|I get way too much mileage out of this GIF already.|
Okay, now I'm crying. :'(
And now, you can read a brand-new scene, soon to appear in Starling City Storm, in which Barry narrates how he and Peter come to bond over said childhood tragedies. Which begins...now.
Super speed gives me a super metabolism. Super metabolism makes me need to raid Ollie's fridge after everyone else is in bed. God, I thought those days were long behind me, back when I was a lanky, awkward young dude who routinely ate Joe out of house and home and never, ever gained weight. Not that I hadn't tried - I used to hate being so skinny. Teen me looked like a starving, overgrown bird. Or like that guy who plays Tris Prior's brother. Now that I've had a chance to fill out some, though...
Inside the fridge is a wide variety of food and drink to be had. I'm delighted to discover among them a case of Ianto's Soda, a Starling-based brand that used to be sold in Central City but is now very hard to find. Shame - I used to drink their stuff all the time when I was a kid, because they came in fun flavors you literally couldn't find anywhere else.
"Couldn't sleep either, huh?"
Thank God I didn't pick up the soda bottle - I would have dropped it for sure, Peter's surprised me that much. I whirl around and see him standing on the other side of the kitchen island, rubbing his bare forearms and shivering.
"I think your hoodie should be dry by now," I say, pointing to the improvised clothesline Ollie created for us after he brought us to his place. During and after our encounter with Malcolm on Salish Dam, everyone's outer layers got snowed and rained on like nobody's business, so he got a fire going in the fireplace and used the heat to dry our clothes out.
Peter crosses to the clothesline and selects his charcoal-gray hoodie, zipping it up tightly to ward off the chill seeping into the apartment from the rainy night outside.
"Yeah, sleep is pretty hard to come by for me too," he says. "Blame it on my age, or lack thereof. Even when I was normal and powerless, my circadian rhythm had a seriously irregular time signature. Like a Rush song."
"You didn't always have powers?"
"Yeah, yeah, sure. Perish the thought."
The fridge is still open, chilling my backside something fierce, so I quickly grab two bottles of Ianto's and pass one across the island to Peter. "You want it?" I ask.
He turns on a single light above the island and then looks askance at the bottles and the fluorescent green liquid within. "I'm not a Mountain Dew kind of guy, sorry."
"This isn't Mountain Dew," I laugh. "It's green apple soda. My old favorite."
Intrigued, Peter approaches the soda tentatively, like it's a pitbull or something. He opens the bottle, takes a sip, then smiles. "Mmm. Delicious."
"They make it organic and all-natural," I say. "100% fruit juice, real sugar, and clean Washington spring water."
"Why does this not exist in New York?"
"Guess it's just a West Coast thing." I take a seat across the island from Peter. "So, you were saying?"
"About not always having your powers?"
Peter's eyebrows draw together for a moment. "Not much to tell, really," he says. "Basically, what happened is, I went to Oscorp Tower and got myself bitten by a spider one day."
"Not just any spider, was it?"
He shakes his head, "They were using them for all sorts of experiments. Genetic engineering, and a bunch of cool real-world applications that, for whatever reason, never really got beyond the concept stage." He bends back two fingers on one hand, touching the webshooter that's always clipped to his hoodie cuff. "Such as."
"Can I see that?" I ask, out of curiosity.
"You can, but may you?" Peter laughs before passing the webshooter to me. "Be careful with it - the trigger's pretty sensitive."
While I turn the little device over in my hand a few times, looking closely at the loose strands of sticky webline trailing from its business end, Peter continues talking. "Do you...do you know how I first became famous as Spider-Man?"
"I think so," I say. "Something about you using your webs to hog-tie a bunch of petty criminals and pretty much hand-deliver them to the NYPD?"
"Mm-hmm. But most people don't know how it all started."
I look up to see Peter looking down and off to the side. Smelling tragedy ahead, I nevertheless advise him to continue. And continue he does.
"I started out doing the vigilante thing, kinda like Oliver, but all my targets were small fry, like you said. The reason for that was 'cause...see, I was looking for one guy in particular."
"What kind of beef did you have with him?"
Peter doesn't respond for the longest time - that's how I know I've touched a nerve. After taking another drink of soda, I'm about to apologize, but before I can, he says, "He killed my uncle."
"Oh my God," I whisper, putting down the bottle. "Oh...I'm so sorry."
"It's all right," Peter says in a tone of voice that completely contradicts his words. "I-I spent such a long time trying to find this guy and get my revenge, but that was before...before I started dating Gwen. She helped me find myself, you know? And...I mean, I never did find Uncle Ben's killer. Nor do I expect to, really. But..." His voice trails off, and when it comes back, it's thick with tears. "Wh-When I was still looking for...for that guy, I just wanted to hurt him so bad. Hurt him like he'd hurt me. I-I-I already lost my parents; I couldn't handle that pain again..." He wipes the tears off his cheeks, then folds his hands in front of his face, his thumbs poised to dry his eyes again. "And the worst part was, I-"
"You lost your parents?"
He looks up again, startled, his eyes wide and sparkling with more tears. "They died in a plane crash when I...when I was four. My aunt and uncle raised me after that...and my uncle died just last year. And I let it happen. His killer...I-I watched him rob a convenience store, and I didn't do anything to stop him. So he ran out onto the street, ran into Uncle Ben, and they got into a fight..." He draws a shuddering breath, and when he's able to talk again, his voice is more broken than ever. "I watched him die."
Only a second passes before I get up from the table, come around to Peter's side, and lay a comforting hand on his shoulder. "You're...you're not the only one this has happened to," I say. "When I was eleven, the Reverse Flash killed my mom right in front of me." I don't bother telling him about how I recently went back in time to say goodbye to her before she died, and also to bring my younger self to safety. I don't want him to think I was the lucky one. Neither of us was. "They thought my dad killed her. He didn't, but he's still been in prison for almost fifteen years."
Peter shrugs off my hand and slides off his chair, only to turn around and hug me. "Yeah, that's all right," I say, patting him on the back as I return his hug. "Just let it out. You're not alone, Peter. From what I've heard, you never were."
He nods, still crying into my shoulder for a few seconds. Then he lets go of me and takes his seat again, spending a while downing his soda. "That's actually my worst fear," he says.
"Being alone. Having no one to love, to care about, to trust with your life."
I can't help but laugh lightly as a tasteless joke, one that might very well offend my one-man audience, occurs to me. "Funny, and I thought I had the worst possible worst fear."
"Which is what?"
I crack a smile. "Spiders."
We both end up crying tears of laughter that, no doubt, wake up everyone else in the apartment. In which case, who cares? We're having ourselves a little metahuman therapy session, dammit!