Cindy Spoils a Secret Identity!

March 16, 2017:

Seeking out Spider-Man through their connection to talk about the mysterious new Spider-Woman freaking out all over the city, Cindy Moon instead stumbles across Peter Parker. More freaking out ensues.

Columbia University

A fancy university for fancy people. And also Peter Parker.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jessica Jones, Spider-Woman, Tony Stark, Iron Monger

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Despite the appearance of things, Cindy Moon is very private about her personal life.

Since departing the bunker, she's let a few folks in— some willingly, others just because fate has shuffled them together. But she doesn't like letting tons of folks in on her life and her secrets, and hopes and expects other people to have the same kind of respect for her privacy. In a similar manner, she does the same for Spider-Man.

They're linked through that strange sensation, the knowledge of where each other is, but she rarely considers moving on it. She doesn't want to intrude in his life; she has no business or right to, even if she still has a few questions about herself, her powers, and both of them.

That's changing, right now. The mysterious woman in the hoodie made all of that change. She's got no easy, reliable way to get in touch with him, and … she really needs to talk to him, now.

She's moving closer now, through mid-day, and it isn't just because she's taking a shortcut or one of the routes the Spider-Man taught her. She's moving with speed and purpose, sticking high to the tall buildings as she moves in on Columbia University, nestled between all the buildings in Manhattan.

Once she's close enough, hiding in the shadows, she changes modes through judicious application of spider-silk: From Silk, self-titled D-list heroine, to Cindy Moon, the girl that's never seen a college campus in her life.

Emerging from behind one of the lecture halls in a long-sleeve shirt, scarf, and pants, she starts wandering the paths, trying to follow her senses— on one hand she's searching feverently for 'that one guy,' and on the other, she's looking at the buildings, the flow of students, and thinking about what /could/ have been.


It's been something he's had to get used to, that link he's discovered with Cindy Moon. It's strange, and it never quite goes away, no matter how far away he is — just varies in intensity. Like a secondary spider-sense meant entirely as a tracker. Thinking about it like that made it easier to process.

And then he remembers the entire reason it exists, and it becomes less so once again.

But it's a two-way street, that link. Spider-Man feels it just as accutely as Silk does, and it's something he's discovered, in time, he feels anywhere. Anytime. -Always-. Even when he's sleeping. He's growing very adept at just tuning it out, a fact he can thank years of grappling with his Spider-Sense for, but that's not always a good thing.

Which is why, the fact is, he technically feels that link between them closing in as Cindy discreetly makes her way onto Columbia's campus. Technically. And this is when the young man would go scrambling with those enhanced abilities of his to quickly find a place to sequester away at and change. Because that secret identity is precious to him. And, surprisingly enough, he's actually done a very good job of holding onto it.

But. He doesn't move. That link doesn't fade or grow weaker as Cindy advances. And the reason why becomes clear soon enough when the self-proclaimed D-list heroine stumbles upon the sight of a young man in his late teens. Shaggy, unkempt brown hair, average height, dressed in cheap clothes and a blue parka.

Currently slumped on a bench, head tilted back and an open book laid out over his face.

Snoring.

… Loudly.

And here lies Spider-Man, great hero of New York City. Behold him in all his—

"zzzzsnrffglFFFFzzz"

—glory.


The sense starts to sharpen and focus the closer that she gets to Spider-Man. The constant noise of her extrasensory abilities going off becomes more muted, and the world gets a little more quiet. It isn't a bad feeling— it's the closest she'll get to being back in the bunker, not having to 'listen' to everything going all at once. Of course, now that she's /here/, it's bringing her heartrate up to a nervous cadence.

What's he like outside the suit?

Will he be pissed?

Is he like, Jane's Scruffy Boyfriend hot?

Cindy passes between a few more students having a conversation about a class that she can only guess covers— science, or something?— and then dark brown eyes flick to one side and spot him. The parka, the book, the bench, the…

… the snoring…

Pulling back her shirt sleeve, she stares at the Starktech phone strapped around her wrist, considering for a very long and hard moment about taking a photograph of him. It'd be entirely for posterity, of course. Thinking better of it, the sleeve is tugged back down over the phone, instead choosing to sit down on the bench next to the sleeping, snoring Spider-Student.

Should she move the book, or—

Oh god. What is she doing here?

Cindy nervously sucks in a breath, then reaches over to shake the student awake.

"Hey. … We need to talk," she says after the first few rustles.


He really seems deep in sleep. Even out here, in the middle of a public place, where anyone could just come by and take his stuff — which might be why his backpack is held in such a secure kind of death grip even in the throes of sleep. One of those learned behaviors.

Given the kind of lifestyle he leads, it's not terribly surprising. But right now, like this, outside of that costume, the young man just looks… normal. Harmless. And young.

So she sits next to him. But the young man doesn't quite stir, even with the strength of their link so intense within that proximity. A mild snort, the faint turn of his head to the side. Mumbled gibberish. Something about someone named Gwen? It's hard to tell.

And then she reaches out, shakes him —

— and the student awakes with a jolt so pronounced he knocks that book right off his face with a wide-eyed jerk of his head.

"'M AWAKE" is his call, and it does not quite inspire confidence.

A second passes. And Peter Parker, Columbia University student, rubs the back of his head, those expressive hazel eyes roaming about in bleary confusion. "… huh…? Oh — damn, right — um, sorry, do you need the — the bench or something? Hold on, lemme just — I'll be outta your hair in a sec, I swear, I just gotta-"

He pauses. He stares at the young woman sitting beside him. His lips slowly purse. Hazel eyes slowly squint.

… …

… … …

… … … …"WHAT"

There it is.

Suddenly, Peter Parker is just scrambling back in his seat, spinning to face Cindy like he's just seen a ghost. "Oh man oh man oh — what're you DOING HERE, why are you — oh man no crap crap I mean what? Do I know you — no that's not gonna work stupid! Crap! Why are you — how did you — of course that's how, of course that's — dammit! Argh!"

A second passes. And in a panic, Peter Parker waves his hand in front of Cindy Moon's eyes.

Did he just —

"I am not the person you're looking for-!"

— did he just try to mind trick her yep he just tried to mind trick her.


'Gwen?' The name's filed away whether or not Cindy actually wants to remember it. She didn't expect a reaction this strong, though, jolting straight as Peter Parker jerks away so suddenly and quickly that the book comes flying off his face. She gets a good look at him— sleepy as he is— before he squints.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean—"

'WHAT'

He freaks out, scrambling away from her on the bench while he's trying to formulate a plan. For her part, Cindy still looks serious, shifting on the bench to face Peter more clearly. She keeps reaching for the right thing to say— apologize for barging into his life without the mask, apologize for invading his privacy /like this/, for how she's been good at staying away from him when they aren't wearing masks, and then—

… he just…

… he … just…

Cindy lifts her hand, thumb pressed to the side while her fingers split down the middle, holding index and middle with ring and pinky in a Vulcan salute. "Peace and long life," she replies, just as sternly as he tries the mind trick.

Content to just stare at him eye to eye for a few long moments, holding her pose as long as he does his, she finally breaks, hands dropping to her lap and exhaling a sigh into the spider silk-woven muffler around her neck.

"Look, I'm sorry. I really needed to talk to you and I don't have a way to text you or anything." Cindy says. "This is important and I didn't want to have to ask Tony to relay a message, or something."

Her voice lowers. "It's … club business."


This was probably inevitable. Honestly, Peter had felt guilty enough about knowing who Cindy was without telling her anything about himself that eventually he would have bit this bullet just out of some sense of responsibility. And even if not, the link between them meant that eventually this was going to happen.

This is probably just one of the worst ways it could have. Well.

Like, at least in the top 10.

Which is why he's so bewildered and frankly just confused right now, thoughts desperately trying to catch up with reality as the grogginess is forcibly shaken free from him. At the end of it all, he is crouched against the corner of the bench, stuffed in and the heels of his shoes planted into the seat of it as if he was ready to just spring away like a grasshopper at any moment. Waving a hand like it might make her forget. God he hopes it makes her forget.

It doesn't, of course. Instead it just inspires her to… to…

He stares at her for a long moment, making that Vulcan salute, and eventually Peter Parker's shoulders just slack in a helpless sense of weariness, head burying between his legs as if to just try to disappear.

"Oh god. I'm so boned."

He's -so boned-. But he knows, there's not much he can do about it now. He just shakes his head at Cindy's explanations, as if just quietly absolving her of any guilt. "I — look, it's okay, I shoulda given you my number or something, it's just-"

It's club business, she says.

"Okay look I'm not gonna talk in euphemisms I'm way too tired and I'm totally gonna screw it up I just -know it- so let's juuuust…"

And this is about when Peter springs up, shouldering his backpack with one hand and grabbing Cindy's hand with the other with every intention of carting her off with him away from the throngs of people.

"What did you — what's going on? Did something happen? Is everything okay? Is it your parents-?"


So much guilt on both sides.

And so much nerding.

Cindy is much less jumped up about the meeting, bending forward to pick up Peter's book from the ground and dust off the pages. Before she can explain further about the whole thing, Peter's on his feet— more than that, he's got his back shouldered— more than that now he's grabbing her hand to start leading her away from a public place where a lot of people could hear them talking about spider things. Cool club things for cool people.

Because this is totally their club. For cool.

Picking up the pace as not to be dragged right along, super strength for both or not, Cindy blinks. "What? No— I mean, I'd thought I found a few leads, but they kind of just went nowhere. It's like the movies, money makes people not be found. I talked to a ghost-talker lady, the most I know right now is that they're not dead."

Pause. "Yes, I said ghost-talker lady. Long story."

Looking around to make sure there's nobody else in earshot, Cindy reclaims her hand and tucks them into the pockets of her pants, frowning. "That's not why I'm here, though. Look, uh— I got caught when I was going back to Alias. By someone like…"

"… /us/."

Cindy lets that hang for a moment, sucking in a breath and frowning. "This is gonna sound really freakin' weird but I sent a message to Miss Jones— she's got some family stuff to take care of so she's not there right now— but she seems to think whoever this girl is, she's from some kind of alternate universe or something. I couldn't get a chance to talk to her."


He is not president of a spider-club. He's just not.

Even if its members seem to be burgeoning at a rate that makes him wish he was slightly less illegal so he could look up trademarking and how to do it.

But right now, he has more on his mind than any of that. Like the wealth of possibilities that could lead Cindy to meet him like this; his thoughts, of course, immediately spring to her family, and because he's him, his mind automatically goes towards preparing for the worst.

It's why relief paints his features, so very plainly without that mask as a buffer, when Cindy tells him that they're, at least, not dead. "That's good. Could be - could be a lot worse, y'know? Just — keep at it. Ms. Jones knows what she's doing, and I'll keep looking where I can, and… ghost-talker lady? What? You know what — nope, nevermind. Not important right now."

It's a testament to how much he's had to deal with in his small handful of years as a vigilante -already- that he can just let something like that slide off his back. He's been up a spider-demon's butt. It contained Europe. There's not getting much weirder than that.

No — what -is- important right now is what Cindy has to say next. He's about to offer some more concrete help as he's able when her words reach his ears; those hazel eyes shutter in a brief, confused blink. "Someone like us? Like…" How can he put this delicately?

"… thwippy??"

There we go.

A girl. Like them. From some kind of alternate universe. Peter stares for a long moment, blank faced. And then, with all due solemnity, pulls his backpack forward to grab himself a can of energy drink from inside; by the tinny rattle, it seems far from the only one.

*pssh* goes the opening can before he just chugs, because he is not nearly awake enough for this yet.

"Right. Okay. Alternate universe." He hates those. Has he mentioned how much he hates those? Because the last one ruined his life. Ruined. It. "Great. Awesome. Super. What happened? What'd she look like? You're sure it's a she? I mean-" hand wave "- yeah okay just … what happened?"


"She's helping me a lot. I mean— I'm trying. I dug up a lot of receipts but never any credit card numbers and their driver's liscences are expired. Basically just kind of stopped existing, dropped off the face of all the world, but. … I don't know. I'm still looking," Cindy says, rubbing at the back of her neck.

Then, the crux of the situation— the whole reason for her visit.

There is a Spider-Woman running around.

'Someone like us?' A brisk nod.

'Thwippy?' A slower nod.

Peter then starts putting down the energy drink like a god damn champion. Cindy— a little impressed, even if she's staring at him in a bit of shock from this total lack of manners HOW IS HE SPIDER-MAN okay at the same time it makes some sense.

Cindy sucks in a deep breath. "Definitely a girl. White and black suit, but the pattern was different than mine. Pink on the underarms. Full head mask but she had a hood on her suit. Didn't look cheap. I couldn't tell if she had thwips like yours or mine. She was up on the roof across from Alias when I was going in— I didn't realize she was staking the place out until after I was already going inside."

Frowning, the spider-woman (lowercase) shakes her head. "I don't know what it is I said. She asked me who I was. She freaked out at 'Silk,' then asked me if I was into evil science or being evil. She asked me if I was a superhero like Captain America, then asked me if I was with SHIELD. Then asked me if I was friends with…"

Jessica Jones' stern text message rings in the back of her head. 'The first rule of Jewel is we don't talk about Jewel.'

"… Miss Jones. I asked if we could have a chat— I mean it's good to make friends, right??— but then she started yelling 'no' and then I'm dodging webbing while she runs off."

Cindy blows a heavy sigh. "I left an open invitation to come in and get warm, and it was gone when I checked again, so I'm guessing she found it."


"That's… less good."

A second passes before Peter realizes how bad that sounds.

"I mean — no, not like — it's okay. They're — they're still alive. We'll find them. I know we will. It's just gonna be…" His brows furrow. "… complicated."

But isn't it always?

That energy drink is just… it's done. It stands no chance. He drinks it like it's oasis water in the throbbing heat of the desert, chugging it down in a way that he might feel embarassed about in any other situation. But it's not, it's this one, where the girl with the weird ever-present connection to him just barged in on his personal life and interrupted his sleep and also is talking about alternate dimensions which brings up -really bad- and -really fresh- memories so. No. He's demolishing that caffeine-sugar cocktail like he's got a personal grudge against it.

He's already rooting around for another when she starts to explain the situation; the brown-haired college student pauses, blinks, and looks up. "At Ms. Jones'?" She makes mention of Silk, and how the woman freaked out about it. Asked if Cindy was a hero. His brows knit inward.

'Then asked me if I was friends with…'

The chance to have the perfect ammunition against Jessica Jones rises……………….!!

'… Miss Jones.'

… and then crumbles. Peter blinks, and rubs the back of his neck, tragically oblivious to this missed opportunity that just barely slipped past his fingers.

"Huh. Uh… huh. Right. Okay. So that's — weird, right? Yeah, that's definitely weird. That was a rhetorical question. Sorry." He pulls out another can. Stops. Considers. And then flips it about in his hand to offer it up towards Cindy, as if she needed it more than the fatigued-looking Parker.

"You — you did the right thing. But I think… I think I get what she's going through right now, if it's really like you said." If she really came from another world… did she come from that place? That fake New York? Worry creases his expression for a moment.

"We don't… I mean. We don't know what her world's like, right, if this is all… whatever. Bizarro world, or something, to her. It's… not your fault." He considers for a moment, chewing his lower lip.

"I — alright. I'm gonna look for her. Okay? Maybe I can… I dunno. Talk some sense into her. Get her adjusted. Bribe her with tacos until she stops shooting you up with webbing and stuff. That oughta work, right? No one says no to tacos." He offers a warm, friendly smile, full of that awkward charm of his — it's doubtlessly different from the occasional movements of lenses from a mask, but little else.

"I'll help her. Promise."


Cindy does look tired, if only because she's been There before— scared and alone, not sure where to turn to. In her case, she turned to the man that trained her, showed her how to use her powers, and then proceeded to scream about the bug-eaters and usher her to the basement and seal her into a bunker for over five years. When she realized that her family was missing, she was fortunate enough to have the Spider-Man there to help her. She was, of course, up all night scouring the city for the elusive, displaced Spider-Woman and has been spending most of her free time outside of her work at Alias to search for her.

Still nothing.

Blinking at the can as though she didn't expect it, Cindy takes it with a nod and a small smile, snapping the top open. She doesn't consume it at the speed Peter does, but her face scrunches up a bit. "/Wow/, that's sweet."

Clearing her throat, hand crossing the corner of her mouth, the young woman nods. "The best I can figure there's a Captain America, SHIELD, me, Miss Jones, and … I don't even know what else."

'It's not your fault,' he says. It doesn't make the adverse reaction to her offer of friendship any less of a sting. As much as she face-scrunched, she starts to power down a bit more of the energy drink before clearing her throat again. "I swear, my webbing's gonna smell like sugar for the rest of the day or something," she asides, /but still drinks more/.

She's said it at least once since they've met. "Like I said, I'm sorry to … barge in like this. Thanks, S…p … i … saying it without the suits on makes it feel really awkward."


"The way it makes my heart feel like it's about to explode lets me know it's working," Peter Parker proclaims casually, like he was reciting an advertisement for that energy drink. Or some kind of product placement. He restrains the urge to thumbs up at some sort of invisible camera.

"And they're all probably, like, totally different from the way people are here. I bet I am too, if she's running around calling herself Spider-Woman. Oh god. Wait. What if it's like… me, as a girl? Oh god. That'd be -really awkward-. Oh god. The internet's bad enough!"

One just has to wonder what sort of terrible things Peter Parker has discovered about Spider-Man in the deep, dark recesses of the web. Truly, it must be traumatic.

A second passes. The brown-haired young man clears his throat awkwardly, hands shoving deep into his pockets. "But… yeah. Don't like — like I said, everything's probably different there, right? If she recognizes you or doesn't trust you or something it's not like… it's not you. Right? It'll be okay. Seriously." He sounds sure of it, at least, a conviction that only comes to him when speaking about these sorts of things. Case in point:

"Wait. Is that, like. A thing? Can you like… scratch-n-sniff your webbing now too? Then why doesn't it smell like corndogs all the time??"

These are the important questions in life.

She tries to thank him. Stutters on her words, without that suit as a barrier between them. He blinks. Smiles an apologetic sort of smile. "It's okay. I was gonna… y'know, I was gonna tell you. Just… ended up a lot sooner than I figured, I guess. But — I know you know, and I know you know I know you know, and — whatever. But this? You can't talk about this. With anyone. Not even Ms. Jones. Okay? People don't — I'm not… like, the most popular guy around, exactly." One can only wonder why. But instead, Peter shrugs sheepishly, shoving a hand into his pocket even as he speaks.

"Look, I'm gonna go — go get changed and look for her, alright? You oughta go back to Ms. Jones' and get some rest. You look… I mean. You look bad. Like Weekend at Bernie's Bad. Like… the Atlas Shrugged movies bad." Yeah. He could go forever like this. Not that he has room to talk. Eventually, though, a smartphone that looks well outside his paygrade (by which one means it's pretty much just a standard model smartphone) is produced.

"But - here. I'll give you my number. This is like — this is the thwippy number, alright? So — for thwippy. Do not distribute."


The energy drink advertising joke lends itself to the type of stare Cindy gives, hiding the smirk behind the can as she takes another drink. He also notes the differences between their worlds again, even postulating the idea that it's him but as a girl. She tries not to laugh, especially about the internet— there's probably already someone writing fan fiction about superheroes right this exact second somewhere elsewhere in the Tri-State Area.

'Right?' "Right."

It'll be okay— but her expression still shifts to a frown. And— then the important, pointed question about her webbing. Her mouth opens in that 'oh god I can't believe you just asked that' way, her jaw shifts to one side, then she inhales. "No. No, it does not. … but I tend to eat more protein, it seems to keep the stores up," she says, looking down at her forearm.

He makes the case for making sure Cindy doesn't spoil his secret identity. She nods. "Not a word to anyone, I promise." She's strained a few leads trying to keep the origins of the Spider Club a secret, too. She starts to sip again, and…

"I haven't slept much." she says around the can. Like Weekend at Bernie's bad.

"I get the—" The Atlas Shrugged movies bad.

"I'd like to remind you I can pick up a car."

Fortunately, he's moved on to taking out his phone, giving his number. The Twhippy Number. For Thwippy Things. "I'll remember it," she says, pointing at her temple. "Fortunately the phone Tony gave me won't go missing the next time a giant robot armor dude looking for you punches me into the East River," she says almost casually— and rattles off her own number. "If I'm off-duty you can also get me on the Alias Investigations office phone, too."


Cindy talks about her webbing. Peter Parker purses his lips. He looks like he's struggling with something. A second passes.

"… ppfffawwwwww okay I didn't make the joke, I didn't and I'm not."

He feels proud of himself, on that one. That was tough.

But the conversation moves on, and Peter gives a simple nod and a, "Thanks. Seriously," of gratitude for Cindy's promise. Not that he doesn't trust her, but — he has no way of being sure.

And he has plenty of reason to be wary of letting anyone into his world, super powered or not.

Cindy's number is rattled off; Peter taps it into his phone with a fleet flurry of fingers, his hazel eyes lifting up as he pauses, only once, at her casual little aside. "Okay. What? So — yeah. We're talking about -that- too. Not today, you're — you're going to get some sleep. Because, again-" He wisely doesn't go on to list more examples. He could. But he won't. "Y'know. Sleep. You. Do it."

One jabbing-and-possibly-hypocritical finger later (it's do as I say, not as I do!), Peter is stowing his phone away again, remembering the rest of what Cindy tells him for later. "I'll give you a call after if I find her, alright? Just… get some rest." And it's here that the young man starts to move, past Cindy, back toward the bustling campus beyond. He gets three or four feet from her before he pauses. Considers.

When he looks back, it's with a small, hesitant kind of smile. It's a hesitation matched in his voice before he manages to say,

"… And it's… you can call me Peter. Peter Parker."

One (1) beat later:

"Just — not — during the… whatever. Club meetings. That sounds dumb to say. Just — Spider-Man then. Professional." Like him!!

"Oh god I really really -really- hope it's not girl-me—"

Definitely like him.


'I didn't make the joke' Cindy glares /so hard/

But then things keep moving. He's grateful for her keeping his secret— their shared secret— and possibly the secret of the mysterious hoodie-clad Spider-Woman running around right now. He's also being nice and insistent on making sure she gets some rest. Her hands lift a little, the can already more than half-polished off. "I will, I will. I mean if this stuff doesn't keep me awake for the next three years."

"I understand. Just keep an eye out for it. Can't miss that thing, it's just huge and nasty."

He moves past, and then for just a second, Peter Parker, the Spider-Man, looks pretty darn cool. Hold it. Hold that, just like that, and then just turn away and start walking and look dashing aaaaaaand—

Then he just keeps talking and ruins it like usual.

Cindy laughs, head slanting and pinching the bridge of her nose. She looks awful, but that was a laugh she needed right now. Walking the opposite direction— can't have them both swinging off in the same direction, tongues will wag!— she lifts her free hand to wave along the way. "Call me soon, Peter."

It feels oddly good to say his real name.

It's a nice connection to finally have.

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