Author's Note: Hi, welcome to the undisputedly most popular Spec Spidey fanfic on the internet!
If you can't get enough of me, you can keep up with me on my Tumblr, where I'm currently drawing the start of this fic in comic form (just for fun. I'm not the greatest artist in the world). I'm called "thebandragoness" over there, too, so it should be easy to find.
Also, please note that most reviews for this fic are discussing an older draft, so please don't skim the reviews assuming it'll give you any idea of what actually happens in this fic. It'll be totally inaccurate. Oh, and when they do happen to be accurate, the reviews have got tons of SPOILERS in them, so that's another reason to avoid them.
Anyways, hope you enjoy!
Lesson 1: Literary Studies 101
Face front, true believers! Today we bring you another scintillating tale, guaranteed to be packed with non-stop action and heart-racing drama for our favorite web-slinger! Excelsior!
The man behind the counter gave him a dry stare. "Kid, look, I'm not stupid. I know what's going on here."
The kid shifted in place, pulling his hoodie tighter over his face. "What are you talking about? Nothing's going on here. I just want to buy this stuff." He held out the bag in his hand.
"Yeah," said the man – "Bruce," according to his name tag. "And you've wanted to buy that stuff every time you've come in here since last summer. The exact same chemicals in the exact same quantities every single freakin' time." He leaned in closer, eyes narrowing. "The only thing I don't get is what kinda drugs you could possibly be making that need a twenty-pound sack of liquid cement."
The boy looked to the sack resting by his foot. "Uh, no, it's nothing like that!" he said quickly. "See, I, uh, I'm a science geek, and I use the chemicals and stuff for a... a science fair project."
The man raised an eyebrow. "A science fair project that's been going on nonstop all school year?"
There was a prolonged silence.
"Yes," said the boy.
"I can't believe he bought that! Sheesh, that's the last time I shop at Campbell's Chemistry Emporium."
Peter breathed a sigh of relief as he set the supplies down at his basement workstation. "Man, I bet it's crazy expensive everywhere else, though. Wonder if I could swipe some chemicals from the ESU lab...?" As he spoke, Peter set to work pouring vials of multicolored liquid together into a mixing bowl (Aunt May was out with Mrs. Watson. He'd have it washed and put back in no time). "Well, okay, I wouldn't steal if it was from the Connors, but they left town, and that Warren guy's a creep. He deserves to have a few chemicals stolen, doesn't he?" Next came time to pour the liquid cement. "Ah, what are you saying, Pete? You're better than that."
Then came the eggbeaters for stirring (He'd wash those, too). "Can he cook? He can bake. He makes radioactive cake. Look out... here comes the Spider-Chef!"
Now for the hard part. Getting all that fluid into the tiny little capsules was tricky, but Peter had had plenty of practice.
"And... voila! Now all that's left is to give it a test run." The shooter snapped around his wrist with a pleasant click. Peter's eyes fell on an empty Coke can on the far side of the basement.
Thwip. Said can was now in his hand.
"And we've got webs." The dryer abruptly stopped humming. "Oh, and the costume's ready. We're in business."
Peter ran for the laundry basket, tossing the web-shooters back on his work-table. "Webs, check. Costume, check. Witty repertoire, check. Finally, the fun part of the day can start. I'll stop some petty thieves, get crucified by the media, fight for my life with animal-themed supervillains... It'll be a hoot!" Peter couldn't help but grin as he dug his mask out from the gigantic pile of identical blue t-shirts in the machine.
"Note to self, stop monologing out loud every time you're alone. It's starting to get weird."
A "Wahoo!" escaped Spidey's mouth as he came off the arc of his swing. This was the best. The pleasant March air, the wind in his spandex... It felt like he belonged up here, dancing between buildings, rushing past rooftops-
Ah, there we go. Now he was monologing in his head like he was supposed to.
Spidey stuck himself to a skyscraper so he could get a better look at the streets below. Hmm... No crime as far as he could see. Definitely not any thematically appropriate mega-criminals swearing vengeance on him. In fact, the streets were cleaner than they'd ever been. With the feds still breathing down Tombstone's neck, the Big Man's whole operation was frozen with fear, and there hadn't really been any more supervillains since Gobby blew himself up.
So the head of Oscorp dies, and suddenly all the mysterious new supervillains stop appearing? Probably just a coincidence. Yeah.
Well, it'd been twenty minutes and the Lizard hadn't burst out of nowhere to eat everyone. This was boring. Spidey was hanging up the costume for the morning.
Wait, was that a purse snatcher? No, no, he was just helping that lady cross the street. Ugh. Was it wrong that Spider-Man was starting to miss Doctor Octopus?
Getting to Midtown Magnet early in the morning was like stepping onto an alien homeworld. Where maddening swarms of shouting, shoving students normally roamed, there were clean, empty hallways. It was downright tranquil.
Or so Peter had heard.
"Ow! Watch it!" Peter hissed as he failed to navigate a shouting, shoving swarm. One of these days, he was getting here more than five minutes before the bell. One of these days…
Just when the throbbing of Peter's head was starting to fade into more of a lingering ache, a nasally voice by his ear said, "Why don't you just crawl over 'em all on the ceiling?"
"Oh my god, Seymour." With a great effort, Peter mustered the strength to turn to the scrawny, curly-haired, glasses-wearing mess known as Seymour O'Reilly, who was currently hovering over his shoulder. "It was a Halloween carnival. We've been over this."
"That's not what this guy thinks." The next instant, Peter found a phone shoved in his face.
Onscreen was a blurry video of Peter's favorite slimy black supervillain waving at the camera and yelling, "Hey, reporters, over here! We've got some breaking news for you. Peter Parker is Spider-Man!"
"Oh," said Peter, "well, if the Lovecraftian horror says so…"
"You've got a huge following on the internet." Seymour thumbed through the phone, ignoring him. "That Venom video's all over Youtube. Here, someone did a ten minute dance remix-"
"Look, I can prove I'm not Spider-Man." Before Seymour's thumb had time to hit play, Peter shoved his wrists in the guy's face, then pressed his ring and middle fingers against his palms. Nothing. "There. If I was Spidey, you'd be covered in webs right now."
That one seemed to stump the guy, allowing Peter to finally, mercifully vanish into the anonymity of the crowd.
Phew, that'd been a close one. Good thing the general public had no idea Peter's webs weren't organic. Which was great because that'd be gross. But also a lot cheaper... Okay, organic web-shooters wouldn't be so bad.
Once he was a safe distance away, Peter leaned against a locker to check his phone. It was an older model, the nicest the Parker family fortune could afford. Well, actually, he did have one of those newfangled Osberries, but Peter had left that buried in his closet somewhere seeing as it had Norman-germs all over it. As a rule of thumb, superheroes shouldn't use any gadgets that were given to them by their arch-nemeses.
Peter strained to read his phone's cracked screen. To the surprise of no one, Gwen hadn't returned his texts. No word from her since the funeral. And their internships had turned into a contest to see who could go the longest without breaking the dead silence. Great. You confess your love for someone who can't break up with her boyfriend out of pity, and suddenly everything's all awkward between you. Relationship drama? Just another Thursday in the life of Peter Parker, teen heartthrob.
The light turned green, opening the floodgates for New York's regular storm of high-speed traffic. Any sane person would've noticed the change and stopped at the edge of the crosswalk.
But six-year-olds weren't the sanest people ever.
Honk honk. "Ahh-!"
Thwip. An elastic strand of sticky goodness sent the little girl flying back to the sidewalk.
"Hey!" A red-and-blue-clad hero landed at the girl's side. "You okay?"
"Thank you, Mr. Spider-Man!" Immediately, the girl threw her arms around his waist.
"Please, Mr. Spider-Man is my dad. Call me Spidey." Spider-Man knelt to put a hand on her shoulder. "Didn't your mom ever tell you to look both ways before crossing the street?"
The girl stayed quiet, eyes on her shoes.
"Actually…" Spidey glanced around. There were plenty of onlookers, but none were running forward to claim the kid. "…where is your-?"
"Get your hands off my daughter." She was, naturally, right behind him. The woman looked like a slightly younger Aunt May, only about a gazillion times less endearing.
"Hey, there you are," said Spider-Man. "Your kid was all alone-"
"I know all about you!" snapped the woman. "I read the Bugle!"
"Oh, well, then, clearly you're an enlightened individual."
"Get your hands off my daughter!"
"I'm going, I'm going!" Spidey swung off without another word.
"Thsizzastckp," the man muttered.
"What?" asked the girl behind the counter.
The man sighed and poked his gun further out his jacket pocket. "This is a stickup," he said slower. "Gimme all your money. But, err, don't make a scene or nothin'."
"Y-Yes, sir!" The girl wasted no time emptying the contents of her cash register. The robber stuffed it in his jacket, then did his best to look casual as he exited the drug store.
Thwip. "Ah, trying to do a stealth robbery, are we?" said a brightly-colored man dangling upside-down off a nearby lamp post. "That seems to be a popular Spidey-evasion method with the crooks these days. Well, sorry to tell you this, but you've gotta get up pretty early in the morning to pull a fast one on your friendly neighborhood-"
Unfortunately, Spidey couldn't finish the quip because the thug made a run for it. Ugh, he hated when that happened. All that A-material wasted.
"Heavens to Betsy!" said Spider-Man, hopping after him. "The Sinister Six, I can handle, but I might have met my match with Generic Drug Store Robber Man." He smashed his middle and ring fingers into his palms.
A little too hard, apparently. There wasn't just a thwip – There was an ear-splitting KER-SPLOOSH.
The dust cleared to reveal what looked like ground zero of a web fluid asteroid impact. There was webbing over the sidewalk, the shop windows… Heck, it'd even trapped a few cars at the edge of the road. In fact, it'd trapped just about everything except the fleeing thug.
"What the-?" You couldn't really tell with the mask on, but Peter's jaw was hanging open. "No. I must've mixed up the formula wrong." That's when he spotted the misshapen lumps under his gloves. "And now my web-shooters are broken."
Great, he'd have to catch the thug the boring way. Spider-Man sprinted after the guy… only to watch his target drop into an open manhole in the street.
"Aw, dude, come on!" Spidey knelt over it, peering at the murky goop below. "I just washed these tights! You really gonna make me chase you down there? Okay, y'know what, I'm done. I'm tattling on you to the cops. Pretty sure covering themselves in sewage is demanded by their Oath of Honor."
"Spider-Man!" Speak of the devil. Spidey spun to find a pair of officers racing towards him, though they couldn't get too close unless they wanted their feet glued to the pavement by the mess Spider-Man had left behind. They were a weasel-faced man and a short-haired, darker-skinned woman who Spidey recognized as Sergeants Carter and DeWolff.
"Hey, Web-Head." Carter grinned at the chaos. "The guy got away, huh? Next time, try using more web-fluid."
DeWolff, however, was less enthused. "Isn't stopping petty thieves beneath you?" she spat. "The police could've handled this. You didn't have to use this much webbing."
"My web-shooters broke."
"What?" DeWolff looked lost. "Broke? Aren't your webs organic?"
"No, they're- Look, it's not important." Spidey buried his palm in his forehead. "Just let me clean up my mess-"
"If you're going to stick around, why not come with us to the station so we can ask you a few questions?" DeWolff stepped towards him.
"Oh, darn, I forgot to water my plants!" Spidey pounced into the air and fired a web... and then smacked into the pavement. Oh. Right.
Slowly, Spidey turned back to the officers. "No one. Say. Anything." He jumped on to the wall, sprinted up a building, and vanished over the rooftop.
Spider-Man wasn't hiding. He was just… loitering a bit until those cops left. Spidey dangled his legs over the edge of the rooftop, gazing up at the sunset over the Hudson.
"I'm not pathetic," he said. "I bet lots of other superheroes have problems getting around."
Whoosh. He was lucky he didn't go blind – Out of nowhere, a brilliant orange streak shot across the sky.
"Huh? What?" Spidey sprang back, rubbing his eyes.
The cheers from below told all he needed to hear:
"Ohmigod, ohmigod, JOHNNY STORM just flew past me!"
The whole street had gone berserk, filling the air with phones and white flashes. People were no doubt hoping to spice up their timelines with some blurry pics of the legendary Human Torch, fire-spewing hero extraordinaire, before he vanished on the horizon.
Yeah, that's right, Spider-Man wasn't the only superhero in Manhattan. He was just the only one who happened to be a poor person. See, ever since World War II, when technology had advanced to the point where gaining superpowers went from science fiction to science fact, throwing on a brightly-colored costume to fight crime had become something of a tradition among the superhuman community. Yes, yes, Spider-Man admitted it, he was riding the coattails of a fad. Well, his had originally been a wrestling costume, but he'd repurposed it once he'd learned what came with great power.*
*On the "Ask Greg" section of the Station Eight Gargoyles fan site, Greg Weisman revealed that the Fantastic Four do indeed exist in the Spec Spidey universe and "probably made their debut in November of Pete's sophomore year," but they only fight large-scale and/or cosmic threats. – Ed
Spidey watched the orange streak draw near one of the taller structures in Manhattan's skyline. The giant, three-dimensional "4" carved into the top made it pretty hard to mistake it for anything but the Baxter Building, home of the Fantastic Four, the superhero team of which Torch was member number… three? Two? Kinda hard to keep that straight when they all had the same number printed on their costumes. Spider-Man wouldn't be caught dead in that getup.
Actually, one of the Web-Head's very first actions last summer had been to pay the Baxter Building a visit, but the Four had somehow gotten the impression that Spider-Man was some kind of creep. Human Torch may or may not have tried to light Spider-Man on fire, and a gratuitous fight scene may or may not have broken out, but eventually, Mister Fantastic (A.K.A. Reed Richards), the leader, had used his living-Stretch Armstrong powers to block Spidey's path and interrogate him, and then Spider-Man had said he wanted on their payroll, and then Invisible Girl (A.K.A. Susan Storm) had politely explained that the Fantastic Four was a non-profit organization, and then the Thing (A.K.A. Ben Grimm) had told him to get lost.
Hmmph. The Four had apparently gained their superpowers when mysterious cosmic rays hit their spaceship… which Spidey could only assume had also fried their brains.
Spider-Man's eyes traveled to the misshapen, tumor-like lumps on his wrists beneath the spandex. What was he doing, lounging around grumbling about the veteran superheroes? It wasn't like they'd ever helped him a day in his life. The FF had debuted months before that fateful spider bite, but apparently all the brand new supervillains rampaging around the streets of Manhattan were beneath their notice. The Fantastic Four, as they liked to explain on every late-night talk show, were primarily focused on "cosmic" threats – though they seemed more than happy to let Spider-Man deal with Venom (cough cough CHARLATANS cough).
Well, who needed 'em? The Web-Head could manage perfectly fine on his own, thank you very much. What was all their money good for, anyways? Saving lives didn't cost anything!
Spider-Man stood, turned towards the Queensboro Bridge in the distance, fired a web-shooter… and then listened to the pathetic little spurt it made.
The man had been pretty invested in reading the newspaper, but his attention was torn away when he noticed the person in the seat next to him was wearing a skintight red and blue suit.
"Hey! Are you the real Spider-Man?"
"Uh huh," said the real Spider-Man.
"What're ya takin' the subway for? Why aren't you, y'know, web-swinging to wherever you wanna-?"
"This is so unfair!" Spidey threw his arms in the air. "I bet Human Torch never run out of fire…"
"You ran outta webs?" His fellow passenger looked thoughtful. "Maybe you should see a doctor-?"
"THEY'RE NOT ORGANIC."
"Back so soon?" Bruce gave Peter another one of his dry stares. "Either you made a big sale, or you just couldn't help yourself and smoked the entire-"
"I'M NOT MAKING DRUGS."
"Ugh." The door creaked shut behind Peter. The last traces of daylight had faded by now, so the only illumination in here came from the living room's reading lamps. All these shadows no doubt elevated Peter's facial expression from scowling to bloodthirsty.
"Peter! Welcome back," said a voice from the opposite doorway. Aunt May was standing by her bedroom door in her nightgown, and no amount of shadows could make her face look anything but heartwarming. "Always good to see you here before curfew. How's your day been?"
Peter stood in place a moment. "Good. It was- It was, y'know, it was fine." He probably should've told her about how he'd run around all day being happy and productive and well-adjusted, but his brain was in no condition to be making crap up.
"Well, now that you're back, I need to be off to bed." Aunt May gave one last smile before drifting away into her room. Yeah, somehow Peter's answer had failed to grab her interest.
The moment she was gone, Peter collapsed onto the sofa. His eyes squeezed shut.
"Truth is, Aunt May, today's been kinda stressful." Peter's mouth formed the words, but his throat stayed still. "I saved a little girl from getting squished in traffic, and as a reward, her mom chewed me out, and then I broke my web-shooters for the first time since I built them, so who knows how long it's gonna take to fix 'em? Oh, and then a crook got away and the cop was real snippy with me. See, because when I save people's lives, it's wrong because I can't afford a fancy tower headquarters, not like the illustrious Johnny Storm, see, because he can cash in on his heroism because he doesn't have to wear a mask because- because I guess he doesn't have an aunt with a weak heart or a best friend who'd go all Inigo Montoya if he learned the truth, and he can probably get whatever girl he wants just by telling her his name. Oh yeah, have I ever mentioned that before, Aunt May? Have I ever mentioned that I spend my free time dressing in a campy costume to fight crime? No? Well, gosh, I hope that doesn't stress you out or anything."
Peter forced himself to exhale as he sank into the cushions. What'd happened to him? Last summer, swinging and punching and wise-cracking had been the most fun things ever. The loneliness part had really crept up on him, hadn't it? It was surreal – Sometimes, Peter would swear the illusion was true, that Peter Parker and Spider-Man really were two different people.
He guessed he couldn't blame himself. Peter had literally never spoken to a soul about his masked exploits since the spider bite. Okay, besides Eddie Brock. Yeah, he'd make a great therapist for Peter.
Peter shook his head, causing the grizzled face of Captain Stacy to flash through it. Well, Peter didn't know for a fact if Gwen's dad knew his secret, but... come on. Come onnnn. But what was Peter supposed to do, go up to him after criminology and say, "Excuse me, Captain Stacy, I'm constantly battling supervillains and it's traumatized me. Can I cry on your shoulder?"
Peter buried his head in his hands. And on top of everything else, now he wasn't just broke, he was double broke because his stupid shooters had busted and he'd wasted all his web-fluid. And right after he'd had to buy a new camera, too. That shouldn't have been such a surprise, really. Those poor web-shooters had been working overtime since summer. They were bound to give way eventually, and really, better it happen against a random mook than a supervillain, right? And at least, with so little crime to fight lately, the web-explosion had made for some pictures Jameson would eat up. Peter could see the headlines already: "SPIDEY WEBS HIS PANTS."
Peter wondered if it'd be worth it to let the symbiote possess his brain just so he'd have unlimited webs.
"...believe it or not, the singer's baby was found driving the car for a fourth time. And now we bring you to an exclusive interview with the head of the Daily Bugle, Mr. J. Jonah Jameson."
Peter's attention was turned to the TV, which had been left on with the volume low. The face of the greatest human being in the whole world was plastered across the screen.
"So tell me, Mr. Jameson," said the news anchor, "why the vendetta against Spider-Man in particular?"
"The answer's simple, Trilby," said Jameson, looking quite pleased with himself. "The Wall-Crawler wears a mask. What's he got to hide, huh? The people don't need to worship some vigilante who doesn't answer to anyone but himself. What New York needs is a higher caliber of hero. Someone selfless and brave. Someone like – picking at total random here – Colonel Jupiter. Now there was a superhero!" He glared into the camera, as if he was staring at Peter himself, and added, "At least until Spider-Man ruined him."
"That's it." Peter grabbed the remote and smashed the power button. "You're welcome for saving your son from alien spores, you-" He proceeded to use a word the Comics Code wouldn't have approved.
Peter buried his head in the couch cushions. This royally sucked. He had no (ANGST WARNING) money, no girlfriend, no- no uncle. His best friends were both insane and hated either Peter or Spider-Man or both. The public hated Spider-Man when he had done literally nothing but save lives his entire career. The Parker household was still paying the bills from Aunt May's heart attack. The Connors had moved away, meaning Peter's internship at ESU was now being handled by that skeevy Warren guy. And thanks to Venom, Spider-Man's secret identity was all over the internet. In auto-tuned dance remix videos!
Peter groaned and rolled over on the couch cushions. Yay. Being Spider-Man was so much fun.
"Tell me there's something better..."
Had Peter kept the TV on, he would have caught the part where the news anchor said, "And here in the studio for our second exclusive interview, we have the little girl who, as seen in this dramatic phone footage, was almost abducted by Spider-Man until her mother scared the Wall-Crawler off."
The camera zoomed in on the girl's unfathomably innocent face.
"See? What I tell you?" came Jameson's voice from offscreen. "How much more proof do you need he's a menace?"
"How did it feel?" asked the anchor. "Were you scared?"
"No," the little girl said simply. "Spider-Man didn't try to a-duck me. I didn't look both ways before crossing the street, and I was gonna get hit by a car, and then Spider-Man saved me."
"Hubba-wha?" came Jameson's voice again.
The little girl smiled into the camera, revealing a few missing teeth. "Thank you, Mr. Spider-Man."
No matter how the man's lungs screamed, he didn't dare slow his pace. He'd just been- and Spider-Man was- and there'd been webbing everywhere. It'd exploded! He didn't know Spider-Man's webs could do that!
Mind racing, the thug dived into the only available hiding spot – an open manhole. It was rancid in here, but surprisingly spacious.
"Aw, dude, come on!" came his pursuer's voice from the surface. "I just washed these tights! You really gonna make me chase you down there? Okay, y'know what, I'm done. I'm tattling on you to the cops." His voice grew fainter and fainter. "Pretty sure covering themselves in sewage is demanded by their Oath of Honor..."
But even with Spider-Man gone, still the man did not relax. He continued his trek through the sewers in silence, doing his best not to think about all those stories of alligators living down here… or the pictures of the giant lizard monster he'd seen in the paper that one time.
The man rounded the corner- "Gah!" -and was met with something big and green staring at him. The man fell on his butt, getting his only good jeans soaked.
After a horrifying second, though, he realized this wasn't the face of a lizard. It was… a mask. One of several green masks spread out on some kinda work bench, along with purple hoods. And beside them were metallic racks containing rows opn rows of round, orange thingies, like miniature basket balls. And on the ground beside them were these, like, giant robot bats.
Wait. The man had seen pictures of these in the paper, too.
"See, boss, it's all right where I said it was!" The man ushered a second man into the hideout, one wearing a heavy (but highly fashionable) overcoat. "This must be, like, the Green Goblin's secret lair or somethin'."
"Yes," said the second man. "There's no question of that. You've done well."
"Aw, gee, thanks, boss."
The second man inspected one of the metal racks. "Hmm. This little find will have to remain between the two of us."
"You don't gotta worry 'bout that, boss. I won't tell nobody.
"Yes," said the second man. "I know you won't."
The last thing the first man saw was something round and orange flying at his face. The last thing he heard was an explosion that sounded like laughter.
Another Author's Note: Besides the Fantastic Four, Greg Weisman has revealed the whereabouts of several other Spectacular Spider-Man universe versions of classic Marvel heroes. As of the show's final episode…
The Sub-Mariner is "still a bum," having gotten amnesia sometime after WWII.
Captain America is "still frozen."
Ant-Man is "operating under the radar (pun intended)."
Hulk is "jumping around the American Southwest, more legend than anything."
Tony Stark hasn't yet gotten his injury to become Iron Man.
Thor is currently stuck as Donald Blake and hasn't gone to Norway or gotten his hammer back yet.
Xavier is "just beginning to set up his school with his first couple of students (Cyclops and Beast)," and the general public doesn't know about the existence of mutants.
Doctor Strange is "probably still in Tibet."
Matt Murdock hasn't yet become Daredevil.
Hawkeye is still a mere carnival performer.
Black Widow is still a Russian spy.
Frank Castle's family hasn't yet been killed.
Marc Spector hasn't yet become Moon Knight.
Many of these heroes, though, will begin operating sometime during this story!