along. Peter can’t say that he expects Wade to help, necessarily, but at least Peter can do his job without feeling like he’s leaving someone behind. In fact, the idea of fighting crime next to Wade is surprisingly appealing. Peter always feels antsy after taking down criminals; he imagines Wade would be willing to help him expend the excess energy in inventive and increasingly kinky ways.

Peter reminds himself that he has to go to work soon and clears his throat, trying to think of something to distract himself. He doesn’t have time to let his fantasies get away from him. But damn, the way Wade twirls daggers around his fingers makes Peter wonder what else those hands could do. And god, if Wade’s fingers are as textured as his chin, Peter can only imagine how they’d feel wrapped around his—

Work. Right. Peter washes his dishes and splashes cold water on his face before heading out the door. His commute is mundane as ever, so Peter plays his usual game of “Count the Dogs,” in which he predicts the quality of his day by the number of dogs he spots. Today’s forecast, according to the game, looks good.

He reaches Stark Tower and takes the elevator up to 56. He accepted Stark’s promotion a few weeks back, and has been knee deep in biomedical engineering textbooks ever since. Stark offered to hire a tutor to help Peter learn the material, but Peter turned him down, sure that a tutor would undoubtedly report every missed session right back to Stark without a thought. The less Tony Stark knows about Peter’s free time, the better.

The material is complex, but Peter’s coworkers are usually happy to answer his questions. Their work makes Peter’s texts look like child’s play. It focuses on the development of  nanobots that can break down dangerous blood clots, thus preventing embolisms or thrombosis; the difficulty is, they must be able to program the bots to target intravenous blood clots only, and not extravenous ones, like scabs. It’s incredibly interesting, and Peter is far more challenged here than by his previous experiment.

He misses his tardigrades, though.

He’s only been sitting at his desk for ten minutes when his phone rings. Confused, because no one usually calls him this early, Peter takes it out of his pocket.

Agent Coulson Calling.

Shock hits Peter like a punch to the gut. Coulson. He’d completely forgotten that he was hiding his relationship with Wade from S.H.I.E.L.D. and its many players; the timing is too perfect to be coincidental. S.H.I.E.L.D. caught their dinner date, and now Peter has a lot to answer for. FitzSimmons must know now that he lied to them, he realizes with chagrin. And Coulson… who knows what Coulson is going to say about this? Peter wishes he could prepare an excuse or lie, but it’s useless at this point. Coulson would see through it either way.

Peter sighs and prays that he hasn’t just bought himself a one way ticket to prison. “Hello?”

“Peter,” Coulson greets, polite as ever. “How are you?”

“Agent Coulson, hey. Uh, I’m alright,” Peter says, trying not to sound nervous and failing miserably. “How are you?”

“I’ve had a busy morning,” Coulson replies conversationally. “It seems one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s prized associates has been spending his free time buying dinner for a known murderer, which has caused the American government to question our intentions. Again.”

“Fuck,” Peter whispers, wrapping his free arm around his stomach. He heard all about the HYDRA takeover on the news as it happened, and he knows how hard Coulson has worked to reestablish S.H.I.E.L.D.’s reputation. There’s no way Coulson will take Peter’s relationship with Wade lightly. He hangs his head, sure that he’s ruined his chances of living as a free man ever again. He thinks of Aunt May and panics—what will she do without him? He wipes at his mouth and bounces his knee, now terrified. How could he have been so cavalier about being seen last night? He knew there would be backlash. “I can explain—”

“No need,” Coulson interjects. Peter’s heart lurches; this is it, he’s done for. “I’ve known for months.”

Peter’s heart lurches again, this time in surprise. “You… what?”

“I had my suspicions when you failed to call me after ‘losing’ the fight with Deadpool,” Coulson says, sounding calm as ever. “I expected you to at least tell me about it, given that I had provided you with the tip about Deadpool in the first place. You never tried to take Deadpool down again—at least, not publicly—or ask for reinforcements, either. I knew Deadpool was still in town because the murders were still happening, and I knew that you wouldn’t be ignoring the situation entirely.” Peter ducks his head over his desk and squeezes his eyes shut to avoid crying. He let Wade get away with all those murders; that’s on him. He’s been so obvious about all this, and in doing so, he’s damned them both.

“That’s when I looked at the pictures again,” Coulson continues. “They were so well framed. You made sure to get both masks in the shot, so that the public would see the difference. Maybe you were lucky enough to get the perfect picture, but the likelier story was that you posed for them. What I don’t know is why.”

Peter has to work for a second to find his voice. “I—I’m sorry?”

“Why you faked the fight,” Coulson prompts, brooking no room for denial. “And why Deadpool agreed to it.”

A thousand lies come to mind, but Peter knows when he’s been caught. Every lie is only going to make this situation worse. “He needed a friend,” he confesses quietly. “I was all set to turn him in to you, I swear it, but… this guy is so lonely, Coulson. He was so desperate for a friend. By the time I knew enough to be useful to you, I'd already—" fallen in love with him "—gotten him to turn his act around." Peter swallows audibly.

Coulson is silent on the other end. He knows, Peter thinks. It's a half-truth he can work with at least, he desperately tries to reassure himself, if Coulson presses for more details.

"And how did you manage to do that?" Coulson finally asks. Peter exhales shakily.

"He's been through some messed up things," he says, his heart pounding in his chest. "I think he just needed a push in the right direction. I just... treated him like a human being."

The line is silent again. "Well, I suppose I can see why you didn't turn him in, then."

Coulson doesn't sound convinced. Peter laughs hollowly. "Well, I kind of have, haven’t I?”

“What do you mean?”

“This phone call.” Peter runs a hand through his hair. “You’re going to use me to get to him, right? We’re going to jail.”

“Heavens, no,” Coulson replies, sounding aghast. “Is that what you think this is? You’re not going to prison, Peter.”

Peter’s poor heart lurches a third time. “I’m not? Is he?”

“No, Peter.” Now Coulson sounds exasperated. “Neither of you are going to prison.”

Parker,” Peter’s supervisor, Regina, barks. He jumps, on edge. “You’re at work. Off the phone, or you’re suspended.”

“Shit,” Peter whispers. He’d forgotten he was at Stark Tower. “Coulson, I’ve got to go.”

“Give me a minute,” Coulson says. Thirty seconds later, Regina’s phone rings. She answers it and frowns as the person on the other line speaks to her.

“Of course, ma’am,” she says at last and hangs up the phone. She turns to Peter. “I don’t know who you’ve got on that phone, kid, but whoever they are, they really want to talk to you.”

“Yeah. He does,” Peter says faintly. He waits until her back is turned. “Thanks, Coulson.”

“You’re not going to prison,” Coulson repeats firmly. “Not when out of prison, you’re tracking an international criminal operation.”

The world spins, and Peter is grateful that he’s sitting down. “You know about Francis, too? Did FitzSimmons tell you about him?”

He supposes he can’t blame them for ratting him out. Francis is too powerful to take down alone, and they probably thought they were doing what was best.

“FitzSimmons know about this?” Coulson asks, sounding mildly surprised, and Peter’s chest warms with affection for them. Loyal to the last, those two. “How did they learn about—his name is Francis?”

Right?” Peter asks before he can help himself. “He goes by Ajax, though. Talk about overcompensating.”

And, just to round out the ridiculous path this conversation has taken, Coulson laughs. “I suppose I would, too. So let me guess: Deadpool told you about Francis, and you told FitzSimmons to check our database. And they did so without my permission, and without telling me what they’d learned.”

“I made them swear to secrecy,” Peter says hurriedly. “They wanted to tell you, but I asked them to let me figure out what we were dealing with before we gave S.H.I.E.L.D. any information. I, uh, worried that you might plan an attack before we learned enough to take down the whole operation. Which… seems stupid now.”

“I should still punish them,” Coulson says, more to himself than to Peter. “After everything we’ve gone through with HYDRA, they’re still keeping secrets….”

“Uh, actually, that’s why they didn’t say anything,” Peter offers, bouncing his leg nervously. He would hate for them to lose their jobs over his mistake. “They worried that it might get out to a HYDRA operative, and with something this big, that could have dangerous repercussions. We wanted to have the full picture before we came to you, that’s all.”

Coulson sighs. “I’m too sentimental to really punish them, anyway. They’re good people.”

“Great people,” Peter agrees enthusiastically. “The best, even.”

“Relax, Peter,” Coulson says, gently exasperated. “No one is going to jail, and no one is getting fired.”

“But why?” Peter asks finally. His leg has reached maximum bouncing speed, now. “You’ve known about my friendship with Deadpool for months, and you’ve known about Francis. What’s your agenda, here? Why wait?”

“Deadpool has a lot of enemies, Peter,” Coulson says softly. “S.H.I.E.L.D. happens to be one of the nicer ones. But those enemies now have photographic proof that Deadpool has a weak spot: You. Should this prove to be a problem, I want you to know that S.H.I.E.L.D. has your back. You don’t have to hide from us.”

Peter’s leg stops as months of worrying rush through him all at once. “You’re really okay with this?”

“I can’t say I’m thrilled that you’ve fallen in with a chaotic, homicidal maniac, but alas, I don’t get to tell you whom to befriend. I’m okay with this.” Coulson sounds like he’s smiling, and Peter bites his cheeks to hide his own giddy, stunned smile.

“Thank you,” he says finally. “Thank you for… for everything, Coulson. God, I can’t… it doesn’t seem real, all the things that you’ve done for me. It’s not fair.”

“Don’t discount yourself, Peter,” Coulson says kindly. “Out of the two of us, you’ve saved more lives and experienced more heartache for it, and you’re half my age. I consider it an honor and a duty to help you when I can.”

The words honor and duty echo in Peter’s mind, and he laughs, saying, “You sound like Steve Rogers.”

“You’ve met?” Coulson sounds delighted. “Actually, that’s… that’s very good. He’s been through a lot of what you’re going through. He’s a valuable friend.”

Peter raises an eyebrow at that, but accepts it. “Right. Well, listen, I hate to cut this short, but… I still have a full workday ahead of me, and my supervisor keeps looking at me like I’m an alien. I should go.”

“Of course,” Coulson says immediately. “My apologies. Good luck with everything. I’m sure we’ll talk again soon.”

He hangs up, and Peter lets his head fall to his desk with a thud. He likes Coulson, mostly, but he always walks out of their talks with a stress headache.

He spends five minutes like that before Regina makes her way over. “You know some pretty powerful people, Parker. I’m not sure whether to be annoyed or impressed.”

“I tend to go with ‘resigned,’ most of the time,” Peter replies, smiling tiredly at her. “Sorry.”

Regina huffs a surprised laugh. “Pepper Potts herself calls to make sure you can have a chat at work, and you’re resigned about it? What are you?”

Peter shakes his head slowly. “What am I? I’m in way over my head.”


It takes Peter a couple hours to calm down, but eventually, the relief and nervousness coursing through his body fade. He can’t help but think of what Coulson said: Wade has enemies, and they might come knocking. Peter’s built up a decent reputation tackling the idiots of the city with ease, but he thinks Wade’s brand of bad guy might be more than he’s prepared to handle. He’s happy to have Coulson and the power of S.H.I.E.L.D. on his side.

But, worrisome as that might be, Peter can’t help but get lost in his work. Apart from a significant raise and phenomenal benefits (that, thanks to his powers, he’ll mostly never need), the best part of the job is getting to work closely with even more advanced Stark tech, as well as with Stark himself. He visits every few days, and nods to Peter every time he leaves. Peter is, naturally, the object of equal parts awe and suspicion from his coworkers, especially Regina, who keeps glancing over at him. Peter can’t help but wonder what theories might be circling around in her head right now, but he’ll be damned if he’s going to ask and find out.

It’s uncomfortable, but Peter thinks he’s making progress on forming friendships with some of them, despite the persistent awkwardness. Peter doesn’t mind though; if he’s being honest with himself, he cares far more about building his steady rapport with Stark than for being dubbed Most Popular Kid in School.

He is convinced that Stark knows his secret, too. It's all the quips and comments, as if Tony is fishing for a reaction, that make Peter think he knows more than he lets on.

"What are your thoughts on spider silk, Parker?" Tony once asked casually—too casually—sending Peter's heart into a wild frenzy in his chest. "I'm designing the team new suits for Christmas. You wouldn't believe how whiny Hawkass gets when he doesn't get presents. Anyway, it's supposed to be stronger than Kevlar. Ever done any research synthesizing organic polymers?"

The way Stark had stared him down had cinched the thought in his head.

But he also thinks that, if it’s true, and if he tries hard enough, he might convince Stark to make him a blinged-out Spidey suit. It’s a thin hope, but it’s enough to motivate him to work hard and keep on good terms with his supervisor.

Occasionally, Peter also receives visits from Bruce, who always looks tired but also always sneaks Peter bits of whatever treats Stark has available on the upper levels. It’s almost always fresh fruit or expensive cookies from Levain Bakery, neither of which Peter is allowed to eat in the lab. So, naturally, he ends up scarfing them down when no one is looking. It doesn’t count if no one sees him do it, right?

Peter has no idea why Bruce visits him, but he enjoys the company and chooses not to question it. Honestly, he thinks that maybe the guy is lonely and wants a work friend. Bruce will ask Peter a question about radioactivity or mutation every once in awhile, but those queries become less and less frequent the more Bruce comes down. And, whenever Bruce recognizes that he’s cutting into Peter’s work time, he’ll help Peter with whatever experiments he’s working on that day.

Peter thinks he likes Bruce best out of anyone he’s met at Stark Tower so far.

That’s why, when Bruce wanders in an hour after Coulson’s call, Peter greets him warmly and pulls out the spare chair he keeps by his desk. Bruce looks particularly exhausted today, but something about him seems excited.

“We figured it out,” he says by way of greeting. “We irradiated a paramecium, then removed the radiation. The paramecium died, unfortunately, but it no longer carries any sign of radioactivity!”

“What?” Peter asks, dumbfounded. “What did you do?”

Bruce looks sheepish. “We can’t tell anyone outside the research team. Tony’s orders. He doesn’t want anyone catching onto what we’re doing. I shouldn’t even be telling you this much, but, well, I figured you already knew, so….”

“Thank you,” Peter replies, blinking. Bruce is directly defying Stark’s orders for him? Peter’s touched. “It’s fine. I’d be no help anyway; all my research involved introducing radiation to a system, not removing it. I’m just glad you had a breakthrough.”

“Yes, well,” Bruce says, shoving his hand into his lab coat pocket. “You were actually the one who gave me the idea, so to say thanks, I made you this.” He pulls something from the pocket of his lab coat and sets it on Peter’s desk.

Peter can’t believe his eyes. Before him sits a palm-sized tardigrade robot, complete with a round, telescoping mouth and tiny claws. It moves its head and lumbers over to Peter’s stress ball, which it tries to climb. The stress ball rolls away, and the tardigrade falls over. Its legs wriggle uselessly in the air; it is unable to right itself.

“Of course, it does the one thing….” Bruce grumbles, setting the robot back on its feet. “It’s fully functional for a water bear, but not much else. I thought you would appreciate the realism. So, naturally, if it falls over, it can’t get back up.”

Peter gapes down at the robot on his desk. Bruce made him a robot. A little tardigrade robot, with little mechanical tardigrade legs and tiny mechanical tardigrade eyes. It’s adorable. “She’s perfect.”

Bruce looks at Peter curiously. “She?”

“Well obviously,” Peter croons, growing more and more delighted by the second. He scoots his chair back and rests his chin on the table so he can look at her from her level. “Obviously it’s a she, Bruce, look at her! Oh, she’s beautiful. I’m going to name her June. My little June bug. I’m taking her everywhere. Do I need to take care of her? Does she plug into a micro USB, or something? How did you make her?”

“It was a fun side project,” Bruce says. Peter sees him shrug in his periphery—he isn’t taking his eyes off June, who has taken to biting chunks out of Peter’s stress ball and spitting them onto the table. “It took a few evenings. Tony helped with some of the programming. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tweaked her a little bit—June!” The robot jerks and twists its head to look at Bruce. “Okay, carry on.” June turns back to her task.

“She knows her name? Already?” Peter doesn’t think his smile could be any bigger. “No way. Just from me saying it?”

“I’m guessing Tony programmed her to listen for key words. I told him to be realistic, but, well, you know Tony.”

“You guys made me a pet,” Peter whispers. He actually cannot believe this. “A real pet.”

“A robot pet,” Bruce corrects. “More like a toy, really. Her battery should last a few days, if she’s on continuously. I don’t recommend that; until she learns about her environment, she’ll investigate everything. Tell her to go to sleep in the evenings, and she’ll wake up the next time you say her name. That, I made sure to add in. She’ll charge on a standard Stark touch-dock. Which reminds me—” he fishes a charger out of his pocket “—for you. Just in case she runs out over a weekend, or something. She’s waterproof up to ten meters and should survive drops up to about six or seven feet. Fair warning, I expect she’ll walk off a good number of tabletops. She’s precocious.”

Peter picks her up and cradles her in his palms. She tilts onto her side and lies in his hands, motionless, save for her telescoping mouth.

“She likes body heat. She won’t try to eat or harm anything around ninety eight degrees. Safety precaution.”

“This is magnificent.” Peter holds a finger up to June’s mouth, and she nibbles on it lightly. “Bruce, this is… this is too much. There’s no way I can accept this. She must be worth hundreds of dollars. I’ve done nothing to deserve her.”

“We made her from spare parts laying around Tony’s R&D room,” Bruce says, shaking his head. “It was something to take our minds off work, and we had a good bit of fun designing her. And actually, Peter, you helped us quite a bit. We only thought of using extremophiles to guide our research after our discussion with you. It’s the cornerstone of our current experiment, which has been our only remotely successful trial result to date. Whatever success we have from this point forward will most likely stem from our meeting you.”

That almost means more to Peter than June does. “I… I don’t know what to say.” Peter sets June back down on his desk. She waddles over to the remains of the stress ball, nudges the pile of destroyed foam together, and plops herself on top of it. She made herself a bed. Peter, immediately and without preamble, falls in love. “I’m going to take such good care of her. She’ll never leave my side.”

“I’m glad.” Bruce looks just about as happy as Peter has ever seen him. He slides his hands into his pockets and nods toward the door. “Well, I’m going to head back up. I don’t want to take up any more of your time.”

“Oh, you’re welcome to stay,” Peter offers quickly. “It’s no imposition, honest.”

“Thank you for the offer, but—” Bruce gives Peter a little smile, “—I’m actually fairly excited to get back to work. Now that we have something to go on, we can actually start engineering experiments with some kind of purpose. It’s invigorating.”

“Then by all means,” Peter says, gesturing to the door, “don’t let me keep you. Tell Mr. Stark thank you? I mean, my god, Tony Stark helped make me a pet robot. Tell him I owe him.”

“Oh, never offer to owe Tony something,” Bruce says, winking. “He’ll hold you to it.”

He raises his hand in farewell and walks out of the lab. Peter, after watching him leave, drops his head onto his folded hands on his desk and watches June snooze for a few minutes.

She’s absolutely perfect.

Peter tries to focus on work again, but the excitement of receiving June, compounded on the terror he felt while talking to Coulson, leaves him pooped by the end of the day. The moment the clock hits five, he hangs up his lab coat and makes for the subway. He dozes off half a dozen times by the time the train reaches his stop and concludes that he is most definitely taking a nap.

Once he finally stumbles through his front door, he pours himself a glass of water, shoves a handful of crackers in his mouth, and heads upstairs. He slumps on his bed, pulling June out of his work bag and plopping her on his bed. Peter asked her to go to sleep before leaving work and, just as Bruce promised, she immediately fell still, apart from the tiny, rhythmic movements of her mouth. It’s as if she were breathing.

Peter tugs off his clothes and falls into bed, curling June close to his chest. “What a whirlwind of a day,” he whispers to her, stroking a finger down her back. “It’s a big world out there for little bugs like us.”

June’s mouth opens and closes in a silent, adorable sigh. Peter smiles tiredly down at her and closes his eyes.

“Let’s just avoid any more big surprises.”

Chapter Text

The next few weeks pass in a blur of patrols, study sessions, and dates with Wade. They get affectionate quickly, already used to each other from months of friendship. As they grow closer, Peter finds himself itching to see Wade’s face, despite having promised to be patient about it. Every time he sees Wade’s mask move, he wonders what the expression under the fabric looks like. He wonders what color Wade’s eyes are, and if, when he smiles, they crinkle at the corners.

He dares not ask about it, but Peter knows he won’t be able to wait forever. This is why, when Peter and Wade are sprawled across Peter’s bed, sharing a box of Oreos and watching That 70s Show on Netflix, Peter turns to Wade and asks, “Do you have eyelashes?”

Wade stiffens. “Why do you ask?”

“... No reason?” When Wade gives him a Look, Peter sighs. “I’ve been creating you in my mind,” he confesses cautiously. He drops his head and fixes his eyes on his hands. “Trying to figure you out from the bit of you I’ve seen. And, like, I know you don’t want to show me your face yet, but… I can still guess, right?”

Wade releases a weary, sad sigh. “Shit. I’m so sorry, Peter. I wish—fuck—I wish I didn’t have this problem. I wish I could be with you and not care. I would kill for that. Fuck, I’ve killed for way fuckin’ less.”

“I know,” Peter whispers, aching to give Wade comfort, but knowing that he has to make his case. “I’m not trying to push you, I promise. But you can describe yourself, at least. Give me something to go on?”

The silence that follows his request is deafening, and Peter has to bite his tongue to prevent himself from taking it all back.

“No,” Wade says finally. Peter droops, thinking Wade is refusing him, until Wade continues. “No eyelashes. No hair anywhere, really. I’ve got one obnoxious one on my wrist, believe it or not, and it comes out almost transparent. Ripped it out more times than I can count. I’ve named it Theodore.”

Peter feels a grin slowly stretch its way across his face. Wade is finally starting to let him in. “I look forward to meeting Theodore someday.”

Wade makes a choked noise and turns away. “I feel like such a fucking moron,” he admits, hiding his masked face in his hands. “I know I can trust you. I know I’ll show you eventually. It seems so stupid to postpone the inevitable.”

“Hey.” Peter clears the bed and scoots up to place comforting hands on Wade’s shoulders. He remembers when he was first trying to handle a romantic relationship with Wade; he lingered on accepting it, even though he knew it was going to happen, one way or another. “I know exactly how you feel, and you’re not a moron. Trust is hard. I’m glad you’re even considering letting me in.”

Wade doesn’t reply, and, after a moment, Peter has an idea. “Okay, hear me out on this one,” he says, rubbing at Wade’s shoulders. “How about we cuddle for awhile and you tell me about yourself. Whatever you want, whatever you’re comfortable with, just say it. And I’ll be right here, listening. Maybe that will help?”

That’s what Gwen would do, whenever Peter was too pent-up to get his words across properly. “Alright, bug-boy,” she would say, smiling while she manhandled him onto the bed. She would curl up behind him, pushing her knees behind his so her head pressed between his shoulder blades. “Let me have it. We’ve got all the time in the world.

For the first time in four years, thinking about her doesn’t make Peter feel like his chest is ripping open. Something in Peter unlocks at the realization. He feels free in a way he’d nearly forgotten.

“Oh man, Petey, that’s some motherfuckin’ psycho-babble if ever I heard it,” Wade says, snorting. “Let’s cuddle and talk about our feelings, eh?

Peter, refusing to rise to the bait, rubs at Wade’s shoulders and waits. Ten seconds later, Wade spins around, throwing his hands in the air. “Fucking fine, Jesus, let’s be teenage girls together, whatever. God, I can’t believe this. Me, Wade Wilson, cuddling.”

He’s stalling, and they both know it. “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it,” Peter says, laying down and opening his arms for Wade. “Come on, it’s nice.”

Wade fidgets, obviously halfway to raising another complaint, and awkwardly folds himself onto the bed. Peter scooches closer, tucking his knees up against Wade’s and cautiously wrapping an arm around Wade’s waist. He could lose this arm, if he’s not careful. Wade, however, doesn’t seem to mind; he wriggles until he’s more comfortable, and starts talking.

“Alright, Dr. Spidey, we might as well jump right the fuck into it,” Wade sighs. “I don’t want to dilly dally with some bullshit about my typical Thursday night, you feel? So, okay, when I first got out of the compound, I had no idea what I looked like. Ah, blissful ignorance, eh? After I escaped, I found some clothes in a dumpster and put them on to warm up. I love Canada, but it’s fuckin’ cold there.” He shifts, and his voice gets quieter. “I didn’t know I had anything to hide, so I didn’t know that I should look for gloves and a mask to hide my hands and face.”

Peter tightens his grip on Wade and kisses the back of his neck, silently encouraging him to continue. Wade sighs, but pushes on. “When I found a city, the people… they shied away from me. That’s putting it lightly—those motherfuckers wanted nothing to do with me. I tried to ask for help, but no one would listen. I was starving, cold, and lost, and no one could fuckin’ bother to buy me a coffee. I didn’t understand until I saw my face in a storefront window. Then, heh, it all made sense.

“I’d like to think I was good-looking back in the day, you know? Fuckin’ James Bond, or some shit. I have no way of knowing, so I might as well shoot for the stars, right? Well, once I saw myself… I didn’t know what to do. I needed food and water, and no one would give me so much as a dollar to spend at a vending machine.”

Peter clutches at Wade, outrage and morbid curiosity rising in his throat. How could these people have treated him so badly? How bad must Wade have looked to have won no sympathy from pedestrians? Peter thinks of the panhandlers around the city, and guilt bubbles uncomfortably in his stomach. Would he have treated Wade the same way? Peter bites his lip to stay silent and let Wade continue with his story.

“I broke into someone’s house. I don’t know how—I don’t know how I got any of my fuckin’ fighting skills, but I hope I always had ‘em—and just, like, ate. I think I ate everything in that kitchen, man. I was so hungry… and then a man walked in.” Wade grows tense in Peter’s arms. “He made so much noise, Petey. I wasn’t the person I am today; I didn’t know how to react, what to do. He said I was a freak. He reached for a knife and… I don’t know how it happened. He came at me, and then he was on the ground, bleeding out. In his dying breath, he called me… he called me a monster, Petey.”

Peter freezes in horror, stunned speechless.

“It was like something snapped,” Wade goes on, as if he’s forgotten Peter completely. “The words clicked, I dunno. I accepted it. He called me a monster, and I was one. I went through his house and took everything of value. His cash, his watches, his cell phone. Anything I thought I could pawn off, I took. I stole his clothes—found a ski mask and gloves, too—and found a gun in his desk.

“The ski mask didn’t help my image. People were still scared of me. The pawn shop clerk gave me better deals, I think, because he expected me to rob him. I took the money and bought a bus ticket to the nearest big city. Vancouver. That’s where I got my first contract. It was easy to kill people behind a mask, and I made lots of fuckin’ money doing it. It didn’t matter. No matter how much money I had, no one would accept me. I couldn’t get a decent place to stay, a bank account, a reputable job. Nothing I did made me any less of a monster.

“That’s when I started getting angry. Francis, that absolute smegma nugget, destroyed my face and body. He took everything human from me, so that I could never, ever be normal again. So I did the only thing I could do. I started hunting him down.

“I’m guessing you have an origin story, too, right? You saw some kind of costume and went, ‘Yeah, I want one of those.’ Mine was a white fuckin’ sweatsuit, and it was a fuckin mess to deal with. The bloodstains were insane. So I made a couple of trips to Fabricland, and boom, Deadpool suit. Red, so no one could see me bleed.”

“Wait,” Peter blurts, confused. “I thought your suit was red because of Canada.” Wade twists his head around to look at him, and Peter imagines his face under the mask is incredulous. Suddenly, the idea of Wade making a suit red just to pay homage to fucking Canada seems utterly stupid. “Never mind. Continue.”

“You’re lucky you’re cute,” Wade snorts, turning back around. “Where was I? Oh! So yeah, red. Seemed symbolic—not because of Canada, dumbass—but because I never wanted anyone to see how deep they could cut me. Once I had an official suit, I started gaining something of a reputation. Made a name for myself—Deadpool—and started taking bigger and bigger clients. Eventually, I found someone who had heard of Francis. Pointed me to a woman in China. That’s when this whole thing started. I’ve been on the trail ever since. I have no idea if I’m close or not. I don’t know enough about Francis’ market to know that.”

“I can help, there,” Peter offers. He rubs at Wade’s hip with his thumb. “That’s the information I had for you. But you won’t like it.”

“Then wait,” Wade sighs. “Don’t tell me now. I’ve had a really nice evening with you, Petey. I don’t want to spoil it more than I already have.”

“You haven’t,” Peter protests. Wade makes a noise of disagreement, so Peter shifts up onto his elbow so he can look down at Wade. “No, seriously, Wade. You haven’t ruined anything. I asked you to share what you felt comfortable sharing, and you did. What do you think you spoiled?”

Wade doesn’t answer. Peter hesitates a moment. “Okay, I have another idea.”

Wade peers up at him. “Yeah, okay, shoot.”

“Just, uh.” Peter bites his lip, already regretting his decision. “Can I see your hand?”

Wade lifts a hand, and Peter, sure he’s about to get knifed but too far to turn back now, continues, “I mean, without the glove?”

Wade sits up and spins so he’s sitting near the foot of Peter’s bed. His mask is furrowed like he’s squinting suspiciously at Peter. “Why?”

“It’s not as vulnerable as your face?” Peter offers, wincing. He sits up properly, cross-legged. “You can say no, if you want to. I just figured, you know, I’ve seen your chin, so I probably know what most of your skin looks like, and hands are pretty safe, I think….” He sighs. “Okay, maybe this is dumb.”

“No! I, uh—” Wade stares down at his hands, as if seeing them for the first time. “I can do that. I think.”

Peter waits a moment, but Wade makes no move to touch his gloves or speak again. Peter steels himself for the moment Wade decides to run and lifts an open hand. To his surprise, Wade carefully, purposefully, rests a gloved hand on top of Peter’s.

He’s really letting me do this, Peter thinks, stunned. His heart warms and he has to bite back a thousand praises, lest he scare Wade away. Instead, he slowly brings up his other hand and rotates Wade’s wrist until he sees the Velcro holding his glove in place. He fingers the tab for a moment. “I’m gonna do it now.”

“Yeah,” Wade whispers, staring at their hands. “Yeah, knock yourself out, Petey.”

Peter purses his lips to hide a smile and grips the edge of the Velcro. He rips it open slowly and, when Wade remains perfectly still, slides the glove carefully off Wade’s hand. Wade gasps lightly, and Peter has to bite his cheek to avoid doing the same.

Wade’s hand is worse than his jaw. Peter can see angry rings around each finger where they’ve been chopped off, time and time again. His palm is a network of white lines—like a spiderweb , Peter thinks—criss-crossing over the same blotchy, textured skin from Wade’s mouth. From grabbing knife blades, Peter expects. He traces his fingers over the lines, jumping slightly when Wade’s hand spasms.

“Usually when people touch my hands,” Wade whispers, “I’m about to lose them.”

The words hit Peter like a punch to the gut. Slowly, carefully, he raises Wade’s hand and delicately presses a kiss to the center of his palm, right atop the web of scars. Wade makes a tiny noise, and Peter rests his cheek against Wade’s palm, squeezing his eyes shut to avoid getting emotional. After all that Wade’s been through, Peter would rather leap off a building webless than let Wade feel guilty for telling his story. Even after Uncle Ben died—even after Gwen—Peter had someone there for him. Peter has no idea what he would have turned into, had he been alone. Suddenly, Wade seems a whole lot less crazy.

Wade’s fingers shift, and suddenly, Wade is cupping Peter’s jawline of his own volition. “Jesus,” he says softly, “Your skin is so soft.”

Peter opens his eyes and smiles at Wade. “Touch as much of me as you want.”

For once, Wade doesn’t crack the double entendre. His breath hitches, and his hand leaves Peter’s face in a flash as he rips off the other glove. Suddenly, Peter has two tiny, hot, rough hands on his face, and it’s possibly one of the most beautiful things he’s ever felt.

“Oh,” Wade whispers, sounding awed. “I get it now.”

Peter beams at him and pulls Wade’s hands away by the wrists so he can pepper them both with kisses, taking care to touch every ring, bump, ridge, and fold. That’s when Peter sees Wade’s fingertips.

“Wade… you have no fingernails.”

“... I used to.”

Peter’s chest feels like it caves in on itself with how much weight those three words carry.

“It was a target in Herzegovina,” Wade continues hesitantly. “He got wind there was a hit out on him, so he hired an expert to torture some intel out of me. Wanted to find out who’d offered the bounty, I guess. This expert, big mountain of a guy, strapped me to a chair and branded my nail beds before the nails could grow back. So… they couldn’t. I guess he thought I’d care about losing my nails, so I’d spill quicker, or something. But I didn’t spill. I didn’t.”

And at that, Peter can’t help himself. The tears fall silently as he kisses each destroyed nail bed, wishing he could do more for this beautiful, broken man and knowing that he couldn’t.

“I’m so, so proud of you,” he says, because he doesn’t quite know what else to say. “You’ve done so well.”

Wade makes a sound like a strangled sob and leaps at Peter, hugging him with all his strength. “No one’s ever said that to me before,” he whispers into Peter’s neck.

Peter wraps his arms around Wade, wildly wishing that he could somehow absorb Wade into himself so he’d never have to let go. Whatever he expected Wade to be, under all the snark and humor, he wasn’t quite prepared for this. He never expected Wade to be innocent.

They stay curled into each other for countless minutes. Eventually Peter leans back and they rearrange themselves so that they’re lying down, Wade curled into Peter’s chest. Peter reaches for Wade’s hand, where it’s resting on his sternum, and interlocks their fingers together. It’s an odd feeling, having all that rough texture at the delicate joins of his fingers, but he likes it. Wade rubs his thumb along Peter’s and slowly squeezes their hands together, as if memorizing the sensation.

“I’ve gotta be honest,” Peter says softly after a few minutes, “I never expected taking off a glove to feel so monumental.”

Wade chuckles. “A reverse love-glove,” he replies. “Getting closer by taking the protection off.”

Peter laughs and hugs Wade to his side, feeling a familiar, long-forgotten warmth spread through his body. He never expected to feel like this again—he never thought he should feel it again, after everything he’s done—but, at least for right now, he’s happy to lap it up like the selfish creature he is. He presses a kiss to the top of Wade’s masked head, breathing in the smell of leather and gun oil, and closes his eyes.

A few minutes later, Wade jostles against him, sitting up. Peter opens his eyes and glances at the clock—make that a few hours later. “Whazzup?”

“I’m going to do it,” Wade says quietly. “Fuck it, eh? If there’s anyone I can trust with this ugly mug, it’s you. And if you don’t like it, well, I’m right back to where I started.”

Peter sits up, suddenly awake. “Are you sure?” His heartbeat thumps in his chest, and the warmth in his chest disappears. What if he does react badly? What happens if either of them panic? What will this change about them?

“I’m sure,” Wade says, sounding shaky but determined. “I’m showing it to you sooner or later, so I might as well get it out of the way before we start pickin’ baby names and nursery decorations.”

Peter glances at Wade’s hands, which are clinging together anxiously, and gives a nervous laugh. “Right. Okay, then.”

Wade stands and turns on the light, looking tense. Peter scoots to the edge of the bed, clamping his fingers under his knees to avoid getting antsy. This is it. This is the moment of truth. I finally get to meet Wade Wilson, the man under the mask. It’s happening.

Wade, with his back still turned to Peter, undoes the back of his mask. The sliver of skin Peter can see looks just like Wade’s mouth. Its familiarity relaxes him somewhat.

“I’m in love with you,” Wade says abruptly, his mask loosely covering his head. “I wanted to get that out there before, you know, my face makes you scream and run in terror.”

Peter’s racing heart leaps up to his throat. He hasn’t used the word before—at least, not out loud—but now that Wade has said it, Peter realizes he’s loved Wade for a long, long time. “I love you too, Wade.”

Wade sighs like this is what he’s been waiting for all along. “Maximum effort,” he whispers.

He slides the mask off and Peter inhales, standing. Wade’s entire scalp is ragged, coarse scar tissue. It stretches over itself in thick, chunky cords that look like they have been sliced apart a few times. It’s horrible, but Peter can’t seem to look away.

“I’m okay,” Peter says, because in the silence, Wade’s shoulders have climbed up to his ears. “This is okay.”

Wade exhales, dropping his shoulders. “Here goes nothing.”

He turns, and the world falls out from under Peter. Shock jars him like a bolt of lightning. He can’t move. He can’t think. It isn’t possible. A scream presses against Peter’s throat, and he has half a mind to release it. Instead, what comes out is,




“... Gwen?