Angel went because Spidey was screeching in the group chat and that was such a rare occurrence in the last couple of weeks that it demanded investigation.
She appropriated Louis from work before he could disagree and had to dislodge his very stubborn hands from the doorway before she could get him down to the train. Louis had started working out lately. Really, ever since Miles had finally picked up a bus on his own volition. Spidey had thrown his arms up in delight at the kid’s semi-controlled super-strength and Louis had realized abruptly that basically everyone on the team could pretty much bench him except himself.
He was a string-bean kind of guy, Louis. Angel had taught him how to lift weights out of the kindness in her heart.
He was bad at it. But Lord, did he try.
He was only marginally stronger than he had been before and so thankfully, remained no match for Angel’s tiny-but-mighty persuasion down to the platform to catch a train to Queens.
Spidey-Peter refused to move out of Queens. He said that he had been born there and by god, he’d die there when the time was right. He had zero intentions of owning his own home and lived in a decent apartment which was stuffed full of rocks and plants and shit hanging in windows.
Spidey was a witch.
He claimed that he was not. He claimed that he was just spiritual and had a fondness for nature.
But he was lying.
He was a witch.
Angel had met Mrs. Spidey-Mom and she was a witch and she had taught Spidey how to be a witch from the time he was a wee one. He just didn’t know any different, that wasn’t his fault. But like, it was still super obvious to anyone else who bothered to give Spidey and his mom-aunt a second look that they were witches. Like, Halloween was a huge fucking deal in their house and when Angel had asked Spidey why he was running himself in circles over it all, he turned around and said something about Samhain and having to leave the right offerings in the right way for the fae. In the face of everyone else’s eyebrows, he stumbled over himself with a whole “--and trick-or-treating. We’ll make food and go trick-or-treating. Pumpkins. Movies. Uh. You know. Like normal people” excuse which fell flatter than a bad pancake.
They were witches.
And Angel was fascinated with them.
Her mom was Catholic, which meant that their family was Catholic, which meant that things like witches and their ilk were not allowed in the house except in the form of whispers. Spidey was something of a novelty, then. Not just to her, but also to the blabbermouth, monster-child that was Alma.
Alma loved Spidey. She was constantly bugging Angel to let Spidey babysit her. When that inevitably failed, she dragged her dramatic ass into the kitchen and pled her case to Mimi and then Bonita, and then her mom who was still baffled at who this Parker guy even was.
Angel could not let Spidey meet her mom.
Firstly, because he was a witch. But more importantly, because she would fall in love with him and Angel would never hear the end of it ever.
Alma, however, had zero foresight and filter and thought that Spidey’s digs were in-fucking-credible. She wanted to make her room like his kitchen, with windows crammed with herbs and twigs stuffed into glass bottles and cans. Wind chimes and small rocks carefully suspended indoors to catch little bits of light. Spidey had, in completely good faith but to his landlord’s future horror, carefully scraped into the corners of his living room floor a few symbols which he claimed were for protection.
Pentagrams. He’d put a couple pentagrams into the hardwood.
They weren’t big, Angel would give him that. Maybe the size of a bottle cap. But by god, he’d carved them there and he showed not one sign of shame or guilt about it. Alma saw him cleaning dust out of one once while she was harassing him and had carved a much shittier version of this into the side of her wardrobe.
Mom had seen it and nearly had a heart attack. Alma claimed she learned it from Spiderman, which was now her go-to excuse for everything because it was so nonsensical, it got her out of trouble every time. It worked that time, too, although she got a firm talking to about bringing such symbols into their good Catholic home. Alma pouted and huffed and eventually said she wouldn’t do it again, but the very next week, she’d seen Spidey building a little shrine to his uncle in the corner of his living room window and had thereafter decided that they needed a shrine in their house to their uncle.
The problem was that none of their uncles were dead. Yet, anyways.
That didn’t stop Alma, though. She went and got pictures of all three of their uncles and set them up in a little box and, having seen Spidey set a little ceramic bowl with a piece of metal in it (Angel hadn’t asked, but she thought that this was one of Spidey’s uncle’s cufflinks or something) alongside a candle, Alma went ahead and found a mandarin orange can which she filled with a handful of what she decided were witchy-looking objects.
Couple of rocks. Feathers. A bead or two.
Again. Mom was horrified.
“But Mom, Spiderman—”
“Spiderman does not live in this house, mija.”
“Think of your uncles!”
“That’s the point.”
Mimi had to leave the room because she was having anxiety. Secrets gave Mimi heart palpitations. She kept coming into Angel’s room at night, wringing her hands and tearful, saying that she didn’t know how much longer she could keep things under wraps from their parents. To which Angel would casually say, “Alright, fine. That’s understandable. Go ahead and tell them.” And Mimi would scream silently and then go back to her room without saying a word.
She kind of liked Spidey.
She’d never admit it, but Angel saw her ogling him when they stopped by to pick up Alma on the nights where Spidey was amenable to babysitting.
It was gross.
“He’s cute,” Mimi argued.
“He’s not,” Angel pointed out.
“I mean. Tall, handsome. Smart. Big brown eyes. Got a good job.”
Nope. Nope on every level.
“He’s not that tall. And he gets hit by trucks all the time and he fell off a ladder last week. He’s got sticky hands, Mimi. He fell off a ladder despite sticky hands. He’s actually dumber than sin.”
“That’s kinda cute, though.”
“Brah. Don’t fuck my team lead.”
It was a whole thing. Angel should never have introduced them. But that was neither here, nor there. What was here was her phone vibrating nonstop and Louis making sad noises and drawing attention from other train passengers.
DP (´｡✪ω✪｡´): kid, I dunno what else to tell you
DP (´｡✪ω✪｡´): you’re just gonna have to kill it
SM: I CAN’T KILL IT THAT’S GOTTA BE BAD LUCK
DD: how the fuck is it bad luck?
SM: ITS IS OBVIOUSLY AN OMEN I CAN’T KILL AN OMEN
DP (´｡✪ω✪｡´): its not a fucking omen it’s a lab experiment gone wrong. Its just a mutant kid its fine
SM: WE’RE ALL MUTANTS ATM WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU SAYING RN????
DD: oho. An excellent point has just been raised. This could be fratricide we’re dealing with.
DP (´｡✪ω✪｡´): red shut up for two fucking seconds of your life would ya?
DP (´｡✪ω✪｡´): ffs are you at home? I’m on my way. I’ll kill the damn thing
SM: WADE NO
SM: its fine I’ll deal with it
DD: yeah wade its our BROTHER you monster
SM: OH MY GOD
DP (´｡✪ω✪｡´): oh my god
Friday afternoons were these three idiots’ peak time. If the city truly knew what its defenders and once-defenders were like in their group chat, they would be scandalized.
Angel could not wait to see this thing.
They knocked on the door and heard Spidey scream from the other side for Wade to go the fuck away, he was handling it.
He didn’t sound like he was handling it.
Angel called back for herself and Louis that they were there as moral support and she heard a gasp of ‘oh thank fuck’ before Spidey came and wrenched open the door.
“I’m sure it doesn’t mean to be like that,” Spidey said, next to Angel and Louis where they were all sat on the kitchen counter.
The thing sniffed. Sniffed three times, it sniffed. In three fucking ways with three fucking heads.
“Spidey,” Louis said slowly, “That is an abomination.”
“I—I mean, I don’t think he’s trying to be an abomination,” Spidey whimpered, tucking his feet more securely under himself. “I think he’s just a little--“
The abomination scream-hissed and they all screamed back without meaning to.
“SCARED,’ Spidey hiccupped, “I think he’s just scared—please god, just be scared.”
It was the biggest fucking rat that Angel had ever seen, damn near the size of fucking cat with three—count ‘em three—heads and a twisty, almost plaited tail. It had taken up residence in Spidey’s kitchen recycling and was busily snarling at them with two heads and ripping apart trash with the third.
Lord heal this mouse.
For everyone’s sake.
“How the fuck is it even living?” Angel asked while Louis whispered under his breath at it, “rat king, rat king, rat king.”
It liked the chanting and the busy head dropped its mouthful of trash to stare up at the three of them, licking its chops.
“I dunno,” Spidey said. “I just fucking woke up—I thought it was a possum.”
“In your house, Parker?”
“I AM AN OPTIMIST, ANGEL.”
More like delusional, Christ.
“Okay, so. We’re gonna have to kill it,” she said.
Spidey looked at her, heartbroken.
“But it’s an omen,” he said, 100% serious. Beyond serious.
“No, it’s a radioactive disaster,” Angel said. “It can’t be comfortable, lookit all them heads, man. It’s cruel to make it live like that.”
One of the rat king’s heads picked a fight with the other two over something and for a second, they all duked it out before the middle head chomped at the ears of the others and got everyone settled back down.
“Mmmm,” Louis squeaked, “I dunno, seems like is got everything under control to me.”
“An omen,” Spidey insisted quietly.
“Dude, yeah. Like an apocalyptic one,” Angel said. “Better kill it now before it starts spreading super-plague.”
Spidey made a soft, high-pitched noise of distress. No one made any move to get off the counter. The rat king maneuvered its wide body around to start digging into one of Spidey’s yogurt cups. It was barking up the wrong tree there. Spidey was the kind of guy who rinsed all his plastics before throwing them out.
And actually. Speaking of which. Why the fuck was this fucked-up creature taking up space in Spidey’s recycling when there was a perfectly good compost bin under the sink?
“I dunno, I tried to lure it out with eggs but it wouldn’t go for it. I think maybe it eats plastic?” Spidey tried.
Yeah no. Definitely not a real-life creature. They were either hallucinating or Spidey had found another alien cat.
The door shuddered and they all jumped. The rat king emerged from its den, furious at the threat to its new territory and hissed with two heads at the door. It started to waddle out of the can and Angel felt like she’d never felt true fear until that moment.
The rat king was maybe the size of a cat, but its body was nearly as long as an arm. It dragged its heavy plaited tail. Its leg muscles were huge from the trash diet and the Herculean task of carrying around its enormous torso and three heads.
It made a weird hissing-screech at the door.
“What the ever-loving fuck is that?” Wade asked through it.
“Rat king,” Louis answered softly.
“WADE, DON’T HURT HIM,” Spidey shouted through the kitchen when the door shook again and the handle started to turn.
“Yeah, yeah, don’t hurt it. What—”
Wade froze dead in the doorway.
The rat king saw his opportunity and pounced.
“I’M GONNA KILL IT.”
“WADE, DON’T KILL IT.”
“WITH FUCKING FIRE GODDAMNIT. WHO HERE’S GOT A LIGHT?”
“WADE, DON’T KILL IT. HE DIDN’T MEAN TO.”
“Huh-uh. Y’all need to call Damage Control,” Red said from Wade’s phone speaker, nestled lovingly between all four of them on the counter—the only safe space in the whole damn apartment. Turned out the Rat King wasn’t great at moving vertically. He needed momentum to get air time.
“Maybe they can send a dog-catcher or someone with expertise in this area,” Red offered.
“See, the problem with this plan, Redthew, is that DC will take me away,” Wade explained.
“Sorry, that’s a problem?”
“Wow, you little shit. I’m ruining your wedding.”
It was hard to get Wade and Red to both be helpful at the same time. It was always a challenge, but it was even more of a challenge when Spidey was frantically on the phone with his aunt not six inches away, asking her if she knew of any ways of satisfying the true lord of the underground.
The rat king, in the meantime, had graduated to sniffing around Spidey’s living room and clawing at the floorboards.
“No, I don’t think so. Yeah, maybe just a little violent,” Spidey was saying. “Get it to what? To what? Like, throw one at it? No, that’s not gonna work. I lied, it’s got hella teeth and it hates everything. Uuuuuuuuuh.” He leaned out of their troop so that he was half in the sink and poked through all the herbs and rocks and knick-knacks in the little window in front of it.
“No, I got one. Salt? Yeah, I’ve got salt.”
What the fuck? Were they gonna cook this thing? Angel looked at Louis and he was similarly overwhelmed with the two entirely different types of strategizing going on around them.
“Oh, no, no. I got one of them. No, for sure,” Spidey said, leaning across the basin of the sink and scrabbling a hand in the fruit bowl. “Alright. Alright, I’ll call you back. Kay, love you.”
He snatched an onion of the bowl and dug through the rocks on his window until he came back with the one he was looking for. Wade was preoccupied with calling Red a fucking moron.
“May says an onion will ward it off if it's an evil spirit,” Spidey said with belief firmly entrenched in his voice.
Okay, sure, Spidey. Whatever makes you happy. Angel was along for the ride here. She already had her solution and it involved a broom and blunt force trauma.
Spidey stuck a hand to the counter and leaned down, making kissy-noises and cooing, ‘here, rat king. Ratty-ratty-rat-king. L’il friend. L’il fella.”
Wade stopped snapping at Red to watch the top of Spidey’s arm, gaping.
“Wade? What’s going on?” Red asked over the phone.
“He’s doing it again,” Wade said.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake. Peter. Peter!!”
“Little busy, Double D,” Spidey said at the floor. The rat king had heard him. It came, waddling like a Komodo dragon, around the corner. All three heads focused on Spidey’s unprotected hand tapping against the linoleum.
“Peter, how many fucking—you’re a scientist, kid. Onions are not weapons.”
“Against you,” Spidey said without missing a beat. “You’re just a sourpuss. And that ain’t something an onion can help with. Hi, friend. Aren’t you, uh. Handsome.”
Wade put the phone down to hold his face in his hands.
“Alright, you know what? Maybe Damage Control is the best option here,” he admitted. “First a fuckin’ spider, now a rat. God knows how them mutations are gonna merge in this moron’s body.”
“I got a snack for you, cutey,” Spidey said. The rat king’s nails clicked against the floor as it made its way back into the kitchen. It settled in front of Spidey. He pulled himself back up and squeezed the onion he had until it cracked in half and then carefully leaned back down to sit one of the halves on the floor, wet-side up.
The rat king sniffed at it and then took a huge fucking bite with its center head’s mouth. Angel swore she could hear the crunching. The other heads got jealous and started to fuss and shove until they, too, could eat the bulb.
Spidey said nothing. Pursed his lips. Wade looked at him knowingly.
“Didn’t work?” Red asked through the phone.
“No,” Spidey said bitterly.
“Oh. Bad luck,” Red said.
“Pete,” Wade said calmly.
“It works on demons,” Spidey shot back at him before he could get another word out. “Demons and evil. They hate onions, Wade. They do. I’ve seen it.”
Spidey was so fucking witchy, holy shit, Angel was so fucking sad she’d just missed her opportunity to record that.
“Uh-huh,” Wade said. “You know what else dispels evil?”
“Let me guess—”
“—yeah, that was about what I expected from you.”
“Okay, so are we ready to try my way now?” Wade asked.
“For--Red, do you hear this kid?”
“I hear him.”
“No,” Spidey said again firmly. He jerked back and stared at the rat king who appeared to be pretty damn pleased with its offering. Spidey mugged at it and huffed in determination.
Angel knew that huff. She squeezed at Louis’s arm and rattled in excitement.
Promises of vast stupidity were on the way.
“We’re gonna be friends, yeah? Nice rat king. You want more onion, l’il buddy?”
Wade was unimpressed with this new plan, possibly more unimpressed than he was with the old plan.
“You’re so fluffy. I like your extra little uh. Lice? Ticks? What are those? Holy fuck, they’re eyes. I mean, ahem. They’re very pretty eyes. They suit you.”
The rat king was now hypnotized by Spidey’s cooing. It kept trying to stand up on its back legs to get closer to him but its heads were so heavy it couldn’t stay that way for very long.
Spidey had a knack for befriending just about anything 40 or 50 pounds and under. Dogs, children, small deer, ladybugs. You name it. It was almost as if it was part of his Spidey powers. Angel was convinced that this was half the reason her sister was obsessed with him.
The rat king appeared to be under a similar spell. It tried to paw at Spidey’s hands as he offered it another hunk of onion. It liked the onion. Spidey was now convinced that it could not be an evil omen since the onion was having no visible effect in the melting/shrieking/abandoning ship area of things.
“You are so pretty and I’m sure you have a great heart.”
“Pete, I can’t,” Wade said, cradling his head again.
“Do you like pets? Do you want pets?”
“Kid, if that thing bites the fuc—PETER BENJAMIN—”
Wade’s dad voice was the stuff of nightmares. Angel felt compelled to do anything that voice told her to. Spidey had no such survival instincts. He batted at Wade’s grip.
“We’re making friends, man, chill,” he snipped.
“You’re making enemies, don’t you see that? That thing’s just waiting for you to—PETER.”
“Awww, look. See, he ain’t so mad anymore, are you? You’re kinda cute when you’re not uh, being horrifying.”
Wade emitted a noise of supreme frustration and grabbed his phone to explain, in detail, to Red exactly what his dumbass little brother was doing as they spoke.
Spidey made to pick the rat king up and Angel and Louis immediately bailed off the counter. Nope, not today. No siree.
The rat king, shockingly, did not rear back and attack Spidey’s face. It allowed itself to be lifted and situated in Spidey’s lap. Wade only noticed that this had happened belatedly and practically fell of the counter.
“Put. It. Down,” he ordered. Spidey ignored him. He offered the rat king a finger and the rat king took it with its little mutant front paws.
“Oh my god, you’re so smart,” Spidey cooed at it. “Are you an omen?”
The rat king sat on its haunches and sniffed up at him, still holding onto his finger. It had transformed from angry-possum to curious sewer-beast. Made sense that it liked Spidey then. He spent more time in the sewers than any reasonable human being out in the world.
“Oh, I don’t think you are,” Spidey said. “You were just investigating, huh? Figuring out what I’m about, yeah?”
“Peter. Peter, I am begging you, for the sake of all that is good and holy, put down the rodent,” Wade pleaded.
Wade was frequently the chaos element of their team, but it was very clear to the rest of them that Spidey was vying for second place in that category and he had learned a whole damn lot from Wade over the last decade or so of their acquaintance.
The rat king dropped down from its haunches and abandoned Spidey’s finger. It settled down in the space between his crossed legs and did two awkward turns before settling in and closing the eyes on its heads. The little black beads in its fur all blinked at different times.
No one said anything for a beat.
Then Spidey snapped his head up to Wade, beaming.
“We’re friends!” he declared.
Wade edged away. He bumped into Louis and couldn’t go any further.
“I think maybe he was just lonely out there,” Spidey continued, gently stroking the hell-beast. The eyes in its fur all closed when he did.
“I,” Wade said, horrified, “Am calling your fucking aunt. Right now.”
“Oooh, a familiar!”
Wade had made a a mistake. One that had dramatic consequences for his blood pressure.
“What’s a familiar?” Angel asked Mrs. Spidey-Mom-Aunt.
“They’re helper and protector spirits,” Mrs. Spidey-Mom-Aunt said. “Very good for young witches.”
Aha. Even more proof. Spidey was a witch.
“He’s kinda grotesque, very medieval,” Mrs. Spidey-Mom-Aunt noted, peeking into Spidey’s lap and giving the rat king a pet.
“I think he’s kinda cute,” her insane nephew told her brightly. She pinched at his cheek.
“You think everything’s kinda cute,” she said fondly.
“Do you have one?” Angel asked. She needed info here.
“A familiar? No, we had a cat for a while, but she left us and then we had a Peter, so I was pretty busy.”
“I would have been a great familiar,” Spidey justified.
“I know, honey. You were a great help.”
The indulgence. The condescension. Spidey’s set jaw. Angel lived for it.
“I was, though.”
“Yes, that’s what I said. Wade! Long time no see! How have you been?”
Wade’s relationship with Spidey’s Mom-Aunt was, in and of itself, truly something to behold. He was terrified of her and got super furtive—almost monosyllabic in her presence. Angel needed that backstory. She also needed to know if Wade would be the same with her mom. He’d been fine with Alma.
While the old people were having a non-conversation, she peeked back into Spidey’s lap at the happy(?) rat king. A few of its body-eyes blinked at her.
“I hate it,” she said. “What’re we gonna call it?”
Louis was scandalized that there was a ‘we’ involved in the situation, but she and Spidey ignored him.
“I’m thinkin’ Throckmorton,” Spidey said.
Louis made a sound like he was dying.
“Oh. I like it. Suits him,” Angel said.
Throckmorton. Throckmorton the rat king.
“Welcome to Team Red, little buddy,” she told it. “We’re gonna take the worst care of you. Sorry in advance.”