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Not the Only One

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It starts with Matt Murdock showing up at Rikers to offer his services.

“Thanks, Mr. Murdock, but I already have a lawyer,” Peter tells him. “A free one.”

“Call me Matt. And I’m free,” Matt him. “Well, free for you.”

Peter immediately tenses. “What’s that mean?”

“It means you’ve got friends in high places.”

No, no he does not. Right now, Peter barely has friends in any places, and definitely not high ones. He eyes the exit of their small meeting room. He could easily break out of his handcuffs and get through that door in seconds. He hasn’t, because he’s trying to show he can cooperate, but if this guy is from Beck’s team...

Before he can figure out if the risk is worth it, Matt shakes his head, sharp. “Don’t. If you break out, it will make your defense much harder. Trust me.”

This guy is blind, right? Or is that a trick, too?

“How did you—”

“Doesn’t matter. Just do what I say and let me do the job a certain one-eyed mutual acquaintance sent me to do.”

Oh. Those friends in high places. Peter had kind of assumed Fury had given up on him. “Alright,” he agrees. “Tell me what to do.”

***

He goes free. Matt hands him a business card.

“Call me sometime,” he says. “We have other things to discuss.”

Peter has no idea what that means. He doesn’t call.

***

Next comes Jessica offering him a job.

More accurately, next comes Jessica accosting him on his way home from his night GED class. (Because yeah, that’s his life now. Turns out it’s hard to stay in high school after being on trial for murder.)

“Hey, Spider-kid, need a job?” she says, stepping out of the shadows like a leather-clad vampire. So just a normal vampire, really.

Peter jumps. His powers have been useless recently. With half the city still thinking he’s a murderer, he’s been sensing threats from every person who looks at him funny, so he’s started tuning the tingle out when not actively in the middle of a fight. Which has the disadvantage of leading to situations like this: spilling his open water bottle all over himself because a strange women offered him a job from literally out of nowhere.

“Um,” he says, patting his shirt down and trying to catch up to what’s happening. “What?”

“I’m a private detective. You have a certain set of skills. You use those skills for me, I give you money. Sound good?”

“Uh.” Peter has been more than a little hard up for cash since the whole...everything with Beck. But he also learned his lesson about trusting random people. Especially random people who corner him in the middle of the street. “I don’t use my powers to hurt people.”

“You don’t—fuck, kid, what do you think a private detective does?”

“I honestly have no idea.”

“Well, it’s not hurt people.” She stops to consider this. “Much. Anyway, that’s not why I need you.”

He should probably walk away. No, he should definitely walk away. Instead he stands there awkwardly, trying to figure out what to say. A tiny part of him desperately wants this to be something good.

“If it helps, I know Matt Murdock,” she adds.

It does help. He takes the job. He figures: what’s the worst that can happen?

***

It takes about a month to realize Jessica doesn’t actually need him. Sure, his ability to get to high places and detect when he’s about to be caught makes him decent at the job—and he loves the excuse to go crawling around with a camera, even if most of the pictures aren’t high art—but she’s really, really good at what she does. She doesn't need an assistant.

But then he sees her lift a car with her bare hands, bothers to look her up on the internet, and puts a whole lot of things together.

He buys her flowers.

“Why?” she says when he holds them out at the start of his Saturday shift.

“To thank you for helping out a fellow super-person. And not making a thing of it. I really, really appreciate it. It’s...sweet.”

She winces, but takes the flowers. “Never call me that again. And next time, bring me a beer.”

“I’m not old enough to buy beer.”

“Donuts, then. Do I look like a flowers person?”

(But when he comes by on Monday, the flowers are in a vase on her desk. He knows better than to mention it.)

***

He meets Luke a few months later, when he and Jessica track a missing girl to Harlem and then lose the trail.

All she says by way of introduction is “Peter, this is Luke. He knows Harlem. Luke, Peter.”

“Hi,” Luke says, expression pointedly neutral, which Peter appreciates. It’s rare not to get the double-take the first time he meets someone, these days.

They get straight to business. Luke is no nonsense; together they figure out the girl has been kidnapped by the mob. Luke volunteers to help with the rescue, and Jessica agrees, which is when Peter figures out Luke must have powers, too. Jessica may act like she doesn’t care about anyone, but he’s pretty sure she wouldn’t be so quick to put a regular civilian in danger.

“So, what’s your thing?” he asks Luke as they prep for the mission, which should be a fairly simple in-and-out operation. “Super-speed, magic? Please tell me it’s not just more super-strength, that’s so boring. No offense, Ms. Jones.”

Jessica roles her eyes at him. She hates it when she calls him that, which is why he reserves it for teasing. “Don’t bite the hand that literally feeds you, Parker.”

“Not literally. I could eat without this job, I’m not that desperate.”

“Uh-huh. And explain to me who else is going to hire you?”

That sets them off down a tangent that goes on for long enough that Peter never gets the answer to his question.

***

Then the mission goes south. Super south. Alien-weapons-everywhere south.

Luke walks through the blasts like it’s nothing. Peter? Peter’s not so lucky.

“Whoa,” he manages to mutter as blackness flickers around the corner of his vision. His entire body hurts, and he can’t feel his fingers. “Cool power.”

***

He comes to on a couch, with a very pretty woman bandaging his arm.

“You heal fast,” she comments when Peter blinks his eyes open and groans. “Which is good, because otherwise you’d probably be dead.”

He gives a weak thumbs up and passes out again. He’ll worry about who she is later.

***

The next time he wakes up, Luke and Jessica are there. As is Matt Murdock, and a blonde dude Peter vaguely recognizes. He’s seen him before. Newspaper. Oh, Danny Rand. That’s who that is. He’s rich. Really rich.

They’re all sitting around a table, arguing about something.

“Uh, guys?” Peter props himself up. It still hurts to move, but not as badly as before. “I have some questions.”

They look over in unison. Matt is the first to speak.

“Peter Parker,” he says. “You never called.”

***

It turns out the girl they were looking for wasn’t kidnapped by the mob after all. She was kidnapped by a cult.

Actually, it is the mob, technically. But according to the girl—who Peter is relieved to hear Luke and Jessica rescued while he was busy being passed out—this particular mob family has gone all cult-like for some dude who wields magic and provides alien weapons.

“And the only thing he demands in return is human sacrifice of a virgin once a month,” Danny adds, mouth twisting in disgust. “It explains the teens who have been going missing in China Town.”

“Um...why does he need a human sacrifice?” Peter asks.

“Dark magic, sadism, it’s how he gets his rocks off?” Jessica shrugs. “Does it matter?”

“I guess not.” Peter chews his bottom lip, thinking it over. He still has a lot of questions. “Should we call S.H.I.E.L.D.?”

That’s met with looks of disbelief from most of the group, and confusion from Danny.

“What’s that?” he asks.

“A bunch of assholes,” Jessica replies.

“I’d rather they not be involved,” Matt agrees.

“But...but you know Fury!” Peter argues.

“In as much as he showed up at my door with a dossier on me and informed me I was your lawyer now, yes. Didn’t make me inclined to deal with him more than I have to.”

“Oh.” Peter deflates a little. “Sorry.”

He doesn’t comment on the dossier part. He’d already assumed Matt’s probably more than a normal lawyer if he’s hanging with this crowd.

Matt waves it aside. “Not your fault. I was happy to represent you. I just don’t appreciate coercion.”

“I know that feeling,” Peter agrees. “He shot my best friend with a tranquilizer dart just because I wouldn’t return his calls.”

That’s greeted with laughs. Then, without a word, Luke stands, grabs a free chair, and pulls it up to the table. He gestures for Peter to sit.

Fighting against his complaining muscles, Peter gets off the couch and joins them. He can’t help thinking it feels a bit like finally getting to sit at the adult table.

***

They don’t come up with a plan. Well, they technically come up with lots of plans, but none of them are very good.

“And this is why we don’t work together more often,” Jessica groans after they start rehashing the same failed idea for the third time. “We need a break. I’m going to grab a drink. Who wants something? Danny’s paying.”

The rest of the table murmurs their orders.

“Um, lemonade?” Peter says when they get to him. The others chuckle, but he catches Matt drawing his eyebrows together, as if he’s thinking about something.

Jessica leaves, and the rest of them sit in silence for a few awkward beats.

“So, uh, are you guys like an official team?” Peter finally asks. “The Avengers but off the grid?”

“No,” Luke replies, at the same moment Danny says, “Kind of.”

Peter glances at Matt, who, as always, seems to know exactly what Peter’s doing despite his apparent blindness. Maybe that’s his superpower.

“We sometimes run into each other like this,” he explains. “But it’s not formal.”

“Oh. Well, I still appreciate you letting me join. Not a lot of people want to hang out with someone who was accused of murder.”

As soon as he says it, he regrets it. Why would he draw attention to it? Stupid, so stupid.

But then Luke’s face goes soft with unexpected understanding. “Peter, you’re not the only one here who’s been in trouble with the law.”

“Or the media,” Danny adds.

“You are, however, the only one of us who could pass for a virgin,” Matt says. “Which gives me a very bad idea...”

***

By the time Jessica gets back, they’ve turned Matt’s very bad idea into what Peter thinks is a very good plan.

“No,” she says, firmly. “It’s too dangerous.”

Peter resists the urge to smile. He knew she cared about him. “No offense, but that’s not your call to make.”

“I brought you into this, it kind of is.”

“Do I need to point out that I’m the one who fought Thanos? On another planet?”

Jessica opens her mouth but apparently can’t think of a way to argue with that, because she snaps it shut again. “Fine. But I’m not giving you hazard pay.”

***

After another round of arguing, Matt’s the one who’s chosen to “sell” Peter to the cult.

“Struggling lawyer throws aside all morals to save his business,” Jessica says. “It’s believable.”

“And how exactly am I supposed to have caught him, in this scenario?”

“Friends in low places.” Matt makes an offended face. “What? You’re a defense attorney, it tracks.”

“That’s insulting,” Matt tells her. But he agrees to the plan.

***

“Once this is over, you actually should call me,” Matt tells Peter a few weeks later, after a whole bunch of strings pulled and lies told have scored them a meeting with the cult guys, just in time for the new month. Peter is sporting a fresh round of bruises along his face—put there by an apologetic Danny—and is bound in a pair of ‘Vibranium’ cuffs that are no such thing. “There’s a lot more you could do with those sense of yours. I can train you.”

“Absolutely,” Peter says, meaning it. A hope that reminds him of meeting Beck bubbles up in his chest. It should make him worry, but this time, he’s seen enough to believe he actually can trust Matt. Maybe he can have a teacher again. “You have no idea how awesome that would be.”

Matt laughs sadly. “Actually, I have a very good idea. But we can save that heart-to-heart for another day.”

***

For a bunch of former mafiosas, the cultists are surprisingly dumb. They don’t even check Peter’s cuffs, and they use rope to tie him to a big slab of rock that apparently once belonged to an Incan temple.

Rope. It’s almost insulting.

Just as the cult leader is lowering the knife towards his chest, chanting incomprehensible words that makes his hands glow, Peter shouts, “Now!”

Then he breaks out of his bonds and kicks the guy straight in the face. His glowing hands don’t have anything on that.

***

Jessica gets shot in the leg and Peter gets another dose of alien weapons straight to the chest, but all things considered, the mission goes smoothly. By the end of the night, the entire cabal is being rounded up by the cops.

“Celebratory dinner?” Peter asks. Maybe it’s a sign of how exhausted the rest of them are, but they agree.

 

Coda

He keeps working for Jessica. Matt trains him, and then Danny gets it into his head that he should train him, too. Luke helps him get involved with community organizing groups so he has something to do with his free time other than punch people.

In return, Peter makes them all get dinner together twice a month.

The first time, he has to literally trick them into showing up by pretending to have an emergency. But after that they come willingly, if only because Peter makes it clear he’s going to be very annoying about it if they don’t.

“This still doesn’t make us a team,” Luke says at their six month anniversary of defeating the cult, as if he hadn’t brought the champagne himself.

“Sure, we’re not a team,” Peter agrees cheerily. “We’re a—”

“I swear to god, Peter, if you say family I will punch you in the face,” Jessica warns.

Peter smirks. “I was going to say group of friends, but I like family better.”

Jessica punches him in the arm instead, and not hard enough to hurt. Well, barely.

Peter takes that as agreement.