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We're All Still Here

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The orange of this sky has pinkish hues, so it’s ok. Peter studies the sunset carefully, noting how the bright tones of orange and pink fade into deep blues and purples above him. The colors are almost neon for how vibrant they are. It doesn’t look like rust at all.

Satisfied, Peter tips forward out of a crouch and lands softly on the deck of the rooftop. It’s one of his favorite rooftops. Ms. Gomez who owns the tienda on the street level keeps a few potted plants up here, soaking up the sun and rain and casting dark green angles into the corners of his vision. It’s soothing, like the faintest glimmer of the foliage one might find in a forest, or a tropical jungle. Peter imagines. He’s never actually been to one, other than Central Park, which – doesn’t exactly count.

It’s fairly quiet here for New York City, wedged along the boundary of Brooklyn and Queens with the imposing heights of the skyscrapers in Manhattan a relaxing distance away. It’s a mostly residential area, and the low-level murmur of human life around him is comforting to Peter. It’s not so loud here as to overwhelm his heightened senses, but he doesn’t know what he would do if he couldn’t hear anyone at all – doesn’t want to think about that.

Instead, he turns his thoughts resolutely to the warm breeze that brings him echoes of food cooking – Ms. Gomez’s famous tamales, salted pretzels and hot dogs from street venders, and something sweet, like fresh ice cream cones or waffles – along with the scent of hot asphalt and bricks and that distinctive river brine that reaches to him even here.

This early in the summer, the temperatures haven’t reached oppressive levels yet, and it’s still mostly comfortable in the sun. All in all, it’s a gorgeous evening, so much so that whatever normal levels of desperation that drive people to commit the sort of crimes he’s used to stopping seem to have tapered off. It’s a brief moment of respite, good nature settling over the boroughs and wrapping their inhabitants into a grateful breath of peace.

Everything’s…ok. Peter can – he can rest now. For a bit.

Or he could, if Deadpool would ever show up.

He’s not surprised, anymore, at the seeming contradiction of Deadpool’s presence and the way his shoulders can actually release some of their tension when he’s around. Deadpool – Wade – he’s not what most would consider a calming figure. Generally speaking, he’s loud and brash, constantly babbling a stream of conversation to everyone around him and himself at all times, he’s crude, he’s violent, sarcastic and giddy in equal measures, all pretense of social norms abandoned to the wind long ago.

But none of that changes the certainty with which Peter knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Deadpool has his back at all times. Whatever he’s facing, if Wade is by his side, he’s not facing it alone.

So he swings his legs over the side of the roof, and he waits. He hadn’t exactly told Wade where to meet him tonight, but somehow the man always seems to know. Sure enough, barely ten minutes have passed before he hears Deadpool’s telltale chatter coming up the fire escape behind him.

“-And so I said to him – shut up White, I know you were there, I’m telling a story – so then I said to him, how come you guys never – “

Peter can feel his shoulders relaxing just the tiniest bit as the sound of the rambling, one-sided conversation reaches the top of the stairs, and he tilts his face up to catch the lengthening rays of the warm evening sun.

“Baby boy!” Wade exclaims as he steps out onto the roof and appears to notice him for the first time. Peter looks over his shoulder and smiles, a real honest-to-god smile stretching the muscles of his face, and he knows Wade can see it because he pulled his mask up to his nose for that specific reason. He gives a little wave as Wade skips over to him and swings himself down gracelessly onto the ledge beside him.

“Spidey-babe!” Wade squeals into his ear as he pulls Peter sideways into a hug and coos over him. Peter laughs into the hard lines of muscle he’s pressed into for a moment, before elbowing him and shoving away.

“Get off me, you big lug,” he says with a grin as Wade fidgets and fake pouts in response.

“But Webs,” he whines. “I haven’t seen you in so long I almost forgot what spiders look like!”

“I just saw you last night, Wade.”

Wade scoffs. “Yeah, you mean when you webbed me up and left me strung up against the wall – and not in the fun way – just because Bea got a little too close to a major artery or two?”

Peter arches an eyebrow, though the effect doesn’t carry over as well as he’d like through the mask.

Wade continues, undeterred. “Seriously, Yellow tried to ask me this morning how many legs you have, like if you have two legs like a human or eight like a spider, and I tell ya Spidey, I couldn’t answer the box if my life depended on it.” He pauses for a quick leer. “Of course, my favorite guess is a three-legged spider that’s just happy to see me.”

Peter just sighs and pulls himself up to stand. “You are an actual child.”

The dangerous mercenary at his feet flops himself backwards and wiggles around until he can peer up at Peter, like a big dog showing its belly. The illusion only deepens as Wade cocks his head to the side as he considers him.

“You gonna do your spider-thang?” he asks curiously.

Peter flashes him a quick smile before pulling his mask back down firmly into place.

“Yeah,” he replies. “You mind?”

Wade waves a hand at him unconcernedly and pulls a crumpled paper bag that smells like burritos out of a pocket somewhere.

“Go for it Webhead. I’ll be here practicing my Shakira impression. Got some grub for you when you’re done.”

Heart swelling with affection, Peter walks away from Wade, still lying with his back on the roof and dangling a burrito over his face, grease dripping onto him as he sings softly around the food in his mouth.

New York tilts, then settles comfortably upside down as he swings himself up to hang in the corner of the roof. The walls of the storage buildings on top of the roof make an L in the perfect position for a spider to curl up in the sun. Warm bricks settled snugly on both sides of him, he plants his feet together above his hands on the line of web he’s holding. There’s something relaxing about the pose, Peter doesn’t know why – he guesses it has something to do with the spidery side of his enhanced DNA.

His mask switches automatically into the lowest level of sensory input. The rooftop is quiet; the sound of his guardian singing is low and non-intrusive in the evening breeze.

He stills his body, stops everything to listen to the sound of his blood thrumming through his veins. Then, Peter breathes.

He starts the breathing exercises his Tony Stark-approved, NDA-signing therapist taught him. She’d showed him how to go through several different variations, but they didn’t seem to work that well when he was sitting under the bright fluorescent lights of her office. Peter’s not sure if it was the environment tripping him up, or if those breathing exercises only work for non-superpowered, non-irradiated people. He’s a natural overachiever, though, so he started doing all of them at once. When he’s tucked into a corner of some peaceful roof, Wade his omnipresent and hyper-competent guard below, the combo seems to work out alright for him, usually.

In through the nose, out the mouth, his chest expanding deeply on each lengthening breath. Starting with the tips of his toes where they clasp onto his webbing, Peter concentrates on tightening and then relaxing each muscle group in turn, until his jaw unclenches and his brow softens, tension bleeding out downwards beneath his skin.

Another deep breath, then one more, again. He concentrates on the sensation of his lungs filling with air for long moments before he lets his attention shift again.

He reaches outwards with all of his considerable senses, letting the perception of the evening settle into his mind before he dials in and examines each different avenue of sensation.

Eyes roaming the rooftop, the rest of the city and the sky, he takes in the objects scattered on the ground above his head, Wade now dancing merrily upside-down in the background, and the buildings around them reaching into the sky beneath his feet.

The sound of Wade singing is the most salient to his auditory system now, but he can also hear the million different sounds the living city makes – cars driving, machines humming, people talking-laughing-crying-eating-playing-fighting-loving, pigeons and cats and dogs and ferrets and mice and exotic animals the eccentric wealthy have to get licenses for, TVs blaring and feet falling and food being turned in pans, music playing and insects chirping and water rushing through the sewers, the wind blowing and the planes overhead and the slight sizzling sound the concrete makes as it emits the day’s residual heat. It’s a lot to process, especially when you can hear your own body living around you, so he picks out and holds onto the somewhat strangled strands of La Tortura in order to anchor himself in the flood.

He can’t feel much besides the comforting compression of his suit, but he does note the strands of webbing clutched in his hands and shifting beneath his feet, the warm bricks scratching against his back as he sways, the breeze blowing cooler air over him every so often when it can reach him. If he thinks about it, he can feel the way his hair is matted down under the mask on his head, and there’s some pressure against the faintest trace of a bruise still left on his back from a tangle with one of his rogue gallery last week.

Peter can’t taste anything right now, except a tiny hint of the hot dog he had for lunch, and the coffee he’d been swigging all day. The things he can smell, though, make him wish he was tasting some of them instead. All of the yummy street food he’d caught whiffs of earlier, albeit along with the less pleasant smells of the city as well. He takes careful note as he parses through each one.

He shifts his focus back to his own body, considers his placement, upside down in the air, and the way his limbs are folded up around him. It feels right, hanging like this, a conspicuous absence of the sensation of blood rushing to his head he knows a baseline human would be experiencing.

There’s no effort at all to tune into his spidey sense right now – it’s been droning constantly in the back of his mind since he woke up this morning, the fact that had prompted him to text Deadpool and request that they meet tonight. It’s hard to describe, the way it feels; it stings and alights with fire in turn as it makes its way trilling up and down his spine. It hovers between sensation and sound, a phantom of a warning system that at this point in time is feeling more a little overloaded, with constant stress turning every hardship into potential harm.

So he breathes.

His perceptions examined and catalogued satisfactorily, Peter turns to his thoughts. There are – a lot. None of them are fully formed enough at this point to have any sort of coherence or meaning; instead they swirl around each other to create a funnel of nebulous anxiety.

He sighs and starts trying to tease out each thought from the whirlwind. He doesn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on each one as he sorts through them, just acknowledges each anxious notion and glances away, not wanting to look at them for too long. It’s nothing new anyway. The same tired refrains built up in layers corresponding to each traumatic event in his life, starting with his uncle’s death in front of him. Fighting, dying, dust and rust, fear on the faces of the ones he loves, pain, slamming and burning, hurry up, reach out, it’s all on you, the hands holding him fading away, falling, crushing, too late, got it wrong, get up, try again, don’t let them see, don’t ever stop.

Peter picks each thought up, holds them in his mind for a bit, and lets them go.

As extra insurance against their clamor, he visualizes each thought as a person speaking them from the other side of window, and he closes the shutters against them.

The next trick he tries is imagining the mental quiet that surrounds him now as a liquid, warm and heavy, that slides down over his feet until it wraps down to his shoulders and head, encasing him in a comforting bubble of solitude.

He finishes with his favorite exercise, and he mentally conjures up a glowing blue light inside of him that contracts and expands as he breathes. The color blue he holds in his mind is sharp, light, and familiar, and he sinks into the comfort that seeing it always brings.

Calm descends on him thickly, isolating him for long moments until an equilibrium is reached, and awareness seeps back through.

Peter opens his eyes, and he breathes, cognizant of his surroundings again yet still safe and untouchable inside of the peacefulness he’s created.

He stays like for a long time, just breathing, and being, paying more attention to the imagined light synced to the rise and fall of his chest than anything he can actually see. There’s no need for him to make sense of his perceptions right now, so he doesn’t try to as he takes everything in. His suit catches lightly against the bricks as he sways, and he breathes.

The sun has set by the time the light above the door clicks on from its automatic timer. It buzzes when it’s on, wading its way into Peter’s awareness in a steady stream of light and sound. A moth flits up to it and lands, then launches itself into the air around it again.

The sky is darker now, not fully night yet, but a deeper dusk above the light pollution. A faint breeze is still blowing, wafting cool air against him. Children are laughing where they play down by the street, and the scent of cheese and beans reaches him as Deadpool unwraps another burrito.

His spidey sense is quiet now, back to the level of silence that fits the situation he’s in.

Peter flips onto his feet.

He blinks, eyes slowly focusing through the tranquil warmth still spreading through him. A laugh bubbles up through his chest as he realizes that his erstwhile guardian has been practicing handstands for the past little while in vain, probably due to the effort he spends trying to take bites out of his food at the same time.

Deadpool looks up at the sound of Peter’s laugh, and he catches a glimpse of scarred lips forming a smile before the mask is tugged quickly down and he tumbles back onto the floor of the roof. Then a variety of foodstuffs are being thrust into the air and bandied at him suggestively.

“You want the grub now or later?” asks his friend. Appreciation floods through Peter, distracting him for a bit, before his concentration returns to the question at hand.

He looks at the half-eaten burrito and wonders if his stomach is up for that just yet. Wade considers him in turn, then produces an orange from a different pouch and slices it instead.

Peter sits down, takes the slice handed to him and sniffs it surreptitiously, then shrugs. It smells clean enough. He bites into the sweet flesh, wipes the juice off that runs down his chin.

His feet swing over the edge, heels thumping satisfyingly against the building to the tune Deadpool is still humming, and he stares out over the horizon of the city while he eats.

Wade leans back on his hands beside him. “Almost good to get to it, Webs?”

A siren sounds in the distance, and Peter pulls his mask back down as he finishes the orange and climbs to his feet. Wade bounces up beside him, his own mask unable to smooth away the grin stretching across his face.

Peter readies his web-shooters and tenses, preparing to leap.

“I am now,” he says, and then he swings.