Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Rating/Warnings: G. Some minor-ish Spider-Man: Homecoming spoilers.
Characters: Peter Parker and Ned Leeds.
Setting: Basically over the course of Homecoming.
Summary: The best and worst thing about Ned was how oblivious he was.
Disclaimer: They belong to Marvel. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompt of "Best" at Fan Flashworks.
The best and worst thing about Ned, Peter concluded, was how oblivious he was.
Really, that was part of what brought them to be friends. From the time they met, Ned was oblivious to the fact that Peter was one of the most uncool kids in school. (Possibly second only to himself—but still.)
On the contrary, Ned thought Peter was cool, because he lived on Ned's level of the high-school food chain and didn't really seem to care about fighting it. Instead of trying to be fake in a bid for higher status, he owned the fact that he was just another socially-inept loser who dumpster-dived for computer parts and geeked out over Lego sets. While their classmates were busy obsessing about fashion and sports and all the other things that went into maintaining a popular image, Peter was simply himself.
…Until he wasn't anymore, that is.
After he became an inhumanly strong wall-crawling freak with superhero ambitions, Peter worried about a lot of people learning his secret. Aunt May, first and foremost, for literally all the reasons. The criminals he'd knocked around, who would probably like to exact revenge upon him and everyone he cared about. The government, because honestly, he wasn't quite sure what to think about that Sokovia Accords business. His teachers and classmates, because… well, because high school. Enough said.
The one person he really hadn't been as concerned about figuring it out, though, was Ned. The other boy was oblivious yet again. Oblivious to Peter's alarm when he stopped Ned from pulling a certain red and blue garment out of his backpack; oblivious to the guilty stammer in Peter's voice when he made excuses, time and again, about why they couldn't hang out that night. Ned just took it all at face value, and was probably the only person he knew who didn't notice how he was behaving so strangely these days.
And then Peter just had to go and give Ned an eyeful of everything that even his dubious observational skills couldn't mistake.
He spent about a day kicking himself for that. Mostly through the barrage of ridiculous questions—and then the "Peter knows Spider-Man" fiasco in the gym. Even after Spider-Man was a no-show at Liz's party, and everyone wrote it off as a pathetic joke, he had a bad feeling Ned's secondhand brag was going to come back and bite him someday. (And definitely not a bite that would turn out as awesome for him as that spider's had, either.)
That was one more worry Peter seriously didn't need. Ned may have promised to keep the secret, but he was oblivious to the reasons why it was so important—and that was where, at least initially, it became the worst thing about him. For a little while Peter waited uneasily for the other shoe to drop, for some kind of epic fallout to land on his head if Ned blabbed everything to the world. If he was exposed, maybe Mr. Stark would give up on him, or Aunt May would drag him off to a hospital and demand that they "cure" him of his powers.
It never happened, though. Even if Ned didn't really get it, he managed to live up to his word… and soon enough, Peter found plenty of reasons to be glad Ned had learned the truth.
Of course there were the obvious ones. Ned's help as his self-titled "man in the chair" proved to be invaluable—and he just might have saved Peter's life in that fight with the second Shocker guy.
But it wasn't only that. On a much more basic, everyday level, it was simply a relief to have someone in his life who knew. (Well, besides Mr. Stark, who so far had been too aloof and condescending to really count in that way.)
It was a relief because Peter could tell Ned about the things he went through. Ned was more than eager to listen, and just getting it all out of his system helped drain away some of Peter's stress. Furthermore, no matter what mistakes he made, Ned admired him and cheered him on. Even after the Washington Monument incident, as he watched his alter ego starting to gain real credit as the hero he aspired to be, it was strangely difficult to feel that acclaim belonged to him: Peter Parker, the surprisingly ordinary young man beneath the mask. Having just one person know and appreciate that he had done it all felt pretty darn good.
And there was one other way Ned's obliviousness was a positive. In spite of the things he had seen, he remained mostly clueless about how much danger Peter really came up against. Following Spider-Man's exploits from the safety of school or the Parkers' apartment, he was cheerfully, ignorantly sure that his superhero best friend could handle pretty much anything.
That was good, because it meant Ned didn't worry too much—which in turn helped Peter not to worry too much.
Better still, when he had let Ned into his life as Spider-Man, it somehow became easier to let himself be just Peter again. It was easier to feel the world wouldn't end if he took an hour or two away, just to be a little bit oblivious himself; just to hang out with Ned, doing the kinds of geeky, meaningless things they used to. Because it didn't feel so meaningless now. Not when they shared a closer bond than ever, cemented by his secrets and Ned's loyalty.
It was a bond Peter needed more than he had ever realized. He was starting to understand why heroes acquired sidekicks—and why sidekicks didn't even need superpowers to matter so much.
As cheesy as it sounded, maybe friendship really was a kind of superpower all on its own.
2017 Jordanna Morgan