Author's Note: This story is part of a Marvel series that I'll be writing, and is based off a mixture of the comics and the movies. Basically, my favourite parts from both. So, if something's different to how you remember it from the movies, then it's likely inspired off the comics :)
Chapter One: The Girl with Meatballs in her Hair
Roger Norton was a nose picker. Now, this might not sound like essential information, but when you're stuck in an elective lesson on literature from the 16th century, something as meaningless (and unhygienic) as a grown man picking his nose was a godsend. Roger, who was almost broader than his own desk and at least twice Peter's height, would whittle away the hours with a large sausage finger shoved up his nasal cavity. He'd push it around, forcing the Columella to stretch in compensation for this sudden intrusion, then yank it out again with a fresh booger that he'd then wipe on the bottom of his chair.
He even walked around campus like this. As if nose-picking was all he was ever meant to do with his life. Peter had once considered warning him that if he fell he might poke his brain out, but it struck him that losing intelligence was not something that Roger was worried about.
Thankfully for Peter's sanity, Roger wasn't the only distraction to be found within those dull grey walls. Another came in the form of a small girl on the other side of the classroom. Annabelle Lee. Her hair was the color of fallen leaves; sleek with the first rain of autumn. For those of you that are less poetically inclined, this means that her hair was brown - and it was twisted into two buns that sat on either side of her head, like two big dumplings...or meatballs. Peter's stomach growled at the thought.
What he wouldn't give for a plate of Aunt May's spaghetti right about now.
Annabelle's eyes didn't seem to help either. They were like two glasses of freshly filtered water. Not the poor excuse for a beverage that lurked in a tap. It made Peter's throat itch dryly, begging for something to quench the first signs of dehydration.
Okay, this wasn't usually how he'd describe a girl that he found relatively attractive, but he was starving. Upon arriving at the campus he'd been ten minutes late for class, meaning that he was unable to retrieve his daily dose of university-grade cafeteria food.
Peter slumped further into his seat with a glum expression, trying not to be overwhelmed by his own hunger as he glanced back over at Belle. She wasn't his usual type, that he could admit. His ex-girlfriend Mary Jane had once been his vision of a perfect woman; amazing body, bedroom eyes, amazing body, long red hair, and, not to mention, such an amazing body. Instead of MJ though, who flaunted the whole 'could turn you into a drooling heap if you stared too long' aesthetic, Annabelle catered more towards the 'watching movies at home with takeout and five adopted dogs' kind of look. As Peter grew older, he found that the latter was becoming more and more appealing.
Momentarily, the young genius found himself lost in the rhythmic swing of Annabelle's earrings. They were shaped like two sunny-side up eggs; the yellow yolk perfectly rounded within the white border. Peter hadn't eaten eggs in years now...not since he moved into his run-down apartment in probably the worst neighbourhood in New York. Not only would he likely burn the entire building down if he were ever to even attempt flicking the stovetop on, but he didn't have a cent to his name. Honestly, one cent would have been a massive improvement.
"Mr. Parker?" The highly distinguishable voice of his teacher, Miss Adamson, spoke. Peter immediately straightened in his chair with an inaudible gulp. The whole class was staring at him. Dozens of eyes all peering at the same spot, as if he had just spontaneously combusted. Peter wished that he had. It would have been preferable to the embarrassment.
"O-Oh, ah, yes?" Peter stuttered. Then inwardly cursed himself for it.
"Could you read the next passage for us? Or do you need time to catch up." She teased knowingly, resulting in a few rather loud snickers of amusement. Peter rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, and Miss Adamson sighed. "Please pay attention from now on. We're on Act 2, Scene 1, Page 9. Read the first line from Petruchio out loud."
Peter fumbled with his copy of Shakespeare's 'The Taming Of The Shrew', rushing through the pages so fast that, had he been a lesser man, he would have given himself at least five paper cuts when he finally found the right passage. He could feel Belle's filtered water-like eyes on him, and that certainly wasn't helping his confidence. "So, you want me to read it now?"
"Unless you've got something better to do, Parker." The teacher quipped, folding her arms over her chest and tapping her index finger on her elbow impatiently.
Peter cleared his throat. There was something stuck in it. Like saliva or nerves...or an entire apple core. It was hard to know which.
"You lie, in faith; for you are called plain Kate, and bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the curst." Peter managed to speak without his voice completely failing him. "But Kate, the prettiest, Kate in Christendom, Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate, For dainties are all Kates, and therefore, Kate, take this of me, Kate of my consolation." Peter grimaced. How many times could this guy use the word 'Kate'? The more he was forced to say it, the weirder it sounded. He assumed that this man, whoever he was, was speaking about the same person...but Peter was so lost that it sounded like he just had a ton of girlfriends all with the same name. "Hearing thy mildness praised in every town. Thy virtues spoke of, and thy beauty sounded. Yet not so deeply as to thee belongs. Myself am moved to woo thee for my wife."
The good news was that Peter had managed to read all of that without fail, and Miss Adamson was satisfied enough to move her attention elsewhere, the bad news was that he had no idea what he had just said. Seriously, literature wasn't his strong suite at all. He could create a web that was strong enough to swing him across the city, but also that degrades within the hour, but when it came to things like poetry and old dudes writing about women called Kate he was at a total loss.
It didn't help that he was tired as well. Much too tired to even pretend to know what was going on. Peter hadn't slept in a full 48 hours, and his eyes were struggling to pry themselves back open every time he blinked. Between university, his low paying lab assistant job, and his other job, there wasn't much time for rest.
Peter thought that, maybe, he could close his eyes for a few brief moments but then the screeching of chairs against tiles pierced his sensitive ears. He forced his eyes back open, only to see the class beginning to file out. They did so silently, as if small pieces of their souls had been consumed by Shakespeare. Peter could relate.
With a exasperated sigh, Peter clumsily reached over to regather his books. In his exhaustion, however, he only succeeded in pushing them off his desk. They fell with a crumpled 'bang' that stabbed at Peter's dwindling self-confidence. He had super-human reflexes and Spidey-sense but he still managed to constantly drop his stuff on the ground...
Peter took a few seconds to glare at the handful of papers, debating with the idea of leaving them there and hoping to find them again next week. That's when a pair of ink-stained hands started gathering the books for him. It didn't take long for him to realise who it was. The bumble bee shaped ring on her index finger gave it away, and the pen smudges that lined her fingers.
Peter dared to glance upward, and was met with Annabelle's bubbly smile. She placed the messy pile of folders and books back onto Peter's desk and spoke "You look tired, Pete. You should get some sleep."
Her voice wasn't like the melodic ring of bell chimes, nor the gentle whistle of an ocean breeze, or anything else that someone like Shakespeare might describe. It was lower than most women, and raspy. The exhilarating ripple in her voice was more akin to wild tonic in the rain...or something like that. No, actually, that didn't make any sense at all.
"Y-Yeah, but doesn't Shakespeare have that effect on everyone?" Peter joked with a sleepy grin, one that quickly disappeared with Belle's reply.
"Not me. I think he's a genius."
Damn it, Peter! You could have just nodded your head and thanked her for the concern, but instead, you had to be a smart ass...
Peter's internal scolding might lead one to think that his luck with women was very limited, but that analysis wasn't entirely accurate. The truth was that Peter Parker had absolutely no luck at all with them. Not even enough to warrant it being limited. Ever since his break up with MJ, he seemed to be an eternal on-sale item in the dating market that everybody bypassed for the fancier merchandise.
Peter chewed on his bottom lip, immediately attempting to retract the statement, but that only made him feel worse. "You do? M-Me too! I mean his plays are a little long...and there's a lot of big words but, yeah, once you get past all that it's alright."
"Big words?" Belle cocked her head to the side, and those two buns jostled ontop of her head. "Aren't you a science major or something? I would think that big words are a way of life for you."
Well, that was true enough. Peter could read every word within these literary works, but the problem was that he just couldn't comprehend what they were trying to tell him. It was all so...open, and Peter's brain didn't do well with anything other than straight facts and set rules. "Yeah...I suppose. I just always struggled in English, big words or not."
Belle's eyelashes, long and darkened by light wisps of mascara, grazed against her cheeks as she looked down to the books Peter had previously dropped. Right on the top was a massive publication of 'Advanced Biophysics By Doctor Curtis Connors'. "Is this for your course?"
Peter laughed somewhat nervously. "Nah. I'm taking Chemical Engineering. That's just some light reading."
"That's what you call light?" Belle chuckled. "You couldn't pay me to read all of that, especially if it's about that kind of stuff."
Obviously, she had the complete opposite problem; a brain that could easily decipher a novel and follow iambic pentameter, but that would drown in a world of science. Belle re-secured her bag onto her shoulders. It often tried to slide down her arms because she adjusted the straps too widely. Once she had completed that hourly task, she started sauntering towards the exit. She brought a hand up to wave at him. The nails were short and uneven; proof that she had a habit of biting them. "Get some sleep, Pete."
"Th-Thanks!" He called to her, gathering his books with much less force than before and shoving them into his backpack. He stumbled over to the door, catching view of Belle as she skipped down the hallway.
Once she had vanished from sight, Peter dug into his right pocket and pulled out his phone. It was an old Nokia with dents littering its surface and, despite the notion of these phones being indestructible, he had broken the screen in almost four different places. He had one text from Mary Jane, who he'd managed to stay friends with even after the break-up, and a missed call from his Aunt May. He wanted to dial back, but he was so tired that he couldn't even will himself to open the text.
Arriving home to his small apartment was like a blessing from God. His bed was calling his name, like a seductive mistress draped in fine silks and paid her weight in gold. The only difference was that his blankets were definitely not silk. They were old, stained by various things that Peter couldn't even recall, and in desperate need of washing. Also, he wouldn't be able to afford a mistress. Just last week he wanted to get a two dollar packet of crisps from the vending machine...and was twenty cents short. Scratch that, he was still twenty cents short.
He really needed to organise more Spider-Man pictures for the Daily Bugle so that he could finally afford those chips.
Chucking his backpack onto the pile of trash that littered his floor (seriously, there was barely any 'floor' left beneath the dirty clothes), Peter collapsed onto his mattress with a sigh of absolute bliss. He thought he'd never feel the calm of sleep dwindling over his mind again. He was so close...so so close to falling into the deepest slumber of his life. Then a noise from the deepest reaches of Hell pierced his ears. Police sirens.
"No..." Peter whined, tossing back and forth on his creaking bed. "No no no no no!"
It took every single ounce of strength that Peter had left to slide off his bed, and even more to find his Spider-man costume in his pigsty of a room. As if hoping it had been magically cleaned during his absence, Peter brought it up to his face and sniffed. His entire expression scrunched into revolt, but there was no time to dwell on the disgusting odour. He swiftly threw his clothes off, letting them join the plethora of others discarded around the apartment, and tugged the costume on.
"Alright, pull yourself together." Peter muttered to himself, slapping each cheek a few times to ensure that he didn't fall asleep on the spot. "Crime doesn't sleep, and neither do you. You're spider-man...spider's don't sleep. I mean, I don't think they do. Damn, it's really sad that I don't know that. Even sadder that I'm talking to myself about it."
Shaking away the sleep that still threatened to overwhelm him, Peter rushed over to his small not-so-cold fridge. The inside was like a grocery store aisle dedicated to only energy drinks and nothing else...except for one stray bottle of mustard that some kid didn't put back. Peter grabbed the yellow condiment and poured some into his mouth. Gross. Either this mustard was out of date (which was very unlikely) or man was simply not meant to fulfill the curiosity of drinking it. He reached in to grab an energy drink, throwing the mustard to the back of the fridge and sculling his beverage.
It only took two very large sips before the can was empty and he chucked on the ground with everything else. He had to mentally praise Johnny Storm for always keeping energy drink stocked up at his house...and for sharing it with Peter whenever he asked because there was no way in hell he'd be able to afford it himself. Maybe next time he could snag a few cartons of two-minute noodles as well...
With the delicious thought of chicken broth swirling in his brain, Peter yanked the mask over his face and jumped out of his window. One swift press of his middle fingers against the device strapped to his palm summoned a long rope of web fluid, one that latched onto the much nicer apartment block next door. It sent him swinging through the streets of New York, following the familiar noise of sirens.
It didn't take long for him to push past the cop car that had alerted him of the crime and stumble across the scene. A few lowly criminals had been robbing the richer parts of the city, and much to Spider-Man's delight, he had arrived there before the police.
The webslinger jumped into the groups path. There were six of them, but only two looked to pose any real threat. "I don't suppose you're going to come quietly?"
The largest man in the centre bared his teeth in typical villain fashion, and that was enough to assume that he had been the mastermind behind this small string of robberies. "Get him!"
Spider-Man shrugged. "Didn't think so."