Author's Note: Background info: This story picks up a few months after Gwen's death at the end of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 (although the movie probably won't really be mentioned in the story much beyond her death) and after the events of the Avengers. Sytsevich hasn't become the Rhino yet and Peter hasn't resumed the mantle of Spiderman, but he hasn't given up; rather, he is taking a break to catch up on his life. His peace won't last long, though . Also, Peter hasn't graduated high school yet and still has a semester left. The Avengers never broke up and are all living together in the Stark Tower, on call and ready for any emergencies that happen around the world.
Warning: AU Avengers and Peter. Very non-canon.
"I was falling. Falling through time and space and stars and sky and everything in between. I feel for days and weeks and what felt like lifetime across lifetimes. I fell until I forgot I was falling."
― Jess Rothenberg, The Catastrophic History of You and Me
Chapter 1: From the Sky He Came
"All right class, please turn in your test packet and answer document into two piles on the front test. Everyone have a great weekend." As Mr. Warren called the time for the test several students in the back row groaned and quickly filled in the last few blank bubbles on their sheets.
Peter Parker grinned as he stood up to turn in his work. He had actually finished the end of semester exam ten minutes prior to time being called; most of the extra time he had gained after taking a break from being Spider-Man had gone into his school work. Now he was back as one of the top five highest achieving students at Midtown High School. With Gwen Stacy gone, the number one spot was almost too easy to take.
The smile suddenly dropped from his face and Peter quickly walked over to the front desk, dropped his papers onto it and left the classroom, ignoring his teacher calling his name. Peter put his headphones on and cranked up the volume, allowing the Fall Out Boy to blast in his ears. The battle between him and Harry that had cost Gwen her life happened over four months ago and Peter was finally getting back into the rhythm of school and home life. However, there were still times when a train of thought would lead to memories of Gwen and the time they spent together. Her death would then momentarily overwhelm him with grief, as if the stitches holding the hole she had left in his chest closed were ripped out, reopening the wound and causing the familiar pain to run throughout his body.
"Mr. Parker, please wait a moment!" Mr. Warren's voice somehow made its way past the blaring sound and Peter sighed as he paused the music and slid his headphones around his neck. He turned to face his science teacher as Mr. Warren came panting down the hallway, waving a piece of paper in his hands.
"You left the classroom so soon I didn't have the chance to give this to you. Have big plans for this evening, I assume?" The teacher smiled at his favorite student.
"Uh yeah, of course Mr. Warren: big plans." Peter had actually been intending to spend the weekend holed up in his bedroom with the door locked. He had been working on perfecting improved webbing that contained increased tensile strength. He had fallen on his patrols of the city and during fights far too often due to his webs snapping mid-swing and Peter was determined to maximize his abilities before he made another appearance as Spider-Man; he couldn't handle not being able to save someone who depended on him again. Being a hero required both ability and responsibility, and Peter wasn't sure if he was up to either of those standards yet.
Mr. Warren cleared his throat and straightened his waistcoat before handing Peter the paper. "Well, I just wanted you to know that you have received another offer. Many colleges are looking for bright young minds and you stick out to them with your phenomenal work and extra activities. Keep doing what you have been for these last few months and I can almost guarantee that you will have your pick of the litter."
Peter plastered on a fake smile and took the offered sheet. "Thanks." Despite the opportunities presented, Peter planned on attending Empire State University, assuming he could get a full ride. Money was tight enough without adding college tuition to the mix, especially since The Daily Bugle had laid him off once Spider-Man disappeared. While it wasn't the best science university and its chemical engineering program was lacking, the campus wasn't far way enough that he would need to move. This way, Peter could stay and take care of Aunt May while being able to protect his city on the day-to-day basis he had gotten used to since first becoming the masked vigilante.
Heading out of the school doors after dodging a flurry of stuck out elbows from other students who were more focused on their conversations and phones than their surroundings, Peter began walking towards his home. The crisp January air didn't bother his genetically-enhanced body very much, but he pulled up the hood of his jacket regardless, conscious of how he appeared to the other pedestrians.
The streets of New York City were as crowded as any other Friday afternoon; the one-day tourists and those who came over to the island every week for work only added to the already immense population occupying the densely packed area. Peter passed by old billboards, walls littered with graffiti and people who walked just a bit faster with their heads down and hands in their pockets as he entered one of the less picturesque parts of the city. His home was in a relatively pleasant, suburbia-like neighborhood, but it was a thirty minute walk from his school and without the advantage of being able to swing over the streets with his webs, Peter had to walk through areas of varying circumstances. A lot of the city was dangerous, most prominently at night; the booming industries and seemly endless opportunities attracted all sorts of businesses and people, many of which weren't above stepping around the law.
However, Peter wasn't too worried about New York's safety. Ever since the Avengers defeated Loki and his scary-ass (in Peter's humble opinion) Chitauri army in the highly publicized Battle of New York, crime rates had dropped significantly. He knew that the peace wouldn't last much longer, though. The battle had happened four months ago, and now that NYC was, for the most part, rebuilt and stabilized, it would only be a matter of time before the criminals realized that the Avengers only dealt with the high-scale crimes. Petty theft, muggings gone wrong and other such smaller, yet still individually impactful events were left to the police and vigilantes like the MIA Spider-Man.
Peter finally lost the last bit of tension in his shoulders as he entered a commercial district. He was about half way home and was already planning which experiment he would start his weekend-long science binge session off with. While his web shooters were important, he also wanted to start on his entry for the end of year science competition. Peter had already started sketching out ideas for a powerful reversed polarity magnet strong enough the move a BMW. Then there was also the formula that Dr. Connors had used to regrow his arm. While it backfired spectacularly and cost many people their lives, including… It could still help a lot of people if he worked out the kinks and actually tested it properly….
The ricocheting, unfortunately familiar sound of gunshots suddenly rang out from a bank on the corner and Peter tensed as everyone in the vicinity cleared out, many pulling out their cell phones as they ran to take pictures or call the police. Two men dressed in jeans and black shirts wearing baseball caps pulled low over their heads suddenly burst out of the double doors, one stuffing a nondescript flash drive in his pocket, and ran in Peter's direction. Peter stopped and leaned against a brick building next to a narrow alleyway, as if getting out of their way.
As soon as the first guy drew parallel to him, Peter grabbed the two men and threw them into the small space with greater than normal force. The one carrying a handgun hit his head against the edge of a dumpster and fell over, instantly knocked out from the blow. The second, sturdier looking guy quickly sprang up and jumped at Peter, grabbing his knife from his right boot as he went.
The scuffle was short and anticlimactic. Peter grabbed the wrist holding the knife as it came at his chest and pushed it up past his head. He brought up his knee and slammed it into the robber's abdomen while using his other hand to shove the man's shoulder to the side, causing him to fall over with a huff. While the man was still on the ground trying to get his breath, Peter reached into the robber's pocket and pulled out the flash drive, interested as to why they would forgo the money and valuables that were undoubtedly held within the bank for the plastic information stick.
The robber let out a pained grunt and tried to hull himself up to grab the drive from Peter. The vacationing superhero let his foot slam down on the man's head, breaking his nose and forcing him to pass out from the trauma. Peter checked both men quickly for a concussion as the wailing sirens that indicated the police were finally showing up became louder. Satisfied that they would be okay until someone arrived, he ran out the other end of the alley and mixed in with the crowds of people pushing past each other on the busy New York City sidewalks. A fighter Peter was, but he tried to never take it too far as to accidently do irreparable damage when he could avoid it, even when he was caught up in a battle as Spider-Man.
Peter shook his head and berated himself for getting involved as he hurried down an alternative route home, one that would allow him to avoid the blocks surrounding the crime scene. This had been the second time he had interfered in a low scale robbery without his costume on just in the last month. His body was ready to start crime fighting again, even though his mind told him it was too soon. This inner conflict led him to make split second decisions to get involved without prior preparation or thought that he knew were going to get him into trouble eventually.
Peter pulled out the flash drive he had taken from the robber and examined it. There didn't appear to be anything special about it; it was completely black with only the initials S.I. on the side in silver letters and was the size of an average 16 gigabyte flash drive. Putting it back in his jean pocket, Peter decided he would turn it into the police anonymously later. It had been an in-the-moment decision to take it and Peter didn't think he wanted the trouble of dealing with whatever was contained on the drive.
After reaching his house without further incident, Peter walked up the steps of his front porch and reached for his keys to open the door.
"Hey Aunt May, I am ho-"
An explosion burst behind him as something crashed onto the cement sidewalk leading up to the entrance in the front yard. Peter was pushed through the door and into the staircase harshly by the force of the crash.
"Oh my word, Peter!" His Aunt May cried as she rushed down the stairs and knelt down carefully beside her nephew. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I think I'm fine", Peter mumbled as he slowly lifted himself up with one hand on the steps, the other feeling around his head, where he thankfully felt no blood. He used the railing to stand up and cautiously walked back to the front door to check out what happened.
The porch was littered with rubble from the decimated walkway, but was still standing and appeared to be, for the most part, damage free. Peter carefully stepped out onto it with a hand over his mouth to block out the dust in the air and did his best to avoid the pieces of cement on the ground.
Looking up to find out the cause of the wreckage, Peter's jaw dropped as he spotted none other than the Avenger Captain America, lying face down and unmoving in the wide smoking crater that his fall created, just a few feet away from his Aunt's prize winning tulip bed.
End Author's Note: I have only been to New York City a few times in my life, and while I have walked around it a lot, I haven't the faintest idea where everything is located. Not to mention, I'm pretty sure Spider-Man is set in an alternant NYC, so I hope Peter's trip through the city wasn't so far off as to be ridiculous.