It's been three months since the world forgot Peter Parker.
Three months since he said his last goodbye to MJ and Ned. Three months since he lost Aunt May. (Her final words still haunt him. They'd been so soft in that moment of chaos. Even as she bled out her focus had been on him. On making sure he was okay. On making sure that he understood that she didn't blame him for trying to help people, even supervillains. Her only focus had been to emphasize to Peter that with great power came great responsibility. He owed his kindness to more than just those who deserved it.
I just need to catch my breath, she'd said, in a voice feather-light and far away. Now, every time a criminal gets a lucky blow at his chest, knocking the wind out of him, his heart stutters and his lungs refuse to fill. His returning punch is always just a bit too hard.
But he didn't kill Osborn and he doesn't kill them. Even if tears spring in his eyes from more than just the pain.)
In between preparing for his GED, creating a new Spider-Man suit, and finding a job that'll actually cover his rent, Peter's had little time to grieve. Though he'd be loathe to admit it, this is by design. The past can't hurt him if he doesn't let it catch up. So he keeps moving. Keeps swinging. At the very least, the world hasn't forgotten Spider-Man.
He's not exactly sure how that works, but he's grateful all the same.
"Watch out! Coming through!" Peter yells, shooting his webs at the next lamppost. The webs latch onto the curve of the post, throwing him off-course in what is probably a lovely ballerina twirl. New Yorkers honk and curse as Spider-Man swings above Queens traffic. Adjusting his trajectory before he can slam full force into the metal pole, Peter continues his pursuit of the armored truck. It weaves in and out of lanes with little precision, grinding against taxis and minivans as its tires squeal.
The van's stolen. Because of course it is. Peter doesn't really care about what the van's cargo is, though he hazards a guess from the Chase Bank logo that it's valuable. Worth stealing in broad daylight over.
Finally in swinging distance, he shoots a web at the truck and slingshots himself forward. He lands on the roof of the truck with a heavy thud. The driver and his accomplice in the passenger seat shout in alarm and the hairs on the back of Peter's neck rise. He flings himself to the side of the van-- latched on for dear life with sticky fingers-- just in time to avoid the rattle of gunfire bursting through the roof.
"Hey, hey! This thing's supposed to be bulletproof!" Peter flattens himself against the wall of the truck, narrowly avoiding being crushed against a city bus as the driver tries to shake him off. "You're gonna void their warranty! Then how are they gonna get their money back, huh?"
He's shouting into the wind, his voice lost in the angry honks and yelling of civilians. Nobody's even pulling over. At this point, Peter figures that no self-respecting New Yorker will abandon their car unless they're on a collapsing bridge. A truck hijacking in the middle of the day? That's nothing. After all the alien and multiverse attacks, any car owner worth their disdain for Taxi Driver has insurance up to their ears. They can deal with a broken side mirror or some scratched paint. But that doesn't mean they aren't going to bitch about it.
"Get 'em off the road!" The woman's shout is followed by another honk.
"You got this, Spider-Man!" This cheer is further away. Hopefully off-road. "Do a flip!"
How the hell is he supposed to manage that on a moving truck that's determined to crush him like a bug? Peter crawls back up to the roof of the truck, waving in in the direction of the voice. As an afterthought, he flashes a peace sign. Whoops of laughter erupt from the sidewalk, getting further and further away. Wind whips at Peter's face, pushing his mask into the seam of his lips. The cloth doesn't taste good.
Up ahead, Peter spots an intersection. He can't let the truck go barreling through it. Even from here, he can see pedestrians crossing without raising their heads. They don't even look both ways. Really, Peter can only do so much to keep people safe. Shooting down a web, blocking the bullet holes and hoping that they won't try to shoot through again, Peter fixes his hold on the truck.
(They gotta know they're fucked at this point, right? The second they saw Spider-Man it would have just been smarter to pull over and surrender. Sure, Peter still would have webbed them up like Christmas presents for the police, but at least they wouldn't be charged for reckless driving. But giving up is boring, and, really, where's the fun in it?)
"I hope you're wearing your seatbelts!" Peter throws both hands out and fires his web shooters at the upcoming buildings. His webs land just above the awnings of a little café and a flower shop, sticking fast. Gripping the webs in his fists, Peter leans back and pulls. He's held a boat together. He can stop a truck going sixty in a thirty zone.
The two men in the truck cry out in pain as the force throws them against the dash. The driver knocks his head against the steering wheel, eliciting a sharp honk that makes Peter's teeth vibrate. He yanks the truck back until it finally stops, just inches from the intersection. A car that had been tailgating the truck rear-ends them, throwing Peter off-balance. As he tries to regain his footing, his webs pull at the roof of the truck, veering sharply to the right. He pulls for balance as the truck crashes onto its side.
Inside the truck, Peter listens to the sound of glass and pottery breaking, smashing into dust, bunching up his shoulders and cringing. The sounds go on for cartoonishly long, and Peter half-expects to hear the yowl of a cat by the end of it. The two men groan from the front.
There's some blood in the front seat, but mostly from the twin smashed noses that are puffing up into cherry-red tomatoes. After making sure they're not seriously injured, Peter covers their hands in webbing, pinning them to the dashboard. Traffic detours around them and sirens draw closer. He checks on the driver of the car that rear-ended them, a young person with purple hair wearing an NYU sweatshirt, but they wave him off, telling him, "I'm good! But, uh, my insurance is iffy with superheros so you might want to go before they think I staged this."
"Oh, right." Peter nods. "Uh, stay in school?"
"Planning to!" they call out as Peter makes his escape.
"The Spider Menace strikes again!"
Peter sighs, lying back on his lumpy bed and propping up his phone. He knows he shouldn't watch anything the Daily Bugle puts out, knows it only leaves him in a bad mood, but he can't help it. It's like ordering takeout when you know you have food in the fridge. Indulging in the moment and tough on you later. Besides, he likes to know how Jameson uses the photos he sells.
(Hey, we all got to make rent somehow, right?)
J. Jonah Jameson rants in that unique style of his, covering everything about Peter's encounter with the armored truck except for the truth. Eight million dollars in damages. Mostly from the smashed contents of the truck. It'd been transporting nesting eggs and precious pottery and a lot of other rich people things that Peter doesn't really understand the point of. All he knows is that the owners of the items inside are pissed.
One woman calls into Jameson's show, boasting about how she plans to sue Spider-Man for damages. Insurance covers a lot of things, like protection from theft, but it somehow doesn't extend to vigilantes stopping thefts and subsequently destroying everything in transport.
"And why shouldn't Spider-Man get his day in court?" Jameson says, slamming his fist down on his desk. "If he really thinks he's helping this city he'd unmask himself and face consequences for his actions like a real man would!"
Peter scoffs. That would go over well.
Clicking away from the live-stream, Peter scrolls through his phone and listens to the static of the police scanner on his bedside table. He should go back out. It's not like there's much else he can do. And lying here is making him think about things he's not quite ready to think about just yet.
He thinks about how much easier this would all be if he just had pictures with them. Or videos. Or anything that proved he existed and was once part of their lives. He hadn't thought about that part of Doctor Strange's spell. Sure, he'd known (kind of) that the memories would be gone. Plucked from their heads like the world had never known a Peter Parker. But somehow his mind had never made the connection that any physical or digital trace of Peter would disappear too.
It'd been hell to draw up a whole new identity. The first month after he lost everyone had been about recreating a life for himself. A backstory, a past, a social security number. Everything a newly-forgotten boy needed to get back on his feet.
But while he can find photos of his Aunt May online (working at FEAST or from the remnants of a never-deleted Linkedin profile), there's nothing left to prove that he knew her. That he was her nephew. That she and his Uncle Ben took him in after his parents had died, and that she had been the most wonderful person in the world. There's just... nothing. A slate he had never wanted wiped clean.
His eyes are stinging. He should go back out. He should climb out of his mildewy apartment and be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. But there might be more police against him than for him tonight. Rich people tended to have influence over things like that. If they want to sue him, it will take a few days for things to calm down.
It's easier to think about how someone would go about suing Spider-Man than it is to think about May. So he goes over the process in his head, drawing his memories of his arrest after Mysterio to fill in spaces. He'd needed a lawyer. A good one.
Happy Hogan had recommended Matt Murdock. He'd represented known vigilantes before, Happy had said, and was incredibly good at what he did. He was a shark in the courtroom, but gentle and empathetic outside of it. He'd been essential to getting Peter out of criminal charges then.
His thoughts linger on that. As long as he doesn't get arrested, he doesn't really have a need for a lawyer. But if even something as innocuous as being indirectly responsible for the damages done to a piece of old pottery could lead to Peter being unmasked, maybe it would be a good idea to get a lawyer waiting in the wings. He didn't have to tell him who Spider-Man was. He just had to get someone in his corner.
And Matt Murdock had said that he was a really good lawyer.