Peter's first full day at the Young Minds center sped by. It was a whirlwind of activities, truckloads of information, and a plethora of jaw-dropping opportunities.
It gave Peter no time to think.
He was relieved. The latest confrontation with the Avengers was still fresh in his mind. Had the schedule not been as busy as it was, the memories would've simmered and boiled, until the inside of Peter's mind was a chaotic, bubbling mess.
As soon as the Young Mind students were dismissed for the night, Peter had yanked on his costume, offering a hasty greeting to SUSANNA, before diving out the window into the night.
He didn't want to think about it. It was easier to ignore the twinges of pain bursting through his ribs than allow himself to feel the pain and remember who had indirectly been its source.
Instead, Peter allowed his overactive senses to consume his mind, letting the cacophony of noise, smells, sights, and feelings overwhelm his brain until he was no longer Peter Parker, with Peter Parker's problems, but a part of the living, breathing city.
Spider-Man was perched on the corner of a skyscraper, like a bright red (much better looking, hopefully) gargoyle. The cold cement was pressed against his back, his hands spread out on either side of him, effortlessly sticking to the wall. One foot supported part of his weight, while the other dangled above the ant sized traffic on the street below.
Bright lights glared at him from every direction; fluorescent lights flooding out of windows, neon lights illuminating pedestrians in unearthly colors, car headlights sweeping down roads like unnatural birds gliding through the air.
Smells assaulted Spider-Man's sensitive nose; exhaust fumes pouring out of trucks in ominous black clouds, dumpsters filled to the brim with molding vegetables and rotting fruits, mixing in with the the bold scent of foods fried in tons of oil. Spider-Man's eyes detected the smallest of movements on the streets below, the faintest of outlines of people blending in with the shadows. His skin could feel the cool air around him being disrupted by an airplane soaring high above.
The honking of a horn, the screeching of tires, the faint curses of an angry driver. Rowdy laughter of men in a bar, a heated argument between the couple in the apartment above. The barking of a dog, an engine roaring to life, the flushing of a toilet, the carefree laughter of teens Peter's age, having fun…
There was the melodic sound of glass shattering. Two seconds of an ear piercing alarm, and then silence.
There were voices, but they were drowned out by all the others sounds of the city. Spider-Man needed to get closer.
His sticky hold on the building ended suddenly. There was the exhilarating feeling of dropping. Wind whistled through his ears as he turned gracefully into a dive, head first towards the cement, before at the last possible second, a web thwicked out and secured itself on a wall. Spider-Man landed without noise against the wall above the alleyway.
Four men stood inside a pawn shop, illuminated faintly by streetlights leaking in through a broken window. One man, the tallest of the four, glanced around nervously.
"-Urry up, Tom. I'd rather not end up webbed to a wall 'or all da cops in da neighborhood to see."
He couldn't help but grin. Just another night in the life of New York's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
His hand was raised, webshooters pointed in the direction of the tallest one, ready to web him to a wall for 'all da cops in da neighborhood to see,' when suddenly two of the four men were no longer standing, knocked to the ground and unconscious.
Spider-Man shared the shocked expression of the other two men, as they dumbly stared at their friends knocked out on the ground.
From the shadows, a perfectly aimed fist emerged. There was a thwack and a wack, and both men were out cold.
Daredevil stepped out of the dark, the visible part of his face formed in a rare, sarcastic smile. His face was turned in Spider-Man's direction.
"You're late for training, Spider-boy."
There'd been no way out of it.
Spider-Man had to say yes to Daredevil. It wasn't that he didn't want to. Yeah, he definitely wanted to learn to fight like the guy. The problem was, it wasn't safe. If the Avengers got wind of what Daredevil was doing for him, Daredevil would be next on their hit list.
He wasn't going to do it to the guy. Daredevil may have had violent methods, but he was doing things the corrupt police in the area wouldn't. Daredevil didn't deserve to be treated like a criminal.
Now, Spider-Man was wishing he'd pushed the issue a little bit harder. After telling Daredevil yes, Spider-Man had been planning on avoiding the Hell's Kitchen area for awhile.
In common Peter Parker fashion, he'd forgotten.
Daredevil had led him to the flat rooftop of an abandoned apartment building, cast in shadows by the taller buildings surrounding it. Now, the vigilante was evaluating him in that creepy way of his, head tilted slightly to the left, standing eerily still. Had Spider-Man not had his enhanced senses, he wouldn't have been able to see Daredevil at all.
The silence was awkward. After what felt like an eternity of uncomfortably standing still and being stared at by Daredevil, Peter decided he could wait no longer.
"So… you gonna waste my time, staring at me for the rest of the evening, or are we gonna start? Because as tempting as fighting lessons sound, I've got criminals to-"
And Daredevil attacked.
His spider-sense flared half a second before it happened. Even as Daredevil was lunging forward for a direct attack, Spider-Man was diving out of the way. Daredevil suddenly came to the right with a direct punch, aimed at Spider-Man's face. He ducked.
Even as Spider-Man stood, tense and on guard, Daredevil stepped a safe distance back. When he spoke, his voice was hard.
"You have some sort of enhanced sense, that allows you to predict where I'm going to hurt you before I do."
Daredevil spoke it like it was fact. There was no point in trying to deny it. Spider-Man still felt oddly uncomfortable answering.
"Yeah. What's your point?"
The older vigilante didn't reply. Instead, he pulled something out of his pocket.
He tossed it at Spider-Man. Peter caught it effortlessly, and examined it. It was made of a thick, black velvet, roughly cut along the edges. It was long enough that Peter would have no difficulty tying it around his eyes and behind his head in a secure knot, but not so long that the blindfold would be in his way.
"You have an enhanced sense that will allow you to fight without full access to the rest of your senses. Today, use it. Tomorrow, figure out how to keep it quiet."
Spider-Man tied the blindfold around the lenses on his suit. It was uncomfortable not being able to see. He felt on edge, nervous.
Daredevil's voice came from his right. At some point, Daredevil had moved and he hadn't noticed. It didn't sit well with Peter.
Why was Daredevil so intent on helping him? Peter could count on one hand the people that had helped him because they genuinely wanted to help, not because they had an ulterior motive.
It made Peter nervous.
But Daredevil was a vigilante too. He dressed up in the mask, just the same as Spider-Man, and spent nights getting beat up to save lives, just like Spider-Man.
Yeah, Spider-Man would be cautious when it came to the guy. He'd had too many people not be what he thought they were to just trust. But Spider-Man wouldn't overwork his mind looking for evidence that Daredevil was helping Spider-Man for his own selfish gain.
"I'm going to attack you. No using your webs, no using your enhanced strength. Just defend."
That was all the warning Spider-Man got before his spider-sense was screaming at him to move.
Peter jumped left, but a strong fist still clipped him in the shoulder.
He'd barely processed that, when the next fist came. This one he dodged.
After that, it was a flurry of movement, of barely missed hits and several painful additions to his bruised stomach. The fight stretched on for what felt like forever.
Never before had he missed his sight so much.
Never before had he been so grateful for his spider-sense.
It told him where the hits were coming from, the size of the object trying to hurt him. As the fight drew on, it seemed to sharpen, growing more and more precise.
He became water, fluidly dodging every hit, untouchable, was a point where Daredevil couldn't even get close to touching him.
But even with his enhanced senses, he began to grow tired. His already sloppy dodges became sloppier. The fight ended when Daredevil went in for a chokehold, and succeeded.
Both were breathing heavily, Spider-Man less so. Sweat still coated the hair under his mask and soaked through the suit. He looked like he'd gone in the shower still in his Spider-Man get-up and smelled like he'd crawled through the sewers.
Both those things had happened before. Not simultaneously.
Peter untied the blindfold, offering it to Daredevil. The man shoved his hand away.
"I don't want it. It would just be a constant reminder of how bad puberty smelled. Bring it with you next time. Don't forget."
He'd probably forget.
Daredevil didn't bother saying goodbye. He simply leaped into the shadows, and took off running across the rooftops of Hell's Kitchen.
Peter leaned up against a wall, shutting his eyes. He wondered if he could get away with just avoiding Daredevil for awhile. After all, he'd never been a fan of gym class. And having a teacher that literally dressed up as the devil? It brought a new definition to the word miserable.
The whole situation still left an uneasy feeling in Peter's stomach.
It wasn't just the fact that Daredevil was unsafe being involved with Spider-Man in any way. It also was a gut feeling. Something about the situation was strange, set off warning bells in his head. It was on the tip of Peter's tongue and he'd forgotten...
Not all of the Avengers were present in the conference room. Bruce wasn't and even though Thor was physically present, it was obvious that his mind was far away. The Asgardian stared blankly at one of the white walls, an uncharacteristically thoughtful look on his face.
The room was silent as Stark, Rogers, Barton, and Romanov watched the life-sized, holographic figure of Spider-Man fight Slick.
He danced around the villain with a gracefulness that almost made him look delicate, but with a strength that removed all imaginations of daintiness. Spider-Man didn't punch or kick or even elbow the enemy in the gut, but relied only on his webs. He used his enemy's strength against him.
The shapeshifter was different. It seamlessly moved from the distorted, twisted flesh of its human Iron Man, to the lithe, curvy figure of the Black Widow. Even as Spider-Man tied inescapable webs around the pretend Black Widow's figure, the shapeshifter effortlessly became the little girl.
Spider-Man's hit from the pretend Hulk was the most interesting.
One second, he was talking to the shapeshifter in the form of a woman. The next, the woman was the Hulk and Spider-Man was flying out the window.
The punch was too fast for the normal eye to see. Tony had had to slow the film down. Even then it took place in a second.
The video feed ended after Spider-Man shot out his web and pulled himself through a brick wall, the solid surface crumbling to bits of jagged rock.
There was silence as the Avengers mulled on what they'd seen.
Natasha spoke up first.
"His webs are not natural. You have all seen the devices on his wrists."
The rest of the group nodded. Thor, who was staring at the wall, deep in thought, didn't.
Tony grew on her thought.
"So go for the silly string shooters on his wrists. Then he won't be able to cover us in the stuff." He stroked his goatee. "I could do something with that. Create some short-wave EMP to set them on the fritz."
There were another few seconds of silence.
Tony offered a thought.
"I was wondering why the shapeshifter had turned back into a human right as it was about to smash me. And I have a concept."
Most of the eyes turned to him.
"So theoretically, shapeshifting takes energy. After all, you're changing your very molecules. Of course, my question is what is the shapeshifter's power source, but that's not important. The important part is how capable the power source is."
Nobody bothered hiding their confused looks. Tony elaborated.
"The shapeshifter ran out of energy, so it had to shift back to it's true form, or, her true form."
Clint was unimpressed.
"So the shapeshifter is a she. How is that supposed to help us find Spider-Man?"
Tony rolled his eyes.
"It's supposed to help us find the shapeshifter. And not like you have any ideas, Bird Brain."
Clint looked Tony dead in the eye.
"Spider-Man's reflexes were not good enough for the Hulk."
Any and all movement stopped. It was a deadly suggestion, even if Dr. Banner wasn't present. Steve looked up from the file he was reading, Natasha's gaze grew more focused. Tony leaned back in his chair.
The comment even managed to pull Thor from his thoughts, and the Asgardian's face went deadly serious.
"If I understand what you are suggesting, Hawkeye, I must ask you to refrain from such thought. Dr. Banner is a noble man of much courage, but I doubt he will take well to such risky methods."
Clint put his hands behind his head. He flopped his feet on the table, a deceptively easy look on his weathered face.
"I wasn't suggesting anything. It was just simply an observation."
Thor suddenly stood up, his chair flying back at a speed that was far from natural.
"What has become of you? You have gone from brave, honorable heroes, to fools! Fools that believe that every power on earth, any being on your simple planet, can be controlled! Your obsession over the Spider-Man is bordering on madness!"
Thor's voice was not loud. In fact, it was uncharacteristically low. Dangerously low. It vibrated with an energy that crackled and fizzed, like electricity.
The entire room was a broken power line, just waiting for someone to come blundering through, and step on it.
Both Clint and Natasha's hands went straight to their pockets, where their guns were tucked. Steve tensed, waiting for even the slightest threatening movement from Thor, and Tony poised his finger over a red and gold metal cuff circling his wrist.
Thor observed this, and his shoulders stooped.
"Forgive me, friends. I speak in haste and without thought."
The Asgardian looked his age, as he had more often than not in the recent past. He fetched his chair from its spot on the other side of the room, and dropped into it. It creaked in a way plastic conference room swivel chairs usually do not.
There was a tense silence.
Eventually, Steve took care of the situation. He stood up.
"I'm going to take the report to Fury. Keep the ideas coming. This Spider-Man thing is dragging on much too long."
He paused, his exhausted face studying each Avenger. Eventually Steve stood up, pushing his chair under the table and gathering the file in front of him in his hands.
The rest of Peter's day passed uneventfully. He finished his Spider-Man rounds, went back to the Tower, and was there a whole two minutes before dinner. SUSANNA spent a while bantering about nothing, and Peter went to sleep.
The next day came and went by just as fast. Peter had his second lesson with Daredevil. It had gone as before, Peter being blindfolded, using his spider-sense to detect and block hits, and fighting until they were both exhausted.
The atmosphere had become more comfortable. Not necessarily friendly, but comfortable. There was even the occasional comment in between jab and kick.
The third day (the second full day) of Young Minds was almost as uneventful as the last two. There was only one thing that stood out.
Peter's Aunt May called.
Dr. Banner had come to his room, holding his phone, with his Aunt May's number displayed on the transparent screen.
Guiltily, Peter realized that it was the third day of the Young Minds internship, and Peter had yet to talk to his Aunt May. Peter's own phone had been off for the most part (his normal phone, not SUSANNA's flip phone). His aunt had been unable to contact him.
He'd taken Dr. Banner's Stark Phone and put it to his ear.
"Uhh… Hi Aunt May."
The relief was evident in his aunt's tone. Peter's guilt doubled.
"I'm sorry Aunt May, I forgot. I really shouldn't have-"
"No, don't apologize. I know you're busy and having fun. It's just good to hear your voice."
Peter smiled, a warm feeling in his chest.
"It's good to hear your voice too."
"You call at least a few times a week, you understand young man?"
"Good. Now I'm sure you're busy, so I'll leave you be. I love you."
Peter paused before answering. He knew his aunt loved him, but she wasn't the type of person to say it directly. It was unusual that she had done so, and showed how much she was actually missing him.
"I love you too Aunt May. Don't forget that, alright?"
His aunt laughed, a rarer sound after Uncle Ben's death.
"I won't Peter. Goodbye."
With a click, the line went dead.
This was why he put on the costume every day. This was why, even though the Avengers pursuit was difficult, and downright painful, Peter kept his identity a secret. Peter always knew, when he went home, there'd be someone to go home to. Somebody that loved him, and showed it by making pancakes and only complaining minimally when Peter put the 'American flag' in the washer.
He was Spider-Man because he had a responsibility to his aunt, to keep her safe.
Peter had glanced at Dr. Banner. The man had an unreadable look on his face. Sadness? Understanding? Anger? Maybe it was a mix of all three. It disappeared the second Peter looked Dr. Banner's way.
He had given the phone back, mumbling a polite 'thank you' to Dr. Banner, then retreated to the safety of his room.
That night, Daredevil started to teach actual moves. He didn't give names to them, only demonstrated the proper stance, executed the move, and ordered Peter to do it.
Peter had no problem learning moves. He easily learned them, with only a few corrections from his instructor. His mind and body seemed to be almost made to fight. The many high kicks Daredevil used in his fighting Peter found especially helpful. It fit his abilities.
Then the third day of Young Minds was done and Peter moved on to the fourth.
Nothing happened the next day. Or the next day. Or the day after that. Before Peter knew it, he'd spent a full week at the Tower, it was Friday again, and nothing had happened.
Peter woke up Friday morning, staring at the ceiling. Everything was too peaceful. It made him nervous.
It was the eerie calm before the storm. The figurative ocean waters were oddly still, the sky deceptively blue. But you could taste the potential energy on your tongue, feel it on your fingers.
Peter would see the Avengers again. He didn't know when, but he could feel it coming. It would be a confrontation that would change his entire world.
He groggily rolled out of bed and glared at the pale sky out his window.
It was early. Every day that week, Peter had woken up early. It was nice having access to a lab, but the only time he had access to a lab with none of the other students in there was early in the morning.
After the first day, Hannah and Mason had started staying away from the lab before seven. Maybe they felt uncomfortable with Peter, or maybe they felt uncomfortable with each other. Either way, Peter was thankful. It gave him an opportunity.
Ten minutes later, Peter was dressed and ready to go. He left his rooms, and went straight to the lab.
As they had every day before, the lights flickered on and the AI announced his presence.
He went to the temperature-controlled storage bins up against the back wall. Number three held Peter's project. He began lifting materials and equipment off the shelves and onto his corner table.
It was when Peter had spread out his project, that Dr. Banner entered the lab.
Peter had heard the older man's footsteps, but had ignored them. The scientist walked the halls every morning. It wasn't until the lab doors slid open that Peter realized he would have company.
"Hi Peter." The man sounded way too chipper for five-thirty A.M.
"Hi." Peter hoped his short response would send a 'leave me alone' message to the scientist.
Either Dr. Banner was just socially clueless as Peter or he was ignoring Peter's silent hint.
Dr. Banner came up to the table, observing over Peter's shoulder.
The bandages were finished. The string had been weaved together in long strips about two inches wide, and the bottom side had been embedded with cotton, just like super-long bandaids.
Peter was now testing them, soaking large amounts of water into the cotton padding along the bottom side, then wrapping them tightly around his waist. He'd gone through basic testing, trying basic range of movement, such as jumping, walking, reaching. The bandages had held their tight grip successfully and the water had stayed contained on the inside of the wrappings.
Peter had been about to try some more strenuous movements, such as backflips and handsprings, when Dr. Banner had walked in.
He couldn't test them for their true purpose if Dr. Banner was watching. That would raise some questions, such as 'where did you learn to do a back handspring', and 'why are you hanging upside-down from the ceiling'. Neither of those were questions Peter wanted to answer.
It meant Peter would have to work on something else.
Peter reached for the woven fabric, collecting it in his hands, and began to store it in its plastic bag, but Dr. Banner stopped him.
"May I see the finished product?"
Reluctantly, Peter nodded. Then realizing that wasn't considered a polite answer, he gave a verbal affirmative.
Dr. Banner took the soft bandages in his hands. His eyes squinted as he studied the tight weaving of the bandages. He stretched it between his hands. An eyebrow rose as it seamlessly adjusted to the change in distance. His finger felt along the inside of the cotton. The cotton had been denser when the bandage was not stretched out, but the layer of cotton was still thick.
Peter watched him, twisting his fingers, chewing on the edge of his lip. He just wanted the fabric back in the safety of his own care, away from the observant eyes of Dr. Banner.
A small part of him was curious. What would Dr. Banner think about it? Peter may have wanted to keep the bandages safe and away from the scientist, but he still was curious about Dr. Banner's opinion.
Eventually, Dr. Banner looked up from the white fabric. There was an unreadable look in his eye.
Peter hated that. Very rarely did he meet people with unreadable looks in their eyes. Maybe it was some extension of his spider powers, maybe he's had it since birth, but Peter always found that he had a general idea of what a person was thinking based on the look in their eyes. Very rarely could he not tell the general direction of a person's thoughts.
The unreadable look faded away quickly, and was replaced with something Peter often saw, but never saw pointed towards himself: admiration.
"They turned out very well. Have you tested their durability and longevity yet?"
"Tell me what the results are whenever you get them."
Dr. Banner looked like he wanted to say more, but he hesitated. He pushed his glasses up his nose. It was something Peter associated as a nervous habit in the scientist. He did it whenever something made him uncomfortable or uncertain.
"Peter… you couldn't be sharing this among the other students because it would be unfair, but if you would like, I would love to help you develop any other projects you have in mind."
Peter was surprised. Yeah, his bandages were new and the thread he had used to create them was new, but we're they really good enough to warrant an offer like that.
Dr. Banner was a renowned scientist. His work was treasured and shared all over the world. Why would he offer to be lab assistant?
Not just a lab assistant. A teacher. A mentor. Peter may have been smart, but he wasn't well-known. There was so much Dr. Banner could teach him.
But what would happen if the scientist got close?
He'd die. Peter knew what happened to anyone that got close. He didn't want the death of a famous scientist on his conscious.
How could Peter refuse Dr. Banner's offer? That would bring a lot of questions. It would possibly put the inquisitive scientist in more danger than if he was close to Peter.
There was no way out of it. Peter would have to accept Dr. Banner's offer.
He definitely wanted to. Who in their right mind would refuse that offer?
But Peter's responsibility hung heavy.
Yes, Peter would accept Dr. Banner's offer, but he'd have to be extra careful.
For Dr. Banner's sake, Peter did his best to look excited as possible.
"I'd love to! Um. I mean… I'd really appreciate the help."
The enthusiasm in his voice sounded believable even to Peter. Good.
Dr. Banner smiled. His shoulders relaxed and he suddenly looked relieved.
"Okay. Where do you want to start?"
And that was the third eventful part of Peter's mostly uneventful week.
I'll try to finish replying to chapter fourteen's reviews later today, but no promises. I hope you enjoyed!