Chapter Two

Steve stood with the doctor near the observation area with the doctor as the nurses left the room, giving Spider-Man and Carol some privacy. “I don’t understand, Captain,” the doctor said, turning to Steve. “My team and I are doctors, medical professionals. Sure, I’m no Reed Richards, but,” he hitched a thumb into the room, “Why would she want to talk to him instead of us?”

A small smile crossed Steve’s face. “No offense intended, doctor,” he said, “But the man beneath that mask is one of the smartest people alive.” Steve leaned forward, resting his hands on the windowsill. “If anyone can figure out what’s wrong with her, he can.”

Spider-Man sat next to Carol’s bed, listening to her ragged breathing. It was difficult, to say the least, to see his friend like this. He’d always known Carol as a strong woman, one who go toe-to-toe with the Hulk and come out the other side un-smashed. But it wasn’t just physical strength; she was a rock of a woman, considering all she’d been through. He knew a bit of her history: powers and memories stolen, lovers killed. It reminded him of his own.

He grabbed her hand, and she opened her eyes. “Hey, you,” he said.

She turned her head to him, and the dark circles under her eyes unnerved him. He wondered if they’d been there before, just hidden by her mask. “Hey, Pete,” she said, a small smile crossing her lips. Her voice was raspy, and the oxygen mask made her difficult to understand. “Wish I could…” she paused to take a breath, “See your face… those big white eyes… kinda freaky.”

Peter smiled and pulled his mask up to rest on the bridge of his nose. “Blast,” he said, “You’ve foiled my master plan to creep out beautiful young women.”

“Beautiful?” she said, laugh-coughing. She pulled off the oxygen mask so she could be better understood. “Flatterer.”

He squeezed her hand. “It’s only flattery if it isn’t true,” he said. He was glad, then, that she couldn’t see his eyes. He took a deep breath. “What’s going on with you, Carol?” he asked. “Why did you want to talk to me?

Carol’s face grew somber, and she turned away from him for a moment. When she turned back, tears were welling in her eyes. “I, uh…” she said, her voice cracking, “I think I’m dying, Pete.”

His hand grew sweaty inside the glove. He wanted to take off his mask, he wanted her to look in his eyes and see how afraid he was for her then. But he saw the doctor still standing by the observation window. “Y’know, that might be something the doctor needs to hear about. Considering that’s what he does for a living and everything.”

She smiled, and the room shined a little bit brighter. It reminded him of Gwen, in a way, how one side of her mouth turned upward just a bit more than the other one. Her eyes, though, they’d always held a fire, a passion, like Mary Jane’s; when he looked into them, he saw it dimmed, but not gone—she was angry about what was happening to her. “I’m pretty sure that whatever’s going on with me is something a regular doctor wouldn’t understand,” she said. “I’m half-Kree. It’s not really a subject they cover in med school.”

Peter sighed. “Then you need to wait for Reed. Or Tony. Or we can call Doc Strange, maybe he can—“

“Stop,” Carol said, shaking her head at him. She coughed, and was forced to bring the oxygen mask back up to take a few breaths. “You always sell yourself short,” she continued, pulling the mask back down. “You’re just as smart as any of those guys, and I don’t…” she paused, and left Peter to wonder. He was sure that her disease was just getting to her, causing her some pain, with the way her face looked like she was hurting. “Trust them,” she said. “Not like I trust you.”

Carol reached her other arm across herself and grabbed Peter’s other hand. The action rolled her body, and drew her closer to him. Tears resting there made her eyes look like ocean water, and he could smell the honeysuckle in her perfume. “I… I, uh…” he stammered, finding himself leaning in rather than backing away.

She stared to straight into his eyepieces, knowing his face beneath, right into his eyes. “Just promise me you’ll check it out,” she said, giving his hands a squeeze. “If you need help, you can go to whoever you need to to get it, but promise me you’ll look into it first.”

A tingle went down his spine, and it had nothing to do with his Spider-Sense. She was placing her faith in him, and he was more afraid than he cared to admit that she was making a mistake, but he wasn’t about to let her down. “I promise,” he said, holding up his right hand like a boy scout, but with the pose of his trademark webslinging gesture. “Spider’s honor.”

Carol smiled again and returned to laying on her back. “I’m so thrilled,” she said, a hint of sarcasm in her voice. “I’m gonna have you crawling up the walls with this one,” she said, pointing at him and wagging her index finger.

“Har dee har har,” Peter said, standing up and walking around the room. He opened several drawers before finding what he was searching for: a pad and pen. Sitting back down next to Carol, he uncapped the pen with his mouth and spit the cap to the side. The twitch in her left eyebrow went unnoticed. “Ok, just the facts, ma’am,” he said in his best Humphrey Bogart. Carol couldn’t help it. She burst out laughing.

Steve stood outside the hospital suite in the observation area, grinning like he’d just found the golden ticket. Spider-Man was waving his arms over his head like a gorilla, and Carol was laughing in her hospital bed. The doctor, on the other hand, was far less amused. “Who does this guy think he is,” he said, turning to Steve, “Patch Adams?”

He didn’t understand the reference, but Steve inferred that it must be some type of comedian. “That’s just who Spider-Man is, doctor,” he said. In his years in combat, Steve had never met anyone more naturally gifted at keeping up morale. As he was speaking, they noticed that Spider-Man was walking back out, pulling his mask back down over his mouth.

Steve and the doctor walked over to the door, but before they could speak Spider-Man burst through and started rambling at the doctor. “Okay, Doc,” he said, “I’m gonna need everything you have on her: blood work, test results, the works.”

The doctor crossed his arms. “I can’t provide you with that information,” he said. “Doctor-patient confidentiality.”

Stepping forward, Steve placed his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Doctor, you’re technically employed by S.H.I.E.L.D, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Captain,” the doctor said.

“Then, as current Director, I’m ordering you to get Spider-Man everything he asked for.” Spider-Man crossed his arms and held his chin high, and Steve could practically feel the smirk happening beneath that mask. He shot Spider-Man a look, and the webslinger dropped his hands back to his sides.

“But, sir,” the doctor said, “I… I just can’t. It’s unethical.”

“Think of it this way, Doctor,” Steve said, putting his arm around the man’s shoulders, “If you have a patient who has cancer, you would send that person to a specialist, right?” Steve looked to Spider-Man and stretched out his hand. “Spider-Man is just the…”

“Oncologist,” Spider-Man said.

“Oncologist in this situation.” Steve patted the man on the back, whom he had started directing toward the door. The doctor was mumbling a reluctant agreement, though he was walking out of the room slowly. Steve turned back to Spider-Man, letting the doctor go, who was still mumbling something about Patch Adams.

“Nice work, Steve,” Spider-Man said, pulling his mask off for the first time in hours. Steve noticed that his hair was messier than usual, covered with more sweat.

“It’s on one condition, Spider-Man,” Steve said, using Peter’s superhero name, as the doctor was still in earshot. “Anything you find, you bring to me. Carol’s a friend, as well as an Avenger, and I want to be kept apprised of her situation.”

“Can’t do that, Cap,” Peter said, leaning back on the wall. “Doctor-patient confidentiality.”

Steve took a step toward Peter, and leaned down to his eye level. “You aren’t a doctor, remember?”

Peter’s Spider-Sense blared as the doctor turned around from the doorway screaming, “He’s not even a doctor?!” The man was faced with Steve standing next to Spider-Man, who was just holding his mask up in front of his face. “Spider-Man,” he said, “Turn around and put your mask back on.”

Silence ruled the room for moment before Peter said, “My mask is on.”

“No, it’s not,” the doctor said. “You’re just holding it in front of your face.”

More silence. “No, I’m not.”

“God!” the doctor screamed, throwing his hands in the air. “Captain, I hope you like dead teammates, because that woman is doomed if this moron is going to try to figure out what’s wrong with her!”

“That’s enough!” Steve roared, clearing the distance between himself and the doctor in a second. “I’m going to let that slide, seeing as you don’t know this man, doctor, but I suggest you walk out of this room and go get him that information before I change my mind.” The doctor ran from the room, the squeak of wet shoes following him down the hallway.

Steve turned around and found Peter holding his mask in his hands, staring down at it. “He’s right, isn’t he?” Peter asked, his grip on the fabric tightening. “We need to go find Reed and Tony, I’m sure they can…”

“Hey,” Steve said, crossing the room and grabbing Peter by the shoulders. “Look at me.” Peter raised his head, and Steve saw the pain in his eyes. “I know you can pull this off. I’ve seen you out-think opponents in the field, and I’ve seen you make technological marvels when you’re given the time. I’ve got faith in you.”

Steve turned Peter’s shoulders, forcing him to look through the window. “And so does she.” Peter saw Carol watching him, and when she saw his face without the mask, a small smile crossed her lips.

“Ok, Cap,” Peter said, turning back around. “I might have to mainline some caramel macchiatos, but I’ll get it figured out.

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