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otters & ants

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Light catches on her hair and Peter wonders if he didn’t actually die that day during senior year, because there’s no way his life right now is real.

“Hey, MJ?”

“Yeah, Pete?”

“I’m your ride-or-die, right?”

MJ rolls over on their bed, hair tangled and brows furrowed. “Dude,” she deadpans as she lifts up her left hand, flipping him off with her ring finger. “We’re married.”

“But like, that’s not a yes.”

She frowns, annoyed. “I chose to break my own personal promise and took your name.”


“I—y’know what?” she says, tilting her head contemplatively. “Actually, now that I think about it, Ned’s my ride-or-die. But I’m not interested in him romantically, so hey! Be happy you were second place.”

“Ha. Ha,” Peter says, pursing his lips.

She leans in and kisses him very, very slowly.

He returns to normal, dorky, Stark Industries employee Peter Parker, smiling at his wife (woo!), as the morning sun reminds him that he has a meeting with Shuri at 10, and if he’s late again she’s going to remove his energy absorption, so don’t you dare make a pitstop at McDonald’s, you food heathen.

“You know you gotta go, right?” MJ whispers, pulling away.

“But it’s a technical meeting.”

“You like those, nerd.”

“That’s unimportant—it means I have to leave the bed, and it’s cold out there, okay?”

“Peter,” she says, shoving him with her ice-cold feet, “you’re a heater. And your suit has a heater. And the car also has a—wait for it—a heater.”

He watches the snow falling outside and frowns at the prospect of slush. “I prefer my MJ heater, thanks.”

“I’m getting up in ten; I gotta meet with Ned and Pepper, remember?” she says, successfully getting one of his feet to thump onto the floor.

“We should’ve married earlier, being a working adult cuts into cuddle time way too much,” Peter groans, lazily climbing off the bed.

“We got married before we could legally drink, how much earlier are we talking, here?”

“Dude. Neither of us even drink.”

“The option exists, that’s the important part.”

Michelle Parker,” Peter faux-gasps, “are you saying you’d down a bottle if given the opportunity?”

MJ laughs, enjoying hearing her name said aloud even though it’s been five years. Peter made her happy, and it made him happy to make her happy.

It was a nice cycle.

I wouldn’t,” she replies finally, “but full disclosure? The idea of setting up a drinking game between you and Bucky has crossed my mind many times during team meetings.”

Peter frowns. “He’s ex-military! He probably has tolerance just for that.”

“Oh, def, actually. He’s told me stories.”

“So you’re setting me up to lose.”

“You, theoretically, have a faster metabolism,” MJ blanks. “It’s for science, Peter.”

“...How much is Shuri getting if I lose?”

MJ grins, proud he’s caught on. “Probably enough to set up three more schools.”

“Am I allowed to lose on purpose?” Peter asks, begrudgingly making his way to the bathroom.

“Might put you back in her good graces for always being late, but if she finds out you cheated then you’re permanently in the Banned From The Lab-zone.”

Peter says something, but it’s muffled, and MJ’s pretty sure he’s gotten his head stuck in a shirt again.

She laughs. “Say again, shirt-eater?”

Running water is her reply.

“Don’t use up the hot water!” she yells, returning to her Fortress of Blankets. Peter’s mask lays on the nightstand on his side of the bed, and she puts it on.

“Hey, Karen.”

Hello, MJ.”

“Can you regulate the heat in the house?”

Of course.

“Nice. Could you please set the shower to Frozen Siberia?”

Sure thing.

MJ counts down the seconds in her head.

Beep. Settings changed.

“You’re the best, K.”

Thank you, MJ, you are also the best. Peter thinks you have nice eyes.

“So I’m told. Peace,” she says, taking off the mask and starting a video on her phone. “And three, two, one…”

A screech enters the bedroom, and MJ snickers, peeking from below the sheets.


“Yeah, Pete?”


“A reminder of how much I love you!”


“Yeah! Deeper!” she howls with laughter, flipping the camera to her face.

(Peter keeps yelping in the back, but the shower must continue.)

MJ flips off the camera, grinning. “Morning, Ned! Daily reminder that Peter’s a loser. Also, tell Tony the mask needs a lock, or something. Pete's had it for nine years, man—he should be the only one able to access it.”

“‘Sup, Shuri?” Peter says, walking into the lab with thirty seconds to spare.

“On-time?” Shuri replies, quirking a brow. “Bast bless MJ.”

“Why do you assume I’m only on time because of my wife?”

Shuri meddles with a piece of metal on his backup suit. “Because Ned sent me the video, and because it’s usually true.”

Peter’s lips form a tight line.

“C’mon, I’ve got to show you how to run this,” she continues, zipping it back up. “In case you get stuck without the shooters again.”

“What is it?”

Shuri grins.

The one she usually gives her brother, when she’s had a brilliant, devious idea.

“I’m scared,” Peter squeaks.

Shuri waves the suit in his face, still grinning. “You should be.”

Pepper hands MJ a stack of files that makes her regret skipping push-ups all through high school.

And college.

And the two-year (accelerated) JD course after that.

“So, know where I can find a good chiro?” she asks, only half-joking.

Pepper smiles apologetically. “F.R.I.D.A.Y.’s got a list.”

“Within our price range?”

(Saying ‘our’ instead of ‘my’ was one of the easiest transitions she’d ever gone through.)

Pepper nods. “Of course.”

“Sweet,” MJ says, adjusting the files. “I’ll just—oof—get these over to Matt, then.”

“Ned’s coming to help you, right?”

“Yes ma’am.”

The CEO frowns. “Am I that old?”

“Don’t worry, Pepper, I say it to everyone,” MJ smirks. “Law school habit.”

“I’ve never heard you call Wanda that.”

“Yeah, but she’s not that old.”

Hey,” Pepper calls, but the lawyer’s already out the door.

Ned helps her lug the files over to Matt’s office in Hell’s Kitchen, then helps her bring back a different set to Tony’s office upstate.

“Pro tip, bro?” she sighs, downing expensive tea brought back from faraway dimensions. “Don’t intern for Matt. Foggy almost makes it worth, but don’t do it.”

He scrunches up his face. “Aren’t you technically on the Avengers’ legal team?”

You’re technically on Shuri’s lab squad, but look at where we both are this fine winter day,” she says, lying on the couch in the common room. Huff. “Couple more weeks and I’m back to outreach programs and UN visits full-time.”

“Busy bee.”


“Testing out the new AIs with Shuri,” he says, sipping his water. “They still talk kinda stilted when switching languages. Then back to suit duty.”


“Dude,” Ned squints, “you live with the guy.”

“You forget, I’m helping deal with a new proposal for underaged superheroes and he’s an international one,” MJ says, pushing back her bangs. “I see him as much as you do, plus a few extra hours when my body’s voluntarily unconscious.”

“That’s called sleep.”

She raises her mug like a tipsy pirate. “It’s called Not Enough.

Кошмар,” Peter says.

“Accent on the ‘а’, kid,” Nat corrects.

“Кошмар,” he repeats. “Got it.”

“Good. Keep it up, we’ll stick with accusative all week.”


Ah-ah, you have a word now,” Nat says, motioning for him to continue.

“Это кошмар,” Peter complies, enjoying the added vocab. He grins. “Отлично?”

“Да,” Nat replies, patting his shoulder. “You’re free—Clint and Wanda should be training upstairs after lunch.”

“He still mad about the last mission?” Peter asks meekly.

She smirks.

He bobs his head repeatedly. “Aight, aight—tell MJ I’ll be dying today and she’s inheriting everything.”

“She already is.”

“Right, but I like to have witnesses, just in case the justice system decides her rights don’t matter.”

“She taught you well.”

“Every-freakin’-day, Nat,” Peter salutes with toothy grin, picking up his notebook as he exits the room. “Every. Freakin’. Day.”

Peter finds them passed out in the common room, Ned on the couch and MJ on the floor by him. Shuri’s sipping from a thermos, taking videos of them with her beads.

“How long?” Peter asks simply, rummaging in his backpack for a hoodie.

“I’ve been here fifteen minutes, so maybe double,” Shuri replies, turning the camera to him. “Any words for the folks at home?”

He waves at it after draping the MIT hoodie on his wife. “My name is Peter and the pretty one’s taken. Oh, and MJ, too,” he says, making a heart shape with his hands. “Larb you, wifey!”

MJ makes a grunting noise, and Shuri gets ready to shut off the video.

Peter tries not to laugh, jumping up to the ceiling with a low, almost-silent snort.

MJ fidgets, leaning on Ned’s leg, her messy curls escaping her loosely-tied bun. Ned snorts, but his leg stays in place.

Shuri giggles, devolving into silent laughter, and the video shakes as she moves to sit on the counter. She zooms in on her friends’ sleeping faces, snorting as Peter slides down on a web and lays a thin sheet of webbing over their bodies.

He grins madly, makes an OK gesture at the camera, blows a kiss at MJ, and slides back up on the thin line of military-grade silk.

“They’re gonna kill us,” Shuri whispers to the feed, moving to hide on the other side of the counter.

Peter joins her, crouching. “Do we let them sleep or should I run an alarm?”

“She’s gonna kill you.”

He’s gonna be the one calling murder.”

“I think they’ve earned a nap.”

“Just realized if I had my mask on we could’ve posted this online. Man.”

“No?” Shuri says incredulously, scrunching up her face. “No, we couldn’t have? Dude?”

“I can dream, Shuri.”

“Those two seem to be.”

MJ wrinkles her nose, the webbing tickling it. She adjusts, barely able to drag some silk down under the hood as she hides from the lights.

Ned’s mouth drops open, webbing keeping it from forming a full ‘O’. He wiggles, furrowing his brows when he can’t get far, and exhales, slumping back into the couch.

“They’re gonna be out for blood, Parker,” Shuri grins.

“I’ll go make dinner,” Peter chuckles quietly, waving goodbye to the video feed. “You guys are the MVPs!” he whispers, exaggerating his mouth movements.

“Aw, man,” Ned says, waking up. “Tsk. MJ, wake up.”

“I’m awake, I just can’t move.”

Ned feels his left leg falling asleep. “I need that limb.”

“I need my nose, too, but guess what’s webbed?”

“I bet Shuri just watched.”

“I smell food.”

Ned tries to crane his neck, thankful Peter uses a thin dose for pranks. “There’s lunch on the table.”

Dude,” Shuri says, peeking from behind the counter. “Lunch?”

“MJ, did you skip again?” Peter asks, crawling over them.

Of course.

MJ is thankful her face is mostly hidden by a dark-colored jacket. “I did no such thing.”

If Ned could squint at her, he would.

He settles for twitching his barely-functioning leg, as a friendly gesture of You liar, if I’m caught I’m dragging you down with me!

A grunt escapes her. “...I did no such thing with an intent to do such a thing.”

“Don’t lawyer us, Jones,” Shuri says, shaking her head.

Which, in retrospect? Kinda stupid.

Because MJ can’t see.


Shuri moves closer, leaning over Ned. “You were driving.”

“I was.”

“You didn’t think lunch was an option?”

“I had Skyflakes?”

“Crackers don’t equal lunch, Ned,” Peter chastises, jumping down. He crosses his arms. “Karen, deactivate webbing, please,” he speaks into one of his web-shooters, and the material dissipates.

Best upgrade you’ve ever gotten, Boo-Man,” MJ says, stretching.

Squint. “Eat.”

Her stomach growls before she can make a retort, so she settles for motioning for her husband to pick her up.

(Which he does. Bridal-style. The goober.)

“Me next,” Ned says, free but happy to continue laying on the couch.

“Spider-Man taxi service?” Shuri asks, watching Peter pick Ned up the same way.

“‘The only acceptable one’, his words,” MJ says, digging into the quiche. “This is good, who cooked?”

Shuri quirks a brow. Seriously?

“Good job, O great freak of nature,” MJ says, turning to Peter as he plops Ned down beside her. “Can we have this for dinner tomorrow?”

“Sure thing,” Peter replies, kissing the top of her head. “I gotta get groceries, though.”

“I can get ‘em for you guys,” Ned says, chugging a glass of water. “I’m free tomorrow, unless my boss…”

“No, you’re good,” Shuri nods. “Parker and I have training the whole day with Bruce. Happy might be free to help if Tony’s hanging around to watch.”

MJ nudges her husband. “If you come home with a black eye, you’re icing yourself. We’re on full cram.”

“I know,” he smiles, getting a kettle ready.

She smiles back.

“Hey, Ned,” Shuri calls.


This is true love,” she says, making a frame with her hands and catching her friends in it.

MJ and Peter laugh, posing—her with The Bird, him with a toothy grin.

Ned smiles warmly. “Yeah. Yeah, it is.”

They’ve got May scheduled to visit every week, which means on Sundays she walks the two blocks from her apartment to their house and hugs her family for an indeterminate amount of time.

“How was it this week?” she asks, leaning on the kitchen counter.

“Peter survived Hulk training the other day,” MJ says proudly from the couch. She’s laying on the armrest, legs draped across Peter’s. “Hulk training with Shuri.”

“No black eye?”

“Black tailbone, and I think his ego got bruised.”

“No, but my butt did,” Peter says, wincing at the memory of getting thrown into the floor.

“Shame,” MJ blanks.

“MJ got four papercuts. From foam core,” he says, equally blank.

MJ,” May says, and MJ’s back to being nineteen and afraid to admit that eating hasn’t been a top priority lately, but uh, don’t worry about it, May, seriously.

“It’s winter,” comes MJ’s weak reply.

“Lotion, hon.”

Peter dodges the incoming kick from his wife. “Salty, MJ?”

“Snitch,” she glares.

“I have no secrets with my aunt.”

May coughs.


“Those new Accords did you in, huh?” May teases.

“Only a handful of people outside of the team and family knowing my real identity isn’t that bad,” Peter shrugs.

MJ pokes his face with her toe. “You only gave in when they allotted special security for your place, dweeb.”

“I have needs,” he whines. “Which include keeping my family safe. So.”

“Peter, you asked Shuri to make me, Ned, and MJ special suits,” May says, laughing.

“I was nineteen! Living in a different city! I needed to make sure you were safe.”

“Ah, yes,” MJ starts, looking off into the distance. “The ever-terrifying wasteland that is Apley Court. Where one can find not one, not two, but more than three marble tubs.” She pauses, smirking at Peter, “Also, we lived in the same city.”

Ned appreciated the gesture,” Peter mumbles.

“Sweetie, it’s Ned,” May replies, patting his head.

“You’re lucky Shuri didn’t make a prank suit, he would’ve tried to save your ass again,” his wife adds, resting back on the armrest.

“We don’t talk about the Blaze of Sophomore Year,” Peter replies stoically, lowering his voice in pitch.

“Yeah we do!” Ned calls from the front door. He makes his way over, shoes discarded by the door. “Cindy still thinks we should’ve died.”

“Cindy would be correct, if my loser here didn’t have weird, heightened senses,” MJ replies, crossing her arms.

“‘My loser’? Aw, babe,” Peter coos.

MJ squints at him, trying not to laugh. “Married, Peter. Five years. Almost six.”

“I’m more concerned that that’s all he picked up on,” May says, furrowing her brows.

“Your nephew,” Ned squints, stealing bread from the fridge like 24601, “is whipped.”

“I’d hope so,” May and MJ say simultaneously, laughing.

MJ is an open book who has been gift-wrapped to look like a closed one.

So when, on Saturday, three days before she’s officially freed from being Matt Murdock’s part-time intern, having finished all her work two days prior (because she’s still Michelle Jones, just not on paper), she arrives home at 2PM, trudging and pouting, and immediately asks her husband to call in the cavalry, by which I mean Ned, because Shuri’s in Wakanda, Peter has every reason to think she’s Not Okay™️.

She leaves to change to sweats, and he grabs all her favorite blankets, trips down the stairs like a champ, and builds a comfortable Valley of Smoosh in their living room. He gives her a piggyback ride down from the bedroom (because he can, but mostly because he loves her), and sets her down right in the middle, before clicking on the TV.

“So are you gonna tell me what’s wrong, or do I have to bribe you with those paint pens you’ve been eyeing on Amazon?” Peter asks, slumping down perpendicularly behind her.

MJ lays on him, splaying out on the blanket-covered ground. “Know how I checked on the kids this morning?”


“It’s Miles.” A beat. “Caught him watching Spidey vids.”

“What, isn’t that like the fiftieth time now?” Peter says, content at being used as a human pillow. “Was it a meme, or something?”

Inhale. “I caught him watching Spidey vids.” Exhale. “On the ceiling.”

Peter sits up abruptly. “On the what?”

Ack—Peter, that’s my back you’re bending,” MJ seethes in pain, rolling off her husband’s legs.

“Oops, sorry. You okay?” he winces, carefully helping her off.

She flops down on her belly, bemoaning her existence. “I will recover.”


“And if I don’t, Matt’s gonna blame you for losing the case.”

Peter frowns. “Didn’t you finish your part already?”

“Irrelevant, he’ll find a loophole. He’s a lawyer, you know.”

Gulp. “...Matt’s version of ‘blame’ or like, everyone else’s?”

MJ tilts her head. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“Yes, I would, that’s why I asked.”

“Fun fact: I still don’t know.”

Peter laughs, rolling over to her side. “So, Miles?”

“Ceiling Miles,” she nods.

“Miles on the ceiling.”


“Anything else?”

“He, uh,” MJ starts, squinting at the TV. “He may have. Disappeared.”

Peter leans closer, brows furrowed. “What.”

“Like a chameleon, not like, actually disappeared.”

“Not like Strange.”

She nods.

“Okay.” Inhale. “What. The. Hell.”

“That’s what I said,” MJ deadpans, bumping shoulders out of habit. “But then he just...scurried out. Like a spider.”

Peter flops on his back, stunned.

“A freakin’ arachnid, babe,” she continues, eyes still on the seemingly endless stream of commercials on screen. “Like you. That’s messed up.”

Peter has a thought. “Do you think he got bit?”

MJ shrugs, eyes widening with the motion.

Peter hopes he didn’t get bit.

That bite hurt, and he felt like he was gonna die.

Oh. Extra thought: “Wait, but—but he doesn’t know, right?”

She turns and frowns at him. “I’m not an idiot.”

“I wanna remind you that you married me. Freely. Your choice. Some people would call it idiotic.”

“Some people are wrong,” she argues pointedly, letting a long groan escape. “Man, where’s Ned when you need him?”

“Entering the house with perfect timing,” Ned quips, entering the living room with pizza. “What’s up, ketchup?”

“Miles is my son,” Peter says with a slack jaw, the news just now sinking in.

MJ turns to him slowly, half her face scrunched up as her only reply.

“That’s a little young to start, dude. Isn’t he sixteen?” Ned asks, confused.

A beat.

“He’s got powers,” MJ explains.

“Wh—like, like—” Ned stammers, looking between them.

“Like Spider-Man powers.”


“Wait, he’s also like, part chameleon,” Peter adds, jaw still somewhere on the floor.

MJ nods. “Yes. That. Spider-meleon.”


She shoves her husband. “Serious topic.”

“I’m serious, that’s a cool name.”

“I think it’s lit,” Ned says.

“There will be no coup in this household,” MJ says, pointing at him. “I can still have your room remodeled.”

“That would require you to have actual, non-family guests over.”

“Shuri exists.”

“Shuri has a palace. And like, thirty mansions, probably.”

“Thirty-two,” Peter says, “but most of them are for the schools.”

“The rest are orphanages,” MJ adds, before Ned can make another comment. She re-splays out on the floor. “Two Spider-Boys in my life. How is this statistically possible.”

Ned pulls out his phone, typing. “Well—”

“—finish that sentence and I’m calling the contractor.”

Ned puts his phone away.

“Does he…” Peter starts, before ducking his head. “Does he want to be a hero?”

MJ shrugs. “I’d tell you to talk him out of it, but that would require finding him to ask, and again—” she makes a zoom motion with her hand, “—disappeared.”

“Um,” Ned blinks, opening the box of pizza. “Five cheese?”

Peter takes two.

MJ bites from his, because what’s yours is mine, suckah.

“I now see this is a societal crisis summons, not a movie night one,” Ned says, once they go for their second helping.

“‘ere ‘ey separa’e?” MJ quips, chomping down on crust.


She nods.

Peter tosses Ned the remote. “All yours.”

“Can I charge rentals to Tony?”

“He owns enough films on his account for you not to.”

“So...yes, but conditionally?”

Peter frowns.

MJ snickers, getting up. “Soda? Water? Questionable non-alcoholic drink Wanda got me from her trip to Sokovia last week?”

“Bring on the mystery liquid!” Ned cheers, plopping down on the couch.

(It’s some weirdly good Sokovian lemonade that makes them a) want more and 2) wonder what else Wanda’s got in her drink fridge upstate.)

Miles calls her up to ask to meet the day after her part-time with Matt and Foggy comes to a close, and Peter has to calm her with hot chocolate and their entire inventory of mozzarella sticks.

(It’s a weird combination, but she’s weird, and it’s always worked, so.)

“I’m not gonna stop him, if he wants to,” MJ tells him, downing another cup of hot chocolate. “That would be hypocritical—you were fifteen, and I didn’t do jack to stop you.”

“You were also fifteen,” Peter whispers, an arm slung around her shoulders.

“You were doing the right thing.”

“I almost died. A lot.”

“You wanted to do it, Peter,” she sighs, pouting at her mug. “If he wants to do it, I’m gonna help him.”

“He’s gonna have to sign.”


“Are you gonna keep him from signing?”

“I...can’t,” she groans, slumping her head back on his arm. “I agree with the new rules. I helped make the new rules. I can’t let him skip on them.”

Peter kisses her temple, lingering. “You’ll figure it out.”

“I’ll flip him off ‘til he signs?”

“He’s just gonna flip you off.”

Ha. I’d like to see him try.”

“...Please don’t threaten the kids of our nation, MJ.”

“I don’t have to, I can just call Shuri and she’ll do it for me.”

“Please don’t start an international fiasco by having our friend, a royal from a neutral country, threaten the kids of our nation, MJ.”

“You’re no fun,” she laughs, pecking his lips.

He wrinkles his nose, smiling.

MJ shrugs off the fear. “Aight, let’s do this.”

Peter moves to her back, massaging her shoulders like a boxing coach. “Whatchu gonna do?”

“Talk to Miles.”

“Whatchu gonna tell him?”

“That it’s cool if he wants to be a superhero.”

“What else?”

“That he has to sign the Accords.”


“And if he doesn’t agree, I’m stealing his pop tarts.”

Peter snorts. “That’s harsh, dude.”

“I’ll return them if he signs,” MJ says, in the way that Peter’s sure she means: They’ll be in my belly by then, but I’ll buy out a grocery to apologize.