“Can you edit the photos, and make sure I don’t look fat in them?” the bride asks.They’re in Central Park, taking engagement photos. It’s very early in the morning, the sun filters through the tree branches and leaves, making beautiful light puddles on the ground. The, mostly, happy couple bathe in the light. These photos should turn out very well.
“Don’t worry, I can’t take an unflattering photo of someone so beautiful,” Peter says. The groom gives a warning look at Peter that gets caught on camera. He couldn’t care less if the man thought he was hitting on his soon to be wife. It is too early in the morning for someone to be jealous of him. He just needed this photoshoot to go well. If it goes well, that means more customers and that means not counting pennies to afford food and rent.
Damn New York for having so many freelance photographers.
And guess damn Peter for not putting that chemistry diploma into use.
Peter tries to make the couple laugh to take some photos of them looking like this isn’t staged photoshoot, but only the bride laughs at his joke. The groom lets out a forced chuckle. It’s not good.
“Hey, let’s take a small brake,” Peter suggests. He takes the man to the side, as the bride checks her lipstick on her phone’s front camera.
“Try to relax a bit. Have some fun.”
“Stop hitting on her.” Peter’s taken aback. Sure, he had noticed that the guy didn’t like him particularly, but he hadn’t been even trying to hit on his bride.
“I’m not. I’m trying to make you guys more relaxed and natural looking.”
“She’s mine,” the man counters.
“I know… I’m taking your engagement photos…” Peter answers slowly. Why on earth did he choose to spend his time on entertaining idiots like this?
“So we’re in agreement?”
Peter stared at the man. Agree on what? That she’s marrying him instead of Peter?
“Yeah, sure,” he says. Whatever, just leave a good review, he adds in his mind.
Rest of the photoshoot goes more or less worse. The broom barely smiles and in most of the photos he’s sulking and staring right into the camera. Peter hates him. The bride is nice. Why is she marrying such an ass?
Guess love really can be blind…
“You’ll get the photos in two weeks time,” Peter says in the sunniest voice he can muster after the shoot is done. He mostly directs it towards the bride, but flashes a warm smile to the man, too.
“Two weeks?” the guy says annoyed, “Can’t we get them sooner? We want to send them out to family.”
The bride gives an apologetic smile to Peter, but asks the same thing. Surely they could get in by next week?
Honestly why write anything on the website or in emails, if people really can’t read. “I’m sorry, the earliest I can get it to you is in two weeks. I have a lot of other photos to edit.” He really doesn’t. The man looks almost angry, so Peter adds: “I promise to send them as soon as I can, but it probably will be two weeks.”
The man rolls his eyes, as if Peter can’t see him at all. The bride bites the inside of her cheek but nods understandingly.
The bag containing the camera bites into Peter’s shoulder as he’s walking towards the closest library. Fucking guy. Hopefully Peter took enough photos, so the stupid couple won’t end up with a bunch of photos the groom metaphorically pissing all over the place trying to mark his territory and his woman. She wasn’t even Peter’s type.
He really just wants a good fuck with someone who can take care of him, and be gone by the morning. Or stick around… that’s an option, too.
The library is full of people. As per usual. Even this early in the morning.
St. Agnes Library has warm, cream colored walls and brown wooden floors. It’s one of Peter’s favorite places. Mostly because he can spend as much time as he wants in there, and no one asks him to pay for anything. There are small elementary school kids on a field trip. They have overrun the kids’ section, pulling out all kinds of colorful books. It makes Peter feel warm inside. But also really old. He can remember when he was that small. When Uncle Ben would read to him out loud books they had borrowed together with Aunt May from their closest library.
Peter walks past the kids and their teacher, and finds himself some free table space. He pulls out his laptop in order to do some photo editing, but then ends up only kind of looking at the screen. The laptop is old, and Peter dreads the day he has to come up with the money to buy a new one. He’s so tired. He pulls his phone out after a good while of idly editing photos. It rings almost immediately as he takes it into his hand and drops it to the floor in surprise.
Peter dives to the floor to fish the phone from under the table. Each ring sends out ripples of embarrassment, he’s fully aware that you’re not supposed to make a lot of noise and bother others in libraries. As soon as he gets the phone back into his hand, he slides to decline the call.
“Call back soon,” he writes to MJ before she calls again.
Peter packs all his stuff back into his shoulder bag. Somehow they don’t fit in anymore, and the bag won’t close properly. He gives up, and walks outside the library with the bag half open.
“Hi!” Peter greets MJ on the phone. He’s just in front of St. Agnes Library’s front doors. The kids he saw earlier walk past him in a neat queue, holding their queue buddy’s hand with one hand and the book they’ve chosen in the other.
“Hi,” MJ greets back.
“So what did you want?”
“You haven’t read my messages?”
“Uhh, I can’t say that I have,” Peter lies.
“I went to see Harry yesterday.” Her tone is almost accusatory. Peter had just flat out ignored her texts when she had demanded he’d come with. Peter walks to lean against the building’s side and suppresses a sigh. The kids disappear behind a corner. The street feels almost empty.
“How is he?” he asks.
“I don’t know. I didn’t see him.”
“He didn’t let you in?”
“That, or he really wasn’t home,” MJ says, she sounds genuinely worried, “He’s not answering any of my texts or calls.”
“What did his butler or whatever say?”
“That he isn’t home.”
Peter hums thoughtfully. What did MJ want him to do? Hadn’t he made it very clear that he nor Harry wanted to see each other?
“Could you try? If he’d let you in?”
“MJ,” Peter starts, but doesn’t know how to continue. He’s afraid that this whole Harry business will destroy the last of his relationships. He groans under his breath, and hits the back of his head against the wall accidentally. A hollow tud runs through his head. “I-I’ll see what I can do. OK?”
“Thank you. This really means a lot to me,” MJ says, “I know your friendship is kinda strained,” she adds but doesn’t sound apologetic at all.
“I’ll try to see if I can catch him today.”
“Godspeed,” Peter says. Hopefully she does. Then Peter doesn’t have to.
“Thanks.” She sounds annoyed, but so is Peter.
“I have to go now.”
“Bye then,” MJ says, and the call clicks closed before Peter can say his goodbyes.
Fucking Harry. Why did everything in his life somehow dance around him?
It’s as if New York’s criminal side had fallen asleep. Nothing at all was happening. Peter didn’t even run into a single acquaintance, even the old granny close-ish to his apartment hadn’t had anything to complain about. Usually she had something to say about the kids next door or some drunks that liked to stop by a bar underneath her apartment. Today: Nothing. All is well. Apparently.
But, if the past is any indication, something definitely is waiting behind the horizon. Peter just knows it. Feels it in his bones. It tingles uncomfortably under his skin.
Peter swings himself on top of a building that is considerably shorter than the buildings that surround it. Standing on it he feels like the taller buildings are somehow hiding something behind themselves, and they might at any minute just jump him and bury him under.
He feels incredibly alone.
It’s time to socialise. Peter decides. Spider-Man isn’t needed today. Clearly. And if he seriously gets creeped out by tall buildings that New York is famously full of… Maybe it is a good time to call it a night.
Peter bee lines home. Nothing catches his eye on the road. And maybe he doesn’t want it to. He couldn’t remember the last time he had taken a night off. When he gets home he stuffs his suit and everything in a box underneath his bed. Normally he’d just leave everything kind of all over the place. But today, hopefully, he’d get some company. He chooses the nicest clothes he owns, which by any standards aren’t even that nice, and heads out.
Choosing between bars and nightclubs is always hard for Peter. He never liked going out that much. It’s expensive and most of the time the people he runs into are off putting and uninteresting. Peter pushes his bad club experiences to the back of his mind and shakes the ominous prickling under his skin off. He decides that he will meet someone hot today and have fun.
It’s colder out than he anticipated. He always forgets that the suit regulates his temperature. The wind hits him hard in the face as he turns the corner, and his jacket opens more in the wind, letting the cold air hug his torso tighter. Decision making becomes much easier. Peter doesn’t want to walk any further in the cold night, and so goes to the closest place he knows.
Velvet vibes is mostly a lesbian bar, but they let everyone in. The entrance fee isn’t too high either. It’s not crowded, because it’s not even close to the weekend. But there are some people. The music is loud and unfamiliar to Peter. The people, mostly women, sway more or less with the beat of the music. Reaching for others with their hands, and catching sweet plump lips with open wet mouths.
Peter walks further into the bar. The music fades into the background, even though the volume stays just the same. The air is thicker back here. It embraces him fully.
“Whatever is cheapest, please,” Peter says, leaning across the counter.
The bartender looks forgettable. And they are. Peter can barely remember how they looked like, when he turns around to look back at the tables and the dancefloor with the drink in his hand. It’s been a long while since he last was here.
The last time must have been with Gwen…
Peter shakes his head. As if to shake out the thought. He brings the bottle’s lips against his, and drinks.
The taste of alcohol surprises him. This isn’t even strong, and the taste is overwhelming. There used to be a time when he couldn’t taste the bitter alcohol in even stronger drinks. Perhaps this is a good thing, Peter thinks, then again… Where have his last years disappeared? Has he lived at all?
“You’re too young to look so gloomy,” a thick accent says.
“Why do people insist on interrupting my dramatic moments?” Peter says and turns to look who just had spoken.
“You look like you wear your heart out on your sleeve.” The speaker is an older woman. Fat, and soft looking. She has very short curly hair and big stomping boots and a leather jacket to match. Her skin turns bright pink and yellow in time with the dance floor’s lights. Her eyes are big, deep, deep dark brown. Somehow familiar. Peter examines his own hands. The colorful lights don’t look half as nice on his pale skin.
“You wouldn’t know,” Peter says.
“Well, I can tell something is wrong,” she says, and Peter can smell drunkenness in her breath, “What would you otherwise do here, drinking on a Wednesday?”
“Aren’t you here too?”
“So I am!” she laughs, and clinks her newly ordered beer against the one in Peter’s hands and takes a big drink from it.
Peter looks at her from the corner of his eye. She returns to wherever she came from with wobbly steps without saying another word. Peter downs his drink, and orders another one. This is not a cheap way to get drunk. The flashing lights strain his eyes and make them hurt. He turns his back to the lights, leaning heavily on the counter. The bartender hovers close by, waiting to supply more and more and more drinks…
The taste of alcohol soon disappears again under sugar and bubbles. The pink and yellow light starts reminding Peter of raspberries and lemons. The idea of dancing suddenly doesn’t seem too bad, and he makes his way in the middle of the floor.
Time passes only with flashes. Yellow. Pink. Yellow. Pink.
Someone grabs his arms and drapes them over their hips. They feel warm and real under his hands. They bring themselves closer to him and Peter can smell an unfamiliar, but not too bad, floral scent. A body presses against him and Peter tries to feel who it is, but they’re not like anyone he’s ever been with. They seem to only form out of separate body parts. Silk-like hair. Teeth. A hand. Big eyes, so close it looks like there are more than two. The color of which change with the lights. Breasts pressed against his chest.
They kiss, and Peter feels warm all over. He feels like he is someone else completely. It’s a welcome change.
The world seems hazy and unfocused. Everything is funny.
The hands disappear from caressing him, and Peter can’t find them anymore. He stumbles across the whole bar, but can’t find who he’s looking for, not even completely sure how they look like but absolutely certain of how they taste.
Peter finds himself sitting in a bathroom stall. He thinks this is the women’s bathroom, but he can’t remember what kind of a sign the door he had walked in from had.
He pulls out his phone and stares at it with unfocused eyes. There are texts from MJ.
Why not from anyone else? Couldn’t the idiot groom text him instead? It would be more fun fighting about the photos than about Harry.
Why, why did Harry deserve MJ’s unrelenting support and pity. Hadn’t Peter, too, lost something? Wasn’t it the anniversary of the death of his innocence soon, as well? What had she even written to him? He opens the chat, but can’t make sense fast enough of the little letters on the phone’s screen before he stuffs the phone back into his pocket.
The streets of New York are colder than earlier in the night. Peter pulls his jacket closed tight with his hands, but the cold gets in no matter what. His gaze jumps from the other side of the street to his shoes to the tallest corner of a neighbouring apartment building. A dark red spot catches his eye and he stops dead on his feet. It’s a familiar character, hunkering next to a window on the fire escape. He’s almost unnoticeable, keeping in the shadow the alleyway is draped in.
Peter is startled himself, when he sticks his hands into his mouth and produces a sharp, loud whistle. The man turns sharply towards him.
“It’s illegal,” Peter yells up towards Deadpool, “to break and enter!”
Deadpool comes closer to the fire escape’s railing and peers down at Peter.
“Whatcha gonna do about it?” he throws back.
Peter’s brain moves slowly. He misses the warm embrace of the disappeared stranger, and suddenly feels more alone than he has ever before. He feels like the loneliness is forever bonded to his very being. A knot forms to the back of his throat and it’s impossible to swallow it down.
“Take me home.”
“Sorry, I can’t hear you,” Deadpool says, leaning a bit more down.
“Take me home!” Peter yells louder. Maybe too loud, he can’t tell.
“Take me home,” Peter repeats to himself and wraps his hand around his jacket tighter. Wish Aunt May was here.
Deadpool comes down the fire escape, and stands a respectable distance away from Peter. Way further away than he did from Spider-Man. Peter feels a desperate feeling bubble through his stomach.
“I want to go home,” he says.
“And where would that be?” Deadpool asks.
Peter squeezes Deadpool’s waist. The motorbike underneath them purrs with a deep cadence. Peter imagines it to be a living tiger running through the nightly traffic of New York. The neon lights, raspberries and lemons, fly past them and become a glittering soup in Peter’s eyes. Deadpool feels solid and warm in his arms. Peter presses his cheek against his back and feels his eyelids becoming more and more heavy. His head starts to droop. Deadpool is so warm. Almost unnaturally warm. Hot even, like fever.
“Stay awake,” Deadpool says, and Peter feels his back vibrate as he speaks. How relaxing, he thinks. He could almost fall asleep here…