They are trapped in an elevator when they have their first real interaction. Aside from clashing on a battlefield and the obligatory meet and greet after the dust has settled. It’s quiet and kind of awkward. But only because the Arachnid-Boy Wonder talks when he’s nervous. Natasha is perfectly content to stand in silence, but not this teenage boy.
“Hi, I’m Peter.” He sounds sweet, which is not what she expects from a teenager. Though, to be honest, she doesn’t interact with teenagers willingly. “Or Spider-Man. Mr. Stark said that I was supposed to refer to myself as my pseudonym.”
Spider-Man, she reminds herself. Spider-MAN is a seventeen year old kid who honestly has no place in saving the world or vigilante justice. Spider-Man should be focusing on his homework and sports teams or chess club and being nervous to ask somebody out on a date. He should still be a kid. He should be living out his childhood. A childhood that she never had.
She tries not to be bitter.
“Tony is the guy who openly refers to himself in the third person as ‘Ironman’. Take from that what you will,” Natasha says, rolling her eyes slightly.
“Yeah, he’s not exactly secretive about his identity. Actually, none of you are.” Spider-Man sounds confused and his body language changes. His head tilts and he turns his body to face her.
“We didn’t have much of a choice,” Natasha grounds out. It’s still a touchy subject with her. Having everything in her ledger out there, all of her secrets, it still makes her skin crawl.
There is silence, finally, and Natasha breathes a quiet sigh of relief.
“Well, I’m a spider. And you’re a spider. That’s pretty cool, right?”
She spoke too soon. She gives him a noncommittal hum, hoping he’ll get the message.
“I can shoot webs. Can you shoot webs, Ms. Romanov?”
No luck. Casting her eyes toward the sky, she mutters a choice curse or two in Russian. But he keeps going, taking that as a no.
“Where did the name ‘Black Widow’ come from? You know, since you don’t have any weird Spidey Senses.”
That pulls her up short.
“I’m sorry. ‘Spidey Senses?’ Did you just refer to your abilities as ‘Spidey Senses?’”
“Well, yeah.” Peter shrugs, and she can almost see the blush on his face, even through the mask. “I got bit by a spider and now I can do all these spider-like things. So Spidey Senses.”
Natasha starts to chuckle against her will. “Oh, wow. Clint is going to love you.”
“Really? Wow. Mr. Barton is gonna like me?” He sounds starstruck, and Natasha is not surprised. Apparently, the Avengers are a big deal on the streets of New York. This kid from Queens doesn’t stand a change against Clint’s “Awe shucks, I’m a mid-western farmer” charm.
“Yeah, if you’re lucky, he might even adopt you into his family. He’s pretty good at making people love him.” Natasha has had first hand experience on that account. “I think that was actually his most marketable skill to SHIELD. He’s one hell of a recruiter.”
He’s suitably awed into silence. Or so she thinks. Out of the corner of her eye, she’s noticed another change in body language. It’s something like sadness.
Guilt burns in Natasha’s gut. It’s not a comfortable feeling.
“Just because my parents are dead doesn’t mean that I need saving.”
Woah, woah, woah. This conversation had just taken a sharp left turn and Natasha is reeling. She hadn’t known much about the kid’s life, aside from his name, age, and social security number. He’s also a libra.
“Um, I’m sorry.” Then she realizes. It’s not sadness, it’s anger.
“Everyone always thinks that I need to be saved. ‘Poor little orphan Peter, living with that aunt of his. People like her should be allowed to have kids.’ Or ‘Poor geeky Peter can’t handle his own problems with socialization. Let’s force him into mandatory group sessions with other kids.’ Or ‘Poor Peter is too smart for his own good. If only he could be more like the other kids.’”
Natasha is stunned. She blinks rapidly at the sudden change in his tone. It’s cool, and almost dangerous.
“But sometimes people don’t need to be saved, Ms. Romanov. Sometimes their situations make them more capable of saving others.” And as if to punctuate his words, the elevator opens and he walks out.
Natasha stands there for a moment, struck dumb. He’s a lot braver than most would be being in an elevator with her. He was kind and courteous, up until the point that she hit a nerve.
The kid has spunk, as Clint would say.
Oh, shit. She likes him.