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Season 1

Chapter Text

 

 

There’s a clock on the wall and it’s moving too slow

It’s got hours to kill and a lifetime to go

And I’m holding my breath till I hear the last bell

Then I’m coming out hard and I’m giving them hell

 

Each purposeful tap of Peter Parker’s sneaker on the classroom floor sent a tremor through the room imperceptible to anybody but him as he silently recalled the lyrics to one of his new favourite songs- Don't Even Know It. I can relate to that song way too much, he mused, chin in one hand as he doodled lazily in the corner of his notebook. Algebra class: they were revising how to solve equations, so Peter had much better things to do with his time than actually paying attention.

 

Running a quick hand through curls which just wouldn’t stay in place that day, he lifted his head briefly from his chin, ratty pencil dangling loosely from his stilled fingers, and gazed out of the window to his left at the blazing sun presiding over the sky for the afternoon, kissing the tips of every leaf on the trees which bordered the school playing field, before turning back to his drawing.

 

A half-assed new suit design. It was an alright posture and everything, but not revolutionary in any way. When you’re Peter Parker, revolutionary becomes the new average.

 

In fact, he kinda liked the way this guy was posing.

 

Hit with a sudden burst of inspiration, he shaded the entire suit in a shade suggesting that it was black. With the tip of his eraser, he drew a circle into the chest and filled it in before rooting around in his bag for a red marker and scribbling a gangly spider-shape inside it. As he coloured, the cheap marker dribbled a little, and blots appeared on the ends of a few of the spider’s legs.

 

He was on a roll now. A splash of red on the palms of the suit’s hands and around the rims of the mechanical eye sockets and his new suit design was complete.

 

Cool, but I’d never actually wear that.

 

So, when the bell finally rang to signal the end of the day, Peter hurriedly stuffed the notebook into a dark corner of his backpack, not giving the design a further thought as he speed-walked out of the lesson, head down and thanking the teacher briefly as he left.

 

Fumbling with his tangled earbuds, Peter fought through the end-of-the-day crowd of boisterous teenagers. He shoved them in and pressed play just as the ground beneath him lost the shine of the school corridor and took on the gravelly, dry warmth of the outdoor concrete.

 

I've got the dreams, I've got the style

I've got the moves to make you smile

So kiss my ass goodbye

‘Cause I'm gonna be the one

 

I'm on my way, I won't be turned

Your stupid lessons I've unlearned

And I'll be free to fly

‘Cause I'm gonna kiss the sun

 

Peter fought back the urge to run through the gates - there were still kids all around him, flooding out of Midtown School of Science and Technology – and settled for rhythmic walking, sneakered feet slapping the hot streets in time to the ridiculously catchy beat.

 

A slow smile crept across Peter’s face. I’m almost out. I’m almost out.

 

Seven minutes later, in the same dingy alleyway lined with dumpsters as always, he was out of his loose jeans and shirt and shrugging on the Spider-Man suit with infectious enthusiasm. With a tap to his chest, the suit tightened around him.

 

It’s go time.

 

The newest update to his suit was a feature Peter had been puzzling over for a couple of weeks, but once he’d finally cracked it, his patrols were made a whole lot less tedious.

 

Not that they were actually tedious anyway. It just made everything even more awesome. It was like being in a movie or something. He could now pump music through the speakers in his ears at the same time as his AI.

 

Now, as he sprung out of the alleyway and onto the roof of a neighbouring building, he opened his phone and turned on his playlist: Spider-Man Mix.

 

Yes, he was a nerd.

 

But Moving To New York was playing, and that song could lift his mood no matter what.

 

I've just had the craziest week

Like a party bag of lies, booze and then deceit

And I don't know why I want to voice this out loud

It's therapeutic somehow

 

So I'm moving to New York

'Cause I've got problems with my sleep

And we're not the same and I will wear that on my sleeve

 

So I'm moving to New York

'Cause I've got issues with my sleep

Looks like Christmas came early

Christmas came early for me

 

Maybe it was the prospect of the long summer afternoon of patrolling stretching in front of him or the tedious day at school he’d just endured, but he was feeling kind of restless. So he took a detour from his usual path through the city and just shot a web to his right, letting it lift him off the ground and take him anywhere.

 

The moment of suspension between throwing and releasing a web, when there was nothing to stop him from plummeting to the ground except a single thread of webbing, was one of exhilaration, although he knew that thread would never snap and he would never fall.

 

“I’m heading kinda south-west, right, Karen?”

 

“That is correct.”

 

“Brooklyn’s over this way, then. How far is it to Brooklyn? Feels like I haven’t been to Brooklyn in a while.”

 

“About 15 minutes to the city centre as the Spider-Man swings.”

 

Peter chuckled. “I love you, Karen.”

 

So he set off with renewed enthusiasm for Brooklyn, jumping and flipping and climbing across the tops of buildings, showing off, letting off steam.

 

He’d never get tired of all of this. It was at these times when he felt like the luckiest guy alive: when the sun was at his back and the ground was far, far below him, and all his troubles with it, and he had the stamina to swing and leap and fly through the city for hours, completely free.

 

“I’m getting reports of armed robbery at two local stores, both in Brooklyn.”

 

Well, kinda free.

 

Peter sighed, squinting at the pair of faint blue tracks now superimposed over the cityscape which would lead him to the scene of the crime, and replied: “I’m on it, Karen.”

 

He picked up speed a little.

 


 

 

The purposefully undone lace of Miles’ sneaker kept getting caught under his other foot as he stumbled through the streets of Brooklyn at a pace that was so fast it freaked him out. He’d already fallen on his face twice, and both times he’d instinctively leaped back up onto his toes, startling himself more than the passers-by.

 

How weird can puberty get?

 

Oh, don’t kid yourself, there’s no way this is puberty anymore.

 

A tall woman with at least, like, 8 shopping bags shouldered past him angrily, and his back hit the wall of the building to his left. Normally he’d call “Hey, excuse me!” after her, but he got a bit caught up- literally- with the fact that he couldn’t get his back off the wall.

 

What the-

 

Stop sticking!

 

In desperation, Miles braced a foot against the wall to push himself off, but the only result was the sticking of said foot. Attempting to take off his jacket didn’t help (somehow it was also stuck to the wall); neither did straining with all his might.

 

Okay, starting to look really weird now, Miles.

 

So he attempted to look casual and crossed his arms loosely, trying to ignore the pounding of his heart by slipping on his headphones and blasting Sunflower.

 

Needless to say, I keep her in check

She was all bad-bad, nevertheless

Callin' it quits now, baby, I'm a wreck

Crash at my place, baby, you're a wreck

 

Needless to say, I'm keeping her in check

She was all bad-bad, nevertheless

Callin' it quits now, baby, I'm a wreck

Crash at my place, baby, you're a wreck-

 

For once, the beat did nothing to get rid of his panic.

 

What if I just stay stuck here forever? Maybe they’ll have to drill a hole around the wall and then the neighbour’ll have no wall and I’ll have it stuck to me like a weird sorta shell for the rest of my life? What if - there’s a massive magnet inside the house, and someone, someone went and put a piece of magnetic metal down my throat while I was sleeping last night and knew I’d come here somehow and now I’m, like, magnetised to the wall until I do their evil bidding or something?

 

What if - when I got bit by that spider – it wasn’t a normal spider? What if I’m not a normal kid anymore?

 

His thoughts were all so loud, circling his mind like countless neon signs, begging for his attention. And it turned out it wasn’t just his thoughts: the sound of drivers laying on horns and the stutter of engines starting as traffic lights glared green and the conversation of the passers-by and the echo of their shoes sending thousands of tiny tremors through the ground and - somehow - the faraway smell of spray paint threatened to send him into overdrive.

 

He contemplated calling someone, tossing his phone from hand to hand.

 

Wait, the phone isn’t sticking-

 

With a sudden, desperate burst of energy, Miles pushed off from the wall, not expecting to be propelled out onto the busy sidewalk with his newfound strength, and fell on his face in public a third time.

 

Could this get any worse?

 

This time, he thought about not getting up at all, just lying on his face until the burning in his cheeks was gone. But there was this pent-up energy in him, telling him to just run and run until it was out, so he shot back up onto his feet, trying to ignore the incredulity of the passers-by on the street, and picked up his speed, gingerly feeling his face for injury and frowning when he found none.

 

I need to find someone who knows what this all is- I need to find… Spider-Man?

 

A flash of garish red-and-blue in the corner of his vision and Miles started with a sudden revelation as the Spider-Man soared right over his head and landed on the building he’d just been stuck to on his fingertips.

 

It felt like some creepy twist of fate when What’s Up Danger started to play through his headphones.

 

Gettin' old, they doubted us

Makes it that more marvellous

Sign 'em up, 'cause I'm in this vibe and I get synonymous

What's up, danger?

Don't be a stranger

 

'Cause I like high chances that I might lose

I like it all on the edge just like you

I like tall buildings so I can leap off of 'em

I go hard with it no matter how dark it is

 

Miles was off, shouldering past pedestrians, fighting forwards to where Spider-Man was crawling swiftly across the side of a building and fighting the urge to climb up there himself just to see if he’d still stick.

 

“Hey,” he called as he ran. “Hey, Spider-Man!”

 

But the ambient noise of New York was too loud for Spider-Man to pick up his voice, he guessed, because the hero continued to swing gracefully through the street without so much as looking over his shoulder at Miles.

 

Surprised at his stamina (I guess that’s a side effect of the… spider stuff?) Miles continued to follow him, unaware that he’d just ran out onto the road until he heard the deafening blast of a car horn to his left-

 

-Which meant there was a car about to slam into him.

 

The song was still playing:

 

I'm insane but on my toes

I could keep the world balanced on my nose

I had a slumber party wit' all my foes

Now I wear 'em like a badge of honour on my clothes

 

If I'm crazy, I'm on my own

If I'm waitin', it's on my throne

If I sound lazy, just ignore my tone

'Cause I'm always gonna answer when you call my phone

Like what’s up danger-

 

All of a sudden, this instinct came upon Miles, a crystal-clear instruction in his head that didn’t say anything, it just kind of was.

 

At a loss for another way to get out of this situation, he let this instinct take hold of him, and as the taxi swept his legs out from under him, he placed his newly-sticky hands (and now he was really, really glad that they were sticky) onto the bonnet of the car and pushed away into the air, bringing his legs upwards and away from the impact.

 

This new strength that he was still unused to must have kicked in because he launched himself crazy high in the air upside-down before flipping and righting himself in the air. Then he was suspended at least eight feet in the air for half a second, arms and legs outstretched, before he landed back on the other end of the sidewalk in a crouch, one arm out behind him and the other crossed over him protectively.

 

Miles remained there a couple seconds, mouth hanging open, while time began to speed onwards faster and faster until it seemed all caught up. Dimly, he registered a few claps and cheers from around him.

 

Woah. Gotta say, that was pretty awesome.

 

Miles’ head snapped up; he searched the skies wildly for Spider-Man, but he guessed the guy had more important stuff to be getting on with because he was nowhere to be seen.

 

Which was a bummer, because he really, really needed that guy’s help right now.

 

Sucking in a breath and thrusting his hands into the pockets of his jacket, Miles took off again, ignoring the amazement of the people around him.

 

Well, if I can’t find the - man, I guess I could at least try and find the spider…

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Miles sucked in a breath through his teeth.

 

The flickering beam of his flashlight acted like a spotlight, bathing the atrophied spider in harsh white-blue light.

 

There is no way that’s a normal spider.

 

The winding, shadowed tunnels of the subway had led him here. Miles had snuck along the mercifully empty tracks and into the little opening where he’d been spray-painting with Uncle Aaron, searching for answers, but he’d kind of been hoping it wouldn’t be like this: the curled up spider in front of him was luminous, the number 42 painted onto its side for some reason and the least normal thing he’d ever seen.

 

He dropped his head into his hands, tearing off his balaclava (just in case he ended up sticking to something again or got caught running around the city at night, at least nobody would know who he was) to take in shallow breaths.

 

The room didn’t seem so big then. It seemed small, far too small, and Miles needed to get out. Now.

 

So, hurriedly pulling his mask back on, he stumbled out of the room, praying the next train had already gone and wasn’t about to hit him on the tracks.

 

But when had life ever been that convenient for him?

 

The smallest noise behind him, and Miles tensed automatically - but then the weirdest thing happened: his ears sort of tuned in to the sounds all around him, sharpened, so that the clattering sound of metal as the subway train approached him from behind was crystal-clear, as well as the dim echoes of people’s feet as they passed him above ground and –

 

-and then he could smell and feel and see everything: the dizzying fumes of petroleum from the trains, the vibrations through the floor as countless trains traversed the lines, a hint of cheap perfume from somebody on the platform far in front of him, the nuances in shadow and relative light as he picked up speed along the tunnel, the twang of the morning’s rain after a dry spell, the rumble of a baritone voice sending tiny ripples through the air, the brisk scent of a ticket as it was printed.

 

Oh. My. God. This is intense.

 

Miles was a kaleidoscope. He was an unwilling vessel of the senses. Every sensation in the universe felt within his reach, all at once, and he was probably about to blow chunks all over the train tracks.

 

This is really not a good time-

 

 It was yesterday all over again: the car, the train. The impending doom.

 

Miles had no idea how he managed to get out of this one; the first thing he remembered clearly was hitting the platform head-first, lights bursting in his vision as he crumpled to the floor. The train whizzed past just after him, a blur of movement, and was gone again; Miles rolled over slowly onto his back, groaning, reeling, only partially aware that there was a small crowd beginning to form around him.

 

“What the hell…”

 

“What was he doing down there?”

 

“You alright?”

 

Miles jerked upwards into a sitting position at the sensation of a hand on his shoulder. The woman with the cheap perfume; she peered at him as if she was trying to see through his balaclava.

 

“Sorry,” he stuttered, shrugging the hand off his shoulder and pushing his way blindly out of the crowd, desperate to escape the sights and sounds and smells and sensations.

 

His feet carried him up the stairs three at a time. Normally, he’d blast some music (probably Sunflower) to help him chill out, but he didn’t think he could bear any more sound right now.

 

So he pulled up the hood of his jacket in an attempt to block a little of his sight and hearing and picked up speed as he approached the exit to the station and emerged out into the growing darkness.

 

Okay, this is serious now. I gotta find the Spider-Man!

 


 

 

Spider-Man started as his phone vibrated.

 

He’d never really got round to designing something for his phone – back when he’d worn a hoodie and sweatpants on patrol, he’d had no shortage of pockets, but with his new Stark Industries- manufactured, tight-fitting suit, there wasn’t a lot of space to keep it safe.

 

Peter leapt upwards, relinquishing his hold on the web he’d just shot, and grabbed hold of a flat roof belonging to some apartments or whatever before pulling himself up to sit on the edge. A tug at the awkward space over his hip bone and his battered phone slid out of his suit into the Brooklyn air.

 

“Peter.”

 

He tugged off his mask with his free hand. “Hey, Aunt May.”

 

“Are you nearly back home? It’s five minutes to your curfew, and you know I prefer you not to come racing home with three seconds to spare.”

 

Peter’s eyes widened; he checked the display on his phone’s home screen and cursed under his breath. “I’m - so sorry, I completely lost track of time.”

 

“What’ve you been doing all this time that’s had you so distracted?” May’s voice was stern, but the usual hint of fondness was present too.

 

“Uh…” Peter scrubbed his face, searching for an alibi that would make at least a little bit of sense. “I went to Brooklyn. The library. Because - because they had a copy of a book I really wanted to read.” He winced a little as he tailed off towards the end.

 

May’s voice was suspiciously light. “Alright, honey. Just be back as quick as you can, alright? I think the chicken cacciatore recipe might just be working out this time…”

 

Despite everything, Peter grinned. “Sounds perfect. See you in 20.”

 

“I larb you!”

 

Peter grudged a laugh. “Larb you more…”

 

“Larb you most.”

 

 The call cut off.

 

Tucking his phone back under his suit, Peter slipped on his mask once again and took a running leap off the side of the apartment block, eager to get back home before curfew and pretend to like May’s dinner.

 

On a whim, he pressed a button to the side of his right webshooter, and, after what felt like an hour of pointless ads, his playlist resumed. Killer Queen: a timeless classic.

 

She keeps her Moet et Chandon

In her pretty cabinet

"Let them eat cake", she says

Just like Marie Antoinette

 

From the ground, you could never appreciate the full beauty of the setting sun over the city; today, the sky put on a particularly radiant display, but Peter didn’t have time to stop and admire it as he swung swiftly through the pits of the city where buildings were more abundant.

 

Caviar and cigarettes

Well versed in etiquette

Extraordinarily nice

 

As he went by, he glanced down at the thinning crowds passing by on the ground and picked out a guy in a weird-looking balaclava running along, attempting to match his speed. Probably just trying to get a video or something. When you were a well-known masked vigilante, the civilians did a lot of weird crap around you.

 

She's a Killer Queen

Gunpowder, gelatine

Dynamite with a laser beam

Guaranteed to blow your mind

 

This guy was still trying to catch up to him. Alright, buddy, I sincerely hope you’re not a villain or anything, because I do not wanna be late home.

 

Curious, Peter dropped a little lower, cruising for a couple seconds to get a clearer picture of his tail.

 

Recommended at the price

Insatiable in appetite-

 

“Karen, pause my music, would you?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

All of a sudden, the music halted, and now Peter could hear this guy yelling his name, face flushed with rage: “Hey! Spider-Man! Spider-Man!”

 

Peter sighed. Kill me now. He really wants a go, doesn’t he?

 

But the last thing he wanted to do was leave the civilians with this dude (although, to be honest, he was unarmed except for a large backpack and didn’t seem all that threatening), so he groaned, sending a telepathic apology to May, and let go of the strand of webbing he’d been travelling on, dropping into a crouch on the street.

 

He’d deny it even to himself, but the thrum of energy through his veins whenever he encountered a potential villain was a rush unlike any other.

 

He stood facing the guy now, about twelve feet away from him. He was pretty small. Visible above the folds of the balaclava was a loosely gelled cloud of coiling black hair and a pair of soulful near-orange eyes possessing a quality which unsettled Peter a little. The guy seemed to hesitate as if waiting for Peter to make the first move, but then jogged briskly towards him.

 

What’s he doing?

 

This was gonna be even easier than he’d thought.

 

Almost lazily, he aimed his outstretched arm towards his attacker’s chest and released a web; it hit him square in the chest as Peter hopped up onto the building to his right, which also happened to be on the corner of a grimy little alleyway.

 

Oh, this is perfect.

 

His attacker swung below him, attached to the web but struggling to release himself.

 

Gently, Peter hefted the webbing around the corner and into the shadow of the alleyway, where he promptly dropped it and pushed off the wall to join the guy.

 

“Alright, buddy, you can make this easy or you can make this even easier.” Peter dropped into a relaxed fighting stance, fists up. The attacker seemed frozen in his tracks, gazing almost imploringly up at him, clutching the still-attached string of web.

 

Puzzled, Peter locked eye contact with him, trying to get some answers in the way he was looking at him.

 

Like a fire alarm going off two inches from his ear, his Spidey sense lit up all of a sudden within him. He was getting tunnel vision – an instinct crowing dangerdangerdanger at him – as if he’d just been bitten again, his senses sharpened and narrowed in on the guy, the kid in front of him, with an intensity he’d never before experienced – what is it with this guy?

 

Shaking his head rapidly, Peter lunged sloppily towards his opponent- if he’s as powerful as my Spidey Sense is insisting I need to take him out fast before he tries anything – and -

 

Two high-pitched yells echoed from a small abandoned alleyway in Brooklyn.

 


 

 

Miles watched in horror as Spider-Man advanced on him, fists raised, and was planning on just squeezing his eyes shut and waiting until he realised that Miles wasn’t a threat, but then-

 

-then this livewire of electricity, of energy, had coursed through him, reaching his fingertips in under a second, and as he’d thrown his arms up in an attempt to block the punch a stream of luminous blue-green energy had just erupted from his hands and consumed Spider-Man all at once; he could only stare as his hero yelped in pain, shaking, and collapsed.

 

Trembling, Miles fell onto his butt and shuffled back against the wall of the alleyway, arms tucked tight into his chest, eyes wide.

 

“Oh… my… God.”

 

He shut them for a second, leaning his head against the bricks, before righting himself and advancing slowly towards the Spider-Man.

 

“Uh… Spider-Man? Hello? I’m so, so sorry, man…” His voice was cracking, but he didn’t care right now if it sounded dumb.

 

What was that? What have I done? What have I done?

 

For the first time in his life, Miles got a glimpse of Spider-Man up close. He used to dream about talking to the vigilante, getting to tell him how awesome a job he did saving the city and everything. He’d never have imagined it would be like this.

 

It didn’t look great. His hero was out cold on his back, the iconic suit singed at the legs and chest and completely burnt off at the fist that had gone in for the punch, exposing a pale and surprisingly wiry hand beneath.

 

Hesitant, Miles knelt beside the Spider-Man, hands hovering over his prone body. What if I electrocute him again though?

 

Wait, what if he’s dead?

 

I can’t just leave him.

 

So he bent over the mask slowly, listening for breath issuing through the fabric, and let out a strained sound of relief when he felt an exhale tickling his ear.

 

“Okay, okay. Not dead, not having a heart attack. Just unconscious. Um…”

 

Miles’ hands hovered above Spider-Man’s mask for a good few seconds before he decided against pulling it off. Guy probably had a secret identity for a reason, and if he knew it, maybe he’d actually become a threat to this guy.

 

Taking a steadying breath and making sure the feeling he had before the electricity had shot out of him was long gone, Miles gripped Spider-Man’s shoulder awkwardly, feeling kind of bad when he shook it in an attempt to get an answer.

 

“Hey, man. Hello? Can- can you hear me?”

 

No response from the motionless vigilante.

 

“C’mon, I really need you to wake up… I can’t believe I knocked out Spider-Man, oh my God-“

 

A sharpening of his hearing once again, and Miles tensed. What is it this time?

 

He was too slow to get away before Spider-Man lurched upwards again, looking unsteady on his feet but making an attempt at self-defence. Miles yelled in surprise, scrambling to his feet.

 

Not good, not good, not good.

 

Then Spider-Man was running toward him again, leaping over him to tackle him from above but misjudging the distance a little. He might have still managed to successfully topple Miles to the floor if it hadn’t been for his damn Spider-Sense, which kicked in again in mid-air just as Miles felt his own sense twinge.

 

Faltering halfway through his move, Spider-Man crashed onto Miles, managing to floor the both of them, and crushing Miles painfully against the ground. The two were tangled awkwardly, a fact which only Miles seemed to be aware of as Spider-Man froze above him, one fist still poised right above his face and ready to strike.

 

In desperation, Miles tugged off his balaclava, hoping he could appeal to his hero’s better nature or something, and put his arms up in the gesture of surrender. “Hey, hey, hey, don’t- punch!”

 

The mechanical eyes whirred above him and narrowed; although he seemed poised, Spider-Man’s breathing was ragged.

 

Miles continued tremulously. “I’m not a villain or anything, I promise! I’m just… me. I don’t wanna - please don’t kill me!”

 

After a terrifyingly long few seconds, Spider-Man slowly relinquished his fist.

 

He spoke then, in a surprisingly high-pitched voice that made Miles’ eyes narrow. “Who the hell are you?”

 

“Kinda weird question, but sure. Um- I’m Miles, I live here, in Brooklyn, NYC, I go to-“

 

Spider-Man still hadn’t moved from his position on top of Miles and was gazing intensely at his captive. “No no no, not that- what are you?”

 

Miles drew his brows together, puzzled. “A human? A… person? I don’t understand what you’re talking about here, man.” He let out a nervous laugh.

 

“I don’t understand…” At this, Spider-Man ceased his interrogation, distracted by his own coughing fit. Wincing in pain, he extricated himself from Miles and continued to choke breathlessly on his hands and knees.

 

Miles cringed. “Oh no. Is this because I electrocuted you?”

 

It was forced out between wheezes: “Yeah, no shit.”

 

What am I supposed to do? “Uh… should I call an ambulance?”

 

At this, Spider-Man abruptly composed himself. “Nope. Don’t you dare. I’m all good.” Half-heartedly, he leaned back onto his haunches and gave Miles a thumbs-up.

 

“I’m so sorry. I’m- I never thought I’d get to meet Spider-Man for real- I mean, in any other situation this would be the coolest day of my life­-“

 

Spider-Man’s voice was still a little raspy. “Yeah, yeah, thanks, but-“

 

But Miles pushed on, his pitch peaking in desperation. “- But I really need your help, sir! I was trying to find you for ages and ages, and that’s why I was running towards you, I just wanted to talk to you, because the craziest stuff has been happening to me and I thought maybe you could help?”

 

The exposed hand dragged across Spider-Man’s face. “Sorry about that, man.”

 

Miles could only gape. “You- you’re apologising to me?”

 

“Hey, I attacked you! That’s not cool!” The Spider-Man spread his arms.

 

I swear his voice is higher than mine…

 

Don’t judge the guy you just attacked!

 

“Uh, apology accepted then, I guess,” replied Miles, forehead creased.

 

With a jolt, the vigilante sat across from him sprung upwards, leaning against the alleyway with a hand and circling his chest protectively with another. “Oh crap, I really have to get going. I have a – a thing to get to-“

 

“Wait, wait, wait!” In his desperation, Miles pushed off from the wall and took a step towards Spider-Man, but the hero flinched involuntarily away from him. “Please don’t go right now. I-“

 

A lump he hadn’t expected formed in his throat and Miles choked off, swiping at his face before tears could betray him. The battered hero before him paused just for a second.

 

Miles' voice cracked just a little as he spoke. "I got bit by a spider, another spider. Just like you. And - this'll sound crazy, but... I'm like you now. Just before I - you got electrocuted, I felt... It's really hard to explain..."

 

"You felt your senses kind of hone in, like there was danger just around the corner?" Spider-Man's interest had been peaked; he leaned in slightly towards Miles, who nodded mutely.

 

"I'm freaking out, man." Miles drew his arms tightly around him. "I keep sticking to stuff, I don't run out of breath when I run, my senses are all over the place, when I jump I go, like, twenty metres in the air without even trying, and, um- I thought you could tell me what the hell is going on." Now he sounded faintly hysterical.

 

The ensuing pause was so long Miles was ready to walk away. The Spider-Man remained poised and motionless. Miles searched the squinted eye sockets in front of him for a hint of validation, of understanding, tucking his hands into his pockets gingerly.

 

Finally, Spider-Man replied to him. "We need to talk. Let's grab some food."

 

"Wait, what?"

 

 

Chapter Text

Miles felt like he’d died and ended up in the weirdest version of Heaven he’d ever seen.

 

I’m in Chick-fil-A. With Spider-Man. Um.

 

As they’d walked the short distance to the store together, Spider-Man had said to him: “You probably haven’t noticed it yet, but the spider-bite amps up your metabolism. Like, a lot. If you’re hungry now, you won’t be able to see straight in an hour.”

 

It was strange. Not just that he was strolling along the sidewalk with, um, the Spectacular Spider-Man himself (which attracted a lot of attention to him by proxy, but hey, at least now it was mainly positive attention instead of bewildered stares), but that he still hadn’t seen this guy’s face yet and they were getting takeout together.

 

In fact, it became a little awkward; with people hanging on to Spider-Man’s every word as they passed, they couldn’t exactly chat about what had just gone down in that alleyway.

 

But there was no way he was going to back out of this. Apart from the impending personal chat with his hero, he would get some advice on what the hell was going on with him which he sorely needed.

 

I just need to control it, sort it out, so I can get back to normal life and school and stuff. And maybe become Spider-Man for a bit too or something if he’d let me but also maybe not because it’d be hard and I’d have to keep it a secret but maybe I wouldn’t and imagine how cool it’d be to just swing through the city with him and punch people in the face but only the bad guys.

 

Keep it cool, Miles, keep it cool.

 

“So. What was the thing you needed to go to?”

 

“Huh?” Spider-Man seemed a little distracted, even uncomfortable, around everyone passing by.

 

“When you nearly raced off and dumped me, after… you know. You said you had a ‘thing’. You got a date or something that I’m interrupting?”

 

“Nah. It’s- nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

 

“Right, it’s totally a date then.” Despite himself, Miles chuckled, scuffing his Air Jordans along the pavement as he realised he’d just made a joke at Spider-Man’s expense and that was probably a really, really dumb idea.

 

But Spider-Man seemed amused, if a little embarrassed. “Yeah, in my dreams,” he muttered, glancing furtively at the awed civilians surrounding him.

 

Miles stopped in his tracks, a small squeak issuing from his sneakers. “Are you serious?”

 

The vigilante tilted his head a little quizzically, continuing to walk. “It’s a secret identity. I don’t glow blue or anything- well, I’m going to have to check after tonight-“

 

Miles winced and smiled simultaneously.

 

“-but it’s not obvious. I’m just a… normal guy.”

 

“Hey, you- uh- don’t happen to have any cash on you, do you?” They’d reached the ordering counter; Spider-Man looked uncharacteristically bashful, shifting on his feet in front of the register, and addressed Miles with a hand on the back of his neck. But the register girl had just looked up a little blearily and staggered back in shock.

 

“Oh. My. God. Uh- hi!” Flustered, she tucked her hair behind her ears, seeming to forget how to use her register all of a sudden. “Sorry, sorry. Um- you can have your stuff on the house.”

 

Miles’ jaw dropped. If being Spider-Man gets me free food, there’s no way I’m turning it down.

 

But the Spider-Man protested: “No, no, no, it’s alright. I just… need to get some change somewhere…”

 

The register girl’s name tag read Billie; resolution had formed in her stance now. “It’s – it’s alright, sir. You do enough for us. Let us do this one thing for you.”

 

She seemed surprised at her own outburst; Miles chipped in, enthusiastic. “That’d be great! I’m with him by the way. Can I just get some nuggets with Chick-fil-A sauce and a milkshake?”

 

Spider-Man glared accusingly at him, but conceded nonetheless and ordered more nuggets and a frosted coffee. Miles lost count of the number of times he thanked or apologized to the register girl, who hadn’t blinked since he entered the store.

 

When their order was ready, Spider-Man calling thanks behind him as they left the store, Miles was accosted by the superhero.

 

“Why’d you do that?” They were breathing the Brooklyn air again; the crack in Spider-Man’s voice betrayed an undertone of sadness, of guilt, that took Miles by surprise.

 

He would have crossed his arms defensively if it wasn’t for the steaming bags of nuggets he clutched. “We needed food, we didn’t have any way to pay, they offered it to us on the house because you’re awesome - it all worked out, didn’t it?”

 

Spider-Man’s hand was on his shoulder. “But you- you can never know.

 

And then he was off, striding down the street as if he expected Miles to follow him, a hint of a limp in his gait. Of course, Miles went jogging after him. “You can never know what?

 

Miles hadn’t realised how temperamental his hero could be; he stopped in his tracks and locked eye contact with Miles. “That service girl… maybe she really, really needed a tip. Maybe she works multiple jobs on top of school to support her family. Maybe – we could’ve paid for that. Maybe her boss will get mad at her now she’s given food free to a customer. Maybe she’ll get fired. Maybe she can’t support her family anymore, and she’ll be tossed into the care system and never get the chance to get her life back together.”

 

As their eyes remained resting on each other, Peter felt that now-familiar twinge of his Spider Sense, sharpening his mind, where a thousand catastrophic possibilities played on repeat, a film on loop with endless different realities and each one uglier than the last.

 

One wrong move, and somebody dies. Don’t accept the responsibility, and he gets a bullet to the chest.

 

Miles’ eyebrows drew together.

 

“You never know.”

 

He swallowed. “Hey, man, I’m sorry. I don’t know if this is, like, a personal subject or something…”

 

Spider-Man laughed self-deprecatingly. “Yeah, a little.”

 

And there they stood, Miles searching for the eye contact they’d just held, Spider-Man gazing at the floor, the looseness with which he held his coffee defeated.

 

“You know what?”

 

“What?” Miles was more sober than he’d been in a long time.

 

“Let’s go up to the roof.”

 

“Uh- okay…”

 

“You gotta – hold onto me first.”

 

Miles coughed, taking a step towards the Spider-Man. “I mean… I can sort of stick sometimes…”

 

Spider-Man rubbed his nose; a peculiarly mundane gesture. “Just- just put your arms around my… neck.”

 

Despite the sombre tone of their previous discussion, Miles couldn’t help snorting a little. “You know, you’re a lot more… awkward in person.”

 

“Hey!” It was said in mock-offense. As Miles looped his arms around his hero’s neck as instructed, he grinned.

 

And then- and then they were off, and it was everything Miles had dreamed all at once: the whistling sound of wind rushing past his ears and rippling his clothes almost painfully; the rising moon clearing the tops of buildings as Spider-Man shot a web to the right; the splatting sound as the web hit its mark; the condensed, vibrant smell of Brooklyn accosting him.

 

But it was over in six seconds. A jolt as the momentum was cut off and Spider-Man’s feet hit the flat roof; Miles released his arms slowly, reverently.

 

“Holy- geez, man… I – that was insane!” Miles broke off into an exulting laugh, threading his free hand roughly through his hair and taking a couple of steps back.

 

“Yeah, it never gets old.” There was a hint of wistfulness in Spider-Man’s tone that brought Miles back to reality.

 

“So…” Miles spoke conversationally, wandering over to the edge of the roof and slumping down there, letting his legs dangle over the edge. He dipped his hand into the bag of nuggets before continuing. “Oh my god, these are good… I mean, why are we up here?”

 

Slowly, Spider-Man joined him, setting aside his own nuggets and coffee and raising his hands to his neck instead.

 

And then Miles lurched back in a double take as he watched Spider-Man pull his mask off.

 

“Wait, wait, wait!” Miles pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes in a moment of panic. “I don’t- do you really wanna do this?”

 

The voice on his left was no longer muffled by the fabric of the mask, but no less high-pitched. “Yeah, I do.”

 

The conviction with which it was said was only slightly comforting to Miles. “But what if – I don’t know, somebody finds out I know who you are and kidnaps me and tortures me and everything?”

 

The tone was level. “I can trust you.”

 

There were mismatching hands gripping his wrists, one covered with suit fabric, one bare yet warm to the touch. Slowly, they prised his hands from his eyes.

 

It took a half second for Miles’ eyes to adjust fully.

 

Cue his second double take of the night.

 

“You… holy-“

 

The face was a kid’s. Rumpled, honey-blonde curls framed a pale and clear face that Miles had never envisioned under the mask. A surprisingly sharp jaw melded into slanted ears on either side. A high and sweeping brow framed a narrow, peaked nose and a pair of brown eyes like rainforest water, inestimably deep, built on secrets. Lips of someone even younger than him, pursed and pouting.

 

Young. So young.

 

Peter Parker dipped his head into his hands briefly. “Yeah, I know.” There was humility in the words, but an underlying hurt too, and Miles wanted to cry.

 

“How- how old are you?”

 

“Fifteen.”

 

Miles gaped.

 

Blushing lightly, Spider-Man changed tack. “How old are you?”

 

“I can’t believe that’s… fourteen. I’m fourteen. And – I don’t think I ever told you my name? – I’m Miles. Miles Morales.”

 

“Peter.” Peter gestured lightly to himself with a humourless smile. “Peter Parker.”

 

“You’re so young!” Miles couldn’t contain his outburst any longer; he shoved two nuggets into his mouth simultaneously with vigour.

 

Peter spluttered, indicating Miles: “And you’re not?”

 

“Yeah, but that’s not the point. You’ve been Spider-Man for- what- six months now, and you were fifteen the entire time?”

 

“No, I age backwards.” Peter wasn’t a sardonic person by nature, but thankfully Miles brought that out in him.

 

Miles met Peter’s eyes; the irises of the younger boy were honey bathed in winter sunshine. “I’m – sorry.”

 

“Why’s that?”

 

“This is… it’s gotta be hard for you.”

 

Peter gazed out at the brightening stars, like tiny chinks of sunlight through tears in the marbled material of the sky. His hands played tensely with his mask; the small muscle twitching in his upper jaw reflected this nervous energy.

 

Miles’ handling of emotional situations had always come from his mum. He angled himself to face Peter, speaking a little softer. “Why would you do it? Become Spider-Man and save a bunch of people you don’t even know, probably ruining your own life at the city’s expense?”

 

“It’s a… um…” A hurried sniff, and Peter ducked his head, scrubbing an arm broadly over his face, stammering. “That’s… kinda personal? I’m sorry, I’m-“

 

“No, no, no, it’s fine,” Miles cut in, shuffling back a little to give him some space. “We’ve know each other for a total of… like, thirty minutes: I’m not about to reveal my deepest, darkest secrets, and I won’t expect you to.”

 

A grudging, slightly tearful laugh from Peter, who’s head was still ducked.

 

Miles’ voice softened further still. “It’s alright.”

 

After a few final swipes with the heel of his hand, Peter tremulously lifted his gaze to Miles’ with a face lightly flushed and damp.

 

“I just… it’s really cool of you. That you do this.” Miles laughed awkwardly; how do I say this? “You have no idea how… safe you make us all feel. And, you know, we all- I – you know, you’re… my – role model.”

 

You just had to phrase it like that, didn’t you?

 

But Peter’s head was tilted as he gazed sidelong at Miles, something disappearing into the depths of those rainforest-water eyes and changing, clearing.

 

“Thanks.” He smiled; bittersweet.

 

Miles was wary of ruining the moment, but his stomach won this time; he tipped the remainder of the bag of nuggets into his mouth, grinning when Peter laughed and revelling in the incongruity of it.

 

With a sigh of annoyance, Peter spoke. “Mine are cold already. High-altitude stress eating has its setbacks, I guess…”

 

Miles gagged a little in his laughter, mouth still full. On a whim, Peter threw his now-cold nugget into the air in front of him, intending to catch it in his mouth, but it would have plummeted to the ground like an abandoned dream had he not sprung up from his position and let himself fall off the side of the building, twisting around so his back was to the ground and planting his feet on the rim of the wall so he could catch the nugget neatly in his mouth.

 

Miles hurriedly swallowed his mouthful as he leapt up himself to applaud and cheer his hero. “Yes! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

 

Peter had surprised himself; he remained stuck to the side of the building for a couple of seconds, wide-eyed but smirking. “So… have you tried this yet?” he breezed.

 

“What, sticking to walls and stuff?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Well… it’s a bit – inconsistent, if you get what I mean. One minute, I’m stuck to anything and everything, and the next I’m – just not again. So maybe a very high building isn’t the place to practice!”

 

“Well, I always say-“ Peter reached out a cautious hand to Miles- “-The best way to learn is under intense, life-threatening pressure?”

 

Miles smiled tightly, folding his arms. “You know, I’m usually an all-out kinda guy, but somehow, this seems a little different.”

 

All at once, Peter sobered, shaking his head a little, the grin wiped from his face. “You’re right, sorry, lets – uh – let’s sit and talk?” Almost without thinking, he placed an outstretched hand on the rim of the building and swung his legs up and over, landing in a crouch back on the roof before re-joining Miles on the edge.

 

The younger boy chuckled. “You’re a crazy guy, you know that.”

 

“Sorry. I guess it’s just… weird, to find out you’re not alone for once. I just wanna show you everything, you know? Here’s someone, out of the blue, who you can finally talk to about all of this, and it’s- it’s pretty cool.” The energy that had before manifested itself physically in Peter was now concentrating in his irises and the intensity of his voice.

 

Spider-Man wants to be my friend.

 

A small laugh from Miles as he met Peter’s eye. “Yeah, really cool.”

 

“So. How’d it happen?” Peter plunged his clasped hands between his thighs and swung his legs a little as he looked to Miles for a response.

 

Miles blinked heavily. “Just- before I begin, you’re alright with, um, “vandalising” the subway, right?”

 

The older teen flashed him a bemused smile. “Uh… yeah, that’s fine, I think – what kind of vandalising? Not, like, tearing it up or anything?”

 

“No, no, no.” Chuckling, Miles raised his hands as if in surrender. “Just… spray painting. I got down there a lot with my uncle Aaron-“

 

A small flinch on his left.

 

“- and we put up our designs and stuff. And it seemed perfectly normal, we were about to leave, but then-“

 

“-then the spider got you.” Peter’s lips twitched upwards into a subtle and bittersweet smile.

 

“Yeah. That must’ve been the one – you know, the one that gave me these powers – but then it was just a spider bite. So I brushed it off and left, went to sleep. I was-“

 

“It didn’t make you feel sick or anything?”

 

“Why, was yours like that?” Miles tried not to be put off by this guy’s constant interruptions. It was clearly a result of nervous energy rather than a lack of manners.

 

Peter laughed self-deprecatingly and ducked his head. “It was a mess, man. I was passing out in the school bathroom… puking all over the place… cold sweats, the lot.”

 

Quirking an eyebrow, Miles clapped his hands together, making as if to stand up and leave him. “And I’m off to make a little spare cash with a fresh news story for the Daily Bugle: Spider-Man Makes a Public Spectacle in a Children’s Bathroom.”

 

“Hey I thought we were friends! It was traumatic for me!” But there was no real venom behind his words as he slapped Miles’ shoulder lightly in reprimand.

 

“But yeah, I didn’t get sick or anything – thankfully, I guess – but I get up the next morning, and… uh…”

 

“Go on.”

 

“My pants are too small. And I reacted to that in a very mature way, by yelling “I think I hit puberty!” right in front of my roommate. Oh my god, this poor guy… he probably thinks I’m the weirdest guy ever by now!”

 

Peter had doubled over laughing; if it hadn’t been for his superhuman stickiness, Miles might have stuck an arm out instinctively to prevent him from falling.

 

“I mean,” wheezed Peter, wincing a little, between peals of laughter (Miles was reminded painfully of the electrocution he’d dealt the guy a half hour ago) “you’re not wrong – I’d probably think that too.”

 

“Hey!” It was Miles’ turn now to slap Peter on the shoulder.

 

Oh my god, he’s ripped.

 

Wait, what the hell, Miles?

 

But he is.

 

Could you stop?

 

I hope I’ll get that ripped someday… but what if he actually, like, works out a lot?

 

Please, please, don’t ask him that.

 

Miles shook himself out of his own thoughts and continued to detail his utterly harrowing experience of gaining his powers to a surprisingly energetic audience of one.

 

“Dude, your powers are so much cooler than mine.” Peter tucked a foot underneath him and sprung lithely up to walk along the very edge of the roof, mask and food waste abandoned.

 

Dude, you’re the original Spider-Man! It doesn’t get cooler than that, trust me.”

 

“You know wh- oh…”

 

A muffled vibrating noise emanated from Peter’s suit, and he started, slipping a hand furtively along the corner of his hipbone to unearth a ridiculously battered phone. “Aw, shit.”

 

A crease appeared between Mile’s eyebrows. “Who is it?”

 

But Peter had already answered the call; he mouthed “family.”

 

The atmosphere was shattered. Miles swivelled around so his legs were dangling over the edge of the building once again and dove into his jacket pocket to retrieve his own phone.

 

Aunt May had completely slipped Peter’s mind. It just so happened that his phone, after one too many cracks, now chose its moments very sparingly to ring when he got a call. Briefly swiping downwards to check his notifications as the call connected, he groaned at the 15 missed calls it displayed.

 

“Hey, May – I’m so incredibly sorry, I-“

 

“Thank God you picked up! Are you alright?”

 

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine – it’s alright.”

 

“It’s alright? Sure, it’s alright. Remember your curfew? Remember when you said you’d be back home in 5 minutes?” Any trace of cheerfulness had disappeared; May’s voice was a little shaky, and Peter squeezed his eyes shut in his guilt. “It’s been an hour, Peter. I was worried out of my mind. What the hell have you been doing all this time?”

 

“I – uh…”

 

This was always the worst part, the casting about for mediocre excuses that would ultimately leave him more entangled in his lies than before.

 

He cast a tense glance to Miles, who was scrolling lazily through his own phone. “I… ran into a friend on the street and I just forgot the time completely, my phone wasn’t ringing. Look, nothing I say can make up for this.”

 

A strained sigh from over the line, and May replied: “You need to work on this, honey. You can’t keep losing track of the time, or getting caught up.”

 

“I know.” Peter’s tone was flat, defeated. “How's dinner?”

 

“Cold.”

 

A silence.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

 

“Just… try and get home in ten minutes.”

 

“Yeah, I can do that. I love you. I’m so-“

 

“You’re sorry. I know. Now get home.”

 

Peter whispered his final word through the lump in his throat. “Okay.”

 

Miles raised himself into a standing position. “Did I just get you in trouble? Peter?”

 

Peter swept a hand angrily over his face. “Yeah, sorta.”

 

“Can you stay for a little longer, though? I need a little advice on, you know, not sticking to things I don’t want to stick to-“

 

Abruptly, Peter strode over to the spot on the roof where he’d strewn his mask, avoiding Miles’ eyes. “No. Not right now. Look – you can take my number, and call me if there’s an emergency.”

 

“Are you serious?”

 

“What?”

 

“You – you take me under your wing like that, and we talk for ages, and then you just dump me? I’ve been trying so hard to find you! You don’t even-“

Peter met him with blazing eyes; he might be small, but he had a couple inches on Miles all the same. “I can’t, okay? I get it. Call me. We can – meet up or something. But don’t push it right now.”

 

With an exhale, the fight left Miles as he beheld the guilt brewing in Peter’s locked jaw and darkening eyes.

 

He spoke quietly. “What’s your number?”

 


 

 

Arms folded, Miles watched Spider-Man gain momentum as he swung away from him.

 

It all felt like a dream, a dream that had ended too harshly. Now here he was again, a schoolkid with powers he had no control over, wandering the Brooklyn streets.

 

He felt a little lethargic as he compressed the bundle of fast food trash in a fist and threw it into a nearby trashcan.

 

Well, at least I can call him.

 

And I have a feeling there’ll be a lot of emergencies coming up.

 

He fished around in a pocket and found a spare pair of earphones. Maybe Invincible could lift his mood.

 

I wanna fly right now


I wanna see all my homies get down


I wanna feel like I can't come down


I got a dream so I can’t stop now

I gotta stop feeling invisible and start feeling invincible


Hate, feeling impossible


The hardest thing is believing in your dreams...

Chapter Text

 

 

Vous les hommes êtes tous les mêmes

Macho mais cheap

Bande de mauviettes infidèles

Si prévisibles, non je ne suis pas certaine, que tu m'mérites

Z'avez d'la chance qu'on vous aime

Dis-moi "Merci"

 

Rendez-vous, rendez-vous, rendez-vous au prochain règlement

Rendez-vous, rendez-vous, rendez-vous sûrement aux prochaines règles

 

Peter’s train inched along the tracks, rain beating at the flimsy, steamy windows. Something about today made him uneasy. He never knew what, it was just a persistent thought pushing itself near-constantly to the front of his mind, elbowing aside things that were actually useful like remembering to take a coat or his Biology textbook and instead choosing to sit there, warning him of a danger that wasn’t there.

 

It’s just stress. Ignore it.

 

He’d been listening to French music ever since he’d started living with May and Ben. That was just how it was. Although he had the power to research each song, each lyric, and understand its literary meaning, he’d always enjoyed the exotic sound of the words in his throat, the vital element of the unknown. This was Tous Les Memes: All The Same.

 

Cette fois c'était la dernière

Tu peux croire que c'est qu'une crise

Mate une dernière fois mon derrière, il est à côté de mes valises

Tu diras au revoir à ta mère, elle qui t'idéalise

Tu n'vois même pas tout c'que tu perds

Avec une autre ce serait pire

 

Quoi toi aussi tu veux finir maintenant?

C’est l'monde à l'envers!

Moi je l'disais pour t'faire réagir seulement... toi t'y pensais

 

 

At last, the train ground to a halt beside the platform above his school; Peter burst through the crowd as politely as he could manage and tamped down the compulsion to shoot a web upwards at the ceiling and let the momentum carry him above the masses.

 

The towering gates of Midtown seemed to become more foreboding than welcoming every time he ventured underneath them.

 

As he hurried to his locker, eager to get out of the crowded hallways, he spotted the back of Ned’s dark mop of hair and called out for him. “Ned!”

 

“Hey, Peter! How’re you doing?”

 

Peter groaned noncommittally as he matched his best friend’s stride. “Tired. But that’s nothing new.”

 

Ned quirked a suspicious eyebrow at Peter. “How many hours of sleep did you get?”

 

Peter winced lightly, stammering. “Uh… a- a little! A couple of hours!”

 

This was a contentious subject between them.

 

“I will break into your apartment and light candles and play with your hair until you sleep. I’ll do it!”

 

Peter broke him off with a bemused chuckle. “We can have a sleepover any time if that’s what you mean. But I’m alright, I promise.”

 

“We should actually do one though! I’ve missed our spa days.” Ned shifted his stack of textbooks into one hand to finger-gun, lighting up Peter’s face as he reciprocated the gesture.

 

“Oh yeah, totally.” Peter ran a hand through his hair, relieved Ned had dropped the subject so fast. “Hey, I’m free today! You?”

 

“Uh… I am, actually.” A slow smile crept across Ned’s face; the two caught glimmering eye contact.

 

“Meet me at my locker?”

“Sure thing, man.”

 

Their secret handshake proceeded. Peter was certain he could do the whole thing blindfolded by now; he could barely imagine a time when it hadn’t been ingrained into his muscle memory, when he hadn’t had Ned as his closest friend.

 

“Alright, I gotta go!” Waving loosely to Ned, Peter spun on his heel and braved the sea of students.

 

At least I’ve got something to look forward to now.

 

But what the hell am I gonna do about Miles?

 


 

 

He needn’t have worried. Miles decided to come to him.

 

By some tragic twist of fate, his altercation with the other boy had further damaged his battered cellphone, but not in a normal way like a cracked screen or buffering – the ringtone had jammed at a high volume and would not change.

 

Peter himself was not aware of this small change until he’d made it partway through his Spanish lesson and a shy kid he didn’t know the name of was stumbling through a passage they’d been picked on to read.

 

He froze as the tinny sound of yodelling emanated from his pants pocket.

 

As if they were all puppets drawn on the same string, every single head in the class turned to face him, including the teacher who had been writing phrases on the board.

 

Do I move and turn it off, or do I just… stay here?

 

I had to pick that ringtone. I just had to.

 

He chose to twist round in his own seat, hoping to make out that it wasn’t his phone, before realising he was on the back row.

 

You idiot.

 

The Spanish teacher broke into English to reprimand him. “Parker. Get your phone and turn it off.”

 

The words galvanised Peter into action. “I’m – sorry, sorry.” Waving a hand about ineffectually, his gaze swept the cluster of faces eyeing him as he rooted around for his complaining phone.

 

Slowly and inexorably, the looks of amusement on his classmates’ faces shifted and rose into a chorus of laughter. Peter ducked his head to hide the blush stealing across his cheeks; he finally retrieved his cell out of his pocket and raised an eyebrow when he saw the notification:

 

Call from Miles Morales

 

Why the hell would he be calling me right now? It's school time.

 

But Peter didn’t care much to pursue this train of thought at that moment. Instead, he hurriedly declined the call, pressing down on the volume button to silence the ringtone, and plunged the device deeper into his pocket. Mercifully, the class turned back to face the front, excepting Flash who hissed “Loser!” before joining the other kids with a smug flourish.

 

Never again.

 

But he was wrong to think so.

 

The worst part was that it happened twice in the lesson. Just three minutes before the bell was due to ring, Peter jumped as the yodelling ringtone shattered the focus in the room, immediately fumbling for his pocket again. It felt like the worst kind of déjà vu. This time, the class was quick to descend into hysteria, whispering among each other.

 

“Sir, I don’t- I don’t know what’s happening, it won’t turn down…” To prove his point, Peter held up the offending device and pressed down on the volume button.

 

The teacher tapped his pen absently against the broad section of his pointer finger, raising his eyebrows disapprovingly at him. “Don’t even try. I’m not fooled, Peter. This is your last warning, okay?”

 

“But-“

 

“Would you turn it off?”

 

He’d inadvertently tuned out the yodelling, but now Peter rushed to decline the second call from Miles that hour.

 

Why? Why the hell, Miles?

 

“…sorry, sir.”

 

His teacher just sighed. “Just get on with your work.” He looked tired, and damn, now Peter was guilty as well as embarrassed.

 

The bell rung; the torture was over. Making his way along the corridor, he got a few calls of “Nice ringtone, dickwad!” among others, but he shut his eyes against the words, waiting until green- tinged streaks of light burst across his vision before increasing his pace and ducking into the library.

 

It was becoming a tradition: he, MJ and Ned would grab the secluded corner table at break and hang out away from the buzz of the cafeteria. Sometimes he felt like they’d made the choice more to preserve his state of mind than theirs; his elevated senses meant the level of noise in there was nerve-shredding, and he’d hinted this to them both.

 

Ned waved at him with enthusiasm as he approached; MJ had her nose almost pointedly in a book and didn’t look up as he sat down.

 

“Hiya, guys.” His phone was out as soon as he’d slung his battered bag onto the floor; he ran a hand across his forehead and waited for the glitching screen to process the calls he’d received in Spanish.

 

“What’s up? Did Donald Trump tweet something dumb again?” Ned peered over Peter’s shoulder to get a glimpse of the object of his frustration.

 

“No, it’s just…”

 

Do I tell Ned that there’s another guy with spider powers?

 

I tell him everything. I told him about me.

 

But that wasn’t exactly your choice, was it? And maybe Miles doesn’t want you to talk about it yet.

 

“…uh- somebody calling me. Twice. In a lesson.”

 

MJ huffed out a breath, finally raising her eyes to rest somewhere around Peter’s collar. “You don’t still have that ringtone, do you?”

 

Despite himself, Peter couldn’t help chuckling self-deprecatingly. “Uh huh.”

 

“Surely you could’ve just turned it off after the first time?” Ned laced his fingers together, then broke them apart.

 

“That’s the problem. The sound won’t turn down. I think I broke it last night.”

 

“Doing what?”

 

MJ rolled her eyes. “What do you think?”

 

She thinks it was a normal patrol, so let’s roll with that.

 

“So I guess I’m just gonna have to live with the embarrassment and possible detentions for the rest of the day.” Still frowning, Peter opened his messenger app and sent a text to Miles:

 

Peter Parker

Why’d you call me? I said only for emergencies.

 

And then another as an afterthought: Surely you’re in school right now?

 

No response came in the next ten minutes, and the longer he waited for an explanation, the more irritated Peter became. It was irrational, but the uneasiness of that morning was only bound to soar the longer he spent in school.

 

“Hey, man.” The words broke through the cloud of his thoughts; Ned was narrowing his eyes at him. “You need to chill.”

 

“Yeah, sorry.” Peter turned off his phone and leaned back in his seat, blowing out a breath.

 

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed MJ mirroring the vague concern in Ned’s eyes. “What?” He spread his hands and addressed her.

 

“You should check your selfie camera. There’s tension, like, rolling off you.”

 

Peter snorted gracelessly. The quality he found in MJ’s eyes when he met them with his own was unfamiliar; he fired back. “I appreciate your scrutiny, but I’m good.”

 

It was true; the hand he ran compulsively through his hair shook just slightly, the sharp line of his jaw taut. All the same, he flashed a wooden smile at them both before bolting up and hauling his bag onto his shoulder. “It’s gym class, right?”

 

MJ cocked her head as if she was trying to look past his eyes and his lies and into a hidden world she had no place in. “…which we’re all in together?”

 

“Oh. Yeah.” Peter knocked on the side of his head gently with a fist and laughed nervously. “Let’s go, then.”

 

“We still have ages, Peter.” The corners of Ned’s cheeks pulled up as he squinted upwards at his twitching friend.

 

“Can we just… go on a walk? I gotta – uh- clear my head.”

 

Ned and MJ were only too happy to oblige.

 


 

 

“Parker!”

 

“Ma'am, I promise you, it’s broken, it won’t turn down-“

 

“Uh huh, of course it is. I’m confiscating it anyway.”

 

“I’m serious…”

 

“No, I’m serious. Give it here. You can collect it at the end of the day.” His Calculus teacher held out a hand, the other crossed severely across her chest.

 

Groaning internally, Peter handed her the damaged, precious thing, already dreading the time when he’d have to come back to collect it.

 

“Sorry,” he mumbled as he made the walk of shame back to his seat. He wasn’t used to this stuff. Excepting that one time when he ran his mouth unintentionally in front of the principal, he’d steered clear of detention his entire time at Midtown.

 

I guess I’m just lucky I didn’t get another one.

 

Lunch was both bliss and torture: he was free of that god-awful ringtone and Miles’ incessant calls, but his thoughts were forever wandering to Miles and what was going on at the other end of the line. Ned had to tap him on the head a couple times to snap him out of his stupor.

 

“What is up with you today, Peter?” Michelle’s tone broke from its usual deadpan pattern as she took his arm, catching him by surprise. “Is it a Spider-Man thing? Is it a Peter thing? Because we’re here either way.”

 

The laugh that escaped his lips was involuntary and charged with a fondness he hadn’t expected. He pressed his lips together. “It’s- I don’t know. I’m just really pent up today.”

 

Was it the change in her behaviour that had prompted his own openness?

 

“Well, that happens to all of us,” chipped in Ned. “Now we know, we can help you. Yeah?”

 

Peter replied with grudging assent. “Yeah.”

 

“Well, you’ll be surprised at the number of relaxation techniques I have up my sleeve-“

 

“Another weird past obsession?” Cut in MJ, her trademark sass returned as soon as it had left.

 

“Yep,” continued Ned without missing a beat. “Want me to try a couple after school at yours?”

 

“Alright, sure, whatever makes your vessel more buoyant.”

 

MJ spluttered. Some semblance of normalcy settled over the three, and Peter smiled.

 


 

 

The door to his Calculus class was open, thank God, so Peter didn’t have to worry about it hitting him in the face or being either too easy or too hard to open, but the wedge keeping it ajar still sent a breath through his teeth.

 

Past the wedge, no problem. It’s okay. Stop overreacting.

 

“Uh… hi?”

 

“Peter.” She was at her desk, pinching the bridge of her nose between her forefinger and thumb as she shuffled through innumerable leaves of paper. “Do you need something?”

 

She got really pissed at me. How does she not remember?

 

Maybe it’s a test-

 

“My phone? You-“ Here he paused to laugh humourlessly, still lingering in the doorway. “- you confiscated it.”

 

“Oh!” She was up in an instant, waving her hands vaguely as she searched for the device. “I ought to give you a detention for that thing, it kept ringing all day. Hope it’s not important.”

 

Her tone seemed so much lighter than before in the classroom; almost as if the whole thing had been a joke.

 

It was in her hand at last, and she passed it on to him, where he scanned the lockscreen and beheld the display with an open mouth:

 

67 missed calls from Miles Morales. 19 texts from Miles Morales.

 

The teacher now facing Peter studied his face. “Was it important?”

 

“Um… no. Just a couple prank calls.” Peter hastily pasted a grin onto his face and backed out of the door, calling, “Thank you, ma’am!”

 

Out in the corridor, he called Miles.

 

“What the hell, man? 67 calls? I got my phone confiscated, you could’ve got me dete-“

 

“It’s an emergency. It’s- a real big emergency, I- “ Peter picked up the sound of cursing and a muffled bang. “I need help. Right. Now.”

 

“What do you mean? What’s going on?”

 

“I can’t stop sticking. To everything. I got my hand stuck on this really pretty girl’s hair and they had to shave it off and she’s pissed at me and now her hair’s still on my hand and it’s gross and there’s like, at least 8 other things stuck to me right now- what if my roommate comes in?”

 

Peter grimaced. “Have you tried- I don’t know, taking deep breaths?”

 

“What do you think?”

 

Miles’ voice was tinged with a panic Peter could recall all too well, and he scuffed a foot across the floor in frustration before responding.

 

“Okay. Okay. I’ll come over and help.”

 

Miles had the grace then to sound apologetic. “You didn’t have anything planned, did you?”

 

“Actually, yes. But it’s- it’s alright.”

 

“Thanks so much, Peter.”

 

“Just hang on in there.”

 


 

 

“Ned, I’m so, so sorry, something – with, uh, with May – came up. I gotta dash.”

 

“Hey, don’t sweat it. Can you make later this week?”

 

Peter mentally scanned his calendar and found it full. “No.”

 

Ned cast his eyes downwards.

 

“I’m sorry, I’ll make it up to you-“

 

“Don’t bother. It’s all good.” But the tone of Ned’s voice said differently.

 

In his desperation, Peter dived in to hug him; Ned instantly returned the embrace.

 

“You give the best hugs,” Peter added before turning on his heel and jogging away.

 


 

 

“What the fuck.

 

The sight that greeted Peter’s eyes was unlike anything he’d expected. Miles stood motionless in the centre of the disarrayed dorm room, littered from head to toe with t-shirts, a lamp, a stapler, a couple sheets of paper, a shoelace, three packs of chips, a pillow, a pair of headphones, an unappealing clump of hair, and his phone. His desk chair was tipped over, a stationary pot overturned and spilled, clothes strewn across the floor (including a cheap-looking Spider-Man costume, Peter noted), and the curtains half-torn from their poles. Miles, at the centre of it all, had his eyes wide open and his hands pressed against his sides, shaking a little.

 

Oh wow, that’s a lot.

 

Miles seemed too spooked to talk.

 

“Okay…” He raised his arms in front of him, at a loss for a solution to the comical appearance of the kid in front of him.

 

“I told you I needed help.”

 

Despite himself, Peter let out a chuckle. “You weren’t wrong. So, not to freak you out, but… this didn’t happen to me. Not this much anyway. Yeah, I stuck to things, but I never had to learn to control it.”

 

“So you’re saying you don’t have any idea what to do either?” Miles’ voice was as tight at his posture.

 

“No, no, no. I can… what makes you happy?”

 

Miles stuttered. “A- a lot of things…”

 

“I mean calm happy. What helps you chill out after school or something?”

 

Immediately, Miles’ eyes lit up, then he gazed at Peter as if to gauge how he’d respond to what he did next.

 

Peter let out a small noise of surprise at Miles began singing. A song he only knew a fraction of the lyrics to; he hummed and mumbled the rest.

 

"Needless... -say I'm... -oh, eh,

.... -bad, bad, nevertheless,

Callin’ it... -now, .... baby ‘m a wreck,

…- at... -place, baby... -wreck...

Ooh, some… - refuse, she… -drive me like a cruise, and I’m… -lose…”

 

I like it.

 

He rolled with it: “Uh, okay- keep going, keep thinking about the lyrics.”

 

Miles nodded, a small movement.

 

Thirty seconds in and just as they had both started to get uncomfortable, one of the sheets of paper detached itself silently from his arm and fluttered to the floor.

 

“There you go!”

 

A small smirk of triumph worked its way across Miles’ face.

 

 Struck with a sudden inspiration, Peter opened his own phone and pressed play on his French music playlist. If it can calm me down, surely it’ll be alright for him.

 

The next song was ave cesaria, another by Stromae. “Try this one.”

 

"French?" There was an inquisitive glint to Miles' eye which overruled the confusion there.

 

"Uh huh. Sometimes it helps not to know what it means."

 

A vaguely bewildered nod from the still incapacitated Miles, who squeezed his eyes shut and slowly let his arms drop at his side. With a thud, the stapler fell to the floor.

 

Peter joined in quietly.

 

Les effluves de rhum dans ta voix, me font tourner la tête


Tu me fais danser du bout des doigts, comme tes cigarettes


Immobile, comme à ton habitude, mais es-tu devenue muette?


Ou est-ce à cause des kilomètres, que tu ne me réponds plus...

 

The flicker of a grin that passed across Miles' face as he attempted the lyrics spurred him on. As he sung, objects began to drop from him, one by one. It was a peculiar sight.

 

Evora, Evora, tu ne m'aimes plus ou quoi ?

Evora, Evora, après tant d'années

Evora, Evora, une de perdue, c'est ça ?

Evora, Evora, je te retrouverai, c'est sûr...

 

The repetitive tune as easy to pick up, and Miles joined him soon after with his half-mumbled tone. "It's good!" He enthused over the tinny music, gingerly picking the lamp off his leg.

 

And then the song was over and, with a deep exhale, Miles gently shook off the remainder of the miscellaneous objects.

 

"There you go." Peter crossed his arms contemplatively.

 

Miles let out a giggle of relief. "Holy - wow. Thank you so much."

 

"Hey, sorry I couldn't come sooner. I thought you were at school and butt dialing me or something."

 

"Well," began Miles. "I was at school, but that didn't work out so well for me."

 

Peter fought off a snigger. "You said... It got stuck to someone's hair?"

 

"I know," winced Miles, brushing said hair off his hands. "I thought it was going okay, you know, we were laying the groundwork, but-"

 

"Laying the groundwork?" Peter choked back a laugh.

 

Miles pushed on, scowling. "And then I tried to do the shoulder touch-"

 

"The shoulder touch?" Peter's glee was barely contained.

 

"Are you gonna keep repeating everything I say?"

 

But Peter seemed genuinely intrigued. "What is the shoulder touch?" 

 

I should not have mentioned that. Am I seriously about to explain the shoulder touch to Spider-Man?

 

"It's..." He laughed bashfully. "A thing my uncle taught me, to make a girl automatically attracted to you."

 

He paused at the sadness that bloomed in Peter's eyes at his words.

 

"I'd demonstrate, but I'll probably stick to you..."

 

"No, go ahead. Surprise me." Peter ventured further into the trashed bedroom, the distress gone from his eyes as soon as it had got there and replaced with shameless mirth.

 

"Uh...." 

 

You know what?

 

"Heeyyy.". Miles placed a hand on Peter's shoulder, not missing a beat, and cocked his head to look into the other kid's eyes.

 

"Okay, that was..." Peter seemed at a loss.

 

"I'm working on it."

 

The two continued to stare at each other until Miles heralded a good few minutes of laughter with an ugly snort.

 

"You- you actually used that on someone?" Peter mimed wiping a tear from his eye, a few stray giggles interrupting his speech.

 

"It seemed cool at the time, okay!"

 

"Uh huh, sure."

 

Miles feigned offence at Peter's sarcasm and continued. "So I did the shoulder touch and my hand got stuck to her hair, and..." He trailed off, holding his head in his hands. “Did this not happen to you?”

 

Peter perched a little gingerly on one of the twin beds, shaking his head. “I mean, it… it happened, and it was scary, but I could control it pretty well from the start.”

 

“Does that just mean I’m useless?”

 

Miles’ tone seemed more humorous than sincere, but Peter replied firmly all the same. “No way! I saw your powers that night in the alleyway – got electrocuted by them, actually-“ This prompted a self-deprecatory laugh from Miles, who flopped down on his own bed, shoulders drawn together- “And they’re really cool! You just gotta find out how they work.”

 

“I need you for that,” Miles insisted, his bed creaking a little as he shuffled forward. “You saw me just now, I’m a disaster. This is crazy. You’re the only guy who can help me, and boy, do I need help.”

 

He seemed just short of clasping Peter’s hands. Peter took in the imploring hazel eyes, the haze of dark hair, the raised and furrowed brow, the splayed hands and crossed legs and softly open mouth which compelled him to help this kid out.

 

He sucked in a breath, knowing his next words would cost him a lot.

 

“Okay. I’ll teach you a little.” Peter punctuated the promise with a hint of a smile.

 

The flurry of energy that descended on Miles then made Peter flinch; he leapt from the bed in a tangle of adolescent limbs and dived in for a hug before thinking better of it, and wound up twitching awkwardly a couple inches away from his hero’s face.

 

Peter only snickered, pulling Miles in for a slightly reluctant hug which Miles returned with zeal.

 

“Holy shit.” The words were out of Peter’s mouth before he could think.

 

Miles withdrew from the embrace warily. “What?”

 

It was spoken almost reverently. “I found someone shorter than me.”

 

This was no lie; Peter had a good inch or two on him. The expression on Miles’ face warred between outrage and hilarity for a few moments before he gave in to a pealing laugh.

 

The two superpowered teens split their sides in solidarity in a disarrayed dorm room; a strange image, but one of joy nonetheless.

 


 

 

Miles-shorter-than-me

uh we never talked about when you’d start ‘training’ me

 

Peter Parker

Oh yeah sorry! I don’t exactly have a lot of free time…

Next Tuesday alright?

I only have like an hour,,,

 

Miles-shorter-than-me

think so

ok great

wait where?

 

Peter Parker

Oh yeah you can’t meet me on top of a roof lol

How about outside your school gates?

 

Miles-shorter-than-me

haha you can pretend to be some weird family member

idk

that was weird

 

Peter Parker

Don’t worry!

3pm?

 

Miles-shorter-than-me

yeah perfect

this is gonna be so dopeee

 

With a self-contained grin, Miles changed Peter’s name in the chat to Confidence about his height Petering Out. Peter sent a flurry of angry face emojis back at him; he smiled the wider.

 

Yep, I’ve totally got banter with Spider-Man.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Miles-shorter-than-me

hey peter

what should I wear today

peterrrrrr

 

Confidence about his height Petering out

I saw a Spiderman costume in your room, why don’t you use that? ;)

 

Miles-shorter-than-me

whoops thought you hadn’t seen that,,,

 

Confidence about his height Petering out

Well as long as your face is covered you’re good!

Honestly you could actually use that

 

Miles paced his room lazily, gazing down at his phone in his hand. He snuck a glance at the red-and-blue costume still strewn in a corner before making a move towards it.

 

I feel like I’ve passed the point of no return for embarrassing this guy. May as well go all-out.

 

There was a quiet surge of exultation that came with the feel of the costume in his newly-superhuman hands. He’d dreamed of being Spider-Man, and now… he was.

 

Kind of. Almost.

 

This training session would be sure to negate any doubt of his powers.

 

The only thing that held him back before slipping on the cheap costume was a fleeting memory of the look in Peter’s eyes a couple nights before when they’d sat on the rooftop together, a look so burdened and guilt-ridden it was still frighteningly vivid in his mind.

 

Am I the guy for this? If the responsibility has affected a guy as good as Peter that badly, what’ll it do to me? Will I ever actually save people, or will I just screw it up and hurt them more?

 

As he pushed the sleeves along his arms, a hand got stuck on the fabric for a second. He chuckled, shaking it until the two parted, and thought, what’s the use of having abilities like these if I’m never going to use them?

 

I have to at least try. And thankfully, I know just the guy to help me with that.

 


 

 

Miles-shorter-than-me

hey you nearly here?

it’s 3pm

i look really weird hanging out by my school gates without anyone else there

if you can’t make it that’s alright

is this spiderman stuff?

should we just do this some other time

 

Confidence about his height Petering out

Omg I’m so sorry!!

Yeah spiderman stuff, bank robbery took a little longer than expected…

I’ll be with you in five!

Sorry man 

 

Miles-shorter-than-me

don’t sweat it

 

Sure enough, within the next few minutes, the iconic superhero landed right beside Miles in a crouch, making him jump.

 

“Hey, man,” was the somewhat tentative greeting from under the mask. Peter righted himself to face Miles, who’s arms were tightly folded around himself in the brisk spring air and to keep the costume he wore underneath concealed.

 

Maybe Peter took this stance as a sign of anger, because he bowed his head a little and spewed out a stream of apologies: “I’m really sorry I couldn’t be here earlier, I got really held up back there- I would’ve left but I just wanted to make sure this one kid was alright, he got caught up in it, and- yeah, that was kinda crappy of me but I couldn’t just pull out my phone…”

 

Miles stopped him, taking a small step towards the other kid. “Hey, hey- it’s alright. I only waited for a quarter hour. You don’t need to get so pent up about it, okay?”

 

Spider-Man’s pitch racked up an octave as he made a stab at nonchalance. “Really? I mean- yeah, yeah, I know. Just- just making sure.”

 

A silence passed between them; Miles, drawing his jacket further around him, prompted Peter with a gesture. “So… the training?”

 

“Oh! Yeah. You ready for this?”

 

“As I’ll ever be, I guess.”

 

Miles couldn’t help colouring a little as he revealed the cheap costume under his layers, hoping Peter would chalk the way he bounced on his toes down to the cold weather and not his anticipatory nerves.

 

The older boy laughed. “Nice.”

 

“Uh…Where do we start?”

 


 

 

“If you can stick to a random lamp, surely you can stick to a wall.”

 

Peter was just short of literally scratching his head as Miles, clad rather haphazardly in his Spider-Man costume layered with a hoodie, jacket, shorts and sneakers, pawed unsuccessfully at the dingy brick wall they stood facing.

 

Miles was torn between growling in frustration and snorting in hilarity at the anti-climax of this situation: in another dumpster alley, attempting to get his hands to stick to a wall without success. They’d been here at least six minutes now.

 

“Yeah, I have no idea how this works.”

 

“You think I do?” Peter retorted, pacing the alley and scudding his feet along the concrete as he went. “It just… happened for me. I just stuck. Can you not just- I don’t know- like, think about what sticking feels like?”  

 

Obliging his uncertain mentor, Miles squeezed his eyes shut and tried to just think really hard. He pressed his fingertips into the crevices in the wall and willed each pad to stick.

 

Nothing.

 

“Alright, let’s try something new.” Peter fumbled around the space over his hipbone, where a warp in the fabric betrayed the presence of his phone. As he tapped on the battered device, he held up a finger to Miles, signalling him to wait.

 

Miles pressed his lips together in a line at the pure insanity of this scene. There was something so domestic about the way Peter held his finger up to him and rested a hand on his hip, mechanical eyes whirring and widening as he gazed intently at his phone screen.

 

“Right, here it is.” With a flourish, Peter tapped on his screen and a tinny stream of music burst out into the frigid air.

 

It was one of Peter’s new favourites: Loving Is Easy. He thought as he selected it that it had a similar vibe to the song Miles had sung; maybe it’d help him to focus.

 

Loving is easy

You had me fucked up

It used to be so hard to see

Yeah, loving is easy

When everything's perfect

Please don't change a single little thing for me

 

A slow grin worked its way across Miles’ face. “Your music taste is awesome,” he enthused a little shyly, still half-facing the wall.

 

Peter matched his grin. “Thanks.”

 

Listen, girl

When you can't even hide it

And it didn't take forever to find it

I was all on my own

Almost glad to be alone

Until love came in on time, on time

 

Miles turned his full attention on the wall in front of him, closing his eyes once again and narrowing his senses in on the music over the countless layers of sound from the city.

 

It was creepy. As if the tips of his fingers had gotten sharper in that moment, he felt them pull just slightly towards the brick; his senses did that thing again where they narrowed down, except now only the music was amplified. With the dregs of reluctance maintaining his tentative step, he lifted a leg and reached with the opposite arm to propel himself up the wall.

 

“Holy shit.”

 

It was whispered reverently by Miles as if the moment would be shattered should he raise his voice any higher. He gripped the side of the wall tensely from where he stuck there a foot or two off the ground.

 

“You got it!” Peter would have clapped had he not held the phone in his hand. Instead, he laughed lightly.

 

“Wow. Yeah, yeah I have.”

 

Peter prompted him gently: “Go on.”

 

The laugh that escaped Miles was strained. “Could you… I don’t know if- if I can hold it all that long?”

 

“Oh, you want me to – uh – kind of crawl behind you?”

 

Miles nodded wordlessly, resting his head briefly against the brick.

 

In an instant, Peter had leapt up beside Miles on the brick wall. He didn’t need to see under the mask to recognize the encouraging smile that was directed his way.

 

“Just… trust that you can keep yourself on there. If you can stick now, you can keep sticking.”

 

With a snort, Miles noticed that Peter’s phone was webbed to the centre of his chest, just underneath the spider emblem there.  “Nice.” He nodded at the mass of webbing before prising his left hand from the wall again to reach higher.

 

“It’s a work in progress.” Peter shrugged a little bashfully.

 

So loving is easy

You had me fucked up

It used to be so hard to see

Yeah, loving is easy

When everything's perfect

Please don't change a single little thing for me

 

Something in Miles leapt up to see the trouble his hero was going to in the pursuit of his peace of mind; it spurred him on to put that care to good use, and he picked up speed up the wall, still crawling with his fingers and toes.

 

“There you go!” Peter continued to track Miles’ progress along the grimy wall.

 

With a sudden onslaught of confidence, Miles pushed off with his fingertips and put his weight fully onto his feet so he stood sideways. “Oh my God, this is so dope.”

 

Peter chuckled, mirroring Miles’ position without a second thought.

 

Miles kept increasing his speed, testing his limits, until he was running, albeit a little clumsily, up the side of the building, and this is the craziest, most awesome thing I’ve ever done, hands down.

 

Listen, girl

When you can't even hide it

And it didn't take forever to find it

I was all on my own

Almost glad to be alone

Until love came in on time, on time

 

When he reached the rooftop, Peter met him with a high-five.

 


 

 

If you want to go and take a ride with me

We 3-wheeling in the fo' with the gold D's

Oh why do I live this way? (Hey, must be the money!)

 

If you want to go and get high with me

Smoke a L in the back of the Benz-E

Oh why must I feel this way? (Hey, must be the money!)

 

“Hips square to your opponent. You gotta keep a strong stance or you’re toast.”

 

Peter held a loose fighting stance, fists raised, as he faced Miles, who attempted to mirror the arrangement. They stood on top of the building they’d just climbed, the rooftop scenery reminding Miles of that bittersweet conversation a couple of nights ago. Playing Ride Wit Me had been Miles’ idea; the music blasted from Peter’s phone, still webbed to his chest.

 

“Let the other guy make the first move. That way you have time, and you can see what their fighting pattern is like.”

 

“Wait, how do I know what his fighting pattern is?” Miles dropped his fists briefly.

 

“Uh… we’ll cover that later. Just watch what the opponent does first. If your powers are anything like mine, you’re gonna be faster than pretty much everyone else, and sometimes that’ll be your only advantage when the opponent is stronger.”

 

In the club on the late night, feeling right

Looking, trying to spot something real nice

Looking for a little shorty I noticed so that I can take home

 

“-and look for a weakness in the other guy’s stance…” Peter raised a hand to his face, lowering his other arm from the fighting stance to indicate a clear opening.

 

Miles took the chance, pressing his fist a little hesitantly against Spider-Man’s palm. “There!”

 

“Perfect.”

 

“But it’s never gonna be that easy in real life. How did you learn so fast?”

 

Peter shook his head fondly. “I didn’t get to learn like this. Let’s take it slow, and you'll keep improving, okay?”

 

“Sure.” Miles couldn’t help but grin despite the long road to perfecting his combat skills ahead of him.

 

I like the way you brush your hair

And I like those stylish clothes you wear

I like the way the light hit the ice and glare

And I can see you, boo, from way over there

 

“…Go! Roundhouse kick!”

 

Miles swung a leg a little haphazardly towards Peter’s head, wincing as he braced himself to hit the other boy, but Peter ducked easily out of the way. They’d been working on this routine for a good few minutes, but the fluidity of the sequence was getting harder and harder to grasp as they got longer and more complex.

 

Peter held up his palms for Miles to mime punches, nodding his head along to the beat. It was infectious; Miles, in his excitement, missed Peter’s palm entirely with his fist and clocked him square in the jaw.

 

“¡Mierda!”

 


 

 

Okay, I'm a fucking loser

Who doesn't wanna talk to you

Okay, I'll take a little time

To care about what you do

 

Why does the sun set, baby?

I'm trying to get my sun tan

I feel I'm always sinking

Tell me where you want it

Down in the city

 

As Peter weaved his fingers together behind Miles, another of his all-time favourites, Sun Tan, began to play. Miles himself shook his hands to release excess energy.

 

“I’ll catch you. I promise.” Peter nodded down at his waiting arms.

 

Miles remained staring stoically ahead, blowing out a breath. “Yeah, yeah, I know.”

 

“It’s just like how I demonstrated. Once you get the first backflip down, you can do it anytime.”

 

“I’ll… uh, count in?”

 

Peter pursed his lips. “…sure.”

 

Peter’s incessant narration had only heightened Miles’ nerves if anything, but there was no way he was gonna miss an opportunity to learn to do a standing backflip.

 

“Three… two… one- go!”

 

How can I explain it to you

When I can't talk at all?

Fuck, I'm kinda cross-faded now

I'm trying not to fall

 

With a lurch of his right foot, Miles launched into the air, leaning backwards just like Peter had done but not twisting quite fast enough. True to his word, Peter was there to save him from a sharp impact with the floor, but barely. The impact sent them both tumbling to the floor in a tangled heap of limbs reminiscent of their first meeting.

 

Miles laughed, thin, wheezing, as he rolled away from Peter. But Peter gripped his arm and jolted upwards, giving the other kid a thorough-once over like a frantic babysitter. “Are you okay? I’m sorry, I should’ve given you more practice- nothing hurts at all? – crap, we shouldn’t have done this…”

 

Miles held his hands up breathlessly, locking eye contact with the other teenager. “I’m good, Peter. It’s fine.”

 

Peter maintained his hold on Miles’ arms, squinting at him as if to decipher something Miles himself couldn’t find in himself. “Are you sure?”

 

Yes.” Miles frowned, lips puckering, and put a hand on top of Peter’s tense one to slowly ease it off his arm.

 

Spending all this time by myself

Just shopping at the mall

You just wanna talk it all out

But I ignored your call

 

As if he’d just been jump-scared, Peter flinched and immediately changed tack, scrambling awkwardly away from Miles and springing up. “Okay. Cool. Cool. Let’s – let’s try again, then?”

 

A little hesitantly, Miles raised himself up onto his feet. “Sure.”

 


 

 

Welcome to your life

There's no turning back

Even while we sleep

We will find you

 

Now, the retro synth sounds of Everybody Wants To Rule The World blasted from the device on Peter’s chest. Each of the teenagers had a single webshooter on and were fiddling with the contraptions.

 

“Karen, how do you get the settings to change without AI?”

 

Peter leaned intently towards his wrist, squinting at the side, while Miles tapped uselessly all around the cylindrical device, holding it with a mouth slightly open in reverence.

 

“Tony Stark designed this for you, right?” Miles flashed a grin at Spider-Man that only a fanboy could muster, gently slipping the webshooter onto his wrist.

 

Peter lifted his head briefly to meet Miles’ eye. “Uh huh.”

 

“That must’ve been the coolest thing.”

 

A high-pitched laugh escaped Peter. “Yeah. Yeah, that was one of the best days of my life, hands down!”

 

Before he spoke next, Miles hesitated. “Do you… You know, do you still talk to him at all?”

 

“What, Ton- I mean, Mr. Stark? Yeah, all the time. He just likes to stay away from the public eye, so we keep it pretty low-key.”

 

Acting on your best behaviour

Turn your back on mother nature

Everybody wants to rule the world

 

Miles nodded slowly, playing along, but he didn’t really understand the situation with Tony Stark any better than the rest of New York, or the press for that matter, and he guessed he was curious by nature or something.

 

“That’s cool. But I mean, why’s he suddenly hidden away from the rest of the world like that? I get that, you know, saving the universe must’ve been really hard on him, but…”

 

Peter held up a hand which was cautionary but not unfriendly. “We can talk about Mr. Stark later. Let’s… let’s just try to get these webshooters working, right?”

 

“Why can’t I just use-“

 

With a misjudged flourish, Miles unintentionally directed a spray of webbing directly towards Peter’s face, not expecting the button to actually work, and coated Peter’s face with the stuff.

 

Peter stumbled back with a shout of surprise; Miles clapped a hand over his mouth. But Peter, acting on instinct, activated his own webshooter, hitting Miles squarely in his own face.

 

Miles attempted a curse, but only muffled noises could be made out from behind his hand, which he found himself unable to remove.

 

The two of them felt their way back to each other, spluttering.

 


 

 

Face and body Frontenac, don't know how to act

Without no vouchers on her boots she's bringing nothing back

You should feel the impact, shop on plastic

When the sky's the limit and them haters can't get past that

 

“Okay, I’m… someone in the middle of a hit-and-run. Unarmed. You gotta get the backpack off me.”

 

Peter slung Miles’ backpack over his shoulder and retreated to a corner of the expansive rooftop. He’d discarded his mask by this point; it wasn’t like anyone would be able to make out his face from the ground.

 

Miles blinked twice to clear his vision, crouched down slightly, and waited a couple seconds.

 

“Hey, can I make the first move in this context?”

 

Peter laughed. “You can try.”

 

Watch me as I gas that 4 dot 6 Range

Watch the candy paint change, every time I switch lanes

It feel strange now

Making a living off my brain, instead of 'caine now

 

Miles was unsure why he still trusted his instincts after a life of disaster and ridicule when he followed them, but fuck it, I have spiderpowers.

 

So he padded swiftly but silently towards Peter, who’s back was turned, and tapped him innocently on the shoulder as if asking for directions before aiming a light punch to his jaw.

 

“Never aim directly for the face when you're dealing with humans,” Peter had told him. “Unless you want to kill someone.” The earnest tone with which he had imparted the words was enough to sober Miles.

 

But Peter was much more resilient than any human, and after twenty minutes of sparring, Miles had finally relaxed around practicing gentle hits on him.

 

Peter staggered back with the force of the punch, mimicking a human response, and raised his own fists a little blearily.

 

This guy is a good actor. Who would’ve thunk it?

 

But Miles was prepared, letting Peter swing at his face and leaning to the right to evade it before planting his feet and kicking a leg outwards to sweep Peter’s feet from under him. The other boy went down on his back but grabbed Miles’ shoulder as he fell, bringing Miles down with him so they were locked in a struggle.

 

Miles rolled sharply so he was under the other teenager and planted a foot on Peter’s chest to lever him off. It worked surprisingly well, Peter flying away from him a good few feet and leaving him space to right himself and regain his fighting stance.

 

Peter let him have his fun for a few punches before easily catching Miles’ fist in a hand, twisting his arm gently behind his back and tapping the back of his knees to bring his opponent to the floor.

 

I got the title from my momma put the whip in my own name now

Damn shit done changed now

Running credit checks with no shame now

 

I feel the fame now (come on), I can't complain now (no more)

Shit I'm the mayne now, in and out my own town

 

“Damn.”

 

Immediately, Peter let go of Miles’ arm and offered him a hand to help him up. “Don’t worry, that was good. Don’t expect to be perfect after twenty minutes.”

 

“I mean, it was still pretty cool.” Miles smirked up at the other teenager, who mirrored the expression with folded arms.

 

“Really cool.”

 


 

 

Okay, times are really changing

And I can't afford myself

Okay, tell me where to go

And darling, I'll be there

 

“One more time. I can do it!”

 

“Okay, okay.” Peter moved behind Miles once again, bracing himself for the possible impact if Miles were to fail the flip again, while Miles squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated.

 

This is easy. You got this.

 

Now!

 

Why does the sun shine, baby?

I'm tryna heal my sunburn

I feel I'm always aging

Help me out with somethin'

Tell me it's nothin'

 

He launched into the air, twisting backwards on himself and glimpsing the ground rushing back towards him before his heels slammed into the ground and he flailed his arms to keep his balance.

 

Once he’d righted himself again he stood motionless for a couple of seconds, his brain racing to catch up with what he’d just done.

 

Peter clapped enthusiastically from behind him, startling him from his stupor.

 

“You did it! I knew you’d get there!” The taller teenager went in for a fist bump, surprising Miles, who went along all the same. “It should be a piece of cake now.”

 

“I feel so badass,” breathed Miles, eyes wide.

 

“That’s because you are,” snickered Peter.

 

When you say it's wrong

Don't let me sing along

I can't erase my memory

 

Don't tell me where to be

Or tell me what to see

Don't you know I'm fading

 

On a whim, Miles leapt back in another flip, executing the move without a hitch, and let out a shout of exhilaration.

 

“Brooklyn’s gonna have no idea what hit it!”

 

Miles laughed derisively.

 


 

 

It's my own desire

It's my own remorse

Help me to decide

Help me make the most

Of freedom and of pleasure

Nothing ever lasts forever

Everybody wants to rule the world

 

“Does that count as vandalism?”

 

“Eh, it’ll probably rub off.”

 

Peter was bent over an air conditioning machine, scribbling three target shapes onto the metal with a thick red marker. Miles checked the webshooter mechanism and aimed it towards the target in preparation.

 

Hastily, Peter edged away from the makeshift targets. “Go for it.”

 

Miles fought the temptation to aim with the webshooter as if he was shooting a gun, a technique he’d already been reprimanded against using, and extended his arm before pressing decisively down on the pad with middle and ring finger, sending a short burst of webbing just shy of the first target.

 

He took a small step to the right to line up with the second target, this time aiming above the target where the projectile ball of webbing soared over the unit and over the side of the building. He flinched, looking to Peter for guidance, but the other teenager simply shot a second string of web over the edge to attach the first to the side of a building and nodded for Miles to continue.

 

Third target. He breathed in, out. Planted his feet. Thrust his arm out in front of him. Aimed.

 

Bullseye.

 

Say that you'll never, never, never, need it

One headline, why believe it?

Everybody wants to rule the world

 

All for freedom and for pleasure

Nothing ever lasts forever

Everybody wants to rule the world

 

Peter gave Miles a ridiculously positive-looking thumbs up, and he lit up.

 


 

 

“You know what, I think you could start coming on patrol real soon. If you want, of course.”

 

The sun had just begun to set, darkening the very bottom of the skyline, and Peter and Miles leant against the air con unit side-by-side, gazing out at the city.

 

“I…” Miles rubbed the top of his knee rhythmically. “I’m not sure.”

 

Peter cocked his head gently as he cast a glance at Miles. “Why’s that?”

 

“It’s just… a lot, you know?”

 

A pause ensued as Miles struggled to put his fear into words.

 

“How do you do this all the time? Isn’t it – just really hard to deal with crime and stuff every day?”

 

Peter took his time to answer, playing listlessly with his mask. “I don’t know- I mean, yeah, I guess? It doesn’t register as much now I’ve been patrolling for… nine months now, pretty sure.”

 

“All that stuff you taught me: hit-and-runs, armed robberies, drug deals, hate crimes… doesn’t it get to you, seeing that stuff every day?” Miles frowned down at his sneakers.

 

There was a lump in Peter’s throat that wouldn’t shift. “Yeah. It does, sometimes.”

 

His tone must have shifted, because Miles caught his eye briefly before looking away as if the contact scalded him.

 

“But you gotta get used to it, you know? That’s just… that’s the job, that’s how it is. If you let it get to you, you’re useless. And at least if you see that stuff happening, you can help end it.”

 

“I guess.” Miles blew out a breath. “I guess- I never really thought about the duty and all that. How bad it would feel if I messed up and the bad guy got away, or something.”

 

Peter rounded on him with intent in his eyes. “That’s why I didn’t want you to start training for a while, because the last thing I want is for you to rush into this like- like I did and not get a shot at just being you, being… Miles, and no-one else.”

 

“Well, thanks for thinking about my wellbeing and all that,” joked Miles.

 

“Just looking out for the little guy,” returned Peter, nudging him with an elbow. “So… you think you’re gonna stay clear of all this responsibility for a bit? You don’t wanna end up like me.” At this, he gestured to himself, his tone self-deprecating.

 

Miles was tempted to laugh. “Are you serious?”

 

“What?”

 

“I’d love to be like you! Who doesn’t wanna be Spider-Man! He’s badass, he’s awesome, and he’s… this symbol of hope and selflessness that everyone relies on and looks up to. Who wouldn’t wanna be like that?”

 

Peter ducked his head bashfully. Miles added for luck, “Seriously.”

 

“But, like me.” Peter’s tone was flat.

 

Miles rallied with him. “I think it’d be pretty cool to be like that too.”

 

Peter looked at him with such mystification on his face that it baffled Miles.

 

“Thanks?”

 

Miles couldn’t help but laugh.

 

But Peter was persistent. “I mean it, though. Don’t be like me. Be like you.

 

The statement carried a lot of depth that Miles didn’t have a clue what to do with. He nodded slowly, brow creased.

 

“If I do start patrol with you… what if I do mess up? What if I can’t save everyone?”

 

Peter held up his arms. “Woah, woah, woah. Hold up. First of all, you gotta be prepared for the fact that you can’t save everybody.”

 

Miles’ face fell.

 

“The first few weeks I went around as Spider-Man were a disaster. I screwed everything up. It took me ages to be able to save anyone.” As he revisited the memory, Peter raked a hand through untidy curls. And you learn to build up stamina the more you patrol, but the worst thing you can do is burn yourself out. Then you can’t even attempt to save anyone, and you’ll ruin yourself too.”

 

He had Miles’ attention now; the other teenager gazed intently at him with those arresting amber eyes, picking at a loose lace on his sneaker.

 

“Yes- you’re gonna feel awful those first few patrols, because… when you get these crazy powers, you feel like you’re invincible, and when you realise you’re not, it’s- it’s hard. But you have to remember that just being out there means you’re trying. You’re using what you have for good. And – and that’s pretty cool.”

 

A slow, warm smile crept across the breadth of Miles’ face. He drew his legs up around him. “You know what? You’re pretty awesome, Peter.”

 

Peter’s smile was bittersweet as he turned his face to the sunset. “You’re pretty awesome too, Miles.”