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Spider-Man: Home Sweet Home

Chapter Text

To say that Peter had been having a rough day would be a bit of an understatement.

It all started out relatively okay. Well, as okay as the life of a teenage superhero could get. Peter had confronted both Happy and May about their relationship (juries still out on that). He wasn’t sure what had really happened in that conversation and he didn’t think they really knew either. All Peter did know is that he really didn't want to know (thank you very much).

After running away from that hellfire of a conversation, Peter got to swing around the city. Even better than swinging around the city, was that he got to share that part of his life with MJ, who was recently dubbed his official girlfriend.

Now that was a strange development. Peter Parker and Michelle Jones: officially an item. Peter smiled every time he thought about it. It was weird; he had to admit. He had spent some of the school year and nearly their entire trip to Europe pining after her like they were in some cheesy rom-com. After everything that happened in London, they talked and decided to take it slow; a few dates here and there, making sure they don’t leave Ned out too much, oh, and calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend.

But getting to swing around Manhattan with MJ was the best his day was going to get.

"Spider-Man’s name is-“

Breathe in. Breathe out.

“Spider-Man’s name is Peter Parker!”

Breathe in. Breathe out.

“What the fu-“

Breathe in. Breathe – in?

Deafening silence. Mummers spreading across the crowds. Repeated statements blaring across every screen in Times Square. Shouts springing from the masses. One voice in particular.

“Spider-Man!”

Peter Parker couldn’t breathe.

It was like his world had been turned upside down with the utterance of five simple words. Peter didn’t know what was going on, but he knew that he wasn’t safe. People had begun shouting and the volume of Times Square increased by a tenfold. Everything was too loud. Too overwhelming.

Did that really just happen? Did Peter hear his name announced across the world in conjunction with Spider-Man? How was he going to fix this? Could he even fix this? Mr. Stark would know how to fix this.

Peter Parker couldn’t breathe.

His breath caught in his throat and his vision tunneled.

Mr. Stark. Tony. He would know what to do. But he’s not here.

“Spidey!”

A voice snapped Peter back to reality, a reality that was rapidly slipping through his fingers. He turned his body on the lamppost, still keeping his balance. Among all of the chaos exploding below and behind him, Peter made out the figure of someone else he could focus on.

MJ.

Michelle.

His girlfriend.

Her eyes were wide and expressive. Something he wasn’t used to seeing from her. She had her hands cupped around her mouth and was shouting something at him. She looked frantic. She looked scared. He couldn’t tell what she was saying. It was too loud. Too overwhelming.

Peter Parker couldn’t breathe.

“Spidey! GO!” MJ yelled and again Peter snapped his focus to the one person who was keeping him grounded. The volume increased and Peter knew he had to get out of there and fast. With a flick of his wrist, a web stuck to a nearby building and Peter was in the air. Another flick of his wrist and MJ was also in the air. He caught her and together they were off.

Away from the noise.

Away from the people.

Away from reality.

Peter Parker couldn’t breathe.

But at least he had MJ.

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Peter had never swung faster. His heart was pounding in his chest and he thought for sure it would burst out of his chest and land on some poor, unsuspecting bystander in Queens. He was on autopilot. Every thwip of his webs, every strained breath, every frantic grab for a building, even the route he took back to Queens was due less to his thinking and planning and more to his having lived in the city all his life and knowing the streets like the back of his hand.

“Down there!” came a voice in his ear.

Thankfully Peter had quick reflexes; otherwise he would have dropped MJ. As bad as it sounds, he nearly forgot she was there. He could feel her arms and legs wrapped around him, but he was so far removed from the present that her speaking after remaining silent the entire journey from Times Square to Queens startled him. But he listened to his girlfriend and they landed silently on a random building in the part of the city he called home. The same city that now knew exactly who he was and also now thought he was a murderer. Peter had almost forgotten about that part of it.

MJ jumped out of his arms as soon as they landed on the roof. Peter dragged off his mask and instantly retreated to the small shack on the top of the building. His back hit the brick, jarring his senses. But he slid down the wall and buried his head between his knees.

Peter Parker still couldn’t breathe.

Ever since that spider bit him, he would have moments where it was like his senses were dialed to 11. He could hear everything; feel everything. Dim lights were too much, he could hear heartbeats of those nearby, and the feeling of his clothes on his skin was enough to make him want to puke. Usually he could feel when his senses would become too much coming and he could prepare as best he could, but not this time.

MJ’s soft footsteps coming towards him felt like someone was taking a hammer to Peter’s head. He clenched his jaw and tried to block out everything, but he was still in the midst of a panic attack. Which was a great cherry on top of everything else going on in his life.

He knew MJ stopped a few feet away from him and knelt down. She observed him for what felt like an eternity but was probably only thirty seconds.

“Can I touch you?” She whispered, but the words were like she was shouting into a megaphone two inches from his ear. His whole body felt like it was burning, so he shook his head once, regretting the action immediately.

“Peter? Can you tell me five things you can see?” MJ pushed.

Peter didn’t want to speak, or move for that matter, but he knew that he had to get himself out of this sensory overload so he could figure out what to do next. And he had MJ to help him.

He lifted up his head and squinted into the sunlight. It was still too bright, but the quicker he stopped the panic attach, the quicker he’d be able to deal with his sensory overload and figure out his next step.

“Q-Queens.” Peter’s voice was hoarse and felt foreign.

“Good Peter, what else do you see?” MJ coaxed further.

“A seagull, a plane, a plastic cup, and your hair.” MJ smiled and Peter’s head tilted up more as he focused on her mop of untamed curls. God she really was beautiful. And she’d totally punch him if he said that right now.

“Can you tell me four things you can feel Peter?”

Peter kept his eyes on MJ, but slowly let his legs cross and his hands fall onto his lap. “My suit, the roof, pebbles, and the breeze.”

“Really good Peter.” MJ smiled at him again. “Three things you can hear?”

“Car horns, your heartbeat, music.”

“Two things you can smell.”

“Garbage, your shampoo.”

“One thing you can taste.”

Peter paused. “Sweat.”

“That’s really good Peter. Is it alright if I touch you?” MJ asked and Peter could feel his chest loosening and his senses were slowly dialing down.

“Yes.” Peter breathed and MJ sat down on the roof inches from him, their knees brushing with every breath. MJ gently picked up his gloved hand and placed it on her chest, right over her heart.

“Feel my heartbeat Peter. Focus on my breathing. Match your breath to mine.”

The two fell silent as Peter focused on lining up his breathing with MJ. Within a matter of minutes, he was breathing normal and his chest no longer felt like an elephant was sitting on it. MJ must have felt the shift in Peter because she smiled softly and removed her hand from her chest. She made a motion to let go of his hand but Peter tightened his grip and looped their fingers together, resting their clasped hands on the ground between them.

“I’m not going to ask if you’re okay, because I know you’re not.” MJ finally said. “But what I will ask is what you want to do next.”

Peter sighed deeply. “I don’t know. I don’t know what to do.”

MJ nodded once. “Me either, which don’t ever tell anyone I don’t know something, it’ll ruin my finely crafted reputation.”

He let out a short laugh and MJ smiled softly again. Peter was really starting to love that smile.

“Is there anyone on your super-speed dial who might be able to help us?” MJ asked.

Peter wasn’t sure who he should call. Sure he had most of the current Avengers on speed dial, like MJ said, but would any of them know what to do?

“Happy. I’ll call Happy.”

Chapter Text

Peter knew without a doubt after getting off the phone, that Happy was not happy.

Happy had picked up after the first ring and was frantic to say the least.

“Peter? Is that you? Where are you? Are you okay? Do I need to come get you?” Happy continued to ramble and Peter pulled the phone away from his ear. He shared a look with MJ. If the situation wasn’t so dire, he just might laugh at Happy.

“Happy- yes, Happy. I’m fine!” Peter finally cut through Happy’s frantic tirade.

“Thank God. Where are you, kid?”

“We’re in Queens, I’m not sure where though.”

“Wait we’re? Who are you with?” Happy asked.

“I’m with MJ. We were together when-“ Peter trailed off and fell silent. MJ snatched his phone out of his hands. She pressed it to her ear as she stood up.

“This is MJ. Peter and I are near Mr. Delmar’s.” A pause. “Yeah May knows where it is. We’ll meet you in the alley near the bodega.” MJ hung up the phone and turned back to Peter, crouching down in front of him again. “You ready to get out of here?”

“Where are we going once Happy picks us up?” Peter asked, his chest starting to feel tight again.

“Upstate.” MJ said. “We’re getting you out of the city.”

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

As it turns out, it wasn’t as hard to sneak down to the street level as Peter thought it would be. Once MJ had helped him to his feet, she gave him her hoodie and instructed him to zip it up and put his hood up. He did as he was told and found himself engulfed in MJ.

Well not literally, but her hoodie smelled just like her: old books, a flowery perfume, and a hint of her favorite tea. He took a deep breath and felt his body relax a bit. Together, MJ and Peter climbed down the fire escape on the East side of the building. MJ went first because she insisted and Peter was too tired to fight her on it. He rationalized it by telling himself if something happened he could web her up to him and get them both out.

MJ’s sneakers hit the slightly damp alleyway below and she held a finger to her lips. Peter watched as she checked behind the dumpsters and did a quick sweep to make sure no one was hiding or crashing in the alley. She looked up and nodded at him and he jumped down to the ground, barely making a sound. Peter took up residence behind the dumpster MJ had just cleared and waited while she went to watch for Happy.

Peter knew he wasn’t alone, not really, but with MJ waiting for Happy, it was the closest he had been to being alone since the day started then promptly fell to shit. Peter knelt behind the dumpster and closed his eyes. He let his senses take over and take stock of what was going on around him.

He could hear the New York traffic zoom past on the street and the people bustling through the streets. He could hear an argument between a young woman and her girlfriend happening three floors up from him and he hoped they could work it out. Peter could hear a stray cat near the end of the alley scratching at a garbage can looking for food. He could smell Mr. Delmar’s bodega next door and wished more than anything he could just walk in there and get his usual. But his life had been upended, again.

Before he could spiral any further, Peter heard MJ hiss his name. He peeked out from around the dumpster and saw a slick black car waiting at the entrance of the alley and MJ waving at him frantically. Peter jumped to his feet and darted into the car with MJ right behind him.

The back door slammed shut behind him and Peter was instantly enveloped in a hug that felt like home.

May.

Peter wrapped his arms around his aunt as Happy sped into traffic, earning a few horn blasts from other cars.

“Oh baby, I’m so sorry.” May breathed into his hair and Peter buried his head in her shoulder. He squeezed his eyes shut and held onto his aunt, wishing she could keep hugging him and hug all of the pain away.

“You alright kid?” Came a voice from the front and Peter turned his head, opening his eyes to see Happy glancing at him in the rearview mirror.

“Relatively.” Peter croaked out. MJ was sitting in the front passenger seat and sent him a soft glance.

“We’re going upstate to the compound. It’s still technically under construction, so no one will think to look for you there.” Happy said as he weaved in and out of traffic. “Pepper is already on the phone and doing as much as she can to get this story off the air and your name cleared. She’s going to meet us there.”

Peter could only nod as he let his face fall back into his aunt’s shoulder. He had already been through so much in his 16 (21?) years of life, couldn’t he get a break from time to time? Uncle Ben had always talked about something called “Parker Luck” and Peter used to think it was just a way of humoring the shitty luck his family always seemed to be dealt. Which in a way, it was.

Over the last few years, Peter was starting to think “Parker Luck” might actually be a real scientific principle. And that maybe he should start experimenting with it, he could actually prove it. One glance back at his life should be enough to get it into every research journal in the world.

As they drove upstate, Peter let his mind wander. His head now rested on his aunt’s lap and she mindlessly carded her fingers through his hair. May used to do that when Peter was a kid. He used to have nightmares right after his parents died. He would wake up screaming and disoriented and both May and Ben were right there every time. Ben would tell Peter a story and May would drag her fingers through his hair to help lull him to sleep. It had been ages since she’d done it, but Peter couldn’t help but be grateful towards his aunt for always being by his side since the moment his parent’s died. She didn’t have to take him in, but her and Ben did. And she’s been looking after him even though they aren’t related by blood. May is the closest thing Peter has to a mom and he’d like to imagine that if his mom were still here, she’d be something like his Aunt May.

Peter was also grateful to Happy. Since Peter came back, Happy has kind of stepped into a role he didn’t know needed filling. Despite their rocky start, Happy has helped Peter through so much. Happy didn't have to help Peter over in Europe. He didn't have to fly a jet just to pick up Peter from Denmark then take him to London. He didn't have to rescue his friend's and keep them safe. But he did it all anyway. And today is no exception. He dropped everything to come pick up Peter and MJ and is now driving them upstate.

MJ. How could he forget about MJ? Despite the fact that she hasn’t been in Peter’s life for long, she has walked into his life, sat down, kicked up her feet, opened a abnormally large book, and lovingly flipped him off. From her endearing observation skills, to her calling him a loser, to her going out on a limb and saying she liked him too. And MJ talked him through a panic attack and sensory overload today, definitely earning the title of World’s Best Girlfriend.

And Pepper. Her and Peter had never really met or had a conversation until the funeral. Just thinking about it made Peter’s throat want to close up. But he pushed it down and decided to think about how despite everything Pepper had lost and gone through, she still found time to come over to him, speak to him lowly about how much he meant to Tony, hug him tightly (in a hug that rivals May’s), and introduce him to Morgan. But again, here she was, fighting for Peter. She was out there putting out fires while he was panicking on a rooftop. He hated that he didn't do more besides panic. It's times like these that Peter is reminded he's still just a kid, and he hates it.

“We’re here.” Happy’s voice broke him out of his derailing train of thought and Peter sat up in the backseat. He looked out the window and felt a little sick.

The compound was still a mess.

Happy said it was still under construction, which is putting it mildly. Peter had only been to the compound a handful of times, but it was still jarring to see it so torn up. The ground was still charred in places and large pieces of building were wedged in the ground so deep Peter wondered if they’d ever dig them out. The main building had been gutted and it looked like crews were working to slowly rebuild. It was clear to Peter that they still had a long ways to go, but Happy was right, no one would look for him in the remains of biggest battle the universe had ever seen.

The car rolled to a stop and Happy put the car in park. He unbuckled and turned around to face Peter. “It’s going to be alright Peter. We’re going to take care of you.”

Peter nodded once, took a deep breath, and promised himself that he was going to not let this consume him; he would beat it.

With that last thought, Peter grasped the handle of the door and pushed it open.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Happy led their small group across the crispy grass and into a small entrance hidden by a tarp. Peter’s eyes adjusted quickly and he paused. He hadn’t been back here since he came back from the snap or blip or whatever. May laid a hand on his shoulder and offered him a comforting squeeze. Peter took a deep breath and followed Happy into the ruined compound.

May and Happy walked a few paces ahead of the teens, talking in low voices. MJ fell back to walk beside Peter. She sought out his hand and gripped with her own, squeezing tightly before letting her grip loosen. MJ let herself be Peter’s rock, something he needed today. He’d have to find a way to thank her. One of her favorite authors was doing a signing in Brooklyn in a month; maybe he could use his Spider-persona to get her a front row seat to their talk and a spot at the front of the line to get a signature. Peter smiled despite everything.

“What are you smiling about loser?” MJ said in a low voice. Anyone who didn’t know MJ would think she was being harsh or rude with her words and tone, but Peter had learned to pick up the small inflections in her voice that gave away how much she cared.

Peter shook his head. “Nothing important.” He gave her a small smile and she narrowed her eyes at him, but didn’t press.

“You’re so weird.” Her words were contrasted by her leaning down to rest her head on his shoulder as they walked along through the hallways of the compound.

They were walking deeper and deeper inside. Peter had stopped paying attention to the turns and hoped he wouldn’t get lost when he finally could leave. Which he didn't think would be any time soon.

Finally, the small group made it to an elevator that, unlike the rest of the building, looked new and perfectly intact. Happy pulled out a small badge and scanned it. The light on the sensor flashed green and the doors opened with a ding. Happy held his arm out and motioned everyone inside. Once the group was safely inside, Happy stepped in, pressed a smooth spot on the elevator, and a small keypad popped out. He punched in a number and the elevator began to move.

Happy turned back to the group and noticed their confused faces. “Can’t be too safe.”

May shook her head with a chuckle and wrapped an arm around Peter’s shoulders, giving them a squeeze. Peter listened to the elevator and tried to calm his heart that was slowly getting anxious again.

The elevator came to a gentle stop and the doors opened. Happy was the first to step out and Peter, his aunt, and MJ followed closely behind. This part of the compound was a lot newer. Peter guessed that the workers got the basement sub-levels up and running before starting above ground. At least with the basement livable, people like Peter could have a place to come and hide.

Peter’s senses were still on the fritz, so he had to focus on listening if he wanted to gage if anyone was in the basement. He could hear five other heartbeats, not including Happy, May, MJ, or himself. He knew one of them had to be Pepper, but who else could be here?

His question was about to get an answer. Happy pushed open a door and light and voices streamed into the quiet hallway. May walked in behind Happy and MJ squeezed his hand tighter. Together they walked into the room and all voices stopped. Peter stopped with MJ by his side as the door softly closed behind them.

Peter definitely didn’t expect this.

“What did I tell you last time we talked bug-boy? Don’t talk so much when fighting.”

Peter blanched. Well, shit.

Chapter Text

Peter often prided himself in his adaptability.

He lost his parents at a young age and moved in with his aunt and uncle. Sure it was rough, but Peter loved his aunt and uncle so the adjustment wasn’t as hard as it could have been. He gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gets freaky powers. Definitely on the list entitled Strange Things Peter Parker Has Experienced (him and Ned have a very official list going on a small white board in Peter’s room), but Peter handled it like a champ. Tony Stark showing up at his apartment only to drag him across the world to fight THE Captain America, also on the list. But besides some grumbling about homework, Peter took it all in stride. Since then, his list of strange occurrences seems to grow every few months. He got a multimillion-dollar suit, had the suit taken away, fought the Vulture (which ended up being his homecoming date’s dad, it totally ended up on the list despite Peter’s protests), was offered a spot on the Avengers which he turned down (he thought it was a test okay?), got his insanely expensive suit back, went to space, was dusted, came back, fought a literal Titan, was recruited by Nick Fury himself, nearly destroyed London, and then was outed as Spider-Man and framed for Murder with a capital M in the same breath. While Peter hadn’t had a chance to add that last thing onto his and Ned’s list, he was sure it would get there eventually.

But even with all the crazy that his life has been the sixteen years he’s been on this planet, Peter likes to think he’s done a pretty good job rolling with the punches.

Now? He wasn’t so sure.

“Peter! I’m so glad you’re okay!” Before Peter could even acknowledge anyone else in the room, he was greeted by a famous Pepper Potts hug. They hadn’t really had a chance to talk in person since the funeral, but it was clear Pepper cared for Peter. Maybe not as much as Tony did for the young web-slinger, but she still cared, enough to be here helping Peter figure out what to do next.

Peter let himself get wrapped up in Pepper’s firm hug. A quick glance over allowed Peter to see that MJ had taken a step away, but was staring with slightly wide eyes at Pepper. While MJ didn’t agree with Tony on most matters and wouldn’t be afraid to tell him off if he were still here, she adored Pepper, almost obsessively. Peter could see why, he’d be a fool to dismiss all Pepper has done and accomplished in her life. It was just a different look on MJ who was notoriously not impressed, like ever.

Pepper pulled back and placed a manicured hand on his cheek, rubbing his face with her thumb gently. It was such a motherly gesture that Peter was only used to receiving from May that he was surprised, but not enough to pull away. He kind of liked it.

“It’s going to be okay Peter, we’ll get this all sorted out and you’ll go back to swinging around Queens in no time.” Pepper said and Peter believed her.

If anyone could fix this literal dumpster fire, it was Pepper Potts.

“Petey!” A high-pitched voice called out and Peter barely had time to react before he had an armful of none other than Morgan Stark. Thankfully Peter had quick reflexes because he was able to catch her and haul her up to rest on his hip.

“Hi squirt.” Peter grinned.

He couldn’t help it. He loved the kid. Their meeting time and place wasn’t ideal, not in the slightest, but Peter was really glad he had the chance to meet her. They’d hit it off right away and Peter knew if Morgan ever asked him for anything, there was no way he’d be able to say no.

He hadn’t seen her since he left for Europe, but he was glad he had the chance now. Morgan could distract Peter by dragging him off to build a fort and all would be forgotten.

“I missed you.” Morgan told him and Peter smiled softly.

“I missed you too squirt, but I’m here now.” Peter told her and she grinned.

“I got a new Lego set! Do you want to see it? You can help me build it!” Morgan was practically vibrating with excitement and more than anything Peter wanted to say yes, but he knew there were a few things he needed to do first.

“I can’t help you right now, but after I talk with your mom and the adults, your new Lego won’t even stand a chance.” A quick glance at Pepper told him that he was right in his guess.

Morgan deflated a bit, but Happy was quick to step in.

“Come on kiddo, let’s go get something to eat.” Happy offered his hand and Morgan squirmed her way out of Peter’s arms to run to Happy. She took his hand and together they walked away.

“Cheeseburgers?” Morgan asked hopefully.

“Of course kiddo, I did promise you could have all the cheeseburgers you could ever want didn’t I?” Happy said with a soft smile and Peter heard her whoop of excitement as they left and the door shut behind them.

Peter’s stomach bottomed out and he swallowed nervously. He really didn’t want to have this conversation, but he needed a plan and the people in this room are his best option. He turned to face the music and he took a deep breath. Peter could do this.

“Captain.” Peter nodded at the newly knighted Captain America.

Sam Wilson was standing opposite of Peter in what looked like jogging clothes. He stance was wide and his arms were crossed, telling Peter he didn’t want to be approached, but his open face and soft smile told another story. Peter hadn’t really had the chance to talk with the superhero, but then again, he hadn’t really had the chance to talk with anyone running around in the superhero circuit. Tony was the only one the young hero was ever in contact with. Peter’s stomach twisted at the thought of the billionaire and he pushed his feelings down somewhere near his ankles and turned to Sam.

“Bug-boy.” Sam responded warmly.

Peter figured that was all he was going to get, so he turned to the others in the room. He was right about there being five people in the room before he and his party entered. Pepper, Morgan, and Sam were three of them. Peter had to admit that he was surprised at who else was here.

Bucky Barnes stood next to Sam, looking just as stoic and intense as he did the last time Peter saw him. The biggest difference that Peter could see that instead of covering up his new metal arm (courtesy of Shuri) with a long-sleeved shirt and a glove, he was wearing a loose t-shirt that really wasn’t that loose on the super-solider. Peter could tell he looked better. Despite Steve leaving him, Bucky seemed to be adjusting well and fitting back into the world well.

After everything with Thanos, the Sokovia Accords were deemed basically useless. It had weakened the Avengers, which meant when it came time for them to band together to fight Thanos, they were too late and failed. After everyone returned from the Blip, the UN was quick to suspend the Accords with the intention of revisiting the documents at a later date. Peter didn’t know when that was going to happen, but he hoped he would never have to deal with them.

With the suspension of the Accords, Bucky was pardoned since he never acted on his own volition. As long as he stayed with Sam and Sam continued to vouch for him, Bucky was free and finally no longer on the run from the rest of the world.

Peter was happy for the Sergeant. Even though they fought on different sides when the Accords were first being signed, Peter knew that everyone deserved a fair trial. He had been brainwashed, he didn’t ask for any of what happened to him, so he deserved at least a shot. Peter was happy he finally got it.

Bucky only offered Peter a nod, which was more than he expected from the super-solider. Peter really hoped he’d get a chance to talk to Bucky once this business with his identity reveal and murder charge was figured out. He had a million questions about his time as a Howling Commando and he wanted to know the mechanics behind his new arm. Sure he could ask Shuri (and he definitely is going to), but he wanted to hear it from the man himself.

The last person in the room was a complete surprise to Peter. After all, he hadn’t seen the man since Europe.

Nick Fury stood next to Sergeant Barnes, somehow managing to pin Peter in his place with his glare despite only having one good eye. Peter wasn’t even sure the last time he actually saw the former director. Mysterio’s illusions really did a number on him and he really didn’t want to revisit any of those illusions anytime soon.

“Now, Peter.” Pepper started and Peter dragged his eyes away from the spy and towards the current head of Stark Industries. “I have been on the phone since the broadcast. Rhodey has been meeting with the military in Washington and has assured me that you are in no danger of arrest from the government. Our lawyers have also drafted up the correct paperwork and are filing it now to sue the Daily Bugle.”

MJ had stepped closer to Peter when Pepper started talking and gently took his hand in hers. He squeezed her hand in response and felt a calm settle over him. He could get through this.

“Agent Hill has been coordinating with some of our agents and she is close to having the footage cleaned.” Fury spoke up. “Once that’s done, it’ll go to the press and the authorities to prove that Beck doctored the footage.”

“I’m planning on giving a press conference within the hour with Sam to help get the public back on your side, not that they ever believed the Bugle’s claims that Spider-Man was a murderer.” Pepper said.

“Well that’s all great, really it is, but what about Peter’s identity?” May interjected.

The room fell silent as Pepper and Fury shared a look.

“That’s going to be a little bit harder to explain.” Pepper said honestly. “We have a few ideas, but we need to know what Peter wants to do.”

May and the rest of the adults in the room turned to look at Peter who had remained silent up to this point. Part of him wished he could let the adults take care of everything while he went off with MJ to build Legos with Morgan. The other part of Peter wanted to do something, anything.

“What are my options?” Peter asked.

“Option one, we are already going to go public with the real footage from that day in London. It’ll be edited so your identity will remain unknown. With this footage proving that Mysterio lied, it’s not a big leap to also say that Beck also lied about Spider-Man’s real name. Option two, we go public with the fact that you are an intern at Stark Industries and work closely with Spider-Man. Beck met you while working with Spider-Man and because the two of you are similar in size and age, he assumed you were Spider-Man. Option three, we don’t fight this. We take control of the narrative and you officially acknowledge your superhero alter ego.” Pepper burned through the options quickly and Peter’s anxiety began to spike again. MJ seemed to notice because she squeezed his hand again.

“Is there any chance that no matter what we pick, the public won’t buy it?” May was the first to speak after everything was laid out on the table.

“That is always a risk, yes.” Pepper said. “But between my experience covering for Tony and Stark Industries and Fury’s experience keeping an entire government agency secret, we’re confident we can spin this story successfully.”

“What do you think Peter?” May turned back to her nephew and Peter took a shaky breath.

He didn’t know what to do if he was being honest.

He was tired of all the sneaking around and lying he has to do to protect his identity. Peter wondered what it would be like to swing around without his mask and how his life would change if the whole world knew who he was.

But he was only sixteen.

He was still a kid.

Peter hadn’t graduated from high school yet. He hadn’t been to a dance since homecoming, which was kind of a disaster. He and MJ hadn’t really been on an official date yet. Peter hadn’t gotten a minimum wage job that he hated, but stayed at so he could get experience and some spending money. He and Ned hadn’t gone to the movies in ages and they were planning on going to see the new Godzilla movie in a few days.

Peter would be saying goodbye to all of that if he let the world know who Spider-Man really was.

He also had to think about his family. What would happen to them if everyone knew who he was?

For every ally Peter had gained over the last few years, he’s made three times as many enemies. What would they do if they knew who he was and therefore whom he cared about? Would May be the next target? MJ and Ned had already been targeted by Mysterio, would it happen again? Could Peter live with himself if one of them had gotten hurt because he swung around Queens in spandex after school?

“Option one and two.” Peter said with finality. “I chose option one and two.”

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

“-In a startling turn of events, the footage first aired by the Daily Bugle has been proven to be fake and doctored. Quentin Beck, otherwise known as Mysterio, and his associates are being charged with editing footage to frame Queen’s own web-slinging hero as the cause of Beck’s death. Stark Industries has announced that they will be suing the Daily Bugle for endangering a minor by naming a 16-year old high school student from Queens as the masked vigilante. Peter Parker is a current intern at Stark Industries and is rumored to have been Tony Stark’s personal intern. Here is some footage from a press conference that ended moments ago.”

The newscast footage changed from a studio to show Pepper Potts standing in front of reporters in a crowded room. Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes stood behind her.

“-what happened in Europe was a tragedy. Quentin Beck had a grudge against my husband and our company. He took out his anger on innocent people and did not care about the damage he caused. Peter Parker works closely with Spider-Man as an intern at Stark Industries and met Beck while abroad in Europe. He was suspicious of Beck and voiced his concerns, because of this, Beck decided to get back at Spider-Man by naming Peter Parker as the hero. This is false. Peter is an intern who works with Spider-Man and is not under the mask. We ask that Peter’s privacy be respected. He is a minor and is protected under law. Thank you.”

The footage from the press conference ended and it cut back to a news desk with the reporter who was speaking earlier.

“Stark Industries has since asked the media to stop running the doctored footage of the attack in London as it is fake and slandering to the web-slinging hero. Since the press conference ended, support for Spider-Man has overwhelmed social media. Hashtags like “We Believe Spidey” and “New York’s Neighborhood Hero” are trending across the globe with stories from everyday people praising the hero and all that he has done for New York and the world. Meanwhile, the Daily Bugle stocks have dropped dramatically, leading to the news outlet to scramble to save face. J. Jonah Jameson has refused to apologize for airing the footage and naming the teen as Spider-Man, claiming that the Midtown student is the vigilante and is a menace to society. No matter what individuals believe, from the hashtags and the stories surfacing online, it is clear that New York City has a beloved hero and believes in him. I’m Mary Watson. WNYE-TV.”

Chapter Text

Peter never liked being the center of attention.

Once, when he was nine, he tried out for his school’s spring production of Peter Pan. It was going to be super low budget and not very good since he was nine, but Peter was excited. He really, really wanted to be Peter, for obvious reasons. But when it came time for his “audition”, Peter panicked. Suddenly everyone was looking at him and Peter couldn’t breathe.

It was the first time he had a panic attack. His homeroom teacher managed to help him through it and his Uncle Ben left work early to come pick him up. They went out for ice cream. And over Peter’s Mint Chocolate Chip and Ben’s Rocky Road, Uncle Ben talked about the first time he had a panic attack. He assured Peter that it was more normal than he thought and it was nothing to be ashamed of. At the time, Peter really didn’t understand, but he trusted his Uncle Ben, so he believed him. In the end, Peter played Pirate # 3 who’s only line was “ARGGG”. Uncle Ben and Aunt May gave him flowers for his performance.

After that day, Peter began to realize he didn’t like it when he was the center of attention. He could make it through presentations on the founding fathers and show and tell, but he didn’t like it one bit. When he became Spider-Man, it was different. He wasn’t Peter Parker when he was in his costume, he was Spider-Man, a hero who could quip back at any criminal and be the center of attention. Sure, he still had his moments that he panicked a bit, like when he was at that benefit with May, but all in all, Spider-Man was much better at being the center of attention than Peter Parker.

In watching the news, it seemed that public opinion was shifting in his favor. The Daily Bugle was still on a warpath, but the people of New York, and the rest of the world frankly, were all behind him, well Spider-Man. As far as Peter Parker was concerned, he was just an intern who was dragged into an international conflict against his will, and for his troubles, he was dragged through the mud.

Twitter hashtags were a powerful thing.

That and Pepper Potts.

Peter has always been in awe of her. She managed to keep track of Tony Stark and run an entire company and raise a kid and be a freaking superhero all at the same time. But watching her defend him to the press and leave absolutely no room for debate, well, Peter was starting to see why MJ was low key obsessed with her. Peter kind of was too.

Peter and his aunt stayed at the compound for a few more days following the press conference. They were worried about going back to their apartment with the press still scrambling for details about the young high school intern. They didn’t think he was Spider-Man, but he still was something the news wanted to sink their teeth into. Which meant that Peter spent his days wandering around the compound, sparring with Bucky a bit, talking with Sam about his Falcon wings, and building Legos with Morgan. MJ had gone home the day previous with Happy. She didn’t want to intrude and she insisted her dad would worry about her, especially now that she was dating the guy that was splashed across every news outlet in the world. But, before she left, she told him to keep out of trouble, which she immediately followed with her telling him to call her as soon as he got into trouble, she kissed him on the cheek, called him a loser, and flipped him off. God she was great.

Meanwhile, Peter finally was able to turn his phone back on. MJ had him turn it off right after he had called Happy so no one could track it. Which, of course, was the smartest thing to do, and he’s not just saying that because MJ thought of it. Either way, Peter was glad he could finally turn it back on. He was sure Ned had called and texted him about a million times, which turned out to be a pretty accurate number.

guyinthechair: hey how did swinging around with mj go?

guyinthechair: peter?

guyinthechair: hello?

guyinthechair: you better not start ditching me for a girl

guyinthechair: I don’t care if it’s mj and she scares you

guyinthechair: uh peter?

guyinthechair: is there a reason I’m suddenly seeing footage of you telling the drones to fire and kill everyone?

guyinthechair: you definitely didn’t do that right?

guyinthechair: of course you didn’t but what is going on man?

guyinthechair: wait

guyinthechair: PETER

guyinthechair: I THOUGHT WE WEREN’T TELLING ANYONE YOURE SPIDER-MAN?!?!?

guyinthechair: peter what is going on

guyinthechair: okay mj isn’t answering either so I really need you to answer me peter

The messages continued on and Peter felt a stab of guilt. Ned was probably going to kill him. So he typed out a message.

spooderman: hey ned the past few days have been a little crazy but everything seems to be okay now. I’ll text you when may and I make it back to our apartment and I’ll explain everything I promise

Peter then started to scroll through all of his other messages. MJ had texted him the day before

emjay: hey loser, text me when you make it back to queens. Stay safe and don’t be stupid

Peter smiled and sent her a smiley face back before continuing to go through his messages. He had a bunch of texts from some of his classmates asking questions about the internship and if he really was Spider-Man. He didn’t really feel like answering them so he didn’t. He’d do that when he had something really clever to say, MJ would be able to help him. Peter then saw a text from someone he really wish didn’t have his number, but a school project required it.

flash thompson: hey penis, there’s no way youre spider-man, he’s far too cool and you’re just a huge nerd. btw, I still don’t think your internship is real

Peter could help but roll his eyes. Flash would never believe he was Spider-Man, even if he saw him in his suit without his mask. He’d just say it was cosplay for a convention (which Peter had thought about doing, but was too scared someone would realize it was real). Peter locked his phone and decided he was done looking at it for the day. He and May were supposed to be going home today and he just wanted to get there without any more trouble.

As it turns out, they did get home without any trouble. Happy dropped them off in front of their apartment, promising he’d be a phone call away if they needed anything. Peter stepped aside, pulling his baseball hat low and letting May talk to Happy. He didn’t know what was going on between them, but he figured he’d give them a second.

Peter took the time to look around his city.

People moved through the streets quickly, barely casting him a glance. Cars honked, people yelled, the city was thriving, and Peter was back to just being Peter. In the eyes of the world, he was just a normal high school kid who just happened to intern at the Stark Industries. He could live with that.

Peter’s senses went wild.

Hey! Watch out!” A voice yelled and Peter just had time to scramble out of the way before a girl zoomed by on her motorcycle. Peter caught a glimpse of blonde hair with streaks of teal peaking out of her dark helmet.

Peter scoffed and shook his head as he watched her weave in and out of traffic with almost no regard for the rules. This was the New York he loved. This was the New York he wanted to protect. The little guy.

“Peter? You okay?” May asked as she placed her hand on his elbow. Peter turned to see both Happy and May with looks of concern splashed across their faces.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

And for the first time in a long time, Peter believed it.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

“Dude! No way!” Ned barked as he spin in Peter’s desk chair.

“Yes way!” Peter said as he continued to pace on the ceiling.

Flash texted you?” Ned gaped. “Like actually texted you about Spider-Man?”

“It was weird, he still called me Penis and was still a dick, but he still texted me out of the blue.” Peter finished.

“You almost get outed as Spider-Man and are accused of murder and this is what you nerds decide to talk about?” MJ piped up from Peter’s bed where she was curled up and reading a book, seemingly ignoring the two boys, but MJ was more observant than either boy gave her credit for.

Peter and Ned shared a slightly guilty look and Peter jumped down from the ceiling, landing silently.

“Fair point.” Peter admitted as he flopped into a beanbag.

The conversation lulled for a moment, which Peter didn’t mind. It was nice to have his best friends here with him, but it was also nice that it was quiet, even if it was only for a second. Which with Ned was exactly the case.

“I think we should go do something.” Ned broke the silence and Peter looked up at Ned with his eyebrows furrowed.

“You think we should do something?” Peter asked.

“What are we, twelve?” MJ said without glancing up from her book.

“Ha Ha MJ” Ned said, “I just mean Peter’s finally in the clear, so we should go out and do something.”

Peter glanced over at MJ. She seemed to sense him because she looked up and they met eyes. MJ glares had a spectrum. Peter and Ned had been working to map them out, and yeah they still had a long way to go, but they’d made a lot of progress. The look MJ was giving Peter was on the lower end of the spectrum. She was annoyed with the idea, but did think going out could do them some good. Peter kind of liked how good he was getting at knowing what MJ was thinking, and although she denied it, he knew she secretly liked it too.

“Okay. I’m fine with you two dating, but can you stop having conversations with your eyes, it’s freaking me out.” Ned said and Peter grinned. MJ cracked a smile before burying her face back in her book.

Yeah, the two friends were starting to grow on her.

“What do you have in mind Ned?”

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Peter probably shouldn’t have asked what Ned had in mind, because maybe then they wouldn’t have found themselves outside a laser tag complex in Manhattan.

Peter had never played laser tag before, but he was pretty sure he had a slight advantage with his “Peter Tingle” and all (god he needed to come up with another name for it). But Ned was excited and Peter was too, if he was being honest. It had been a while since he had done anything that would qualify as normal teenager behavior. Even his trip to Europe ended up being kind of a nightmare. So he was excited to do something normal kids did.

Ned was practically bouncing off the walls. He could barely contain his excitement and Peter thought it was hilarious. He was a little annoyed that Ned had dragged him here a good half an hour before their set time because Ned was terrified of missing it, but Peter let it slide because secretly he was just was excited and anxious as Ned was.

MJ wasn’t there yet, which didn’t surprise Peter. He knew she would show up right before the designated time with a fond “losers” rolling off her tongue. Since it was just the three of them, MJ offered to bring a friend, which surprised the hell of out of Peter and Ned who thought she didn’t have friends outside of the two of them. To which MJ rolled her eyes and went back to her book. That was all MJ had talked about it so Peter and Ned had no idea who else was coming.

They had about ten minutes before they were scheduled to arrive and Peter and Ned were getting antsy, as if they weren’t already. MJ and her friend weren’t there yet and the boys couldn’t help but speculate.

“I bet it’s her sibling.” Ned said.

“Does she have a sibling?” Peter asked and Ned shrugged.

“I bet she does and she just doesn’t talk about them.”

Peter figured Ned could be right. He was close with MJ in a way that no one else was, but that didn’t mean there was a lot he still didn’t know about his girlfriend. And Peter was excited to find out more, he enjoyed listening to MJ and all she had to say. He’d listen and be there by her side for years if it meant she grew to trust him with anything she wanted.

Peter was dragged out of his thoughts by his watch buzzing. He pushed aside his hoodie and tapped the watch face once. A small alert flashed across the screen warning Peter of a robbery taking place three blocks away. Peter looked over at Ned who had wandered over and was peering over his shoulder.

Ned seemed to know what Peter was thinking because he said, “No. That’s not a good idea Peter. You know what Mrs. Stark said! No Spider-Manning!”

“It’s actually Mrs. Potts-Stark, but that’s beside the point Ned! I have to go!” Peter started to back away. “I’ll be right back!”

“Peter!” Ned called as Peter turned and ducked into an alley. He glanced around him quickly before hitting his watch face with the palm of his hand. As soon as he made contact, nanites began to spread up his arm and across his chest. Within seconds, his Iron Spider suit was covering his body. Peter rolled his shoulders and his display came to life.

Hello Peter. Karen spoke and Peter grinned, he missed this.

With a flick of his wrist, Peter was in the air and heading straight for the robbery.

 

By the time Peter arrived, the police were already there.

A crowd had gathered behind the police barricades and they spotted Peter almost as soon as he swung onto the street.

“It’s Spider-Man!”

“Spider-Man?”

“Hey Spidey!”

The people on the street yelled as they all waved and/or recorded him on their phones. He flicked a hand to wave at them and they cheered. He swung low on purpose, barely skimming the heads of the police on the ground.

“I got it!” He called as he swung over them. At the top of his swing, he landed silently on the side of the building. He crawled up the old weathered brick of the bank and found a window open on the top floor. Slowly opening it, Peter peered inside. It was an empty office. Peter crawled inside, sticking to the ceiling.

“Hey Karen?”

Yes, Peter?

“Scan the building, tell me what’s going on.” Peter’s display lit up and Karen commenced her plan.

Biometrics read seven hostiles and ten civilians. Two hostiles are in the vault with one standing guard and the remaining four are watching the hostages.

“Thanks Karen.”

Peter remained on the ceiling, crawling towards the door. He slowly opened it and crawled out into the hallway. The hallway he entered held other offices along the same wall as the one Peter entered through. The other side of the hallway, where a wall should be, was open. From where Peter perched on the ceiling, he could see into the main lobby of the bank. He could see the hostages on the floor near the front desk. They all look unharmed, but shaken. The four hostiles were placed strategically, out of line of the windows and doors, but spaced enough that they could keep the hostages from trying anything.

Peter knew if he wanted to be successful, he had to work quickly. One, so he could take out the hostiles out here before they alerted their buddies in the vault, and two, because Ned would kill him if he missed laser tag.

So Peter got to work. With Karen’s advice, Peter set his web-shooters and crawled closer to the edge of the balcony. He watched as the hostiles continued to pace back and forth, waiting for his chance.

Now Peter.

Peter shot a web at the man closest to him as all the other hostiles turned their backs. The web attached to his back and Peter yanked on the web. The man went flying and Peter jumped. By the time the man Peter grabbed hit the wall, getting knocked out in the process, Peter had already shot a web at the other hostile’s guns.

The guns hit the ground behind Peter and the men turned to look at him.

“You guys should really look up when you’re robbing a bank just in case I’m around.” Peter said and before the man to his left could grab his walkie, Peter reacted.

He jumped and fired another web at the goon on his left. The web hit him right in the eyes and he stumbled back with a yell. The guy in the middle lunged at Peter and he dodged his fist before swinging and clocking the guy in the jaw. He fell to the ground and Peter’s senses went crazy.

Peter jumped to the right and a man stumbled past him. He recovered quickly and lunged at Spider-Man again. Peter dodged his fist by grabbing onto it.

“When will you learn?” Peter croaked. “That your actions have consequences!”

Peter threw the goon across the bank and he hit the wall. Spidey turned to the hostages who were watching in awe and horror while cowering.

“GO!” Peter yelled and the hostages jumped up and all ran for the exit.

DANGER! DUCK!

Peter hit the ground as gunfire exploded around him. He flung a web at the wall and pulled himself behind the desk where he at least had some cover.

“Karen! What happened?”

The first hostile snuck to the vault and alerted his partners. I suggest you wait for them to reload before making your move.

So Peter didn’t move. He listened as the hostiles continued to unload bullets towards where Peter was waiting.

That’s when he heard it.

The unmistakable sound of a web-shooter firing.

But it wasn’t Peter.

So who was it?

One of the men screamed and the shooting changed direction. After a second, Peter deemed it safe to look and he peered over the edge of the desk. What he saw surprised the hell out of him.

“What the fu-?” Peter gasped out before he ducked due to a rogue bullet striking right where his head would have been. He looked back over the counter in shock.

A figure in black and white suit with pink and teal accents flipped around the bank, taking out the men. It was a woman, that much Peter could tell. And she was beyond graceful. She had web-shooters that looked remarkably like Peter’s old ones, but they worked better than his first model ever did.

“Karen? Are you seeing this?” Peter asked.

I see what you see Peter, so yes.

Peter rolled his eyes at his AI. “Who is she?”

I don’t know Peter. I will begin scans.

As soon as Karen finished talking, the last hostile hit the ground and the woman landed silently on the ground. She landed crouched, her chest rising and falling rapidly. Her hood hid her face and Peter held his breath. She looked up and Peter would swear his heart stopped.

Her mask looked just like his, just a different color scheme. They met gazes for what Peter would have said was hours, but it was just seconds.

BANG!

Peter’s head snapped over to the door where the police were forcing their way in past the barricaded doors. He looked back to where the mysterious woman was and found her gone, no trace of her ever being there. Peter stood up, out of breath.

What the hell had just happened?

Peter flung a web towards the ceiling and pulled himself up. He crawled to a skylight and left the building. He sent out a web and started to head back to the laser tag place.

“Hey Karen?”

Yes Peter?

“Keep analyzing that footage, let me know when you get a hit.”

Sure thing, Peter.

 

Spidey landed in the same alley as the one he took off from. He glanced at his watch and cursed, he had less than a minute before Ned became officially pissed. He hit the watch and the nanite suit disappeared back into his watch and Peter ran to the laser tag place.

He saw Ned still standing out front with MJ looking bored beside him.

Ned saw him and opened his mouth to speak but Peter beat him to it.

“I know! I’m sorry Ned! But something crazy happened!” Peter stammered out as he joined his two friends.

“Crazier than your usual robbery?” MJ deadpanned.

“Way crazier. There was another Spider-Person.” Peter said and his two friends stared at him.

MJ blinked. “What?”

“There was another Spider-Man there?” Ned gasped and Peter shook his head.

“A Spider-Woman?” MJ said, “Dope.”

“I’ve never seen her before, but she had a suit and was way too good for someone to be making their debut.” Peter said.

“Well I guess I know what we’re doing tonight.” Ned said and the friends all nodded.

Peter looked around. “Wait, MJ, where’s your friend?”

MJ glanced over Peter’s shoulder. “She’s right there.”

Ned and Peter turned around and watched as a girl jogged up to them. She looked a few years older than their small group, but she looked familiar to Peter. Her blonde hair was cropped short, resting just above her shoulders. She was dressed casually in jeans, a band t-shirt, sneakers, and a leather jacket. Peter noticed the small gap in her two front teeth and the teal streaks that peppered her hair.

She smiled at MJ as she neared the group.

“Hey MJ. Sorry I’m late. I got caught in the foot traffic a few blocks over. Did you know there was a bank robbery going on? Anyway, sorry.” The girl said to MJ before looking at Ned and Peter. She held out her hand to Peter. “We haven’t met yet, I’m Gwen Stacy.”

Chapter Text

Peter considered himself athletic.

Ever since that spider bit him, he’s been insanely athletic. Gym class was easy, not that he could ever let anyone in gym class know that. And with all of his Spider-Manning, he’d built up an impressive amount of muscle, if he did say so himself. That being said, it wasn’t a surprise to Peter that Ned claimed him as his partner for laser tag.

What was a surprise was that MJ and Gwen wiped the floor with Peter and Ned at laser tag. The two best friends didn’t even stand a chance against the girls. Even with Peter’s senses, somehow, Gwen knew exactly what Peter and Ned were doing. At some point, Gwen and MJ had come up with complicated hand signals and managed to pin the boys down five minutes after they’d started playing. Then they proceeded to absolutely murder them with lasers.

If Peter wasn’t so butt hurt about losing even with his spider powers, he’d be impressed with how well the girls worked together and managed to beat an actual superhero.

The teens met outside of the laser tag place after Peter and Ned lost epically.

“But how?” Ned gasped, “How did you beat us? You’ve never played laser tag before?”

Gwen laughed. “Just because I haven’t played laser tag before, doesn’t mean I’ve never played video games.”

“But practical application and video games are entirely different things! That doesn’t explain how you were still so good!” Ned insisted.

Peter watched with a small smile, following a few steps behind Ned and Gwen. MJ walked beside him. She wasn’t smiling like Peter was, but her eyes were shining. This outing did the small group of friends a world of good.

“This was a good idea.” MJ said and Peter glanced up at his girlfriend. He glanced back at Ned and Gwen as they laughed and joked and Peter knew MJ was right, which she always is.

“I think so too.” Peter agreed. “We should try to do this more often. Well, as often as our almost empty wallets can allow.”

“Hey Peter!” Ned called as he stopped and turned to face Peter and MJ.

“Yeah Ned?”

“Can we go out for lunch? Gwen works at a diner in Queens and insists that the sandwiches are better than Mr. Delmar’s!”

Peter exaggerated his gasp. “There’s no way! Mr. Delmar has the best sandwiches in Queens!”

Gwen shrugged. “I work there, so I kind of have to say that. But they do have great sandwiches and I get an employee discount.”

Peter looked at MJ who shrugged. “Sure, why not?”

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

While Peter wouldn’t admit that the diner’s sandwiches were better than Mr. Delmar’s (because they definitely weren’t), Gwen was half right; they were pretty good. Peter also had to admit that it was really nice to be a normal kid for once.

He’d had a lot of tragedy for someone barely old enough drive a car (which he really should get on soon). Just as he was starting to get into normal teenager stuff, he’d been bitten by a radioactive spider and lost his Uncle Ben. Then started the cycle of hardship after hardship. Peter never really had a break long enough to really enjoy being a kid. And now that he’d had a taste, he wanted to see what else there was out there to experience.

Peter also had the chance to learn more about Gwen and how MJ and her had met.

“Dance class.” MJ deadpanned and with Peter and Ned’s startled noises and looks, she rolled her eyes. “Calm your nerd boners, I was like seven and only took classes for a few years.”

Apparently after taking those classes together, the two stayed in touch. Gwen was a year older and therefore a grade ahead of them. While MJ quit dance to spend her time reading and destroying the patriarchy, Gwen continued classes and got really good at it. Which, explained why Gwen was so light on her feet during laser tag. Peter also learned that Gwen was in a band, which was pretty badass. She played drums and while their band was just getting started, Gwen seemed excited.

The biggest elephant in room while they ate lunch was the Blip.

It had become a conversation everyone in the universe had to have, but it didn’t make it any easier. Gwen seemed to understand because she finished chewing her fry and placed her clasped hands on the table. She explained that no, she didn’t disappear during the Blip. Her dad did, which she had a hard time explaining, and she lived on her own for 5 years. Meaning that their original one-year age gap was actually six now. Peter wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to that. During those 5 years, Gwen worked odd jobs while she finished high school and tried to keep her life afloat. Since her dad came back, she’s been working at the diner they were currently eating at, teaching dance classes at the Y, working on getting her band started, and taking college classes. MJ could tell Gwen was starting to spiral a bit. She picked up on Gwen’s slight change of inflection and asked about her college classes.

Gwen’s eyes lit up and she launched into explaining all of her classes. She was going to school to study dance. She was enthusiastic and loved talking about what she was doing. Which led to Gwen asking about what they were doing. With that, Ned took off and began talking about his classes and teachers. MJ threw her two cents in every once in a while and Peter was happy to just listen. Gwen had actually gone to Midtown (which is why Peter recognized her when he first saw her), so she had a lot of tips for the teens about the teachers and classes.

“What are your thoughts on the current waves of feminism and the emphasis on STEM?” MJ asked Gwen after studying her with narrowed eyes and an indignant look on her face. Gwen looked startled for a moment, but her expression quickly switched to thoughtful.

“I think it’s a difficult aspect to digest completely. There’s this emphasis on getting more women and girls interested in STEM, which on its own, is harmless and statistically good for all of us. But there is a beauty in the arts, and just because someone, like myself, is interested in pursuing something that is typically viewed as not being on the same level as engineering or biochem, doesn’t mean that my contributions to society are any less valid.” Gwen said honestly. “I still enjoy science, I mean I went to Midtown Sci and Tech, but my passion lies in dancing. And I don’t know if I’ll get to be a principal dancer at a company or that I’ll get to be in a professional company, but it’s worth the shot I have to take.”

MJ continued to stare at Gwen and absorb her response. Then she nodded and went back to picking at her sandwich. Gwen fidgeted in her seat.

“Look,” Gwen sighed “I know that the three of you have had a completely different experience the last five years than I had. I mean, you skipped five years of your life, and I don’t want to downplay your experience and what happened to you. But being on my own for that long and living in this world during the Blip where no one could find joy in anything anymore, I’m finally at a place where I feel ready to do something that makes me happy. I’m not doing it because I need to pay the mortgage on my dad’s house, or to pay the other bills, or to pay for food. I’m training to be a professional dancer because I love it. And I really hope that the three of you find something like that in your lives and hold onto it and commit to it.”

The three friends shared glances and Peter looked back at Gwen, who looked sincere and a little sheepish.

“I think that’s something we can manage.” Peter said and matched Gwen’s smile.

“Good.” Gwen said honestly. “Now, Ned, you said something about having a new Star Wars Lego set, was it the Starkiller Base? Because I’ve had my eye on that set for ages and would love to see the finished product.”

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Peter really loved having Karen as his AI in his suits.

Not only was she a great conversationalist when Peter got bored on patrol (which happened more often than you might think), but she also was really handy to have around. Like this morning in the bank when another Spider-Person showed up and finished taking down the bad guys.

“I’m pulling up footage from the bank’s security cameras, maybe if we can see where she came from and where she went after stopping the robbers, we can figure out who she is.” Ned said as he typed away on his laptop.

Peter was working on plugging Karen into his computer so he could download the data she had collected. While the data was downloading, Peter slipped on his mask.

“Hey Karen?”

Yes, Peter?

“Can you bring up the footage from the bank today and project it on the wall please?” Peter asked as MJ looked up from her phone to watch Peter talk to Karen.

Sure thing.

A blue projection appeared on a small section of Peter’s wall. Peter began to sift through the footage to find anything that might help them.

“I know you losers are trying to figure out who she is, but she wears a mask for a reason, why not respect it?” MJ said, not looking up from her book as she turned the page.

Peter and Ned shared a look.

“We aren’t trying to find her so we can tell the world her identity, I just want to know how she got her powers and if she wants to work together sometimes.” Peter trailed off at MJ’s steely glare. “Or whatever.”

“How’d you get your powers?” MJ asked with narrowed eyes.

“Radioactive spider-bite.” Peter said matter-of-factly.

“Bullshit.” MJ glared.

Peter chuckled. “There are actual wizards out there in the world and you call bullshit on a radioactive spider biting me?”

MJ shrugged as she went back to her book. “Wizards are dope and manipulate energy, getting bitten by a radioactive spider sounds awfully like a comic book.”

Peter rolled his eyes affectionately as he went back to scanning the footage Karen collected from the bank.

“Aha!” Peter gasped as he found the moment he saw the other Spider-person. Ned stopped typing and glanced over at his best friend. Even MJ looked up from her book to give him a look that said really, weirdo?

Peter cleared his throat and let the footage play.

Now that he wasn’t getting shot at, he really had the chance to look at how she moved. Peter was now sure that whoever this was had powers very similar to his. She moved like she knew where and when things were coming for her. She was undeniably graceful and moved much more fluidly than Peter could ever hope to. The more Peter watched, the more he was starting to think that this couldn’t be her first outing as a spider-person. So why hadn’t Peter seen her before?

Almost as if Ned could read his mind, Peter’s best friend spoke up.

“So I’m running the hack for the bank cameras right now, but while I was waiting, I started a search on this new Spider-Woman. Turns out, not so new.” Ned said and Peter jumped off his bed and walked over to stand over Ned’s shoulder. MJ appeared next to Peter.

As it turns out, Ned was right. This wasn’t the first time she made an appearance, not by a long shot.

In fact, she’d been pretty active over the last five years.

The trio found dozens of videos of “Spider-Woman” or “Ghost-Spider” (depending on the source) swinging through the city, saving innocent New Yorkers, stopping robberies, and so much more. She has been keeping New York City safe for the last five years when Peter couldn’t. It was Spider-Woman who took up his mantle, who kept the peace, who looked out for the little guy.

And everyone had basically forgotten about her.

Once everyone came back from the Blip, she disappeared. With all of those who disappeared back, including the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, everyone forgot about the one woman who kept his city safe while everyone else struggled to pick up the pieces left behind.

So, as Ned and MJ bickered about her costume and it’s functionality and colors, Peter decided something.

Peter decided that he wasn’t going to try to find her so they could swap spidey stories (as much as he would like to).

He didn’t need to know who is under the mask.

But he did hope he had the chance to tell her how much appreciated everything she did.

Because she looked after his city while he was gone, and because of her, he had a city to come back to.

Spider-Man might be considered Queens very own superhero, but if you asked Peter?

Spider-Woman was Peter’s hero.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

A computer beeped frantically in a darkened room as footsteps approached from a nearby hallway. Light flooded the room as a door opened a figure walked in.

“Turn on the lights.” A raspy voice said and instantly, the bright overhead lights flickered on to reveal lab equipment and computers. Papers were strewn around the room on tables and desks.

“Start voice recording.” The man who entered the room removed his blazer and tossed it haphazardly on a chair. He rolled up his sleeves as he began talking. “Test subject 1-4-1-9-6-4, July 27th, 2023. Subject has shown few symptoms and life signs remain promising.”

The man walked over to a small cage and gazed at the small rat inside. The rat seemed normal enough, but the man knew better.

“Subject shows signs of a green colorization on its fur.” The man straightened and walked over to a metal table with various chemicals and mixtures. “The synthesized serum remains successful. I will now synthesize another dose to recreate my success.”

The tall, dark haired man pulled on a pair of rubber gloves and goggles before he mixed together volatile chemicals into a beaker. Within moments, he had another sample ready.

A wicked grin spread across the man’s face.

He pulled off his goggles and held up the sample, looking at it through the light.

He was holding pure power in his hands.

And he was the only one who knew about it.

The mixture began to turn warm in his hand. His eyebrows furrowed as he leaned closer and stared. This hadn’t happened before. What was different?

The mixture turned a vibrant color before exploding in a bright light. The man was thrown across the room, hitting a metal table and knocking it over. Papers scattered across the floor as the lights began to flicker.

A tipped over beaker leaked a clear liquid onto the floor.

The man groaned as he sat up. His head was pounding and he could hear the computer still beeping. But the beeping is much more insistent now. The man rubbed at his eyes that were burning. His muscles ached and he could feel his body shifting.

A small speaker next to the door crackled to life. A woman spoke.

“Mr. Osborn? Your son is on the line and is insisting he talk to you. Should I tell him you’re busy?”

“No. I’ll be up in a minute.” Norman Osborn rubbed at his eyes again before opening them. He looked at his reflection in the overturned stainless steel table lying in front of him.

Bright green eyes were staring back at him.

Funny, Norman thought, my eyes are blue.

A voice cackled with laughter in the distance.

Chapter Text

Peter decided a long time ago that things should stop surprising him.

Peter also knew that there was no way this would ever be the case.

That being said, Peter really tried to not be surprised when he turned on the news a few weeks after his identity was nearly revealed to see The Daily Bugle still playing the footage Beck had sent them. J Jonah Jameson was still on a warpath for Peter and Peter wondered if he should be flattered.

Ever since he started swinging through the streets of New York, he’d been the topic of a trending hashtag on twitter more times that Peter could count. And for the most part, it seemed like the city was behind him. New York had their very own “small-town” superhero and they couldn’t get enough of him. But the Daily Bugle had never warmed up to the web-slinger. Jameson seemed to be the driving force behind the frustration and annoyance expressed within the words published by the Daily Bugle. His biggest grievance about the young arachnid themed superhero was his “vigilante” status. Jameson didn’t think that Spider-Man should be operating in his current place “outside” of the law.

Peter wondered if he should tell Jameson that the accords have all but been annulled after the Blip. If Jameson wanted to be mad at anything Spider-Man did, maybe he should be mad that Peter has still managed to stay in the good graces of the law and the people of New York.

But that’s neither here nor there.

May tsked in the kitchen as she wiped the inside of the glasses Peter had just washed.

“That Jameson just won’t give up will he?”

Peter shook his head. “It’ll blow over eventually. I just hope everyone’s forgotten by the time school starts up again.”

“You’d think he would have crawled back behind his desk after Pepper’s speech.” May said she put the last of the glasses back inside the cabinet. She hung the dishtowel back up and picked up her wine glass.

Peter couldn’t help but smile.

His Aunt May and Pepper had grown close ever since everyone came back. May absolutely loved little Morgan and always offered to babysit free of charge if Pepper needed it (Peter never mentioned that Pepper could probably pay for a million babysitters). Peter also thinks that May enjoys having another woman to gossip over wine with and share stories about the men they loved and how the world has changed. May became Pepper’s biggest advocate and Pepper became May’s best friend. Peter found it very endearing.
May plopped down beside Peter and curled her legs up underneath her. She snatched the remote out of Peter’s hands and changed the channel to a crime show. The remote fell onto the couch between Peter and his aunt and Peter crossed his arms and leaned back. Peter’s phone buzzed next to him and he picked it up.

guyinthechair: did u see the Daily Bugle’s article? do u want me to hack him? becuz I can hack him. just say the word and your guy in the chair has your back bro

Peter smiled softly and quickly typed out a response.

spooderman: it’s okay man, I appreciate it tho. you’re definitely the best guy-in-the-chair a superhero could have asked for

Peter clicked back to his messages and saw a few texts he must have gotten during his weekly dinner with May.

emjay: hey loser, I got us tickets for a midnight showing of Get Out for Friday and you better not be late or I’m breaking up with you

Peter’s heart fluttered and he felt his stomach flip in the way he only ever felt when MJ was around or when he was flipping around the city.

spooderman: I’ll be there 20 minutes early just to prove you I can be early ;-)

The teen scrolled past the few random texts from his classmates that were still pestering him about the “reveal”. They didn’t talk to him in school, so Peter would never understand why they were so insistent about talking with him now.

There were a few messages that caught his eye however.

iamliberian: [iamliberian has sent you jpeg.spidermanfaceplant] it is you white boy?

dudeyouhaveametalarm?: Shuri told me to send this to you? Should I be concerned? [dudeyouhaveametalarm? has sent you jpeg.spidermanfaceplant]

QUEENMARVEL: you should really be more careful peter [QUEENMARVEL has sent you jpeg.spidermanfaceplant]

warmachinerox: I will blow up this picture and pin it to the side of the empire state building if you don’t change my name in your phone, don’t test me Peter. [warmachinerox has sent you jpeg.spidermanfaceplant]

scarletsitch: lmao, nice going peter [scarletsitch has sent you jpeg.spidermanfaceplant]

Peter swallowed a groan and wanted to crawl under his couch. It was times like these that Peter really hated that he knew so many superheroes that also knew exactly who he was.

A knock at the door snapped Peter out of his plotting against Shuri who Peter was sure started circulating that image to all of the heroes.

“I got it!” Peter said as he grabbed the back of the couch and flipped backwards over it. The young hero ignored May’s gasp and immediate scolding of Peter’s flippant use of the furniture.

Peter chuckled under his breath as he opened the door. But his chuckle died as he stared at the man standing outside his door.

“Oh you gotta be shitting me.” Peter breathed.

“Nice to see you too Mr. Parker.” Nick Fury drawled, a way too smug smirk on his face.

“What are you doing here?” Peter hissed, closing the door so he could maybe prevent May from hearing his conversation with the former director of S.H.I.E.L.D.

“We need to talk Mr. Parker. Can I come in?”

“Who is it Peter?” May called from inside the apartment. Peter risked a glance behind him before looking back at the superspy/agent standing outside of his Queens apartment.

“I can’t talk now! My aunt is here!” Peter whispered back.

“Perfect, now I only have to explain it once.” Fury said as he pushed past Peter and walked into the apartment. Peter cursed and chased after the agent.

May was standing in the living room, a surprised and confused look on her face with her wine glass in her had and the same crime show playing softly in the background. Peter couldn’t help but think about how absurd Fury looked standing in his apartment. That thought was thrown out of head as soon as May’s voice snapped him back to reality.

“Peter, what is going on? Who’s this?” His aunt’s eyes fixed on him and Peter found his voice failing him.

“Uh-“

“My name is Nick Fury, I’m the former Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. I was with Peter in Europe.” Fury said.

Uh oh. Peter thought, Bad idea Mr. Fury.

“So you’re the one I have to blame for dragging Peter away from his school trip and nearly getting him killed?” May exploded with a calm anger and Peter wanted to crawl under his bed and he wasn’t the one facing May’s anger.

“That’s actually why I’m here.” Fury said, glancing over at Peter. “While we were in Europe, I wasn’t entirely honest.”

Peter blinked. “Beck had us all fooled.”

Peter wasn’t sure if he was just searching for something that wasn’t there, but Fury almost looked…guilty?

“When we were in Europe, Fury was off world dealing with the fallout from the Blip.” Fury said and Peter stopped his slow crawl next to Aunt May who was staring at the former director with confusion, but mostly anger.

“I’m sorry, did you just refer to yourself in the third person?” Peter asked and Fury shifted uncomfortably. Which wasn’t a color Peter ever expected to see on the super agent.

“Now this may come as a bit of a shock, but I’m not Nick Fury.” Fury (?) said. Peter let his arm relax as he slid his arm behind his back. He hit a button on the side of his watch and felt a webshooter slide out. Peter’s breathing slowed and his mind began to race as he started to plan a way to get May out safely and stop whoever was wearing Fury’s face.

Fake Fury seemed to catch onto the fact that Peter and his aunt weren’t going to say anything because he shifted on his feet and made eye contact with Peter.

“My real name is Talos, and I'm - not from around here.” Fake Fury said before his hands started to change. Peter and May watched in various stages of horror and confusion as Fury turned into an actual green alien.

Peter was moving before Fur – Talos – could even speak. Talos hit the fridge hard enough that the tins on top of it hit the kitchen floor. The alien didn’t seem surprised.

“You know, you could have at least waited until I finished my story. I didn’t even get to the good part.”

 

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

“Have a good night Gwen!”

Gwen waved at Rebecca as she shouldered her small dance bag and left the studio. Gwen threw a smile her friend’s direction as the door swung shut behind her. She passed a group of younger girls as they headed into the studio, gossiping about a boy in their class. Another younger girl stood near the door. Gwen could hear the voice of what she guessed was the girl’s mother reminding her about an assignment. She gave the girl a small smile as she passed and the girl’s mouth quirked up before her focus shifted again.

Gwen entered the busy New York street with a bounce in her step.

When everyone disappeared, New York City suddenly felt empty and wrong. The near constant honking diminished, the shouts of cyclists and irate taxi drivers faded, and the city lost the buzz the locals loved and the tourists were confused by.

Gwen never really got used to the silence. It always unnerved her.

Sure there was some noises, it was still a city with some inhabitants, but it was never the same. When everyone came back, the city found its lifeline. Suddenly, the city had a heart beat again.

Gwen promised herself she would never get annoyed by it ever again.

So Gwen found herself smiling at the shouting match currently happening between two taxi drivers who tried to merge into traffic at the same time as everyone behind them laid on their horns. The dancer turned and joined the winding crowd with a bounce in her step. She slid headphones into her ears and hit shuffle on her playlist. Rock music filled her ears and she found her steps matching the beat.

While she waited for the light to change so she could cross the street, she glanced at her phone, noticing a text message.

MBae: there’s a protest at the UN next week if you want in [MBae sent a link: nytimes.com/climate-change-summit.html]

Gwen chuckled.

Gwendolyne Baecy: you know I’m always down for a protest babe

Gwen glanced up and saw it was safe to walk and quickly crossed the street. She slipped into the subway and boarded a train within minutes. Music thrummed through her headphones as she glanced around her. A mom and her daughter were quietly speaking Spanish, the mother helping her young daughter with her pronunciation. A young man with a hoodie thrown over his school uniform and large headphones over his head had a backpack that rattled from the spray paint inside. Gwen noticed his hands were covered in paint and she had to smile, maybe he was the one responsible for all of the recent Iron Man and Spider-Man art that had sprung up all over the city.

The train slowed and Gwen got up. She was back on the street in minutes and before she knew it, she was at her apartment building.

The first few years after everyone disappeared, Gwen stayed in her childhood home. She couldn’t leave her father’s memory. She held onto a hope that he might come back. That hope faded over the years and Gwen started to feel suffocated in her house. So, she boarded it up and cut off the electricity, water, and heat and moved into a small apartment in the city. Legally she still owned the house and no one was going to touch it but her, but she needed out.

One of Gwen’s closest friends, Glory, also survived the Snap. Her mother had survived too, but they lost her two younger brothers and her dad. Her mom was spiraling and sold their house and moved to her brothers who had lost his family. Glory didn’t want to leave the city, so Gwen and her found a small studio apartment that was empty before the snap and moved in. They made their own home with the little that they had left and started to move on their lives.

The day everyone came back, Gwen had gone back to her old house to clean. She did this once a month. It was therapeutic in it’s own way.

 

Gwen had just finished prying off the boards on the house and unlocked the door. She entered and locked the door behind her. She threw down her bag and ran a hand through her short hair. She’d just chopped it all off. Gwen loved having long hair, but she needed to switch things up and let go of the past, so she chopped it all off.

She walked into the kitchen and began to dig through the cupboard for the cleaning supplies. She had just pulled out the window cleaner and rags when something in the air shifted. Gwen pulled out an ear bud and music filled the silence of her house.

But it was no longer silent outside the house.

Gwen could suddenly hear birds chirping. More birds than she’s heard in five years. She could hear muffled voices coming from the street outside. Gwen’s heart rate skyrocketed.

Something was happening.

Gwen had learned how to be silent over the last five years. She hardly made a sound as she crept out of her kitchen and towards her front door. Her hand wrapped around the door handle when she heard two dull footsteps hit the hardwood floor in her living room.

A calm washed over Gwen as she turned on the spot. She grabbed onto the 2x4 that was leaning against the wall by the door. She wound her fingers around the wood and took a deep breath before stepping into view of the living room.

The wood slipped from her fingers and crashed to the floor.

Gwen felt her chest tighten. Her eyes burned.

“Dad?”

 

Gwen brushed aside the memory as she entered her apartment building. She quickly climbed up the four flights of stairs without breaking a sweat and dug out her keys from her bag. She opened the door and was bombarded with the smell of freshly baked cookies. Gwen smiled as she pulled out her headphones and shut the door behind her.

“Hey bitch! How was rehearsal?” Gwen chuckled as Glory breezed out of her room in a large t-shirt and shorts. Her curly brown hair was pinned up in a knot on the top of her head that looked flawless and messy in a way that Gwen could only ever hope for.

Gwen tossed her bag into her room and stepped inside.

“It was good! We learned another two minutes of the piece. It’s going to be a tough one.” Gwen called as she quickly changed out of her leotard and tights and into her suit. It was on in seconds and she pulled on a pair of leggings and a zip-up jacket. She tugged on her running shoes as she hopped out into the living room.

“Well Lord knows you need the exercise – what the hell are you doing? Are you going out for a run?” Glory stared at Gwen as Gwen froze with her leg lifted as she tried to slide on her shoe.

“Yeah?” Gwen said sheepishly and Glory shook her head, clicking her tongue as she turned back around to slip the fresh cookies off the pan.

“Girl you’re killing me.” Glory whispered and Gwen chuckled softly as she finished putting her shoes on and grabbed her phone and headphones before slipping them into her pocket.

“I’ll be back soon.” Gwen said as she walked over and pressed a quick kiss to the side of her best friend’s head.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Eat a damn cookie you freak.” Glory muttered as Gwen swiped a cookie and bounced out of the apartment.

The young woman checked both directions before heading for the stairs. However, instead of going down, Gwen climbed up.

She exited the stairway and ended up on the roof. Gwen ducked behind a small shed and stripped out of her outer clothes. She tucked them into a small locked box hidden under some garbage and slipped on her mask.

Gwen could breathe again.

With a quick check on a police scanner app on her phone, Gwen took off for the edge of the roof.

She leapt over the edge, let out a whoop, and began her journey through the concrete jungle.

Gwen would never get sick of this.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Norman Osborn sat in a waiting room.

Phones rang softly all around him and the office bustled with activity. A secretary sitting at a desk adjacent to him kept sneaking uncomfortable glances. Norman let his gaze fixate back on her and she quickly looked away, but didn’t relax. The billionaire adjusted the sunglasses on his face.

He didn’t want to be wearing them, but after one interaction with a lab tech, Norman figured it was easier to explain away glasses than a shift in eye color.

There’s 364 people in this building at this moment. Think of all the destruction we could cause. All it takes is one bomb. Think about it-

“Dad!” A voice dragged Norman from his thoughts. He slapped on a smile as he stood and took his son’s outstretched hand before pulling him into a hug.

“It’s good to see you son.” Norman said as he pulled back and looked at his son’s bright eyes.

“How’re things in the lab? Making any progress with your experiment?” Harry asked with a grin that broke hearts all across the city.

“Slowly. I’m hoping to start trials soon.” Norman said and Harry grinned at his father.

“I’m so glad you’ve gotten a second chance at your research. You have a real chance at changing the world Dad.” Harry clapped his dad on the shoulder. “Come on into my office.”

The younger Osborn led the elder Osborn in a large spacious office with an amazing view of the New York skyline. Various plants dotted the office and candid pictures and news articles were framed on his walls and desk. Norman gazed at a picture from his son’s high school graduation. He had his arms thrown around two girls; one had deep brown skin and curly brown hair and had a wicked grin. The other was shorter, petite, with light blonde hair and a pair of open blue eyes. Norman remembered his son’s friends. Glory Grant and Gwen Stacy. He felt a bitter taste in his mouth as he remembered the girl who used to drag his son along. Harry insisted that Gwen never dragged him anywhere and she’s really going places now, though Norman hasn’t had the chance to meet her since he came back. All three of them have aged five whole years without him. Maybe they had grown up.

But maybe they didn’t. A voice hissed in his ear.

“-Dad?” Norman turned to see his son standing behind his desk with a worried look on his face.

“Sorry, my mind’s in a whole other place right now.” Norman said and Harry waved his hand.

“You and me both Dad.” Harry chuckled as he sat down behind his desk. Norman took a seat in one of the two large chairs opposite his son’s desk. “How are you doing Dad? Really?”

Norman sighed. “I’m doing better. I’m close to a breakthrough.”

“That’s great Dad.” Harry said honestly. “I’m glad you’re finally able to do all of the research you’ve always wanted to.”

“Why am I here, Harry?” Norman cut in and Harry stopped moving and let out a breath.

“When everyone disappeared, the board scrambled to save face. I wasn’t eighteen yet, so legally I couldn’t run the company. When I was old enough, I assumed CEO status in your stead.” Harry began. “No one was ever really sure about what happened to make everyone vanish, but we all assumed it was permanent. I mean, how do you come back from turning to dust? So all ownership of the company was passed to me on my 18th birthday and the board was reorganized and it worked for the situation we were in. When everyone came back, things got complicated again. The reason I asked you to come here Dad is because although you are back and could take over the company again, the board is – hesitant.”

Norman perked up. “Hesitant? Why are they hesitant?”

Harry sighed again. “Dad, you came back from something that we still don’t understand. I’ve been running this company for almost three years, they think I should continue to run the company.”

Norman could feel anger starting to bubble up under his skin.

They couldn’t do this. They couldn’t do this to him. How dare they do this to him?

“Dad? Are you sure you’re alright?” Harry asked, his face full of worry.

“I’m fine son. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have research to attend to.” Norman stood up abruptly, ignoring his son’s protests. His son’s office door hit the wall with a bang and his secretary jumped in surprise. The once loud, busy office stilled at the sight of the senior Osborn.

They can’t do this to me. We won’t let them.

Laughter bounced around in Norman Osborn’s head, and instead of shutting it out, he decided to embrace it.

Chapter Text

“-New York has had its fair share of superheroes and vigilantes over the years. But no one ever could have predicted we would have not one, but two Spider-People battling it out on the streets of New York. And no, this isn’t a joke.”

The camera cut from the young newscaster and showed footage from a bank robbery. Spider-Man dove over the counter to avoid the spray of gunfire. As he waited for the bullets to stop, a sliver of web struck out at the robbers. Nothing could be seen as the robbers were all taken down in a matter of moments. A figure in a black and white costume hit the ground. Spider-Man peered over the counter and then suddenly the other figure was gone.

“Spider-Woman or Ghost-Spider, depending on who you ask, has been a staple of the city since 2019 when she started to make a mark on the criminal activity that spiked after the Snap.”

Various images and videos filled the screen of Spider-Woman. Grainy videos and blurry pictures were the norm, but there were a few good quality images.

“Spider-Woman filled the empty hole left behind when our very own Spider-Man disappeared with half of the population. The heroes that did survive had bigger fish to fry, which left our city vulnerable to petty crime. Spider-Woman solved that. No one really knows where she came from or what caused her to take up the mantle Spider-Man left behind. All we know is that for those of us who lived in a world missing half of it’s inhabitants, she became a beacon of hope.”

The images stopped and showed the young redheaded woman standing in front of a mural dedicated to Spider-Woman that had been painted in Brooklyn.

“With both Spider-Woman and Spider-Man back in the game, New Yorkers can’t help but wonder if the two Spider-People will ever team up or even get along. All we do know is that we are forever grateful for everything both heroes’ have done. And we can only hope they know how thankful we are. I’m Mary Watson. WNYE-TV.”

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

“Okay, let me get this straight.” Peter began. “Fury is off-world on a Skrull spaceship doing secret spy stuff and you offered to become Fury because you owed him a favor from when you met in the nineties?”

May sat beside Peter on the couch. She had long abandoned her wine glass and instead had picked up an umbrella, just in case Talos tried something. Talos had negotiated his way out of being webbed to the fridge to being webbed to one of the chairs in the living room. He looked uncomfortable, but he seemed content because May had given him a glass of water with a bendy straw in it.

Peter still wasn’t sure about Talos, but he counted both Fury and Ms Carol as close friends and Peter definitely knew they were trustworthy (well, as trustworthy as a super spy could be in Fury’s case).

“That’s basically it, yeah.” Talos admitted.

“So why did you come here to confess?” Peter pressed.

Talos shrugged. “I felt bad.” He slurped the remainder of the water out of his glass. “And I saw the news about the whole identity reveal and I felt like it was partly my fault.”

“I’d say it was at least half your fault.”

“An argument could be made for 12%.”

“Twelve seems kind of low to me.”

“12% is pretty big on my planet.”

“I don’t know about that-”

“Alright!” May cut in, finally unable to take it any longer. “Talos, thank you for stopping by and explaining everything. But I’d really love to go back to my reality where alien shapeshifters didn’t show up at my door pretending to be a superspy.”

“That’s fair.” Talos said before looking at Peter. He used his head to motion to his webbed up arms. “Well I can’t get out on my own can I?”

“Right, sorry.” Peter moved quickly and grabbed his formula for dissolving his webfluid out of his room.

Peter had never really been able to figure out a way to dissolve his webs. Coming up with his webfluid design was one thing, finding a way to reverse it? Tricky stuff.

MJ and Ned had been integral in coming up with his anti-webfluid. Between the three of them, they had just enough brainpower to hash it out one night. Peter didn’t use it often, but he was starting to see how it could come in handy.

Once Talos was free, he handed over his empty glass and thanked May. Peter’s aunt gave him a tight smile before taking the glass back into the kitchen. Peter showed Talos to the door. His hand closed around the door when Talos cleared his throat. Peter froze and looked up at the shapeshifter.

“I really am sorry about everything that happened. Maybe if Fury were actually here things might have been different.” Talos paused. “But since he wasn’t, if you ever need anything, please let me know. I do want to make it up to you. So if Peter Parker ever needs to be somewhere and, oh I don’t know, Spider-Man has to be somewhere else…well, I think we just might be able to put these identity rumors to rest.”

Peter blinked at Talos who rolled his eyes and opened the door. Right before Peter’s eyes, Talos shifted back into Fury in the two steps it took to walk out the Parker’s apartment.

“You have my number!” Talos/Fury called as he strode down the hallway. Peter continued to stare at his retreating back and only snapped out of it at May’s voice.

“Peter?”

Peter shut the door and shuffled back into the kitchen. “That was definitely not what I expected. Do you think he could turn into something like a filing cabinet?”

“Peter.” May said again and Peter’s eyes furrowed as he turned to see his Aunt standing behind the couch and watching the TV. The news was playing and Peter stepped closer.

“-residents are urged to stay indoors and away from Times Square. Reports are coming in by the minute but we are still unsure of what is happening. Police and medics are on the scene and trying to control the panic.” The reporter paused to touch her earpiece. “We’ve just received word that we have live footage from Times Square coming in now.”

The image on the TV shifted and suddenly the small Parker family was watching as people ran screaming from Times Square. Explosions rattled the buildings and the camera shook. The camera was able to shift and focus on small drones that were firing and dropping green bombs on the people and cars below.

Peter was moving before May could even exhale.

He had his suit on in seconds and was just about to pull on his mask when he felt a hand curl around his bicep. Aunt May was in his arms and she held onto him, begging him to be careful. Peter let his eyes close and breathed in deeply. He gave his aunt one last squeeze before he breezed over to the window of his room, pulled on his mask, and leapt out of the open window with Karen giving him the quickest route to Times Square.

Peter could feel it in his bones. Something big was coming.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

By the time Peter got to Times Square, it was absolute chaos.

Various cars and Peter’s favorite taco stand (rip) were up in flames and while he wanted to help putting out the fires and getting people to safety, he knew that none of it would mean a damn thing if he didn’t stop the drones that were currently raining bombs that exploded green on the crowd below.

Peter’s entire body screamed at him to dive for the drone that was diving for the small crowd hiding behind a building. With a flick of his wrist, he latched onto the drone and used his momentum to swing the drone like he was one of those body builders in kilts. He let go and the drone sailed across the sky and smashed against the side of one of the mega screens, exploding in a spray of lights. Peter hit the side of a building and stuck to it. He didn’t have a lot of time, but he needed to get his bearings.

“Karen? Talk to me."

There are drones everywhere Peter. You need to find the source and shut it down!

“Source, right. Find the source.”

Another explosion.

“Any ideas Karen?”

Scanning now.

The hair on the back of Peter’s neck stood up and he jumped further up the building just as a bomb exploded right where he had just been.

My scanners are showing a singular command source on top of that building.

Peter’s head display showed a path up to the tallest building in Times Square.

“Got it, thanks Karen.” Peter lifted his arm to shoot out a web when he heard a yell.

“MOVE IT!” A body collided with Peter and then Peter hit the ground hard. Peter coughed and gasped as his lungs tried to cope with all of the air leaving it unexpectedly. The superhero was finally able to breathe and turned his head to see none other than Spider-Woman lying next to him, also seemingly struggling to breathe.

“What the hell was that for?” Peter choked out as he slowly sat up, his entire body screaming.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Next time I’ll let you get taken out by one of those bombs.” Spider-Woman said as she sat up and looked up. Her eyes narrowed as she spotted the drones still circling and causing chaos. She looked back at Peter. “Listen, I know we haven’t really had the chance to get to know each other and work on trusting each other, but we have to work together and get this under control.”

Peter swallowed and nodded. He squinted and pointed at the tallest building. “The source is coming from up there. We take that out, it should shut off the rest of the drones.”

Spider-Woman nodded once and looked around again. Her gaze lingered on a small group of people huddled behind an overturned car. They looked terrified. Her white eyes fixed back on Peter and he could feel the intensity in her gaze.

“You may have been Spider-Man first, but I have the most experience.” Spider-Woman said and Peter was going to protest, but figured it wasn’t the time and she was probably right. “You find the source and shut it down. I’ll keep the drones busy and away from the ground. I’ll keep them as busy for as long as I can, but please don’t take your time, or I just might have to kill you.”

Peter wasn’t sure if she was kidding or not. But he didn’t have time to ask because Spider-Woman fired a web and was gone in an instant. Peter’s head whipped up and he watched as she ran along the side of the building, firing webs to pull the drones towards her. She hit the edge of the building and backflipped before using a web to yank herself the opposite direction. Two more drones exploded in a brilliant display of color as she used two webs to force them to crash into each other. Another web and she was swinging by Peter.

“Any time now kid!”

Peter groaned. “I’m not a kid.” He grumbled and he stood up before fixating on the building where Karen found the source. He was in the air a second later.

Peter had to use his Peter tingle (he really needed to come up with a new name) to avoid getting taken out by the drones, but Spider-Woman was doing a pretty great job at keeping them busy and away from the streets. A quick glance showed the police herding people down into the subway and off the street. Everyone was doing their job. It was Peter’s turn to do his.

Peter landed on the roof where the source was coming from silently. He crouched down low and moved slowly. His senses were going wild, but with what was going on below him, it was hard to pinpoint where it was coming from. As if sensing what he was thinking, Karen brought up his head display, showing him where to go.

Peter crept along the roof as he waited for something to jump out at him. This whole situation was reminding him of Mysterio and his stomach was queasy. Peter did his best to push these feelings down. He could have a panic attack about it later. Right now he needed to focus.

Spider-Man readied his webshooters and took a deep breath before rolling out from behind the heater he’d be crouching behind and landing silently on his feet to see…

Nothing?

Peter looked around him slowly. There was nothing up here. Well, there was a rather large device that was whirring with electricity and vibrating with energy, which Peter would bet his lunch money was what was controlling the drones. But there was no one.

Spider-Man crept forward and kneeled down beside the device.

“Karen? A little help?”

Scanning.

“You don’t want to do that.” A raspy voice said behind Peter and he jumped to his feet and spun to face whoever spoke.

It was a man. He was wearing dark clothes and a hood covered his face. He was tall and imposing. The man didn’t seem overly buff or large, but his very presence made Peter feel small. Peter’s chest rose and fell rapidly as he stared at the man standing in front of him. Something about the man standing in front of Peter set him on edge. He looked unassuming, but Peter could sense power bubbling just under the surface. Peter had to be careful.

“Oh I don’t know. I’m not a big fan of machines that spark with energy.” Peter quipped, keeping his tone light even though his whole body was tense and ready to move at any movement.

“I think that you just haven’t had a true experience with machines that spark with energy as you say.” The man seemed casual and at ease, which pushed Peter closer to the edge. How could he be so calm? Right. He was a bad guy. Duh.

“Still not a fan.” Peter said. “I prefer machines that don’t control a bunch of doom bots.”

“Oh those aren’t doom bots.” The man said as he neared Peter. He reached the edge of the building and looked over the edge. “You’re thinking of someone else.”

“Why are you doing this?” Peter pressed. As much as he loved witty banter with the criminals he fights, he didn’t know how long Spider-Woman could keep the drones busy. Explosions were still occurring every few seconds, but even the most experienced get tired and make mistakes.

“Why does anyone do anything, Spider-Man?” The man said, turning back to look at Peter. He still couldn’t see the man’s face, but he could see his piercing green eyes and a chill ran down his spine. “Why do mothers seek out their children in crowded parks? Why do misogynist men follow women late at night? Why do you fight crime? We all have goals and desires, but I’m afraid it’s still too early for you to know mine Spider-Man. After all, this was nothing more than a test.”

The man smiled and Peter’s blood ran cold. “See you around, Spider-Man.”

Peter watched in horror as the man let himself fall backwards over the side of the building. He lunged for the edge and when he looked down from the top, he saw nothing. Peter’s heart was pounding and a loud crack of energy from the machine behind him pulled him back to the task at hand.

“Karen! Talk to me!”

It looks like the device is simply a large remote control for the drones. They are programmed with simple instructions with code implanted to allow them some thinking capabilities.

“How do I shut it down!” Peter gasped. “It looks like it’s going to blow!”

Scans indicate a weakness in the wiring. Find the blue wire and pull it. That should stop all communication between the drones and cause them to shut down.

“Blue wire, got it.”

Peter frantically pulled off the welded side panel and tossed it aside. Thank goodness for super strength. He stuck his fingers in the side and dug around for the blue wire, careful not to jostle any other wires too much. Peter’s fingers brushed a wire and he narrowed his eyes.

Aha! Blue wire! Peter thought as he gripped the wire and sent up a quick prayer to whoever was listening.

“Please let this work.” Peter muttered before he yanked out the wire and held his breath. The machine seemed to kick into overdrive and Peter had a moment of complete, paralyzing fear as he worried he had somehow fucked everything up. But the machine died just as quickly.

Peter let out a breath and listened.

There were a few loud explosions and crashes, but they faded fast and Times Square was unnervingly quiet. Peter crawled over to the edge of the building and peered over the side. There were no more drones whizzing around, dropping bombs on the people below. Peter let out a half-hearted chuckle and sunk to the floor, his back braced against the edge of the building. He let his eyes slip close as he let his breathing regulate and his heart settle.

Peter didn’t know who that was and why he decided to attack Times Square.

But Peter knew one thing; this was only the beginning.

Chapter Text

After the drones dropped out of the sky, Gwen could almost relax.

Almost.

She had just gotten done literally lifting a car to help someone who was trapped when she realized she hadn’t seen Spider-Man since he went to see about stopping the drones. While she was keeping the drones busy, he was shutting down whatever was controlling them. And now, while she helped the people on the ground, he was still missing.

Gwen wasn’t having any of that.

She decided the police and the medics had the rest of the people on the ground covered since she literally did all of the heavy lifting for them. So she abandoned the ground and swung herself up to the building Spider-Man had said the drones were being controlled from. Her feet hit the ground without making a sound and she glanced around the roof. Her gaze fixed on a machine that was still sparking and spitting out some smoke, but seemed harmless for the time being.

Then her gaze shifted to the red and blue spandex wearing superhero who was lying on the ground with his eyes closed.

He didn’t seem to be under any kind of distress according to his heartbeat and breathing (which Gwen could hear), but he hadn’t reacted when she landed on the roof. So either his senses weren’t as good or as dialed in as hers are, or he was just asleep. Gwen wished she was asleep.

Fuck that. Gwen thought as she glanced around the roof again. The device looked stable enough, so she gave it a swift kick.

The CLANG the metal made when her foot connected with it was enough to jolt Spider-Man awake and his eyes seemed unfocused before they settled on her.

She waved her hand before crossing her arms. “Oh no, don’t mind me. I’ve just been literally lifting cars, but go back to your beauty sleep, you must need it.”

Spider-Man climbed to his feet and rubbed the back of his neck with his gloved hand. Gwen figured it must be a nervous tick of his.

“Sorry.” He muttered.

Yup. Nervous tick.

Gwen felt a pang in her chest. She’d made him uncomfortable and that’s the last thing she wanted. After all, he did shut down the drones that were raining terror on the innocent people below. And he did it at exactly the right time as she was running out of ways to get the people out and keep the drones distracted. Plus, Spider-Man was the whole reason Gwen put on a mask in the first place. Without him, who knows what Gwen would have done when that spider bit her.

“No, I’m sorry.” Gwen said and his head snapped up to stare at her. She pushed down her retort and stuck out her hand. “We haven’t formally been introduced. I’m Spider-Woman, or Ghost Spider, which ever you prefer.”

Gwen wasn’t 100% sure that he smiled since he was wearing a mask, but the way his eye lenses narrowed slightly as he reached out to take her hand made it seem pretty likely. They shook hands and fell back into an awkward silence when they let go.

“I just-”

“Thanks for-”

They both tried to speak at once before they both stopped talking, urging the other to speak.

“Dude.” Gwen finally said after some back and forth with the other webslinger. “Go ahead.”

Spider-Man took a deep breath. “I guess since this is the first time we’ve actually gotten to speak, I just wanted to say thank you?” He shrugged. “You took care of this city when I couldn’t and you kept it safe. I don’t think there’s anything I can do to show you how grateful I am. Without you, who knows what would have happened to our city.”

Wow. Okay. Gwen definitely wasn’t expecting that.

It was her turn to be embarrassed and flustered. “You don’t need to thank me. Earlier I was going to thank you for starting this whole Spider-Person trend. I don’t think I would have taken up the mantle after I’d been bitten if it wasn’t for you. You were the first, dude. Without you, I honestly don’t think I would have thought of donning a suit with web shooters.”

“Speaking of webshooters!” Spider-Man interjected. “How did you design them? They look a lot like my original design, but they’re like, ten times more efficient. Did you switch up the mechanics? Do you use the same web fluid I do? How did you come up with it? It took me weeks to figure it out-”

As Spider-Man rambled on, Gwen couldn’t help but be thankful yet again. She wasn’t good with the sappy stuff and their conversation was dancing along the line between awkward and uncomfortable. So, hats off to Spider-Man’s nerd rambling to break the tension.

But part of her was concerned about getting close to someone in this business, even if she had no idea who he was and he didn’t know who she was. No one knew about her double life and Gwen preferred it that way. Sure it’d be nice to have the typical “guy-in-the-chair” helping her when she’d on patrol or rummaging through a burning building looking for trapped people, but she was terrified.

What if something happened to them because they knew who she moonlighted as? What if someone found out who she was and hurt those she cared about?

When she started in this masked crusade business, everyone she loved was gone. Well, she still had Glory and Harry, but there really was no one else. Plus the number of comic book level villains dwindled down to nothing once everyone lost literally everything in the Snap. It was easier then to put on a mask and put herself in danger.

Now? She’s not so sure.

Her dad is back and Gwen isn’t sure she can lose him again. She’s already done it once and it nearly broke her. If it happened again, Gwen’s not sure she’d ever recover.

Gwen pushed her terrified thoughts aside and focused on answering the questions of a very excited Spider-Man. They talked about their web-shooters (Gwen did base her design on his original shooters from footage she watched, but she switched up where the fluid was reloaded which made the shooters much more effective), their experience getting bitten (apparently Oscorp has a serious problem with keeping experiments locked up), and their powers (they had basically the same powers, but it did seem like Gwen’s were a bit more in tune or developed. She attributed that to her five plus years experience during the Blip). Spider-Man was now excitedly talking about the other superheroes he knew and Gwen couldn’t help but feel conflicted.

It would be really nice to get some help and maybe expand her network of heroes (which at the moment consisted of Gwen and Gwen alone).

It was at that moment that Gwen’s watch beeped. Both masked heroes stopped at the noise and Gwen pulled back the arm of her suit to look at her watch. It was a reminder to head home to finish her homework.

“I’ve gotta head out, I forgot I have some other things I have to do today.” Gwen said.

“Oh okay.” His voice and posture showed Gwen that he really didn’t want this conversation to end, and if she was being completely honest, she didn’t either.

“Do you have a discord?” Gwen said and he perked back up.

“Yeah!” He said.

“I’ll give you my username. I have a special one for Spider-Woman so if you want to keep in touch through there, our identities can remain intact for the time being.” Gwen suddenly felt like she was just word vomiting all over Spider-Man so she cut herself off.

“Sounds great!” Spidey pulled out his phone, which Gwen noticed the screen was cracked to high heavens. Poor guy. He typed on his phone for a second before handing it to her. He had made a new contact.

Spider-Woman aka Ghost Spider aka BADASS

Gwen snorted at his name for her contact and he looked pleased with himself. She quickly typed in her discord username with the ID number tagged on before handing it back.

“This way we can let each other know if we need help or maybe coordinate patrols.” Gwen shrugged and he bounced on his feet like he’d just consumed three pounds of pure sugar.

“I have so many ideas!” He gasped. “You’re probably going to regret giving this to me but I don’t even care! My first solo superhero team up!” He held a gloved hand up and Gwen sighed as she rolled her eyes. But she obliged and gave him a high five.

“I’ll see you around Spidey.” She said before walking to the edge of the building.

“Bye Spidey!” He called and she couldn’t help but smirk as she leapt off the roof to head for home.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Ever since Gwen started moonlighting as a vigilante, she’d gotten in the habit of doubling back in case someone was following her. She was careful to never take the same way home twice and to always be on the lookout for someone failing her. Which meant her swing home that would normally take ten minutes took around thirty with her doubling back.

But, nevertheless, her feet hit the loose gravel of the top of her building just before she was due back. She ducked into the shadows and waited. She allowed her senses to do the work and listen for anything unusual. After deeming everything normal, Gwen ripped off her mask and quickly slipped on her “running clothes”. She ran a hand through her slightly damp hair before heading for the door that lead to the stairs.

Gwen took her time going down the stairs. It was quiet and no one bothered her. She made it to her apartment and tried the door; it was open. She pushed into her apartment and was instantly hit with the smell of Chinese takeout and the sound of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Two bodies sat on the couch and Gwen smiled softly before shutting the door behind her.

“You two better not be watching the new episode without me.”

Glory waved her hand in dismissal. “As if. We all know you’d kill us if we did and I for one like being alive.”

“Besides, you have the login.” Harry chimed in, not dragged his eyes away from the TV.

Gwen has wandered over to the small kitchen table that was covered in takeout and paused at his remark.

“And this is coming from the CEO of one of the largest tech and research companies in the world who could definitely hack into my account without even breaking a sweat?”

Harry shrugged. “I’m lazy by nature.”

“Bullshit.”

“Children, stop flirting.” Glory said. “Gwen dear, your takeout is in the fridge.”

“Did you get-”

“Two orders of chicken and broccoli with wonton soup and an order of potstickers?” Glory cut in. “Babe do you even know who you’re talking to?”

“I love you.” Gwen breathed as she dug out her food and her water bottle and walked over to the empty chair in the living room.

“Good run?” Harry asked as Gwen got herself and her food settled in her chair. Gwen glanced up before going back to digging into her food.

“Yeah it was good.” Gwen said as she stabbed her chopsticks into one of her order of chicken and broccoli. “I was heading towards Times Square, but heard the screaming and explosions and high tailed it out of there. But I did run into some heavy foot traffic so it took me a while to get back.”

“Yeah that was all over Twitter.” Harry said as he picked at his sweet and sour chicken. “Who do you think that guy was?”

Gwen shook her head. “No idea. But whoever he was, that was definitely just the beginning.”

The three lifelong friends lapsed into watching the new episode of RuPaul’s and eating their dinner. They talked and commented on the show as it went and placed bets with who was going home in the form of their egg rolls. Gwen ended up the big winner with her correct guess and she was secretly glad.

She had a huge appetite all the time, probably as a result of the spider bite, so she needed to eat a lot of food in order to make it through the day. But since no one knew that, she had to be careful and blame her huge appetite on her dancing (which wasn’t a total lie, but it definitely wasn’t the whole truth). Gwen had to force herself to not scarf down the two extra egg rolls she won and eat them like a normal person.

“How was the office today?” Glory asked as she selected a random crime TV show they’d all seen a million times for some background noise.

Harry finished chewing his bite of chicken and spoke up. “It was fine. My dad stopped by, but it didn’t go well.”

Glory worked at Oscorp with Harry. When Harry took over as CEO when he was 18, he wanted some help or at least some familiar faces. Gwen didn’t want to work in an office (although she did help out as his secretary for a few months while he looked for someone else), but Glory took him up on his offer. She started in Oscorp’s PR department at a higher position than someone right out of high school normally would have, but she rose quickly on account of her own work ethic. Now she was the head of the PR department and was scarily good at it.

“Why not?” Gwen spoke up over her chewing of an egg roll. Harry shot her a disgusted look, so she stuck her tongue out at him and he was forced to look away.

“He’s been acting really strangely lately. I mean he was different when he came back, everyone was really, but something happened recently and he’s been acting like a whole new person.” Harry continued as he stabbed at his nearly empty takeout container. Gwen took a second to look at her best friend.

Harry’s gelled up hair was beginning to fall flat. He had undone the top button of his shirt and loosened his tie so it hung low. He had a few pieces of rice stuck to his shirt and he had small bags under his eyes. Gwen felt a pang in her chest for the second time that day.

She’s been so wrapped up with her rehearsals, her classes, her job, and her masked duties that she’s been neglecting her best friend. How could she miss this?

“What do you think happened?”

Harry shook his head. “I have no idea. I’ve asked around but no one knows. I think they’re all too scared of my dad to want to ask or to admit they know something.”

Gwen pursed her lips in thought before reaching forward and taking Harry’s limp hand in hers. His warm blue eyes lifted and fixed on her.

“Listen. I get out at the diner at 4 tomorrow. I actually don’t have rehearsal for once and I’m nearly caught up on my homework. I can help you get to the bottom of this. I’m yours tomorrow night. We’ll figure this out Harry.” Gwen said and Harry took a deep breath as he squeezed her hand in thanks.

“I would love to join but being director of PR means I have a lot of work to do. This day off was great, but I already know it put me behind at least a week.” Glory said. “If I get done early I’ll help, but I might just have to assist remotely.”

“Thank you. Both of you.” Harry said looking between the two roommates. “It means a lot.”

Gwen knew Spider-Woman would probably be more useful in this situation, but Harry didn’t need Spider-Woman. He needed his best friend and Gwen was determined to be there for him. He helped her through so much the last five years and Gwen would spend the rest of her life trying to repay his kindness. She didn’t know what he had planned for tomorrow, but Gwen would be sure to be ready for anything; because Norman Osborn was not someone to mess around with. Having Harry there would only lessen the blow. Gwen hoped they’d be able to figure out what was going on without having to talk with his dad.

Gwen hadn’t seen his father in over five years, and the last time she had, she’d been bitten by a spider that changed her life as she knew it.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Everything about the man Peter met on the roof had him very nervous.

He’s faced a few bad guys on his own (i.e. Vulture and Mysterio), but something about this guy seemed very different and extremely dangerous.

Peter made it back to his apartment safely and was enveloped in a hug from May where she nearly squeezed the life out of him before pushing him towards the shower with the promise of food after. He wasn’t one to argue with that. So he showered quickly, sent a text to both Ned and MJ letting him know he was fine and he would tell them all about it when they met up tomorrow before heading back out to the kitchen.

May had warmed up some leftover pizza, but it smelled like she’d cooked a four-course meal to Peter.

He happily dug in as he explained everything to May. She was just as concerned about the man as Peter was and suggested he maybe reach out to some of his avenger friends (which was about the coolest thing his aunt had ever said to him). Peter decided it probably wouldn’t hurt and said he would at least text a few people to see if maybe they had an idea as to who this guy might be.

“-but the creepy guy wasn’t even the best part of the whole thing.” Peter said around a mouthful of crust. May did comment on the crumbs tumbling from his lips, but she did soundlessly hand over a napkin.

“You consider the guy who jumped off a building then disappeared a good part of your day?” May had become really chill about her nephew being a superhero, but she had to draw the line somewhere.

Peter waved her off. “I met Spider-Woman.”

He had May’s attention. “Really? I’ve heard of her. She seems pretty rad.”

“She’s so cool. She gave me her discord so we can coordinate patrols and maybe team up.” Peter wiped off the grease from his hands. “So, any plans for tonight?”

“Oh!” May gasped as she looked at her wristwatch. “I almost forgot! Go pack a bag.”

May got up and started to buzz around the kitchen, cleaning.

“Wait, what?” Peter said as May took away his plate and put it in the sink.

“I forgot to mention, Pepper asked if you would babysit Morgan tonight so Pepper could come into the city for a meeting, and some much needed girl time with yours truly.” May didn’t turn back around and Peter wondered if it was on purpose.

“That’s convenient.”

“Go! Shoo! We’re leaving in ten minutes!” May all but shoved Peter out his chair and he put on a show of being annoyed, but secretly? He couldn’t wait.

He’d only gotten to spend fleeting moments with Morgan here and there. To be fair, he’s been a little busy lately. Introducing Peter to Morgan had been slow and gradual. She had grown up with stories about him (which Peter tried not to think too deeply about), so it was a delicate situation when they had to tell Morgan the Peter in her stories was alive again. But once they met, they got on like a house on fire. Morgan adored Peter and Peter couldn’t get enough of Morgan. He’d always wanted siblings, and now he had a piece of the man he looked up to that was her own person and surprised her every day with how brilliant and engaging she was.

In a record 8 minutes and 32 seconds (Peter counted), the Parkers were on the road heading for the cabin. May drove and Peter got to be the DJ. She pretended to not know the music he was into, but she wasn’t as subtle as she thought she was at mouthing the words. Just before they reached the cabin, May pulled over and let Peter drive. He had driven a bit with May in parking lots, but this was his first real time on the road (as long as you didn’t count the time he stole Flash’s car which May did not know about). Peter did pretty good and the two of them made it to the cabin just before sundown.

Pepper and Morgan were waiting on the porch and Morgan was sprinting across the lawn as Peter could put the car in park. Peter barely had enough time to get out of the car before he had an armful of Morgan Stark.

Her fingers were sticky and they wound in Peter’s hair. Her boots were a little muddy and he knew it was getting all over his jeans. Morgan smelled suspiciously like cookies and motor oil and Peter couldn’t get enough of it. He squeezed her tightly.

“Hey squirt.” Peter whispered into her wild hair. He planted a sloppy kiss on the top of her head and she squirmed out his arms to run to May and give her the same bone-crushing hug. Pepper smiled fondly before coming up and giving Peter a hug of her own. She was dressed more casually than Peter was used to in jeans and an old button down shirt and it was a little jarring. Pepper took a deep breath before pulling back and holding Peter at arms length. She seemed to be glancing him over for injuries and Peter rolled his eyes fondly.

“I’m fine Pep, really.” Peter said and Pepper narrowed her eyes before releasing him. May wandered over with Morgan in her arms. They all spoke briefly while keeping an eye on a squirming and agitated Morgan. Pepper said her goodbyes to Morgan, running over the rules briefly (no juice pops past 9, brush your teeth for two minutes, listen to Peter, and no garage). Morgan said goodbye to Pepper and May with little resistance or tears. Then Peter and Morgan stood on the porch together waving at May and Pepper as they pulled out of the long drive.

Once Morgan could no longer see May’s car, she dragged Peter inside to show him all of her new toys. They sat in Morgan’s room playing with them on her floor.

(“Princess Leia is definitely the best princess.”

“No Peter! Moana is the best princess!”

“Agree to disagree.”)

After playing with her toys, Morgan dragged Peter into the kitchen and showed him the cookies she and Pepper had made. Together they made frosting (absolutely covering the counter and floors and each other) and frosted the cookies. Peter ended up with frosting all over his shirt and Morgan ended up with a dollop on her nose and a streak across her forehead (where Peter dragged his thumb and breathed “Simba”). Once they put away their glorious creations (after testing a few samples), they settled down in the living room to watch a movie. Peter let Morgan pick the movie and (surprise, surprise) she picked Moana.

They sang through every song and Peter helped Morgan made a skirt out of a blanket and a boat out of the cushions. She managed to stay awake through the entire movie, but dozed off ten minutes into Star Wars: A New Hope (Peter tried not to be offended). Peter remembered that Pepper told Morgan to brush her teeth, but she was already asleep and Peter really didn’t want to wake her up only to try to coax her back to sleep. So he carried the wiped out Stark upstairs and tucked her in. He grabbed a few of her stuffed animals and placed them around her and watched as she settled in further and sighed. Peter brushed aside a stray piece of hair and smiled softly. He quietly stood up and turned out her light, leaving the door cracked.

Peter walked downstairs and groaned when he saw the kitchen, but he got to work. Being a superhero meant he cleaned up fairly quickly, but he was exhausted when he finished. Peter shuffled over to a table and flopped onto the stool. He let his arms cross and his head drop onto his arms. He breathed deeply before slapping his hands on the counter.

Time to sleep.

But when his hands came in contact with the table, it sparked to life. Peter jumped to his feet, knocking over the stool. His face twisted as he looked up the stairs, waiting to see a five year old appear at the top. After holding his breath for a few moments, he heard no movement so he picked up the stool and turned to look at what he thought was a table, but evidently not.

It was a holotable. And not just any holotable.

Tony’s holotable.

Peter felt a pang in his chest as he looked at his last project; aka the time he discovered time travel; aka the time he saved the world; aka the time he brought everyone back; aka the time he-.

Peter couldn’t finish that thought. He made a motion to wipe the screen away when a little bubble appeared at the bottom corner of the screen. Peter would have ignored it, but something about it made him stop. So against his better judgment, Peter reached forward and touched the icon.

Welcome Peter. FRIDAY said and Peter took a deep breath to calm his nerves.

“Hey FRI.” Peter responded to the AI.

Would you like to see all the capabilities of the holotable?

“Maybe next time. I just want to get some sleep.”

And maybe not burst into tears at the thought of Tony working here and leaving this table to him. Peter thought miserably.

I was instructed to contact someone at the event of you activating this table.

“Woah, wait. Not now FRIDAY, I’m not in the mood.” Peter tried to stop the AI, but nothing he did stopped the holotable shifting to show a blank screen with a small connecting icon.

Before Peter could do anything else, someone appeared. Peter froze. He recognized him. He saw him at Tony’s funeral but didn’t actually talk to him. Frankly, he didn’t want to talk then and he definitely didn’t want to talk now.

“Who the fuck are you?”

Chapter Text

Michelle knew a lot of things.

She knew all about obscure feminist authors and could rattle off the growth and movement of third-wave feminism without breaking a sweat. She knew where all of the best hole-in-the-wall bookstores were across the city that carried all the perfect books for Michelle’s obsession with reading. She knew how to make the most poignant and artistic signs for all of the protests she attends regularly. She knows how to make the best grilled cheese sandwiches with a few simple ingredients (French bread and three different kinds of cheese). She also knew that the world has changed a lot in five years and she really hasn’t (thanks to the big purple grape).

But one thing that Michelle didn’t know and definitely didn’t expect was one Peter Parker.

In truth, Peter Parker snuck up on Michelle Jones.

And she really isn’t sure how it happened.

It started out harmless enough. Michelle was 10 and had just started turning in to raging feminist/activist she was destined to become. Peter was also 10 and painfully shy and small. Even now Michelle was still taller than Peter, but she had started growing around this time so she towered over him. Michelle was sitting on the playground reading The Canterbury Tales (in itself the collection of stories was mediocre at best, but she liked the challenge of reading Middle English and understood the importance of these stories to British literature) when she heard a shout. Normally she would have ignored it, but there was something buried in the voice that had cried out that caused Michelle to look up involuntarily.

Peter was sitting on the only small patch grass of the playground where three boys stood above him. It was obvious that he had just been pushed and Michelle had looked over to see that the teachers were not paying them any attention. Her eyes flicked back to where Peter was slowly sitting up and obviously trying not to cry. Michelle looked at the boy standing in the middle of the ground. Eugene. What a lame name.

Michelle couldn’t really hear what they were saying to Peter, but she could tell by his quivering lip that it wasn’t nice. She sighed before slipping her bookmark back into her book and standing up. She was being reduced to a basic romantic interest at the start of a rom-com, but she didn’t like bullies. So she let the thought slide as she walked up to where the three boys were bullying Peter.

“-you’re such a loser! No wonder you don’t have any friends!” Flash (what a stupid nickname) was taunting at Peter.

“Eugene.” Michelle’s voice was crisp and cut through the boy’s taunting like butter. They all spun to face her. Flash’s face turned red. “We all know you only bully Peter because it makes you feel powerful and less insecure. So why don’t you go have a pissing contest over there instead and maybe learn to stop being such a dick.”

Flash’s mouth opened and closed a few times before he huffed and stomped away, his two friends stalking behind him. Michelle watched him go with an icy glare, and when she was sure he wasn’t going to turn back around, she turned to find a pair of big brown eyes staring up at her. Peter hadn’t stood up yet and he seemed less likely to burst into tears, but it was clear he was still upset.

Michelle held out her hand to the boy and she watched as he sniffled one more time before taking her hand. She helped him to his feet before dropping his hand like it burned her, which Michelle guessed it kind of did.

“Thanks Michelle.” Peter said, his head still hung low.

Michelle felt a pang in her chest and buried it by crossing her arms and popping her hip, trying to seem disinterested in the boy standing in front of her.

“No problem loser. Just don’t get used to it.” Michelle thought the words might be a bit harsh, but it was who she was, she didn’t do emotions or letting people in well. “Eugene is a dick, don’t let him get to you.”

Peter sniffled. “I know. It would be easier if he wasn’t right, I don’t have any friends.”

Michelle bit her tongue. Hard.

“Well I don’t do friends.” Michelle said and Peter’s shoulders hung even lower. “But Ned over there also doesn’t have any friends and he seems to be just as lame as you are. So maybe you can be lame together.”

Peter glanced over at the boy that was sitting alone on the swing set, staring longingly out at the other kids playing around him. Peter nodded slowly.

“Okay. What about you?” Peter asked, turning his warm brown eyes on Michelle yet again. She felt herself clam up for the second time in five minutes.

“I told you, I don’t have any friends.”

“Right yeah, well, thank you.” Peter said as he rung his hands together.

Michelle gave him one long look before turning around and calling “whatever” over her shoulder. She plopped back down under the tree she’d previously taken up residence under and opened her book back up. She risked a glance over the top of her book to see Peter walking up to Ned. They spoke softly before Peter took up the swing beside him. They continued to talk and Michelle could see both boys beginning to open up.

She turned back to her book.

What losers.

Ever since that day, Michelle had observed Peter Parker (and by proxy, Ned). And for a long time, Michelle had managed to convince herself that the only reason she observed Peter Parker was because she viewed it as an experiment, a way to hone her detective skills. Michelle didn’t know what she wanted to be when she got older (6 year-old Michelle would have said astronaut after she’d served two terms as the first female president but 14 year-old Michelle was still weighing her options), but she figured honing her investigative skills would suit her in any future profession. She managed to convince herself it was purely experimental.

Michelle doesn’t know when it stopped being experimental.

If you asked her right now when her watching Peter Parker turned into something else, Michelle wouldn’t know.

Not that she would ever admit she didn’t know something.

So Michelle’s “observations” of Peter Parker became less about basically stalking the guy for fun and turned into genuine interest. Her offhanded comments about him quitting robotics club and band quickly morphed into her gaze following him as he left decathlon yet again or that one time he disappeared off the bus on the way to MoMA. His awkward stuttering and awkwardness in nearly every situation stopped being annoying and was suddenly incredibly endearing. Michelle always told herself if she ever dated a superhero that they’d be smart, cool, suave, a little moody and dark, and super secretive of their identity. Instead she’d taken to a superhero was a total klutz despite the enhancements, insanely obvious when he snuck away only for Spider-Man show up minutes later, gets flustered when anyone even breathes “Spider-Man”, and is a total romantic dork.

Yeah. Michelle doesn’t really get it either.

But it happened. Michelle “My-Friends-Call-Me-MJ” Jones fell for Peter Parker and she hasn’t really looked back since.

When she started dating Peter, she continued to observe him, but it was no longer experimental in the slightest. She watched him because she found everything he did annoyingly adorable and it drove Michelle up a wall. Her own freak-out about actually feeling something for lame Peter Parker aside, she lost her way to keep her investigative/observational skills sharp. She had to do something. So she buried herself in a new project.

Oscorp.

Michelle wasn’t going to be just the girlfriend of a superhero and be reduced to a Mary Sue who only served to be a damsel in distress. Ned had secured himself as Peter’s guy-in-the-chair, which was fine. She didn’t want to sit at a computer and listen to her boyfriend get pounded by muggers. Once Peter told her he’d gotten his powers after getting bitten by a spider at Oscorp, Michelle threw herself into research on the company.

Michelle was nothing if not thorough.

She had texted Gwen since she knew her friend was close with Harry Osborn, the current CEO. Gwen had been helpful. She’d provided Michelle with a few backdoor options at researching the company and even told Michelle that she could set up a meeting with Harry since the CEO was often around her and Glory’s apartment (Gwen said he was there at least once a week for RuPaul’s so he was easy to pin down). Michelle did her best to dig up every dirty secret on Oscorp she could get her hands on.

When she heard about what happened in Times Square – although Peter didn’t know who the bad guy was or who he worked for – Michelle had a hunch. The bombs he used looked awfully familiar and with a few clicks on her computer thumbing through her research, she found it. Old blueprints buried in an Oscorp server showed exact matches to the bombs dropped in Times Square, they’d been upgraded a bit (someone was a little obsessed with the color green), but the bare bones were the same.

Oscorp may not have been the one who dropped the bombs, but whoever did had access to Oscorp tech. It wasn’t much, but it was a lead.

It was enough of a lead that Michelle didn’t want to send it over text (big brother is always watching), so she called.

He answered after the second ring.

“MJ? Is everything okay? Are you okay? Do you need me? I’m upstate but I can be back super fast.” Peter was talking a mile a minute and Michelle rolled her eyes.

“Calm down nerd, I’m fine. Are you okay? That psycho with the bombs didn’t mess up your stupid face too badly?”

Michelle could almost hear Peter shrug. “Nah, I’m fine. The adrenaline crash I had after stopping those drones was killer, but I barely had a scratch on me. Uh – if you aren’t in trouble, why are you calling? Not that I don’t want you to call me! I do! I just-“

“What I can’t call my boyfriend for no reason?” Michelle interjected and Peter didn’t speak for a moment.

“No? I mean yes! But, calling me just because doesn’t really seem like an MJ kind of thing to do.”

He had a point.

“You caught me.” Michelle admitted. “I’ve been doing research on Oscorp, since you mentioned you got your powers from a spider there, and I found some pretty compelling stuff.”

“Compelling huh?” Peter said. “Like what?”

“I got my hands on images of the bomb casings from today – don’t ask Parker – and they are nearly exact replicas of bombs once created by Oscorp.” Michelle said, her eyes darting between the two images on her screen. She has a keen eye as an avid reader and amateur artist; she knew the bombs were the same.

“You’re saying Oscorp was responsible for the bombings?”

“No. At least I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the company Oscorp, but it has to be someone who works there or did work there.” Michelle pushed away from her desk. “The only problem is that my hacking skills aren’t as sharp as my investigative ones are. I’ll keep digging, but someone else is going to have to hack into Oscorp and see if they can find anything else.”

“You’re amazing MJ.” Peter breathed and Michelle felt a familiar tightening of her chest. She gets it every time Peter looks at her, every time he touches her hand, every time he smiles at her… You get the ridiculous picture. She used to dismiss it as her being annoyed at him, but now? She really didn’t want to talk about it.

“Shut up.”

“I’m serious!” Peter was smiling now, she could tell.

“If you’re going to tell me something really cheesy, I’m just warning you I might barf.”

Peter was definitely smiling now. “I don’t know what I’d do without you MJ. You’re my person.”

Ack. You’re right that was gross.”

Peter laughed and MJ thought her heart might explode. “Thank you MJ. I’ll have Ned look into it. I’ll text you when I get back in the city tomorrow. I need to see you.”

“Okay. I’ve hit my quota of nauseating romantic comments from you. Bye loser.”

“Bye Em.” Peter said and MJ froze.

That nickname was new. No one had called her that before. And she – kind of – liked it??

Michelle choked out another goodbye and slammed her finger on the end button. She threw her phone towards her bed where it hit and flipped to the floor with a clang. She let her head fall and thump softly on her desk.

Peter Parker was going to be the death of Michelle Jones.

And she was starting to think that she was just fine with that.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Peter hung up his phone and let out a small breath of disbelief at the force nature that was Michelle Jones.

He didn’t know what he did to deserve someone in his life like MJ, but he was ready to spend the rest of his life working to prove his worth.

Hey fucker. You didn’t answer my question.”

Right. Him.

Peter had almost forgotten about him. Almost.

The young Spider-ling turned around and faced the annoyed younger guy who was currently glaring daggers at him from who knows where.

“You really shouldn’t swear so much. There’s a five-year old upstairs with a certain knack for picking up bad words and using them to no end.” Peter said as he crossed his arms and let his annoyance splash across his face.

The guy waved his arm. “I care, but not that much. Why the hell did you call me?”

“I didn’t! That’s what I’m trying to tell you! I accidentally activated Mr. Stark’s holotable and FRIDAY automatically connected me to you.”

The guy narrowed his eyes at Peter. “Alright fine, let’s say that is what happened.”

“It is!”

“It still doesn’t explain why FRIDAY dialed me.”

“No idea.” Peter said. “Who are you anyway? I recognize you, but I don’t know your name.”

“Name’s Harley. Harley Keener.” The guy – Harley – said. “You’re Peter Parker right?”

“How’d you know that?” Peter furrowed his eyebrows.

Harley shrugged. “I paid attention to what Tony did after we met. Speaking of Tony, it’s pretty obvious he wanted us to connect.”

Peter paced for a moment. “Yeah. You’re probably right.” He stopped pacing. “Why do you think he wanted us to meet?”

Harley shrugged. “He probably wanted us to keep an eye on each other, but secretly I think he wanted us to fuck shit up.”

Peter cracked a smile at that. Harley was a giant ball of pure chaotic energy and Peter could appreciate it. Tony probably would have loved seeing him and Harley getting themselves into all kinds of trouble and causing chaos.

“You’re probably right.”

“So.”

“So.”

“What do you say we swap numbers and plan some hijinks?”

Peter let out a laugh. “I’m in.”

And just like that Peter and Harley became a chaotic duo that rivaled the best. Peter had a feeling having Harley in his corner would be extremely helpful someday. He was looking forward to having another friend he could rely on.

In the end, their conversation about tech and how they met Tony was cut short by the youngest Stark herself wandering downstairs. She rubbed her eyes and said hello to Harley before turning to Peter and asking if she could have a juice pop. Peter picked up Morgan and said his goodbyes to Harley by promising to text him tomorrow. He shut down the holotable and took Morgan into the kitchen for juice pops. She sat on the counter eating hers while Peter made her laugh while walking around on the ceiling as he ate his.

Once they finished, Peter carried a very sleepy Morgan back upstairs and tucked her back in. She asked him to stay until she fell asleep and Peter felt his resolve crumble. He crawled into her small bed beside her and she snuggled right into him and fell straight to sleep. Peter let his head fall back and focused on the breathing of the small girl beside him, the one who felt like the little sister he never had.

Peter fell asleep with the thought of wondering what Tony would say if he saw them now.

Peter was woken up by a crash in the kitchen. He was alone in Morgan’s room and his heart clenched in panic. He was out of her bed and down the stairs before most people could even blink. What he saw was not what he was expecting.

Morgan stood on a chair in the kitchen where she was currently trying to make omelets. She had made a mess, but the omelets didn’t look half bad.

Once Peter’s heart was no longer threatening to explode, he helped Morgan finish up the eggs she was making them both for breakfast. Together they ate their omelets that were only a little bit burnt before cleaning up the mess Morgan had made. Then the offending child dragged Peter outside and they played in her small playhouse and in the yard.

Around lunchtime, a familiar car began to pull up the drive. Morgan was on her feet and bolting for the driveway before Peter could pull off the feather boa that was wrapped around his neck and his big hat (Peter had asked Morgan if he was supposed to be Mrs. Nesbit and she had just stared at him…Peter decided she needed to be educated and fast).

Pepper climbed out of the passenger seat in time to receive an armful of Morgan. She looked lighter and more relaxed than she did when she left with May. Speaking of May, she was also glowing in a way Peter hadn’t seen in a while when she got out of the car. Peter stepped into her open arms and let his eyes close. He could always breathe a little bit better when he was around his Aunt May; today wasn’t any different.

After Morgan wormed her way into their hug, Pepper laughed and told them they’d only been apart for one night and to hurry up before the pizza got cold. As soon as Pepper had said pizza, both Morgan and Peter sprang apart and turned to look at the CEO of Stark Industries. She was smirking and holding two boxes of fresh pizza.

“PIZZA!” Morgan shrieked and Peter had to agree with her excitement. They all headed back inside after Morgan had sprinted into the cabin. Together, they talked about their previous night and laughed and Morgan’s excitement over pizza from Peter’s favorite pizza place in Queens. Then they dug into the cookies the Starks had baked and the two excitable kids had frosted.

As much as Peter hated to leave the cabin, he knew they had to eventually. So after promising Morgan he’d be back very soon and telling Pepper he would keep her updated on his web-slinging, he and May were back on the road for the city. Peter used the time to text Ned about coming over so they could capitalize on MJ’s fantastic lead on the new, cloaked villain. Ned (unsurprisingly) agreed immediately and promised to meet Peter at his apartment.

It was in times like these that Peter was really glad he wasn’t alone in this. Without his family and his friends, he was sure he wouldn’t be able to do the whole superhero gig.

Peter Parker wouldn’t be Spider-Man if it weren’t for his family. There was no doubt in his mind. And for that he would never be able to thank them.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

“You’re sure that hacking into S.H.I.E.L.D. won’t get us in trouble?”

“Well we will if you get caught.” Peter looked at Ned. “But you won’t get caught.”

Ned pursed his lips and went back to bashing at his computer. “If I get arrested for this, you’re breaking me out. Spider-Man can be a criminal for a day to bust his best friend out of prison for hacking a secret government agency.”

Peter chuckled as he continued to reload his web shooters and check the programming on his Iron Spider suit. He only took it out when his suit he made in Europe needed to be updated. Peter had a sinking feeling he was going to need it, very soon.

Ned’s computer beeped.

< I wouldn’t do that if I were you. >

Ned froze. “Uh, Peter?”

“Yeah?”

“Someone knows I’m in here.”

What?” Peter jumped off the ceiling and leaned over Ned’s shoulder to look at his laptop screen. “I thought you said you could get in without anyone knowing!”

“This was your idea! Not mine!” Ned defended and Peter breathed deeply.

“Well, we’ve already been caught, so I guess let’s see if we can get any information from them?” Peter said and Ned nodded before beginning to type in the new window that had popped up.

< We’re looking for information on Oscorp. >

Moments later, another message appeared.

< Oscorp huh? You sure you want to bark up that tree? >

The two friends shared a look and Peter nodded. Ned started typing.

< We have to. The world is at stake! >

< Saving the world seems like a pretty big job, why don’t you contact the Avengers, or what’s left of them. >

Ned looked at Peter who shooed his best friend out of the chair, sat down, and started typing.

< It’s personal. It’s because of Oscorp that I have my powers and now they’re threatening my city. >

< So you’re enhanced? Any chance I’m speaking with Spider-Man? >

Peter swallowed before typing.

< Depends on what he means to you. >

“Nice once.” Ned breathed.

< Smart kid. Look, I know you have no reason to trust me Spidey, but you’re poking around in databases that are extremely sensitive and delicate. Let me dig up what I can and we can arrange a meet. >

< You’re right. How do I know I can trust you? >

< Tell you what, you pick the location and the time and I’ll meet you there unarmed. If you aren’t sure if you want to trust me, just ask Fury about a hacker named Skye. >

< Tomorrow night. 10 pm. Top of Tower 28 on 28th Street in Queens. >

< You got it Spider-Man. I’ll meet you on the roof with all the information I can find on Oscorp. >

The window on Ned’s computer disappeared and the two friends shared a look.

What were they getting into?

Chapter Text

For someone who spends her nights taking on muggers and creeps in alleys, Gwen was nervous about sneaking around Oscorp with Harry.

Sure, she was literally a superhero. But she wasn’t going as Spider-Woman. She was helping out a close friend as Gwen Stacy, an aspiring dancer who worked part-time as a waitress and who just happened to moonlight as a masked superhero (but no one knew that last bit).

“I’ll take this and bring it right back. Does anyone want a to-go container?” Gwen asked the small family of four as she picked up the credit card on the receipt. One of the fathers took a quick glance around the table before shaking his head at Gwen. “Alright, I’ll be back in a few.” She grabbed a few of the empty plates before heading back to the front.

Gwen glanced up at the clock and saw it was just before four. She placed the nearly empty plates in the back to be cleaned before glancing at the small family in her section. She pulled up their bill and quickly ran their card. She grabbed the receipt and pulled a pen out of her apron before heading back to the family. She gave them the receipt and pen before going off to help clear another table. After she helped Jen clear her table, she glanced back and saw her last family gone. She went back to the table and quickly cleared it away; pocketing the tip they left with a smile. Another look at the clock showed just a little after four. Gwen slipped off her apron, shouted a goodbye to the kitchen, punched out, and grabbed her bag. She left the diner through the back entrance and pulled out her phone.

YerAWizardHarry: I’ll meet you outside of Oscorp. You brought your flashlight right?

Gwen snorted as she quickly typed a response.

BalletBabe: I don’t sneak into billion dollar corporations without it.

Gwen descended into the subway tunnels and jumped on the train just before the doors shut. She posted herself in the middle of the car and held onto one of the poles. She found herself glancing at the people around her and wondering if she should write a book about all of the people she sees on the subway because there are some characters. And she got a whole new batch at every stop.

Yeah. If the dance gig and the superhero gig didn’t work out, she’d write a book about all of the unique people she sees on the subway everyday.

Before she knew it, it was her stop and she found herself pushing through the crowds rushing for the trains at the end of the workday and found herself back at the surface relatively quickly. Gwen spotted Harry standing near Oscorp tower, trying to look unassuming and discrete. Which he was failing miserably at since he was still dressed relatively nicely and looked nervous. Gwen decided to forgo the crosswalk (thank you heightened spidey senses) and dart across the traffic, earning her a few honks and a swift gesture from Gwen.

Harry had perked up when the taxi driver honked at Gwen, so he had pushed off from leaning against the side of the building to meet her as she stepped onto the sidewalk. Harry enveloped her in a hug and Gwen obliged.

“Thank you for this.” Harry breathed and Gwen chuckled.

“Thank me after we figure this out, yeah?” Gwen pulled back and Harry sucked in a shaky breath. “It’ll be okay Harry. If anyone can figure this out, it’s me. And you I suppose.”

Harry let out a laugh and gave Gwen a harmless shove. Gwen smiled up at her friend. He put a lot of stress on himself and Gwen wished she could take all of his stress away so he could be the Harry knew growing up. Harry, the guy who pranked his way into their friend group and never left, the guy who went with Glory to pick out her first guitar and who came to every single one of Gwen’s dance performances, the guy who makes Gwen laugh nearly everyday. That guy had taken a backseat during the Blip, which happened to nearly everyone who survived. Even after everyone came back, Harry wasn’t quite the same, which broke Gwen’s heart. But she couldn’t take all of his stress away, so she elected to at least help Harry with his dad, even if his dad hated her. The feeling was mutual, but Gwen was willing to bury it deep so she could help her best friend.

“You ready to go inside?” Harry asked and Gwen nodded.

“I’ve always wanted to be a spy, so lead the way.”

The pair entered the building and headed to the elevator. Even though the building was only about half full as the regular workday was technically over, Gwen felt extremely underdressed. Her normal work uniform was jeans and plain colored shirts. She was wearing her old converse she’s had since she was 16 and felt like she didn’t belong in her best friend’s building. Even Harry, who had “dressed down”, still looked relaxed professional in his slacks, dress shoes, and his blue button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up. They entered the elevator and Harry hit the button to take them up into the research and development levels.

“What’s our play here?” Gwen asked as the elevator rocketed up the skyscraper.

Harry took a deep breath. “There’s a fundraiser happening tonight in the lower levels. I’ve convinced my dad to go in my stead to maybe smooth things over with the board. He’ll be busy most of the night. We have time, but-“

“-We shouldn’t waste it.” Gwen took a breath and focused her attention on the doors of the elevator. “Got it.”
The pair exited on the level of R&D that Harry said his father worked in. They moved quickly and Gwen followed after Harry, using her senses to judge who was on their floor. She let her senses take over for a moment and guessed there were about twenty people on the floor, all sporadically spread out. Harry stopped at a corner lab and swiped his key card as Gwen snuck a look around them, no one was the wiser as they snuck inside.

The door shut and locked behind them and Gwen looked around Mr. Osborn’s very messy office.

“Wow. Has your dad heard of a recycling bin? Or a vacuum maybe?”

“Makes you wonder doesn’t it?”

“Where do you want me to start?” Gwen motioned to the large desk at the far end of the room and the filing cabinet that was basically overflowing with papers.

“Start at those files, I’ll start at his desk.”

Gwen and Harry got to work. Gwen started to sift through the large, and very full filing cabinet. The files were somewhat organized, but Gwen could tell at a certain point, Harry’s father just stopped trying to organize his files, which made Gwen’s job tricky. But she put her head down and started working at pulling files that seemed important. Harry found a spot at his father’s desk and began going through his drawers and his computer.

They worked in silence for the most part. Every once in a while Harry would call Gwen over to look at the computer and Gwen would hand Harry a file she thought might be useful.

“Shit. It’s already after nine.” Harry said and Gwen blinked a few times, trying to get her focus back before turning back to Harry as he ran his hands through his hair, making it stick up all over the place. “Let’s take pictures of what we think is important and go down to his lab. He should be at the gala by now.”

Between the two of them, they had pictures of all the files and had put everything back within twenty minutes. When they entered the hallway again, it was totally empty. Gwen let her senses take over and she determined they were the only ones there. Good. She really didn’t want to run into anyone, specifically Harry’s dad.

Harry and Gwen moved quickly through the building as they headed for the elder Osborn’s private lab. They found some strange designs for weapons and a weird glider thing buried in his computer and among his files. Gwen found notebooks upon notebooks with formulas and designs in them, but also really weird ramblings that seemed…unhinged?

Gwen could practically feel the anxiety radiating off of Harry, which wasn’t the point of all of this. Looking through his dad’s stuff was supposed to help alleviate some of Harry’s worries, not make it worse.

Gwen herself was feeling paranoid just being in this building. Her coming to this building with Harry and Glory after school one day was what sent her careening towards a comic book origin story, which honestly was kind of ridiculous when you think about it.

When that spider bit her, Harry, and Glory poked around the labs; Gwen hadn’t thought much of it. She grew up playing her backyard, elbow deep in mud puddles and catching every bug that came through their house. So when that spider climbed on her and bit her hand, Gwen brushed it off back onto the counter, shook off her hand, and moved on. By the time she made it home, she had a raging fever and could barely stand on her own. Her father sent her to bed and Gwen slept for almost 16 hours. When she woke up, she was different. Then she went to school and her whole life changed again.

There was something about being in the lower levels where Harry’s dad has his own private lab that set Gwen on edge.

Over the years, she’d learned to listen to her spidey-sense when it flared up. Right now, there was an uncomfortable buzzing at the base of her skull. Something wasn’t right and every fiber of Gwen’s being was telling her to grab Harry and RUN. But how would she explain that to Harry?

Sorry Harry, but I have this sixth sense that warns me of danger that I got after being bitten by a spider right here! In this building! Oh! And guess what? I’m Spider-Woman!

Yeah that wasn’t going to happen.

So Gwen swallowed her worry and ignored the buzzing warning her of danger. Harry swiped his key card and watched in confusion as it flashed red instead of green.

“What?” Harry breathed as he tried again. Red. “My keycard should work. I don’t understand why it’s not working.”

“Why don’t you try that door over there and I’ll see if I can – do something.”

“Do something?”

“Oh shut up. Go try that door.”

Harry walked off and Gwen watched him, waiting for him to get far enough away. She looked down at the door handle and the solid door in front of her.

“Have fun explaining this Gwen.” She whispered under her breath as she gripped the handle and pushed as hard as she could. The door gave way and Gwen was in. She quickly straightened the door jam and vowed to come back and fix it later. Harry jogged back silently and stared at the door.

“What did you do?” Harry asked as he stepped inside the lab to stand beside Gwen.

“The door was open.” Gwen said. “You didn’t check.”

It didn’t look like Harry believed her, but he didn’t say anything because he had turned his attention to his father’s lab. Gwen followed his gaze and let her jaw drop.

“What happened here?” She asked. The entire lab was trashed. If Harry weren’t insistent that his dad was here earlier, Gwen would have thought someone had broken in and ransacked the place. A table was flipped over and dented, papers and chemicals were scattered everywhere, and the light flickered ominously. Harry stepped over a knocked over stool and walked over to a large glass case that held glowing green vials. Gwen found herself moving towards the corner where a box was propped slightly open.

Every step she took, her senses went more and more wild. She wanted to throw up by the time she made it to the box. Her hands shook as she reached forward and opened the lid. Her stomach bottomed out. She picked up one of the devices in the box, her whole body trembling.

“I think this is an industrialized drone.” Harry’s voice broke through Gwen’s panic and she slowly turned to see Harry kneeling beside a large drone that she would recognize anywhere. “It looks like it handles weapons of some kind, bombs maybe?” Harry’s eyes flicked to Gwen and his face changed as he stood up. “Gwen, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Gwen opened her mouth but nothing came out. Harry looked down at the small circular device in her hand.

“What’s that in your hand, Gwen?”

“It’s – it’s a bomb Harry.” Gwen nearly whispered, but Harry heard her loud and clear. “But I recognize it. It’s one of the bombs that were dropped on Times Square yesterday.”

Harry’s jaw clenched. “How do you know that? You weren’t there.”

Gwen felt her eyes begin to burn. She couldn’t breathe.

“Harry, I – “ Her senses went wild and she nearly puked at the sudden onslaught of her senses going insane.

The whole building shook and Gwen was knocked off her feet. She managed to not drop the very volatile bomb in her hands and climbed to her feet as the alarms started blaring. Harry had just gotten to his feet and they shared a look. This had to wait; something big was going on.

They both began to move at the same time, breezing out of the room and running for the stairs. Gwen shoved the bomb into her bag as they ran and she tried to push away her fears as she ran towards who knows what with her very human best friend at her side.

Gwen didn’t know what was going on, but she had a really bad feeling she knew who was causing it.

And she really hoped she was wrong.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Peter swung lazily towards Tower 28 where he was set to meet the mysterious hacker who was going to give him information on Oscorp. He didn’t really like the whole idea, but this was S.H.I.E.L.D. and Fury had texted back that this ‘Skye’ could be trusted. Still, Peter had almost called a few of his superhero friends for backup. He knew he could handle himself, but he didn’t really feel like walking into a trap today. In the end, he ended up texting Spider-Woman on discord, since this inadvertently involved her as well. She had responded that she wished she could help, but she was working on a stakeout at the other side of the city. Peter was disappointed, but he supposed he’d been doing this on his own for a while now; meeting with someone from S.H.I.E.L.D. should be a piece of cake.

Right?

It was just before 10pm when Peter landed on a nearby building. He had a clear view of Tower 28 and he watched and listened.

In the distance, he could see someone enter the roof through the door and begin looking around, for him he supposed. Peter checked his watch and saw it was one minute to 10 and he might as well get this started. With a flick of his wrist, he was swinging through the air towards Tower 28. He landed silently on the roof, about ten feet away from the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent he was meeting. Peter straightened and found himself staring at the woman standing in front of him.

“Uh, hey! I’m Spider-Man.” Peter said and the woman cracked a smile. She didn’t look like too much of a threat, but Peter’s stomach was turning and he knew there was something dangerous about the leather-wearing agent standing in front of him.

“Hey Spider-Man.” She said with a bit of a raspy drawl. “How was the traffic?”

Peter grinned. He loved witty banter. Most of the criminals he took down just didn’t appreciate his humor while he stopped them from being criminals. Not that this agent was a criminal! He just loved a sparing partner when it comes to his wise quips.

Uh oh. The agent was looking at him funny. Say something Peter!

“Surprisingly heavy. There were some pigeons clogging up 30th street.” Peter managed to quip out before it got too uncomfortable. “Did you find anything on Oscorp Miss?”

“Daisy.” She said. “Just call me Daisy. And yes, I did.”

She stepped forward and Peter took that as a cue to come closer, so he did. She opened up the tablet she had brought with her and thumbed it to life.

“Oscorp has been involved in a lot of shady stuff over the years. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much to dig up during the Blip, which makes me think Harry Osborn has no idea and that it wasn’t his doing.” Daisy began.

“So you think it’s Norman Osborn who’s involved in all the shady stuff?” Peter asked and Daisy nodded.

“It seems likely. Everything S.H.I.E.L.D. has on Oscorp from the day it was created is on this tablet. There’s a lot here and since I’m not entirely sure what you’re looking for, it’s hard to tell you what to pay attention to.”

“I think Oscorp, or someone who works at Oscorp, is responsible for the bombing in Time Square yesterday.” Peter stated and Daisy looked at him with narrowed eyes for a moment.

“With everything that I’ve found on Oscorp and it’s shady doings, that wouldn’t surprise me.” Daisy said honestly. “Norman Osborn has been dealing with backdoor labs and cutting corners in their research since the beginning. He’s sold research to other countries, used unauthorized test subjects, you name it, he’s probably done it.”

“Typical bad guy then.” Peter breathed as he took a few steps away and closed his eyes to think.

“You good there Spider-Guy?” Daisy asked and Peter turned around with his hands on his hips.

“Yeah, just trying to figure out how to take down the head of a billion dollar company.” Peter said.

Daisy closed the tablet she brought and took a few steps closer to Peter. “Technically, you don’t have to take down all of Oscorp, just Osborn himself. He’s the one calling the shots.” Peter nodded and Daisy stopped walking towards him. “And it may not be much, but S.H.I.E.L.D. is happy to lend a hand if you need it. I know your experience with us in Europe wasn’t all that great, but we run things a little bit different here and I’m sure I can convince the Director to offer some support.”

Peter didn’t know what to say.

He always thought he had to go at this alone. When Uncle Ben died and he could have saved him, Peter thought he had to do it all on his own, without any assistance. Then Mr. Stark came into the picture and gave him a suit that definitely helped keep him safer while he was swinging around Queens. Then Ned found out (albeit accidentally) and became his tech support. And then it kind of all went downhill with nearly everyone close to him finding out and offering their support in their own way. Sure, Peter could do this on his own; but it was awfully nice to have people behind him, supporting him.

He supposed having a covert government agency behind him might actually be a good thing.

Peter opened his mouth to respond when all his senses went crazy. At the same time, Daisy’s phone beeped and she pulled it out.

“There’s been an attack at Oscorp.” She said before looking up at Peter who was coiled like a spring.

Peter looked towards the Manhattan skyline before turning back to Daisy. “S.H.I.E.L.D. available for an assist right now?”

Daisy grinned as she tucked her tablet into her small bag. “You’re lucky I came prepared for a fight.”

Peter chuckled before blanching. “Wait, a fight against me? I thought you said you’d come unarmed!”

Daisy rolled her eyes fondly. “I did come unarmed Spider-Guy, but it’s kind of hard to leave my primary weapon at home.” She stepped closer. “You able to give me a lift?”

Peter narrowed his eyes at the agent. “How are you with heights and swinging?”

Daisy grinned again and Peter couldn’t help but be a little unnerved at how excited she seemed to be about all of this. “I happen to love heights. Now let’s go see if we can put a stop to Osborn right now.”

Yeah, this was the start of a beautiful partnership.

Chapter Text

Elena Perez had grown accustomed to strange, otherworldly events in the time she has lived in New York.

She was in her freshman year at NYU when aliens attacked the city and the Avengers made their debut. Elena was at a coffee stop in Manhattan when the attack happened and she’d hidden behind the front counter with several other patrons and a nice waitress named Beth. When the fighting moved down the block, they evacuated to a bank up the road from the coffee shop.

That’s the first time Elena saw a superhero.

After she saw Captain America take down the aliens that had found all of the New Yorkers hiding in the bank, she’d had a few other run ins with superheroes. Seeing Iron Man flying through the city became commonplace and she hardly ever looked up when he flew by. She’d been tailed by a man in an all red costume when she was passing through Hell’s Kitchen to visit a friend in the middle of the night when her boyfriend had broken up with her out of the blue. She’d even met Luke Cage himself outside of Pop’s Barber Shop when she stopped by in the hopes of interviewing the bullet proof man for NYU’s student run paper (it wasn’t hard hitting journalism, but Elena had to make do).

Then Elena graduated with her undergrad and masters at NYU and landed herself a job at Oscorp working as a writer for their scientific breakthroughs. She took the raw data collected at Oscorp and morphed it into something the general public could understand without losing any of its integrity and accuracy. It wasn’t the most interesting work, but she enjoyed it. She couldn’t complain. She quickly rose through the department and by the time the Avengers had split, Elena was running the scientific writing department.

That’s when a huge ship tore apart a portion on the city and less than a day later half of all living things disappeared. Elena’s family was big, so she lost a lot of relatives. But she still had both her parents and amazingly her two younger siblings. The Perez family had somehow managed a miracle.

Elena’s work shifted after the Snap.

Before she changed data to make it easier for people to understand the work Oscorp was doing. Now Elena still did this (with the few projects Oscorp had), but she also took up the outreach program. When Harry Osborn became CEO, although he was young, he realized the importance of helping people and asked for volunteers to take on some extra responsibility.

Elena was first in line.

She’d been unbelievably lucky in the Snap. It felt like 90% of those left didn’t get that lucky. Anything Elena could do to help others she would do in a heartbeat. And for 5 years, she did just that.

She planned benefits, wrote pieces on those effected to get their stories out there, found donations, worked in soup kitchens, and helped with efforts to reinvent housing. Elena was buried in her work, but she didn’t mind.

Then everyone came back.

And Elena was forced to reevaluate again.

She had a meeting with Harry Osborn himself not long after everyone came back. They’d had a few conversations and planning sessions when it came to their charity work, but she’d never been called to his office before. It was in this meeting that he told her that even though people were back, he still wanted to help people. And he wanted her to run the entire foundation. Elena Perez, a member of the only Puerto Rican family in a small hick town in Indiana who got into NYU to get away and get to the big city where she hoped her dreams would come true, would be running a billion dollar foundation and was hand picked for the position by Harry Osborn himself. Elena had accepted immediately. If the Blip taught her anything, it was that while she enjoyed writing and using her words to tell the world of the next scientific breakthrough, she wanted to get her hands dirty and see her effect on the world with her own eyes and not through the words of another scientist.

Which brings us to why Elena was at Oscorp’s fundraiser gala. She had planned the whole thing (of course) and she was immensely proud. Sure she would much rather be out in the streets building houses and revamping the neighborhoods to compensate for the millions of people who had just reappeared like nothing had ever happened to them, but raising the money so she could get out there was just as important. That meant a lot of ass kissing and hand shaking. Two hours in and Elena was exhausted.

And at the rate the gala was going, they were going to reach their fundraising goal and Elena could hopefully break into her Hunka Hulka Burning Fudge pint she’d been saving in her freezer.

All of that went out the window when a loud raspy voice broke through the chatter of a thousand people having their own side conversations.

Elena had been talking to her assistant about the proposals they had to finish by the end of the week and was already devising a game plan. As soon as her eyes landed on the figure hovering above the massive crowd in a shiny costume on what looked like a hoverboard straight out of The Jetsons, she was over it.

Yeah. Elena was getting real sick of super-villains.

“Sorry I’m late. Work was murder.” The figure cackled before unleashing a volley of weapons and drones that began to drop bombs and dive bomb the unsuspecting people below. Elena had been around the block a few times and had grabbed her assistant and pulled them both behind the nearby open bar before he had even finished talking. Her assistant, Lindsay, screamed as she covered her head and Elena grabbed the shocked bar tender and yanked him down as well.

The explosions were loud and shook the room. And as Elena gripped the shelves of the bar and bottles of liquor fell to the floor before breaking, she debated either becoming a superhero herself or just leaving the city.

Both were not viable options.

A plus with Elena being here and being experienced when it came to villains attacking, was that she knew it was only a matter of time before at least one superhero showed up, and she was calm when she began to weigh her options for getting out. She knew this building like the back of her hand. She could get herself, her assistant, the bartender, and anyone else they managed to pick up along the way.

An explosion hit a little too close for Elena’s comfort and even had her ducking her head and praying for the best. When the debris settled from that explosion, she was ready to move. She peered over the bar and saw people still running for entrances, but there were a lot of people and only so many entrances. And it didn’t help that bombs were being dropped and effectively pining people in various spots across the large ballroom.

Elena’s eyes flicked over to a door that was small and unassuming, but she knew it led to the back hallway behind the ballroom. The wait staff used it for galas like this one and it just might be big enough to funnel people out of safely. Plus it lead to the back alley behind the building.

“We need to move.” Elena said as she ducked behind the bar again and faced her assistant and the young bartender. Both looked terrified and had obviously not been a situation like this before. Although Elena had also never been involved in a bombing attack by a super-villain, she’d been through her fair share of crazy. She could be level headed enough for the three of them. “Stay low and stay close. Follow me.”

She made a point to make eye contact with both of them before nodding and turning. She risked a glance back over the bar and saw the guy on the board not looking in their direction. If they were to move, now would be the time.

Lindsay and the bartender had followed her instructions to the letter. They stuck close to her, stayed silent, and kept low. Elena had even managed to pick up a few other stragglers on the way.

They were less than ten feet from the door when it happened.

A drone had spotted them and was heading straight for them. Lindsay screamed and Elena’s stomach plummeted to land somewhere around her ankles. They had seconds.

She was moving before she even realized it.

Elena shoved Lindsay and another woman out of the way and squeezed her eyes shut. Metal hit flesh and she couldn’t help but let the scream that had bubbled up be ripped from her throat. She felt weightless for two seconds before she crashed into what she guessed was the wall.

Elena crumbled to the ground and struggled to breathe. Her eyes opened to slits and she could make out blurry forms. She fixed her gaze on Lindsay who was moving towards her. Elena held up a weak hand and choked out one word.

“Go.”

Lindsay hesitated but something shifted in her face and she turned and began getting other people out through the side door they were going to. Elena let her head fall back and her eyes close.

Elena's last thought was: Stupid bad guys.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Gwen wasn’t sure what she expected when Harry and her made it to the ballroom, but it definitely wasn’t what she found.

The entire ballroom was nothing but chaos. It was worse than Time Square because all of the people inside had nowhere the run. The exits were blocked (minus the side door they managed to sneak in through) and the entire ballroom was shaking from explosions.

She wanted to throw up.

The ballroom was decorated and Gwen could tell a lot of careful planning had gone into this fundraiser. When Harry took over as CEO, he worked hard to reinvent the Osborn name. No longer did Oscorp deal with backhanded scientists, fund unsanctioned projects, or birth any spider-themed superheroes (as far as Gwen knew that is, in her world you could never be too sure). Harry worked to help those who had been displaced and offer assistance to anyone who needed it. He hired people who suddenly had nothing and invested billions of dollars into organizations that were created to help those affected by the snap. He even worked on a joint deal with Stark Industries (he got to meet Tony Stark and the gorgeous Pepper Potts and he let Gwen come along; she nearly died when she shook their hands and got to talk to Ms. Potts-Stark about art) to funnel money into restoring homes and damages caused in the Snap. Harry spent a lot of time using his power to help others and his father (probably) was destroying it all.

It made Gwen sick.

Another explosion caused her to stumble and Harry caught her arm. Gwen stole a glance behind her before looking up at Harry. His jaw was clenched tightly and he looked like he was also going to be sick. They both needed to move, now.

“Most of the doors are bolted.” Gwen said and Harry’s eyes snapped down to meet hers. His eyes cleared and she knew that giving him something to do would help him feel better, well, as good as he can feel when his best efforts at reaching out to do good in the community was crumbling around him. “You know this building better than I do, find another way out and start getting people out. I’ll start sending people towards you.”

Gwen moved to start getting people out but Harry gripped her arm tighter. She turned back and looked at him. He clenched his jaw.

“I don’t know what’s going on with you, but I can’t let you put yourself in danger.”

Gwen couldn’t help but roll her eyes. “We’re both in the same amount of danger here Osborn. I’m small and I’m fast. If this is really your father’s doing, it is not a good idea for you to be visible. We’ll both be fine. Take my bag; keep it safe. It has the evidence. Go.”

Her words seemed to snap Harry out of whatever daze he was in because he gave her arm one last squeeze, took her bag off her shoulder, slung it over his head, and disappeared into the masses.

Gwen looked around as the building shook again. This had to stop or this entire building was going to come down. Gwen really didn’t want that to happen. She ducked behind an overturned table and motioned to a few people hiding under the table right next to it. They looked at her with confusion and terror as another explosion boomed near them.

“Go! Find Harry Osborn! He’ll get you out!” Gwen pointed in the direction Harry had headed. “Stay low, stay together!”

They nodded and Gwen watched as they followed her instructions to the letter. Gwen took a breath and peered over the table she was crouched behind. She could see the drones from Times Square, diving and zipping around the large ballroom, dropping bombs that exploded in green light. That’s when something else flew overhead and stopped near the destroyed stage.

A figure was crouched on what looked like a green and gold hoverboard. He was wearing black gear with green and slight purple accents. His suit looked bullet proof and insanely tough. But what was strange was his mask. It was gold with large eyes and pointy ears. Gwen felt her blood run cold.

If that was Norman Osborn, she was in a lot of trouble.

Gwen ducked back down as he began firing more weapons from his board, causing more chaos. She was really glad that her anxiety prevented her from leaving her webshooters at home. She checked the fluid level in them before pulling her the sleeves of her sweatshirt down to hide them. Gwen would have to be quick and careful if she was going to use them.

God she hoped Harry would be okay and stay out of trouble, but she knew him. He’d be back in the thick of it as soon as everyone was clear. Gwen would have to work quickly if she wanted to keep Harry out of this. She didn’t know where Spider-Man was, but she secretly hoped he’d show up soon. If Spider-Woman couldn’t be here in her suit, at least Spider-Man would be able to keep the green crazy guy busy while she got the people out and the took the drones down.

So Gwen got to work.

The dude on the hoverboard continued to zip around the ballroom, firing weapons into the mass of people still trapped. The numbers did seem to be dwindling, which meant that Harry was doing well with getting everyone out. Gwen found a few more people clustered around the room and she gave them the same instructions, stay low, stay together, head for the south side of the room and look for Harry Osborn. They all listened without asking who she was and what authority she had. Gwen guessed it had to do with being Spider-Woman for five years and having to command attention quickly.

She even managed to take out a few drones by causing a distraction to get them closer to the ground, before using her webshooters and destroying them with her bare hands. She really loved her super-strength sometimes.

Gwen made it to the other side of the room and took a moment to take stock. It looked like nearly everyone was out and heading for safety. She could see Harry carrying a tall Hispanic woman over to a door before passing her to another man and two staff members were herding a few more out through what Gwen guessed was the kitchen. She looked back towards Harry to make sure he got out. He must have sensed her looking at him because he turned and they made eye contact across the room. He pointed towards the kitchen and she knew what he was saying: Get out. Save yourself.

Gwen felt her heart tighten. She couldn’t leave, not yet. She shook her head once and mouthed “Go” to Harry who looked annoyed, but not entirely surprised at her inability to leave when people were still in danger.

YOU.” A voice rasped and Gwen turned in time for a hand to wrap around her throat and lift her up before slamming her against the wall about 20 feet in the air. Gwen let out a gasp as she struggled to breathe. She bent her legs and let her feet stick to the wall, hoping that would help her not, ya know, choke to death. Gwen opened to eyes to see her own reflection staring back at her from the large gold eyes of the man on the hoverboard. If Gwen had to put money on anyone, it’d be Norman Osborn.

“You did this. You caused everything to fall apart. This is YOUR FAULT.” He hissed and Gwen struggled to breathe. She risked a glance down and saw Harry leaping over overturned tables and chairs, trying to get to her.

Gwen flicked her eyes back to the man holding her in the air by her throat. “I think you might have me confused with someone else. Ever look in a mirror?”

She was gasping now. Gwen had to act quickly before she passed out from lack of oxygen, but her options were limited. Either she out herself as enhanced/Spider-Woman, or she risks death.

If she was being honest, neither sounded great.

The masked man hissed and pressed his hand further into her throat. Gwen gasped as he completely cut her airway off; even her holding herself up by her feet wasn’t doing anything. She had to decide, and fast.

You will pay for what you did, Gwen Stacy.” He rasped and Gwen could see the spots starting to dance across her vision. Well, outing herself it is.

“HEY!” Another voice called and Gwen struggled to open her eyes to see who had yelled. “Comic-Con was last week!”

There was a loud thrum and Gwen was hit with what felt like a wall of pure vibrations. Board guy was thrown to the side, letting go of Gwen. She was weightless for only a moment before another body slammed into her, knocking whatever air she had managed to keep in her lungs out. Before she knew it, she was being set on the ground, her back resting against the wall. Her breath was coming in short gasps and her vision was still fuzzy.

A face appeared in her line of vision. Harry was holding her arms and trying to talk to her. A familiar mask also appeared in her line of sight. Spider-Man was looking on in worry, well as worried as someone in a mask could look. Harry’s hand came up to brush aside some of her hair that had fallen in her face and her eyes fell back on him. He looked terrified and honestly, her heart was still pounding too. It’s been a while since she’s been in a situation where she needed help getting out of. She did not like it one bit.

“Stay low and try to get out of here. I’ll try to find you after.” Spider-Man said.

“Thanks web-head.” Gwen choked out, her voice barely above a whisper. But he heard her because he barked out a laugh before taking off into the air. Gwen let her head fall back hit the wall behind her and she coughed, her lungs still trying to recover. Harry hadn’t moved and was watching her like a hawk. She lifted her arm and placed it over his hand that was still holding her head like she was breakable. “I’m okay Har-bear. I’m here and I’m fine.”

Harry’s eyes studied her face closely before nodding. “You really scared me there. Are you going to ever let someone else save the day or am I going to have to get used to bandaging your wounds after battle.”

Gwen laughed before coughing. When she could finally breathe again, she looked at her best friend who was watching her with worry and a little bit in awe. She didn’t know what she was going to do about Harry and her alter ego, but she knew no matter what he’d still be beside her. They’d been through too much to let their friendship crumple because of this. Gwen wasn’t sure what tomorrow would bring, but she was ready for it and she knew Harry would be by her side.

A loud bang shook the room and it snapped the both of them out of their stupor. Gwen peered around Harry as he turned to look at what was happening behind them.

Spider-Man was flipping and swinging all around the room, firing all different variations of webs trying to slow down and distract the comic-book-like-super-villain. He was doing a pretty good job and the guy on the hoverboard looked insanely annoyed, so props to him.

There was another woman who was moving around on the ground below Spider-Man and the villain. She was moving silently through the destroyed ballroom. Her hands were raised in the air and Gwen could hear a deep thrumming with every jerk of her hands. It looked like vibrations were being emitted from her hands and were causing the hoverboard to malfunction and sputter randomly.

Huh. That’s new.

Harry grabbed Gwen’s hand and hauled her to her feet. She was a little shaky, but quickly recovered. Thank you spider powers.

“Come on, let’s get out of here.” Harry went to pull her towards the kitchen, but she didn’t budge. He spun to look at her.

“I’m not leaving. Not yet.” Gwen left no room for argument and Harry seemed to realize that because he nodded once. Together Harry and Gwen moved through the overturned tables, moving silently and staying low. They stopped just less than 20 feet away from the woman who was still kicking ass. She turned to Harry. “Got any secret weapons stashed in your bag?”

Harry actually smirked and Gwen narrowed her eyes. She was kidding, but maybe he actually did. Sure enough, Harry dug into Gwen’s bag and pulled out what looked like a large futuristic gun.

He grinned at her perplexed face. “I found this in my dad’s lab. I snuck it into your bag when you weren’t looking.”

“You never cease to amaze me Harry Osborn.” Gwen breathed and Harry’s eyes brightened. “Do you know how to work it?”

Harry’s face spelled out DUH as he started activating the gun. She had no idea what it was going to do, but it should help them take down the guy causing all of this. Gwen peered over the edge of the table they were hiding behind and saw the woman had moved closer and was just over five feet away.

“Psst!” Gwen hissed and she spun to look at Gwen. Her eyes narrowed at Gwen’s waving for her to come closer and she shot one more vibration up at the hoverboard before ducking behind the table with them.

“You two need to get out of here now.” She rasped, her voice heavy with exhaustion.

“We aren’t leaving, so we’re here to help.” Gwen said. “We found this and think it could take him down. If we hit that guy and you hit his hoverboard, we might be able to separate them. But we have to act at the same time.”

The woman seemed to mow it over before nodding once. “Fine. On my signal.” She ducked back around the table. Gwen stole a glance back at Harry who hit another button before hoisting the gun onto his shoulder. He handed Gwen the detonator and she gripped it as they both peered over the table.

Spider-Man was still swinging around the demonic large leprechaun when he swung a bit too close. The Green Elf grabbed him by his throat and held him suspended in the air. Gwen’s own throat tightened at the still fresh memory of being choked out by this chump. Harry leveled the gun at the man and Gwen glanced at the woman. She also looked at Gwen and nodded once.

“Don’t hit Spider-Man.” Gwen breathed and Harry grunted.

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Harry said as he held the gun steady.

Gwen held her breath as she watched the other woman like a hawk. She snuck a glance back and they met eyes again. Her thumb brushed over the button and it felt like everything was slow motion.

The woman pulled her hands into her body before pushing them both outward, palms open and deadly. Pure vibrations spilled from her hands and hit his hoverboard. At the same time, Gwen pressed her thumb on the button and a blast nearly blew out her eardrum. A beam of pure blue light hit the man and he dropped Spider-Man before hitting the wall and falling to the ground. His hoverboard crashed to the ground, neatly followed by the drones. The four people still left in the room all waited as silence fell.

Gwen was the first to move.

She stood up from behind the overturned table her and Harry had been using as a makeshift barrier. Harry clamored to his feet next, dropping the gun with a clang as it sizzled and smoked. The woman lowered her arms and brushed a hand under her nose. Spider-Man, who had caught himself with a web when the man had let go, slowly lowered himself to the ground. His wide white eyes fixed on Gwen for only a moment and Gwen couldn’t help but feel like he had recognized her. Not as the woman he had saved a few minutes ago, but like the man inside the mask knew her somehow. She brushed the feeling aside. She’d deal with it later.

Spider-Man moved over to where the man fell, moving slowly and cautiously. “He’s gone. Disappeared.”

The three of them exhaled at the same time. Sure he was gone and that meant they had no idea who he was and where he went, but at least the fight was over for now.

“We’ll catch him.” The woman said with a fond smirk as the masked hero jogged up to her. “Nice work Spider-Guy.” He let out a chuckle before hitting his fist softly on her outstretched hand.

“Thanks Quake. We make a pretty good team.” The webslinger admitted and Gwen had to agree. She had never seen them fight before tonight, but they did work well together.

“Now get out of here before the cops show up.” Quake said as she handed him a slip of paper. “Call me when you get some food and a decent nights rest. There’s some people I’d like you to meet.”

Gwen could tell Spider-Man grinned before he saluted and shot a web at the ceiling and disappeared out of the room. Quake turned and looked at Gwen and Harry, who hadn’t spoken yet.

“Harry Osborn.” Quake said and Gwen felt a pang of worry in her chest. A lot of people had adverse reactions to Harry when they first met him. Most thought he was like his father so they were cold and judgmental. They couldn’t be more wrong. “That was a nice shot. You sure being a CEO is what you want to do? A brain like yours that can also shoot straight would be welcome at my organization.”

Gwen couldn’t help but exhale with relief, which the woman noticed. Harry chuckled.

“Oscorp may have been dirty in the past, but I’m proud of the direction we’re going and my talents are best suited here.” Harry glanced around the room. “But with old goblin head around, that might change.”

“I wouldn’t worry too much yet. My organization is on it and so is Spider-Man. We’ll catch him.”

“Don’t forget Spider-Woman.” Gwen spoke before she could stop herself. Quake looked at her for a moment before a soft smile quirked up the edge of her mouth.

“How could I forget her. Us female superheroes have to stick together.”

Gwen and Quake shared a smile. Sirens began to come closer and Quake glanced in that direction before looking at the two best friends.

“I don’t know what the two of you know, but I’m guessing it’s enough. You find anything that might help us figure out who this masked man is, give me a call.” She handed over a small slip of paper like the one she had given Spider-Man. Gwen opened it and on it was a phone number and a name scrawled on it.

Daisy.

Gwen looked up and she was gone. The two friends looked around and sighed. Gwen tucked the note into her bag that was still slung over Harry’s shoulder and they surveyed the damage.

God, I really hate cleaning.”

Chapter Text

Peter made it back to his apartment in record time.

He tried to climb in without waking his aunt, but his foot caught on one of his curtains and he tumbled into his room with a thud. He yanked off his mask and let out a breath. A second later May stumbled in, her large glasses perched on her nose and a robe tied loosely around her waist.

“Peter! Are you okay?” She rushed forwards and helped her nephew sit up. May ran her hands through his matted curls and brushed a thumb over his bruised cheek.

“May, I’m fine. I promise.” Peter pulled his head away from his aunt’s nuzzling and he stood up. “I just need a bunch of food and a good night’s sleep.”

May crinkled her nose. “And a shower.”

“Yes ma’am.” Peter saluted. He shuffled over to his dresser and yanked out some fresh clothes.

His aunt leaned against his door, watching him with a careful eye. “Are you okay, Peter?”

“Yeah. I’m fine.” Peter said as he pulled out a pair of socks and turned to his aunt.

“Cut the bullshit.” May said and Peter blinked. “What’s going on?”

Peter sighed. He wasn’t going to be able to keep this from his aunt much longer. Ever since she found out he was Spider-Man; he’d done his best to be honest. He tells her what she wants to know and May tries her best to not freak out when he comes home bloodied and bruised from his time patrolling the streets of Queens. Sure, there are some details he omits (May doesn’t really need to know about that time his web-shooter failed and he nearly took a header into a billboard advertising an erectile dysfunction pill), but for the most part, she knows everything.

When the green weirdo first made an appearance, she knew that he was going to stop him in Times Square. But she had no idea he was meeting with a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent late at night to get information to take him down. Or that he ended up called away to fight him again once he tried to attack another large group of people. He supposed he’d have to come clean eventually.

Eventually was now apparently

“This guy who’s been attacking people?” Peter said looking up and making eye contact with his concerned aunt. “I’m pretty sure it’s Norman Osborn.”

May perked up. “Norman Osborn? As in former CEO of Oscorp? As in the guy who-“ She made his web-shooter gesture and Peter nodded once. “How do you figure?

“I’m not sure yet, but it seems likely. I’m meeting with S.H.I.E.L.D. tomorrow to hopefully get some answers.”

“S.H.I.E.L.D.? The same S.H.I.E.L.D. that threw you into the path of Beck in Europe? No way Peter.”

“May!”

“No Peter! I don’t trust them!”

“I need them to help me figure out what’s going on! This isn’t the same S.H.I.E.L.D. that I dealt with in Europe. My – tingle doesn’t act up when I’m around them. They honestly want to help.”

May sighed. “Fine. I can’t stop you from going.”

“Thank you.”

“But I can go with you.”

What? No! I can’t bring my aunt to the headquarters of a secret government organization!”

“Too bad kiddo.” May crossed her arms and Peter knew he had no choice. “Either I go too or you don’t go at all.”

Peter groaned. “Fine.”

May smiled as Peter shuffled towards her. She patted his cheek as he passed and he resisted the urge to pull away. His aunt was just looking out for him. He shut himself in the bathroom so he could shower and heard May call that she’d heat up some leftovers for him.

Once he had showered and eaten his fill of their leftover Thai food, Peter shut himself in his room and collapsed on his small twin bed. He let out another frustrated groan.

How embarrassing.

His aunt was about to come with him to a top-secret government organization. How was he going to explain that?

Peter pulled out his phone and the small note Daisy had given him. He thumbed the edge of the slip of paper as he chewed his lip. The teen hero added her number into his contacts and opened a new message.

Spider-Guy: hey Daisy, it’s spider-man

She responded almost instantly.

DaisyQuake: Hey Spider-Kid. Feeling rested?

Spider-Guy: i will once i get some sleep. you said there were some people i needed to meet?

DaisyQuake: Oh definitely. Got any plans tomorrow?

Spider-Guy: is it lame of me to say no?

DaisyQuake: Nah. My life is SHIELD so I totally get that. Meet me at the base of Tower 28 at noon and I can pick you up.

Peter thumbed his phone. How does one even ask if his aunt can come to a super secret government facility without seeming a.) lame and b.) like a kid.

DaisyQuake: Hey dude, I just want to throw it out there, but you don’t have to wear your costume if you don’t want to. I know you have a secret identity for a reason but I’m sure you’d rather come dressed comfortably rather than in all that spandex. It’s up to you, but I wanted to throw that out there. Your identity is safe with us.

Spider-Guy: thanks. i just might take you up on that. my aunt is insisting on coming since the last time i worked with SHIELD i ended up framed for murder. she’s a little hesitant

DaisyQuake: Shouldn’t be a problem. As long as you both keep what you see to yourself, we won’t have a issue. I’m not sure which group of SHIELD you were working with, but I can look into it if you’d like.

Spider-Guy: thanks Daisy. i’ll see you then.

DaisyQuake: See you tomorrow kid.

Peter debated arguing that he wasn’t a kid, but he knew it was pointless. He technically was still a minor, but he was also cursed with a baby face. He figured he would be twenty-three and still able to pass for a fifteen year old. It was a curse.

He quickly pulled up his group chat with MJ and Ned. It felt like it had been weeks since they spoke and it was probably only days. Either way, he needed to update them. They were part of his superhero team and they all needed to catch each other up on what they’ve discovered.

Spidey-Squad

NOTamurderer: hey guys, i met with that SHIELD agent tonight and she had a lot of good intel. she actually ended up with an assist in that attack by this new guy we’ve been investigating. may and i are going to their base tomorrow to get some more info. we should meet up on thursday to chat

hanshotfirst: yoooooo that’s dope. i’m free Thursday. i actually have been doing some more hacking and also gathered some intel. wanna meet at the diner gwen works at around lunchtime?

NOTamurderer: sure. their food was surprisingly good.

hanshotfirst: oh totally. plus my mom has been on my case about getting a job and i think they might be hiring.

NOTamurderer: but dude! you’re my guy in the chair!

hanshotfirst: get urself a budget where you can pay for my services and i will never work anywhere else again

askmeaboutmyfeministagenda: is no one going to bring up the fact that peter is bringing his aunt with him to a top-secret government agency

hanshotfirst: yeah that is a little weird

NOTamurderer: may insisted. she’s a little freaked after what happened in Europe with SHIELD. i already okayed it with daisy

hanshotfirst: DAISY?? IS SHE THE SHIELD AGENT??

NOTamurderer: obvi ned. calm down.

askmeaboutmyfeministagenda: i want to meet this SHIELD agent. she sounds dope

NOTamurderer: she is dope. i think i can arrange that. let me get through this meeting tomorrow and i’ll make it happen

[askmeaboutmyfeministagenda changed NOTamurderer’s nickname to SHIELD’sBitch]

SHIELD’sBitch: HEY

[askmeaboutmyfeministagenda changed SHIELD’sBitch’s name to SHIELD’s#1Bitch]

Peter rolled his eyes before setting his phone to the side. Sure he could change his username back, but MJ was relentless and would never let it go back. Some battles were just not worth fighting (the fact that she’s his girlfriend and he’s kind of obsessed has nothing to do with it).

He let out a breath before letting his eyes slide closed. He really was exhausted. Peter had no idea what tomorrow would bring, but even the thought of getting to hang out with the literal superhero Quake and getting an assist from a covert government agency wasn’t enough to keep him from falling into a deep sleep.

 

The next day, May insisted in picking up Daisy a cup of coffee and a muffin on their way to Tower 28. They had stopped for a late breakfast and early lunch on their way and May wanted to thank Daisy for letting her tag along. May had asked what she would like and became offended when Peter offered no suggestion. She pinched his side when he quipped back that it’s not like he’d had a chance to ask her about her preferred breakfast pastry while they dodged bombs and bullets.

Together they waited in the busy New York street. It was nearing noon and Peter was scanning traffic for a government-agency looking vehicle. Sure he had no idea what she would be driving, but all secret agencies seemed to have huge black SUVs. May was playing a game on her phone and Peter could feel his nerves starting to bubble up.

Was this a bad idea?

Should he have insisted May not come?

Should he have worn his costume?

A large black SUV rolled up to the curb and Peter’s anxieties clamped up. At least he was right about the car choice. The window rolled down and Daisy smiled at him from the driver’s seat.

“Hey kid. Kid’s aunt. Hop in.”

Peter hopped into the backseat while May climbed into the front. Daisy pulled swiftly into the traffic and they were on their way to some undisclosed location.

“I guess I should introduce myself.”

“No need Peter.”

Peter blinked.

Daisy smirked at him in the rearview mirror. “We knew you were Spider-Man a week after you first made an appearance. You were not as sneaky as you thought you were.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

Daisy shrugged. “Secret identities are important. I wanted you to know that you could trust me and tell me who you were on your own terms.”

Peter fell into silence as he thought that over. May seemed to be fine with it because she instantly launched into conversation with Daisy and offered the agent the coffee and muffin she brought her.

[“I didn’t know what kind of pastry you liked, so I settled on a chocolate chip muffin.”

“I’m a sucker for chocolate so you chose correctly.”]

They fell into an easy conversation. May asked questions about SHIELD and Daisy gave them what Peter guessed was a watered-down version of the truth, but still the truth nonetheless. Daisy told them about how she got involved with SHIELD (Peter hadn’t even heard of Rising Tide and wondered if Ned had) and a brief rundown of all that’s happened to her. May shifted the conversation when it became clear Daisy was starting to clam up. Peter didn’t blame her. He still didn’t like talking about Titan and he tried his best not to think about the battle at the compound. Whatever happened to her must have been pretty bad if Daisy, the badass Quake, had trouble talking about it. They started talking about the various houseplants and succulents they both somehow loved to take care of (who knew Quake was a novice gardener).

They were deep in discussion about the benefits of eucalyptus plants when Daisy pulled into the parking lot of an abandoned warehouse. She stopped the car and the three of them all got out.

“Here?” May asked. “This is where your high tech base is?”

Daisy smiled. “Come on.”

The agent led them through a door that was half off its hinges. May stuck close to Peter as they walked through the ruined building. He didn’t blame her; he was feeling a bit on edge himself. His tingle was surprisingly quiet, but the last time he was in a building like this, well, let’s just say it didn’t end well.

Daisy walked up to an elevator Peter wasn’t even sure was working and swiped a badge against what he thought was just part of the wall. Which he couldn’t have been more wrong about.

The elevator Peter thought was too broken to work hummed to life and the tilted doors disappeared into the wall to reveal a sleek, silver elevator. Daisy smiled back at them and motioned them inside. The Parkers shared a look before entering. The agent entered last and hit a button on the side of the elevator. The doors shut and they began to descend.

The doors opened and a bustling base filled with people greeted them. Agents were a flurry of activity as the trio stepped into the maze of hallways.

“Welcome to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ.” Daisy said with a wave of her arms.

“This is much cooler than the base Fury had in Prague.” Peter said looking around him.

“That’s good to hear.” A new voice said and Peter’s head snapped to look as a middle-aged white man in a suit and an intense looking Asian woman approached them. “I’ve always wanted to have a cooler base than Fury.”

Peter blanched, but the man smiled warmly and held out his hand. “I’m Director Phil Coulson, but you can call me Coulson.”

Peter took his outstretched hand as he laughed nervously. “I guess you guys already know who I am?”

Coulson smiled again as he pulled his hand back. “You aren’t as sneaky as you think you are.” Peter groaned. “You’ve gotten better. I will give you that. Although that mess with the Daily Bugle definitely put you in some hot water. It’s a good thing we have the best hacker around and a couple of scientists who are big fans of yours.”

“Wait, you helped Peter?” May spoke up and Coulson turned his gaze to his aunt.

“He looks out for the little guy, it’s kind of our whole MO.”

It was May’s turn to smile.

“Agent May has offered to give your aunt a tour of the base while Daisy shows you to the labs. Unfortunately I have a few diplomats I have to talk to about keeping our existence under the radar. But I will be back in time to see you off.” Coulson said motioning to the silent (and definitely scary) woman standing next to him. She stepped forward and nodded her head at May. His aunt gave his arm a squeeze before walking away with the slighter woman.

“Well at least it won’t be hard to remember your name!” May joked and Peter suddenly felt very bad for the agent who seemed to enjoy silence. He loved his aunt, but she could talk the ear off of complete strangers. Which is probably what she was about to do.

Peter looked back and Coulson had disappeared but Daisy was still waiting patiently.

“Don’t worry about Agent May, she’s used to being around FitzSimmons who are like excited puppies at dinner time.” Daisy said as they began to walk deeper into the base.

“Well my aunt has been known to become best friends with people she meets at the bodega down the street.” Peter said and Daisy laughed.

“I promise that Agent May won’t take down your aunt for talking too much.”

Peter stopped. “Has she done that before?”

Daisy waved him off and gently pulled his arm to get him moving again. “She hasn’t done it in months, your aunt will be fine.”

Before Peter could protest further, the pair entered a lab. Other agents in lab coats and sporting goggles moved through the large lab. It looked like each scientist had their own lab bench that sported a computer, papers, and a very large variety of projects. The science geek in Peter wanted to ask about every single project and just talk science. School was still out on break and Peter was going a little stir crazy. Sure school was boring because he really didn’t have to try, but it was nice to have something to focus on besides a new homicidal maniac that was terrorizing the streets of New York City.

“Is that him?” The sharp drawl of a new voice pulled Peter out of his gazing in wonder. He turned towards the voice and saw a man walking towards him quickly. He was dressed sharply like most of the agents Peter saw, but he had the sleeves of his button up rolled up and flecks of grease on his arms. The curls on the top of his head rivaled Peter’s and he looked extremely excitable. He gripped Peter’s hand and shook it violently. Thankfully Peter was enhanced or he might have dislocated his shoulder. “It is so nice to meet you! I am a huge fan of your suit and your web shooters. Did you design them yourself? I have to say that that is some next level engineering-”

“Fitz! Stop crowding the poor boy.” A woman in a white lab coat and a crisp British accent came to Peter’s rescue by placing her hand on Fitz’s shoulder and squeezing gently. Fitz let go and looked sheepish. The woman smiled at Peter and held out her hand. “Sorry about him, he gets excited when it comes to anything engineering. He’s Fitz and I’m Simmons. Why don’t you come over here and we can show you what we’re working on. I have loads of questions about your web fluid and I think Fitz might combust if he doesn’t get a look at those web-shooters of yours.”

Simmons placed a calming arm around his shoulders and began to lead him over to a section of the lab that Peter guessed the pair shared.

“Oh! Daisy, Mack was looking for you to go over the details of last night. I think he’s in the garage.” Simmons tossed over her shoulder and Daisy nodded.

“I’ll be back Peter. You’re in good hands with FitzSimmons.” She said before disappearing out of the lab.

“Why does everyone call you FitzSimmons?” Peter finally found his voice when the reached a lab bench and Simmons broke away to grab an extra set of goggles for Peter.

“It comes from our days in the Academy.” Simmons said as she handed him the goggles. “Fitz and I were the youngest there and we quickly realized that we worked well together. We’ve been inseparable since then and the name FitzSimmons stuck.”

“That’s actually kind of cool.” Peter said and Simmons smiled softly at him. Fitz had wandered off, but Peter guessed he would be back with more burning questions about his web-shooters. “I’m guessing the two of you are – together?”

Simmons smiled as she looked off into the distance. “Yes. That is quite a long story that we do not have time for. It took us a while to get there and Fitz kept insisting that the universe was against us, but it all worked out in the end.” She looked back at Peter with a far away expression in her eyes. “Right then, I’ll show you a bit of what I’m working on and then you can tell me all about your web fluid formula. I can just imagine all of the possibilities for rescue missions and uses in the field. Not to mention all of the medical opportunities!”

Peter and Simmons fell into an easy conversation. It was clear that she was absolutely brilliant and even Peter, who is known for his excitability when it comes to science, had trouble keeping up with her. She was doing some amazing work in genetics and it definitely sparked a conversation about Peter’s own enhancements. He’d never really done any research with his genetics and how they changed when that spider bit him. Sure he tested his abilities and has learned a lot, but he never really looked into how it changed him on a molecular level. Simmons offered to take a blood sample and do some research. She had shied away immediately and it was clear she was used to people taking what she offered the wrong way. But Peter was actually excited. He didn’t really have the resources to look into how that spider changed him when he was first bitten. He could have asked Mr. Stark, but at the time he wasn’t sure he wanted to open that can of worms just yet. But he supposed now that Oscorp, or someone at Oscorp, might be causing terror across the city, it might be a good idea to look into how that spider changed him.

So Peter said yes and Simmons covered her shock by immediately asking him all kinds of questions about what happened and how things changed for him. Although the questions were personal, Peter answered with vigor. He really only talked about the science stuff with Ned and his questions were weird. Peter loved his best friend, but he didn’t feel like entertaining the idea of him laying eggs. Peter shuddered just thinking about it. Simmons asked about what he was like beforehand (small, kinda wimpy, asthmatic, needed glasses) and what happened after (he got super sick for a few days and when he woke up, it was like he did a bunch of curls, got abs, and suddenly found a cure for his asthma). Simmons was beyond excited and made note of everything he said. She took a quick blood sample and tucked the vials away for later.

Around this time, Fitz wandered back. He interrupted their excited babble about biology by slapping a tablet on the bench in front of them. Simmons and Peter stopped talking and looked at the Scottish engineer.

“Your web-shooter. How did you compensate for the recoil that comes with firing your webfluid? Did you build that suit or did Tony Stark? What kind of fluid combinations do you have because I can think of a few you might want to use to maximum your speed and distance on your swings.”

Peter blinked and glanced at Simmons who gave him a reassuring smile. She was used to her husband’s endless questions and she honestly could give a run for his money.

“I added a spring for the recoil, I made my first suit but every suit since then has been his design or made by using his tech, and I have over 500 combinations programed but I’ll take suggestions if you have some ideas.”

And that’s how Peter found himself in a corner of the lab with the brilliant duo that is FitzSimmons testing his web-shooters. Peter had gotten into the habit of wearing his shooters everywhere and today was no exception. So Peter had put one on Fitz’s wrist and explained the mechanics of it (although Peter didn’t think Fitz really needed it) while Simmons set up a few beakers on an empty bench. The young hero showed the two scientists how to shoot a web, how to get them to stick to an object, and even how to hang from the ceiling.

In fact, that’s how Daisy, Coulson, a tall man that looked like he was a tank in his spare time, a woman with silver hands, and a guy with spiky hair found them: Fitz with his hand outstretched as he pulled another beaker off the bench and into his hand, Simmons with a handheld scanner taking readings off of Peter, and Spider-Man himself sitting upside down on the ceiling.

“I should have known the three of you would get on like a house on fire.” Coulson said and the trio all froze and turned to look at the director. Daisy had her mouth hidden behind her hand, but Peter could tell she was laughing by the slight shaking of her shoulders. Everyone else looked just as amused, even the director.

“Uh.” Was Peter’s eloquent response before he placed his hands on the ceiling, unstuck his feet and dangled for a moment before dropping to the floor. FitzSimmons sheepishly fell into line beside him.

“We’ll clean up the webs sir.” Simmons quickly said and Coulson smiled slyly.

“See that you do.”

Peter couldn’t help but feel like Coulson found this incredibly amusing and would not let the two scientists ever live it down.

“I’m Mack.” The insanely large agent stepped forward and offered his hand to Peter who shook it. Peter wasn’t really sure what Mack ate for breakfast, but he had a feeling it was pure protein and whatever Gaston from Beauty and the Beast ate for breakfast (4 dozen as a kid and 5 dozen as an adult but Peter would never admit he knew that). Although Peter guessed Mack wasn’t as conceited, sexist, and terrible as Gaston.

“It’s nice to meet you.”

“I’m Elena, but everyone calls me Yo-Yo.”

That made Peter pause. He and his friends came up with weird nicknames sometimes, but they always had a reason for them, even if no one else understood. Elena seemed to sense his confusion and smiled wickedly. Peter’s senses flared up unexpectedly and Elena was gone for a second before she appeared back in front of him. But her previously empty hands now held one of his web-shooters.

“Oh come on!” Came Fitz’s reply from behind him and Peter turned to see Simmons patting her husband’s back in sympathy as he motioned to his now empty wrist. Peter turned back to Elena.

“Yo-Yo.” Peter said as Elena grinned. “Got it. That’s awesome.”

“Hi! I’m Deke!” The guy with the spiky hair stepped forward and started shaking Peter’s hand aggressively (or with enthusiasm, depending on how you looked at it). “I remember hearing stories about you when I was growing up. Oh man, just wait until you meet Rh-“

“Deke!” Daisy said quickly and Deke stopped talking abruptly.

“Uh-“ Peter found himself saying that a lot and he was starting to get concerned.

“Don’t worry about him. He’s – not from around here.” Daisy spoke up as Deke (finally) stopped shaking his hand and stepped back.

“Yeah! I’m actually their grands-“

“-it’s complicated.” Simmons cut in, placing her hand on Peter’s arm. She shot a quick glare to Deke. “And not important. I can imagine you came here to speak with Peter?” She turned her attention to Coulson who nodded once.

“I do think we should discuss our findings with Peter since he’s rather wrapped up in this business with the Green Goblin.”

“Green Goblin?” Peter asked. “I mean it’s pretty accurate, but where did that name come from?”

“Your pals at The Daily Bugle actually.” Coulson said and Peter’s nose crinkled. “Come on, we’re going to have a chat in my office.”

Peter said his goodbyes to the two scientists and they promised to be in touch soon about what they found. Yo-Yo gave him web-shooter back with a smirk and Peter had a feeling he’d be seeing her again soon. Mack had clapped him on the shoulder and if he hadn’t been enhanced, he would have been knocked across the room. He told Peter to stop by again sometime and he’d show him the garages and maybe let him win at Call of Duty. Peter took that as a challenge and promised to come back if only to show the insanely huge agent how one should play. Daisy fell into step beside Peter as they walked and she made small talk about their base and answered Peter’s questions with a fond smile.

They entered an office where two other agents were already waiting. Coulson introduced them as Davis and Piper. As soon as the door shut, they launched into a run down of everything they had discovered in the last 24 hours. Apparently Oscorp was failing before the Blip. Norman had basically been running it into the ground with bad investments and shady deals that went sideways. After he disappeared and his son Harry took over when he turned 18, the company stabilized and actually began to improve. When everyone returned from the Blip, the company continued to grow and was right up there with Stark Industries. As far as they could tell, Harry was clean. He actually did a lot of great things with the company and Peter was impressed. Maybe he could talk with Gwen and arrange a meeting.

Norman on the other hand was a mess.

Financially, he was stable because of Harry. Mentally? Not in the slightest. According to all sorts of employee complaints and his neighbors, he hasn’t been the same since he came back and it wasn’t in a good way. They hadn’t really found anything that showed any illegal activity, but he was acting suspicious and his disappearances did line up with the appearances of the Green Goblin. It wasn’t cold, hard proof, but it was compelling.

Coulson jumped in and said that they were going to continue to monitor the situation and were sending in a few agents to Oscorp undercover to see if they could find anything that would point them in the direction of the man terrorizing the city. It might be slow going, but having someone on the inside would be helpful as he began to get desperate. Daisy said they would be on call if another attack occurs and would be there to provide support should Peter need it. Until then, they would continue to monitor Osborn’s movements and see if they can get some proof as to if he really is the Green Goblin. Peter couldn’t believe all they were doing to help. When he tried to thank them, they all brushed it off and said it was their job.

Peter wouldn’t be alone in this fight.

Not if they had any say in it.

Daisy gave him a small S.H.I.E.L.D. pin with a direct line to her. If something really bad happens or he’s in a bad spot, all he has to do is hit the button at the center of the logo and she’d have his location and a team would be deployed in minutes. Peter thanked them again and yet again, they all brushed it off. Peter still shook all of their hands and they promised to keep him updated regularly. Coulson even made a bid about Spider-Man (or Peter Parker for that matter) being an agent someday and Peter had to admit that he was a little bit tempted. Coulson joked about it, but Peter could tell the offer was serious if he wanted it. The director gave him a security badge and told him he could come and visit whenever he wanted, as long as he was sneakier about it than he used to be when he first started as Spider-Man. The blush that spread across Peter’s cheeks and neck was enough to make Piper and David snort in laughter.

Even Daisy was grinning as she steered Peter out of Coulson’s office. They made a pit stop to pick up his aunt who was sitting in a small conference room having tea with Agent May. They seemed to be talking freely and openly and the intense agent seemed to be smiling slightly. They said their goodbyes warmly and Peter knew his aunt was walking away with the agent’s number and a promise of meeting up again. Agent May nodded at him once and Peter guessed that was a good sign.

Daisy led them out of the base and before he knew it, Peter was back in the Queens. She dropped them off in the same spot she picked them up and promised to be in touch as soon as she knew something. Peter and May said their goodbyes and watched as the agent/superhero pulled away from them.

Peter didn’t know what was going to happen with Osborn and this whole Green Goblin thing, but he figured with S.H.I.E.L.D., this S.H.I.E.L.D., on his side, he liked his odds.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Harry liked helping people.

Before the Blip happened, Harry wanted to be a geneticist and help people with his scientific discoveries. He would discover the cure for cancer, or stop the spread of disease, or fix the problem with world hunger by creating a cheap, easy way for poor communities to grow food. But then half of everything disappeared, including his dad.

Sure, they didn’t always see eye to eye. His dad was never around, and when he was, they disagreed and fought all the time. But his dad disappearing was something Harry didn’t expect and he couldn’t ignore the gaping hole that was left behind. Luckily, he was pretty well off financially and had a few really good friends to help support him emotionally.

Harry was good at adapting and adjusted to his new life fairly quickly.

He, Gwen, and Glory jumped into an accelerated schooling program that was offered to any student who was a junior so they could graduate in 6 months rather than two years. It allowed for them to jump into the work force sooner and try help the now crippling economy bounce back. Harry graduated just after his 17th birthday and he began to shadow the Board at Oscorp and take on some responsibility. Gwen started working odd jobs when she could to help make ends meet and Glory went home for a while to help her family recover from their losses.

They didn’t stay apart for long.

When Harry turned 18, he became CEO of Oscrop and suddenly he was doing the one thing he never wanted to do. But, he figured out a way to still help people. Oscorp, under the direction of Harry, began to improve and he found a way to be a guiding light for those who were still left after half of the population disappeared in a gust of wind. Glory came back into the city and Harry hired her in Oscorp’s PR department. She was always really good at putting out fires and reaching out to people. Harry had a mission to help people and he knew Glory would be able to get his message out there quickly and effectively. Gwen helped out a bit in his office when she was between jobs, but she continued to bounce around a lot. She kept losing jobs because she wasn’t good about being on time or missing shifts, which whenever Harry asked about she would brush off.

Harry didn’t push. She had lost her dad too, but she actually loved her dad and it was always the two of them. Sure Harry cared about his dad since he was his dad, but he didn’t have the connection that Gwen had with hers. So Harry was there to support his best friend when he could and if her and Glory’s late rent was paid quietly without them knowing, that wasn’t his place to say anything.

After a few years, Harry settled into life as CEO. It wasn’t what he wanted to do, but he was able to find joy in it with the foundation he started to help those affected by the Blip.

When everyone came back, he was thrown for another loop.

His dad struggled with finding his place within the company when it was made clear by the Board that Harry would remain CEO. After that, Harry did his best to help his dad find a spot and let him go back to inventing. He checked up as often as he could and tried to be welcoming, but his dad kept pushing him away.

But Harry wasn’t going to give up on his dad. He had learned a lot being on his own and he wasn’t about to give up on his only blood family.

That changed again when he saw what his dad was doing in his basement lab.

Harry didn’t know what to do anymore. So he did what he does best and helped people. He helped get people out, helped his best friend, and then helped two superheroes. Then he went and helped coordinate clean up efforts and helped the overwhelmed paramedics with the influx of injured people. He helped the police and told them basic information about the attack. He lied when they asked if he knew who attacked them or if he had any evidence to hand over. He knew that was not right, but he wasn’t going to turn his dad over until he was 100% sure (he was around 89.6% at the moment, high, but not 100%).

It wasn’t until almost 3 in the morning that Harry and Gwen were finally told to leave. Gwen had been helping a few of the paramedics with some simple first aid. She was surprisingly good at calming people down and had apparently picked up a few tricks over the years that made her great for bandaging cuts and setting splints. The paramedics seemed grateful for her help and she did it without complaining. An Officer Davis finally approached the two of them and told them to go home, they had it covered. At his insistence, Harry grabbed Gwen’s duffle bag and they began the walk home. Officer Davis (who insisted they call him Jefferson) offered them a ride home, but Gwen spoke up and said they wanted some fresh air and would enjoy the walk. He relented, but promised to stop by in the morning to check on them.

Harry and Gwen finally began walking back to Harry’s apartment. He told her she could stay with him rather than going all the way back her apartment in Queens and she agreed without much of a fight. Harry sent a quick text to Glory and gave her a quick explanation and a promise for more information in the morning.

They walked in silence. For the most part.

Harry wanted to wait and let Gwen to speak first, but after fifteen minutes, he couldn’t take it anymore.

“I know it’s probably the last thing you want to do, but I think we should talk about what happened in the basement.”

Gwen sighed and Harry pretended not to notice. “I know.” Gwen chewed on her lip. “I’m not sure if I’m ready to.”

“And that’s okay.” Harry said honestly. “I’ll be here when you are.”

Gwen nodded and they fell into an easy silence. Harry knew that she would talk to him when she was ready. She was an open book, always has been, but since the Snap, she’s been more guarded. She was remarkably good at hiding it, but Harry has known her since they were three, he knows when she’s hiding something.

But he never pushed.

He didn’t ask when she would come to his apartment dragging her feet from exhaustion. He didn’t say anything when he noticed the bruises on her arms or her stomach as she reached for the cereal bowls in the top cupboard. He didn’t point out her constant shift in jobs because she just couldn’t seem to keep one. He pretended to not notice the bags under her eyes and the way her shoulders slumped when they would talk about the rising crime rate. He remained by her side and offered her a lifeline when she needed it. Harry knew she would reach out eventually; he just had to keep an eye on her and always have his hand out ready to catch her when she stumbled.

But Gwen never stumbled.

He always admired how strong she was, but it didn’t mean that he wouldn’t spend his nights wide awake wishing she would just tell him what was going on so he could help. Instead, he would watch his friend from afar and up close and wait for the moment she would tell him and let him just help.

Harry wanted to help people. He helped those affected by the Blip by offering services for children who were orphaned and by building houses and apartment structures for those that were displaced. He worked with his scientists on cheap ways to help with the food shortage. He even teamed up with Stark Industries on a joint venture (something his father would have hated). But he was never able to help Gwen, the one person he wanted to help the most.

He kept telling himself she would tell him eventually, but it’s been nearly six years and Harry is ready to give up. He loves Gwen, he really does, but there has been a space between them since the Snap. And it grows every day she doesn’t tell him what is going on with her.

Harry just wants to help people.

He wonders when he can help the once person he cares about the most.

“I’m Spider-Woman.”

Harry stopped walking. He blinked once. Twice. He turned to look at Gwen whose face looked paler than he had ever seen it before. Her mouth was curled in a way that made it seem like she was ready to throw up. Her hands were clenched in fists by her side and she shifted uneasily on her feet. Her whole body was coiled like a spring about to shatter into a million pieces. His best friend was staring at him with her blue eyes filled with terror, guilt, and regret.

Harry could feel his heart pounding in his ears. His hands trembled. He sucked in a shaky breath as he stared at his friend standing in front of him. He then did the only thing he could think of doing.

He dropped her duffle bag and pulled Gwen into his arms in a tight hug. All at once she crumbled and was holding onto him like he was only thing tethering her to the ground. Harry thought that she just might float away if he let go, so he held on tighter.

Gwen choked out a sob and Harry buried his face into her shoulder.

“It’s okay. I’m here for you. I always have been and I always will be.”

Harry’s world was just turned upside down. But he had Gwen and although he was terrified for his best friend, he knew that together they’d figure it all out. Harry held her tighter and he drowned out all of the noises of the city that never sleeps. His best friend, who had denied help and carried the weight of the world on her shoulders for six long years, had finally allowed someone else to help take the weight.

Harry could take the weight. It would not break him.

Chapter Text

Gwen counted herself as extremely lucky.

Despite just being her and her dad when she was a kid and him working his way up through the ranks of the NYPD and not being home often, he came to every single one of her dance recitals, parent-teacher conferences, and took her to her band concerts. He made an effort to be there for as much of Gwen’s activities as he could. Her dad was her biggest supporter and her favorite person in the entire world. Sure they had their disagreements from time to time, but it would only take a few hours of not speaking to each other for one of them to cave and apologize.

When her dad vanished, she shattered.

It took her a long time to pick up the pieces left behind.

Once she finally did, her dad (and the rest of those who vanished) walked back into her life and they had to find a new normal. The last time her dad had seen her she was 17, had just gotten over a terrible cold (not a cold, but at the time she really didn’t want to explain that was bit by a spider and was going through something weird), and was stressing about her big math test coming up. When he came back, Gwen was 23. She’d graduated high school without him, moved into the city with her best friend, survived the end of the world on her own, and somehow managed to take care of their old house. She had done a lot of growing up, and her dad wasn’t there to see it.

That was what broke him.

They had a lot of catching up to do and there were a few near misses as they tried to get used to having each other in their lives again. Gwen had the biggest adjustment of the two of them, but her father also struggled. His little girl was suddenly an adult who didn’t need him anymore, not really anyway. In the few days following everyone returning, as the rest of the world suddenly was thrown back into chaos, Gwen had her father talked everything out. They figured what their new normal was.

It’s still a work in progress, but they’re figuring it out as they go.

Gwen considered herself lucky.

Although she had to go through the pain of losing her father, she was able to get him back. And she knew that the only reason she was able to get through those 5 long years was because of Glory and because of Harry.

Glory lost her dad and younger brothers, but still had her mom and a few other close relatives. Her mom was hit the hardest and promptly sold their house once Glory graduated and moved in with her brother who seemed just as lost. Glory helped her mom pack and make the move. Then spent a few weeks making sure they were settled before she became restless and her and Gwen decided to find a place together. Their first few nights in their apartment were very quiet. Too quiet.

Gwen was still learning how to adjust to her powers and the sudden absence of millions of people in the heart of the city set her on edge. While too much stimuli was harmful, too much silence had the same effect. Gwen had wandered out into the living room around 3 am that first night and curled up on the couch as reruns of a game show played softly on the TV.

Glory wandered out 20 minutes later.

She didn’t say anything to Gwen when she saw her, all Glory did was make them both a cup of hot chocolate, grab some more blankets, and curl up next to her on their small shitty couch. The two young women fell asleep beside each other, holding on as they let the other help them block out the memories.

They did this every night for the first month.

Glory was the one making sure the fridge was stocked (Gwen’s appetite went through the roof and Glory noticed and started to compensate). She covered Gwen up when she fell asleep on the couch with the TV on because her bed was too soft and her room was too quiet. Glory silently refilled the first aid kit that Gwen was burning through from her nightly activities. She never said anything, but Gwen knew she worried and it killed her that she didn’t say anything. Spider-Woman was a hero, but without the mask? She was a scared, young woman who was too afraid to tell anyone the truth, preferring to do it alone out of fear of losing the few people she had left in her life she cared about. Glory reminded Gwen she was human and took care of her while Gwen risked her life to take care of everyone else, sometimes forgetting to save herself.

Glory saved her life every day during the Blip and Gwen wondered when she would ever get to truly thank her friend for being by her side all those years.

Then there was Harry.

Harry and Gwen met when they were seven.

Gwen’s father had just been promoted and was invited to a large gala that honored the men and women who were protecting the city every day. Her father had forced her into a dress and brought her along. She had been sitting at her assigned table pushing around the peas on her plate while her father left briefly to speak with the commissioner. Someone had tugged on her sleeve and she turned to see a young boy with messy brown hair and big brown eyes. He was wearing a suit, but Gwen could see some small stains on his sleeves. He held out his hand.

“Hi, I’m Harry.” Gwen had looked at his hand before offering her own small hand.

“Gwen.”

“You’re the only other kid here. Do you want to go play?” Harry asked and Gwen looked back at her father who was engrossed in conversation with the city planner and the police commissioner.

Gwen looked back at smiled.

They weren’t found until almost two hours later.

Her father had practically torn the entire building apart looking for Gwen when he returned to the table and she was gone. He found the two of them in a back hallway setting up (relatively) harmless pranks to play on the partygoers.

Since that night the two of them were inseparable.

They went to the same schools, studied together, played together, explored the city together, and did nearly everything else together. They met Glory when they were in 8th grade and she quickly integrated herself into their friend group. Sure Gwen had a few friends from dance class, or band, or her debate club, but it was the three of them until the end.

When the Snap happened, Harry was in rough shape. He was upset about losing his father, but the two of them didn’t really see eye to eye and they hardly spoke anyways. Harry brushed off Gwen’s worry, saying:

“He never wanted to see me when he was here, what’s the difference now that he’s gone?”

Gwen had her own harsh feelings towards his father, but he was still the only blood family Harry had left. Either way, she was there for him when he began training and learning about how to run a company. He took over Oscorp not long after his 18th birthday and Gwen was there on the nights he was up trying to get reports in and making decisions no 18 year old should have to make. Gwen did her best to be there when he struggled and faltered, ready to pick him up and take him home on the nights he would go out to a bar and drink himself into a stupor. It didn’t happen often, but it was often enough that Gwen worried. It took a stern talking to and Gwen expressing her fears for Harry to quit and find other ways to cope with the job of running one of the largest companies in the world.

But still, everything Gwen did for Harry paled in comparison to everything Harry did for Gwen.

He never pushed her, but he was always there after the nights where Gwen’s patrolling ended in tragedy. He offered support every second of the day and Gwen wondered sometimes how he was able to run Oscorp and keep up on what Gwen was doing. She knew he worried about her, but no matter how much he worried, she could never bring herself to tell him.

There were so many times she came close.

There was the time a building caught fire and she wasn’t able to save the older lady trapped on the top floor. She had died when the building collapsed around her. Harry happened to be over and didn’t say anything when he heard her crying in the shower. All he did was wrap her in a blanket and hold her. There was the time her web-shooters were damaged by a knife and she fell two stories and broke her arm. It had healed pretty quickly, but he passed her a frozen bag of peas without saying a word. There was also the time she wasn’t fast enough to save a young man from the path of a drunk driver. She had almost made it, but it wasn’t enough.

Gwen could go on and on about all the times she almost told Harry about Spider-Woman.

But that’s the key isn’t it? Almost.

After breaking into Oscorp with Harry to try and find out what was going on with his dad, Gwen was rightly terrified. If Norman Osborn really was the man under the goblin mask, he had gone after her.

Not Spider-Woman. Not some unlucky girl caught in the crosshairs. Gwen Stacy.

Gwen had been in all kinds of dangerous situations since starting her crusade as a masked vigilante. She’d been shot at (hit only twice), stabbed (more times than she was willing to admit), thrown across rooms, tossed into buildings, and so much more. But she was in a mask. Sure it was Gwen under the mask, but she could almost pretend it had happened to someone else.

But when the masked man had jumped her, grabbed her by the throat, and lifted her into the air; that was all Gwen.

She didn’t know what that meant, but it terrified her.

The words had tumbled from Gwen’s lips before she could stop them.

“I’m Spider-Woman.”

She regretted them as soon as she said them, but she couldn’t deny the weight that suddenly lifted from her shoulders when Harry just dropped everything and held her, telling her the words she’d always known, but sometimes had a hard time believing.

He held her as she cried and tried to reclaim her control. He didn’t say anything when she finally stilled, he only loosened his grip with one arm, grabbed her duffle bag, and began to steer the both of them towards his building, keeping one arm wrapped tightly around her shoulders.

His building was quiet and they met no one as they walked through the lobby and waited for an elevator. Harry never let go of her, even when they entered the elevator and began to climb up. He did let go when he had to dig his keys out of his pocket, but Gwen was starting to feel steadier on her feet. She was exhausted and invigorated all at the same time. Gwen didn’t know how much longer it would last, but she was pretty sure she wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight.

Harry ushered her into his apartment and shut and locked the door behind them. He flicked on the lights and quickly began to fiddle around in the kitchen. He insisted she sit at his island and she didn’t have much fight left in her, so she agreed.

Her eyes followed him as he made them both a cup of steaming hot tea.

He still hadn’t really said anything about what she had said and it was tearing her apart. She didn’t know if he was going to be mad that she kept this from him for so long. Or if he’d be mad that she risked her life every night and had no one to help her if she got really hurt (she was only shot twice and they were just grazes so she was totally fine).

“Hey.” Harry said and Gwen’s eyes jerked up to meet his. He pushed a warm mug into her hands and she gripped it tightly. They sipped their teas in silence for a few moments.

Harry set down his mug onto the counter and Gwen knew it was coming.

“Are you okay?”

Gwen was startled. Her eyes flicked up to his and she studied his face. He was serious.

“Yeah. I’m fine.” Gwen croaked out and Harry narrowed his eyes at her. She squirmed for a moment before caving. “Fine, I’m pretty shitty, but I’ll be okay.”

Harry let out a breath of air as he leaned back against his counter, holding his steaming tea in front of him.

“How did it happen? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“What part of it? The powers or the deciding to swing around the city in spandex?”

Harry chuckled. “Both.”

“Well, it’s actually a kind of funny story as for how I got my powers. Do you remember when we visited Oscorp right before the Blip? How we were working on our science project and you left to go find us some snacks and I stayed behind?” Harry nodded once. “Well, I got bored and wandered around for a bit. I came across a lab where Oscorp was working on genetics in spiders. Turns out one of them got out and bit me. I noticed and accidentally killed it in my rush to get it off of me, but whatever. I thought, ‘I’ve been bitten by a bug before, no biggie’. I didn’t even notice something was different until that night after I got home.”

“You got sick.” Harry breathed as he started to remember. Gwen nodded.

“I thought I was going to die.” Gwen said honestly. “I’ve never felt so sick in my life. Thank god my dad wasn’t home because he would have taken me to the hospital and I’m not sure what would have happened then.”

“You were sick for a few days.” Harry said. “All because a spider bit you?”

“Sounds crazy.”

“Sounds a little comic book.”

“That’s fair.”

“When did you notice your, powers? Speaking of, what are they?”

“I noticed when I woke up after sleeping for 14 hours straight. Suddenly I didn’t need my glasses to see perfectly clear, I broke my door handle off my bedroom door, and I accidently ripped of my bathroom cabinet door because it stuck to my hand.” Gwen said, wrapping her fingers around her mug. “As for powers, super strength, super hearing, I have like this sixth sense for danger, and I can stick to things.”

“You can stick to things?”

Gwen looked around her best friend’s kitchen for a moment before climbing onto her seat and touching her hand to the ceiling. She lifted her legs and remained sticking to the ceiling by her fingertips. She glanced down at Harry who was staring at her with wide eyes, his mouth slightly agape. She smirked slightly before placing her feet back on her seat, unsticking, and settling back into her seat.

“The webs, do they come out of you?” Harry asked, his voice soft, like he didn’t really want to know the answer.

“Definitely not.” Harry breathed a sigh of relief. “It took me a few tries, but I build web-shooters that shoot the web I make out of them. I modeled them after Spider-Man’s from the videos I watched of him.”

“You still haven’t answered my question as to why you started doing this. I mean, you have these awesome powers, but why put on a mask and swing around the city? We had enough to worry about with the Snap.”

“That’s exactly why Harry.” Gwen said. “There was so much going on with the world after the Snap. People were scared, terrified, alone, and there weren’t any heroes left, not really. Spider-Man was gone. You know the good that he did when he was here. He cared about the people in this city and he protected the people of this city while the Avengers handled the big threats. He looked out for the little guy and he was gone.” Gwen paused. “I wasn’t going to do it. Not initially. But crime skyrocketed because people were desperate and scared. I was given these powers, whether it was by accident or some divine intervention, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that I could make a difference and I wasn’t. So I decided I needed to do something.”

Harry smiled softly. “That’s my girl.” Gwen smiled back.

“I’m sorry I never told you. I was scared that by telling you something bad would happen to you and I couldn’t lose you or Glory. I’d rather go at it alone and keep the two of you in my life than tell you and lose you both.”

“I understand. Really I do.” Harry reached forward and grabbed her hand. “I am so proud of you, but you don’t have to do this alone. I’m here for you.”

“Thank you Harry. That means more than you know.”

Harry gave her hand one last squeeze before grabbed their cups and dumping the last of their contents in the sink. “Now, grab some clothes out of my drawer and take a shower. I love you, but you stink.”

Gwen threw a pen at him and he ducked with a laugh. She did oblige though and enjoyed Harry’s never ending hot water tank (something she didn’t always get in her small studio apartment). Harry had disappeared into his room by the time Gwen wandered out of the bathroom, but he had left her a small note on top of the small pile of blankets and pillows he had left out for her on the couch (he’d long given up on trying to give Gwen the bed for the night and just accepted that she would never accept anything but the couch).

I still can’t believe my best friend is a superhero…
At least now I know why you’re always so cold, since spiders don’t thermoregulate :-)

Gwen rolled her eyes before setting the note down on the small coffee table. She laid out the blankets Harry had left out for her (always his softest) and curled up under every single one of them. Within moments her breathing evened out and her eyes drifted closed.

For the first time in almost six years, Gwen fell asleep almost instantly and wasn’t plagued with bad dreams.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Now that Peter had some of the highest-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. agents on speed dial, he swung a bit easier through his city.

For as smart as Peter is, he often dives into scenarios with an “ask questions later” kind of vibe. It’s enough to stress May out way more than he rightly should. She was pretty cool about the whole moonlighting as a superhero gig he had going on, but even she had her limits.

Ever since they left S.H.I.E.L.D.’s base, Peter had been texting with FitzSimmons. They’d made a group chat and Peter was pretty proud of their nicknames.

Engineering: Have you thought of adjusting the density of your web fluid?

Engineering: I have some experimental metal I’ve been working into my designs and I can spare some for your web-shooters if you want.

Engineering: But only if I get to help.

Engineering: You mentioned that your AI in your first suit was named Karen right? Did you name her or did Tony Stark?

Engineering: Do you think I could take a look at his coding?

Engineering: I’ve been meaning to get into the AI business, but I’ve been a little busy.

BioChem: Honestly Fitz, you are the worst double texter in the universe. Peter, I was able to do a few more tests and found out a bit more about your enhancements. That spider bite not only affected your DNA, but it looks like your very molecules as well. It’s extraordinary! This may be a bit premature, but I believe that I may be able to use your blood sample to create a drug that will help with the eradication of diseases and possibly even cancers! I’m still very early in the process, but I think this could be a major breakthrough! Do you want to come by some time and help me with my experiments? I’d love to have you there to work with me! Also, do you have any connection with Spider-Woman? I know there’s a lot going on right now, but if I could get a blood sample from her (since it looks like you have extraordinarily similar powers), that would be so helpful with my research!

Engineering: And you tell me my texting is outrageous, Miss-I-Only-Type-In-Full-Paragraphs.

Web Design: i haven’t thought of adjusting the density, but I’d be willing to try, i would LOVE to try your new metal, i definitely named her Karen, I’d love to talk coding, and Simmons, i do happen to know Spider-Woman and I’ll see what i can do!

 

Peter spent his afternoon out on patrol and texting the iconic science duo Peter was quickly growing fond of. He sent texts between swings and only stopped when MJ texted him that he shouldn’t text and swing. Peter thought about asking how she knew he was texting and swinging, but then he thought that it was MJ and she just knew these things. Peter only came home when May called him and insisted he come eat dinner and be able to shower before their designated weekly movie night. It was May’s turn to pick and Peter’s turn to pick dinner.

He picked up Thai food on his way home and made it back not only on time, but also a little early. He enjoyed spending time with his aunt and allowed himself to momentarily forget that there was someone out there hell-bent in causing chaos in his city.

Peter got to be a normal kid for one night and he let himself laugh at May’s awful jokes (they were actually pretty clever but Peter wouldn’t admit that out of spite), eat all the food his stomach could take, and dance with his aunt to 80s music.

He fell asleep that night feeling a little bit lighter and a little bit happier.

 

The next day was a different story.

Peter, Ned, and MJ met up at the diner where Gwen worked to compare notes and plan their next move. They set up shop in a corner of the diner. Ned had his computer set up and MJ had notebooks and sketchbooks open. Peter had his EDITH glasses perched on his nose, ready to get to work.

“I followed up on your lead MJ, it was totally worth it.” Ned started. The buzz around the diner was enough because of the lunch rush that they could talk relatively freely, without having to worry about anyone eavesdropping. “Turns out, before the Blip, Oscorp was into some pretty nasty side jobs. Think mobsters, terrorists, and just all around bad people. In fact, they used to be Stark Industries biggest weapons competitor until SI stopping making weapons.”

“What about Hammer Industries?”

“Come on Peter, don’t make me laugh.”

“Fine, what changed?” Peter asked. EDITH was pulling up records on Oscorp as they talked and filing them away for later.

“The Blip.” Ned said, flipping his computer around. “Harry Osborn took over the company after he turned 18 and he started to cut out these backhanded deals and turn the company into an upstanding, charity-driven, company that had one scientific breakthrough after another.”

“Harry Osborn definitely isn’t the guy on the hover-board. I saw him helping get people out of the hall when the attack started. Plus, him and Gwen actually helped with the take down.” Peter admitted. Ned’s head snapped to him.

“What?”

“Yeah, they were there for some reason. Harry helped get people out and so did Gwen I imagine, I didn’t really see her that much. Well, that was until the guy on the board attacked her.”

“WHAT?”

“I think you’re breaking him Parker.”

“The guy on the board grabbed Gwen and tried to kill her. Daisy was able to knock him back and I grabbed Gwen before she hit the ground. It was actually pretty badass because right after that her and Harry used some crazy gun to help knock him off his board.”

“Bro. I cannot believe you are just telling me this now! What happened to telling your guy in the chair everything!” Ned nearly exclaimed and Peter had to motion for him to quiet down.

“Dude! I’m telling you now! Will you just keep it down?” Peter whispered quickly.

“I’m sorry, I just found out that Gwen Stacy was targeted by this new guy, it’s kind of a big deal.” Ned answered honestly.

“He has a point.” Both Peter and Ned swiveled to face MJ who had stopped scribbling in her notebook. “If this guy really wants to cause complete chaos and have a large body count, why stop doing that to go after Gwen? She’s a part time college student who’s in a band, and teaches dance classes to 5 year-olds at the Y. Why does he have a vendetta against her?”

Peter pursed his lips as he thought. Why did this guy go after Gwen? Sure he thought it was strange then, but now that MJ brought it up again, it really didn’t make any sense. It had to mean that this guy knew Gwen personally and it was obvious he had some grudge against her. Gwen being at the gala was a fluke; he clearly wasn’t planning on her being there. But her being there was enough to throw him off and make him lash out.

“We have to look into anyone Gwen knows, who works at Oscorp, and might want revenge against her. We have to know if he’ll go after Gwen again.” Peter said.

“Oh, my ears are burning.” A new voice said and the trio spun to look at Gwen as she walked up with a smile. Her apron was tied around her waist and she was holding a steaming coffee pot. She glanced at MJ’s sketches. “Summer science project?”

“Yeah. Summer science project.” Ned said, his voice seemingly raising an octave, before receiving a swift kick under the table from both Peter and MJ, a notice to shut up. “Ouch!”

Gwen smiled knowingly. “Cool glasses Peter.”

“Thanks Gwen.”

“Do you guys need anything else? I’m about to make a round with this coffee, but I can stop by on my way back.” Gwen asked.

“Another milkshake please.” Ned spoke up and Gwen nodded before glancing at Peter and MJ.

“Another plate of fries for Parker.” MJ said moments before the teen's stomach in question growled.

“Coming right up.” Gwen walked away, stopping at a few tables before continuing back into the kitchen.

“She doesn’t seem too freaked out about what happened two nights ago.” Peter commented. “If I wasn’t a superhero I’d probably be pretty traumatized.”

“She survived the Blip and grew up in the city that had not one, but two alien invasions. I think that was a normal Tuesday for her.” MJ responded and Peter had to concede. It was a great point, but something was nagging at the back of his mind that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. “Either way, I’m going to get together with Gwen and see if I can meet with Harry Osborn and pick his brain about what Oscorp was doing before the Blip. Maybe he knows something that can help us.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea? What if he is involved in this?” Peter asked.

“He’s not involved.”

“How do you know that?”

“I just do. Call it my tingle.”

“I knew it was a mistake telling you about that.”

“Oh I don’t know, I think my tingle and I agree that it was an excellent choice.”

My tingle definitely disagrees-“

“-Can you both please stop talking about your tingles??” Ned burst out and to their horror the entire diner fell silent. All the color drained from Ned’s face, Peter held his breath, and even MJ sat completely still, just blinking.

“Sorry, go back to your lunches.” Peter choked out and slowly the diner fell back into the soft chatter and rustling that came with a restaurant. Ned let his head thump against the table, making MJ dive for her pens before they fell off the edge.

“Just dig a hole and bury me in the back.” Ned groaned before turning his head to look at Peter. “Actually, can you call Doctor Strange and have him open a portal that can swallow me up and dump me into the cold reaches of space?”

“Relax Ned. It really wasn’t that bad.” Peter laid a hand on his friend’s shoulder to comfort him.

“I don’t know Ned, I’m pretty sure everyone on this block heard you.” Gwen joked as she walked up with his refill on his shake and another plate of fries. She set them on the table as Ned let out another pitiful noise. “Just kidding dude, but don’t worry, people will forget about it in two hours tops.”

“Hey Gwenie.”

Gwen spun and smiled broadly. “Hey Dad.”

Ned picked up his head and shared a look with Peter as she walked up to her father and gave him a hug. He was in a police uniform, but one for someone who was more than a beat cop. He has greying hair and crinkles around his mouth and eyes. Peter could tell he spent a lot of his time smiling. His eyes were the same piercing color of his daughters and it unbelievably clear they were related.

Gwen pulled back with another smile. “You know you don’t have to come to where I work just to see me. I am capable of answering the phone and stopping by the house.”

Her dad shrugged. “I forgot to pack a lunch and thought I’d stop by my favorite diner.”

“Oh I see, hoping to get that family discount huh?” Gwen chuckled. “Let me get you set up over here. Oh! Wait, let me introduce you to a few of my friends.” Gwen walked back to their table and her dad followed. “You remember Michelle, we used to have dance class together. That is Ned over in the corner, if you have questions about computers; he’s your guy. And that’s Peter, Michelle’s boyfriend.”

“Hey! That’s not all I am!” Peter protested much to Gwen’s amusement.

“No you’re definitely just my trophy boyfriend.” MJ spit back and Mr. Stacy let out a chuckle.

“You haven’t changed one bit Miss Jones. It’s good to see you again.” Mr. Stacy said and MJ offered a nod back. “It’s nice to meet you two boys. It’s good that Gwen has a few more friends.”

Dad.” Gwen whined and her father only laughed lowly.

“I’m kidding sweetie.” Mr. Stacy turned back to their table. “I’ll let you kids get back to whatever it is you’re working on. It was nice meeting all of you.”

The trio called out their goodbyes as the Stacy family began to walk away. Mr. Stacy stopped abruptly and turned back to Peter with his hand raised.

“I recognize you from somewhere. Were you on the news recently?” He asked and Peter swallowed.

“Yes. The Daily Bugle aired footage and claimed he was Spider-Man, but he’s been exonerated and it’s been proven he’s not him.” MJ spoke up, leaving no room for argument. Gwen’s father snapped his fingers.

“That’s it.” He stepped back for a moment to lean closer to Peter. “Listen son, if you find that Mr. Jameson is harassing you, give me a call. I have some pull down at city hall and I can get him off your back. No one deserves to get pulled into something like that, especially a high school kid.”

Peter took the small card he had outstretched to Peter.

Captain George Stacy
One Police Plaza
332-858-7381

“Thank you sir. This means a lot.” Peter said and Captain Stacy smiled.

“No problem son.” He waved once more to their table. “Have a nice day.”

After Gwen and her father were out of earshot, Ned snatched the business card out of Peter’s hands.

“Dude that’s awesome! You have a police captain in your corner now!” Peter snatched it back, eliciting a small ‘hey!’ from Ned.

“Let’s get back to Oscorp.” Peter tucked the card into his wallet. “What’s our next move.”

“You should go back to your regular patrols. I’ll go with Gwen and see what I can find out from Harry. Ned, you keep digging through those records. Once I get some info from Harry, I’ll pass it along to you so you can nerd out with the hacking.” MJ again left no room for arguing, but Peter did it anyway.

“You want me to just go back to patrolling? I can do more than that.” Peter said.

MJ shook her head once. “This guy knows that Spider-Man is out there. The more you investigate as Peter Parker or as Spider-Man the more risk you’re under for him to find out who you are. Let the FOS handle this while you keep the city safe.”

“No. Way.” Ned breathed. “You just called us the FOS! You used my acronym!”

“That’s it. I take it back. Acronym rescinded.”

“Too late! You used it! It’s stuck! I’m updating our group chat right now.

The two fell into bickering and Peter found himself joining in. He didn’t like not helping with the investigating, but he knew MJ was right. He had to be careful with that he did. If this guy found out his identity, everyone he loved he would in danger.

Peter wasn’t going to let that happen.

So if it meant taking a bit of a backseat for the investigation into who this guy was, Peter was willing to back off. His best friends could handle it. They were two of the smartest people he knew, and he trusted them. They would find out everything Peter needed to take this guy down and he would keep them and his city safe.

That was a promise.

Chapter Text

Light shone through the window and Norman Osborn resisted the urge to hurl something at the large windows in his study.

The elder Osborn shifted upright and instantly regretted it as his vision swam. His eyes clamped shut and he gripped his head to keep it from exploding. His whole body ached and every breath was painful. After a few moments of controlled breathing Norman cracked open his eyes. A groan fell past his lips before he could stop it. He slowly shifted to a completely sitting position as he took a glance around his study.

He had no idea why he was in his study. The last thing he remembered was being at the gala.

Glasses clinking. Muffled chatter. The sparkle of expensive jewelry. The smell of cocktails.

Norman shut his eyes again and flashes of the gala burned across his vision. He couldn’t remember the last time he was this hungover. Although, the funny thing is: he doesn’t remember drinking.

“Norman!” A man in a crisp black tux approached him with a faux smile splashed across his face. He extended his arm, clasping Norman’s hand firmly. “It’s good to see you! I was hoping to catch you at the Board meeting but Harry said you weren’t feeling well.”

Norman’s jaw clenched. “I don’t remember getting an invite to the Board meeting.”

The man hesitated for half a second, but it was enough. “No mind! It’s good to see you! I was hoping to talk business with you if you have some time. It’s about some previous clients of ours, from before the Blip. They’re still very interested in picking up where we left off.” He clapped Norman on the shoulder. “I’ll have my people call yours. Don’t be shy Norman!”

Norman shook away the memory and swallowed drily. He slowly rose to his feet before stumbling over to his small bar. He grabbed a glass and filled it with the pitcher of water that lay waiting for him. He drowned the glass in one go. Without hesitating, he filled up the glass again before continuing to drink.

“It is my honor to stand up here and welcome all of you to Oscorp’s fifth annual charity gala!” Applause swept across the room as people turned their attention from their food and drinks to the young woman onstage. “Since the Snap, Oscorp has been the second largest corporation offering assistance to those who remained. Now that everyone has been brought back thanks to heroes like the Avengers, we are refocusing our efforts in helping those who returned. Tonight we will have a variety of speakers here to tell their stories and how you can help! Please start making your way to your seats. We will begin with the first speaker, Ms. Brie Alcaraz, in five minutes. Thank you!”

A wave of anger flooded Norman and he clenched his fists. Glass shattered.

White-hot pain snapped Norman out of his flashback and he looked down to see the glass had shattered in his hand.

Fuck.” Norman hissed as he grabbed a towel and wrapped his hand in it. His head was still pounding and now his hand was throbbing. He let his eyes close as he struggled to get situated. Something was wrong. That much he did know.

A low growl of deep laughter. Fearful screams. Loud explosions. A flash of short blonde hair. Red and black. GREEN.

Norman stumbled backwards, his back hitting his wall and knocking down a frame with a crash.

“Look at what you’ve done now Normie.”

His heart clenched and fear stabbed him in his chest.

“Oh no Normie, don’t be afraid. It’s just little ole me.”

Norman was moving before he could blink. His feet carried him out of his study as the laughter chased after him. He bumped into end tables, knocking over priceless artifacts, but he didn’t care. He ran into his room and slammed the door behind himself, throwing the lock.

His heavy breath was all he heard in the silence that was his large mansion. The hair on the back of his neck stood up. He felt a chill tickle his neck.

“Nice try. You can’t get rid of me that easy.”

This time Norman did let out a cry as he pushed himself off the door, hoping to hit the voice behind him. He crashed to the floor in a heap, his whole body screaming. Laughter filled his ears yet again and Norman scrambled backwards before his back hit something. He spun, his heart skipping a beat as he made eye contact with someone.

Himself.

Norman’s breath appeared on the glass of the mirror and he let his own reflection ground him. Slowly the tension in his shoulders eased and his body began to calm. His knees ached where he was kneeling on wood, but Norman didn’t mind.

“Normie, Normie, Normie.”

Norman watched in horror as his reflection spoke to him. He fell back off his knees and stared as his mirror self stood up, a sick grin on his face.

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s rude to run away from your guests?”

“Who are you?” Norman choked out.

His reflection sneered. “Oh! He speaks!” He knelt down and cocked his head to the side. “I’m you of course.”

“No.” Norman breathed before he could stop himself.

“No? No? Do you hear that everyone? Ole Normie told me no!” He threw back his head and laughed. Norman felt like vomiting. That was the laugh that had been following him for weeks. Bile rose in his throat. His reflection’s gaze snapped back to him as he walked a step closer. Norman instinctively moved back. “You don’t get to tell me no. We’re a part of each other now. Don’t you get that? There’s no getting rid of me.”

“Why?”

“I thought you were capable of speaking in full sentences. It’s not hard Normie. Here watch. ‘Why are you here? Why are you doing this? Why are you so handsome?’ See? Easy peasy. Now you.”

Norman just stared.

“We’re devolving then I see. Okay. I can work with that. I am here because of you Norman Osborn. You are a greedy, conceited man and you created me. I am your punishment. We are one in the same now. The more you resist me, the more painful I will become.” He knelt, his eyes boring into Norman. “You and I are one Normie. We are inevitable.”

“I-I don’t want this. This is never what I wanted.” Norman said softly. “I won’t let you.”

“Oh you poor, sad man. It’s too late! You already have.” His reflection sneered. "Why don’t you take a look Normie for yourself.”

Norman followed his reflection’s gaze, his eyes landing on a newspaper. He slowly rose to his feet and walked over to the newspaper that sat on his bed, unassuming. His hands trembled and as he reached for the folded paper. His fingers brushed the coarse paper and his ears roared at the sound of it crinkling as he opened it.

“GREEN GOBLIN ATTACKS OSCORP FUNDRAISER. SPIDER-MAN SAVES THE DAY.”

A blurry image filled the page above the fold. A figure in red and black was mid-swing, his foot extended. Another figure was crouched on a hover-board, a sinister, grotesque green mask covering his face.

Norman stopped breathing. He knew who that was on the board. He couldn’t see their face but he knew.

“Now you see, we are one in the same.” Norman turned around to look at his mirror reflection who was grinning wickedly. “It’s time for the Green Goblin to take everything back that was taken from you, from us. What do you say Normie? You ready to take on Spider-Man and Oscorp? Maybe we can even find a way to get that bitch who broke your son’s heart.”

Norman’s eyes flicked up to his reflection. Part of him was screaming to turn and run as fast as he could and never stop. But a louder, more insistent part of him hesitated.

He’d worked hard to build Oscorp from the ground up. He poured his blood, sweat, and tears into his company only to disappear off the face of the earth. He was at the height of his career when the Snap happened. His company was pulling in cash from all of his deals, legal and otherwise. But all of that was taken away with the snap of an alien’s fingers. One second he’s sitting in his office reading reports and then the next he was reappearing in an empty room 5 years later.

He was insufferably angry when he realized Harry had taken over the company and cut off all of his best investors. Then his Board and his own son cut him out of his own company. Everything he built was yanked out of his fingertips all because he was part of the unlucky 50%.

Norman’s blood boiled at the thought of all he has lost. More than anything he wished he could take it all back. Or burn it all to the ground. If he didn’t get to have it, no one did.

“When do we start?”

This time, when the laughter began, Norman let it wash over him, his laughter joining in.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Ned liked to think he was a pretty good guy-in-the-chair, but there were moments he wasn’t so sure.

Ned’s mom had kicked him out of the house on her day off so she could deep clean their house. His little sister was at her friend’s house doing whatever it is 13 year-olds do and Ned had been forced to think of something else since Peter was insistent on spending the day patrolling and not spending the day with his best friend, but whatever. Ned wasn’t bitter.

He’d found himself at a library close to where Peter was going to be patrolling, just in case he needed an assist. He also got to use the free Wi-Fi at the library for his hacking and research. Thankfully, the library was relatively empty because everyone was out enjoying the warm summer day, meaning that Ned found a quiet, reserved corner and was able to set up his computer.

He was working on the leads they had discussed the day before at the diner. He thinks MJ might have been on to something when she brought up Gwen being involved. It was definitely strange that she was targeted specifically in the attack at the gala. Ned wasn’t thrilled about researching Gwen and her movements. He kept telling himself that it was to protect her, but he still wasn’t thrilled about it.

Nevertheless, he dove in and began researching what connected Gwen and Norman Osborn.

The most obvious was Harry Osborn, but Ned was nothing if not thorough. He slowly began to pick through her life and trace any connections between her and the former CEO of Oscorp. The more research Ned did, the more he was sure their interactions were few and brief. He didn’t really know the elder Osborn, but the little he did made Ned think that Gwen avoided him for a reason. He always seemed like an asshole and Gwen’s insistence at staying away from him seemed to give merit to that claim.

After realizing there wasn’t going to be much Ned could find online connecting the two, he sent a quick message to MJ telling her to see what he could find out from Gwen about Norman Osborn. Then he switched tactics.

Ned’s specialty was tech. You name it, he can (probably) hack it. The best part of living in the 21st century was tech was everywhere; meaning Ned could work his magic. He quickly hacked into Oscorp’s servers and started running searches for the bombs MJ mentioned finding. Sure enough, he got a hit and he saved all the files and began running a new search for any reference to the tech the Goblin was using.

A local blogger had started calling this masked villain the Green Goblin (on account of his large ears and affinity for the color green) and it had taken off like wildfire. Every news outlet latched onto the name and now there were images of him splashed across every paper, new-station, and all of social media. Green Goblin even trending on Twitter. Even Buzzfeed had written an article about the new green villain (Ned wasn’t sure what gifs of the Grinch had to do with the Green Goblin, but he supposed that’s why he didn’t work for the huge media corporation). Social media did have his advantages however. He was able to track his movements based on the timestamps of tweets and get a pretty good timeline of where he was and when. Once he finished making a timeline, he moved on.

Spider-Woman had been spotted in Brooklyn stopping a bodega robbery earlier that morning and that got Ned thinking. He’d barely scratched the surface with this new hero and he wanted to know more, purely out of curiosity. He was deep into a YouTube dive when Peter’s voice crackled over his computer’s speakers.

“Ned? Hey Ned? You there?”

Ned jumped and just managed to grab his drink before it toppled over MJ’s sketches of the bombs.

“Yes I’m here, please don’t scare me like that.”

“Sorry man. It took me a few tries to connect, I think Karen’s coding might be malfunctioning.”

“Huh, weird. We can meet up this weekend and run some tests. Are you out on patrol?”

“Yeah, just got to midtown. I’m going to have Karen see what’s out here. Will you be on standby?”

“Absolutely dude. After all, I’m your guy-in-the-chair.”

“Thanks man. Over and out for now.”

“Stay safe. Over and out.” Ned said before looking back at his computer.

“Ned? Is that you?” Ned froze before looking up with wide eyes.

“Betty? What are you doing here?” Ned squeaked, but Betty didn’t notice or just decided not to comment on it.

“I’m interning at a newspaper this summer. Part of my internship is reorganizing and researching old editions, which are stored here.“ Betty motioned around her. “What about you Ned? What are you doing here? I figured you’d be with Peter.”

“Oh uh, he’s busy. My mom was on one of her cleaning binges and I was kicked out. So I’m here for the uh – free Wi-Fi.” Ned said, his fingers halting on his keyboard.

“You know there’s a Starbucks down the street, plus there’s coffee.”

“Right.” Ned chuckled slowly. “Good point.”

They fell into a short, awkward silence. Well, it was awkward for Ned; Betty never seemed to be awkward or uncomfortable.

“Do you mind if I do my work here with you?” Betty asked and Ned’s eyes threatened to pop out his head. “It’s just quiet and can get lonely, plus I haven’t seen you since Europe, so it might be nice to catch up.”

“Uh – sure?”

“Great! Let me go grab some papers!” Betty grinned as she bounced away. Ned watched her go and groaned.

He really needed to work on his ability to say no.

Maybe MJ would help him. He’s sure she would. Or maybe she wouldn’t. Ned still really couldn’t get a read on her. God, he’s a mess.

“Thanks for sharing your space with me Ned! I really appreciate it.” Betty said as she set down a large stack of newspapers on the half of the table Ned wasn’t occupying. He scrambled to clear away or cover up the literal diagrams of bombs before Betty could see them.

“No problem.” Ned said quickly as he glanced back down at his computer. His hack was still running and he hoped it would hurry up soon so he could get out of there before something happened.

“Ned? Ned are you there?” Peter’s voice once again rang through his speakers and Ned did knock over his water bottle this time.

He really needed to stop jinxing himself.

“Wait is that Peter?” Betty asked, putting down the newspaper that was in her hand.

“Yes uh – he uh –“

“Wait Ned? Is that Betty?” Peter shouted, sounds of grunting also filtering out of the speakers.

“Uh – I’d rather not answer that.” Ned said plainly as Betty stood up and began to walk around beside Ned.

“Ned!” Peter yelled. “Come on man!”

“Everyone down on the ground!”

“What? Peter? What are you doing? Where are you?” Betty asked trying to get a better look at his screen.

“Uh – I’m playing a videogame!” There was a loud thud and Peter groaned.

“What was that?” Betty turned to look at Ned with a surprised look on her face.

“I uh – dropped something.” Peter stammered and Ned hoped he was dreaming. Or his life was flashing before his eyes because he was suffering from a brain aneurysm and was going to die. Or someone was determined to make his life miserable.

“What do you need, Peter?” Ned finally found his voice and there were more thuds and thumps on the other side.

“Uh, in our game can you call 911 to Helmhearst Bank?”

“Helmhearst Bank? The bank on 45th Street?” Betty pulled out her phone and Ned panicked. He smacked her phone out of her hand. “Hey!

“We built a hyper-realistic game based in New York. Peter and I were playing and I got distracted. I’ll call them Peter! Sorry I had to step away.”

Peter was out of breath when he spoke. “No problem! Thanks Ned!”

The feed cut out and Ned wished a black hole would just swallow him up right there, right now. Betty had picked up her phone with her eyes narrowed at Ned. She turned to walk back to her side of the table when she caught sight of his screen. Ned’s search had stopped running and his screen was filled with information on Oscorp.

“Are you investigating Oscorp?”

“Uh-“

“-Because for my internship, I have to go through these old editions from the Blip.” Betty crossed back to her side and picked up what she had been reading when Peter had interrupted. “And I was just reading this article about Oscorp.”

Ned perked up when Betty dragged her chair over to sit beside him. “At first it just looked like a regular op-ed piece about the company, but it was actually an exposé on their criminal dealings. It was buried on page 6 and it was the only time it’s ever been mentioned. I thought it was strange, especially considering the attack a few days ago at the Oscorp gala. But there was a name in this article that mentioned a Mendel Stromm. Apparently he used to be Norman Osborn’s partner, but he was accused of embezzling money and Norman had him arrested.” Betty flipped the page of the newspaper. “But, Stromm wasn’t Blipped. He was one of the thousands of prisoners lost in the confusion of the Snap. He came back to New York and began working at another new company, Alchemax. Stromm continued his research and after Harry Osborn took over Oscorp, he sued Alchemax and had Stromm arrested again.”

“Okay, that’s really interesting Betty, but how does that relate to what’s going on?” Ned asked and Betty grinned.

“I’m glad you asked Ned. It’s relevant because Stromm was just bailed out of jail by an anonymous benefactor who has major pull, this morning.” Betty finished and Ned’s eyebrows furrowed.

“What-?” Ned’s eyes widened. “-Oh! Norman Osborn!”

“Exactly!” Betty gasped. “They used to be business partners right? And while their partnership ended on not-so-friendly terms, both of them have stakes in Oscorp they want to claim. Norman lost his company when he was Blipped and it’s no secret he is beyond angry he wasn’t given it back when he returned. Stromm was cut off from his research and it’s clear he wants to continue. What better way for them to get back their company than to team up?” Betty let out a breath. “But then again maybe not. Maybe I’m making a story up to fit the facts, rather than letting the facts speak for themselves.”

“No! Betty! This is amazing! This is exactly the break I was looking for! Thank you!” Ned lunged forward and dragged Betty into a hug. She chuckled and patted his back. He seemed to realize what was happening and pulled back, his face warming. Betty chuckled nervously, tucking a piece of stray hair behind her ear.

“Thanks Ned.” She smiled softly at him. “What are you even researching Oscorp for? If you don’t mind me asking that is.”

“Uhm – MJ was talking about taking down corporations and I offered to do some digging for her. You know how she gets.” Ned covered and Betty nodded.

“Well, I’m still looking into these newspapers. I can see if I find anymore information on Oscrop?”

“That would be amazing. Thank you Betty.”

Betty and Ned shared a smile before breaking gazes and going back to their work. Ned started looking into the Stromm angle and Betty went back to looking through the old editions of the paper.

They fell into an easy rhythm and Ned couldn’t help but feel at ease. Despite all that had happened in Europe with their whirlwind romance, Ned still liked Betty. She was a good friend and he did still enjoy her company. Who knows, maybe Betty would find another lead for them to follow. Ned didn’t know what was going to happen, but he liked that Betty was here with him.

Ned sent a quick apology text to Peter, but went back to looking at his computer, sneaking a glance at Betty as she poured over a paper. He couldn’t wait to tell Peter and MJ what Betty had learned. Maybe they could figure this all out after all.

The Friends of Spider-Man were working well together and Ned couldn’t help but feel hopeful.

They could beat this Green Goblin. Together.

Chapter Text

Michelle didn’t like being in crowds.

She’d suck it up and deal with it when it mattered (like during protests or gym class), but it still didn’t mean she was a fan. She had always preferred solitude, ever since she was kid. MJ would much rather hang out in her room buried in a book or drawing scenes from her bedroom window than be fighting the crowds at a mall or even just the busy streets of New York.

It was easier to go along with her preferred lifestyle when she didn’t have friends. She could go to school and not speak to anyone (unless they were being a dick), come home and work on homework in her room or just read and be alone. She’d had a few friends (Gwen and Cate from dance class), but they grew apart as they grew up. It was easier to be on her own and she didn’t mind. It had worked well for her for a decade or so.

That was until she got to know Peter Parker. And she supposed Ned Leeds.

Those nerds had wormed their way past her walls and implanted themselves into her heart. It was disgusting. How dare they. The audacity.

But she wasn’t about to tell them to leave. They’d done a great job putting themselves into her orbit so that she’d get attached. She’d do anything for those losers and it freaked her out.

She’d never had close friends like Peter and Ned. They actually genuinely cared about her interests and wellbeing and it was a new feeling for Michelle. It took her a long time to accept that they really did care and their interest wasn’t purely for their own betterment. But she was getting there. She cared about those losers and had a hard time imagining them not being around.

Michelle had always been independent.

The only person she could completely rely on was herself. She’d learned very quickly that the only hands she could trust were her own, and that’s how she lived her life. There was nothing wrong with living this way, but sometimes it got lonely. Because of this lifestyle, she always had a hard time connecting with people. She hadn’t seen many good, strong relationships in her life and it made it difficult to know what was good and what was bad in her own relationships. To make things easier, she kept to herself and just didn’t have any relationships, platonic or otherwise.

But those two losers wouldn’t give up on her, even after she kept them at arms length and was short and curt with them. They kept trying and slowly chipped away at the barriers Michelle had put around herself when she was a kid.

Michelle “I-don’t-have-friends” Jones had two friends that she never expected.

She became Michelle “My-friends-call-me-MJ” Jones and part of her really liked it.

Part of her was terrified she’d fuck it all up, but Ned and Peter believed in her and she didn’t want to let them down. So she decided that she wouldn’t. They understood she was kind of a loner and accepted this part of her. It didn’t stop them from inviting her everywhere, even if she brought a book and just sat there reading while they nerded out. They didn’t care that she wasn’t involved with building Legos or playing Mario Kart all the time, because she was there. And that was enough for them.

Gwen coming back into her life was also a surprise. Before the Blip they used to text each other about upcoming protests and send each other funny videos they found online. They would still be considered friends by most conventions because they would text and message often, but they hardly ever got to see each other with both of their busy schedules (okay, Gwen was busy. Michelle was busy reading and protesting). Once Michelle was snapped back into existence after the Blip, she struggled to find her place in a world that had moved on without her, much like the other 50% of the population. Gwen had reached out and just offered a shoulder to lean on should Michelle need it, or just someone to talk to. Not long after that, Michelle found herself texting Gwen nearly every day. They fell back into an easy rhythm, even though they were now six years apart in age and what felt like decades in experiences. The two found themselves meeting up once a week just to chat and get coffee. Gwen passed along a long list of books that had come out that she knew Michelle would love and MJ told her all about her life and school.

She’d never been good at sharing that part of her, but with Gwen it was easy. They became closer than Michelle had ever gotten with another person and let herself learn to rely on someone else. Gwen would never let her stumble and MJ knew it. When their school took a trip to Europe, Gwen was first person MJ told about it. Together they worked to help Michelle gather the money and it was Gwen MJ texted pictures to of herself with the pigeons in Venice and regular updates about a stupid boy named Peter that she really liked in a way she had never liked someone before.

Gwen teased her for a whole fifteen minutes as Michelle freaked out in a hotel room before giving her all the advice she could, being her cheerleader when she really needed it. It was Gwen she texted first after London. She’d been terrified that she was going to die and when they survived, it was Gwen who she wanted to call. Gwen had freaked when she heard what happened and told Michelle she would be there to pick her up at the airport because she wanted to see for herself that Michelle was okay.

And she did.

As soon as Peter and MJ had parted at the airport, she had found the small blonde standing by the baggage claim with balloons and a hand drawn sign that read “I’M GLAD YOU’RE NOT DEAD” in big red letters. Michelle wasn’t one to cry often, but she did have to reluctantly admit that she almost burst into tears when she saw Gwen. Her friend had grinned at her and ran up to wrap Michelle in the tightest hug she could.

Michelle isn’t sure how long they stood there just hugging, but it was long enough for Michelle to get her emotions under control and manage a smile for Gwen. Her friend smiled widely back and grabbed her bag and her hand. Together they walked out of the airport, hand and hand. Afterwards, they had gone out for ice cream and Gwen coaxed out every detail (well almost every detail) of what had happened. She was interested about the drones, but was much more interested in learning all she could about Peter. And Michelle didn’t mind sharing. She really liked this nerd and Gwen was genuinely interested and happy for her. Sure she teased her a bit, but Michelle knew it was because Gwen was excited for her.

After that, Michelle knew that it was time Gwen meet her two friends. Once Peter’s name was cleared and everything was back to normal (well as normal as a teenager superhero’s life can be especially when one is dating said teenage superhero), Michelle decided Gwen would be invited to the group’s next outing. Sure enough, Ned suggested they go to laser tag and MJ invited Gwen.

As expected, the boys liked Gwen and Gwen had been quick to offer her praises for MJ’s found friends (and boyfriend). Michelle slept a little easier that night knowing that she had three wonderful friends in her corner.

With everything that had been going on with this Green Goblin guy, Michelle had been busy and her and Gwen hadn’t talked as much. Which is why Michelle was on her way to Gwen’s dance studio. She needed to speak with Harry Osborn to see what she could find out about Oscorp and his father, but she also missed Gwen and wanted an excuse to see her.

Michelle made it to her studio just before class ended and went inside. The halls were busy as other classes ended and everyone was leaving. She passed a group of ten year olds bent over a phone laughing at a video, a mother fixing her daughter’s shoes before she went inside to her class, and two girls practicing a combo before a mock audition. She found the small studio Gwen told her she’d be at fairly easily. Michelle glanced inside and saw that her rehearsal was still going on. Classical music seeped out into the hallway as MJ watched the dancers inside.

She found Gwen instantly. Even though Gwen was her closest friend, Michelle’s eyes would have been drawn to her no matter what. There was something about the way that Gwen moved across the floor that drew your eyes. She’d never seen anyone move so gracefully across the floor before. You have to be graceful to be a ballet dancer, but Gwen was on a whole other level. She looked like she was floating across the floor. Every motion, every turn, every lift looked effortless. Michelle was mesmerized as she watched her friend dance. She really hoped Gwen would get to be a dancer at a company here in New York; if anyone deserved it, it was Gwen. She’d been through a lot, like Michelle, and she deserved to do what she was passionate about. She even had the talent to back it up.

Gwen finished with a long extension of her leg and sunk to the floor with her arm raised and head back. Michelle held her breath. The music ended and Gwen stayed frozen for a half second before straightening with a smile. Michelle let out her breath and resisted the urge to clap. She continued to watch as the choreographer gave them some closing remarks before releasing the group.

It was almost if Gwen sensed Michelle was there because she spun and her eyes fixed on MJ instantly. Gwen grinned and motioned her inside. Michelle swallowed her nerves and pushed open the door. She hovered by the edge as she inched over to where Gwen was yanking off her pointe shoes and tossing them in a bag.

“I’m glad you found it!” Gwen said, still slightly out of breath. She grabbed a small towel and wiped off her face and neck before pulling on a pair of street shoes and shorts over her leotard and tights.

“Yeah, it wasn’t as hard as I thought.” MJ said and Gwen smiled up at her again. The young dancer tossed the rest of her stuff into her bag before standing up.

“Ready to go?” At Michelle’s quick nod, the two friends left the studio and found themselves back outside in the summer heat. As they walked to Gwen’s apartment, they chatted about everything that had happened. Michelle knew Gwen had been there for the attack at the gala, but she only knew that because of Peter who had a secret identity. She had to wait for Gwen to bring it up if she wanted to ask questions about what had happened. But Michelle was nothing if not good at asking pointed questions. With some crafty steering, she was able to get Gwen to admit that she was there and had been in the thick of it.

Michelle found everything fascinating. She liked Peter, but he could be unreliable as a narrator sometimes. He was crazy smart, but sometimes he was as observant as a brick. Gwen talked about how she was there to help Harry with some of his charity work when the attack happened. They ran to the ballroom to help and were getting civilians out when Gwen was targeted for some reasons. She was tense about the altercation and insisted she didn’t know why she was singled out. Gwen supposed it was because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and he was mad she was getting people out, but Michelle wasn’t sure she bought that. But she trusted Gwen and knew she’d tell her more when she was ready.

They made it to Gwen’s apartment building and they decided to take the elevator up, the conversation switching naturally. Gwen joked about their old elevator and said her neighbor was convinced it hadn’t been inspected since before the Blip and was going to stop working one of these days and they’d all be forced to take the stairs. Michelle had drily said that Gwen obviously needed the exercise because she was clearly letting herself go. That had gotten a deep-bellied laugh out of Gwen and Michelle couldn’t help but smile. Gwen threw open the door to her apartment and the pair were instantly greeted by shouts of hello from two figures on the couch. Michelle shut the door behind her as Gwen playfully shouted at her friends to turn around and say hello to their guest.

The TV paused and two people turned around. A gorgeous woman with deep brown skin and a stunning smile waved at Michelle, introducing herself as Glory. The other figure, a young man with messy hair and a cheeky grin flashed her a smile, introducing himself as Harry.

“I’m Michelle, but you can call me MJ.”

She normally didn’t introduce herself as MJ to people she wasn’t close with, but these were Gwen’s best friends. If Gwen trusted them completely, so could Michelle.

“It’s nice to meet you MJ. Why don’t you come make yourself comfortable? We have plenty of room!” Glory waved her hand and Michelle found herself moving before she could stop herself. She found a seat in a large chair and turned her attention to the TV. “Gwen says you’re the one who’s always sending her protests to go to?”

“The patriarchy isn’t going to smash itself.”

Glory nodded with a smug look on her face. “You’re cool.” She turned and shouted over her shoulder as Gwen emerged from her room. “Why haven’t you introduced us before? I think she’s my soulmate.”

Gwen chuckled and even MJ felt a warm feeling pass over her.

“Well she’s been a little busy gallivanting all over Europe.”

“Wait you were in Europe recently?” Harry said, leaning forward. “Where you there when everything was going on with those elementals?”

“Yeah. It was actually the reason we came back early.” MJ answered honestly, before shrugging once. “Wasn’t that eventful.”

She was lying through her teeth, but she was a good liar, unlike her stupid (but sweet) boyfriend who was a superhero in his spare time. The kid was nearly a genius, but lying was not his strong suit.

Harry sat back with a grunt of amusement before he took another sip of his drink. Gwen smirked at MJ from the kitchen and asked for a drink order. MJ opted for a simple glass of water and her friend brought it over with a soft smile.

“So MJ, I know this is great. I love that you’re meeting my friends and I am insanely happy, but I know you came over for a reason.”

Right. That.

“Harry, I am working on a summer project about the Blip and I decided to write about Oscorp. What can you tell me about what Oscorp was like before the Blip and how to changed when you took over as CEO?” MJ didn’t pull her punches and it was evident by Harry’s rapid blinking as he processed her words.

“Wow – uh. Okay. Not starting out nice and easy I see.” Harry cleared his throat.

“I think it’s better to start out strong and catch people off guard. That’s how you see what they really think.” MJ said and Glory, again, looked impressed. She offered a closed fist and MJ resisted a grin as she bumped it softly.

“Well, I didn’t pay much attention to what my father did before the Blip. I was still in high school and going through a bit of a rebellious stage.” Gwen coughed, covering a laugh as Harry shot her a glare. “He didn’t acknowledge me and I ignored him. I had no idea what was going on with Oscorp other than what kids at school were talking about. Once the Snap happened, it became clear that I was going to take over much quicker than anticipated. I always thought I’d have to pry that company out of my father’s cold, dead hands. Which sort of ended up happening. The three of us finished high school on an accelerated course, which was offered to anyone who was a junior and who wanted to get into the work force to help fill the gaps left behind.”

Harry sighed, setting his glass down on a small coffee table. “All three of us took that option and I began training to take over. I was never sure before if it was what I wanted, but I no longer had a choice. Within a year of graduation, I became CEO of Oscorp. The company had always been successful, but it wasn’t successful because of honor and integrity. I found back channels after back channels of shady deals and mad-scientist-type experiments happening with the company. I shut them down as quickly as I could and cut all ties with that crowd my father had previously done business with. That’s when I started building the company Oscorp is today. Nothing happens in the company without my knowing about it. Our focus is on sustainability and helping others. Our company is successful, but we’re successful because we work hard to help others. That I am proud of.”

“I’m telling you all of this to show you that I am an open book when it comes to Oscorp and because Gwen speaks so highly of you.” MJ shot a glance over to Gwen who was smiling softly at her friend. “When I made these changes and cut out all of the shady parts of Oscorp, we kept it quiet. I was ashamed of what my father had built and I didn’t want anyone to think I had anything to do with it. I believe that he did start out with good intentions, but-”

“-Power corrupts absolutely.” MJ finished and Harry nodded once.

“I will answer any questions you have about Oscorp to the best of my knowledge. All I ask is that you keep this to yourself. Myself and countless others have worked tirelessly for years to build Oscorp into something that we could be proud of. Our goal was to help people and if this gets out-” Harry sighed. “-who knows what it could mean for all the good we are doing. Gwen trusts you completely, so I do too.”

“I won’t tell anyone.” MJ spoke up and Harry looked up to meet her eyes. Michelle didn’t blink. “I promise.”

Harry nodded once and leaned forward. “What do you want to know?”

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Gwen had dreamed of something like this.

While she did enjoy time alone and needed time to recharge, she also loved being around people. There was a special kind of energy Gwen got when she was around good people and a good time. Watching MJ and Harry verbally spar with Glory throwing in her award winning commentary was enough to make Gwen sit back with a smile on her face. MJ had a fire in her soul that lashed out at every chance to prove she was right, and she almost always was. Harry had that same fire, granted his was a bit more subdued, but he could burn pretty bright when he was passionate; and Harry was passionate about Oscorp. Glory loved conflict and she threw in just enough commentary to keep the inferno burning. Gwen could also add few to the fire, very easily. But she decided she enjoyed observing more than she would causing chaos.

The conversation started simple enough. MJ had done her research on Oscorp, she knew where to start pulling at threads. Harry had seemed surprised at first, but he recovered quickly and stayed true to his word to be an open book. The conversation morphed from simple question and answer to a deep moral debate about anything relating to Oscorp’s business and humanities deepest moral philosophies. Gwen tossed in her two cents about Kant as a philosopher, but for the most part she kept quiet.

That was until she heard it.

Sirens blaring by their apartment snapped Gwen out of the daze she was in. Her world halted in a nanosecond and her senses jumped into focus. Harry must have heard them too because his gaze snapped to hers.

Gwen’s voice cut through MJ and Glory’s laughter. “I just forgot, I have stop by the diner before they close.”

Glory blinked at her. “Don’t they close at 10?”

“Uh-“ Gwen brilliantly said.

“Don’t you have to speak with Maeve before she gets off?” Harry jumped in and Gwen shot him a look of thanks.

“That’s it! All this talk of Plato and ethics has my thinking backwards.” Gwen joked. “I’ll be right back. I promise!”

She darted into her room and grabbed her duffle bag. “When I get back we better have moved from that asshole Aristotle!” There was no heat in her words, but Glory and MJ instantly jumped back into the fray and the door shut behind her to shouts of laughter and good-natured debate.

Gwen, on the other hand, pushed all thoughts of ethics out of her head as she sprinted for the stairs. She was on the roof in less than a minute (webbing and sticky fingers helped her take a shorter route) and changed into her costume in record time. Gwen reveled in the split second of free fall as she leapt off the building before a web stuck and she was pulled in a new direction. A smile broke across her face as the wind roared around her and her stomach bottomed out. No matter how many times she swung across the city, she would never grow tired of the feeling she got when swinging through the tall buildings of the city she loved.

Another whoop of the siren and her focus became razor sharp. Her eyes narrowed and she flung a web to the side, completing a complete 180. Spider-Gwen was on a mission. Someone help the poor son-of-a-bitch committing crimes on her watch.

With a cheer that sounded suspiciously like a police siren, Gwen swung towards the growing sounds of sirens.

 

She caught up with the police cars fairly quickly (being able to swing above the heavy New York traffic certainly helped). It was a police chase. Gwen couldn’t wait to tell Harry all about it.

Over the years of her vigilante status during the Blip, she’d made a few gadgets to help her when she was swinging through the streets. One of these was a simple earpiece that allowed her to tune into active police radio frequencies with an easy press of a button on her wrist. With a flick, police chatter filled her ears.

“We gotta 10-88 in progress heading Westbound on Union Turnpike. Three suspects driving a stolen brown Chevy impala with other stolen property. Suspects are driving erratically and pushing speeds of 50 mph. All available units create a roadblock.”

Four police cars were chasing the one small car and Gwen could hear the chatter as other units responded and coordinated efforts to block all intersections since they were clearly not stopping. Gwen swung past 162nd street and the hair salon Glory swore by and she knew she was running out of time. She had a nasty feeling those guys in the car were going to make a hard turn onto Main Street to try and throw off the cops. If she was going to do something, it had to be now.

She let herself swing up higher this time and used the moments she was suspended in the air to flick off the police radio in her ear and double check her web shooters. As she felt herself start to fall, it was go time.

Gwen let a web fly and had it stick higher and hang lower. The ground was approaching fast and she had to tuck in her legs as she skimmed the tops of some of the patrol cars, smirking at their surprised shouts. She was meters away from the small Chevy when she let the web go and landed softly on the roof. The car jerked, but Gwen held fast. She gripped the side of the car before leaning down to peer through the window into the backseat.

“Hey! You guys have your license and registration?”

The baddie in the backseat cursed and reached for a large gun just laying there, waiting to be used.

“I’m going to have to ask you to-“ Gwen cocked her fist back, “-pull over!” Her fist hit the back driver’s side window and shattered, surprising everyone inside. Before they could even react, she fired a web and stuck the gun to the seat, rendering it inoperable. Another click drew her attention as she looked at the front passenger who had finished loading a small handgun.

“Come on man, don’t make this a 10-10.” The front passenger cocked the gun and pointed it at her. “Fine, we’ll do this the hard way.”

They fired at her, but Gwen had already pulled herself back up onto the roof of the car. She sense flared and she dodged several bullets as they tore through the top of the car.

“You better hope whoever you stole this from has good insurance because otherwise, this is coming out of your pocket!” Gwen shouted over the loud city as she flipped into a handstand before allowing herself to fall and slip inside the car. There was a shout of surprise, as the person in the backseat was knocked unconscious by Gwen’s swinging feet. Oops.

The person in the front seat tried firing at Gwen again, but she grabbed the barrel of his gun and twisted it up. It fired, but the bullet jammed and caused it to heat up. Gwen didn’t flinch, but the guy pulling the trigger cursed and dropped it onto the floor of the backseat. She only had a second, but she used that time to punch the guy in the passenger seat and he slumped against the window unconscious.

“Why are you still driving man? You know how this ends!” Gwen said before shooting a web at the brake on the floor, stopping the car in its tracks. She gripped the seats and hardly moved an inch, even as the car jerked and rolled twice before landing upright in the middle of the street; the guy driving was less lucky. His body slammed against the wheel and Gwen heard bones cracking.

She unstuck her hands as the sirens grew louder. “That’s why you wear a seatbelt dude.” Gwen listened for a second to make sure they were all breathing before crawling out of the car. She stumbled a few steps away, shaking away the fogginess.

Police cars rumbled to a stop around her and the officers jumped out of their cars with their guns raised. Most stormed the car and began pulling out the men inside as an ambulance pulled up. Two officers ran up to her as she caught her breath. They were in plains clothes and if Gwen had to guess, they were detectives.

“That was so cool!” The taller of the two said as he threw out his leather-clad arms. “You’re definitely my hero.”

“I thought Spider-Man was your hero?” The shorter one who was wearing a dress shirt and a tie said (what Gwen expected a detective to dress like) and the other one (who dressed like a teenager) scoffed.

Puh-lease. Spider-Man’s cool, but Spider-Woman here kicks ass and she’s smashing the patriarchy and misogynists one crime at a time.”

Gwen did smile at that. “What’s your name detective?”

“Detective Peralta, this is my partner Detective Boyle. We work in Brooklyn, but Queens has the best subs and ya boy was hungry.”

He reminded Gwen of someone, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. “Well detective, let me know if you ever need a favor. Your favorite superhero has your back.”

His mouth opened in an ‘O’ and he sucked in a breath that made him sound like a child just found out they were going to Disney. “Oh. My. God. Charles pinch me I must be dreaming.”

Gwen shot them both a quick salute before flinging a web and taking off back into the air. Cheers from the crowd followed her and her heart soared higher than her webs would ever take her. It was nice to get thanks from the people she protected, but she would keep doing it no matter what. As long as there are people that need saving, Gwen will be there to protect them.

Another shout pulled her attention and she glanced at the time on a sign as she swung by; she had time.

With another whoop, she changed direction yet again and set back to protecting the streets of the city that never sleeps.

Chapter Text

May has always been good at rolling with the punches.

Her Grandma Reilly had always told her that the key to a long and happy life was to be able to adapt to whatever life threw at you. She was 97 and still as sharp as a tack so May figured she must know what she was talking about.

May had her first test when her father walked out on her family. She was 14 and it devastated her mother. May stepped up and found herself a job at the local supermarket to help make ends meet. She had three younger sisters, all of whom were within 5 years of each other. They were still too young to understand what had happened and May didn’t want to burden them, so she got to work. Her mother blamed her for their father leaving and May never really understood why, but she never asked. She didn’t really want to know.

She managed to graduate from high school and got a slightly higher paying job to help support the family. May’s mother worked, but she didn’t do much else, choosing to sit on the couch night after night watching mindless TV in the form of the infomercial channels. May stayed until her youngest sister, Jan, graduated from high school and moved away to go to college like her other two sisters. Once Jan left, May packed up a suitcase with everything she had of value (some clothes, her grandmother’s watch, and her father’s worn jean jacket), left a note for her mother with next months rent and walked out the door.

She never looked back.

May left Boston and headed for New York City. She found a job as a waitress and a dingy apartment in Brooklyn that took up most of her rent so she had little for anything else, but she had never felt more free in her whole life. Her life was suddenly hers and she felt at home.

She was 25 when her life took another turn.

May had gone to Coney Island on one of her few days off just to get a change of scenery. Her mother used to spend her summers in the city and she had postcards from all the usual tourist traps hanging on their fridge next to their drawings as kids. The one from Coney Island was always May’s favorite because of the colors and lights. She used to think it was a fantasyland and May always told herself she’d visit one day.

It was a random Thursday afternoon and it was quiet because the schools hadn’t been released for the summer yet. May was walking down the pier wearing sandals and a ridiculously floppy hat she had found cheap and couldn’t resist (one of her few impulse purchases she’d made since moving to the city). She’d been lost in looking at the skyline when a sudden gust of wind yanked her hat off of her head and into the air. May made a grab for it, but it was halfway down the pier in the blink of an eye.

It only stopped when it smacked someone in the face.

“I am so sorry! The wind caught it!” May had sprinted up to the man who’d been hit in the face by her ridiculous hat. He pulled it off his face with a chuckle.

“It’s no problem at all ma’am, caught me by surprise that’s all.” His eyes rose to meet hers and May swore her heart stopped. She doesn’t know how long they stared at each other before she stuck out her hand and shook her head to get the wisps of hair that had blown in front of her face out of the way.

“I’m May.”

He smiled back at her and May’s stomach did a flip. “Ben.”

She was 25 when she met Ben Parker. They spent the rest of the day sitting at the pier talking and by the time they had reached her small dingy apartment after he had offered to walk her home, she felt like she had known him her whole life. He left that night with her number scribbled on his hand and a faint smell of books and ocean air on his skin.

She was 27 when she married Ben Parker and officially became May Parker.

It was a small ceremony in a church on 142nd street. Her three younger sisters were there along with a few of her friends she had made working as a waitress. Ben’s younger brother Richard was there with his steady girlfriend, a Mary Fitzpatrick. She walked down the aisle alone, her father still gone and her mother who ignored the invitation, but May had never felt happier. She’d done a lot for herself over the last 15 years and she just as tough as her Grandma Reilly said she was. As she stood across from Ben in front of the alter with their closest family and friends, she knew that she didn’t have to do it alone anymore. She could still be as strong and independent as she always has been, but now she had someone who could watch her back when she was too busy looking forward. As May kissed Ben under the stained-glass windows while Richard whooped loudly, she knew everything would be okay.

They moved into a new, slightly bigger apartment in Queens and began to settle into a new normal. Ben became a handyman fulltime and May got a job as a receptionist for a local hospital, earning more than she ever had. They weren’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but they were comfortable in a way May never had been before. A few months later both Richard and Mary graduated from their PhD programs and got engaged. They had both recently been offered positions in the CIA and moved to DC to be closer to their work. Ben didn’t say much, but May knew he missed his brother dearly. He had taken care of Richard, basically raising him, and he hadn’t really known a life without his brother there with him. But they found ways to be together and stay just as happy.

May was 30 when Peter Benjamin Parker was born.

She’ll never forget the look on Ben’s face when Richard handed an hours-old baby into his arms in the small Queens hospital room. She was unbelievably happy for Richard and Mary, but her heart broke. May had gotten pregnant not long after they had moved to Queens and Ben was over the moon. But fate would not be kind to them. May lost the baby at the beginning of her second trimester. They were both heartbroken and it took them a while to pick up the pieces left behind, especially when the doctor told them it was unlikely they’d ever be able to conceive. Those next few months after the miscarriage were the toughest of their marriage. Ben walked on eggshells around May and she couldn’t help but feel like she’d let him down in every possible way.

Over time they healed and their relationship grew stronger than ever.

They were sitting on their small couch watching a sitcom when May felt eyes on her. She turned to see Ben watching her with a small smile.

“What’re you lookin’ at?” May quipped and Ben’s eyes twinkled.

“The love of my life.”

She punched his arm, but settled into his side as he wrapped his arm around her with a chuckle.

“We’re going to be okay you and me.” Ben said and May looked up at him to see him looking out the window. He turned his head towards her. “We don’t need a child to be a family. All I need is you.”

She gripped the fabric of his worn NYU sweatshirt Richard had bought him when he graduated from undergrad a little tighter. “You and I against the world.”

“It’s not even going to know what hit it.”

After that they became closer than ever. They’d found a new stride in which to walk through life. Not long after Peter was born the other small Parker family moved back to New York to be closer to Ben. Mary didn’t have much family left and considered May to be the sister she had always wanted, so she was happy to relocate. May found a similar spirit inside of Mary and it was why they’d hit it off right after meeting. They had designated nights out every two weeks where they would go out just the two of them to do whatever they wanted (have drinks in a seedy bar, catch a cheesy movie, or find a bookstore and roam the shelves until they closed). May found a friend in Mary that she hadn’t had in a long time.

Her and Richard got along well too. She admired the man he had become and saw the love and pride in Ben’s eyes every time his name was mentioned. One day, Richard pulled her aside as Mary and Ben played with Peter on the floor of their apartment, their laughter filling the small space. He told her that Ben always took care of him, even if it meant he missed out on something in the process. Ben sacrificed his dreams of becoming an engineer so Richard could get an education. Her husband gave up everything so his younger brother could have a better life and May loved him for it.

“I can’t accept this Richard. He’d never accept it.” May insisted and Richard grasped her hand.

“He will if it comes from you May.” Richard sighed. “Look, he’s done so much for me. I want to do something for him. It doesn’t have to be now, hell, it doesn’t have to be in five years, just someday. There’s an account in his name so he can go back to school. It won’t cover all of it, but with the interest, it might be by the time he touches it.”

Richard opened her hand and placed a small envelope in her hands. “Just promise me May. He gave up everything for me and I have a better life because of him. I owe everything to him. Let me do this for him.”

A peel of laughter caught her attention and she looked through a crack in the doorway to see Ben laughing at Peter as he blinked at where Mary was hiding behind her hands. He looked so unbelievably happy and May knew Richard was right. He’d given up so much in his life for others; it was time he got to live out his dreams. She turned back to Richard who had a hopeful look in his eyes.

“Alright Richard. I promise.” May breathed and his eyes shone. He dragged her into a tight hug and May made a promise to herself too. Ben would go back to school and he would live out his dreams.

May was 35 when everything changed again.

A few months previous, both Parker families got together, but this time with a lawyer present. With Richard and Mary’s CIA jobs taking them away from home more and more frequently, they’d had a tough conversation under the guise of a movie to keep Peter from hearing. It was time to get their wills in order. None of them saw an immediate need, but the Parkers were planners and they thrived on being prepared for anything. It was decided that Ben and May would take care of Peter should something happen to both Richard and Mary. It was a worse case scenario, but Richard had said that he wanted no one else but Ben and May taking care of Peter if they couldn’t. Ben’s eyes had gotten teary, but they’d accepted nonetheless. Ben loved Peter and so did May. He was a brilliant kid and they loved having him over. He brought a sense of chaos and excitement back into their lives and May had flashes of what their life could have been like if they’d be able to have kids. They loved watching Peter for a few days at a time when his parents had to go away for their jobs. This time wasn’t any different. Until it was.

“It’ll only be for a week at most.” Mary said as she handed Ben Peter’s small Iron Man backpack and a duffle with his clothes. Richard was standing back with Peter in his arms and a solemn look on his face.

“It’s alright, we’ll take good care of him.” May said with a soft smile. “I’m sure Ben will take him out for ice cream and that’ll take care of any homesickness, at least for a while.”

“He is his favorite uncle. Isn’t that right Peter?” Richard said and Peter nodded with a smile. Richard hugged him tightly before kissing him on the top of his head of brown curls that mirrored his own. Peter scrambled out his arms and it was Mary’s turn to place a lingering kiss on his temple and whisper to Peter who nodded. She put him down on the ground and he ran into the apartment to the small guest room that had been turned into his room for when he stayed with Ben and May.

“Slow down Pete!” Ben chided as Peter sprinted past him, but there was no real warning in his words. He walked up and shared a glance with Richard as May and Mary hugged tightly, whispering about their plans next week to visit the MoMA. They separated and Ben pulled Mary into a hug while Richard smiled at May. He hugged her gently and May had a sinking feeling she couldn’t shake.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done for Ben. You changed his life.” Richard whispered and May felt tears welling up in her eyes.

“He’s proud of you ya know? So fucking proud.” May said and Richard let out a wet laugh. They pulled apart and he smiled softly at her. Then his eyes shifted to Ben and the two brothers hugged tightly and May felt like crying again. Mary grabbed her hand and she squeezed her hand in response. The Parker men pulled away and cleared their throats, sniffling to hide their tears.

Ben hated it when they had to leave. He hated it even more that they could never tell them where they were being sent. He always waited by the phone waiting to hear that they were back and safe. This time, May would be sitting right by him.

Peter emerged from his room in time to wave with May and Ben as his parents walked down the hall to the elevator. They stayed there waving until the doors closed and they disappeared. May had a terrible feeling and almost stopped them, demanding they don’t go and stay instead.

She wished she had.

May was 35 when she watched her husband crumble.

They got the call in the middle of the night. Ben’s phone rang sometime around 4 am. Normally they don’t answer the phone, but Peter was there and they didn’t want him waking up. May stirred, but didn’t roll over until she felt Ben tense beside her and suck in a sudden breath.

She rolled over and looked at her husband’s face, which displayed nothing but raw emotion. May didn’t even need to ask to know what had happened. Ben thanked the person on the other side of the line before hanging up. All at once he crumpled and May was there to catch him. She held him as he sobbed for his lost brother and sister-in-law, desperate for them to call back and tell him it was a cruel prank and his little brother would walk through the door with a joke and a smile. May cried quiet tears of her own for the family she had built for herself and the family she had just lost in the blink of an eye.

They didn’t sleep for the rest of the night.

May was 36 when her life began to center around raising a bright-eyed boy with a kind heart and thick glasses. Very quickly May and Ben adjusted to being the parental figures in Peter’s life. Ben was a natural and May found herself easing into the role as well. She’d done a lot to help her younger sisters when she was still a teenager and although Peter was a younger than her sisters were, the concept was still the same. Together, they became a family again.

Ben’s schooling had taken a backseat once Peter came to stay with them permanently and May was working to get him to go back, but it was difficult. It took Peter taking an interest in engineering one fall after a science fair at his school for Ben to start taking classes again just so he could share everything with Peter who absorbed it like a sponge. May was content knowing that Ben was doing what Richard always wanted him to do. She picked up more shifts at the hospital when she could and even started using Ben’s camera to take pictures and sell them to newspapers to help make ends meet.

They’d been comfortable before, but things had changed with Peter. It didn’t mean they didn’t work hard to give Peter a good life; it just made it trickier. Richard and Mary had left nearly everything to Peter when they passed. He’d be able to go to college wherever he wanted to when he was old enough, he’d be able to rent his first apartment to get started, and he’d be able to travel if he wanted to. There was a fund set up by Richard and Mary for Ben and May to tap into if they found themselves needing help. Raising a child took a lot and Peter’s parents knew May and Ben would do and give everything to Peter, so they made a fund for emergencies, whether that was a rent payment, utilities payment, or really anything else.

They didn’t tap into it often, but they did occasionally. Like when Peter fell and broke his arm at school and May’s insurance didn’t cover everything. Or when their car broke down unexpectedly and they had to get it repaired. They didn’t have much, but they made it work.

Ben and May worked hard to Peter could have a good life. If that meant scraping money together for over a year so they could get tickets to the Stark Expo to surprise Peter, it was worth every extra shift and late night to see him light up as they walked through the expo. Even when the Hammer exhibit went wild and they had to run for it. Peter had never been happier because he got to meet Iron Man. Sure, it gave May nightmares for months, but Peter bounced back and couldn’t stop talking about how cool it was.

May was 43 when her world shattered.

Something was going on with Peter and her and Ben both knew it. He hadn’t been the same since he got sick after that field trip to Oscorp. They tried to talk to him, but he clammed up and was uncharacteristically quiet. It was moments like these that May saw flashes of Ben in Peter. Both of them would rather carry the weight of the world on their shoulders if it meant others went unhindered. It was a trait she admired beyond belief, but it drove her insane. She loved both of them deeply, but she hated when they did this because she could help and they just refused.

It was another normal night when Peter and Ben got into an argument. Ben tried to push to find out what was going on with Peter, but the teen had snapped back and harsh words were spoken before they could be stopped. Peter had stormed out, saying he was going to get the eggs he had forgotten to pick up on his way home from school and to get some air. The door had shut rather harshly and May watched her husband as he stood tense in the kitchen.

All at once he deflated and May surged forward to wrap him in her arms. “It’s okay Ben. He’s a teenager, he’s supposed to push back.”

“Something is really wrong and I just want to help him.” Ben said and May felt a pang in her chest.

“You know who Peter reminds me of more and more everyday?” May took Ben’s silence as an invitation to continue. “You.”

He pulled away and May followed as he walked into their bedroom to change his shoes.

“I mean it Ben. Both of you would take on the whole world if it meant someone else didn’t have to. He’s so much like you and he loves you so much.” May sat down beside Ben and gripped his trembling hand. “He’ll come around eventually, and when he does, we’ll both be right here to support him.”

Ben took a deep breath before lifting their joined hands and pressing a kiss to the back of May’s hand. “May Parker, what did I ever do to deserve you?”

She smiled as she brushed off imaginary dust off of his shoulders. “Be Ben Parker.” He returned her broad smile before leaning forward and kissing her soundly. Ben pulled back and finished tying his shoes as May watched. She helped him slip on his jacket and gave him his wallet and a hat to wear because it was starting to get chilly outside. She grabbed him by his coat and kissed him one more time before pulling back.

“Go bring our son home.”

May was way too young to lose her husband.

Peter was way too young lose another father figure.

Together they mourned. Together they grieved. Together they grew.

May was the only family Peter had left, and even though they weren’t related by blood, she loved Peter like a son and would do anything she could for him. She laid beside him on the nights when his nightmares of Ben’s death became too much for him, waiting for him to drift to sleep before she would let herself follow. She tried her best to cook the recipes Ben used to make and Peter and her laughed as they chased the smoke out of the open windows when it failed yet again before ordering take out. She showed up to every decathlon competition that was close and helped Peter with the little homework she could, offering to Google the answers if he got stuck (he never did). She was there for every bump in the road and every success, picking him up when he was down with a sly joke and cheered him on for every success.

Together they became a family and May would always wonder what her life would be like if she hadn’t gone with the flow like her Grandmother told her to. She decided very quickly that she didn’t care. All that mattered was the nephew she loved like a son and the life they lived together.

May was 45 when her nephew fucked up.

She knew he was self-sacrificing, he was just like Ben in that regards, but she didn’t know it was on this level. A superhero? Really Peter? After letting all of her anger out on a one Tony Stark, she turned to her nephew and instead of shouting, she held him and told him how proud Ben would be of him. They cried that night on the couch and fell asleep with an old picture book open on the coffee table in front of them.

May let go of the anger she held about Peter literally fighting crime in the middle of the night and instead focused on the fact that he was out there protecting people, thinking it could make up for not being able to protect Ben that night. She didn’t blame him, she never could. But it was clear he blamed himself. So she worked slowly to get rid of that guilt in the best way she knew how: showing him all the good he has done.

Then 5 years of her life was gone in a blink and she had to adjust to a world that had moved on without her.

She should have been celebrating her 50th birthday, but instead she was still 45 and left to pick up the pieces of missing 5 whole years. Peter had also missed out on 5 years and was struggling just as she was. But she was secretly grateful he did, even if it was traumatic for all of them, because he didn’t have to live through those 5 years without another Parker by his side. Thanks to Tony Stark (he had started to grow on her and she was ashamed she never got to tell him or thank him) they still had all their belongings from their old apartment. May still had all of Ben’s stuff and she was beyond grateful she didn’t lose that part of her past.

Very rapidly she had to adjust again and boy was it tough. But Peter was there and that made everything worth it. Her best friend was the CEO of the largest tech company out there. Said best friend had an adorable daughter who called her Aunt May and looked up to Peter like a big brother. She was sorta kinda seeing a sweet guy who looked at her like she hung the stars and she found herself falling again.

If Ben could see her now.

He’d crack a joke about her spending time with millionaires, but then he’d tell her he was proud of her and that he loved her, but wanted her to live life to the fullest.

So she did.

May’s life has always been a series of ups and downs. Twists and turns she could have never seen coming. A tragedy in the making. But she always rolled with the punches and became much more than a survivor. She came alive. And she was happy. Always happy. Sure, she had low points, but she’d never let it keep her down long. She’d find a way to keep living.

May was… getting too old for this.

She hadn’t known Peter was Spider-Man when he fought Toomes. She had known when Thanos had fought the Avengers twice. She had also known when Beck came after her nephew. But she wasn’t there when they happened. Peter had been on Titan (she still harbored a bit of grudge for that one) and then upstate at the compound. He was all over Europe dealing with Beck while May was still in New York. But now, with the Green Goblin (God what a stupid name, but who was May to judge?), May had a front row seat.

It was one thing to worry from afar when there was nothing she could physically do. Now she was here and she wanted to do more. She hated going about her normal day and worrying at home while Peter ran around the city fighting a psychopath.

May has always been a fighter and a survivor.

Which is how she found herself standing in the lobby of Oscorp. She strode up to the front desk and flashed a smile.

“I’m supposed to have a meeting with Elena Perez?”

“May Parker?”

She turned to see a young blonde woman walking up to her. “I’m Lindsay Murphy, Ms. Perez’s assistant.”

“It’s nice to meet you.” May said as she followed the young assistant to the elevator.

“Ms. Perez actually won’t be able to meet with you today.” They entered the elevator. “I assume you heard about the attack on the gala here a few days ago? Ms. Perez was injured in the attack and is still recovering in the hospital. Thankfully she’s going to be fine. You’ll actually be meeting with me. I’m covering her duties while she’s recovering.”

The elevator began to move upward and May shifted her bag on her shoulder. “I’m sorry to hear she was injured. Were you there when the attack happened?”

Lindsay looked down before sighing. “Yeah, I was. Elena actually saved my life. She pushed me out of the way and the bomb exploded near her instead. She’s the best of all of us. So, while she’s gone, I’m going to do my best to keep our foundation running.” The young woman looked at May and smiled. “Which is why I’m excited to meet with you to discuss what we can do to help you and your foundation.”

The pair left the elevator and Lindsay led her through a busy workroom where people were talking on the phone and stuffing pamphlets. They entered an office with Elena’s name on it and Lindsay shut the door behind them.

“Please, sit.” Lindsay said as she walked around the desk and sat down. May obliged, setting her bag down and pulling out her notepad and a file.

“This is everything our foundation has been doing post-Blip. Our main focus has been providing services to those who came back from the Blip and were displaced. Considering the work your foundation has done, you know how hard it’s been for world governments to rehome everyone who returned. Our infrastructure before the Blip wasn’t great, and during the Blip everyone settled into a new normal, not expecting anyone to return. But we did. And suddenly we were back at the beginning of not knowing what to do. Our main focus has been to help those still struggling to find new homes after theirs were lost or taken. Which is why I scheduled this meeting.” Lindsay looked up from the file May had given her. “Oscorp’s foundations have been a beacon of hope for the world left behind during the Blip. Now, half of that world has come back and it’s still struggling to adjust. Right now, our organization operates strictly in Queens, but, with some support, we hope to expand to the rest of the boroughs. Oscorp has reach all across the world, but we can help the people of this city, our city. With what’s been going on with that new villain and the attacks in Times Square and Oscorp, the city needs a good story.”

Lindsay smiled as she shut the file. She looked back up at May and folded her hands on the desk. “Before the gala and before Elena was injured, she’d been working on finding a new organization to support in their efforts of helping the people. Your organization had been on the shortlist. I must say that you have put your organization on the top of our list. We’d be happy to help you expand to the other boroughs. You are doing good work, and we’d love to help.”

May smiled as she shook Lindsay’s outstretched hand.

After the Blip she had lost her position at the hospital and had to find something else. She’d heard about an organization in Queens that were helping those displaced. Her and Peter had been lucky. They had Tony Stark looking after them during the Blip and Pepper once they came back. Others weren’t as lucky. Peter could help people on the streets by stopping people from getting hurt. May could help people by giving them the support and resources they would need to survive in a world that had moved on without them. May found her calling helping those who weren’t as lucky as her and Peter were. She knew Ben would be proud, of both of them.

They finished discussing the details and Lindsay was escorting her back to the lobby with a promise to reach out once all the paperwork was drawn up and once they had assembled a team to assist them with expanding. May shook Lindsay’s hand one more time before turning to leave, but she ran right into someone instead.

“Oh! I am so sorry!” May had knocked their coffee onto the ground and onto their suit jacket. They chuckled and brushed off the droplets.

“It’s quite alright. I wasn’t watching where I was going.” The man said as he straightened and May got a good look at his face. Her stomach dropped to her feet. “Norman Osborn. And you are?” He outstretched his hand and May sucked in a breath before flashing a smile.

“I’m May. May Parker. I’m going to be working with your company’s foundation in the near future.” She shook his hand and he stared at her for a moment. May kept her expression open, but inside her heart was pounding. Peter had a hunch this Green Goblin was Norman Osborn and he did have a tingle that was pretty reliable. Plus she was getting a strange vibe from him herself and it was taking every ounce of her self-control not to run from the building as quickly as she could.

“It’s very nice to meet you Mrs. Parker. We could always use more organizations working with the foundation my son started. He’s done great things for the company in my absence.” Mr. Osborn said as he adjusted his jacket sleeve, pulling her eyes. May shifted her bag on her shoulder.

“I should get going, I’m meeting my nephew for lunch.” She said and Mr. Osborn lifted his hands.

“I apologize for keeping you from your nephew.”

“I am sorry about your coffee.”

“Nothing to worry about. It’s just a coffee. You have a nice day now Mrs. Parker.” He nodded his head at her as she gave him one last tight smile before walking away. She forced her legs to walk calmly out of the building, aware of a set of beady green eyes staring at her as she walked.

As soon as she was out of view of the building she pulled out her phone and called Peter. It rang twice before he picked up.

“May? Is everything okay? I know I’m running late, but I someone was getting mugged so I had to stop-“

“-I’m not there yet either.”

What? Why not?”

“My meeting ran over, but that’s not why I’m calling.” She was slightly out of breath and risked a glance over her shoulder. She didn’t see anyone, but had a really bad feeling someone was watching her.

“What’s wrong? You sound like you’ve been running.”

May had been through a lot in her life, but she was starting to think all of that was to prepare for what came next. After all, she’s spent most of her life learning to go with the flow and take life as it came. It meant that over the years she’s picked up on some tricks on people’s behaviors. It came in handy in times like these.

“I met Norman Osborn.” Peter fell silent. “You were right Peter. He’s the Green Goblin.”