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it looks like you might be one of us

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i.

It begins in medias resmost of his memories do, when he dreams them—with the sharp scent of blood, hot and sticky even through the spandex of his suit, and the stuttering heartbeat in his ears that isn’t his own but might as well be.

He’ll watch from the corner of his eye in absolute horror, mute with it, teeth biting down so hard his jaw aches and a tooth chips with the force. He thinks he speaks here, he doesn’t remember very well, he fixated on the sensations of what he’d done instead—the gasping breaths, clutching hands, and the gurgles. The man will stagger forward—reflex, he’ll briefly remember, the body has already begun to shut down—and the man’s ankle will snap sideways and his knees will bend and he’ll collapse on his back in the snowy tundra, spasms wracking his body before he goes very still.

You did that—you killed that man.

Wasn’t that too easy?

“Come on, Spider-Man, it’s this way! Bucky’s already in position!” Captain America will shout in his ear suddenly and move him away from the corpse by the sheer pull of his words. Peter will move after a few stunned moments, he knows that, but his tongue will feel glued to the roof of his mouth for years. He’ll feel glued to that singular moment in his life where he lost control of his powers for a split second—a moment where he had panicked because he was freshly eighteen, hadn’t slept very well for weeks following his move from Aunt May’s house, and volunteered for this dangerous mission with Captain America with barely any tactical combat experience under his belt because he lied—but it’s a moment Peter doesn’t ever forgive himself for.

He’ll never forget this.

“Listen up, kid, you will not freeze up on me here,” Wolverine snarls in his other ear, and his grip on his arm is grounding. Nails dig in like claws. “You knew what you were getting yourself into when you decided to tag along, so get a move on, bub.”

Blood will splatter Peter’s masked cheek, set his world in dark spots as the blood runs black against his lenses.

“Take the shot,” the Winter Soldier will say through his half-mask in the next moment, standing in front of him, dressed down in black Kevlar and military trousers, combat boots and military-grade gloves. He’ll watch Peter through surprisingly clear blue eyes, shifting the M82 strapped to his back. Peter will follow the movement keenly, ignoring the blood that continues to splatter his cheek and Captain America’s distant shouting on his other side, and then flash his eyes to the Winter Soldier’s when the man signals with his right hand. “One shot, one kill.”

That man he killed wasn’t the enemy, though.

He was hired help.

He was just in a bad place, bad time.

He might have known what he was signing himself up for, but Peter still didn’t have the right to kill him. These words choke out of him, but Peter doesn’t hear them anymore in the dreamscape.

Now, he dreams of moving lips and voiceless thoughts: no one has the right to kill another person, he’s a hero, the pariah of NYC, patron saint of the lost, the abused, and the repentant—it’s what’s always kept him from releasing the full impact of his strength and abilities, that propelled him into vigilantism and then heroism in the first place.  

With great power comes great responsibility, right?

“And greater enemies,” the Winter Solider adds, sound rushing back in a tidal wave of gunshots and screaming. Peter will bite back any rebuttal he had, staring wide-eyed at the assassin who observes him. “One shot, one kill. Only do what is necessary, never more,” the Winter Solider will repeat, his bionic arm clutching Peter’s shoulder painfully. Blue eyes will bore into his to make sure he understands and he’ll nod despite the chaos breaking out around them: Wolverine, slaughtering HYDRA agents with every swipe of his adamantium claws; Captain America, slinging his shield left and right, hitting enemies and bringing them down by the rows with perfect accuracy.

It’s chaos and he doesn’t want to be there.

But the Winter Soldier will shove Peter forward and he’ll be webbing HYDRA agents in the next moment, feeling like he’s been doing this for hours, overwhelmed by HYDRA numbers, understanding that his objective is not to engage Red Skull no matter what but wanting to anyway.

He’s distracted.

(Peter knows it’s his fault, is what he’s saying. He dreams this over and over and over again and nothing ever changes.)

(Nothing ever will.)

He’s backup along with Wolverine. The Winter Solider and Captain America will handle the rest, Peter remembers thinking, they’ll win because they had a plan and—they’re war heroes, Peter remembers thinking, they know what they’re doing better than I do, and breath comes out quick and fast, terrified, because Tony told him not to volunteer for this mission and he feels guilty. The odds were not in their favor, Tony had mentioned, it was likely a trap if Red Skull was acting so openly. Steve and Bucky had their own agenda and were working outside of the Avengers and if the UN caught wind that he was present there, he’d be branded a criminal, too.

“I’ll tell Aunt May,”  Tony had threatened with that crooked little smirk such a long time ago. He didn’t believe Peter had the guts to follow through—made all these homework and curfew jokes and Peter let himself get all riled up. Humiliated because he was a hero, too, and he deserved respect. He was a hero and heroes had to do what was right, isn’t that what everyone always said? There were people that needed help; HYDRA needed to be stopped.

So he signed up when Captain America asked him again.

Joining Commander Rogers with a sound reason didn’t diminish his guilt. In the heat of battle, funnily enough, Tony’s stupid threat gets to him the most: Tony would tell Aunt May and then Peter would get the biggest lecture in the world for sneaking around as a superhero vigilante in New York without her knowing since he was fifteen. He’ll be in so much trouble. Totally grounded at eighteen—wouldn’t that be a great ice-breaker on a date?

Except he’s doing good, right? Being here is what being a hero is all about? Helping a bigger cause, stopping a huge threat before it even happens?

But everything he thinks feels like he’s trying too hard—like the dumb teenager he is, Tony would snort.

(and he’s right, he’s just a dumb fucking teenager playing hero—Tony’s been right all along, he isn’t a hero, he’s just some kid from Queens who got sick of being bullied and then suddenly had the means to put those bullies in their place.)

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t try his hardest to convince himself that taking on this mission is a good idea.

Captain America needs my help, Peter had thought as he’d been briefed, assigned a cell, and loaded into the Quinjet. And I’m a hero, too! I don’t just protect New York; I protect anyone who needs help! Peter would convince himself throughout the whole trip, his spider-sense a high-grade shrill in the back of his mind. Captain America sought me out, out of everyone he sought me out. He’s my childhood hero and if he needs me then I’ll—he…Hydra needs to be eliminated. He’ll repeat this again and again as he fights and gets thrown into the ground and bleeds and breaks bones but gets back up every time. It’s—like Utilitarianism, right? Greatest amount of happiness with the least amount of pain. HYDRA needs to be stopped! He’ll think this obsessively after he fucks up and doesn’t keep his strength in check and kills a man.

Because he’s horrified to find how easy it was; so easy, it almost didn’t feel real.

He hates it, hates himself, but in the dream he knows that he has to keep going.

He has to see the mission through.

He has to remember what it was that made him the weapon he is today.

“Playing solider is what you are doing, foolish little spider,” Von Strucker will hiss into his ear in the next moment, and Peter will not know what to do despite his spidey sense shrilling in his head. “HYDRA knows all. We know exactly who you are.” He can’t differentiate dangers anymore; it’s all a terrifying cry in his head, danger and threat coming from every direction. He’ll freeze because he’s young and inexperienced and easily rattled and he should have never signed up in the first place. Tony was right, he was rightrightright, he wants to go home, but he can’t and now— “I can use you as leverage.”

“No, let go, stop it—argh, get off—what is that, what did you do to me?!”

“Quiet!” Von Strucker snaps and tosses the syringe in the snow, and then it’s snapshots of things.

Bloody snow, leaving the drag trails of a body. His body.

Combat boots, dull gleaming under the dusky light of evening.

But he’ll always remember those words, spoken with a sick excitement above him as they stripped him and strapped him down onto a cold surgical table.

He wakes with them these days.

They start with:

“Perhaps we do not need the Winter Solider, after all. Look at these results! Fascinating…simply fascinating. I stumbled upon something much more valuable than a defective soldier! We can start over, with him. Begin a new project from which we can create more advanced weapons. He can be both the fist and shield of the new HYDRA!”

It ends with:

“Sir. Weapon 8351. Ready for use,” spoken through cracked, numb lips. His lips.

Then Peter wakes up and has to remind himself that the only command he will be following is his own; he’ll comply to only himself, he will not be used by anyone. Not again, not ever.

He’s not an instrument, he’s not a weapon, he’s not a thing.

After all, he didn’t spend eight years shackled in a tiny cell, waiting for the right moment to escape, only to become a slave to HYDRA.

 


 

“Good morning, LA! Hey, this is Ryan Seacrest telling you that it is seven o’clock on this sunny Monday morn—!”

Peter slams his fist down on the alarm clocks snooze button and sits upright in his futon, rubbing a hand down his haggard face. His back aches something fierce and his ribs haven’t fully healed so breathing is difficult, but not impossible. He wrinkles his nose when he smells something rank and looks at his palm, flaky with dried blood. With a grimace, Peter pulls his hand away and glances down at his bed. He can’t keep spending money on futons every time he dirties them with blood and grime—especially not now, with a new job lined up.

This client expects him to be in Nevada in nine hours.

At least this isn’t a hit job, Peter reasons. That would make this day even worse.

He stands up and heads over to the bathroom, washing his hands with soap four times and scrubbing away some blood and mud off his face before staring at himself in the mirror—dull hazel eyes set in a face that’s all sharp angles, that looks more gaunt than handsome, with smudges of black under his eyes that detail long nights spent planning and hypervigilant. He has a busted lip that looks blue and purple down his chin, but other than that he isn’t any worse for wear.

He’s still functional.

And he has to shave.

Peter rubs his chin for a moment before deciding not to.

He doesn’t like how he looks clean shaven anymore. That’s how they had him when he was under HYDRA control.

“Your name is Peter Parker,” he tells his reflection. He doesn’t look at his cheek—at the 8351 tattooed there—he makes sure to just stare into his grave hazel eyes. “You’re 29 years old. You like cherry soda and you like watching late-night crime shows because you like to solve the case before the end of the program. You hate Twizzlers and you hate drinking cold water. You are not their weapon,” Peter Parker tells himself firmly, reaffirms that he is still here and not having an episode, and sheds his suit for a quick shower.

Tony’s right, as usual—his own stubbornness will be the death of him.

Peter dries off brusquely, suiting up again, making sure all his guns are loaded and ammunition is strapped to all accessible points; checks and double-checks his utility belt and spare pouches for all necessary ordnance, gadgets, spare parts, and grenades.

“You are not their weapon,” he says one last time to the mirror, throat tight. Fists his hands by his side, stares into eyes he scarcely recognizes some days. “You’re your own weapon.”

In fact, Tony would say he’s a dead man walking.

Chapter Text

ii.

Peter encounters Deadpool by complete coincidence during a retrieval mission.

Peter is still and silent, resting on his stomach looking down the hole of his scope. He’s posted on a cliffside near the facility he was tasked with infiltrating. His contractor mentioned that entering may be problematic, so Peter had been posted there since 5am to ensure everything ran smoothly and there would be no mistakes. Not many of his clients were friendly, necessarily, but this one happened to be one of the bigger assholes Peter had to deal with nowadays. It also didn’t help that this client was stingy when it came to tech, so that meant he had to waste more time in order to ensure everything went smoothly since he didn’t have much by way of advanced equipment.

He likes small drones when his contractors give him the money for them.

Sometimes, he’ll even splurge on an RPG.

But, to the surprise of no one, he doesn’t actively seek out confrontation—avoids it most times, though some may beg to differ.

But even without tech, Peter is good at what he does. He always has jobs lined up, he does his own screenings, he investigates on his own, and he acquires his own money by his own terms by himself and he’s good at it. And, well, Peter doesn’t think he’ll be able to hold down a regular job without accidentally maiming someone because they breathed wrong or something. He’s never liked crowds before but, post-HYDRA, he absolutely hates being surrounded by too many people for too long.

Makes his spidey-senses go haywire which makes him extremely tired.

So he takes jobs like this because he’s good at it and they’re usually low-key.

And it takes his mind off more oppressive thoughts like pre-HYDRA days and civilian job hunting and acting natural, jeez, Peter, you’re almost thirty and you can’t talk to people.  

So vigilante freelancing (re: mercenary work) it is.

For all its worth, those eight years in captivity weren’t all slouch: Peter had been trained for stealth and infiltration, assassination and disappearance, as part of a new regime of super soldiers. Once he had adequate training and his conditioning had been deemed successful, he functioned as a spar dummy in training cells day in and day out. He had been sharp and quick before the program, but he’s even better now—HYDRA had ensured it, grinding him down until he was nothing but efficiency and calculation, though it had come at the cost of his beloved city, his identity.

Weapon 8351 still feels safer than Spider-Man even now, three years post-HYDRA.

Let no one say HYDRA did things half-cocked.

Peter just happened to be more stubborn than most subjects.  

There’s movement from the ground and Peter narrows his eyes at the figure that scales the wall of the facility. The red and black suit immediately draws his eyes—Deadpool, if he’s here that means he’s on a job—and Peter acts quickly, fingers gliding over the hidden blades in his suits sides as he scraps his initial plan. He’ll return for his rifle later. He needs to act now, while Deadpool has given him a perfect opening.

Peter can count on Deadpool to pull on a huge, wild, display.

Perfect cover.

He webs his way over to the facility, blending in with the shadows and swiftly climbing the wall to enter the same way Deadpool did. As usual, his wrists burn with the release of organic webbing—an improvement, as they called it, courtesy of HYDRA. Peter stills when a flash of light passes over him but no one says anything and he allows his lip to twitch up when a solider passes him without noticing.

When Peter was in the program, his Spider-Man suit had been exchanged for standard HYDRA uniform so he resembled every other subject in the program. The only thing that had differentiated him from other subjects had been the red patch on his vest—Sergeant.

Peter bitterly remembers thinking that at least they let him keep that color.

He’d taken full advantage of the lightweight tactical suit they gave him while he had been under their control but, after he defected from HYDRA, he didn’t have any use for it. The suit brought back bad memories, anyway, of years of being used and improved like some kind of bio-weapon. So he dumped the vest and cargo pants and reinvented his Spider-man suit instead, completely removing the web patterning, making it primarily black where it had been blue with a darker red that helped with his stealth missions along with custom-crafted special black lenses that allowed him to see perfectly and were resistant to most fire arms. He even added a custom utility belt that was not bulky enough to interfere with his acrobatics. His entire suit was resistant to the most amount of physical damage without losing mobility unlike his pre-HYDRA days, padded and reinforced where he could afford it.

Peter doesn’t take chances anymore.

“Buwhahaha!” comes a booming laugh from deep within the building. Peter hangs upside down on the ceiling, in a shadowed corner. “What the hell was that supposed to be?! What—no, I know what that’s supposed to be, I WAS BEING IRONIC SHUT UP—!”

Peter watches Deadpool cartwheel out of the line of fire, whipping out his pistols in a split second and shooting with deadly accuracy at the guards. Peter watches his form for any weaknesses—he has six and they’re all for close-quarter combat so Peter’s sure they’re on purpose because Deadpool senses no challenge—and then grits his teeth and snaps his eyes away, a flood of shame filling up his chest.

He can’t do that anymore.

He’s Peter Parker and he’s 30 years old now.

He’s a person and a person doesn’t do that, doesn’t evaluate and analyze other people like that.

“HEADSHOT!”

Peter looks up just as Deadpool roundhouse kicks a guard into the wall. The guard falls limp, neck bent at an awkward angle.

This is a retrieval mission for Peter; no casualties, no big demonstrations, or he loses his contract. But Peter figures if Deadpool is the only executing personnel and guards, it won’t result in his contract terminating because it hadn’t been him.

No one will know he was even here in the first place.

Mission—focus on the mission.

Peter wills himself to look away and crawls along the ceiling silently as Deadpool herds another crowd of guards away. He ignores the chaos that breaks around Deadpool when a grenade goes off. Maniacal laughter echoes down the halls along with the steady rattle of a semi-automatic but Peter has basically made his way into the hallway he needs. He only has to knock out a few guards along the way to get to the office. Begrudgingly, he doesn’t use his webs. If he does, he’ll leave behind compromising evidence since his new organic webs take much longer to dissolve—HYDRA had still been conducting lab tests on him and hadn’t figured out a way to reduce the length of time it took for his webs to dissolve completely— and enters the office with little difficulty. The guards are all gathering out where Deadpool is shooting up the place; knowing him, he’s probably here for a kill-contract, so the last thing on anyone’s mind are the documents his employer needs.

Well. This isn’t annoying at all, Peter thinks as he stares at the six huge filing cabinets lined against the wall. At least they’re in alphabetical order. This was supposed to be a boring mission to get me out of the house, not a pain in my ass, he thinks with a sigh and goes searching for the pertinent files, rifling through each cabinet methodically.   

His spidey-sense goes off suddenly, but he doesn’t turn around.

“Hey! Who the hell are you?”

Peter doesn’t stop.

“Hey, I’m talking to you! Turn around slowly. And drop those folders! Now! HEY!”

Peter pauses, glancing over his shoulder to the man training an assault rifle to his head. He makes no sudden moves and before the guard can open his mouth again, Peter strikes like the spider he is—quickly, knocking out his weapon with a well-placed web and reaching for his combat knife holstered to his side. One well-placed throw and the guard goes down, dead, and Peter grimaces, because his employer stressed no casualties.  

But Deadpool is here so he’d take the blame.

Still, it doesn’t settle right in his gut.

Don’t think about it, Peter thinks, irritated. Pity is distracting.

And usually he doesn’t concern himself with this type of deceit but Deadpool is different.

He’s always been different.

Deadpool is the reason Peter escaped HYDRA in the first place—he’d created an explosion so big that it had rattled and displaced some of the restraints that were keeping Peter in place in his tiny cell. Captain America and, Peter remembers, Iron Man had been there, too, when he’d torn the loosened shackles free from his wrists and escaped through the breach he had memorized from so many years of being brought back and forth between those corridors, fear driving him further away from the facility that had nearly broken him irredeemably.

So he owes Deadpool. At least, that’s what he thinks that crushing weight in his chest is.

Peter picks up his stray webs and shoves them into one of his pouches for later disposal, troubled.

What am I even…do I feel grateful for Deadpool? Is that it? Relief? Desperation, anxiety, depression?

Peter has trouble placing emotions nowadays, can’t quite get a handle on things like sad or happy or fear or even surprise sometimes. It gives him anxiety to think about it. Makes him feel sick, like he’s out of control. Under HYDRA, his entire life had been ordered to the commands of others. Other people told him what to do, how to move, what to say, how to think, when to eat, when to shit. Now, being here, free, he has to decide on these things by himself and he still has trouble eating most days because he’d been mostly on intravenous supplements and protein drinks so his stomach is all sorts of fucked up from that.

Don’t even get him started on heathy sleeping patterns.

Normal things like compassion were the first ones Von Strucker had tried to eliminate. Shame comes easiest to remember, so do secondary emotions like guilt or anger. They were what he felt when he escaped HYDRA control and spent the following years roughing it and hiding wherever he could, terrified that they’d find him and stick him back in that cell and electrocute him until he complied. Then came things like eating, like moving on his own without objective, like hearing sounds other than the calculated footfalls of patrolling soldiers down corridors all night or his own steady breathing, like talking.

When he escaped, Peter had just been—he hadn’t let himself feel much other than terror and single-minded resolve to establish himself and ensure that HYDRA or anyone else never caught up with him.

He set up a web of safe-houses all over the U.S. and parts of Europe; he left false-trails and shed identities like second skins; he kept to himself and discarded people he no longer needed once he accomplished his objective. He was charming, he was lethal, he was anything it took to ensure his safety. He took what he needed from banks, ATMS, people, houses and continued on his way, surviving the only way he knew how.

Freelancing, as he called it.

It wasn’t half bad—felt familiar, even. Comfortable.

Maybe Pre-HYDRA Peter also freelanced in order to rack up some cash.

His conditioning hadn’t been thorough enough to warrant complete loyalty to HYDRA at the very least. Don’t get him wrong, it was exemplar. On bad days, Peter found himself thinking that he really couldn’t function without their instruction—that he belonged there, under Von Strucker, under his First Commander, acting on their orders. But no matter how awful the day was, Peter always pushed back that desperation when it came. He didn’t fight for his freedom just so he could go crawling back.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that, other days it’s easier.

At least HYDRA hadn’t done to him what they’d done to some of the other subjects. Peter knows he’s lucky in that respect—they were more interested in his genetics, in slicing him open and testing him and pushing him and watching him from behind the two-way wall like a specimen. Because he was a specimen, he was a weapon. And, as a weapon, they improved him, trained him until he stopped talking because wit was unappreciated, and instilled enough discipline that he could be handled by anyone; made him deadly enough that he’d been considered various times for active duty because he was effective.

But Von Strucker always denied the request from his First Commander.

Peter knows that he knew—knew Peter Parker was still there, small and huddled, but still there despite the torture and conditioning, still fighting behind his blank expression and practiced moves and silence. It’s why he was always caged in concrete cells, sparring with other subjects until he collapsed. Not a person, but a training weapon they used until he ran out of lead for the day.

It’s why Peter has the biggest trouble not being a weapon.

Because he feels like a weapon most of the time, a lost weapon, unloaded, ownerless—useless, playing person and pretending this is how it wants to be. 

Peter sucks in a breath before he starts to hyperventilating and shuts his eyes.

My name is Peter Parker. I am 30 years old and his heart settles a little, stops feeling like he’s going to hurl.

Distracted—he’s so distracted.

He needs to focus before—

“WHOOO! Oh, man, did they not put up a fight whatsoever. I sorta’ feel bad for blowing them all up like that, but I did warn them. I gave them an out, that counts, right? Iron Dick and America’s Oldest and Grayest can’t give get me in trouble if I gave them an out. Yeah, exactly! Right,” Deadpool cheerfully says to himself as he walks down the hall. Peter did hear that Deadpool was clinically unstable. But Peter talked to himself, too. Made things less lonely. “Hey, do you think our mark is even here? I’ll be so mad if he’s not! I didn’t come all the way to fuck-land just to find out my mark isn’t even here! Hey, KONRAD! YOOO-HOO! WHERE ARE YOU, YOU GREENLANDIC FUCK?!”

He’s a distraction—I should go. HYDRA taught me…

…fuck HYDRA.

“In the panic room. Down this hall, to the right,” Peter answers after a moment, landing soundlessly ten feet away from Deadpool on his haunches. Deadpool has two side-arms trained on him in a flash and Peter dodges the onslaught of bullets easily, reflex guiding him past each and every one.

“What the fuck?” Deadpool blinks. “How’d you do that?”

Peter doesn’t let the gunshots bother him. “I have no intention of hurting you,” Peter says, just to establish boundaries. Deadpool does not drop his guns. Smart. “But you will find a bookcase if you go down that hall. You will need approximately 18 kilograms of explosives to break into it, however, unless you find another way in. But Konrad is behind it. You have approximately 15 minutes to react before his men extract him and you lose your mark.”

Deadpool cocks his head, lowering his weapons. “18, you say? Well, you don’t seem to know me very well! Speaking of not knowing me, the name’s Deadpool! Merc with a Mouth! The entire package whose packing if you know what I mean,” he winks, shaking his hips a little. “Nice to meet you, uhhh…?”

Peter just stares back.

“…Right. I’ll just call you Snuggles because you look like you’d give great snuggles with those pecs—I mean, biceps, I mean, well, this is embarrassing. I totally meant pecs, those things are tight. Nice,” Deadpool grins and winks. Peter feels his lip twitch but nothing else.

“Fourteen minutes,” Peter reminds.

“Oh, right. That. Well, if you knew anything about me, you’d know that I always carry at least 50 KILOGRAMS of explosives with me at alllll times! Because I’m prepared for anything, like the good little mercenary I am. Or, ex-merc. Agent? Whatever you call it nowadays. Point is, I like to blow shit up a lot. Maybe a little too much, hmm…nah,” he cackles.   

Peter doesn’t know if he’s joking or not, so he brushes it off. It’s unnecessary. This entire encounter is unnecessary. Why didn’t he just leave again? Oh, yeah. Because I wanted to give HYDRA a big fuck-you, that’s why. But it’s also because the pressure in his chest that had been steadily building while Deadpool rambled on. Dangerous, Peter finally admits: desire has no place in a fight. He doesn’t even know what he desires from Deadpool. He just—he… can’t do this. Nope.

There’s giving HYDRA a giant fuck-you and then there’s just being an idiot.

He turns away, ignoring Deadpool’s shouts to come back as he jumps to stick to the wall and make his way back out through his planned exit route.

“SPIDER-MAN!”

Peter freezes.

No. No, no, no.

Any and all positive feelings drain, leaving in their place rising bile and tremulous hands.

He knew he had trigger words, but he didn’t think that would be one of them.  

“I knew it…I KNEW IT! You are Spider-Man! YOU’RE ALIVE!” Deadpool squeals, excitedly. “There’s no other person I know who could do that! I mean, your outfit went through some extreme redesign, but looking good, Spidey, looking good! Hey, did you bulk up? Because you seem bigger than I remember. Not that I’m complaining. Like, at all. None at all. Your pecs…are haunting. In the best ways. Like, my dreams have suddenly become that much more interesting. FYI.”  

“How do you know that name,” Peter demands.

“What? Of course I know you—we—shut up, it’s part of the bro code, we don’t speak of it or else it’s gay, everyone knows that,” Deadpool suddenly snaps at himself. Peter slits his eyes. “Oh!” He suddenly shouts, flapping a hand at Peter. Peter grimaces. “Hey, hey, I was on that rescue mission, y’know, a few years ago? But you weren’t in the building when we went looking! Yellow says you totally escaped, because you’re awesome like that, but White was so sure you had been killed on the spot when we infiltrated because we took too long! I was out of commission for a long time after that mission—kept thinking what if I had been the reason you’d died?! You’re, like, my favorite hero! My best pal, my bro without borders, the jelly to my peanut butter!” Deadpool says, earnestly. “But you’re not dead so suck it! I told you he was still alive! I always knew you were alive, Spidey!”

Peter’s throat is thick; he feels sick and angry and he doesn’t like it, not one bit, so he swallows it all back and shakes himself from his stupor.

He hates that name—hates it so much, he can’t stand it.

Spider-Man encompasses ideals of righteousness, second chances, and hope—all things he no longer is, or deserves.

Don’t call me that,” Peter states, icily. Deadpool’s shoulders hunch up all of a sudden in alarm. His mask is very expressive—it scrunches up in worry and hurt but Peter isn’t deterred. He owes Deadpool, yes—he won’t necessarily deny that he was Spider-Man at one point, but he also won’t allow him to interfere with his life any more than he needs to.

Deadpool makes him…feel things.

He’s a distraction.

“Ha, whoa, you’re a lot more intense than I remember you being,” Deadpool forces out, laughing awkwardly. Peter narrows his eyes. So that wasn’t all blabber. They had met pre-HYDRA? “Spidey, you sure sounded like you totally chose not to come back but there’s no way, right? You’ve just been in hiding! Because of HYDRA, right? But you don’t have to go undercover anymore! Stark is still searching everywhere for you, so I can rub it in his face that I totally found you first and he can stop drinking himself into an early death and give me moneyyyy because he owes me forever for this! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I also wanted to find you very badly because I thought I accidentally got you killed and we have shit we have to, uh, talk about like who gets custody of Bob in our nuptials, right? But, y’know. Can’t exactly show that. I’m going for the more aloof hero-type,” he flexes, striking an absurd pose. “Chicks dig that. Do you dig that? Because if not, I can change. I do clingy and suffers from separation anxiety even better!”

Peter doesn’t say anything to that—can’t, really, because Tony Stark makes him feel unspeakably sad. It’s all irrelevant, that’s what he’d been taught, and he believes it.

He needs to get away.

“Don’t call me that again,” he decides to go with.  

“But you’ll always be Spider-Man!” Deadpool insists, nodding to himself. “A hero! My hero! Ok? I quit the merc business coz of you!”

Peter’s fingers twitch at that.

“Now, I don’t know what you’re doing around these parts, but we need to go to the Tower of Overcompensation ASAP! We can even use my handy-dandy teleporter! And before you say no, I totally got Cable to upgrade it so we’ll arrive to New York in one piece. Maybe. Don’t worry—I’ll make sure it’s me who returns in pieces, I grow back!” He laughs loudly, seeming to recover from his previous shakiness. “New York misses you, Spidey, they’ll be so happy—!”

“I have no intention of returning to America. I have other objectives now,” Peter cuts him off because he feels even worse now. He can feel his breathing come sharper, fists clench tightly. The slight chip on his tooth digs into his lower lip, drawing blood. His feet still don’t move. “Don’t misunderstand—the only reason I stopped to help you was because of your unintentional aid in my escape of HYDRA facility 56. Your explosions wracked the support systems that were keeping me captive. Thank you,” he says, the words foreign and odd in his mouth. He hasn’t given gratitude in years, doesn’t remember what it feels like, really. “We will not meet again,” he decides resolutely.

“Ah, nope. I don’t think so.”

Peter straightens.

Deadpool has become serious.

He has no more openings, Peter appraises.

“So you’re still a little hyped up on that mumbo-jumbo HYDRA shoved down your throat, huh? Fine, fair. You went through some nasty, nasty things, Spidey. Weapon X nasty. But you’re still beautiful so maybe not Weapon X nasty. Still nasty though. Don’t worry, I’ll help you. I know a thing or two about how to live after prolonged torture and trauma,” he slides his katana’s from their sheaths on his back. “This won’t hurt one—!”

Peter shoots Deadpool in the head with the concealed weapon he has in his wrist band.

Deadpool falls back, dead, and Peter can’t breathe anymore.

He drops to one knee, feels himself shutting down. Muscles coil painfully, breath evens itself out, his instincts flare out, and Peter is suddenly aware of the nearing guards down the hall and beyond. He makes an abortive move to the wall, intent on running and never looking back, but his eyes dart to Deadpool’s still body.

He’s not dead, he’s regenerating, Peter remembers wildly. Not many know of Deadpool’s healing factor, but the scientists at HYDRA made it perfectly clear that they wanted to see if they could recreate it using Peter.

So Peter grabs Deadpool by his one of his many straps and drags him over his shoulder, leaps to the wall and runs to his planned exit route.

Peter doesn’t really…think when he’s like this. This is what he means by episodes—he means HYDRA Peter episodes where he’s no longer Peter Parker. It doesn’t happen often. They were worse before he figured out ways to work with them. He’d lose track of time then and come back to himself after he’d holed himself up in the safest place he could find, usually a cramped place or crevice, for hours with no memory of what happened in-between. At least now he can remember, do things that reminded him that he was still himself somewhere.

Deadpool triggered all sorts of things today.

There were a lot of things, people and memories and places and words, that he isn’t prepared to face quite yet.

He doesn’t think he’ll ever be ready to face them, much less deserve them.

It’d been years since he escaped HYDRA forces and sometimes he finds that he wants to go back because he can’t deal with this lack of structure, lack of instruction, lack of meaning. At his weakest moments, Peter can’t deal with the fact that he’s responsible for his own self now, that he no longer has a superior officer or his First Commander heading his every move. It’s why he takes up these dark missions because to do nothing, to just…return…gives him such bad anxiety that he finds himself shutting down and next thing he knows, he’s heading for the nearest HYDRA facility and he has to scramble away before his traitorous mind convinces him to go back once and for all.

But small things like this—like saving Deadpool despite his attack, it reminds him that Peter’s fighting.

Peter Parker is still there, somewhere.

Maybe Peter can improve himself on his own terms.

Peter dumps Deadpool at the cliffside he conducted surveillance, carefully dismantles his sniper rifle, and packs it back into its case while Deadpool heals.  

He walks away once Deadpool starts to revive, ignores the nudge that tells him that he shot someone who was just trying to help him.

Baby steps, he thinks, and heads back to his safe-house.

Chapter Text

iii.

Deadpool is relentless.

Peter’ll give him that much.

Over the next few months, Deadpool manages to add a new definition to the word obsessive and skilled because Peter is having a hard time disappearing from the mercs radar completely.

It’s only slightly annoying and, by that, Peter means he has this passive homicidal urge to strangle Deadpool within an inch of his life but also not to and see just how far Deadpool would go to find him—just how much was the SHIELD agent willing to sacrifice to talk to him? How far was he willing to go?

He’s been thinking about those questions more than he likes to admit.

Today, Deadpool finds him off the coast just as Peter is dispatching his target.

Peter knows Deadpool is near before the merc can spot him but Peter still can’t move fast enough—mostly because he’s grabbing his mark and punching them so hard, their neck snaps. Not what he wanted to do, but his mark is definitely dead so that’s all that matters. Dead and no one saw him—except Deadpool.

Funny enough, Peter isn’t as riled up by that as he knew he should be.

He’s grown too comfortable, is what he decides has happened.

That’s a problem.

Comfortable has killed lesser men than Peter.

 “SPIDEY! HEY, SPIDEY! Whoa, you run fast—WAIT!”

Still, Peter manages to lose Deadpool before he can trace him back to his safe-house by diving into the water, disappearing from sight instantly.

 

Next time, Deadpool finds him in a warehouse in some dingy neighborhood in the south of Detroit. It’s cold and Peter grimaces at the memory of his icy cell and the silver muzzle they’d clasp over his lower face to prevent major bone damage from the other subjects.

“GOT’CHA!” Deadpool shouts, hanging off a beam on the ceiling clumsily. “Hah, bet’cha didn’t see me coming!”

“You wagered wrong,” Peter replies, voice gravelly. He flicks out a blade.

“I have the weirdest boner right now,” Deadpool whispers as he drops down from the ceiling in front of Peter, landing in a practiced crouch. “But let me explain why and then you can kill me! Not about the boner, about why I’m looking for you! But if you wanna’ know about the boner, I can tell you about it, too. There’s something about the wrist movement—!

“I don’t care,” Peter shoots Deadpool before he can even straighten out, scowling down at the lifeless body of the merc because this is a stealth mission and Deadpool almost blew it for him.

“Now, where to dispose of your body today…” Peter muses quietly, then squints at an empty crate nearby him. Well, this is a warehouse, Peter thinks with the barest hint of amusement. “Unoriginal, but it’ll have to do.”

Peter shoves Deadpool’s dead body into the crate and stacks another crate on top of it for good measure before he leaves to track down his mark again.

 

A few missions later finds Peter pressed for time and pissed because he received bad intel and this whole assignment was basically fucking useless. It was just a trap; one to capture him, courtesy of the Avengers, it seemed.  At the very least, he received half the funds he was promised, but that entire bank account was compromised now and Peter was not happy at all because there would be no way he could take out the money and run with it. He has no time to and, call him greedy, but he wants his quarter mil in blood money, alright?

Hard work and all that crap.  

Also, he wants to buy guns.

Big ones.

Expensive ones.

“Please don’t shoot me, honey, I just wanna’ talk, alright? You used to love doing that with me! I always thought you were crazy to actually like talking to me but clearly I was wrong. It's always the quiet ones!” Deadpool squeaks, waving a white flag frantically from the corner he’s hiding behind.

You again,” Peter grits out, fists clenched at his sides. The flag falters. Peter snarls. The flag drops down. “This is your doing, isn’t it? You sent Stark after me!”

“Ehh, sort of? But not really—I mean,” Deadpool peers out tentatively, rounding the corner when Peter doesn’t kill him. “They don’t know it’s you, they just sorta' think—hey, WAIT!” Deadpool shouts, holding out a hand just as Peter raises his wrist, his eyes slit and dangerous. “Okay. I totally knew this mission was a hoax and didn’t tell ya’ last time, I know, that was shitty of me, but I was kinda’ curious about how you’d break in here in the first place and avoid Hawks and Spangles in the process—also, they threatened me with the Negative Zone if I told so you can’t exactly blame me. Too much.”

Die,” Peter growls.

“Oh, c’mon, baby, can’t we at least talk about it?” Deadpool whines, backing away from Peter’s hunched form.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Peter advances on him slowly, sliding the safety off. Deadpool hits the wall, grinning. It just makes him angrier. “I want you to die, then come back and die again because I’m pissed and I just lost a quarter of a million dollars and I want it back.”

Deadpool raises a finger. “Violent imagery, but appropriate emotional response! I’m so proud of you, pokey! Being all angry and shit! You’re finally showing something other than passive aggression!”

Peter stills for a second, thinks about it, then narrows his eyes as warmth heats up his cheeks. Rude. Peter doesn’t like it, how flustered Deadpool makes him sometimes. He’s about to die and Deadpool is just happy that he’s emoting properly, for crying out loud. “Don’t evaluate my mental health, you cretin, I know. Now, die.”

“Aw, popsicles.”

Peter unloads a whole magazine in him because he’s so angry and embarrassed and petty as fuck. He shoves Deadpool’s hole-ridden body into a closet, stealing what he needed from the house and not batting an eye when a shriek sounds through the manor as a maid finds the merc’s dead body reviving from within said closet. The Avengers end up going in circles trying to figure out where he is.

Hawkeye actually finds him at one point and, given the fact that they’d engaged in brief hand-to-hand combat and Hawkeye had smirked and introduced himself as “Clint, nice to meet ya,” Peter is safe to think that Deadpool hadn’t disclosed everything he knew about him.

Only that he was a mercenary and dangerous.

No one knew his real identity.

That doesn’t mean Peter regrets unloading his whole gun into that idiot.

Serves him right, the jerk.

Peter wonders when Deadpool will give up searching for him.

 

It turns out that Peter spoke too soon.

If Peter’s fucked up, Deadpool is on a whole other level of insane.  

Peter has lost count of how many times he’s encountered the ex-merc at this point. Deadpool just keeps finding him—on every mission, objective, or move. Without GPS or any other tracking device, Peter’s checked obsessively. At this point, it’s either Deadpool’s a genius tracker or he has too much dumb luck.

“Ok—before you kill me, just hear me out for a second!”

Peter’s sort of regretful he ever stopped to talk to the guy since he keeps crashing his missions and ruining his plans. In fact, Peter has started to plan for this human disaster to interfere in his missions.

It’s becoming too familiar and familiarity kills in mercenary business. 

“What if, WHAT IF, instead of killing me…we talk this out like the civil adults that we are and maybe come to an agreement?”

Peter raises his handgun. “Talk.”

“Wow, you said something other than die or suffer, I am so impressed right now. Alright, alright! Wait, I’ll stop! Just—listen, SHIELD knows about you because you’ve been killing some pretty well-known names lately. They’ve been on your tail since that B and E a few weeks ago. But they don’t know anything about you so they’re sort of shitting their collective panties at the moment because you’re a variable they can’t account for or manipulate and, well, bureaucracies always like having all their pawns on the board, right? It doesn’t help that you’re so off the grid, they can’t track you by conventional means.”

“I am not a pawn.”

Exactly! So, right now, they’ve got some of their best agents looking for you and Mr. United States has sorta’ made it his personal mission to find and apprehend you coz you gave him the run around so easily that night at the mansion, too. He’s ego is kinda’ bruised, like the state of Alabama.”

“He doesn’t know,” Peter observes. “But Stark does?”

Deadpool shrugs. “They’ve got issues they’ll never settle, but Stark probably has an idea. He’s been analyzing videos about you for weeks. If he does know, I don’t think he trusts the Cap with that information anymore, considering what happened to you the last time he was left in charge of you. Man, that custody battle was ugly. You should have seen the divorce.”

“They won’t find me,” Peter says, ignoring that last comment. 

“…I know,” Deadpool agrees, gently. Peter narrows his eyes, grateful for his mask. “But, aside from what I know, SHIELD doesn’t have jack shit on you, but you’re also operating on your own terms. You may have some people paid off, Spidey, but they answer to the highest bidder and SHIELD is willing to lay down some big bucks to find out more about you.”

And if SHEILD is looking for me, so is HYDRA. If SHIELD is close, so is HYDRA. Peter thinks, frustrated. He had noticed an increase in agent activity near him; never too close for comfort, but close enough where Peter had begun to dip into some of his more personal savings in order to ensure total invisibility. Even his safe-houses weren’t so safe because they’d become familiar.

“Agreement?” Peter prompts.

“Uh, right—so, I was thinking, if I tell Stark that who he thinks you are is actually correct—wait, don’t shoot! Jesus, don’t shoot! I just meant, if I told Stark just enough about you where he thinks he can locate you…he can take the case from SHIELD and it’ll be in his jurisdiction. Technically, he’s your guardian and funding SHIELD, so they’d have to bend to him.”

Guardian? Peter thinks, blankly. But Aunt May. I know she was still alive when I—I…I know. I know she—she had to be. She has to be. “Tony Stark knowing my identity would not benefit me, Deadpool. Then I’d have him and Captain America on my trail. Of the two of them, Stark has a better chance of actually tracking and apprehending me.”

“Yeah, but he’s a lot more likely to try to talk to you first since SHIELD is more shoot first, ask questions later when it comes to shit like this. Y’know, for a highly advanced organization functioning in nearly all sectors of the world, they sure lose their shit over the littlest things. You’re taking out the garbage for them, they should be awarding you.”

“Killing is not commendable,” Peter tells him gravely.

Deadpool smiles. “There’s the hero I know.”

Peter shoots Deadpool in the knee twice and ignores his squawk when he goes down. “I’m not a hero.”

Noted,” Deadpool wheezes, rocking back and forth on the floor. Peter inspects his Glock casually. “Totally noted. Won’t do that again. Promise. Owwww...”

Peter stares at him for a couple seconds longer as the bullets push out of Deadpool’s knee and the wounds seal up. “Fine. I’ll agree to your terms. Tell him. But also tell him that if he plans on searching for me, I won’t be captured unless I want to be.

Peter reloads and turns his back to Deadpool, walking away and trying to ignore the way his lip twitches when Deadpool breathes, “Oh my god, he’s so fucking cool—I’d let him shoot me again just because I’m not worthy.”

Chapter Text

iv.

Peter finally investigates Deadpool after a particularly strange encounter with him.

That’s saying something, since most encounters with Deadpool range from weird to plain unsettling.

This time there had been a cliffside involved, a really pissed off drug lord with too many lackeys, and Peter swinging around with a broken leg and enough rage to help him push past the pain. There had been blood, more bullets than there should have been, Deadpool had been there, and Peter had cut the line to his web with a sharp claw when he realized he was swinging into a trap about an hour into the fight.

He’d cut the line to his web over the cliff, to be specific.

Deadpool had caught him before he could drop down the edge.

“Let me go, Deadpool!” Peter had snarled, the black lens of his mask narrowing. “Let go!”

I won’t let you go again! I’ll do whatever it takes,” Deadpool had snarled back, gripping him tightly by the wrist. His huge shoulders shook; it was disconcerting, seeing such a huge man like Deadpool tremble like that, like he was terrified. “I’ll do whatever you want—I’ll do whatever, Peter!”

It was all according to plan, of course.

Peter was in control that entire time—falling over a cliff was nothing. He had been aiming for the rocks so he could crawl to the rifle he’d dropped there at the start of the fight. He just had to make it look like a tragic miscalculation.

Deadpool knew that—he had to, because he’s never interfered like that before and Peter has done worse things than fall.

I’ll do whatever, Peter,” echoes in his head, as clear as if Deadpool were right there with him.  

“How do you know my name,” Peter asks out loud, alone. Peter has never told anyone his name, much less to a nuisance like Deadpool. Yet he knew his name. He looked like he knew more than his name, if he's being honest. There in his tiny safe-house, the light from his laptop highlights every sharp angle and dip in Peter’s face, making otherwise hard hazel eyes gleam the longer they stare at Deadpool’s goofy, masked mugshot.

An hour of research reveals that they did know each other. They had known each other for years which would explain the familiarity, the way Deadpool seeks him out so readily, and why Deadpool even cares.

It explains how Deadpool knows so much.

Now, Peter isn’t sure how well they knew each other, but there had definitely been history between them that Peter no longer has memory of.

“SPIDER-MAN AND DEADPOOL SPOTTED TOGETHER ON ROOFTOP HAVING A LATE-NIGHT DINNER!”

Eyes burning, Peter closes the tab on his browser with a grimace. He runs his fingers through his hair, matted down and sweaty because of his mask. He doesn’t bother skimming the article; the headline tells him more than enough.

Maybe this also explains why Peter is so obsessed with Deadpool. Young pre-HYDRA Peter hung out with Deadpool, teamed up with him and fought crime alongside him. They’d done this for years. Deadpool meant more to Pre-HYDRA Peter than the newspaper articles made out. But Peter doesn’t remember that. His memories are questionable at best, unreliable at worst. Sometimes he’ll get flashes of his Aunt May and her bright smile, sometimes of Stark grinning with his arm around his shoulders, mouthing something about brunch and suit upgrades. They both mean equally as much to him, both weigh his heart down with something that tastes like family but can’t be.

Something doesn’t add up, but Peter doesn’t know what it could be.

He doesn’t have enough intel.

His fingers pause over the keyboard.

He can always look them up, of course. He's always been very good at research. He can look up Stark and Rogers and Wilson, pay for information he can’t get for free, and end it all. Figure it all out. They’ve all been keeping a low profile for the last decade—all Peter knows of Stark is that his empire is no longer run by him under the flimsy excuse of “focusing on his tech projects instead of his company” and Rogers works covertly with SHIELD and heads the Avengers when Stark fucks off.

All common knowledge.

Right?

Peter’s hand slides off the keyboard.

But Wilson—Deadpool feels so comfortable, but he also feels like more than that. He feels trustworthy, like a second skin, which conflicts with every reasonable fiber in his being. Peter has never been so reckless, so thoughtless, until he met Deadpool. Deadpool is a mercenary like him even if he says he quit that business; arguably, he’s worse than him. He’s a government-owned assassin now. He labors under an ideal.

At least Peter is honest about his bloodwork.

Something still doesn’t add up, Peter obsesses, twisting the safety ring of a grenade around his finger. I can’t ignore it—something’s wrong. I was a hero before. I know I was. But who was I, really? What life did I lead when I wasn’t in the suit? I can’t remember and what I do remember doesn’t make sense. Did my parents die in a plane crash or did I have them, growing up? Was I raised by Aunt May or—was I not?

Whoever he was, he does know one thing: those nightly meetings with Deadpool when they were younger encouraged the mercenary to—try to be a hero? Maybe he was just bored and wanted a change of pace? Deadpool had told him that he’d been the reason he quit being a mercenary…

But what does he know about Deadpool, anyway?

The only reason he’d even heard of him was because his First Commander mentioned him from time to time. Deadpool was a fearsome name among the underground channels despite being compromised by his own unstable mind. There were mutterings about his legendary healing factor—immortality, can come back from the dead, can regrow body parts, heals in seconds from fatal wounds—when HYDRA was improving Peter’s healing factor. However, they couldn’t get a big enough sample from the merc to work with. Aside from that, all talk revolved around how unstable or hostile the merc was—all things Peter hadn’t gotten the impression of so it was definitely a persona, if Peter had to hazard.

Deadpool had been inactive for more than a decade now, too. Peter had guessed he joined an agency like SHIELD or the Avengers (since he seems to personally know Iron Man and Captain America) and, when his intel arrived a few minutes later, Peter just confirmed what he already knew: Deadpool was a high-profile SHIELD assassin.

A government dog.

“I’ll do whatever, Peter!”

But Deadpool was also willing to betray SHIELD if it meant saving him.

That knowledge keeps distracting Peter because something doesn’t add up and he can’t figure out what it is.

Deadpool is willing to betray the organization he pledged to serve just for him. Peter knows enough about SHIELD to know that they’d strap Deadpool on a gurney and make him disappear in a lab if he broke his contract and Peter didn’t need anyone to tell him that Deadpool’s healing factor, his skin, his insanity, wasn’t natural.

Shouldn't he be more afraid of that?

Peter is. 

“I’ll do whatever!”

He doesn’t know what he’s feeling half the time, but whenever he thinks about that he feels a startling swell of selfish, dark, delight at the thought. Because Deadpool is an asset he can exploit if push comes to shove; Deadpool can do what he fears, make him feel something other than rage and numbness; Deadpool is possibly the closest thing to an ally he has at the moment.

But Peter’s fixation might also have to do with the fact that Deadpool won’t leave him alone.

Peter has no idea how he’s doing it—he covers his tracks, he tosses all traceable gadgets after his mission, it’s all by the book when it comes to disappearing—but Peter guesses Deadpool is tracking him through his employers and old connections, whether they knew it or not. And Peter can cover his tracks all he wants but if Deadpool knows where he’s heading next, he’ll meet him there, and Peter can’t stop taking jobs because then—then everything comes back and the silence reminds him of electricity and ice water and it’s just a bad time all around and Peter isn’t about that life anymore.

And, well…

Peter might also have a fascination with Deadpool, too, so he might be letting himself be caught.

Peter knows that Deadpool knows he’s letting himself be caught in the first place which places them both in an awkward position, all things considered.

He’s glad Deadpool hasn’t mentioned it.

Peter doesn’t know if pre-HYDRA Peter was fixated with the merc, too. If he was, then this would just be bleed-over, because Peter has definitely developed something dark and twisting for Deadpool and it began with that explosion that saved Peter from HYDRA. He doesn’t know what it means, just that whenever Deadpool meets him up on a job and inevitably ends up helping him with it despite how illegal or unheroic it may be, Peter watches Deadpool fight with an intensity that he thought HYDRA tortured out of him. The subjects that fought with Peter during HYDRA trials and training regiments were nothing compared to Deadpool.

They paled in comparison.

Deadpool was the perfect soldier.

Or could be when he wasn’t distracted or underestimating his enemies or cracking jokes (talking, really, he talked so much), but Peter decides that when one can’t die, most of everything can be underestimat—

No,” Peter sneers, crushing the grenade ring in his palm. “Dammit.”

Just how messed up am I? Deadpool’s so interesting to me because he’d make a perfect HYDRA agent, Peter squeezes his eyes shut. Maybe that’s the missing piece. It’s nothing complicated: Peter’s just unstable. He’s making things up in his head again. Maybe Peter’s just HYDRA scum. God, why is he like this? Why does he have to always, always, try to get to the root of the problem like this when he knows nothing good has ever come from it? He hasn’t improved at all, has he? Unstable, barely operational. He’s just as his First Commander made him to be: efficient, calculating, obedient, but disappointing. He’s still an experiment, all he’s good for is—

Peter stands, toppling his chair, and storms to the bathroom, door slamming into the wall. The knob breaks, caving into the tile, and Peter crushes the sink edges in his hands when he grips them. He places a tremulous hand on the mirror and it shatters under his fingertips, spider webbing out until his face is fractured in the reflection. “I am Peter Parker,” he shouts, throat thick. “I’m 31 years old. I-I am Peter Parker,” he pleads, and the mirror cracks a little more. “I am Peter Parker!”

He doesn’t know how long he stays in the bathroom muttering that phrase, but when he’s aware of his surroundings again, his phone is ringing shrilly in the living room.

Peter mechanically moves away after the fourth ring. He picks up the phone, answers, “Yes?” and listens as the smooth voice on the other end says, “The money will be handed to you tomorrow. 3pm."

His new employer rattles off an address and Peter’s staring at a dry spot of blood on the hardwood flooring. “I’ll be there,” Peter ends softly and drops down to his filthy futon at the dial tone, rubbing his face and heaving a great sigh.

He’s so tired.

“I’ll do whatever, Peter!”

He squeezes his burning eyes shut, gripping his head.  

“Peter!”

God, he wishes he could sleep.

Chapter Text

v.

As predicated, Deadpool follows him on another job.

And fucked it up somehow.

Again, predictably.

What did you do?!” Peter snarls, lifting Deadpool by the straps on his suit as the building begins to collapse over them.

“Uhh, one of my bombs may have gone off by itself?” Deadpool offers, raising a finger. “Or someone set it off. Usually someone sets it off because people can’t keep their hands to themselves! Kind of like me, but with worse timing. Or exactly like me.”

“You—why did you set bombs in the building in the first place, you idiot? How did you know I’d even be here?” Peter shoves him away, looking towards his hit as he runs. He’s a big man with a bald head, dressed down in a suit, encompasses—

“—the mob stereotype a little too well, huh? Jeez, these guys have no originality! What’s happened to villains nowadays? I am so disappointed,” Deadpool sighs forlornly. Peter stares at him because he took the words right out of his mouth. Deadpool does that a lot, Peter notices. They’re a lot more alike than he likes to admit.

“You didn’t answer my question.”

Every hit job needs explosives, Spidey, it’s practically written in the handbook! I’m just helping your rep out here, okay? Really, you should be thanking me. Profusely. Maybe with flowers, but not gardenias, I’m allergic.”

Peter slits his eyes. “Try again, dumbass.”

“Uhm. I mean, security?” Deadpool squeaks, hopefully.

Securi—?! How the hell are setting bombs off security?”

“When they manage to kill most of the NPC’s?”

“Wrong again. Only one person deserves to die,” Peter hisses, holding up a clawed finger. Deadpool cocks his head at Peter curiously. “No one else, if I can help it. I’m here for Klaus because he has to pay for what he’s done. Everyone else doesn’t matter unless they get in my way.” Peter jumps up the wall to crawl his way over to where he last saw the mobster. Deadpool follows right behind him, whining under his breath to his boxes about being nervous around him because he’s so attractive and cool and collected and hot but scary—Peter shakes all that off. He doesn’t need Deadpool’s ramblings distracting him. He may be an excellent combatant and assassin, but he’s an absolute idiot most of the times. That wouldn’t be HYDRA material, exactly, but idiocy can easily be trained out of a subject, I mean, they did it to him

Stop it, Peter chides himself. Not now.

“Oopsies! He's getting away!” Deadpool shouts, and Peter snaps his head over to the hallway where he can hear the stomping of guards. “I got your back, you finish the job!” Deadpool shouts, flipping over the railing to land before the guards. Peter takes an unnecessary moment to admire the way Deadpool falls into a defensive stance, sliding out his katana’s and—oh, Peter suddenly can’t look away from Deadpool as he slaughters the wall of guards with such finesse and skill that Peter just knows it must have taken Deadpool years to master. It’s so perfect, he wants to watch forever

Tearing his eyes from Deadpool’s form before he does something embarrassing, like take notes, Peter dodges a slew of bullets and systematically makes his way past the guards that are surrounding his hit. They’re overwhelmed, panicked, pure muscle, all orders. Easy. Peter doesn’t stop even when he’s shot in the arm. He’s taken worse. He twists that guards arm back, bone cracking and exposing, and then snaps his head.

He doesn’t need to touch his mark to kill him.

At least that part of his plan is still in-tact.

The assassin who just rounded the corner, staring at the chaos, realizes this too late—another thing that’s gone according to plan, despite Deadpool’s explosives. 

A web attaches itself to the mark’s neck and, with one sharp pull, Peter drags his body down to the ground. Another web and Peter watches as the mark, in his haste to stand, entangle himself in his webbing. Peter sharply pulls his arms in and the man chokes, grasping at the threads.

“Scum,” Peter snarls low and, with a violent snap of his arms, the mark’s head cuts clean off just as the second knife embeds itself in Peter’s shoulder.

Necessary sacrifice, in Peter’s eyes.

Peter backflips out of the hall, ripping the knife out of himself and killing a guard with it when he throws it back.

He has about 5 seconds before the stunned guards take action, 3 before the assassin catches up with him and he’s in actual trouble.

“G-GET ‘EM! HE KILLED THE BOSS!” someone shouts, furiously.

Peter lands in the hall where Deadpool’s shaking off blood from his swords.

“Try to keep up,” Peter grins and runs past the ex-merc, who blinks after him before looking behind him and cursing.

“Wait, don’t leave me here with the scary man! BABY!” Deadpool shrieks, sprinting after him and dodging bullets and throwing knives left and right. Peter grits his teeth—plan c—and punches through a wall, making an opening for himself. He jumps out and crawls up the wall, taking out a smoke grenade and detonating it, sensing the way Deadpool reaches the edge of the opening he made for himself and nearly falls over. It’s a steep drop down to the ground, but Peter knows he can clear it. He’s more resilient than before: a ten story drop won’t do much except give him some sore knees for a few minutes. 

Peter webs Deadpool with his good hand when he peers out, ignoring the merc’s shout of alarm as he dangles in the air.

“I don’t well in high-pressured situations. Get it, high—?

“Hold on and try not to cry,” Peter says calmly, dropping down after throwing a smoke grenade into the opening. He grabs Deadpool midair in a bridal carry, ignoring his shriek of pure terror, and lands on his feet, a dent in the ground.

“Oh, my god, you did it!” Deadpool wheezes, the white of his masks eyes extremely wide as he stares up at Peter in awe. “Superhero landing!”

“I’m not a hero,” Peter bites back and breaks into a sprint, webbing to a building and swinging out of sight. He drops Deadpool on the building the instant he clears it—or, well, he tries to.

“NO!” Deadpool shouts, stubbornly, wrapping his arms around Peter’s neck and legs tightly around his midsection in a bear hug. “I’M COMING WITH YOU!”

“Deadpool, get off me!”

“YOU CAN’T MAKE ME! We could have had it all—we still can, if you’ll have me! So until you do, I’m staying. Right. HERE,” Deadpool screeches and clings tighter when Peter tries to shake him off. 

“Geroff!” Peter muffles out when Deadpool slaps a hand over his mouth. “There was still one assassin left!” Peter snaps, trying to tug the ex-merc off him. But he holds on stubbornly and Peter is at a loss. He can fight the assassin if he finds them, which his spidey-sense is saying yes he will because he’s literally a few yards away, but he doesn’t want to because his employer insisted on this staying as quiet as possible. Minimal deaths. It was bad enough Deadpool crashed his job again, but if the assassin catches hint of who worked alongside Deadpool….

“Argh!” Peter grabs Deadpool’s waist and runs along the edge of the building before running down the wall without missing a beat, ignoring Deadpool’s breathy, “Whoa, that was so cool!” to leap onto the other building and run alongside that wall as well. He reaches into his pouch and plucks the pins off a few grenades. This will be loud, but it’ll buy him the time he needs. Peter can hear the assassin gain on them and he drops the grenades discreetly into a pile of boxes when he slides close to the ground, moving to an open space in between two buildings as he counts down in his head. “Hold on,” Peter demands and reaches behind him to pull off his rifle. He stops and fires relentlessly as Deadpool clings to his torso comically, watching the assassin dodge every single attempt and leap back to avoid more.

That had been his intention.

Peter dodges out of there with a sharp flip, holding Deadpool close to him and—

“When did you drop a grenade?!” Deadpool gasps as explosions wrack nearby buildings.

“When I thought of my cover story,” Peter states, not stopping for anything and heading straight for his safe-house. He can’t web himself there with Deadpool clinging to him since it’d attract too much attention, but sticking to surfaces and taking backways is just as easy. He’ll take care of Deadpool when he gets to safety—somehow.

Maybe kill him again.

“Cover story?! How the hell is dropping a grenade a good cover for anything?! Actually, don’t answer that. I can see how it can be. Explosions fix everything.

“It is when it’s your grenade,” Peter answers simply and smirks when Deadpool gapes at him.

“Now that’s just mean!” He accuses, but clings to him tighter. “Mean, but brilliant. I love it.”

“You can walk by yourself,” Peter hints, but Deadpool remains stubbornly put. In fact, he snuggles closer to his chest and Peter doesn’t know what to think of it. When was the last time anyone touched him without hurting him? He can’t remember, but this type of contact isn’t unwanted, necessarily. Peter just doesn’t know what to do with it quite in that moment.

He needs time to think and the thing about Deadpool is that he gives him no time for anything.

“Nah, I think I’ll just hang out here…in your strong arms and firm grip, God, you must be a hit with the ladies,” he tentatively pats one of his pecs and swallows down a squeal. “Aw, hell yes, they’re everything I’ve ever dreamed of!”

“I will kill you if you do that again.”

Worth it,” Deadpool whispers but doesn’t do it again.

It takes Peter another hour to sprint back to his safe-house, Deadpool chattering about something or the other as he does, but he goes quiet when Peter lands on a fire escape in a crouch and pulls the window open, ducking inside swiftly.

“Get. Off,” Peter grits out. Deadpool immediately scrambles off, taking in the crates of ammunition and weaponry that Peter has neatly ordered in what is supposed to be the living room. There’s a bloody futon and a handful of blankets littered around the sleeping area, which is right beside the armaments, and take-out boxes piled neatly on the kitchen counter. “Stay still and don’t touch anything,” Peter warns and goes to one of the crates, reaching in for one of his many burner phones. He dials a number and waits one, two rings before someone answers, aware that he’s being watched intently. “It’s done. There were a few complications, but any blame for causalities will fall on Deadpool. He stayed behind at the scene. I expect the remaining money to be wired in exactly ten minutes,” Peter states gravely, and after two threats, blackmail, and much negotiation, Peter receives a begrudging affirmative and promise that he’ll never be called again for a job by him.

Whatever. He paid shit anyway, Peter thinks with a scowl after he hangs up, crushing the phone in his hand and dumping it back into the crate.

“You’re hurt,” Deadpool points out, stepping closer.

Peter looks down at his shoulder, which has been bleeding sluggishly throughout their escape. No exit wound, Peter figures. Otherwise the wound would have stopped bleeding by now. He touches it and looks down at his bloody gloves.

“It’s fine. Doesn’t hurt,” Peter lies, but reaches into another crate for his medical supplies.

“I can help, I know First Aid,” Deadpool offers. “I may be able to heal from basically everything, but I still know how to patch up a wound! Sort of. I’m good at crafts, it’s basically the same thing, right?”

“I can handle it,” Peter rebuffs, reaching for some medical tape. “What I’m curious about is why you’re still here.”

“I told you. I’m not leaving you!”

“You work for SHIELD.”

“Yeah, but they don’t own this ass. I can still do whatever the fuck I want,” Deadpool snorts. “They just give me jobs to keep me busy but I can tell them to fuck off if I don’t feel like doin’ them. Because an idle Deadpool is a murder-y Deadpool and no one wants that.”

Peter hums, not believing him. “I don’t know exactly what it is you’re after, Deadpool, but if I have to kill you again to escape, I will,” Peter says and only half-means it. He hates how Deadpool knows this, too.

“I love it when you talk dirty to me.”

“I mean it. SHIELD can think what they like, but I won’t be taken in nor will I stop taking jobs.”

“Oh, yeah, no, no. I hear ya’! SHIELD can suck on a grenade for all I care! They have terrible benefits and give me zero vacation days, can you believe that? They don’t even have dental! So not to worry, my red-and-black clad arachnid, I won’t turn you into them—”

“Don’t call me that.”

“—but I am kinda’ required to tell the Avengers about you as per our agreement. I mean, not your location or anything, but ever since Stark figured out I wasn’t lying—I mean, why would I lie about you, I’ve only been trying to come to terms with our breakup for nearly a decade and act out in increasingly more concerning ways as a result of it—but that’s not important,” Deadpool laughs, too high to be real. Peter feels like it is important but he can’t really think about it when Deadpool’s talking rapidly again: “The Iron Princess has been on my ass about every single detail about you since I told ‘em! Seriously. It’s embarrassing. He’s got Spidey fever, not that I can blame him. But don’t worry, our love will remain between us,” Deadpool croons, popping a foot up.

Peter is not amused.

“One word to Stark about my location and you’re dead for at least three days,” Peter threatens and this time Deadpool knows it isn’t halfhearted. He salutes him mockingly but doesn’t come any closer, whistling at his weapons supply instead, commenting on some gun or RPG or ammunition while Peter pulls down the top layers of his suit and works on patching up his shoulder by himself.

It’s…nice, to not have to deal with the stagnant silence.

Not ideal, but nice.

Usually, he’s more keyed up after assassinations. By now, he’d already be dealing with the crushing weight of what he’d done, going over the mistakes and blood in his head. Doing HYDRA’S job for them. Because even if he screens his jobs, even if he’s very selective about his hits, he’s never liked killing and not all jobs are clear-cut. Deception and betrayal and bad intel are abundant; he knows firsthand.

But killing, whether it was the intended target or not, is never pleasant. It never truly feels justified, but it does feel like it needs to get done. Prison is not enough. Punishment is not enough. Only death is, Peter thinks with resolve. All of his hits are connected to people who have experimented on live humans, who dabble in human sex trafficking, who use people as objects and that makes Peter so, so angry and if he doesn’t do something about all this—fury, it just builds and buildsandbuildsandbuilds—

Lost in his thoughts, Peter doesn’t notice Deadpool isn’t talking anymore until he dumps disinfectant onto his wound. He looks up and finds Deadpool staring at him mutely. Peter can’t think of why unless…oh, my scars, Peter remembers as his rage subsists, dropping his gaze to his exposed torso. Right, there's an ugly myriad of fractural patterns on his skin, web-like scar tissue raised along his torso down to his hip that hadn’t healed properly. It doesn’t cover his entire body, but it covers just enough to make it hard to look at. Lichtenburg figures, some would say, except the scars are angry red and painful-looking and he doesn’t think anyone in their right mind would want to touch them.

Peter tears a gauze packet open with a sharp snap of his wrist, then looks lower at the bullet wound.

Peter grabs his combat knife and jabs the tip into the bleeding hole, digging around some, ignoring Deadpool’s sharp intake of breath, and then reaches in with his fingers to pull out the remnants of the bullet. Peter holds his breath for that, feels the chip in his tooth digging into his lip as the piece of metal hits the floor and his arm trembles, blood drizzling onto the floor.

“Why did you really follow me?” Peter asks quietly as he works.

“Got tired of looking for you every time you disappeared on me. I figured it’d be easier to keep an eye on you if I just made you take me home, sorta’ like a puppy! Or kitten, if that’s your thing,” Deadpool adds upon glimpsing his dark look. “Rodent? You can teach me to do tricks. Like find your keys.”

I didn’t take anything home with me,” Peter argues, despite himself. Deadpool makes him feel like it’s okay to speak since he does it so much himself. “You followed me home. I don’t want you here.”

“Ouch, baby, you wound me.”

“You’d heal.”

“Exactly! NEXT!” Deadpool mock-yawns. “C’mon, Spidey, I know you can do better than that.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Baby?”

“No.”

“Baby boy?

“No.”

“Baby Spidey-boy?” Deadpool giggles madly at Peter’s flat look.

Peter’s lip twitches upward while Deadpool laughs to himself. He disinfects his bullet wound again even though his healing factor will prevent any major infection from setting in and cleans off any excess blood with some wadded up gauze, wrapping his wound and taping it off. No stitches, not today at least. His healing factor is better than it had been before. Unless it was a very big wound, bullet holes stopped bleeding immediately and healed up even sooner. He stiffly pulls his suit back on and straps it all back into place.

“Are you going to tell me the truth?” Peter asks again, watching as Deadpool makes himself comfortable on the futon, stretching out his long legs. He’s resting his elbows on his knees when he grins up from where he’s sitting, not minding the blood or gun oil or grime.

“I told you, I know a thing or two about how live post-torture and trauma,” Deadpool replies, simply.

“So you intend to show me how?” Peter asks, skeptically. Whatever Deadpool was after, he seemed keen on keeping it a secret.

“Yeah! You don’t seem to be coping very well,” Deadpool waggles a finger at him. “After all, un-aliving people? You? HA! Something’s gotta’ be seriously fucked up in that pretty little head of yours if you’re resorting to this kinda’ shit. Trust me,” Deadpool claps a hand on his chest. Peter watches, uncomfortable. “You won’t ever find what you’re looking for in this business. I tried. Many times, with varying degrees of success. Didn’t know what to do with myself for years, y’know, it was an ugly way to live and I was kinda’ on the verge of anatomically destroying myself with a huge death ray when someone I really cared about told me that being a hero or a villain isn’t something you live by.”

Peter flicks his eyes over to Deadpool, who’s grinning that dumb grin at him.

“It’s a choice, y’know? Every single time, you gotta’ choose to be a hero or a villain,” Deadpool says, so excitedly. So gullibly. Whoever that person was, Peter thinks with mild disgust, Deadpool must have worshipped them. He can tell by the way Deadpool says, “And I believed him. He made me a better person, even if he thinks it was all me. It was really all him.”

“...Sounds like a load of crap. Where was this guy from, Queens?”

“HA! OH MY GOD, I can’t believe you just said that!” Deadpool cackles. “You’re gonna’ shit yourself when you think about this again in a few weeks!”

“Whatever keeps you leashed,” Peter dismisses, going over to a simple wooden table in the kitchen. 

Deadpool covers his giggles with his hands. “He’s so meta and he has no idea—no, I know that’s bad—he’ll come around, just you wait, it’ll be fun! Like doing it all over again! Do you think we can do it again?” Deadpool whispers to himself, dissociating fully for a second. “Do you really think it was real?” He asks no one in particular, suddenly unbearably distraught. “Was it?

Peter looks away and, after a moments deliberation, he pulls off his mask.

Deadpool does gasp openly now, the white of his eyes wide, dropping a magazine of ammunition and whatever he had been telling his boxes.

Peter wonders if Deadpool remembers what he looked like pre-HYDRA. Then he wonders if Spider-Man ever unmasked himself for the mercenary. But it’d make no difference whether he knew or not. If Deadpool became a threat, he’d eliminate him like anyone else who got smart with him.

But he can’t help but to wonder if he’s disappointed, if maybe the number branded on his right cheek in thin, bold lettering—8351—is as off-putting as Peter thinks it is.

He wonders if Deadpool can see it—how he’s a weapon, serial number and all.

He settles into his chair instead, grabbing the half-empty can of soda he’d left there this morning and draining it.

“Do you eat?” Peter asks, bluntly.

“Whahuh?” Deadpool says, dumbly. Then he seems to shake himself from his stupor and nods rapidly. “I mean, yeah, of course I eat! Why, do you? Wow, we have so much in common because I totally eat, I can eat anything! Everything! Once, I ate a whole platter of burritos—there were, like, twenty-five of them,” Deadpool babbles, nervously.

“There’s a Chinese place down the block that’s good,” Peter nods over to the advertisement that’s resting under Deadpool’s right boot.

“…Chinese? Snuggles, you ever have tacos? Because lemme tell ya, that’s where the money is! Mexican food is a God-given gift and everyone should have it at least once a week!” He says instead, rattling on about how he knows a really good place that delivers around these parts although it’s a little far but he’s sure they can make the commute if he promises a hefty tip, and Peter listens and listens and listens and doesn’t grow tired and the rage, the shame, the desperation, he’s able to box it up enough that he doesn’t bother to make Deadpool leave even though it’s the logical thing to do.

It’s what HYDRA Peter Parker would have done.

As Deadpool drones on and on in the background, Peter allows a very small smile to lift the corner of his lips.

Baby steps.

Chapter Text

vi.

If there’s one thing about Peter that hasn't changed, it's the way he handles his problems.

Or the way he doesn’t.  

There’s a reason Peter likes working on his own, in his own little bubble, avoiding the United States if he has to.

When he was kept hostage, Peter would sleep.

He would dream.

The dreams were horrifying.

 

“C’mon, underoos,” they laugh, ruffling his hair. There’s a swell of affection in his chest, of pride, and the man grins down at him. But the sun is in his eyes and he can’t really see who it is. “I explicitly told your dad I would not tell you that the password for unlocking your new suit from my R&D department is STEVEROGERS1940 in all caps, alright? I’m way more responsible than that.”

“Right, and I will totally be responsible and be back before nine! Like a teenager with a curfew is supposed to!”

“Atta’ boy. Go get ‘em.”

 

He doesn’t know what the dreams mean.

They’re all fractured, fickle, awful things that startle him from whatever light doze he managed to fall into and leave him sweaty with his heart-racing, fists clenched, and unbearably sad.

It’s because the dreams never feel like his own.

They feel like he’s intruding on something intimate; something he wasn’t meant to see.

 

“Peter,” she says, so sorrowfully. “Oh, my sweet boy. What happened to you?”

“Nothing, Aunt May, just tripped at school. Y’know, the stairway doesn’t look that long when you’re walking up it. Weird how that changes when you trip down it.”

“Oh, Peter. You need to be more careful,” a hand touches his chin and he flinches away, not because it hurts but because he hates lying to her. “I wouldn’t know what to do without you, don’t you know?”

 

When Peter was locked up, he would dream or remember things he doesn’t understand. Flashes of light, feeling like he doesn’t belong, prolonged periods of black. But he always remembers waking up, even if he can’t remember anything else. So, see, Peter can’t trust himself, can’t trust what HYDRA has done to him. He looks at himself in the mirror or in the small pool of water from the leaky pipe above his cot in his cell, and he doesn’t know who it is looking back—just a man, tired, dead-eyed, and with no greater depth than that which was allowed to him by an organization greater than himself.

 

“Peter, peter, pumpkin eater,” a raspy voice whispers in his ear, and a rough hand wraps around his neck, turning his head away. Peter shifts and hard, muscled, thighs press against the back of his own. The body that lies behind him is warm and solid and unmovable but only because he’s letting him—only because he wants to stay still and wait. “Had a lover, but couldn’t keep ‘em~!”

“I’ve kept you long enough, haven’t I?”

“Then who’s this blonde cunt you’ve been sniffing around?!” The same voice screeches now, whiny, and he’s cross-eyed as he focuses on a picture of—

“Felicia?” He giggles shift into delighted laughter, and he rolls his head back and grips that man’s wrist before he can pull away. “Seriously, that’s who you think I’m getting it on with? At least give me some credit. I think if I wanted to fulfill my furry fetish, I’d at least try and fit you into a cat suit.”

A sniffle, then: “Excuse you, I’d make a wonderful dog. Good at fetching, kinda’ dumb but adorable. Likes to bury his toys in the backyard and take long walks by the beach. Will lick other’s asses if prompted.”

“Don’t tempt me with a good time,” he grins, and he can almost see who it is if he turns his head just right—

 

Memories—all of them.

Out of order, dialogue all wrong, scenes all wrong. They blend into each other until he can’t figure out which one’s are real and which ones he made up. They were easier to remember in the beginning of his captivity—now he just gets warped snapshots, fucked up things that unnerve Peter.

That’s why he tries not to dream now.

He’ll drug himself before he does.

He’ll knock himself out before he does.

He’ll do anything to stop himself from dreaming.

Because the dreams horrify him—they make him unstable and he doesn’t want to prove the whispers right. He doesn’t want to stare at the ceiling with no recollection of the past however many days or gaze into the disappointed eyes of whatever doctor they assigned him that day. He doesn’t want to hear them say, “He’s not right—not right at all, we must conduct further tests, he’s not functioning at even half the rate he’s supposed to be!” and then have to endure hours and hours of agony and more whispers and more agony and more whispers, each more disappointed and frustrated than the last.

It's starting to wear on him, is what he's saying, and he's not sure if he can keep Deadpool at arm's length for much longer. 

Deadpool has been staying with him longer and longer now.

Peter won’t immediately ditch Deadpool whenever he crashes his missions, but he still can’t relax fully around the agent—not as long as Deadpool keeps looking at him like he’s found something he's lost.

He has to understand that the person he’s been looking for is gone and Peter doesn’t want him back.

“You look like shit.”

“Nice to see you’re alive,” Peter remarks without missing a beat, scrolling through something on his phone. The diner is empty so early in the morning. “And you’re late.”

“Hah! You’re just early,” Tarantula grumbles. She slides in across from him in the booth and taps sharp, bright red nails against the tabletop. “Well? We aren’t here to have a nice breakfast and talk about our feelings—where is he?”

Peter finally looks up from his phone. “Manila. Solaire resort, off the coast. He’s checked into room 619, but most likely he’ll be on the dock heading to his next pick-up location in Tanza.”

Ese hijo de mierda va morir a mi mano,” Tarantula hisses. “He deserves to die for what he has done. This shithead keeps making me look bad. I keep getting shit jobs, y’know? Below my paygrade because of what he did to me in Germany…”

Peter snorts. “He’s there with Agent X—you won’t get any further than the door before he crushes your skull against the wall.”

“I won’t—!”

“With a shotgun,” Peter adds dryly. Tarantula purses her lips. “Which is why I’ve also decided to give you this.” He reaches into his jacket for a business card and she takes it briskly, narrowing dark brown eyes at Peter’s calm face.

“And this?” She asks skeptically, Spanish accent heavy on her tongue. “What am I supposed to do with this? Do you know how many people want him alive? How do I know she won’t bail the instant that he opens his mouth and tries to buy her out?”

“I think she hates him about as much as you do. Bad blood,” Peter smirks. “She’s a friend. Marie Batroc. She’ll help you—her father knew yours when he conducted business. She’s worked alongside me a few times, too. She’s competent and even though she’ll kill anyone for the right amount of money, she’d kill this guy for two dollars and a chocolate bar. Just make sure you pay her—she can get a little…rough if she doesn’t receive her payment,” Peter wrinkles his nose. “Really, really rough.”

No quiero saber,” Tarantula mutters. “As long as she helps me kill the bastard, I don’t care. I’ll think about it.”

Pudo ser peor,” Peter shrugs, tapping a finger against his cup of coffee. “Me iba a romper mis pantalones de mis piernas and hacer me caminar todo el camino al hotel asi. Afortunadamente, nadamas me quito mi camisa.”

She bursts out laughing, a melodious sound that has heads turning. “That sounds like my type of girl. Fine. You win,” she grins, sharply. Her long, dark hair shifts down her shoulders in a cascade of waves. “There is talk of a new Spider-Man in New York—his suit bears some resemblance to the old, but I could not find any information regarding his identity. Unsurprisingly,” she shrugs. “I still can’t find information on the first Spider-Man. But this new one, he has eight legs. It seems like he takes the alias Spider-Man literally,” she tosses a folder at him and Peter slides it closer to him, flipping it open and narrowing his eyes at the images of someone who definitely has the Spidey swing down pat. But his suit is different—red and gold, heavy like metal, his lenses sprayed gold, mechanical waldoes helping him cling to the walls—and Peter doesn’t know what to do with that information.

When he asked Tarantula for information regarding new recruits for the Avengers, he didn’t expect this. Mostly, he just wanted to collect more information because something still wasn’t adding up and dozing now is making him dream odd things like when he was captive in HYDRA. He usually dreams of the day he was kidnapped, but lately these dreams have gotten worse and people he didn't even know he knew are appearing in them. 

“I say he came from another Earth.”

Peter looks up sharply. "Explain."

“I know enough of suddenly appearing superheroes to know when one is not from here,” she says, bitterly. Peter doesn’t ask. “Cable used to…talk about that,” she pauses. “About traveling to different timelines, different realities. He spends his life in them, never keeping to one,” she glances down at the tabletop distantly. Peter definitely doesn’t ask. “Of course, other than Cable, I would not know another person who could even be in control of such a temporal machine like the one he has.”

“Dimension hopping?” Peter snorts. “It isn’t that hard once you get the science down. And money.”

“Oh, sure, this coming from the guy who nearly had a meltdown when we infiltrated a lab in Sweden.”

“I thought I forgot my favorite Glock, can you blame me?”

Tarantula cocks a brow. “I can’t tell if you’re joking or not.”

“You implied that this has happened before?” Peter moves on, ignoring her when she rolls her eyes. Dr. Richards has been busy, Peter thinks with a slight frown. But there is no way he can travel to New York to confirm that. He’ll need more leads, more intel. He’ll need to take on more jobs, too, to pay for it all. Being a bad guy sure was expensive, Peter thinks wryly.

“It would not be the first time something like this has happened,” Tarantula snorts. “How many times have I told Cable not to go and he goes? With that red-and-black suited pendejo, too!”

“…Deadpool?”

“That piece of miserable shit follows Cable around like some dog—or he did, before he ditched him for a succubus, I think. Shiklah or something.”

He doesn’t know how to feel about that except he, too, thinks Deadpool is a miserable piece of shit and he’ll make sure to blow him up into mini-chunks of Deadpool when he sees him again because he’s never mentioned anyone named Shiklah and Deadpool talks. A lot.

 “…Right. So this new Spider-Man, is that all you know about him? How long has he been here?  What does he want?”

“Not long. Few months at most,” she shrugs, prodding his coffee cup with a sharp, red nail. “Not much else is known. I checked. We’re all as baffled as you are, but he doesn’t seem to be actively being a hero like the old one so no one really knows what to do about him. Whatever the hell he is here for, it’s something else. That's why I think he's not from here at all and, well,” she smiles knowingly, "I may have done my own digging, too."

Peter stares at the menacing figure this new Spider-Man poses, hunched with sharp limbs curled around him protectively. His suit is impeccable, his gold-lensed stare burning the longer Peter looks at the picture.

He blinks, “Aaand, it’s gone. Good,” he stands up, smiling his unnervingly perfect smile at Tarantula, who’s brow raises at his odd statement. “Well, you know how to reach me if you fuck up. Don’t call me if you have to, and don’t die.”

She huffs. “The same can be said for you—Oh, y Ben?” She calls before he leaves. His middle name always left a nasty taste in his mouth, but he’d rather keep his given name private. As far as she knows, he's just another mercenary trying to make a name for himself. It also helps that the spider-theme wasn't as original as he'd first thought. “No dejes que te casen.”

"Wouldn't dream of it." 

It’d take a lot more than a Spider-Man from another Earth to hunt him down.

Peter will make sure of it.

But, first

“Who the hell is Shiklah?” Peter demands two hours later, grinding his foot into Deadpool’s head as another sniper falls off the ledge. Peter unclips another magazine from his belt and discards the old one, reloading as Deadpool garbles something into the dirt. “What was that? I couldn’t hear you.” He grinds his foot harder.

Deadpool flails an arm and Peter decides to let up.

He gasps in an exaggerated breath and holds out a sheepish hand. “Um. A friend?”

Peter raises his rifle and shoots another sniper down. “Try again,” Peter says, glaring down at Deadpool. “I won’t ask you again, so try not to lie this time, Deadpool.”

Deadpool lets out a nervous laugh. When Peter looks down again darkly, Deadpool blurts out: “Okay! Fine, you win! She’s an ex-girlfriend! But, listen, life’s hard when the love of your life gets kidnapped and tortured for eight years and you can’t find him no matter how many people you pay off or kill.

Peter doesn’t say anything.

He just pulls an RPG off his back and blows up the whole left side of a building with cold fury.

"Ruh-roh," Deadpool whispers, terrified but also turned on. So, like, normal. 

“So shacking up with a sex demon is your idea of dealing with it, huh? Tragic,” Peter squints into the scope. “Really. Absolutely gutting. I’m practically crying with sympathy.”

“You don’t sound very sympathetic. In fact, you kinda’ sound like she did when I dun fucked something up,” Deadpool gulps, choking when Peter shifts his foot and crushes his throat. “Like, murder-y mad,” he wheezes out anyway, wrapping loose fingers around Peter’s ankle but not pushing him off. Peter presses harder. Deadpool keeps his foot in place, almost like he likes it. Interesting. “Like you’re seconds away from gutting me mad.”

“Smartened up in the last few weeks, haven’t you?” Peter remarks. “Good. I don’t have to explain myself then. Saves me time. How did it happen?”

“We, uh, met on one of my missions a few years back,” Deadpool waves a hand around as the face of the building crumbles even more. “We dated on and off for a few years because she kept cheating on me. But let’s be honest, we kept fighting because I’m off my meds and I kept hunting down HYDRA agents and leaving her alone too long,” Deadpool giggles. “She didn’t liiiike thaaat,” and gurgles when Peter grinds his foot down harder.

“Don’t get distracted,” Peter says, his soft tone at odds with the way he's stepping on Deadpool. “Keep talking.”

“Yes, Daddy. I mean. What.”

Peter digs the ball of his foot into Deadpool's chest. 

“Shiklah was a distraction!” Deadpool hurriedly explains. “She was easy. I was easy. We were both hurtin’, alright, she had shit with her dad wanting to marry her off to some Dracula-looking motherfucker and I was…not okay. But dating is different for her, succubus princess and all, but still. Could it have killed her to be faithful? Probably. Honestly, I stuck around as long as I did because killing her side hoes was kinda’ therapeutic in that Jason Bateman kinda’ way and they kept coming like they had a death wish or something. Maybe they did.” Deadpool gasps suddenly. “Was I being played that entire time?!”

Peter blows up the right side of the building, weakening the infrastructure even more.

“You’re not going to see her again,” Peter decides after a moment, tone final. Deadpool stares, the white of his eyes wide. Spandex is really unfortunate sometimes, Peter thinks briefly, because it doesn’t hide anything. Not that Deadpool had ever been subtle. “Ever. If you do…” He reloads the RPG as if he isn’t crushing Deadpool into the dirt, as if he hadn’t crashed his job on purpose, as if he isn’t pissed that Shiklah meant something to Deadpool and Peter's still trying to grapple with feelings of jealousy and want. “Getting gutted is going to be the last of your concerns. There are worse ways to hurt a person, y’know?” Peter taps his finger against the trigger. “I think you do.”

“Boy do I,” Deadpool sniggers, squeezing his ankle. “I still regret nothing.”

“You do have a choice,” Peter says abruptly. Deadpool blinks up at him. “But I’m not going to give you time to think about it. You need to decide now,” he looks down, RPG limp in his hand. “Whether you want to stay with me or not.”

“Of course I wanna’ stay with you, what do you think I’ve been doin’ this entire time?!” Deadpool exclaims, flailing his arms out exasperatedly. “If I didn’t wanna’ stay I wouldn’t have stalked you all over the world for the past decade! I have a wall, y’know? That’s how serious I am about it! A wall, Peter! With red string and photographs and shit!”

“I’m not the same person you knew,” Peter warns. “I’m different, Wade. The person you’ve been looking for is dead. That wall of yours doesn’t matter anymore. Can you let it go? You need to promise me you can and if you lie,” he shoots a guard in the head when he comes running out. The other two that were running behind him brake to a stop, sloppily ducking behind pillars. Peter ignores them. 

“You—!”

“He’s dead,” Peter harshly shouts, tearing off his mask. Deadpool shuts his mouth with a click, staring up at him like he’s something else, and Peter doesn’t allow himself to revel in it quite yet. He has to get it, Peter thinks obsessively. He needs to understand. He has to. He has to. “I killed him. Do you understand?”

He doesn’t know why it’s so important for Deadpool to understand that. But it is—it just is. All this time Peter has spent with Deadpool lately, he’s felt uncomfortable and anxious and angry, and it’s because of this. Because Deadpool has to understand why he did it, why Peter killed his Peter while he was held captive by HYDRA. He has to or else all of this won’t matter. Nothing will, and Deadpool will have to leave and Peter isn’t stable enough right now to let him so he has to get it. For both their sakes.

 “…Okay,” Deadpool says after a long moment, quietly. He doesn’t look away. Neither does Peter. “Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yes, please. I want to stay with you. Please.”

Peter removes his foot after a second, letting out a shaky breath. “Good. Get out of my sight,” he orders, turning back to his scope. “Daddy needs to express some rage right now.” He blows up the lower side of the building, setting a hand on his hip as he watches the whole building crumble, knocking down two more buildings in the process. Deadpool will still need to dig his way into the wreckage to pull out some nasty second-rate villains from their panic room but watching the whole building blow up like that was satisfying anyway. 

Sometimes, Deadpool's right: explosives really do make everything better. 

Behind him, Deadpool whispers with barely concealed excitement, “He just did that. Oh my god, he just did THAT.”

“When I turn around, you better be gone, Deadpool,” Peter drawls, pulling his mask back on. He hooks his RPG back onto his back, ignoring the red dots that litter his body suddenly. “I’ll see you when I want to.”

He doesn’t need to turn around to know Deadpool has already teleported into the wreckage.

The suddenly disappearing red dots speak for themselves. 

Deadpool will find him again, one way or another.

He always does.

Chapter Text

vii.

Peter’s a bad liar.

He’s always been a bad liar, which is why he’s sure Deadpool doesn’t buy the whole we’re just casually seeing each other shtick Peter brings up whenever Deadpool’s touches become too gentle. He's needed him since he first dropped into his life; Peter knows that, but it's easier to deny it sometimes. It also helps that Deadpool’s happy to keep up the charade if it’s what it takes to be with him. He’s told Peter that many times in his own way—be it by letting Peter order him around or by dropping to his knees and choking on his cock.

It fascinates and saddens Peter. Deadpool is so desperate. He bends his will to Peter so easily, so eagerly, that Peter can’t help but to taunt him with it sometimes out of morbid curiosity. Deadpool knows Peter might bolt at any moment—he’ll openly admit it and then go along with Peter’s ideas anyway—and it fascinates Peter just how willing and pliant Deadpool could be for him since he decided to stay with him. But it also makes him sad because who has hurt Deadpool so bad that he'd do anything to stay with someone like Peter?

Maybe that’s why Peter hasn’t bolted.

After all, Peter hasn’t been in control for a long, long time.

“That’s a big gun you have there, Wade,” Peter smiles his model smile a few weeks later, crossing his arms as Deadpool snaps his head to the side and squeals out his name. This time it’s a coincidence that they meet up during a job. Peter knew Deadpool had taken a job in the same city where he needed to pick up some documents but he didn’t think they’d be so close. So Peter didn’t find any harm in dropping by for a short while. “Why don’t you put it against your head and pull the trigger for me?”

“Why don’t you help me?” Deadpool waggles his brows.

“Don’t tempt me with a good time,” Peter banters back, a grin pulling at his lips.

“Babe, every time is a good time when you’re with me,” Deadpool guffaws and reloads when he hears footsteps coming down the stretch of hall.

“Y’know, you say that a lot,” Peter says, finally moving. He draws closer and watches curiously as Deadpool stiffens and returns the look intently, not paying attention to the sniper that is setting up in the fourth floor of the building they’re in front of. “How happy you can make me,” he leans in, pressing his hand against the gun. Deadpool lets him. “How impressive you are,” he smiles sharply, lowering the gun. Deadpool doesn’t stop him, his free hand resting against Peter’s ribs like he doesn’t know what to do with himself. “But when it comes down to it, can you keep your word, Wade? Can you promise me that you’ll always be a good for me and never disappoint me?”

“W-well, I can’t promise not to disappoint ya’, baby boy, I mean, I am me and that’s kinda’ my thing and all—c-copyrighted,” Deadpool’s voice cracks. “You should see my movie—disappointing career-choice and bad life choices all around, but I still manage get the girl in the end. Sort of. My sequel hasn’t come out yet.”

“No, I don’t mean disappoint like that,” Peter says gently, reaching up to stroke Deadpool’s masked cheek. He leans into it immediately, a soft noise coming from his throat. He’s so giving, Peter marvels, never looking away from Deadpool’s mask. “I mean…do you think you can stand to be on your knees for four hours if I promise not to fuck you too hard?”

Deadpool chokes on his spit and Peter moves away when the sniper takes his shot.

“OW! FUCK! Fuck, fuck, goddammit, you’re so dead when I get up there!” Deadpool snarls at the sniper, jumping up and down and holding his bleeding shoulder. “Oww, that hurt! He shattered my joint!” Deadpool whines. Peter frowns. He’d been so sure Deadpool would dodge that, maybe he shouldn’t have teased him so bad. “Daddy, he hurt me! Kiss it better?” Deadpool grins suggestively at him. His shoulder bleeds profusely for a few more moments before the skin knits back together.

“You’re incorrigible,” Peter snorts, but does him one better. He takes his own rifle off his back and only breathes for a second before he gets a clear shot and the sniper goes down without a cry. “There. He won’t hurt you now, you infant.”

“Stop, you’re ruining my daddy kink!” Deadpool whines. “It’s only sexy when it’s role-play and we consent to the roles by talking about it, but not when it’s real-life! Then it’s a felony.”

“First of all, I never agreed to anything. Also, they don’t look too happy to see you,” Peter points to the brigade of guards that are heading their way. “So that’s my cue to go. I have to go pick up some documents, so I’ll see you when I see you. Try not to die too many times this time—it’s murder trying to get you anywhere when you smell like a corpse.”

“Hey, Petey?”

“Hm?”

Deadpool looks at him hopefully, a genuine sincerity that shocks Peter frozen. “I’d get on my knees for days if that’s what it took.”

It takes him a few moments to respond, to remember that this shouldn’t mean so much to him, except it does and Peter can’t help it.

“Such a good boy,” Peter murmurs, but isn’t surprised when Deadpool comes back with:

“There we go! Now it’s sexy!”

 

It goes on like this for a long time—and Peter is tired of pretending it doesn’t mean anything to him. He isn’t very good at lying when it comes down to it. He can’t even blame it on HYDRA; Peter thinks he’s always been a bad liar.

The familiarity, the yearning, the confusing rush of anguish and euphoria that overwhelmed him whenever he spent too much with Wade, when he sought him out to spend more time with him because being alone hurt after he realized how he could feel like being with a person.

It all means something, but there’s still a missing piece, and that’s why Peter hasn’t reached out completely to Wade. Peter wasn’t working with all the puzzle pieces to begin with; he couldn’t parse out any meaning to his absent memories, to the emptiness that would take residence in his gut and heart and mind when he was alone for too long now, how sometimes he’d turn to face Wade with something like ‘don’t put your feet on the coffee table, Wade!’ on the tip of his tongue and no context to fall back on, just a faint nostalgia that fades away if he thinks too hard on it.

It was confusing and jarring and no amount of research would yield any results—anything that would help him figure out what this missing piece in himself was.

Nothing, except Deadpool.

Deadpool made him feel whole—Deadpool, Deadpool, Deadpool.

It would have to do, for now.

 

In fact, Peter wouldn’t figure it out for a long time.

He’d only be slightly bitter to realize that the truth was—unironically—in himself all along.

 

I let him stay, Peter thinks six weeks before this reveal; before he realizes who and what he is.

But today is important, too. Because it’s on this day that Peter lets Deadpool in more than he has ever let anyone in since he escaped from HYDRA. But the pieces begin to assemble for him here, at this very moment.

The day he let Deadpool witness one of his panic attacks.

 HYDRA wouldn’t have allowed me to let him stay this long, it’d be irresponsible. It’d be too risky—there’s too many variables and Deadpool is unpredictable at best, Peter thinks as he grips the sink tightly in his hands. It cracks in his hands, and Peter shuts his eyes.

He has gotten too familiar with Deadpool—with this game.  

Deadpool’s become more than a distraction: he’s become a liability to him.

HYDRA conditions attachments out of their recruits for this very reason—because they do not belong in battles or wars. Attachment leads to mistakes and mistakes are not tolerated in HYDRA.

Peter had fallen into an uneasy rest when Deadpool forced himself into his life yet again: had allowed Deadpool to snore loudly in the kitchen chair across from him, one of his handguns held loosely in his hand. He’d been cleaning one of his guns while Peter conducted research for his next job on his laptop—normal, except for the fact that Peter had never let Deadpool into his home before, even when their game became heated and wanting.

Deadpool had fallen asleep first.

Peter had closed his eyes after another few hours and did get some rest although every shift, hitch in breath, or muscle twitch had Peter awake and ready to act in a flash.

Then he became used to Deadpool, to the way he filled the room with…noise.

“Heeeey, bug-a-boo! Do you like pancakes? Because I love pancakes. And Fruit Loops—they’re grrreat! Wait. I like Frosted Flakes, too—shit, no—we can’t have both, that’s too much power in one household!”

It was nice.

“Peter—Peter? Peter! Peter, Peter, PETERPETERPETERPETER—OW! Ok, owww, I deserved that, but did you have’ta use the AK-47?! Ughhhh, this is gonna’ take forever to wash out! Good thing my suit is red! HA!”

It was so very nice to have someone there, to not be so alone.

Peter doesn’t remember a time when he hasn’t been alone.

And so, after a week or so of tentative co-habitation, Peter rested more soundly but was no less alert—always keeping space between them, always with at least three weapons in arms reach. At least Deadpool gave him that—space—and didn’t rouse him awake by touching him. He always shouted his name from another room so Peter didn’t reflexively shoot him like he did the first time he woke him up. Either that, or Deadpool created such a ruckus that Peter woke up by himself and shot him anyway for being so fucking loud.

At least Deadpool dodged.

Sometimes.

Deadpool’s presence tempered his paranoia, too, because he’d taken to calling him by his name instead of Spidey—Petey, Peter, Peter-Meter, Pete, my man—or whatever variation Deadpool came up with, and it kept him grounded. Even his stupider nicknames like Snuggles or snookums or honey bunches helped with his identity crisis.

He was Peter Parker and someone else also believed he was Peter Parker so it was fine, he was fine, he was not in HYDRA anymore. He was in Ohio now, readying to skip over to Michigan for another job—only reconnaissance and no killing.

Then today had happened.

Six weeks and he’d been so good. Things had been good.

Six weeks and he’d actually fallen asleep last night—deep sleep, not the imitation he put up as Deadpool snored away wherever he dropped. Not half-asleep, not resting his eyes.

Actual sleep.

And he dreamed of ice and hurt and now he was here, in the bathroom, having an episode when he needed to be preparing for a job.

God, he was such a mess.

“No, no,” Peter mutters to himself, shutting his eyes. His chest heaves. “I’m Peter Parker. I’m Peter Parker,” he repeats, a low murmur that gradually increases in volume. His eyes dart to his hands, trying so hard not to shake, and when he dares to flick his eyes up to the mirror, they lock on the tattoo on his cheek—8351, ready to comply—and no, he isn’t a weapon anymore, but isn’t he? He’s always being used. The difference lies in the fact that he gets paid for it now. He gets paid to kill and thieve and con and interrogate—that’s not something Peter Parker did. But if he’s not Peter Parker then who is hewho is he now, what does he call himself?

He has nothing else.

He’s Peter Parker or he’s 8351 but Peter Parker didn’t kill and 8351 has never been this irresponsible, and—so who was he?

Being in HYDRA had been so easy—Sir, should I go bring in the recruits for evaluation?—no, but, no. No, Peter shuts his eyes, he can’t think like that. He needs to stop, recalibrate.  No more recruits. He creates his own schedule. He has his own jobs.

Right. He has a job he needs to get ready for. He’s in Ohio—he’s heading to Michigan, he needs to prepare.

HYDRA can’t control that, too, they can’t—

Can they?

Haven’t they?

Peter stifles a whimper, clenches his teeth tight and feels every muscle in his body coil up in anticipation for a fight. His senses flare out again—lungs heave, then lock, then shudder and heave again—his heart beats so loudly in his chest, his knee and sides aching in phantom pains—and he’d abandoned HYDRA, there’s consequences for that, Peter thinks manically. He should have never left. He exists because previous weapons failed. HYDRA doesn’t train failures. They’d put him in the Tank when he returned, he knows it, he’d be in the Tank for days if he took any longer than he already has, but—

He needs a plan.

He’s good at planning—he’s trained to plan.

He can do that.

“Peter? You’re taking a long time in there unless you’re taking a painful shit, in which case, proceed,” Deadpool’s voice comes from behind the door. “But maybe you wanna’ shit faster because I’ve got some great pancakes you gotta’ try! I bought new batter, not that watery shit from 7/11, you gotta’ try ‘em! I even added fruit this time since you actually like papaya! It smells like ass, but someone has to eat it. Hah. Get it. Eat it?”

Deadpool. He has an objective now, good. If he brings him back, they would be more forgiving. They need his healing factor, from what he remembers. To make him better. 8351 needs to be improved. It’s falling behind—upgrades are needed. No, not 8351, Peter. Peter needs more training. If he brings Deadpool in perhaps he could lie but—no, his First Commander would know. He’d strap him into the chair and hurt him until he fessed up, all blood-weak and broken. Then he’d get thrown in the Tank. It’d be days of this and Peter can’t go days under that type of stress right now, he’d confess, but then he’d—it—he?

“Peter?”

“That’s—that’s not my—,” Peter says haltingly and then the door knob turns. “Don’t come in here! Don’t open that door!”

“Are you alright? You don’t…you don’t sound so good, baby boy?”

“I’ll kill you if you come in, don’t open that door—DON’T!” Peter snarls, and the sink breaks off completely in his hands, water spurting out and pooling at his feet. Not according to plan, Peter thinks hysterically. “Argh—shit,” he punches the wall in a rage and his fist goes through and he curses again. He’s just—god, he’s such a fucking mess, why can’t he just be okay, why can’t he just function like he has to—Peter Parker wasn’t such a mess—“Yes, he was. He was a mess. I’m PETER PARKER!” Peter roars, punching another wall repeatedly until his heart stops feeling like it’s going to be crushed under his lungs.

He doesn’t know how long it takes, how long the manic thoughts and rage and hurt and fear go on, but when he finally settles and doesn’t feel like finding the next HYDRA facility, the bathroom is flooded enough that he’d need to call in a plumber to fix it. He’ll just abandon this apartment and leave some money for the landlord. Peter reaches over mechanically and bends the pipe enough to stem the flow. Then he sits with his back against the wall, in a puddle of water with pink spots of blood running through it and takes the first breath of air that doesn’t feel like he’s spiraling out of control.

It’s quiet for a long time. Then:

“…I made pancakes.”

Peter opens his eyes at that. He looks at the door and finds a shadow blocking the light from underneath the threshold. Someone’s sitting there.

Peter wonders how long Deadpool has been sitting there, how much he heard.

Peter doesn’t care.

He’s just tired.

“They’re strawberry and chocolate,” Deadpool continues, as if he hadn’t just heard Peter losing his shit inside the bathroom for the past however-many hours. “I put in extra chocolate chips so they may be more chocolate than strawberry, but who doesn’t like chocolate, right, Peter? I love chocolate. Not as much as Mexican food but it’s a close-second. Also, can we order tacos tonight? I feel like this is a tacos kinda’ night, you can even order a burrito if you really want—!”

“What time is it?” Peter rasps, lips barely moving.

Deadpool hears him anyway. “Noon.”

Shit. Shit, shit. How could he have lost nearly five hours? What the fuck, what the—

“I haven’t lost this many hours in a long time,” Peter abruptly says and doesn’t know why. The words are building in his throat and he’s having trouble swallowing them down. He’s tired, he’s so tired, his muscles are all sore and his back hurts and he just wants to sleep it all away but sleep is what brought him here in the first place.

“What happened?” Deadpool asks, gently. He doesn’t interrupt, even when Peter doesn’t speak for a whole minute.

“…I slept,” Peter tells him, voice hoarse. “I don’t—sleep, anymore, but last night I slept. If I sleep, I remember. If I remember,” Peter unglues his tongue from the roof of his mouth. “I want to go back. Sometimes I wake up and I’m—near a HYDRA facility. I know where they all are. All this information,” Peter mumbles, despondently. “It’s all…in my head. Somehow. I don’t know. I just know when I’m—not Peter. It’s black then, when I’m not…him.

Deadpool doesn’t say anything and it encourages Peter to keep going because he’s so tired of shutting it all up inside. Letting HYDRA win all the time—no friends, no teammates, no personal connections—maybe Peter wants friends, teammates, personal connections.

Maybe he’s tired of the games, of the chessboard and strategies.

Maybe he wants it all back—the connections, the laughter—but he doesn’t know how to get it back and every time he tries, he fucks up.

“I was thinking about killing you and bringing you back,” Peter admits. If he and Deadpool were friends before, Peter doesn’t think they’re friends anymore. Friends don’t think about abducting friends for their own personal benefit. Then again, friends don’t web friends to walls and make them cum so hard with the barrel of a gun grinding on their cock that they go mute for a whole minute. He doesn’t know what they are, but Peter knows what he thought today was not okay and he feels…suffocated by that, by that thought. He feels guilty. “They want to study you because of your healing factor—so they could recreate it using me.”

“They experimented on you?”

 “…Yes. I don’t—I don’t know what I can really do anymore. I figure out new things during jobs.”

“But your healing factor hasn’t been altered?”

“It has, but not to your capacity,” Peter answers because he just wants someone else to take the reins for a while. He’s so tired; he just wants to rest, even if it’s for a moment. “I believe that… if I brought you back, I wouldn’t go in the Tank too long. Maybe two weeks, maybe only a month. I can handle a month. I can handle two. I deserve it. But my First Commander would know that I’m lying to him and he’d make sure I was there longer.”

“Who’s your First Commander?”

“He’s the only one who knows how to use me right. He performs maintenance on me when I need it and oversees all of my functions within HYDRA,” Peter speaks, nodding to himself. “He’d know I was lying. He’d know I ran away because I…”

Maybe he’s quiet too long because Deadpool asks, so unbearably forgiving and soft, it makes Peter feel slimy, “You thought what, Peter?”

He’s quite for a little while longer.

“I…thought I was…more,” Peter whispers anxiously, staring down at his lap. But he doesn’t really know how to stop thinking like he’s a thing. He’s so used to punishment when he tries, so used to just privately thinking that he could go back to how he was if he escaped. But now that he’s escaped, it turns out he’s all talk. He can’t do this. He’s such a mess. He broke the sink clean off, he can’t even stand to look at himself in the mirror most days because all he can think when he sees those four digits seared onto his skin is how much of a—he has trouble not following schedules, not following plans. Some days he’ll sit and let a whole day pass with him staring at a wall, numb, blank, and then other days he’ll do so much he’ll exhaust himself. The only days he truly feels free of HYDRA is when Deadpool is here because Deadpool—Deadpool is unpredictable.

Deadpool helps him remember who he can be.

Deadpool touches him and Peter feels and it doesn’t hurt.

“You are Peter Parker. I’m coming in,” Deadpool cuts through his depressive thoughts and the door creaks open slowly. Peter doesn’t move when it hits his knee, doesn’t look up from his lap. Deadpool pulls himself into the bathroom and sits alongside him. Peter tenses when Deadpool willingly touches him and his muscles go rock hard when Deadpool closes the door so he’s trapped in the room with him. “You are more, you’re right. You’re not a weapon or something that’s owned, Peter, you’re your own person and you can do whatever the hell you want with that and that’s scary. I know it’s scary. But that’s your right as a person, to do whatever the hell you want. HYDRA, the Avengers, SHIELD, even me, we can’t do anything to stop you because you’ll never stop being a person,” he says. “I won’t ever stop you,” he adds, earnestly. Peter sinks a little lower and shuts his eyes.

“I nearly killed you,” Peter mumbles. “I was going to bring you to HYDRA. How can you be okay with that?”

“I’m not, but,” Deadpool gently rests his hand on Peter’s head. Peter flinches but Deadpool remains tender. “You’re you. You would be making that choice. As a person. Because that’s what people do, make choices, even if they’re shitty ones. You have that right.”

“But—” and he catches himself before he can ask it, teeth clenching shut.

Deadpool leans in so he catches everything he has to say.

Peter doesn’t say anything for a long time, mouth opening and then closing.

Deadpool doesn’t interrupt him.

Then, it just comes out like a single word:

“What if I don’t want to make choices anymore?” Peter whispers, terrified, because that’s his biggest fear. It isn’t sleeping, it isn’t the pain, it isn’t the torture, it’s that—what if he wants this?

What if he’s been fooling himself this entire time?

Peter’s a bad liar…right?

Deadpool croons so softly at him that Peter recoils when he’s suddenly enveloped in a huge bear hug, Deadpool’s large hands cradling his head and side. Deadpool is easily a whole head taller than him and double Peter’s width. Where Peter is strong but lean with enough muscle definition to intimidate, Deadpool is all brawn and muscle and space. So he curls Peter up on his lap and hugs him tightly and he doesn’t try to hurt him. He’s open, Peter thinks, baffled. I can kill him right now but he’s not trying to protect himself—why?

Deadpool rubs his back up and down soothingly with one hand, an action that strikes deep nostalgia within Peter because it’s familiar and it works, and curls his other arm around his waist, pressing his mouth against Peter’s hair.

And he talks—a low, husky murmur that, for once, isn’t distracted or haywire. It’s slow and thoughtful and so warm. It’s about Peter and it’s about how much of a good person he is because he tries so, so hard and how funny he can be and how he’s so good at making plans and choosing out weapons to buy but he’s so bad at cleaning up after himself or doing his laundry and when was the last time he washed that mask, it was starting to smell really bad, how could he not smell that—?

And god, it helps so much, it helps more than Peter’s early morning identity affirmation speeches, helps more than staying wide awake for days until he drops on the floor from exhaustion, helps so much more than anything Peter has tried—sex, research, eating, exercising, killing—just Deadpool talking.

Peter grips one of the straps on Deadpool’s chest, tugging it slightly to let him know that he’s still awake although Deadpool hasn’t stopped praising him since he started hours ago.

“Thank you,” he rasps out, slumping fully onto Deadpool’s chest, letting go of any tension or strain and closing his eyes to listen to Deadpool’s heart speed up, words trip over themselves before coming back stronger than ever. Sometimes he gets into a distracting argument with one of his boxes—usually about some aspect of Peter that the boxes think should be rated higher or lower, depending, but that Deadpool didn’t agree on—but it’s still the most rest he’s gotten without sleeping.

Peter doesn’t even worry about how easy it’d be for Deadpool to shoot him in the head in this position.

Maybe, Peter thinks, watching the black handle of the combat knife strapped to Deadpool’s thigh move with each gesture, it’s because my hand’s right next to his knife and I’m faster than he can be with a gun.

…How considerate, Peter thinks after a second as his eyes close trustingly, focusing on the pleasant rumble of Deadpool’s voice under his cheek.

Peter decides not to stab him, after all.

That’s his choice.

 

 

“You are playing a dangerous game, Spider-Man.”

“I wouldn’t say dangerous,” Peter replies, crossing his arms over his chest. “Playful? Kinda. Reckless? Yeah. Time-wasting? Definitely.” His target is no longer in the hotel in Michigan; he abandoned it hours ago, but that’s according to plan. Peter doesn’t plan on completing this assignment quite yet. He needs to acquire something else first and it took him two hours to dissuade Wade from following him and ruining his stealth with his big mouth and inability to keep still for thirty seconds. This is the first time he's made actual contact with the Black Widow, despite having traded with her before, but Peter lost valuable time because of his episode so this will have to do. “It’s only dangerous if you aren’t good at what you do. I happen to be very good at what I do—you should know, given your occupation.”

“They couldn’t train that out of you, could they?” Black Widow drawls and Peter’s lip twitches. She never did pull her punches. “Here are the files you requested, along with copies of Wade Wilson’s and Steve Rogers’ military background. Unfortunately, some sections have been redacted, but I’m sure they are not pertinent to your interests,” She tosses the manila folder up in the air, not batting an eye when the folder doesn’t come back down. 

“The money is already in your account.”

“Aren’t you curious?” Black Widow asks, as Peter secures the package in his backpack.

“No. It’s common knowledge that you’ll divulge most information to the highest bidder—it’s part of your many services.”

“Not information about my teammates,” she says. “My friends.”

Friends,” Peter mutters, almost a sneer. He wonders if she hears the jealousy in the word, too, if her own special spider-sense catches the nuanced emotions in every single word Peter utters. Likely. She isn’t one of the most known, wanted, and feared black agents both internationally and domestically for nothing. Peter admires her. He may not have sculpted himself in her image, but their backgrounds are similar. Peter knows she grew up in the hell he was thrown into. Perhaps that’s what makes her better than him: she knew nothing else while Peter knew there was more than the pain, he just needed to get to it somehow.

“Request your file,” Black Widow demands.

“Not yet,” Peter states and leaps off the edge of the rooftop without so much as a whisper.

 

Nothing.

Peter finds nothing important in the files, nothing he doesn’t already know.

And Peter hates it—he’s frustrated that he can’t understand why there’s this tingling in the back of his mind, his spidey-sense pulling him urgently to these people and yet, when he heeds the call, nothing out of the ordinary comes up. Steve Rogers is everything he already knew he was and the only notable thing in Wade Wilson's file was his recent acceptance into the Avengers. Even then, Deadpool is still a SHIELD-ordered operative and has been pulled out from Avenger business to handle SHIELD operations. So has Steve Rogers. Nothing out of the ordinary; they are both veterans, they are both highly skilled, they are both heroes. He has paid thousands for information on these people but he can’t find anything that would lead Peter to think that he was...something to these people. 

There is nothing that ties him to these people except Wade.

Spider-Man had been Wade’s friend once upon ago.

He’d been something, Peter thinks quietly. Something more. Everything Deadpool has told me so far when he’s distracted signals that we had been in some sort of romantic, or at least sexual, relationship before I went missing. Maybe Deadpool has always loved Spider-Man and now he…he loves this, Peter clenches his fists. This afterimage of a seemingly great person. He’s never wanted to ransack a HYDRA facility as much as he does at this moment, but Peter knows better than to go looking for trouble like that. HYDRA keeps many secrets and Peter has no doubt that if he returned, they’d find a way to lock him up again.

And Peter doesn’t think he has the mental strength to go through that all over again.

Surprisingly, he doesn’t think he has the strength to put Wade through that again, if his suspicions are correct.

“POOKEY! I’m hoooome!”

Peter straightens the files out and drops them into his briefcase just as Deadpool rounds the corner, holding in his hand a large, metal, briefcase of his own.

“And guess what I brought?”

“Grenades?”

“Ummm…wow. Rude. You never told me HYDRA also gave you telepathic powers. Y’know, I should feel violated, but I have the weirdest boner right now.”

No way, you bought me grenades?” Peter gasps, standing up hastily as Deadpool flashes him a smug grin and opens the briefcase to reveal the new SHIELD-procured grenade launchers. He knew he recognized that patriotic insignia from somewhere! “Oh, wow. Wow. Where did you get those from? I haven’t been able to find a vendor for new SHIELD tech in weeks and they must have cost a fortune!”

“I hate cold-calling, but I’ve got some clients who’d do me a solid and give a job in exchange for some heavy artillery,” Deadpool tells him and reaches over to squish Peter against his chest when he gets close enough, the briefcase snapping shut between them, much to Peter’s displeasure. “And I missed you!” he says, happily, and Peter’s brief annoyance vanishes in an instant.

“Wade, you’ve only been gone two days.”

“Too long,” Wade insists. “I missed your grumpy eyes and the way you tell me to go the fuck away but you never actually leave.”

Peter tries to at least pretend he’s frowning. “Your affinity towards physical contact is disgusting,” and wraps his arms around his neck with less hesitance than the past couple of times Wade has hugged him. It’s easier each time, but Peter doesn’t think he’ll ever be trained out of the initial hesitance.

Deadpool lets out a soft noise of contentment at the gesture and buries his masked nose against Peter’s temple, dropping the suitcase between them to hug him tighter.

Peter hasn’t felt warmth in a long time but if he had to describe it, he’d say it must feel like Deadpool’s nuzzles and his soft sighs in his ear.

"Can I have my grenade launcher now? You smell like you haven't bathed in a week."

"Ah, domesticity at its finest," Deadpool sighs blissfully, ignoring Peter's wriggling and muffled grumbles.