Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Peter, Miles, Anya.
Setting: An imagined epilogue to the story arc in which Doc Ock hijacked Spider-Man's body.
Summary: After defeating Doc Ock while trapped in the Living Brain, Peter faces an unexpected quandary.
Disclaimer: They belong to Marvel. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: I wrote this fic immediately after watching the episode "The Living Brain", cliffhanger and all—so it may only be relevant for a matter of days before the actual storyline concludes. The canon events may turn out to be entirely different from the assumptions I'm drawing here, leaving no room for such a scene to take place. Still, what follows is an angle I doubt the writers will touch on at the conclusion, although I'd love to see it happen. (…Of course, my interest is probably no surprise, since writing a character in a metal body is one of the things I'm best known for. *g*)
Submitted for the prompt of "Hardware and Software" at Genprompt Bingo.
The past two days were an ordeal like no other in Peter Parker's already remarkable young life.
It had been hard enough to convince Miles and Spider-Girl that Doctor Octopus had switched bodies with him, leaving him trapped within the damaged hulk of the Living Brain's robotic body. The subsequent battle to defeat Ock in the body of Spider-Man—all while avoiding permanent harm to that body—was even harder. However, the three Spiders won out at last. Once Ock was safely sedated and unconscious, they brought him back to a lab at Horizon High, where they could work on undoing the monstrousness the mad genius had wrought.
Or rather, Miles and Spider-Girl could work on it. At the moment they were across the room, recalibrating the energy focal device that was key to reversing the switch. As for Peter, he was rather awkwardly relegated to standing watch over his own body, to make sure Ock did not awaken inside it again. Spider-Girl didn't seem to think Peter could be trusted to help with such a delicate technical procedure right now… and he wasn't sure he could argue. He still felt a little shaken after having to battle his own flesh and blood.
At least mentally. On the physical front, there was no feeling at all in the shell that contained his consciousness. This body was perfectly steady and still.
When Peter imagined his heart pounding and his stomach turning at the horror of how Ock had violated his being, he thought that missing those reactions might not be such a bad thing.
And there was more than that to appreciate about his new condition. Before tracking Ock down, the three Spiders had not only repaired Peter's new mechanical body, but added major upgrades. They streamlined its once-bulky shape, making enhancements to its agility that enabled it to climb walls as easily as he could before. They equipped it with webshooters and non-lethal stun weapons. Its increased powers were no small part of what defeated Ock: he thought he knew what the body that formerly housed him was capable of, but he hadn't expected the punch it now delivered.
Peter sighed, tipping his metal head down an inch. It was the first sound and movement he had made in nearly two hours. With the complete lack of restlessness in this body, his focus sharpened to a new intensity, quieting his mind in spite of himself. He was learning just how much his usual need to fidget and chatter was physically prompted by living nerves he no longer possessed. The discovery was startling—and a little sobering.
It made him wonder if his hyperactive nature was really his own worst enemy. Sure, his jittery babbling often agitated and distracted his opponents, but was it just as much a distraction to himself? If he could always have been so calm on the outside, even when his thoughts were racing… how much more effective could he have been all along at fighting bad guys?
All he wanted was to protect people, and save others from knowing the pain he felt when Uncle Ben was taken from him. He wanted to be the best at that mission that he could possibly be. His spider-powers had made him strong, but all too often, he had come so close to not being strong enough.
He looked down at the large hands of the machine he now inhabited, flexing jointed carbon-polymer fingers… and then his gaze shifted to the limp body on the exam table before him.
From the inside, he had never realized just how small it really was.
"…Okay." A stool scraped against tile, and Miles rose from the counter where he and Spider-Girl were working. His voice was bright as he strode toward the two body-swapped subjects at the table. "It's all set, Spidey. We're as ready to put you back where you belong as we'll ever be."
Had Peter been in an organic body then, the jarring rush of emotions he felt would have expressed itself as a flinch; but as it was, he didn't move at all.
"Hey. Didja hear me? You didn't blow a fuse or something in there, did you?" A distinct note of concern crept beneath the forced humor in Miles' tone.
Abruptly Peter turned to face his friend, and Spider-Girl who was approaching as well.
"Yeah. I heard you. It's just that… I've been thinking." He hesitated, knowing instinctively that their reaction to his next words would not be a positive one. "And I don't know if going back… is what I really want to do."
"What?" Spider-Girl exploded.
Hastily Peter raised his artificial hands. "I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. These last two weeks, I had so many villains coming after me that I couldn't even sleep—and that was exactly Doc Ock's plan. He only got the better of me because I was exhausted. Because my body was too weak to keep fighting." He looked down at the mechanical marvel that surrounded him. "But this way… I'm stronger. This body has even more powers than I did before—and it can never get tired. Which means… it would never hold me back from protecting people when they need me."
His two fellow Spiders were momentarily speechless, staring up at him in manifest astonishment.
"That thing isn't human, Spidey," ground out Spider-Girl at last, staring up at him with hands planted on her hips. "How could you even think of giving that up?"
"Because it would be better for everyone else. The harder I try to keep the people I care about safe, the more I just put them in danger. But if I stayed this way… maybe I'd finally have the power to stop anyone who tries to hurt them."
"But it'd mean giving up the life you have with them." Miles' voice was uncharacteristically quiet as he took a step closer, looking up with a firmness that could be felt from underneath the mask. "Just think about it. Besides the fact that deciding to be a big laser-packing robot forever kinda blows the whole 'secret identity' thing out of the water?—In that body, you could never even share in all the normal, everyday things people do together. How do you think your friends and family would feel about that?"
In the presence of their newfound ally, Miles wasn't naming names; but in his tone and his emphasis on the word family, Peter knew exactly who he meant.
Peter thought about her. About never knowing the warmth of her hugs again. About how she would feel if he simply disappeared, hiding the secret of his new form from her forever… and maybe even worse, what she would think if he actually revealed himself to her the way he was.
If given the choice, he knew she would rather risk danger than see him throw away the life she had sacrificed so much to give him.
The sound that escaped the unbreathing metal hull was nonetheless that of a shaky exhaled breath. Peter bowed his head shamefully, even as he wished he could smile at his friend.
"You're right," he admitted softly. "Thanks, Miles."
As Miles fondly rested a hand on an unfeeling robotic arm, the smile in his voice was unmistakable. "We just want you back, Spidey. You've put being Spider-Man ahead of almost everything else in your life—but putting it ahead of your humanity would be going way too far."
It was not lost on Peter that Spider-Girl tilted her head at those words, noting the familiar way Miles spoke of Spider-Man's personal life. He wondered if she could guess that the two of them knew each other's true identities. Hers was still unrevealed to Peter if not to Miles, but judging by her voice, her fighting style, and most of all her attitude…
"You know, you still seem really familiar," he remarked to her out of the blue, a trace of his usual flippancy returning. "How about spilling the secret? We're all just Spiders here, after all."
"And risk that tin can you're in recording it or something?" Spider-Girl retorted. "No way. The only chance I'll even think about telling you my secret identity is after we get you back to normal."
Miles made an exaggerated wave of his hand at her. "Uh, excuse me, but in what universe are spider-people considered normal? …I'm just asking because it sounds like it'd be a lot more relaxing of a place to visit."
"Well, it was normal in this city for about a week. Before everyone mutated into giant spider monsters."
Peter inwardly stifled a chuckle.
Yeah, that is so totally Anya. Somehow she didn't lose her powers after that whole Spider Island incident, huh? …Awesome. I can't think of a better girl to have my back.
And I mean my real back—not a metal one.
"Okay guys," he spoke up warmly, disrupting the attempt of his fellow Spiders to have a glaring contest through their masks. "Getting back to normal sounds pretty good right about now—so let's do this."
2018 Jordanna Morgan