A handful of people expressed interest in reading a sequel, and I was all for writing one, but other things kept getting in the way. But the idea for the fic was always simmering on the back burner, and, early last year, I started writing it. I quickly realized this fic was going to be long (by my standards, at least), and, since my track record with finishing chaptered stories isn't great, I decided not to start posting chapters--or even really say much about it--until it was finished. I have a few scenes left to add in later chapters as I edit, but...I'm there. *g* Finally!
Title: The Wisdom to Know the Difference
Fandoms: Spider-Man/X-Men/Daredevil crossover
Characters: Peter Parker (Spider-Man), Hank McCoy (Beast), Matt Murdock (Daredevil), and Scott Summers (Cyclops) are the primary characters, with appearances by others.
Word count: Novella; about 30,000 words.
Disclaimer: The X-Men, Spider-Man, Daredevil, and all related characters and concepts belong to Marvel, not me. The Serenity Prayer (from which the title was taken) was written by Reinhold Niebuhr, though I'm using the Alcoholics Anonymous version, which omits some of the original text.
Status: Complete. I'll be posting chapters over the next few days, as I have time, and as the weather/internet access allows. We've got a blizzard here.
Summary: Hank was the first person Peter told his biggest secret to. The person who showed Peter that coming out of the superhero closet could be pretty cool. But now Hank's going through something that makes the "to tell, or not to tell?" dilemma pretty ridiculous, and Peter finds himself struggling with the same old questions all over again. Only this time, it's not about coming out. It's about staying in.
Timing, 'verses, and continuity: This story is a sequel to "Office Hours," and it would probably help a lot to read that first. "Office Hours" took place fall semester of Peter's junior year in college. "The Wisdom to Know the Difference" is set the following February. This is a blend of comicverse and movieverse, sort of my own personal, handwavy fanon. Roughly, it works out like this:
Spider-Man: Almost entirely movieverse. Takes place about two years after Spider-Man 1, but ignores the events of Spider-Man 2.
Daredevil: Movieverse compliant; takes place a few years after Daredevil. Uses bits of Daredevil: Yellow, but for the sake of my sanity (and Matt's), I'm ignoring the whole Karen thing.
X-Men: If you want this to line up with the movies, the best I can do is to say that this is pre-X1, and the Hank we saw on TV was a hologram or stand-in or something. However, my Hank is a good bit younger than he is in X3 and definitely influenced by comics (particularly Astonishing Hank). Also, Warren is present but a contemporary of Scott and Jean, and I've aged Bobby up a tiny bit.
Notes: I had a lot of fun writing this, and it nearly killed me not to post it as I was working on it! But now, for the first time ever on this LJ, there will be a COMPLETE chaptered fic! Thanks very much to minisinoo for the original prompt and for helping me figure out what I was trying to say with this story. And thanks to roundegotrip for listening to me complain and for looking this over.
If you read this, I hope you enjoy it. Feedback is always welcome and appreciated.
[ Chapter 1 || Chapter 2 || Chapter 3 || Chapter 4 || Chapter 5 || Chapter 6 || Chapter 7 || Chapter 8 || Chapter 9 || Chapter 10 || Chapter 11 || Notes ]
"The Wisdom to Know the Difference"
Chapter 1: Buzz, Tingle, Crash
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
A quarter 'til eight on a Tuesday morning, and he was not only awake and dressed, but on campus and humming--actually humming--to boot. There was no doubt about it. Peter Parker was losing it.
Or not. It wasn't as if he saw sunshine and a blue sky where there was cold, drizzling February gray, damp and seeping through his hooded sweatshirt. It wasn't as if he'd woken up and found that the roaches in his apartment (okay, room) had turned into butterflies overnight. Maybe this was just...normal. Not even happy, really. After all, it wasn't like the two cups of overpriced-but-tasty cappuccino in his hands from the Starbucks on the corner weren't a peace offering.
A peace offering to someone who wasn't really mad in the first place, but still. Peter had been the one to bring It up again yesterday, despite knowing full well that, no matter what angle they went at it from, they always ended up at the same place: with Peter frustrated and feeling like a loser, and Hank frustrated and feeling like a real bastard. (Occasionally, with Peter feeling like Hank was a real bastard, too. Even if that was unfair.)
The most annoying thing was, Peter could see Hank's point. Their point, actually, though he'd only talked to Scott about it once. He wasn't a mutant, and he hadn't gone to school at Xavier's. He didn't (or didn't used to) have weird genes. He had a spider. There were issues about the ethics of claiming a status--not a legal one, yet--that wasn't really his to claim.
As Peter saw it, though, it was just semantics: mutant versus mutated. But, according to them, it made a difference.
Scott was worried about the greater good, too. Did people accept Spider-Man's help more freely than the X-Men's? What would happen if Spider-Man disappeared? Would people want X-Man 'Webslinger' and his friends to help them instead, or would they yell for someone else, like Daredevil or Captain America? (After all, Scott had pointed out, nobody in trouble shouted, “Oh, Cyclops, save me!”)
Hank was mostly concerned for Peter. Which was nice, of course, except that he was wrong. What would be the harm in using his powers for good with a team? Uncle Ben said he had great responsibility, but he didn't say anything about being responsible to the point of not having a steady job, not having steady money, and, therefore, not having steady food. Or a stable relationship with his landlord. One more late payment (cash only, now), and Mr. Ditkovich swore he'd throw Peter's stuff out his window and onto the street.
And after Peter had pointed that out yesterday, Hank proved just how dumb super-geniuses can be sometimes by offering to spot him some cash until Mr. Jameson gave him another assignment for the Bugle or the Pagoda Palace called needing a substitute delivery guy again. Peter had snapped that Hank just didn't get it and swung out the window. Thus, the 'you're still wrong, but I was a jerk about it' cappuccino. If he'd felt really bad, he would've blown his food budget for the week and bought Hank a piece of coffee cake, too.
The weirdest part was, Peter knew that. Knew that if he'd actually raised his voice, or if Hank had seemed upset instead of fondly exasperated, he would've bought the coffee cake (or carrot cake, or a brownie) because he knew Hank liked dessert-type stuff for breakfast. In the past few months, Peter had ended up eating ramen noodles due to unbudgeted cake expenses a lot. Not as much as he would have if Hank hadn't insisted on treating him to pizza or fast food a couple of times a week, though.
Peter's sweatshirt was pretty wet by the time he got to Hamilton Hall, and though the cardboard cups had kept his hands warm, his nose felt like it was about to fall off. Even after this much time, he still wasn't used to not having a pair of glasses fog up when he went inside in winter. Just as well, though, since he currently didn't have a free hand to wipe them off with.
He was in the stairwell, trying to remember whether the cappuccino with the sugar was in his right hand or his left, when it happened. His spidey sense started to tingle like crazy. The hairs on his forearms and the back of his neck stood at attention, and he shivered. Peter had tried to explain it to Hank once, how it was vague, like apprehension but sharper, a little more pulling...
This was different. Pulling, yes. Vague, no. He knew it. This was Hank.
Cappuccino sloshed out of the sippy-lid holes as he sprinted down the hallway. His sneakers squeaked. A maintenance guy stared, but Peter barely noticed. He picked up his pace, rounded the corner, and nearly ran right into Hank, who was coming out of the men's room. Peter's shoes might have left marks on the floor. His heart probably did in his chest, slamming to a stop like that.
“Peter?” Hank tilted his head, frowning slightly. “What's the matter?”
Peter thought about telling him, but decided that 'my spidey sense said you were in trouble' ranked just below 'I had a bad dream' on the list of stupid reasons to be scared.
He shrugged instead, tried to smile, and held out the drink he thought was sweetened. “Cappuccino! Now with speedy delivery to keep the hot hotter and the foam foamier!”
Hank smiled and wrapped his hand around the cup. “Thank you, but you shouldn't have. I know the present state of your finances does not--”
“Hank. I wanted to,” Peter said as they fell into step, heading for Hank's office. Thankfully, Hank didn't offer to pay him back. He did seem quiet, though, and Peter glanced up at his face as Hank opened his office door. Maybe he should've bought that coffee cake, after all.
“Hey,” Peter said, once they were inside, “you're not, uh, still...about yesterday, are you?”
Hank shook his head as he lowered himself slowly into his battered desk chair. It creaked, and he grimaced. “If you're assuming from my uncharacteristic quietude this morning that I harbor any ill will towards you, that is not the case at all, Peter. I am merely feeling a bit under the weather.”
Now that Hank mentioned it, he did look pale. Peter nodded sympathetically and swallowed his first drink of coffee. Apparently, he'd remembered which cup was which. “What's wrong?” he asked. “Catching a cold?”
“I'm not certain.” Hank took a sip of his drink, winced, and set the cup aside. “At this point, I simply don't feel well.”
“I should've brought juice.”
Hank's lips twitched. “It would have been easier on your pocket.”
“Not what I meant." Peter rolled his eyes. “You really don't look so hot,” he added. “Can't you take the day off?”
“I could, but I fear my students would never forgive me. As you are doubtless well aware, I have examinations scheduled in all my courses later this week. Today, I promised the Tuesday-Thursday sections a final review session.”
“You're going to make yourself sicker if you push it.”
Hank gave him a look over the rims of his glasses, and Peter grinned.
“Once, I was but the learner,” he intoned. “Now, I am the master.”
“The Force is indeed strong in this one,” Hank replied with a small smile, but it was clear that he wasn't in the mood to joke around. Peter fiddled with his cup, feeling awkward.
“I guess I'd better go,” he said at last. “I need to get to the computer lab before class and print off a new copy of my Western Civ paper. I ended up thinking of some good edits last night while I was waiting for the cops to show up.”
Hank staring off into space, obviously thinking, wasn't anything new. Hank staring at his desk, seemingly deaf to being spoken to, on the other hand, really was. Peter cleared his throat. “Hank?”
“Hmm?” Hank shook himself and blinked, then rubbed absently at his forearm. “Oh, yes, your paper.” He gave Peter a pained look. “I apologize. I don't seem to be myself today.”
“No kidding. Look,” Peter added, catching sight of the clock, “I've gotta run if I'm going to get to class on time, but I'll come by later, okay?”
“Yes, of course,” Hank murmured. He didn't look up, just shuffled through some papers with a faint frown line between his eyebrows, as if he couldn't find something, or wasn't quite sure what he was looking for.
Peter watched him for a second, frowning too, before he headed for the door.
“Oh, and Peter?” Hank called. Peter turned, hoping that maybe Hank had found his marbles somewhere in the messy stacks of pages, but he was still elbow-deep and didn't so much as glance toward the door. “Thank you again for the, ah...” Hank made a vague gesture at his still-full cup, and Peter sighed.
By some miracle, Peter managed to find a computer in one of the main labs that wasn't being used by an underclassman checking their email or instant-messaging, and his good luck held long enough for him to get a printer that worked, had ink, and had paper. He even made it to class on time.
As a bonus, he had enough caffeine to get him through Dr. Pellman's lecture on the Black Death, which should have been much less boring than it was. But then, Dr. Pellman, who wore his pants like Steve Urkle and had a hairstyle that he'd proudly informed them on the first day of class had once been all the rage and known as a 'duck's butt,' could have tap-danced while giving step-by-step instructions on how to build a working time machine and still put people to sleep.
Normally, Peter had a hard time staying awake in Western Civilization. Everyone did. And today, even though the plague was admittedly a lot better than the hour and fifteen minutes they'd spent on Roman aqueducts at the beginning of the semester, a few kids' heads were nodding by the fourth time Dr. Pellman mentioned pus.
Peter was wide awake, though, despite the three hours of sleep he'd scraped by with. And, weirdly enough, it had nothing to do with the caffeine. He couldn't stop glancing at his watch to see how much time had passed, and he couldn't stop thinking about Hank.
Maybe it was just the flu, he thought. It would make sense. Hank seemed out of it, but a fever would do that. And Peter had run into him coming out of the men's room and looking a little shaky. Maybe he'd been throwing up and just didn't want to say anything. (That didn't seem like Hank, but you never knew. Some people were weird about throwing up. Harry had barfed once in third grade, in the middle of P.E., and he'd gotten his dad to write notes so he could stay home the entire rest of the week, he was so embarrassed.) Or maybe Hank had been about to mention it, but then Peter gave him the cappuccino, and you couldn't very well say, “Oh, sorry, I know you're poor and spent money on this, but I just puked and don't feel like a hot, foamy Italian coffee drink right now.”
Peter looked up and tuned in to Dr. Pellman long enough to scrawl 'armpits' in his notebook. He took a drink, trying not to think about pus, barf, or fleas on rats, then tapped the cap of his pen against his chin. If Hank was just sick, plain old sick, then what was up with his spidey sense not only tingling but practically giving him an electric shock with the message that Hank was in danger?
Peter dropped his pen, which rolled off the desk with a too-loud clatter. He was just out of it enough to have his wrist flexed and ready before he realized what the hell he was doing. He lurched forward, as if he meant to retrieve the pen that way all along, and nearly fell off his chair.
Somebody snickered, and Peter was sure his face was on fire when he straightened back up. “Uh?”
Dr. Pellman's gray, fuzzy-caterpillar eyebrows did some kind of funky mating dance, wriggling on his forehead. “Mr. Parker. Would you care to share with us one way in which the Black Death affected society?”
Besides killing a big chunk of society off? Peter wondered. He thought for a minute, then started to nod. This section of the reading had resonated with him. “Minority groups were blamed for it,” he said. “Like, Jewish people had their own neighborhoods, back then, and since their laws required them to be cleaner than the average person, they weren't affected by the plague as badly. So, people accused them of causing everyone to get sick by poisoning the water supply.”
The caterpillars squirmed upwards in surprise. “Very good. And why do you think this was?”
This time, Peter didn't have to stop to think. “People always want to blame somebody when something goes wrong. Whether it's one person or a group--particularly a group that isn't well-liked in the first place--choosing a scapegoat serves two purposes. It makes people feel like there's a reason for whatever happened, and also, it makes them feel justified so they can keep on hating...whoever they hate...without feeling guilty about it.”
Dr. Pellman's brown eyes practically sparkled. “Excellent, Mr. Parker! Now, who would like to give me another minority group blamed for the Black Death?” he asked with a long look around the room. “Yes, Miss Vargas?”
Now that the focus was off of him, Peter's thoughts drifted again. How long would it take before the newspapers that said Spider-Man was a jerk, a masked menace and so on, started blaming him--or worse, blaming all superheroes--when things went wrong? Sure, Mr. Jameson had a field day now trying to tie Spider-Man to everything from bank robberies to celebrity couple breakups (apparently, J-Lo was secretly in love with him), but there was nothing really believable there.
What, he wondered, would happen if the headlines got a tiny bit less far-fetched? If people started whispering that mutations were contagious? If Jameson stopped using 'menace'--which was ridiculous--and started calling him a vigilante, which was both scarier and true?
Peter sensed rather than saw people getting up to leave around him, and he started gathering his stuff automatically. Textbook in his bag, notebook with it, pen he'd been gnawing on out of his--oh, gross. That had been on the floor. Peter grimaced and took a swig of lukewarm cappuccino before tossing the cup on his way out. Then he checked his watch and decided the ten-minute break between class periods was probably enough time to go back and look in on Hank.
“Excuse me! Hey! Guy in the hoodie!”
Peter looked up from contemplating the sidewalk and saw a girl he didn't know half-walking, half-jogging towards him. She saw him looking, nodded, and picked her pace up.
“Sorry for yelling,” the girl said when she came to a stop. A load of books wobbled precariously in one arm as she pushed her long, wispy black hair back with her other hand, and Peter snagged the top one as it fell. The girl winced. “Sorry! The strap on my bag broke earlier, and--”
Peter smiled. “No problem. Intro genetics, huh?” His eyes widened as he caught sight of the other titles cradled in her arm. “Wow, and biochem, and psychology, and calculus? On the same day?”
“Yes.” The girl took advantage of having a free hand to push her glasses up before taking the genetics text back. She looked proud of herself, but a little embarrassed; her cheeks had gone from the color of caramel to a couple shades darker in a matter of seconds.
“Pre-med,” she explained, and Peter only heard the hint of defensiveness because it used to be in his voice, too. That, even more than the fact that she looked about sixteen, told him she had to be a freshman. “Honors.”
“Wow, that's great.”
The girl shrugged. “Anyway, I wanted to ask you. I've seen you around Hamilton a lot. You're Dr. McCoy's TA, aren't you?”
Peter blinked. “Me? No,” he replied. “I don't even think he has one. I'm in a couple of his classes though. Why?”
“Oh.” A faint crease appeared between her eyebrows. “Well. I guess you wouldn't know, then.”
Peter's heart seemed to beat sideways. “Know what?”
Her cardigan bunched as she shrugged. “Why he wasn't in class this morning? We were supposed to have a review, but he didn't show up.” Her frown deepened. “There was no note on the door or anything, which isn't like him.”
Peter swallowed hard. Maybe it was just the flu. Maybe his spidey sense was all out of whack. Maybe Hank just went home and forgot to leave a note for his students, but... “No, it isn't,” he agreed quietly. “But I'm sure it's--"
“Vee! Hurry up!” yelled a brunette girl across the lawn. “We're going to be late!”
The girl--Vee, apparently--waved her friend on, then turned back to Peter, rolling her eyes. “My roommate. I've got to go,” she said as she shifted her grip on her books. “Sorry to hold you up.”
“It's fine. Sorry I couldn't help.”
Vee shrugged it off. “Thanks anyway. See you around,” she called over her shoulder.
“See you,” Peter replied, already hurrying.
[Chapter 2 is here.]