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The Less You Win

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The very last thing that Peter expected to find when he got home was Aunt May sitting on the couch, serving a cup of tea to Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier himself.

“Uh,” Peter said, looking around to make sure there weren’t any other former assassins hanging around. “Hi?”

“Peter!” Aunt May flashed him a thousand-watt smile. “We have a visitor! Have you met Mr. Barnes yet?”

“Um, no, no I haven’t,” Peter said, nearly tripping over his own bookbag in his hurry to get to the living room. “Why is he here?”

Bucky Barnes sat there calmly sipping his cup of tea, though he did look somewhat amused by Peter’s outburst. “Just thought we ought to meet.”

Peter realized a few things in quick succession: that he had left the Winter Soldier webbed to the ground in a German airport, that Bucky was Captain America’s best friend, and that, given that he was in school clothes and had no web shooters on him at all, he was currently hopelessly outclassed by a century-old assassin with a freakin’ metal arm.

“Hi, nice to meet you, please don’t kill me,” Peter said in a rushed jumble of words.

“Lighten up, kiddo,” Bucky said. “I don’t do that anymore.”

May smiled at Peter, as though that statement hadn’t been horribly unsettling. “Peter, is that how we treat guests?”

“Uh,” Peter said. “Sorry?”

“It’s okay,” Bucky said. He turned to Aunt May. “I’d be nervous if I was him, too. He has been calling out my good buddy Steve on the internet.”

“Yeah, I’ve been meaning to talk to him about how we should treat our elders,” Aunt May said.

Peter couldn’t even honestly say, “He started it.” He was defenseless. His hands pinwheeled at his sides, seemingly of their own accord, and he made a few uncertain, half-hearted syllables that did not add up to any actual words.

The Winter Soldier was definitely seconds away from laughing at him.

“He deserved it,” Peter muttered.

The Winter Soldier laughed at him.

Peter wondered if he could just leave the apartment, come back, and try this again.

“You might find this hard to believe,” Bucky said once he’d stopped laughing, “but I’m not here to make your life miserable.”

“I find that very hard to believe,” Peter agreed. “I’ve been publicly trashing your best friend, dude.”

“You got a best friend?” Bucky said. He set his teacup down.

“Yeah,” Peter said, wondering where this was going.

“Me and Stevie, we’ve been close for a real long time,” Bucky said. “And this is the first real opportunity I’ve had since the war to give him some payback for all the grey hairs he’s given me.”

Aunt May looked like she wanted to argue against the existence of any hypothetical non-perfect hairs on Bucky Barnes’ head, but she kept her peace.

Peter thought he wouldn’t do something like that to Ned, but Bucky-- something about Bucky reminded him obscurely of MJ, and MJ would throw him under the bus without hesitation if an opportunity like this arose. “I’m listening,” Peter said finally.

“I understand you’re interested in some dirt,” Bucky said. He looked at Peter expectantly.

“Are you offering some?” Peter said, perking up, because if anyone had the embarrassing deets on Captain America, it would be someone who’d known him since the Depression. “Because I am all ears, my man.”

Thirty minutes later, a video of Bucky Barnes cheerfully telling the world about the time a young Steve Rogers puked on a nun after eating too many caramel creams appeared on Peter’s secret Instagram.

It had made the news cycles less than an hour later; Peter couldn’t have asked for a better gift.

*

Tony called three hours later. “Please tell me you didn’t hunt down Barnes.”

“He showed up here,” Peter said, choosing discretion over valor and tactfully did not mention the fact that Bucky and Tony had pretty much pulled the same recruitment move. It wouldn’t go over well.

Tony sighed. “I don’t like him.”

“He’s scary,” Peter agreed, “but he wants to help me win against Captain America. Who better than someone who knows all the dirt?”

“That he does,” Tony said. “Listen. I’m never going to like the guy, but I’ll tell you he’s at least safe to be around these days. I would tell you to stay away otherwise, capiche?”

“Capiche,” Peter said awkwardly. He knew why Tony would never like Bucky, and he felt a little disloyal bringing the dude in on his team, but this was war and Tony definitely understood.

“And never trust him,” Tony added.

“Okey dokey,” Peter said, immediately regretting it and hanging up before Tony could do more than laugh at him.

*

“Dude,” Ned said that night, grabbing a slice of pizza and folding it before taking a huge bite. “I almost fell out of my freakin’ chair when I saw the Winter Soldier on your Insta.”

“I came home and he was here, just hanging out with Aunt May,” Peter said, gesturing with his own slice. MJ flinched slightly away, which was totally unfair, because Peter was a superhero, he had total control over his pizza.

“Wow,” Ned said. “Is this going to become a thing? First Tony Stark, now the Winter Soldier. What if Thor is next? Dude. Promise to call me if Thor is ever on your couch, okay? I have to witness that in person.”

If Peter ever came home to find Thor on his couch, Ned wouldn’t be getting a phone call, because Peter would die on the spot. He didn’t say so in front of MJ, though. The less ammunition she had, the better it was for everyone.

“My question is,” MJ said, gesturing with her straw before sticking it into her drink, “why the hell would you trust Captain America’s best friend to help us?”

“To be honest,” Peter said, “it’s because he reminded me of you and that’s absolutely what you would do to us?”

Ned nodded in agreement.

MJ said, “Well. I mean, you’re not wrong.”

“So the real question is, what do we do with him?” Ned asked. “Because right now, it looks like we’re kicking Cap’s ass.”

“Yeah,” MJ said. “Too much, and we’re just going to look like dicks. And by we, I mean you.”

“Maybe we already won,” Peter said. “I mean, the smart thing for him to do would be to just drop it here.”

“Sounds unlikely,” Ned said.

“Yeah, I’m with the sidekick on this one,” MJ said, reaching for another slice of pizza.

Ned snagged it before she got there. “I am not the sidekick. I am the guy in the chair. It’s a totally different and more awesome thing.”

MJ narrowed her eyes, glaring at the pizza in Ned’s hand. “Keep telling yourself that, Robin.”

“Robin’s actually really cool,” Peter said loyally. “And if anything, Ned would be Oracle, and she kicks ass.”

“Hell yeah she does,” Ned agreed. MJ rolled her eyes and took a piece of pizza, even though she was clearly thinking it inferior to the one she lost.

“Where is your aunt?” Ned asked after a moment, looking around. “Did she run away with Bucky Barnes?”

“She would have,” Peter said, crinkling his nose. “She’s in her room, pretending to work but really she’s looking at pictures of Bucky Barnes on the internet. She’s got a crush.”

“Don’t we all?” MJ wondered aloud.

*

Peter’s life goes suspiciously well for the next few days. He remembered to do all of his homework, Flash was distracted by MJ’s academic decathalon reading schedule, he caught a pair of goons trying to rob a liquor store and Bucky sent him a short video of Captain America picking a wedgie, which instantly became the most popular gif on the internet.

Then, that evening while on patrol, Karen announced that there was an incoming call from the Scarlet Witch.

Peter hadn’t actually had any interaction with her since the first time they’d met, when he’d failed to say it and instead sprayed it ft. cheese balls, but Karen accepted the call before Peter could do anything more than internally shriek about it for a moment.

“I am following a lead in Queens,” she said as soon as Peter offered up a greeting. “Would you like to join me?”

“Yes,” Peter said without hesitation. Superhero team-ups were the stuff of dreams. You didn’t turn down a superhero team-up.

“Good,” she said, and told him where to meet her.

Peter crouched down on the edge of the roof he was on and had Karen call Ned. “Ned, Ned, you’ll never believe it. I’m on my way to team up with the Scarlet Witch!”

Peter assumed the silence on the other end was stunned.

“This is the best week ever,” Peter said.

“Isn’t it… I mean, Peter my dude. Isn’t it a little suspicious that she’s calling you up out of the blue?” Ned said slowly.

“What? No,” Peter said. “Don’t ruin this for me, Neddy. I need a win.”

“Okay,” Ned said reluctantly. “But just stay on your toes, okay?”

Peter rolled his eyes and hung up. Scarlet Witch wasn’t going to be on Team Cap. She’d been cool with him the single time they’d met. Karen had given her the virtual thumbs up! It was going to be fine.

Wanda was waiting for him outside a storage facility. “We got intel that a Hydra cell has been coming and going from here.”

“Cool!” Peter said. He’d never fought Hydra before.

Wanda nodded. “Could you climb up and open that window? I don’t want to cause any more property damage.”

“Probably a good idea,” Peter tactfully agreed, and scurried up the wall. Just before he got to the window Wanda had pointed to, he stopped.

His hands were stuck. He tried to pull his hand back to find a new grip, but it held tight. His hands were definitely stuck to the wall. When he moved his feet slightly up to try to get more leverage to pull himself off, they stuck too.

“What the…” he muttered to himself, pulling a little harder. Nothing happened. He was stuck to the wall. “Karen, what’s going on here?”

“There is a substance on the wall,” Karen said helpfully. “A type of super-glue that adheres on contact.”

“Glue.” Peter stopped himself from resting his forehead on the wall just in time. “I’m glued to the wall?” He turned as much as he could and yelled over his shoulder, “Hey, Scarlet Witch, did you glue me to the freaking wall?”

She was standing in a different spot now, presumably one with better light as she was aiming her phone up at him and smiling.

“This is… Oh my god,” Peter yelled down at her. “Seriously uncool! I can’t believe you turned a building into a giant fly-strip!”

After a few more minutes of filming, a car pulled up and Natasha climbed out, smiling up at him. By that time Peter had managed to get one of his knees stuck, too, and felt more like a human pretzel than anything else.

“Have fun getting loose!” Natasha called as she got back into her car.

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to get orange cheese goo out of clothes?” Wanda called up before climbing in with Natasha. “You deserve this!”

They drove off remorselessly.

“Karen,” Peter said glumly. “Call Ned, please.”

There was absolutely no way he was letting Tony know about this disaster.

“I finished the AT-AT!” Ned crowed triumphantly when he answered. “Peter, you have the best timing, this is the most triumphant moment of my life.”

Peter sighed. “You were right,” he said.

Ned cheered again. “Damn right I am! What was I right about?”

“It’s a trap!” Peter said in his best Ackbar voice.

To his credit, Ned didn’t laugh out loud at Peter. He just asked in a very careful voice what happened.

“I’m stuck to the side of a building,” Peter said. “There are a few people down there taking pictures of me? This is a nightmare.”

“How can you be stuck? You already stick to buildings,” Ned pointed out.

“They coated it with glue, Ned,” Peter said. He took a deep breath. “How the hell am I going to get down?”

“You’re not going to like my suggestion,” Ned warned.

“Lay it on me,” Peter said. “I’m desperate here. I need to pee.”

“Well,” Ned said. “Are you glued to the wall, or is your suit glued to the wall?”

“You’re right, I don’t like this suggestion,” Peter said. It would have been fine had there not been a captive audience who were probably livestreaming him right now. He took a deep breath. “Karen, are there any other options? Like, is this glue soluble?”

“Initial scans indicate that the adhesive is a Stark Industries prototype,” Karen announced. “So no.”

“Great,” Peter said. “Ned, I’ve got to go.”

“Just remember, you’ve got abs now,” Ned said seriously. ”Own it.”

Peter took a deep breath and had Karen scan to see how far the glue was spread. Once he freed himself from his suit, he should be able to leap to a clean section of wall and get out of here as quickly as possible.

The only real problem was that both hands were glued to the wall so he couldn’t reach the spider emblem, but he asked Karen nicely and she released it for him. The mask remained, thankfully, so he was able to escape without revealing his identity, only his body.

It was incredibly difficult to extricate himself from his spidey-suit without accidentally touching the wall, but finally Peter just kind of flung himself backward and hoped for the best as he aimed himself towards a clean section of wall. He managed to grab hold of a windowsill and scurried up the wall towards the roof, extremely conscious of the hoots and whistles from the crowd below.

Once he reached the roof, he peered over the side, watching his suit wave limply in the breeze.

“Tony is gonna kill me,” he said before fleeing the scene in just his boxers and mask.

*

Getting back home while lacking in all of his clothes was definitely a challenge. Now that Aunt May knew, he got into his spidey-suit in his bedroom instead of random alleyways, which in turn meant that all his clothes were still safely in his bedroom.

Just when he needed clothes in random alleyways. Great.

“Karen,” he said into the mask, hoping it would still work. “Call Ned back, please.”

Peter huddled behind a dumpster in an alley for twenty minutes before Ned showed up with a t-shirt and some shoes. Peter finally pulled off his mask, which Ned shoved into his pocket, and pulled on the clothes thankfully.

“How are you going to get the suit back?” Ned asked.

Peter didn’t even want to think about having to call Tony and explaining that a multi-million dollar suit was currently superglued to the side of a random building. “That is a problem for later.”

“Good plan,” Ned agreed. “Zero chance of failure, right there.”

“You don’t have to be right all the time,” Peter told him firmly.

*

Peter woke up to his phone buzzing next to his ear. He squinted at it, surprised to see it was MJ. She’d never actually called him before.

He answered with a bleary, “Hi?”

“Dude, I thought I made it clear I was your first line of defense,” MJ said. “You gotta keep me in the know.”

With a sinking feeling, Peter remembered the night before. “Um.”

“I mean, obviously softball season’s over,” MJ continued. “It’s time to destroy these mofos. You got Barnes’ number?”

“What, exactly, is on the internet?” Peter asked hesitantly.

“Everything?” MJ said. “Namely, a mostly-naked you. Do you really not wear socks in the suit? Don’t the boots get funky?”

“They get all bunched up and there’s no way to pull them back up,” Peter muttered defensively. His cheeks felt warm. But if MJ had been focused on his feet, maybe it hadn’t been so bad---

“Also,” MJ added, and Peter could feel her smirk through the phone. “Nice undies. It’s a bold choice, wearing your own face over your junk, but I respect that.”

Peter had been so focused on the embarrassment of getting stuck to a building that he had forgotten which boxers he had been wearing when he’d been forced to shuck his suit. “Oh no.”

“I feel like Tony Stark will be proud of you,” MJ said. “He seems like the kind of guy to wear his own merch, too.”

“Let me die,” Peter said, smashing his face into his pillow.

“Don’t be dramatic,” MJ said. “Just because millions of people saw you in your Spidey-drawers--”

“Millions?” Peter’s voice cracked and it didn’t even matter, he was already at peak humiliation.

“Peter,” MJ said, almost gently. “It’s video of a superhero shedding his clothes and scampering up the side of a building in just his mask and underwear that have his name scrawled on the butt. It had its own segment on the Today show. Cap is winning and we need to call in the big guns.”

Peter agreed and hung up. He went into the kitchen to find food before having to make contact with the Winter Soldier, and Aunt May raised her eyebrow at him. “Fun night?”

“This is your fault,” he said. “You just had to buy me merch from that sketchy kiosk. I don’t even get royalties from it.”

“You’re the one who wore Spider-Man boxers out to go Spider-Manning,” Aunt May said with a you get what you get shrug.

Peter poured a bowl of cereal and started eating it there at the counter. “I didn’t think I’d end up showing my underwear to the entire world.”

“If you’re worried, it’s okay if you don’t have chest hair at your age,” Aunt May said with a frankly evil grin, and Peter cut her off with a, “Aunt May, gross, stop!” before she could get too deep into her second-favorite body hair speech.

“Seriously, though, Petey-Pete,” Aunt May said, “are you okay? No one knows it was you.”

“Except for the people who do,” Peter said. “And probably this is going to replace the Port-a-Potty picture for the one they use when talking about Spider-Man on the news.” He sighed. “But I’m okay. Just gotta get some serious revenge on Team Cap.”

“You went up a building because Captain America told you to?” Aunt May asked skeptically.

“No, because Scarlet Witch offered a team-up. She’s working with Cap and Black Widow, apparently.” Peter decided to leave off the why.

Aunt May tapped on the rim of her coffee cup. “What’s your game plan?”

“MJ says it’s time to call in Barnes,” Peter said. He finished his first bowl of cereal and poured another.

Aunt May nodded. “She’s right. Let her take lead on this one.”

“Aye, aye,” Peter said, saluting with his spoon.

“And at least it’s not a school day,” Aunt May said. “Get in front of this before Monday, alright? I don’t want this to affect your grades.”

“Will do,” Peter promised.

Four hours later, he was sitting in a coffee shop with MJ, Ned and Bucky Barnes. It turned out that century-old supersoldier assassins liked frozen concoctions so sweet that Peter was pretty sure that a healing factor was the only reason Bucky still had teeth.

MJ had ordered the same thing; Peter was unsurprised by anything she did.

“So you might be wondering why I gathered you here today,” Ned said gravely once everyone was settled.

“We all know,” Peter said. “We really don’t have to rehash the events again.”

MJ looked like she very much wanted to. Bucky chuckled into his whipped cream.

“I think we should,” said Ned, the traitor. “Because I want it on the record that I told you before you went that it was a terrible idea and you shouldn’t.”

Peter held his hands out and said, “Dude. Uncool.”

“Don’t try to suppress the truth,” MJ said before taking a slurping sip of her drink.

“The important thing is,” Peter said loudly, “revenge.”

“What sort of vengeance are you thinking?” Bucky asked.

“That’s where you come in,” MJ said. “You’re our key to an inside job.”

Bucky raised an eyebrow at her.

“We have access to video feeds from the public spaces in the Avengers HQ,” MJ began.

“We do?” Peter said.

“Yep,” Ned said. Peter shot him a look. Ned shrugged. “I get bored when you’re on patrol. A man can only binge so many shows.”

Bucky looked reluctantly impressed. “So you’re going to want me to lure Steve into a public area.”

“Are you an amatuer?” MJ scoffed. “He’s going to be on red alert after the prank he pulled. I mean, Peter’s lucky in that he’s used to public humiliation. Someone with less experience would still be hiding under their pillow. And you’re good but he’s got Black Widow on his side. No, you’re going to pick a public spot that he already goes to and you’re going to lay the trap.”

“How many prank wars have you been in?” Bucky asked, looking fascinated.

“I’ve seen some shit,” MJ said calmly. “Now, we’ve progressed to physical pranks. Are you okay with this?”

“Absolutely,” Bucky said.

“And your role has to be secret,” MJ said. “No matter how tempting it is to make fun of him. Can you handle that?”

“I think I can manage that,” Bucky said.

“But what are we going to do to him?” Peter said. “We can’t exactly glue him to a wall.”

“Come on now,” MJ said. “You’re innovative. That was funny because you can crawl up walls. No, in order to achieve prank greatness, we have to get a real reaction out of Cap.” She gave Bucky her sunniest smile. “Think of some good locations, and I’ll get back to you on the specifics.”

*

After Bucky left, Peter said, “So, MJ, I couldn’t help but notice that you’re keeping Barnes in the dark.”

“Damn right I am,” MJ said. “This is war, Peter, and that man is on a need-to-know basis.”

“I have so much respect for you right now,” Ned said. “I mean, it’s heavily theorized that the Winter Soldier killed JFK, and yet you just made him your prank war intern.”

MJ propped her boots up on Bucky’s abandoned chair and said, “To be fair, he’s used to taking orders.”

“You two are never allowed in Avengers HQ,” Peter said. “I’m not sure if we’d get a lifetime ban or our asses kicked, but something bad would happen.”

“It’s cool, that place is the soulless embodiment of the commodification of heroism,” MJ said cheerfully.

“Shut your mouth, you know it’s the coolest place we’ve never been invited,” Ned argued.

“So is it just Bucky in the dark or are you going to share with the rest of us?” Peter asked.

“You’re in the know, no worries,” MJ said. “Your job is to acquire a gallon of glitter.”

Ned’s eyes lit up. “MJ, you evil genius.”

She preened and said, “I know.”

That was when Tony called. Peter stared at his phone in dismay. “Guys, I forgot the suit. The ridiculously-expensive most important thing in my life! How did I not go back for the suit?”

“Dude,” Ned said. “Don’t answer it.”

“Chickenshit,” MJ said and took the phone out of his hand, answering it with a, “What’s up, Stark?”

Peter shamelessly used his superpowers to listen in. Tony said without missing a beat, “Hey there Chipette, I need to talk to Alvin about losing his sweater.”

MJ rolled her eyes. “How’d you get it off the wall? I bet you just took the wall, didn’t you, and you’re going to hand Peter a new suit and pretend like it was the old one.”

There was a marked pause. “Of course not. That would be ridiculous.”

“Cool,” MJ said. “Roll it in some corn chips before you hand it over and it’ll smell funky enough that he’ll believe you.”

“MJ,” Peter hissed, mortified. “Gimme the phone.”

MJ flashed him a winning smile and tossed his phone at him. He put it to his ear and started apologizing immediately. “I’m sorry, Mr. Stark, but--”

“Cool it, kid, I’m not the Spanish Inquisition,” Tony said. Peter could imagine the way Tony would be holding his hands out, as if to ward off unnecessary apologies. “I’d give you more hell about abandoning the suit like that, but it sounds like you’re already catching it by the bucketful.”

“You have no idea,” Peter said. “And also the internet saw my underwear, so. There’s that.”

“I remember my first time getting papped in my skivvies,” Tony said, sounding nostalgic. “I was in a hardware store. Good times. Of course, I didn’t have the foresight to make sure to advertise my brand at the same time, so obviously you kids today are ahead of the game.”

“Yes, absolutely, ahead of the game, that’s what I was thinking,” Peter said. “Thanks for rescuing my suit.”

“Someone’s gotta pick up after you,” Tony said. “Though the next time I see it just lying around…”

“Yeah, yeah,” Peter said reflexively, just like he did when Aunt May made similar threats. “I’ll pick up after myself next time.”

“Now, more importantly,” Tony said, “are you going to get back at Cap? Because I gotta say, he’s been super smug today. I don’t want to make you self-conscious but there’s a very unflattering picture of you currently hanging in the lobby here.”

“Dude, it’s your building, can’t you take it down?” Peter asked.

“I mean, in theory I could, but it’s pretty entertaining,” Tony said. “And good for morale and all that jazz.”

“You’re welcome,” Peter muttered as he hung up. He looked at MJ and Ned. “We’re moving the timetable up.”

*

Peter and Ned spent the rest of the evening figuring out how to create what were essentially glitter landmines to scatter throughout the living areas frequented by Cap, Sam, Natasha and Wanda. There was a high chance of friendly fire if Tony or Rhodey or Pepper happened through, but MJ had declared it an acceptable loss. Probably Tony would find the humor in it.

Hopefully.

“I think these will work,” Ned said, lining them up on the desk. “Is this enough? I mean, MJ wants this to be epic.”

“I think it will be,” Peter said. He’d pushed for making them remotely detonated but Ned had pointed out that put too much power in Bucky’s hands. “I think the red and blue glitter is a great touch.”

MJ had also found some Halloween spider and web shaped confetti that they’d crammed in with the glitter.

“Avengers HQ is going to sparkle forever,” Ned said. “This will be your legacy.”

“All we have to do is deliver these bad boys to Barnes and we’re set,” Peter said happily.

*

The glitter bombs were even more spectacular than Peter thought they would be.

They were lucky in that all of their enemies were currently staying at the Avengers HQ. Bucky had confirmed Cap for the early to bed early to rise type, and had sabotaged the common kitchen, knowing Steve was often the first one up and about in the morning.

The security cams had captured everything: Steve Rogers entering the kitchen just past daybreak, looking annoyingly bright-eyed even at that hour, walking with purpose to the fridge. Opening the fridge. The look on his face going from calm to horrified as glitter exploded everywhere, filling the air with sparkles and confetti raining down. Steve saying, “What??” confusedly.

Steve stepping back, his face entirely covered in glitter, opening a drawer for a dish towel only to have another glitter explosion happen, even more spectacular than the first.

This time, Steve was cognizant enough of what was happening to start swearing up a storm.

“Rewind that bit,” MJ said as they watched through the tapes. “Did we really get Captain America on camera saying ‘shit biscuits’? We’re going to break the motherloving internet, guys.”

“This is without a doubt the greatest day of our lives,” Ned said happily. “Keep going, my favorite bit is coming up.”

Peter hit play again. Glitter and confetti were still fluttering in the air when Sam hurried in, no doubt because of Cap’s increasingly creative cursing. “Dude,” he said, looking around. “What the hell?”

Cap turned to him, his face sparkling red and blue, face grim. “We got Spider-ed.”

Peter had never felt so proud and/or badass in his life. Ned let out a whoop, and MJ even grinned.

On the screen, Natasha entered the scene, smirking at Sam and Cap as she leaned casually against the counter. She apparently had a favorite spot to lean, and Bucky had definitely done his homework, because when she pushed the slightly-ajar drawer in with her hip another glitter explosion hit the air.

She startled like a cat, jumping slightly and turning with unfortunate precision directly into the heaviest burst of glitter.

By this point all three were so heavily glittered that Peter was pretty sure that it was permanently embedded in their skin. Probably Peter had accidentally invented glitter tattooing. Probably he should enjoy this feeling of triumph because he was going to be utterly destroyed next time he came anywhere near the Avengers.

Ned stopped the video. “They haven’t found the ones in the lounge yet.”

“Glitter revenge part deux,” MJ said. “We need to get this shit online.”

Ned decided that a minimalist approach was the best, despite Peter’s argument for a slow-mo shot of Cap’s face as he first got blasted with glitter. “We have to give the internet some things to work with,” he said

They uploaded the video with the description heck yeah you got Spider’d #pottymouth.

“It’s really too bad that this isn’t eligible for an Oscar,” Ned said. “I really feel like we’d be contenders.”

“That went even better than planned,” Peter said, amazed. “Bucky really came through.”

“Maybe he’s legit,” MJ agreed. “Glitter is the most savage art supply. You don’t do that to someone lightly.”

“They’re probably still trying to get it off,” Peter said. “I mean, that was so much glitter. Will it ever come off?”

“They’re probably going to have to burn the kitchen down and start again,” Ned said.

Peter high fived everyone. “Good work, guys. We absolutely just won this prank war.”

*

Four hours later, a courier dropped off a package. Peter was skeptical about opening it, but the card said, “I’m so proud -TS” so he chanced opening it.

It was a glorious new laptop, far more powerful than Peter’s current rigged-up one. Upon closer inspection it wasn’t even anything that was on the market yet, and Peter realized it was one of Tony’s personal prototypes.

He hugged it to himself and sent Tony a video of himself shrieking happily and waving the laptop over his head like a four year old on Christmas.

*

The glitterbombing didn’t quite break the internet, but Spider-Man’s indecent exposure was dropped from the news cycles in favor of a sparkling, foul-mouthed Captain America, and Peter was eternally thankful. There was reference to Spider-Man’s public humiliation, but Captain America was, well, Captain America, and Peter felt confident in the knowledge that he had totally won.

When he went to school the next day, there were a few references to Spider-Man’s Spidey-shorts, but not nearly the onslaught of mockery that Peter had been bracing himself for.

“I think the best part was he named the meme himself this time,” Flash told Betty loudly in Chem. “That’s legendary, right there. That’s why he’s a true hero.”

“I bet he’s still sparkling,” Betty said thoughtfully. “One time I accidentally used lotion with body glitter in it and I sparkled for a week.”

Peter smiled down at his laptop. He was still bringing his trusty old one to school, unwilling to chance anything happening to the one Tony had gifted him with. His phone buzzed, somehow seeming urgent, and he dug it out of his pocket to see that Tony was calling him.

“Can I be excused?” Peter said, shoving the phone back into his pocket and sticking his hand in the air. “It’s an emergency.”

His teacher waved him out, and he hurried out of the room, answering his phone as soon as he was safely in the hall. Tony didn’t call often, and definitely not during school hours. “Yeah, Mr. Stark? Do you need me?”

“I need you to tell me if there are any more glitter bombs planted in Avengers HQ,” Tony said. “There’s been an incident.”

“Um,” Peter said, “Just the one in the couch?”

“Found that one,” Tony said. “Or, I should say, Bruce found that one.”

Peter slumped against a locker, stomach twisting. “That’s… that’s not good.”

“It turns out that the Hulk likes sparkles,” Tony said, “and we avoided any major structural damage. The couch is a goner, though.”

“That was the last one,” Peter said weakly.

“Good,” Tony said. He paused. “When you put it online, you should give it a kicky soundtrack. Something upbeat.”

“So you’re not mad?” Peter said.

“Pepper says it’s actually my fault for encouraging the delinquency of minors,” Tony said. “As long as you’re sure that’s the last one, we’re golden.”

“We’re golden,” Peter agreed.

*

Peter peered over MJ’s shoulder at lunch. “Are you… are you texting Bucky Barnes right now?”

“We have a spiritual connection,” MJ deadpanned.

The conversation appeared to be entirely gifs of adorable puppies tripping over their own feet. “I thought you were a cat person,” Peter said.

“I am,” MJ said.

Peter didn’t bother trying; as far as he could tell, MJ was the closest thing to a mysterious oracle that existed at Midtown High. Getting anything out of her was like pulling teeth. “So I guess we trust him now?”

“He did publically humiliate his best friend for us without telling him,” MJ said. “He seems pretty solid.”

“Fair,” Peter said, scooting over as Ned arrived to give him a better spot. He remembered his phone call with Tony. “Guys, we miscalculated slightly.”

Ned’s face after Peter told him about the Hulk was a thing of wonder. “Wait, are we now going to have to fight the Hulk? The man is a scientist. He’ll out-science us every day of the week.”

“I don’t think knowing science is a prerequisite of winning,” MJ said. “And you’re missing the salient point.”

“Which is?” Ned asked.

“We have our follow-up video,” MJ said triumphantly.

*

Hulk Sparkles became the best-selling Halloween costume that year.

*

Peter was pretty sure that he had won.

Bucky was around a lot more -- trading books and snark with MJ, letting Ned prod at his newly constructed arm, and, most alarmingly, taking Aunt May out for lunch while they were in school. He confirmed that Steve still sparkled when the light hit him just right, and that Natasha and Sam had most definitely not forgotten what had happened, but that there were no current plans to take Peter out.

“It would be hard to top,” Bucky said with a shrug after they all decided that fro-yo was needed after school. He’d met them there and had filled a cup to the brim with eight flavors and every topping available.

“Captain America doesn’t seem like a quitter,” Peter argued. He looked at his friends for back-up.

“Well, you do have the advantage of having a secret identity, and I don’t think he’d be enough of a dick to compromise it,” MJ said.

“Probably not,” said Bucky, and he’d known the guy since before the Depression, so Peter trusted his opinion.

“So just stay away from superheros,” Ned said with a shrug. “You managed it really well for most of your run as Spider-Man.”

“Thanks, man,” Peter said flatly. “Appreciate it.”

“I wouldn’t be your friend if I lied to you,” Ned shrugged.

“So why are you here?” MJ said. “I mean, I appreciate the scenery, don’t get me wrong, but don’t you have better things to do?”

“I don’t exactly have a job,” Bucky said with a shrug. “And your problems are less fraught than everyone else’s.”

That seemed fair.

Peter narrowed his eyes at Bucky. “But why are you taking Aunt May to lunch so much?”

Bucky gave him a shit-eating grin and Peter was forced to throw a balled-up napkin at the Winter Soldier. (He missed.)

*

Bucky insinuated himself so smoothly into their lives that, a week later when he asked if Peter would meet him in Brooklyn, none of the three thought anything of it. Peter took the train to the address Bucky had sent him, squinting around as he stepped out into the sunshine.

The favor itself had been unspecified, but Peter had his suit -- almost identical to the one that was still glued to a pile of bricks in the corner of Tony’s lab -- tucked into his backpack just in case.

“I bet he just can’t figure out how to work his tv,” MJ had said when he’d mentioned it at lunch. “Old farts struggle with that sort of thing.”

Peter hoped not; he wanted very much to go on a real mission with the Avengers again. He’d trained with them, but that was a very different thing than getting to actually get out there and fight.

The address Bucky had sent him was for a ground-level apartment with a slightly ajar door. Peter felt like something was hinky, but a quick glance around proved that the apartment was empty.

It was only once he was fully inside that the door swung closed and locked with a faint but audible click.

He immediately tried the door, but to no avail. It was locked. Peter attempted to force the handle, figuring that super-strength would win, but to his surprise the handle proved resistant.

So he was locked inside some random superhero-proofed apartment in Brooklyn. Awesome.

Peter felt like a complete dolt when he only realized that he still had his phone in his pocket when it buzzed. He pulled it out to find a text from Bucky: sorry but all’s fair. suit up.

Peter sighed and called Ned first; no sense stepping into whatever horrible plan Cap and Bucky had for him without letting his friends know. Ned and MJ were together, thankfully, though Peter now deeply regretted letting them know the Instagram’s password.

“He infiltrated us,” MJ said, betrayed, on speaker on the other end.

“We really dropped the ball,” Ned said. “I mean. It’s the Winter Soldier. We really should have had our guard up for sneaky tactics.”

“I’m so stupid,” Peter said. “Of course Bucky Barnes wouldn’t turn on Steve Rogers. There are actual books written about their friendship. They are such great friends that people write freakin’ dissertations on them. We deserve to lose.”

“You haven’t lost yet,” MJ said fiercely. “Don’t do what he says.”

That’s when Peter got a flurry of texts from Bucky, telling him what he had to do. Peter’s stomach sank.

“Guys,” he said, “We’ve definitely lost. I’ve got to go.”

And he hung up and suited up. He went deeper into the apartment to a back bedroom, and there was a closet, door wedged shut with a familiar shield. Peter pried it loose - a feat that took superhuman strength to accomplish -- and the door spilled open immediately, Captain America stumbling out into the light, blinking owlishly.

“Who-- Spider-Man?” he said, clearly at a loss. “Here to gloat?

“I wish,” Peter said. “Did your bestest buddy lock you in there?”

“While working for your team...” Cap began, but trailed off. “Oh no. He’s not working for you, is he?”

“The whole apartment is sealed,” Peter said. “I think he’s gone rogue.”

“I knew that things were going too smoothly,” Cap said, which isn’t how Peter would have described things, given that still glittered slightly when the light hit him just right.

“I can’t believe I trusted him,” Peter said. “He even took my aunt out to eat, and it was all she would talk about for days. She’s had a history-crush on him for as long as I can remember.”

Cap blinked, but obviously chose not to comment on Bucky’s commitment to his long game. Peter decided to help him out by holding out his phone and letting Cap read the instructions Bucky had left for them. He sighed. “Are we sure there’s no way out?”

“I mean,we can try,” Peter said, “but short of destroying the apartment, which Bucky was sure to mention belongs to a charitable organization and thus that would be an asshole move, I think we have to go with it.”

“It is poetic justice,” Cap mused. “And if I know Buck, he really won’t let us out until we’ve done it.”

Peter nodded; he had the same impression and he’d only known Bucky a hot minute. “About the ceasefire…”

“I think it’s the smartest thing Buck had in there,” Cap said. “This has been the most fun I’ve had in ages, but it’s getting a bit public.”

“A bit?” Peter said. “You saw how much of me was public.”

Captain America snickered. At him. Peter was very glad that his mask completely hid how much he was blushing. “Sorry, pal, I didn’t actually think about how you would get off the wall. If it makes you feel better, Nat was so cranky about the glitter that she dumped all the excess in my underwear drawer. I didn’t notice until too late.”

Peter let out a loud, honking laugh that he would probably be embarrassed about if it weren’t for the fact that Captain America had just admitted to having accidentally glittered his junk. “Man, I recruited the wrong former assassin.”

“Thank goodness,” Cap said. He held out his hand. “Truce?”

“Truce,” Peter agreed, shaking firmly. “Now…”

Cap nodded. “I guess we should just get it over with?”

Peter agreed, and started to record.

*

That evening, a video appeared on the account most people had come to assume belonged to Bucky Barnes, given the sheer number of selfies of Bucky with various foods that had appeared on it.

In the video, Captain America and Spider-Man, with forced smiles, giving a rousing speech about believing in yourself. “Remember,” Captain America said in a fake, smiling tone most often found in his promotional materials recorded for the Department of Education and Army recruitment, “Friendship is a journey. Sometimes it starts out on rocky footing.”

“Sometimes you have to overcome differences and embarrassing mistakes,” Spider-Man added in a loud, equally fake tone, though considerably less commanding than Captain America’s.

“But in the end,” Captain America said, turning towards Spider-Man.

“You can always hug it out,” they said in unison before giving each other a hug, Spider-Man standing on tip-toes and still getting smooshed into Captain America’s shoulder.

Then they high-fived and smiled at the camera -- at least, Captain America did, presumably so did Spider-Man -- while giving a thumbs-up to their audience.

It broke the internet.