Fruit Flies

Summary: The Winter Soldier thing is worrying, but hey, they're building a home here. Or, you know, a castle. Digging the moat. Planting the shrubbery. Tending the hearth. That sort of thing.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything Marvel-related; I don't get paid for writing this.

Warnings: Deadpool! (srsly, I love him but he's fucking whacked), profanity, violence, gore, temporary character death, torture, brainwashing, body horror, vaguely implied past noncon, trauma galore, psychosis, insanity, dark humor, ableism, unreliable narrator, do I have to warn for slash?, sexual situations verging on explicit… uh, existentialism?

A/N: Thanks for the ideas, kitmarlowescot2. I could actually see those things happening.

So, timeline-wise, this doesn't happen long after they get together. My rough estimation is about six months. They've got some equilibrium by now, but not everything is figured out yet.

Also, especially new readers, please keep in mind that at the time Said the Fly to the Spider was written, neither the Deadpool nor the Civil War movies were out. These characters are not MCU characters. Peter is twenty. Vanessa is only referenced as part of Wade's past.

Fair warning – I cried over this one. It should still be funny, hopefully, but it's not as – and I hesitate to use the word here – light-hearted as Said the Fly to the Spider. It wasn't intentional. I blame Bucky. What? Everybody does it. But, seriously, mind the horror warning.

x

Part One: Digging the Moat

x

The strangest thing about the Winter Soldier is the quiet.

Peter thinks it may be in the name. The man – because he is unmistakably a man – is silent like a ghost. He can be anywhere at any time, and it takes Peter a little while to stop trembling whenever he hears the name these days. It still sets off shivers down his spine.

The first time Peter 'meets' the Winter Soldier, it is a sweltering hot afternoon, the kind you see in westerns with the tumbleweeds rolling across the stony field to emphasize the sense of futility, with Morricone about to begin playing. This is New York, though, so there are no tumbleweeds, and instead of a harmonica you can hear the distant sounds of traffic.

The SHIELD soldiers are on the ground, waiting, strategically spread around several black vans and SUVs. Peter is kind of impressed by the lack of SHIELD insignia anywhere.

Clang-thrummm goes Steve's shield, and suddenly there's motion, motion everywhere, hectic and disorganized, and Peter frankly has no idea what is happening until he sees Clint rise from where he had instinctively taken cover and point. Peter turns to follow the line of sight and sees a silhouette jump over a street to another rooftop, roll to their feet and run.

He shoots a web, tries to follow, but the figure disappears while he's in the middle of the swing.

Down in the street the SHIELD agents mill around, traffic is still a distant buzz, and Captain America gawps at his shield, which has been, from that angle, far harder to hit than any of his vital points.

Lucky, Peter thinks, and then scoffs at the naïve notion.

He's been in the biz long enough to know it doesn't work like that.

x

"Whadya bet they're in their knickers, having a pillow fight?"

Peter, by dint of much experience, skips over the idea with nary a mental image.

Wade's switch is permanently stuck on the irreverent setting. Initially Peter wasn't sure if there could be solid exceptions to that. If there couldn't, this entire endeavor would have been doomed from the start – there are things on which Peter will not compromise.

Most notably, Aunt May's safety and well-being.

Funny, he thinks as he walks up the street to the house that he grew up in, his boyfriend half a step behind him, scanning the neighborhood for potential trouble. Funny, that Wade Wilson, the Merc with the Mouth, the person who makes you stop and turn around and rethink what you thought you knew, what you took for certain, for true, for right, for granted – that this guy would be the one to teach Peter a little bit more about wisdom.

Aunt May's begonias are slowly but inexorably dying in the sweltering heat.

Peter mourns the state of his suit.

He moves past the row of flowerbeds Uncle Ben had bought and installed along the path as a surprise for Aunt May's forty-first birthday. The edges of the containers are beginning to crumble, but it will be a long time yet before any maintenance would be done on them. Peter doubts his Aunt will ever allow them to be removed.

Uncle Ben was a wise man, in his way. Peter used to think of him as the wisest man he had ever known, but the fact is that Uncle Ben was a very humble man, preferred to live his life close to the ground and, while wise, he quite lacked the vantage point from the tops of Manhattan's skyscrapers. The world up there, Peter now knows, is very different from the world down here.

And yet different from the world in other parts of the country, and in other countries and on other continents.

Uncle Ben led a small life.

Peter doesn't.

Peter doesn't even pretend to lead a small life anymore. No point to it. He enters the house and finds Aunt May and Blind Alfred, back from their weekly bridge tournament, sitting at the coffee table in Aunt May's living room and sharing dainty little glasses of sherry.

"Hey, Al!" Wade calls out, blindly chucking his keys into the bowl – not for any other reason than because he likes the sound it makes; it reminds him he's been invited to consider this house his home. "How much did ya rake in?"

"Lost a couple grand!" Al shouts back, pissy.

"Impossible!" Wade exclaims and flings himself through the door to the living room. "You fleece me every time we play!"

"Yeah," Al scoffs. "But May cheats better than you do. Hullo Pete. C'mere-"

Peter obediently goes to give her a hug and kiss on the cheek – valiantly tries to ignore the pat to his backside and a related, stage-whispered compliment – and then repeats the process with Aunt May, who puts her hands in safe places yet keeps looking at him like she's proud of him and, crud, this is weird.

"Strawberries," Peter says and puts a box of them on the table.

"Champagne?" inquires Alfred.

Wade reassures her that there's enough alcohol to drown a Tony Stark in, and flits around the house, comfortable, making the space his own. He brings out a bottle of a clear liquid that experience tells Peter is not fit for metahuman consumption, much less human, and there's the expected clinking of glass.

Peter squeezes into the corner of the couch, exhausted to the bone, and lets himself relax.

Uncle Ben used to have a saying about power and responsibility, but Peter knows better now. The truth is that, with great power should come great responsibility, but it hardly ever does, and that's why the world needs heroes. And heroes are always only people, so they mess up. Peter has a bet with himself: how far, how long, how hard can he go, before something forces him to give up?

He watches as Wade feeds Alfred a strawberry, mocking her lack of eyesight but surreptitiously pushing the box where her hand would bump into it – and maybe overturn it, but that's Wade for you.

Selfishness is unheroic. And Peter's very selfish, in taking up with a man that will undoubtedly outlive him.

x

The Avengers come down really hard on some sort of Hydra-related organization.

Peter is emphatically not invited along on the op, so he patrols.

He saves people from being robbed, sometimes from being killed. Meth-heads are stupid and violent, and dealing with them makes Peter sad, but it makes him less sad than meth-heads killing someone in their stupid and violent drug-fuelled rampages, so in the end that sort of evens up to making him happy?

He wishes minds worked like math. Math is simpler than superherodom.

x

The microwave blows up.

Peter barely flinches. He shouldn't have left Wade unsupervised – Wade can make the world's best pancakes and tacos and not much else, so the tin can chicken soup was pushing it, and he has known.

He admits to himself that he was simply curious.

"Whoops," says Wade, somewhere far off enough and quiet enough that Peter can pretend he hasn't heard. "We're fine!"

"Who is we?" inquires Peter, contemplating the next semester's curriculum and wondering if Professor Iglesias would let him into the Advanced Forensic Psychology course. It is technically not available to people in the Biophysics major, but Peter is motivated.

"Me and the twenty piggies!" Wade calls back.

Case in point.

"Are you sure there's all twenty of them?"

Not that it would matter much in any run longer than a few minutes. Peter is learning to laugh off mild bodily harm to his boyfriend. He's well aware that it's not a sane response, except that when you force yourself to view the reality of Deadpool in all its demented circumstances you realize that it's the only sane response.

Not that sanity means much in their business.

Huh, maybe Peter should sign up for a Philosophy course, too. Philosophy of Superheroes. It's been trending lately, and he may be spending most of his time with the science nerds (who en masse tend to view hipsters as a different species) but he's part-journalist himself, and a lot of his friends have gone the soft-science route. Oh, and then there's Tony's contingent of PR people who have more knowhow in their little fingers than J.J. could ever hope to amass.

"…seventeen… sixteen… fifteen…"

Peter jumps to his feet and across the room, sticking to the doorframe, just shy of cannon-balling his boyfriend.

"Huh?" Wade glances up, distracted from counting his fingers.

Peter huffs and lets go of the wall. "Countdowns," he explains. "Trigger." Darn it, he hasn't reacted like this even to the explosion itself.

Wade's face does something awful – which, on top of its general kind-of awfulness, is a whole lot of awful.

He's sorry, Peter knows. He doesn't need to be. He doesn't need to say it. It's okay.

"It's okay," Peter says.

Wade doesn't look like he believes the assurance, but he lunges forward, grabs Peter and blows a raspberry under his chin. "You're the fruit, baby boy. I'm the fruit fly that buzzes all around you, addicted to your sweet juices. But then, you're also the wicked spider that trapped this poor fruit fly in his wicked, wicked web. The double-you, double-you, double-you." He lowers his voice to a suggestive rumble. "We are on-line tonight."

"Flash used to call me a fruitcake," Peter reminisces. He's not sure why it seems funny now. It wasn't then. It still shouldn't be. It just is.

"Because you were sweet and he wanted to eat you?" Wade suggests, leering and squeezing harder.

Peter chuckles. "I doubt it."

Flash is a chapter of Peter's life that he doesn't revisit in the spirit of living well being the best revenge. He's met far too many people incomparably worse, so giving this angsty teenage memory any power would be ridiculous. Or, so he tries to convince himself. But – fruitcake.

He snorts. It really is funny.

Wade doesn't release his hold on Peter; instead he hoists Peter up and carries him over to Aunt May's living room, where he lets himself fall backwards onto a couch, grunting under Peter's weight.

The smell of burnt stuff (wires and plastic isolation and aluminum and paper and the soup itself) has spread this far already. Peter relinquishes the hope that they could hide what happened before his Aunt comes home.

Eh, more time to snuggle… before Aunt May takes them to task for the mess.

"I wanted to do something nice for you, cuddle-arachnid," Wade says quietly after a while, sending Peter's recently calmed heart for another race.

Them's fighting words.

"Nicer than a stroll along the stinky moonlit beach full of bottle shards and beer cans. Nicer than a dinner at a taco stand, too-"

"No such thing," Peter protests near-unintelligibly, because he can't be bothered to raise his head, and his face is smooshed in Wade's shoulder.

"-and I know you're sick of pancakes."

"Ain't," Peter mumbles into Wade's t-shirt. "That was one time, 'cause I ate, like, thirteen of them, but I like them, okay?" And he was distracted. He was cramming. He doesn't remember to eat when he crams unless someone puts food under his nose, in which case he eats automatically. Wade figured that out, and he kept bringing pancakes, which Peter kept eating on reflex, until at some point Peter just turned away from his desk and vomited all over his ratty carpet.

Wade knows to stop at ten pancakes now. Peter's trying to argue him down to eight, but so far Wade's being a Jewish grandmother about it.

"Don't butter me up," Wade grumbles. "I am buttering you up."

Peter's spider senses tingle. He finally lifts his head and squints at the line of his boyfriend's jaw. "Why are you buttering me up?"

"Aside from the obvious-" Wade squeezes Peter's butt, which, yes, obviously, "-thing is, baby boy, compared to what it's like when you're looking for someone you could love, working on a relationship is a lot less adventurous."

Boring. Is Peter boring? He has superherodom working for him, but, oddly, when he looks at himself from a neutral viewpoint, he has to admit that he is a pretty boring person.

Darn.

"So, I started thinking, and there's something I've got to tell you."

If Peter was a sensitive person, or if he didn't know Wade so well, he might have burst into tears at this point. Fortunately, Peter is pretty savvy when it comes to his boyfriend and to the many ways of experiencing a critical failure at human interactions (he is, after all, a nerd wrapped in spandex), so he doesn't panic.

He lifts himself on his arms and catalogues how Wade's looking at him – facial expression partly obscured by prominent scarring, but not entirely inscrutable – the way he fidgets a little, how he absently plays with the hem of his fraying Power Rangers hoodie.

"Wade," he says, coming across more exasperated than nervous, which is okay but not ideal. He disentangles himself and stands up. "Stop, rewind and, unless you mean to break up with me, start with something that doesn't sound like a break-up speech."

There is still a tiny chance Wade's trying to leave him, but if so, then it's clearly happening unwillingly, 'for Peter's own good' or some such nonsense, and under duress. In which case Peter needs to know whom he is going to hunt down and suspend from the roof of the entrance portico of the Public Library wearing only their skivvies.

"Don't leave me! I'll die!" Wade throws himself to the ground at Peter's feet and hugs him around the knees. "Granted, it won't take – but, really, just please don't leave me, baby boy. I love you. Like all lovesongs put together. Even the Axis of Awesome Lovesong. Funny," he adds in a little plaintive voice that sounds a bit like he might be able to laugh again, one day, once years have passed. "Please?"

"Alright." Deep breaths, Peter tells himself. He scraps the half-formed plans for revenge and concentrates on the situation at hand. "So, you don't want to break up. That's good." He pats the top of Wade's head.

Wade briefly nuzzles Peter's thigh and then climbs up to his feet, using Peter as a ladder.

"Uh-uh. And, contrary to all the tropes about how guys fuck up and end up sounding like they want to break up all over the fandom, thing is, I wasn't trying to ask you to marry me, either. What? Yeah." He looks up, eyes wide. "They're right, Petey! It sounds- not nice. It sounds really specta-fucking-cular. Marry me? Wait- Okay, fine, I won't do it like this. Let's adjourn!" Wade tries to mentally backtrack, and then notices the expression on Peter's face. "Uh, Petey-boy?"

Peter does his best to willfully induce amnesia in himself. When that doesn't work he tries to do it like Sherlock and delete, but apparently his brain is a contrary mushroom and refuses to cooperate. He takes a deep breath, then decides that he isn't getting paid enough for this, spins on his heel and walks out of the house, leaving his boyfriend to try and tidy up his own mess.

Peter isn't really scared of the consequences of his little breakdown; as he crosses the street he takes a moment to remind himself how much he appreciates Wade's weird, back-handed steadiness. One of the things which he loves about Wade is his reliability. Peter turning away from him and getting a little alone time, without offering explanations, in fact without saying anything at all, won't hurt or anger Wade.

It will maybe give him a pause; if Wade genuinely is rattled, he will seek out a friend and ask for advice.

Then he will come find Peter, and Peter will be ready to listen.

x

Wade finds Peter on the next day in Peter's apartment.

Peter hears him picking the lock. Wade has a key, but apparently using it would – quote – detract from the romance – unquote.

Peter blames this notion entirely on the Golden Girls. Wade has a special place in his heart for Bea Arthur, and Peter's made it a point to get acquainted with the show in effort to understand. He won't ever reach that level of zealotry about it, but he fully agrees that Bea was one damn classy lady.

"Tell me you're bringing take-out!" Peter calls out. He turns over on the bed, snags the first piece of paper (which just happens to be the post-it with his assigned lab-times for Structural Proteomics) and places it between the pages of his textbook instead of a mark.

"I got tacos!" Wade replies from the doorway, for once dressed in his civvies. "But it was a long journey of discovery and I needed the strength."

Peter ignores the crumpled oily wrapping paper that Wade delivers straight into the bin with a lackadaisical over-the-shoulder throw (without watching where he's aiming). He's more interested in the unicorn plushy the man is holding under his arm.

"You said no to flowers. But who doesn't dig unicorns? They're horny – just like us!" Wade grins and pushes the absurd toy into Peter's arms.

Peter takes it, because at this point there's not much else he can do. Wade's grin disappears almost instantly, and in the shadow it's really hard to read his face under the shifting scar-tissue, so Peter searches for clues in body language.

Wade looks like someone kicked him.

"It's soft," Peter concedes. The unicorn may be huggable, even, but that's a word he's not comfortable using. He sets the toy onto the corner of the mattress and turns back to his boyfriend. "So, you wanted to tell me something."

"I think…" Wade says. The hesitation and the tone of his voice are enough to set off alarm bells in Peter's head; he already knows he won't like what's going to come out of Wade's mouth. "…you should move into the Tower. Just for now."

Peter repositions himself on the bed, knees and elbows shifting without bumping into anything, with far more limberness than he ever could have expected of himself growing up. Wade follows his every motion, and for all that there is a glimmer of lust in his expression, it disappears so very quickly under the weight of concern.

Worry is unsexy.

Peter sits with his legs under him, which isn't the most conductive position when it comes to conducting an argument, but he's not sure how hard he should be arguing right now. If at all.

No, wait. He's definitely arguing.

Not about moving to the Tower, however.

"I will," he says, and then waits for Wade to register that he has won without a fight and waver between relief and suspicion (it was too easy, and he does know Peter fairly well), before he adds: "As long as you go with me."

Wade slumps. It doesn't seem theatrical enough to him, apparently, because he then lets himself sink to his knees at the foot of Peter's bed and thumps his fist against his chest, like that hit him right in the heart.

Peter would smile, if the discussion wasn't so serious.

"You know he can't unalive me, Petey," Wade more or less purrs, rubbing his cheek against Peter's bare knee. "I'm the original comeback boy. Or, not original. Wolvie is the original. But I'm the upgraded version. Mark Two."

Peter sighs and softly strokes the top of Wade's head, fingers moving along the ridges and smooth plains of scars, and he closes his eyes before he says: "Sure. But that doesn't mean you can swaddle me up in bubble wrap and lock me away in a tower. I'm not a princess-"

"Are too. Princess Pete. Like Princess Peach, only so, so much hotter."

"-and unless you're the guardian dragon in this scenario, I'm not doing it."

Peter takes a moment to review what has just come out of his brain, and then shrugs it away. Sure, a year ago he would have had something snippy to say about the relative sanity level of anyone who let anything like that past their vocal chords, but that was because he had been young and… okay, not exactly stupid, but pretty ignorant.

When he opens his eyes, Wade is staring up at him like he's fallen in love all over again (and Peter's heart is welcome to stop making so much racket, alright? he's perfectly aware it's there and hard at work). "I'm always gonna be your dragon, Prince Pete."

There's a tense moment that thickens until its consistency reaches approximately maple syrup, but about three seconds before Peter pulls Wade on top of him and hugs him with his legs and demands sweet, sweet love be made to him, Wade jumps to his feet.

"Spades!"

Peter blinks. He mentally flips through his rolodex of possible contexts – cards, Sam, cornucopia, could that be a riff on 'Spidey'? (nah) – and comes up empty. Situation normal.

Wade dives head-first into the closet. His voice is muffled, but for a given value of sense his explanation does make it: "Gotta dig the moat, Sugar Spidey! Every princess locked in the highest tower in a castle guarded by a dragon needs a moat!" He backs out the closet, wearing only his red-and-black mask and a bright green thong. "I've seen Shrek! Shrek knows best!"

He may or may not be gesturing toward his crotch at this point, and Peter may or may not be wondering just who or what is the 'Shrek' in this scenario.

Considering Tony's propensity for shapeist nicknames, he resolves to never ever mention this moment to Bruce.

x

Wade and Peter turn up in the lobby of the Stark Tower; before they reach the lift they run into Tony and Pepper, who are moving at a dignified yet quick pace in the opposite direction.

The two couples stop, vis-à-vis one another.

Pepper is frantically typing something on her phone.

Tony is staring at Deadpool and Spider-Man in full regalia, each with a spade over his shoulder (looking exactly like a pair of murderers back from burying their latest victim in a shallow grave). Tony sticks up a finger. "I know there's a story behind this and I'm trying really hard to decide if I want to ask-"

Then he slides away, pulled along by Pepper's grip on the collar of his jacket.

"It's a really difficult decision, Pep!" he protests.

"Board meeting, Tony," Pepper replies, at the same time adamant and making it clear that she doesn't have time for this, goshdarnit, and Tony should just get a move on.

"Exactly!" exclaims the poor multibillionaire. "Can I skip this one if I promise to be twice as bored next time?"

Peter doesn't hear the response, because by that time the bosses have reached the street, but he can extrapolate. Pepper's not the type to back down, and it sounded like a really old and oft-repeated argument anyway.

Peter waves at the receptionists as he and Wade pass the counter.

One of the younger ladies behind it waves back, and then points at the elevator.

Whoa, speedy boarding!

The elevator door closes behind them with a cheerful ding – blessedly, there is no music involved.

"Hey, baby boy, no raining on your parade here, but is it really okay for me to be in this swanky place? Usually I wouldn't care, but if you get into trouble I might end up blue-balled, and-"

Peter cuts him off: "I did say mi casa es tu casa-"

"No, you didn't-"

"Yes, I did-"

"No-"

"Yes-"

"When?" Wade thumps the spade against the badly abused carpet under their feet – fortunately using the shaft end. "Ha!"

Peter raises his eyebrows. He clearly remembers the occasion. They had had a discussion about Spanish phrases used in English without people knowing what they even meant, which somehow ended in a competition of who could translate more entries on the Chinese take-out menu. "That time Al had a date-"

"Oh fuck." Wade dramatically facepalms, and brains himself with the sharp part of the spade – but only a little. "I managed to repress that night. I came home and they… they…"

"You never actually told me what happened." Peter is a little masochistically curious, because if it was the usual situation, Wade would have just cheered Al on and possibly offered running commentary, but more likely just gone to find something to occupy his time (read 'Peter').

"Bumblebee, I can't!" Wade cries. "It will warp your brain-"

"Sirs," JARVIS interrupts in a voice that somehow manages to be both robotic (the A.I. plays pretend at the lower levels of the Tower, for his own safety) and long-suffering. "May I be of service?"

It hits Peter that they have managed to annoy an extremely polite artificial intelligence that dealt with Tony Stark approximately twenty-four seven into getting impatient and shirty with them. They probably deserve medals. Or should be quarantined for the safety of the mankind. He's not sure. But, at least, lately he's not asking these questions of himself daily, and J.J.'s angry rants about the evilness of Spider-Man only make him think about kebap.

He's not sure why. It just happens. Every. Single. Ti-

"Mr Spider-Man?" JARVIS says, exasperation replaced with a hint of worry.

Peter knows what it looks like when Wade talks to the boxes, and it's not the sanest thing, but the fact is that other people at least know he's in the middle of a thinking process. When you do that kind of thing internally – like the psychiatrists tell you you should – it just confuses everyone.

"Can Deadpool come up with me?" Peter asks, and it's not hard; he doesn't understand why it took him so long to get to the point. "As my guest, I mean?"

JARVIS makes a pause that, in a human butler, would be used to forcefully suppress a huff. "As you wish, Mr Spider-Man. Mr Wilson is not on the list of banned entrances, and you have been granted the prerogative of entertaining guests as long as-"

"Water Truce!" Wade exclaims happily. "Got it, Bagheera. So long as Kaa keeps her forked tongue to herself, me and Mowgli here play nice."

Peter, frankly, is more scared of the teeth, although it is probably true that the Black Widow can do more damage by saying or not saying something than with sharp weapons. Though… no, really, it's a toss-up.

"Then up to the penthouse, please, Jarvis," Peter says and, with some reluctance, the elevator begins its journey upwards.

"Belay that, Pink Pather!" Wade exclaims, and the elevator comes to a rapid halt that makes Peter's ears pop. "Let's go straight to my spider-love-monkey's jungle gym!"

"What for?" Peter inquires. "It's not like my rooms are different from any other rooms in the Tower. They're only a little more lavish than the Ty Warner suite at the Four Seasons."

"I think I once unalived someone that stayed there," Wade muses, occupied with pressing all floor buttons from underground garages to the penthouse. "Did they have paisley upholstery? The blood prob'ly wouldn't have come out, so I guess I did humanity two services that day. Paisley, baby boy. Speaking of upholstery, your room? I could fuck you right here – ambience! – but the spades might get in the way."

The elevator moves again.

Much to Peter's relief, it doesn't stop at each one of the eighty-something floors on their way.

He wishes he could give JARVIS a thank-you present to show his appreciation, but what can you even get an A.I.?

x

Peter is pleasantly wrung out after his recent vigorous physical activity; his aches are slowly disappearing under the assault of his healing factor, and he's feeling like a bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce on top is all that is missing from his world.

Wade puts said bowl into his hand, plops down onto the couch and cuddles up to his side, like they're this stereotypical couple form a TV show. Peter loves every second of it. He gives a moment to the thought that he's not sure if he's disappointed or relieved that Wade doesn't mention the white box' idea from the other day anymore, and then leaves it be. Obviously, they've dealt with it by forgetting about it.

He's down with this solution.

x

The Avengers come back from their mysterious probably-Hydra-related assignment (Peter thinks they should just admit they're trying and failing to hunt down the Winter Soldier, who seemed to try and fail to kill Captain America, but maybe that's a little too much trying and failing in between a superhero team and a supervillain assassin, and the PR team told Tony to just keep mum…).

Peter is in the communal living room, working on a study proposal for his Cancerous Cells semestral project, peripherally aware of Wade dancing around the kitchen to a Daft Punk song and working on a huge stack of pancakes.

Peter's listening to Bronski Beat, and the headphones block out most of the sounds, so he's alerted to the incoming by the momentary stillness of his boyfriend.

The spider senses do not tingle, so he's not actually panicked. He pauses the track, takes off the headphones and pulls his mask on. Then he turns around.

The Avengers are back, it seems. A quick check of facial expressions shows that their errand wasn't successful, but they don't look as grim as if there were any major injuries, so he just shrugs it off.

Bruce plops down onto the couch next to Peter, leans back, covers his face with his forearm and says: "Tony, if you bring me coffee, I'll delete the recording I made of your babble-rant on the quinjet before Steve has a chance to hear it."

"Square deal," Tony yelps and hurries for the kitchen-

"What rant?" Steve demands.

-where he's not too surprised to encounter the relatively civilian incarnation of Deadpool (Wade has put his mask on as well, probably unnerved by so many people suddenly inside what up to now was his space), but seems thrown by the resident amount of pancakes. Which is a little weird, because the penthouse is saturated with the smell of pancakes. The actual presence of pancakes should have been expected.

Especially if one was a genius.

"Something about how to bait a superior mouse-trap, and the tendency of scientists to use rodents for their experiments," Natasha tells Steve enigmatically. "He did not outright call you a lab-rat, though. This time."

Peter's half-convinced the woman is trolling Captain America, because that response was void of answers and absolutely provoking new questions. Hawkeye shoots past to the kitchen, helps himself to a pancake without even washing his hands, and then goes to root through the fridge for… milk? Milk. Thor is still absent. Instead of him, there is one of the new guys – as in, newer than Peter himself (although, as opposed to Peter, who is still tolerated rather than welcome, this is actually a full-Avenger).

"Brother!" Wade yells, dodges past Tony and Steve, and throws himself around Falcon's neck.

Falcon freezes and – credit where credit is due – holds still through the entire production, until Wade gets his hugging fix and lets go, bouncing on his toes.

Peter flips over the back of the couch and stands guard behind his boyfriend, just in case anyone not used to that much exuberance gets trigger happy. Better if there is no call for a cleaning service, right? Then he lets himself be filled with warmth from watching Wade be happy. It's so rare in their lives that he knows to appreciate it.

The coffee machine gurgles.

"I owe Nick another tenner," Steve grumbles under his breath.

Natasha re-sheathes a couple of knives. Peter is quietly grateful for her restraint – pulling those out of Wade's kidneys would have put a damper on his day.

"So," Wade says to Falcon, who is looking a little shell-shocked (although, to be fair, that is a pretty normal reaction to Deadpool), "I think we're twins."

Falcon thinks about this. And then he inquires, in that carefully calm voice that hints on an impending blow-up: "What. The Hell."

Wade clasps his hands together in front of his chest and bows ever so slightly, mimicking the Japanese gesture. "Please, don't reject me? I've lost all my family a long time ago and – and they were… not very nice people. My Dad hit me. Sometimes with a bottle. A broken bottle. Hey, you wanna know how I got these scars-?" He lifts his mask just enough to show off his chin and give Falcon a fair idea of what the rest of his face looks like.

The contingent of the Avengers watch the show, by now reassured enough that no one seems like they're about to attack Wade with anything sharp or otherwise painful. Tony sits in the remaining free place on the couch on Bruce's other side, passes one of the mugs in his possession to Bruce, and mutters something about a dreary lack of popcorn.

Falcon grimaces in genuine empathy. "Shit, man."

"That explains a lot," Tony agrees, as if he's never seen Wade's face before.

It seems odd to Peter that the face wouldn't have come up during the frankly concerning amount of time Tony spent on Deadpool's background checks.

"I know," Wade tells Falcon. "But, see, the one thing I've got from Dad, which I still keep, is this name." He shows off a battered old high-school library card. Wade wears braces in that photo. It's a funny-embarrassing kind of a childhood photo, until you realize that the little boy in that picture is the same person as the horribly scarred man showing the picture to you. Then it's just horrific. "Look, here. See? Wade Wilson. We're family."

"I'm black," Falcon points out intelligently.

Wade pockets his old, old library card in his tan cargo pants, shrugs and throws his hands wide. "Bro, I'm a huge mass of walking scar tissue. Am I not black enough for my family? Are you being racist or ableist right now, 'cause I honestly can't tell. I'm so disappointed!"

Peter lets himself be conned into folding Wade into a protective embrace. He sympathizes with Falcon, but so far this has been fun, and he wants to see where it will go.

Sam Wilson – the certified counselor at the VA – blinks, and cuts off the introspection as fast as he can. You can't argue with a madman. Or, rather, you can, but the madman will always win.

"Why," he asks helplessly, already knowing the reply wouldn't in any way help him answer his questions, "are you convinced I'm your brother?"

Wade shrugs, as if the answer should have been obvious. "We share the surname."

Falcon looks like he's trying to feel some gratification over being right about the unhelpfulness of Deadpool's response – and failing. "Do you know how many Wilsons there are in the U.S. alone?"

Wade pauses and seriously reflects. Then he shakes his head. "No. Do you?"

There would have been silence in the wake of the question, if not for Tony's snickers. Bruce seems to be sipping his coffee with all the serenity in the world, but the tightness around the corners of his eyes shows that he's actually grinning behind the cover of his mug.

Natasha has put the kettle on, and it's just beginning to make its burbling noise, while she rifles through the shelves for the exact kind of tea she's in the mood for. Wade hasn't rearranged those, Peter doesn't think, so he's probably not in danger of being gutted for de-alphabetization or anything of the sort.

"I just know," Wade explains seriously, "that a relative of ours from Cardiff went down to London wearing all hot pink and murder-suicide'd as a plot point for BBC Sherlock. Jenny. From the block. But I know she ain't my mama-"

"That was a crime against feminism," Peter grumbles.

"No argument from this corner, baby boy. It was so bad she stopped being hot, and that's saying something – ain't it funny?"

"Besides," Clint mutters, half-hiding behind his plate stacked with pancakes, "love don't cost a thing, do it?"

"Mne stydno znat' tebya," comments Agent Romanov, nudging his ribs. And accepting another plate of pancakes from him, as if it was her due.

Wade just goes back, surprised that Clint rescued the pancake that would have burned while Wade greeted his potential long-lost sibling, and slides right back into the flow of pouring and flipping and stacking.

Peter returns just in time to rescue his laptop from being usurped by the two resident superscientists.

x

The Avengers don't go out of town again.

Hydra proves that they know the adage about Muhammad and the mountain by coming to New York.

Peter remembers the last time Hydra operated on his turf, and he's not staying out of this, come Hell or high water or the Black Widow herself.

x

Peter's phone trills out the beginning of Queen's Miracle.

Peter is a little preoccupied out here, and he needs both hands to move and fight. On the other hand, his webbing is one of the best adhesives known to humankind (for a couple of hours after depressurization, that is).

He mentally apologizes to his phone, squirts the tiniest blobs he can onto the screen, picks up, and attaches the phone to the side of his mask.

Handsfree!

"Hi, Aunt May."

"Peter, dear," Aunt May says in the voice that immediately has Peter on alert. "I know that Wade is a little unusual-"

That is the single most diplomatic wording that has ever been applied to Deadpool, he's sure.

"-but that does not exempt him from taking responsibility when he messes up. Next time, he will go to the store and replace the microwave himself."

Peter evades a hail of bullets, sticks a thread to the underside of a convenient fire escape and swings around to get some solid building between himself and the clodpoles with the automatics. Once he's reasonably safe, he sighs.

He should have known that Wade would bail.

"I'm sorry, Aunt Ma-"

"No, don't worry about it," she assures him. "I know he's just embarrassed. I would be, too, if I put a tin into the microwave. And what's that noise?"

"Err…" Peter hesitates. She knows what he does in his free time, but in between the Daily Bugle and his anecdotes, Aunt May may be under the not entirely correct impression that he's mostly helping out the fire-fighters and arresting car-jackers. "Hawkeye and Iron Man are playing a computer game." This explanation is even plausible, in that it happens often enough, and he's already mentioned it to his Aunt before. "Mr Stark's system is unreal-"

"Boys," she huffs, more amused than truly exasperated. "They're the same at every age."

Peter hangs upside down and webs two of the enemy guys in their faces.

They rest are fast enough to locate him and shoot before he moves – he's fast enough to move before he's shot. Barely.

"Now that sounds like a fairly intense game." Aunt May chuckles.

"Yes," Peter replies helplessly. "I guess you could say that. They're both really competitive."

The remnants of the assault squad round the corner, and Peter get's one more down – misses the second man – before he's forced to retreat round the edge of the roof.

"I'll leave you boys to your fun," says Aunt May. "You just tell Wade to come by and pick up his change. A new microwave does not cost ten thousand dollars."

"I'll tell him that. But, you know how he is. He won't take the money back." Peter is hundred percent certain of it. Wade adores Aunt May. He would buy her a pony if she wanted one. Or a yacht. Or a private island.

Ten thousand dollars will get absorbed into her budget easily. Some medicine here, a handful of new items there, maybe some minor maintenance on the house. Soon enough it will be gone.

"He is welcome to try and convince me to accept it," the woman says primly.

Wade is a metahuman mercenary with an insanely intimidating kill-list, but Peter still wouldn't bet on him in that confrontation.

"Bye, Aunt May," he says for lack of anything more perspicacious to say.

"Bye, Peter, dear. Call me when you're safe."

She hangs up, and Peter resigns himself for the umpteenth time to the fact that whenever he tries to lie to his Aunt he makes an idiot of himself. He's not sure why he keeps trying.

Then, suddenly, there is a quinjet above him.

His phone rings again.

Fortunately, his mask has enough yield that he manages to accept the call despite the phone being stuck to it. He has to do it blindly and at an awkward angle, but math has never been a problem for him.

"Good morning, Grandma," Stark greets. "Been too busy to talk to your teammates?"

'My Aunt called' is on the tip of Peter's tongue. It would have been a decent retort, too – aunts, like any female relatives, are a universal excuse. He doesn't say anything. He doesn't want anyone to know that the Spider-Man has an aunt.

"I tried to get away for a breather, but these guys just won't take no for an answer," he says instead. It's uninspired. But safe.

Stark scoffs. "Widow on your six."

Peter reflexively turns – and reflexively catches. When he opens his palm, there's a commlink in it.

Luckily, he has two ears. Affixing it isn't much more complicated than accepting a call despite the adherent state of his touchscreen, so by the time Stark hangs up he's already patched into the Avengers' frequency.

"Hi, everyone," Peter says. "Thanks for coming to the party. Beer's run out, but we've got live music-"

A salvo sounds from the street, punctuated with the ringing of shattered windowpanes.

"A little heavy on the percussions, eye-em-age-oh, but the band call themselves Hydra, and isn't that just rad?"

He's treated to the unique sound of Captain America swearing like a sailor. He blushes under his mask.

"I've got three more assault squads," reports Iron Man. "Transmitting location."

Peter's phone is stuck to his head, so he can't check. He prudently decides to stay with his group – he's formed a bit of an emotional attachment to them by now, anyway.

The battle moves through the streets. One by one the Hydra flunkies go down – some webbed, some Widow-bit. In between them, the two spider-themed guys deal with the threat easily.

Natasha transmits the location of the neutralized enemy agents to SHIELD.

"Gold star for Spidey!" Wade exclaims through the comms.

Peter grins. He doesn't doubt that Wade has managed to join in despite never being issued an official commlink of his own. He's resourceful like that.

"Hi, honey," says Peter. "I might be late for dinner-"

Natasha glomps onto Peter's neck – scaring the snot out of him – and directs him to take her up to a nearby rooftop.

Rooftops, as it turns out, are also a warzone, because the Hydra folks thought they'd be picked up by choppers…? Peter's on entirely sure on the logic of this plan. It's the Avengers' business, though – he's just here to point and web.

His spider senses tingle.

Peter jumps before he has time to think about it, bodily putting himself in between the danger and Captain America's unprotected back. He catches a blow to the stomach, which throws him back into Steve, who jumps to the side on reflex, and then Peter's crashing into the hard concrete.

"Ow," he rasps, "my elbows." They're going to be bruised. The suit is a write-off, too.

"Babe?" Wade demands.

"I'm fine," Peter assures him, rolling his eyes. He goes to stand.

His hand sort of flops over. His legs don't move at all.

"Ow," he repeats.

This kind of hurts more than he expected.

"Spider-Man?" Steve's crouching in his line of sight, and his face is all blurry, which is odd, 'cause Peter's got twenty-twenty vision, thank you, radioactive spider. Then Steve peers over the top of the shield he's holding to shield both himself and Peter and shouts: "He's hit!"

Peter would huff at the drama, but any motion of his abdominal muscles results in agony, so he tries to lie still and relax. And breathe. That's a chore of its own. But he'll be fine – he got smashed worse last week – face-first into a wall. That sucked. He actually spat a tooth afterwards.

There's a video on YouTube.

"Petey…" Wade says in a really, really weird voice, crouching down next to Captain America without a single compliment to the man's truly amazing physique. His hands touch Peter's belly and side, and Peter can't really sit up now, but at least he manages to figure out – finally – why things are so weird.

He's been shot.

"You're kind of leaking out too much, babe," Wade admonishes. "Stop that."

Peter's completely aboard that train. Or he would be, if he could. "Uhh… sorry?"

Wade sniffles. He's sad, sure, but weirdly not angry. Peter's never heard him sound so scared.

"I mean it, smarty-pants. Stop that bleeding now."

Why is everything going dark? "I- hmm. Uh. I'm-"

Sorry.

x

When Peter wakes up, there's a huge, solemn face right in front of him.

He freaks out, sending all the beeping and blinking machines into frenzy, but the face doesn't move. It just stares at him with big, black eyes set around a soft pink horn.

"Peter?"

The unicorn disappears, and out of the hazy background – that is likely owed to some heavy duty narcotics – appears the face of Dr Bruce Banner. There's something wrong with this situation. If Peter only were a little less stoned, he'd figure out what it is.

"Can you understand me?" asks Dr Banner, mildly concerned.

"Mnnnyup," Peter manages. He probably shouldn't be so intensely proud of himself for that feat of diction.

"Great." Dr Banner smiles a little, and pats Peter's shoulder. "You're going to be just fine – perk of your healing factor. If you didn't have that, you'd be in an ICU."

"Mnnnot eyesyuuu?" Peter inquires, squinting and trying to see further than the four feet he's managed so far. He's sluggish, but it's probably okay, because his spider senses are quiet. There's no immediate danger here.

"No," Dr Banner assures him. "You're in the Stark Tower. We have our own medical facility. Don't worry. Try to sleep, if you can manage it. Do you want the unicorn back?"

"Mnnnooo…" Peter refuses, grimacing.

His attending physician chuckles. "Yes, I suspected. But Deadpool insisted that you wouldn't be able to sleep without it…"

Peter drops off with a smile.

x

When Peter wakes up again, he doesn't feel like he's going to lose a couple of internal organs via a hole in his stomach. He also doesn't feel like he's swimming through foggy blurriness, and with the perception of reality comes a moment of panic.

The machine beeps like mad.

Dr Banner appears fast, although by the time he's in the room Peter's taken off the sensor. This has stopped the beeping, with an unhappy side-effect of it being replaced by a long, flat tone. Anyone who's ever watched a hospital drama knows that means that the patient is kaput.

Peter feels a little guilty when he sees the expression on Dr Banner's face; the doctor appears relieved almost immediately upon entering the room, but for a while there Peter's scared his favorite Avenger pretty badly.

"I'm sorry," he says.

Dr Banner shakes his head. One of his hands runs through his slightly overgrown curls, the other deposits a phone in the backpocket of his pants. "I should just be used to this. Between Clint and Tony- don't even think of getting up."

Peter knows better than to protest that he's fine. He's not fine. He's a lot better than he was, but the erstwhile yawning chasm in his midsection still feels raw and fragile, and his head hates him. He suspects this is what a hangover feels like. It's unfair. He should have had the chance to enjoy being drunk if he has to suffer the consequences.

He tacitly accepts a plastic cup and drinks. The tepid water feels like balm on his throat.

"Is Wade 'round?" Peter inquires. That seems pressing. He knows better than to ask if the man is 'okay' – by various definitions of the word Wade is always and never okay – but his absence is conspicuous and worrying.

"I had to kick him out," Dr Banner admits, consulting the terminal about Peter's vital signs and whatever else they were monitoring. The screen is conveniently positioned so that Peter would have to get out of the bed to look at it, and aside from being unwilling to risk Dr Banner's wrath, he also doubts he would glean anything useful from the readings. "He was driving me up the wall and… well, you know I can't risk releasing the other guy in a place like this."

Peter understands. Though he still doesn't like this. Getting shot sucks.

"How did you sell him on that?" Peter inquires. Negotiating with Wade is no small feat. Dr Banner is a genius, so him managing isn't a great surprise, but Peter's all the more curious about the details.

"Traded my promise that no one would take any blood samples from you."

Peter pales. That should have occurred to him. If only his head stopped aching and he would have the chance to think clearly for a minute-

"Are you okay?" Dr Banner asks, putting his hand on Peter's shoulder. "Peter?"

He stops breathing for a moment. His heart skips a beat. He should have known! He should have figured it out! He knew something was off – I he had just thought-

"Peter, calm down, please." Dr Banner looks ready to pull out a sedative.

Peter tries to get a hold of himself. It's too late – he can't prevent this disaster anymore. He can only, maybe, do some damage control. He needs Wade. He's not sure why, possibly just to hold his hand, but he does.

"You know who I am," he says desolately.

Dr Banner raises his hands palms-out and shakes his head. "No, no. That's what Deadpool called you after you were shot. I assumed, and then you responded to it."

"I'm not wearing a mask," Peter points out.

"I haven't let anyone in here since I took it off," explains the doctor.

It sounds nice, it really does, but Peter hasn't survived this long by being naïve. "Security cameras." He may have been parading around Stark Tower without a mask before, but that was when the Avengers weren't there, and he believed he could rely on his gentlemen's agreement with JARVIS. A direct order from Tony would trump any feelings of sympathy on the A.I.'s part.

"I have a privacy lock on this room. Obviously, Jarvis knows who you are, but I rather suspect that he has known for quite some time already. And he won't tell anyone – not even Tony, unless you constitute a threat to us."

"Unlikely," Peter replies morosely. He doesn't believe all this, but he's smart enough to admit that he doesn't have a choice. Besides, he has already considered revealing his identity to the Avengers. This has simply forced his hand.

That's the downside of having allies who take care of him after he gets shot. He may have come out ahead, after all.

He composes himself as best as he can, prone in a hospital bed, wearing a t-shirt that he definitely hasn't put on himself, and extends his hand. "Hi, Doctor. I'm Peter."

Dr Banner is a good sport about shaking. He smiles as he replies: "Hello, Peter. I am Bruce."

"Thanks for patching me up, Bruce."

"My pleasure," the man replies easily, "although I'd prefer it if you didn't get shot in the first place."

Peter shrugs. The motion pulls and there's some sting, but no agony. Score!

"No promises. These guys keep bringing guns to a web-fight."

It's a terrible line, and the frown Bruce turns in Peter's direction is so pained that it's all Peter can do to keep from laughing. His diaphragm and surrounding muscles are definitely not up to any laughing yet.

So it's more than a little masochistic of him to ask for Wade.

Bruce looks like he's judging Peter only for a couple of seconds, before self-awareness kicks in and he nods, walking off as if the path to the door were the stairs up to gallows. He pauses just before the threshold and turns back.

"Could you tell me… if you don't mind… why the unicorn?"

Peter was right. Laughing hurts.

x

Bruce doesn't find Wade.

He does find Wade's Wade plushy sitting in a chair in the corridor, with a message safety-pinned to its head, and holding Peter's cell phone. The message reads 'off to feed the ducks/ back before pumpkin-time' which may be Halloween, but most likely means midnight, because in his soul Wade is a Disney princess.

Peter braces himself and makes a call.

"H-hello?"

"Hi, Aunt May," he says, trying at once to sound fine like nothing serious happened and not sound too happy, because he doesn't want her to think he would let her worry about him… he's pretty sure he fails on all accounts.

"Peter?" she inquires through a stuffed nose.

Peter feels like the lowest heel that had ever been underfoot. He's made her cry. He deserves to be fed nothing but soy beans and fish oil and to be forced to watch the entirety of The Kardashians.

"I'm sorry," he says. It's inadequate – if only because he can't think of a stronger word right now – but it's the best he can do. "I'm okay. I mean, I'm going to be okay. I got a bit hurt – but, hey, I saved Captain America…?"

"Oh…"

He's not sure what 'oh' means. He's not feeling especially proud or deserving for taking a bullet for Captain Rogers. He doesn't think it grants him any special lenience. He's only put it out there because… it maybe, a little bit, helps provide some perspective.

Most of what he does lately – aside from uni – is a matter of self-sacrifice. He knows Aunt May doesn't want this for him, and knows that she accepts it as a part of him, no matter how much it scares her. He just can't seem to figure out a way out of this conundrum.

"Is Wade there?" Aunt May asks, surprising Peter.

"Uh… he's around here somewhere. Bruce has gone to find him." Or, rather, to let the other Avengers know they have lost him. "Should I-"

"No, no. He'll take care of you, I'm sure." And she does sound sure. She sounds like relying on Wade is the smart choice and she approves, and if Peter could love her more he would. "You will come home the instant they release you, understood?"

"Yes, Aunt May." He nods, even though she can't see him.

"Good, good… Bye, Peter. I love you."

"I love-"

The beeping tone cuts him off.

He feels like the lowest dirt. This is a part of why he wanted to keep Aunt May out of the whole Spider-Man business. He knew she would worry. It's so selfish – but he preferred it when his only concern when injured was how to hide it from her.

x

The mask is returned to Peter's possession, and with a little help from Bruce and Clint he moves from the medical facilities to his designated quarters. He's ordered to rest, with the recommendation of making it bed-rest, and he doesn't actually mind staying put, as long as he can spend the time constructively – doing his schoolwork.

He occasionally glances at the clock. His phone remains silent.

Midnight comes and passes. So does one.

Peter's too tired to continue working, even though he has spent a few days asleep. He wants to wait up, but if Wade doesn't come back within twenty minutes, he's going to find Peter asleep face-down on his keyboard and two hundred pages of 'zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz' in his text editor.

Peter saves his work and turns off the computer. He lies down. Closes his eyes. JARVIS dims the lights…

…he wakes up some time later to the sound of someone tripping and braining themselves on the frame of the bed.

"Hi, honey," he says without opening his eyes.

Then he opens his eyes.

Wade scrambles up from the floor. He doesn't seem hurt. He comes closer when Peter extends his hand, pulls of his mask and supplies a kiss – and then a few more, to Peter's cheeks and chin and the arch of his collar bone.

Peter sighs; it feels like he's sinking deeper into the bedding, and he would love to sink right back into sleep, but Wade doesn't seem as if he is taking off the suit and joining him, so there's trouble.

"Tell me," he demands – in a sleepy voice that turns the order into a half-intelligible mumble.

"Yeah, he-heh, the thing is… uh… Peter. Petey."

Peter rubs his eyes. He uses his boyfriend to pull himself up into a sitting position (still hurts, but less than before, thank you, radioactive spider!).

"You're freaking me out, Wade. Tell me what's going on, so I can start dealing with it. I've got five stages to go through, this won't be quick or easy-"

"I'm leaving," Wade blurts. "Tomorrow. I'm leaving tomorrow. Not you. But- crap."

"Plushy," Peter orders resolutely, pointing at the toy where he sits guard in the chair.

"Honeybadger-"

"Now," Peter adds, finally feeling the calm of crisis freeze him down inside. It sounds like a paradox, but it really is just a basic prerequisite of herodom – and a bit of learned skill.

Wade seems to telepathically hijack that calm. He pulls open the door, hides behind it, and sticks out his hand holding the Plushypool. "I'm flying out tomorrow, Petey-baby. To some ugly place with lots of drug-runners and no taco stands. Or maybe taco stands after all. Taco stands are getting pretty ubiquitous."

"So…" Peter says slowly, "this is you taking a job and afraid that I'll… what? Tell you not to?"

"Optimism! Smells like Channel Number Five in the early morning, coming out of the wrong bathroom at a crackhouse."

Putting aside the idea of crackhouse bathrooms-

"Wade," Peter sighs.

He has made it a point to think this through before he agreed to a date, and then again when he witnessed Wade slaughtering people, and then yet again when he invited Wade to his apartment for the first time. It's not something you can overlook if you're spending any amount of time in Wade's presence. It's who he is, and he's very… well, the-opposite-of-shy about it. "Will SHIELD come after either of us for this?"

Peter didn't like SHIELD before he became 'the noose around Deadpool's neck', and lately he can't help but be aware that sometimes agents will go tugging at him to get Wade to 'behave'. He's not sure he could deal with it if, in the end, someone used him to strangle his boyfriend. (The only reason he can sleep at all is that Wade would not actually remain dead.)

"If Mar-ee-yah Poppins' word means anything at all – and it better, or I'll go supercalifragilisticexpialidocious on her ass – we're in the clear like a slice of lemon peel floating 'round the glass of James Bond's Vesper Martini. Speaking of love und murder, baby boy. Deal is, I can take a contract on anyone on SHIELD's disposal list; they see it as outsourcing for free, I get paid big green bucks by invested third parties. It's a win-win-win situation – except for the stiffs."

Peter can't quite help it but 'big green' always makes him think of the Hulk, and then his next association is – right to the bottom of the gutter. Darn. How does Wade do these things to him? His brain used to be full of physics and vigilantism, and now he's like an X-tube channel.

It's the thong's fault. Really. It is.

"C'mere and hug me," he grumbles. "You can leave after I fall asleep."

Wade obeys without a word of protest, although there are lots of other words. Despite the temporary clear-headedness caused by a moment of adrenalin surge, Peter is already fading again. This won't take long. Wade's warmth around him is speeding up the process, and the quiet soliloquy on the topic of foreign countries and their customs and their food interspersed with ridiculous and often anatomically impossible declarations of love put a smile on Peter's face as he nods off.