Chapter 1: Prologue
Honestly, whenever Peter did something, it was all in, or nothing. It was either done so seamlessly and so well, you could mistake it as mastery or art. Or he failed so bad it was like a bard rolling a one on a stealth check. A complete failure.
He would stop a robbery, either coming out unscathed and looking amazing while doing it, or he barely managed to stop the robbery, limping awkwardly away with multiple bruises and sometimes if he got lucky enough, broken bones. Those were the nights he had to play doctor and set his own bones without telling Aunt May- there were only so many times you could claim you got mugged before people start wondering if everything’s alright at home- and then it would be rinse and repeat for the next crime he stopped.
School, he either was perfect. Grades all hundreds, nothing phasing him at all, gym going pretty well, and he was able to sneak under Flash’s radar and come out fine. Melting into the scenery and lockers like a ninja and making it out with not a hair out of place. Other times. He scraped by with nineties, gym kicking his ass, and Flash making him a public spectacle of humiliation. Multiple times per day.
And the most unpredictable and inconvenient give and take. Secrets. Either, his secrets stayed in the dark for many years. Never to see the light of day even to Aunt May. Or they stayed under loose wraps, slowly unraveling and choking Peter in a tight hold. The lies wrapping and shoving their toxic words down his throats and trying to expose as much of themselves as possible to the truth and light. Slowly gaining attention from the ones he cared about until he could get it under control again. Shove it into the dark. Nothing’s gotten away from him yet. But honestly. Things never stayed away forever. And that terrified Peter.
But through it all, Peter always had one. Consistent. Constant. Little thing.
That’s probably what true to god ended him up in this situation in the first place. Sitting in a hammock made of web on top of his apartment building and going through his head on how long he could make twenty dollars last on a New York City street.
Honestly, he didn’t blame Aunt May. Not at all. Not one single piece of him did. Her nephew was staying out at night, coming home rarely and at all hours. Usually acting suspicious and weird-from his hidden injuries-. Acting skittish and jumpy, as if something were coming to get him constantly, never explaining anything to her, and always waking up in the middle of the night clammy, shaky and pale. Mouth wide in a silent scream that never leaves his lips. It wasn’t a surprise to him that she’d think up theories to her beloved nephew’s behavior.
It was a surprise however when she accused him of being on drugs and kicking him out of the house until he proved her could “get clean” or explain himself to her; why he was going and doing this to her, their family. And Peter honest to god did want to tell her. More than anything. The secret itched and bubbled underneath his skin. Begging to be told. But guilt and worry kept it down. Now, Peter was sure that if he tried to explain himself it wouldn’t make things much better. After all, what Aunt/Mother figure would believe something that would go a little like this?
‘Hey Aunt May, the reason I’ve been lying to you for almost a year now is because I’m sneaking out to fight crime in the dead of night with inhuman abilities given to me by a spider bite on a school field trip and web slingers I made in chemistry class. I also have a multi-million-dollar suit from Tony Stark as part of the internship I got for doing this. Do you know Spider man?’
Yeah, that would go over well. It would more likely end him up locked away in some rehab recovery center or a mental health care facility than get him home. Which was not good his school work or the ‘internship’.
Though, it might be a little bit warmer in the rehab center right now. His body shuddered, curling his limbs closer to his chest and huddling into his little homemade hammock on the roof and him and May’s apartment building. At least it was only spring, May wouldn’t be mad forever, she would take him back in soon. She always did. When things got bad like this she only disappeared for a day or two. This time it was his turn to stay away he guessed. But she’d let him come home soon after she cooled off.
If she didn’t cool off soon though… Peter wasn’t going to think about that. May wouldn’t leave him out forever. She wouldn’t let him go hungry and cold on the streets. May was good to him, she’d let him come back in a day or two and everything would get sorted out. Right now, Peter just had to survive temperature sensitivity -along with his other enhanced senses-, a heightened metabolism, and twenty dollars.
Luck wasn’t a lady; she was the old lady that smacked you with her hand bag.
At least he had twenty dollars though. He’d gotten lucky to find it just blowing in the wind as he went on patrol. Otherwise he would have had to just pray May let him come home, beg if he had to. Though, begging might make it worse. Peter knew when he could press his boundaries. Now, he knew it was like the times before May and Ben. Stay at arm’s length and cross his fingers.
The anxiety and worry was melting away as the seconds ticked by though, sluggishly crawling into acceptance and drowsiness as the night sky and familiar sounds of traffic sunk into his body. Pulling his eyelids to droop, trying to make them shut tight on him. Urging his tired and overworked body and mind to take a breather, make a plan to sort things out in the morning. And it honestly sounded like a great idea. Peter giving into it and just praying for one night with a dreamless sleep. He was tired enough to not dream anyway.
He should have realized he couldn’t be that lucky.
Loudly blaring and vibrating against his chest, Peter felt like he’d been electrocuted as his body jolted him awake and alert at the stimuli. Slapping him awake with a shot of adrenaline, wiring him so any sleepiness danced away from even his farthest-reaching fingertips. Peter contemplated ignoring and rejecting the call. It was tempting.
But what if it was May calling him back?
It wasn’t very likely, but that didn’t mean Peter’s hands didn’t struggle getting his hands on the old flip phone to hit the answer button, desperately pulling it to his ear. Almost hearing her voice, the moment, he answered and his voice spilled out a few words before he could even stop them.
“Aunt May?” A deeper and rougher tone than her soft voice exited the phone speaker right after the words had been said. Making Peter internally curse at himself as the realization hit him that May wouldn’t call after only two hours. It was stupid of him to assume that.
“Nope. You disappointed kid? Either way, you’re supposed to be home by now, don’t you have a curfew? A curfew I’ve painstakingly made for you?” There was an amused tilt to his voice that made Peter’s lips quirk up and his chest to fill up with some warmth. A soft chuckle bubbling up in his chest. Tony Stark.
Oh shit. Tony Stark.
His nerves lit up like a firecracker in his body. Exploding and causing tingling worry all the way to his slightly numb toes. Perfect or a failure. Either he was going to be about as see through as a window, or he will be the door that blocks everything. Well, time to make up an excuse on the fly. Luckily, he had a little practice with that, maybe he had a chance with not looking like a stupid whiny kid on the phone with Mr. Stark.
“Am I hearing the silence right? Is Mr. Peter ‘Golden Boy’ Parker breaking the rules,” A sarcastic gasp. “I never thought the day could exist.” Peter snarked back.
“Haha, Mr. Stark, but I am home.” On the roof of May’s apartment building. So not a lie yet? Technically? The hammock would be his home for a small while anyway too. And the tracker couldn’t tell heights. It didn’t have an altitude check yet. Peter would have to make sure to get Ned to help him disable that if that ever became a thing. He was sure Ned would help him out without questioning it. Much. “I’m just waiting for May to get back, why? Do you need me?”
The excitement in his voice was fake to his own ears, but he forced it through his throat anyway. Forced himself to try and do his nervous word ramble, but a sentence was all that would come out. A bad try was better than nothing at all. Anything was better than nothing honestly at this point. But he was hoping that it really wasn’t anything. He was tired, confused, and definitely not stable enough or in the right mind set to be the wild, quipping, friendly neighborhood everyone knows and loves.
Spiderman was just not going to come out though. Not naturally at least. Peter just crossed his fingers that he wouldn’t have to force that out too. Forced wit was never as funny natural jibes. Not to mention Tony could read him like a book when he was Spiderman.
“Hold your enthusiasm, but yes, I may only slightly need your help in tuning up with suits with a few concept designs. So, are you free this Friday? Happy can come to pick you up, the subways are way too slow. And seriously? Does it really take two hours to get here from Midtown?” Peter nodded with a small laugh.
“Yeah it kinda does. But yeah! Friday will work, that work great!” He should be back with Aunt May by then. She never stayed angry or left him alone for longer than two days. And it was only Tuesday today. Yeah, he’d be fine. Nothing would happen to him in such a short amount of time.
“Good, see you then kid. Don’t die or do anything I would do until then.” And Tony hung up the phone after Peter bid his own farewell and Peter couldn’t put the phone down. His chest constricting and his breath hitching as the old anxiety crept back in. Surprising Peter when he realized just how much better even the short conversation had made him feel. And how easily the loneliness clawed back into his skin as the silence settled in. Peter shook the thoughts out of his head and just squirmed deeper into his hammock, phone pressed around his chest as his arms curled around it protectively.
He’d be fine. He could hold out for a day or two. May always left and she was always fine when she came back. And he was what? Fifteen? He could take care of himself for a couple days, it wouldn’t be that bad. Peter swallowed down the pit that sank into his stomach, it burned uncomfortably from his torso to his throat and chest. A stark contrast to his cold skin. His heart thrumming and threatening to leap out of his chest. It was almost painful. Peter took a deep breath. He’d be fine.
Chapter 2: Plans-Tend to Fail
Thank you so much for the great reception on the first chapter! I love you all so much! You all really drive me to be the best and most productive I can be!
She wasn’t answering any of his calls.
His fingers tapped anxiously on the desk as his leg bounced up a down, the light of a Friday afternoon spilling from the window to his desk top. It was warm, but god if it only drove him further up the wall. His jitters magnifying with every reminded.
Three days. It was Friday now, and his twenty dollars was long gone. It had lasted him two dinners and two school lunches. Not filling either. His metabolism eating through the cheap meals nearly an hour after he’d eaten them. And after three days of that cycle his body was starting to feel it. His vision swimming, he felt like everything was too light, to bright, and like he wanted to sleep a hundred years.
And she wasn’t even one step closer to calming down if the silence meant anything.
Luckily, the spider abilities only screwed him two ways to Sunday with his sensitivities and his metabolism. Sleeping outside with a web hammock was definitely more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. It may have been a little cold, a little hungry, and a little-lot- lonely. But it was fine. He could handle this. Aunt May would take him back soon and he’d apologize and everything would go back to normal.
He wouldn’t stay out so late anymore. He’d answer her phone calls. He’d make sure to help her with the chores. May would come to her senses soon enough. She knew Peter almost as much as she knew their home addresses. She knew he couldn’t stand loud parties. How even the smell of alcohol made him woozy and unsettled. How could he do drugs? Anyone who even met Peter knew he was sensitive-anxiety and spidey sense only amplifying this fact- he was never the type of kid to do that. Aunt May would realize that. She’d let him back home soon.
Unless… drugs weren’t the problem.
Maybe it was just Peter.
What if she was tired of dealing with him?
Peter shoved away the thoughts as soon as they had even formed. Choosing to throw his head into his studies and stop thinking about it. Start paying actual attention to his class- a little difficult with a gnawing stomach and your head on a tilt a whirl- His head batting back and forth between being so tired he almost collapsed, to wired with over thinking and anxiety. Luckily Ned had his back, even if he didn’t quite understand what was wrong with Peter. He probably assumed it was something to do with patrol or Spiderman.
Which, kinda true. But not quite. Peter hadn’t even been on patrol since Tuesday, not risking the expense of energy. He needed to just take it easy, focus on homework and giving Aunt May her space while also not starving. But then Peter worried how Mr. Stark would react to him taking a break from Spiderman. Would he be disappointed? Peter would be. He felt so guilty. He was goofing off on a hammock when people probably needed him. But smashing into the concrete if he passed out during patrol also wouldn’t be good.
God, how would he even explain himself to Mr. Stark?
The teen clenched his fists, no, cancelling his plans with Mr. Stark couldn’t be an option, it was a rare opportunity and turning it down would be moronic-also very unlike Peter and suspicious. Though honestly, the fact Mr. Stark had invited him to the tower in the first place struck Peter as really odd. Peter shook off the thought, it wasn’t quite as surprising as it would have been months ago. Mr. Stark had changed quite a bit after the Vulture incident. More… attentive (protective)? Now he was always calling to check up on Peter every now and again. Mr. Stark had started asking Peter to swing by time and time again. Even offering Peter his own room and keeping an open invitation for Peter to just visit or stay if he needed too-Peter worried he’d be too much of a bother and would be overstepping, so he tended to ignore that offer- Happy too. Both were actively trying to interact with him. Happy would come get Peter from school and just have lunch. Text Peter when he got quiet in the news or in forgetting to text Happy. (One time when Peter was really having a rough time and not answering anyone Happy actually goaded him into answering by sending a science pun). It wasn’t very funny-but the fact Happy sent it had Peter nearly crying from laughter on the floor.
Long story short, the last thing Peter needed right now was to let Happy (and/ or by extension) Tony Stark-king of passive aggressiveness and quick, hot, anger- know that Peter was… temporarily homeless, broke, and starving. (He was poor with Aunt May though too, where did she even think Peter got the money for drugs when they struggled with rent?)
His head throbbed and Peter shoved his face into his hands before the world could get to bright. He recognized this. Anxiety bubbling up underneath his skin like a cauldron, making his clothes feel too tight, to hot, to itchy on his skin. The scratching of pencils filled his eyes like a ringing silence, gouging his ears out as the pit in his chest formed. Getting wider as it clawed at his insides, crowding out his lungs and leaving a burning want-need- for air as his heart clenched painfully. Leaving him to silently gasp. He was gonna suffocate. He was gonna die-
Peter immediately took a deep breathe. Pulling his hands away from his face and digging his blunt fingernails into his palms. Clenching them tight and allowing the sting it made to calm and ground himself. After a few seconds, the sounds and feelings simmered back down. The only remaining feeling was the pulse hammering in the indentations his nails left behind, the sting and sensation of a few small drops of blood seeping through his nails to snake around his fingers and pool in his palm.
Fine. He’s fine.
Releasing his nails from his hands. Peter left out the deep breath he’d been holding and relaxed his shoulders. Panicking wouldn’t help him on a patrol, so it wouldn’t help him here. What he needed was a plan. A game plan. Peter shifted his focus. A plan of action. That was easy.
First, he’d finish school and call Aunt May again before Happy picked him up. Next he’d go to the tower, do his suit upgrades and probably get fed, then he’d go home, call May again, and sleep on the hammock until the next morning. Things he wasn’t going to; panic. He wasn’t going to panic. He wasn’t going to pass out either. And he wasn’t going to think about tomorrow. One day at a time.
Sounded like a solid plan to him at least. The goals were in the right place, and as were the priorities. It was smart. Right up there with don’t fail his classes, don’t die and don’t get mugged. Simple enough to do. Just had to focus, just had to-
The bell rang in his ears, the sound shrill and startling as it signaled the end of the school day. Peter glanced down at the blank paper on his desk. A paper of what should have been notes and studies. If his thoughts and ears hadn’t been swarming with thoughts and ringing angrily.
Today was going fantastic already.
Hurrying to his feet to get up and away from the classroom. Peter yanked his old flip phone out of his bag, ducking behind some still abandoned halls and various lockers and dialing the number he knew by heart before holding the phone up to his ear.
It didn’t even ring before it got sent to voicemail. Peter’s heart cracked and his lips turned up as he gave a wry smile. Not knowing why he’d gotten his hopes up. Not knowing why he had even expected someone like May to even tolerate him. Still, he spoke to the voicemail machine. Keeping his voice steady even as his lungs ached, shuddering and his eyes burned.
“Hey Aunt May, it’s me, Peter, again. I’m going to Mr. Stark’s for some intern stuff again tonight. I’ll get to work on state of the art technology. Like drones, and maybe even the new Stark-phone. Isn’t that cool? But, if you wanted to have dinner instead I can reschedule it. Just, call me back soon? Love you May.”
Pulling the phone away from his from his ear, Peter choked down the bitter taste of disappoint rising up in the back of his mind. Shoving down the small flash of hurt and devastation. It came with every attempt he had made so far without fail. Welling up in his chest with its false hope before it drained quickly like a fallen dam. Leaving only a lonely anger and depression as he was rejected once again. Leaving a hollow impression in his chest where hope once was.
He was being stupid.
She had more to worry about then an anxious nephew.
May didn’t want to see him.
He didn’t even want to look at himself.
Peter blinked his eyes clear and composed himself quickly, swallowing down the lump in his throat and holding his books tighter to his chest to ignore how his arms were shaking. Already tired and exerted from holding only his measly books. It almost reminded Peter of before he got bit, being this weak and tired. Peter brushed off the comparison and trudged to his locker.
Mr. Stark, his suit, and not driving Happy insane. That’s all he needed to worry about right now. Science and cool super hero stuff. He could ignore the growling of his stomach and the depressed pangs in his heart strings if he just kept busy and awake. Not think about tomorrow, he need to focus. Just had to do that.
Keep his head above the water.
He’d be fine.
Even if it felt like another building had collapsed on him. Caving in his chest and crushing everything he had left. He could survive. Breathe. Live. Fight. Keep going until he couldn’t go anything farther. He couldn’t just stop here. He was a Parker. Parker’s didn’t give up.
Pawing through his things, Peter shoved his homework and his books into his backpack and booked it out of the school. Walking with his head down, eyes locked onto the backs of other kids’ shoes. Thanking whatever higher being existed that Flash was out sick. Not to mention it was also Friday, which was both a blessing and a curse right now.
Weekends would usually mean freedom, patrolling in the day or goofing off with Ned and MJ some way or another. Now Peter was just wondering what he was going to eat, he didn’t have the cushion of Ned feeding him some of his lunch-no. One day at a time. He couldn’t panic and worry about tomorrow… yet.
Peter shoves his head back down, staring at the repetitive pattern of the floor tiles and the various sneakers of the other school kids to distract him from his thoughts. Giving a distracted wave to Ned and hurrying out to the parking lot. The nice black sports car stood out like a sore thumb, but that didn’t deter Peter. He scooted into the nice car, not even glancing at the people who stared at Peter- who people knew was a scholarship student- get into the nicest car in the lot. Peter gave a sheepish smile to Happy who was patiently staring at Peter.
“Sorry, the hallways were packed and a dropped one of my text books. It was hell to try and grab it again.” The lie slipped easily from his lips like a smooth cream soda. Good lie. It passed fluidly. Believable. Not like Peter was choking on the poison at all. Happy waved off the excuse with a simple hand gesture.
“If I remember high school, I remember that the most. Even in a school of nerds. Just buckle up and let’s go. We can make up lost time on the road.” Happy gave a small smirk, assuring Peter he wasn’t angry and just teasing him. The teen complied immediately, strapping himself in and securing the safety device into a comfortable position before the car glided into motion. Peter leaning his head against the window just as the purr of the engine rumbled beneath him. The buildings passed by in almost blurs, hypnotizing Peter in his drowsy state.
He hadn’t had the energy to go web slinging lately, and though this wasn’t the exact view or feeling, it was so close that Peter settled into the feeling like a safe blanket, it eased the gnawing ache a little bit. His conscious still didn’t quiet however. It was still screaming at him, he’d been slacking, people had been hurt and he hadn’t done anything to stop it. If you have the power to help and you don’t; and then something bad happens, then it’s your fault. Peter lived by that saying.
The hole in his chest swallowed it all, the guilt, the fear, his drive.
It made it really hard to care.
Was that weird?
The car jerked to a stop and Peter jolted back before his body could slip forward against his will. His mind racing back to shove the clutter into the corners of his mind as he saw the odd looks Happy was shooting at him. What was he supposed to be doing? Oh, right, getting out of the car.
“You okay kid?” Peter gave a stiff nod, gathering his backpack closer to his chest.
“Yeah, just… it’s been a really long week.” Happy didn’t argue, but it didn’t look like he believed Peter. Rather, he didn’t have the ground to agree or disagree with the teen. The half-truth tasted chalky and acidic in his mouth. The door beside him popped open as Happy hit the button for him and the teen scrambled out, bidding Happy a small good bye before scrambling away. Leaving the man in the car to grab his phone and send a quick warning/prodding text to the man who knew the teenage super hero the best. Something was obviously up.
It didn’t get to clarify much however. Tony barely got to skim the texts before he could hear Peter leaving the elevators. His voice echoing around and bouncing in the empty halls as the teen conversed with FRIDAY. Tony quirked a smile, when would the kid understand he didn’t have to ask an AI how their day was? Tony didn’t know, he almost didn’t want Peter to stop, it was funny and a little endearing in a childish way.
How Peter hadn’t gotten a girlfriend yet was a surprise.
Tony dropped his phone to the table like it was a hot coal, God knows how good that ‘spidey-sense’-why did Peter let Ned name it- or what it could sense. Besides, Peter was a teenager with no filter. If you mixed Thai food, technology, and free reign Peter would probably end up talking about what was bothering him in the first place. Peter wasn’t really the type of kid to bottle things up, unless he were hiding injuries-but KAREN had forty three protocols designed just for that sole purpose after Peter got himself nearly blown to bits on the ferry. Still a sour, bitter feeling in Tony’s stomach churned. His mind procuring various scenarios.
Maybe it was that stupid kid that harassed Peter. Flash or what’s his face.
Maybe it was deeper than that, there was still so much Tony didn’t know about that night Peter stopped Toomes from hijacking the plane. Tony still had no clue how Peter figured out who Toomes was or what he was doing. Or how he crashed a plane when he was nearly certain that Peter had no flying mechanisms or abilities. Or why the hell a warehouse near Peter’s school was collapsed into a complete pile of rubble.
Recognizing the anxiety that was slowly building up, Tony swallowed and shoved it back down before it could bubble up. If he were stressed it would reach Peter and that would make Peter worst. Sometimes the teen’s sensitivity and morals were a curse Tony swore. Tony capped the feelings and grinned as the lanky teen strode in front of him. Surprising himself by how much easier it came to him as soon as Peter appeared in front of him, looking tired, but injury free.
The teenager gave him a smile that spread into a wide smile as Peter recognized the schematics and concept art of the slightly crumpled papers. Peter’s idea for back up energy and more effective consumption in the suit for emergency malfunctions. Tony smirked as Peter’s excited almost literally buzzed in the air.
“What! Really?! Oh my god this is so cool. Mr. Stark thank you so much.” Tony simply smirked and Peter stumbled, hands clumsily rifling through his bag to hurriedly get his suit out and onto the table next to the notebook of ideas. It was easy for Tony to incorporate Peter’s ideas, Peter was smart. A genius in his own rights. He impressed Tony almost every time. How easily the banter that confused even some of his team mates was processed and refuted in healthy banter and debating with Peter. Bruce would love the kid.
The kid had a bright future.
Peter’s mood improved rapidly as the short minutes grew to long hours of working, his mind pushing away the worries with the comfortable presence of Mr. Stark and the intricacies of the material they were working on. As well as debating possibilities of improvements on both of their suits. Time slipped away from Peter as well as the own poor state of his body until FRIDAY called for them. Announcing them that Mr. Stark’s delivery had arrived. Peter quirking a curious brow as his eyes search Tony’s face curiously for answers. Tony only smirked and urged Peter up to come and see for himself. Telling Peter to trust him. Which was easy. Anyone could see the blind faith Peter had in Tony. Trusting the man with even his last breath.
Though as soon as Peter stood up he regretted it. His head swam and he felt like he was in the clouds and tied down with cement blocks in the Hudson at the same time. There was a burning rancid feeling in his stomach and his whole body felt like it was stuffed of cotton and acid. Black spots danced in his vision like ballet performers, limbs turning from flesh and blood to lead.
Someone was calling his name. But Peter didn’t get to process it or think to far into who that was as the black swallowed his reasoning whole and dragged his limp body to the floor like a toy. He didn’t even feel the moment he hit the floor.
This screwed up his plan didn’t it?
Can’t say he didn’t try.
Chapter 3: Too Late To Be A Shield
Things came back slowly to him. One small thing at a time flitting back into his sense, like the cold feeling of the tiles against his warm hands. Smooth and slightly rough with scuff marks that had accumulated over the years. The arch of his back as his body was elevated on some firm surface. The smell of some kind of oil and cologne. His senses were still fuzzy as confusion blurred his judgment. Why was he on the floor? A muffled voice grew louder and sharped by the second. Clear once Peter was able to recognize it.
And the warm surface beneath him was actually Mr. Stark’s arms and legs cradling him to prop his body up. Holding him tightly. The realization made Peter’s blue eyes shoot open wide, immediately trying to step up while stuttering multiple apologies and blushing redder than a tomato as his brain tried to comprehend the fact he was being held like a child by Tony Stark. How did that even-?
Mr. Stark halted any escape attempts by holding him tighter, holding him down and securing Peter with a stern and serious gaze that only worked to make Peter feel even more nervous and anxious. Internally twitching as it felt like Mr. Stark could see through him like a mirror.
“Did you get injured on patrol?” Peter furrowed a brow, but calmed slightly.
“No… I haven’t gone on patrol since Tuesday.” Truth was clean and clear on his tongue like a fresh spring. It brought some relief to the scalding poison that infected him through his previous toxic lies. Mr. Stark’s forehead seemed to crease as he mentally crossed possibilities off the list in his head. Peter was watching curiously until Tony’s eyes narrowed. A shot of apprehension tearing through Peter and down his spine. No. He didn’t know. He couldn’t.
“When was the last time you ate?” Peter’s skin pale, blood rushing out as his skin turned nearly white as he registered the question. Nothing. He hadn’t eaten since school lunch yesterday. He’d missed lunch today by accident, he’d fallen asleep in the chemistry lab after class. Hadn’t he collapsed then too? It was fuzzy, all Peter remembered was rushing to get to his next class on time. Not knowing how long he’d been passed out. Shit. He couldn’t tell Mr. Stark that.
“Uh… yesterday…” Mr. Stark’s gaze turned into a sharp reprimanding glare as Peter scrambled for an excuse. Nearly choking before he was able to fluidly speak again. The explanation leaving his lips as if it were nothing more than just words. “I didn’t mean to! I’ve just been studying non-stop for this physics exam today that was worth half our semester grade and it was right after lunch and I skipped so I could study and I woke up late today because I tried to pull an all-nighter which really didn’t work and I didn’t want to be late to class so I skipped breakfast cause I thought I was going to eat lunch and really I just was so nervous that eating got really hard and it was all super crazy.” Mr. Stark cut off his word vomit with a single look.
“So, basically, you’re a stupid nerd that doesn’t know how to take care of yourself. God kid, you scared me when you took a swan dive to the floor. You can’t skip meals with your metabolism, it’s dangerous and god knows what could happen. What if you passed out while you we swinging around the city? We’d have a flat spider-man, a flat spider man is not something we want alright?” Tony shook his head, but didn’t look angry. Honestly, he looked more relaxed and relieved than angry. Probably was glad it wasn’t anything serious wrong. Or, unfixable. “I got Thai and soda in the kitchen, that should help your blood sugar. C’mon. Let’s get you up.”
Peter scrambled to obey, swooning and having to lean a good deal of his weight on Tony. Who didn’t seem to even stumble under the teen’s weight, rather it was easy for him to help the lanky male along to the kitchen and sat him down. Shoving a soda into his hand with a gruff order to chug it. Which Peter obliged happily, it was sticky and sweet bubbling on his tongue with a pleasant familiarity. Peter never used to crave soda, he and Aunt May had it a lot so it was just another drink. But god, he had missed it so much. It had almost been like withdrawals going without it for three days. Easy enough to say he downed the whole bottle pretty quickly. Even without Mr. Stark’s directions of drinking it all before he ate. Tony staring intently as Peter filled his plate to make sure Peter didn’t pull his usual stunt on eating less out of embarrassment. (If anyone thought Tony didn’t notice how the kid could go from eating nearly a whole pizza by himself to eating only three slices and claiming he was full in front of people. They were stupid. He noticed fully well. And hated it.) Though, he was satisfied as Peter seemed too hungry to really give much mind to the insanity that was his enhanced metabolism and bottomless pit of a teenage boy’s stomach.
The image of Peter falling limp to the floor like a ragdoll was still burned into his memories however. Replaying over and over again and harassing him. The picture was almost paralyzing, even after he’d sorted it out it was just Peter skipping a meal because he was anxious for a test. The knowledge did nothing. Peter’s body on the ground still and quiet scared him. It was like a slap to the face. The worry. The fact that even the thought of something being wrong with Peter had sent a terrified feeling being dumped like ice water into his veins. Adrenaline pumping to prove just how fast he could-would- run to catch the boy.
Tony had to wonder if this was how parents felt every day. Even at fifteen with inhuman abilities and a multi-million-dollar suit with more system checks that Tony even had for himself he still had this constant gnawing concern and terror that only kept growing. Worse was that Tony was never getting used to it. And not minding it. Tony immediately gave Clint more props in his mind. Clint had little children. Tony had a teenager that was basically independent.
Still, even seeing Peter wolf down Thai food like it was oxygen wasn’t easing the twitching anxiety. Peter in his arms, dead still and so pale in his arms. Nearly unresponsive for nearly ten minutes. It hit a little too close to home in Tony’s own insecurities and worries. That’s probably why the words left his lips before he could even stop them.
“Peter, do you mind staying over night? We didn’t get to finish the upgrades and you look pretty dead on your feet. We can finish working on it tomorrow morning. Not to mention, I don’t even have a clue where Happy is and you can’t legally drive.” Peter looked at him curiously with those wide blue eyes and paused, Tony felt awkward and nervous all of the sudden, but hid it with a quirked brow and questioning gaze. Fake it ‘til you make it. The nervous dispelled immediately however as soon as Peter nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s Friday so I should be fine. I just have to call and let May know where I’m staying, is that alright?” The overwhelming relief almost took Tony by surprise; he’d expected it to be a little more difficult to convince Peter to stay. He’d always insisted on being home with May. But Tony didn’t give that much mind as he just thanked whatever deity existed that he could keep on Peter for the night and make sure he was really alright. The thought was more comforting than Tony had even thought it could be. Besides, it wasn’t like Tony didn’t like when Peter stayed over. He actually enjoyed it a lot. Peter was smart, independent, he impressed Tony on almost a daily basis, and yet he still made Tony feel like he was needed. Human.
Peter excused himself quickly, grabbing his phone from the counter space and dialing the number as he walked. The sinking feeling that Peter had braced for never came when he got sent to voice mail. Excitement was crowding out the rejection and loneliness. Mr. Stark invited him to stay at the Stark Tower. The Stark Tower. A science paradise. Nothing was stopping or choking him up as he excitedly rambled his message. It felt so, normal. Casual. Peter could almost believe it was just another day. That May was waiting for him to come for a movie night and Peter was just calling her to let her know he was staying at the tower and that he was safe.
“Hey May, it’s Peter. Mr. Stark and I didn’t get to finish the project after all. But it was still really fun! We had Thai food and soda, and we started debating about my concept idea for energy conservation! Anyway, he offered to let me stay at the tower since its getting late and I was just calling you to let you know that I’m safe. Call me back when you can? Night May, love you.” Peter hung up the phone and walked back to the kitchen. Giving Mr. Stark a thumb’s up and the okay as he dropped his phone careless on the island. All the bad feelings forgotten with a full stomach and warm company as Peter and Tony fit themselves back into heated banter and shooting back and forth theories while poking holes in existing ones. The other finding satisfaction in finally finding someone that could keep up with the pace (Besides Bruce, but he was back at the lab in the compound). Before either of them even realized it evening had passed to give way into a deep night. Tony only noticing because of the fact even though Peter’s mouth was still running like a motor his eyes were sluggishly beginning to droop until eventually Tony finally didn’t get a reply when his back was turned. Looking and seeing Peter slumped on the table. Soft even breath leaving in quiet puffs and sighs from Peter’s mouth, making the teen’s back rise and fall in a steady rhythm. Tony rolled his eyes.
If only he could fall asleep as fast as Peter. Tony dread the day when the inevitable would catch up to the teen. The horrors of being a hero. The twisted nightmares and terrors that would slowly corrupt the child like innocence Peter had. That black and white view of morality and justice. The excitement and awe that Peter still had when he looked at the simplest of things, when he was showed the simplest forms of kindness. Tony still remembered how Peter had almost burst into tears of happiness when Tony had simple bought him a new jacket. Peter had mentioned funds were tight in his house and his was nearly in shreds. A simple jacket. Something Tony had thirty of, and Peter nearly cried at being gifted one.
Tony would protect that side of Peter with his life for as long as he could. Keep and bat the corruption away with his last breath if he had to. Anything to not see anything but happy tears in his kid’s eyes.
He was just a kid.
Kids shouldn’t be awake at night afraid of the ghosts in the past.
Moving slowly and as quietly as he could-Peter was extremely sensitive in more than just the emotional sense, Tony’s breathing had even woken him up one time- But that wasn’t the case this time as Tony was able to adjust and manipulate the teen’s body easily into a solid grip. Carrying Peter like a child. It was mildly concerning when the light sleeper barely even shifted from all the jostling.
Kid probably had a rough day.
Tony held the kid tighter in his arm’s, not even straining under the weight. Peter had always been a little smaller than the rest. A little scrawnier, a little more lanky and skinny. But the kid more than made up for it in a personality much bigger than his body and a brain bigger than his skull. It wasn’t quite what you’d expect of a super hero, but Peter made it work. Being witty and agile with a deceiving strength. Tony could also appreciate it in times like this when it made helping Peter even just a little easier. Even a help as simple as tucking Peter into his impromptu room at the tower (Which would be customized as soon as Tony could get a hold of Pepper for a weekend-what did teenagers need in their rooms anyway?-he’d have to wing it).
A plain bed was good enough for now however. Even if the sheer size of their bed practically swallowed Peter’s small frame, making him look even tinier in comparison. More vulnerable. It made Tony’s chest ache. If only he could shield Peter forever. He didn’t deserve to hurt or worry so much. Or beat himself up all the time over little things or blame himself so often. Peter needed to be softer on himself and stop pushing himself so hard.
Shame Tony didn’t already know it was too late to shield him.
It was crushing, his lungs felt like they were being caved in as the rubble pressed down hard on him. The pebbles digging into his back painfully, each breath only resulting in agony. And it only got worse each time his mouth let out a cry for help. Each cry also brought another tidal wave of dread and hopelessness to wash over him.
No one would save him.
No one cared enough to.
His back stung and felt raw, blood dripping down. Then it was gone. The dig of pebbles and metal beams jabbing into his ribs. Though Peter wasn’t sure if he was surprised or not as it did little difference. The rubble lifting, yet the pain remaining, only burning with more intensity and anguish. The crushing didn’t end. The pain didn’t stop. It never did.
The hurt never stopped, never would. It only got worse. Everything was so loud, even the beats of silence rang deafeningly in his ears. Screaming hurt. Crying hurt. Trying to get up hurt. Everything hurt and there was no end in sight.
His eyes burned as he choked out another cry. The taste of dust and debris still weighing heavily in his mouth as he whimpered. “Mama!!! Ben! May! Papa!” Nothing stirred, not even the air. It was like he’d said nothing at all. There was nothing but never-ending dark. So quiet. So cold. Lonely. “May! Please!”
“You killed my husband my wife, Peter. You tore this family apart.” The voice warbled between May’s low and disapproving tone and a deep accusing voice. It was familiar and venomous, with a gravelly and growling undertone that sent shudders down Peter’s aching spine. His heart stuttering and skipped. An uncontrollable sob ripped through Peter’s mouth, his body convulsing as he wept. Trembling in fear.
“I’m sorry papa, I won’t be bad anymore. Please. I’m so sorry. It hurts make it stop. I’m sorry.” A voice picked up in pitch. The voice leaving his throat still cracked. The young voice sounded terrified and sad. Peter didn’t even recognize it as his own at first. Looking wildly around to see if someone needed help. Before realizing the only one that needed help was himself.
“It’s your fault Peter! Admit it! You don’t help anyone. You did nothing. You couldn’t even stay out of the way. She’s dead! And it’s your fault.” A foot came down, a heavy boot crunching down onto the curve of his back, where a beam once had weighed heavily. He screamed. The sound was damaging to his enhanced hearing, but there was nothing to be done about it as the sound didn’t cease. His mouth wouldn’t close or silence. So he ignored it, tuning out the screams and the aching in his throat. He was bleeding. It hurt. He was guilty. It hurt. Innocent people didn’t hurt like this.
“It’s my fault papa. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It’s my fault. I’m sorry.” He sobbed, but the feeling didn’t cease. The overwhelming feeling and suffocation only got worse. Ribs splintering and stabbing his lungs over again with fresh pain. Bones shattering into dust. He felt helpless, like he was a child again. No powers. No strength. No hope.
He was choking on invisible debris now. Throat and tongue dry and constantly inhaling chalking dust. Everywhere hurt. Lashes marks and injuries peeling open and forcing his skin open agonizingly from an unseen weapon. And Peter could only whimper. He was doomed. He was dying. Drowning. Suffocating. And there was nothing he could do. He would just die. Just like he deserved.
It was his fault.
Chapter 4: Another Day
Peter shot up, gasping in oxygen greedily in lungs that worked just as they had before he’d fallen asleep. Unpierced. Uninjured. Perfectly fine. Only the phantom memory of pain that still lingered in mind from the nightmare. Sweaty hands gripping his blanket to his chest protectively. Shaking and shuddering as any traces of linger aches faded from reality. The burning in his chest cooling as air, deep and stuttering breathes swirled into his lungs. Soothing them.
Fine, he was fine.
The air was cold on his skin and his blankets were soaked with sweat and too hot. But Peter only pulled the blankets closer to his chest, where his heart still hadn’t calmed fully yet. Still racing underneath his skin. God, he was such a mess.
How could he be an Avenger when he could barely handle his own life and what he’d faced as just plain Peter? When he could barely save and protect himself and the ones he loved? When there was blood on his hands. How could he be trusted with other people lives that never asked for it. Innocent people. Innocent lives.
He could have their blood staining him too.
Shaking his head, Peter pulled the covers away slowly from his body. Pushing it off his legs and slipping to the floor silently. Light footsteps used to reach his backpack and pull out his booklight and his chemistry book. Peter withheld a bemused smirk. He was a nerd. Reading chemistry to calm him down and for fun. Peter pressed the thoughts away. Holding the items to his chest and crawls up towards the ceiling, using his web shooters to quickly form a threading to keep the book up right as Peter settled into his own upside-down place. Which wasn’t anything new. Peter rarely-if ever- took off his web shooters. It felt weird to take them off. It made him feel-bare; vulnerable- without them.
Peter shoved the thoughts down before they could blossom further. Focusing on his chemistry book and partially failing as the thoughts poked at him. Trying to pull and prod him in all the wrong directions. His eyes constantly drifting back down so his gaze brushed the clock. 5:48 in red blaring letters.
Time was going about as slow as the school lunch line.
Though, Peter was surprised at how maybe only twenty minutes after he’d settled on the ceiling (twenty-three actually). There was the sound of footsteps in the hallway. Stopping just in front of the door to his room. His heart restricted and Peter held his breath behind tight lips. No. No, no, no.
The breath fell in a relieved sigh from his lips the moment the door creaked open. Letting the yellow glow of the hallway light flood into the room and making way for Tony’s head to poke and peek his head through the door and squint into the room curiously. Until Tony’s eyes flood with realization and his gaze shot up to the ceiling.
“FRIDAY said you weren’t in bed. But when I think of a teenager not in bed I think of sneaking out usually. Not a very goody two shoes under-roos sitting on the ceiling and reading a text book. Which brings me to why are you using a book light?”
“I didn’t want to bother you, also it gets a little too… bright. Especially when I get as close as I do on the ceiling. My senses go a little hay wire and I started to get overwhelmed and tuning everything out gets hard. I learned book lights are my best bet when I want to go on the ceiling.” It clicked in Tony’s head immediately. Sensory overload. It was a common symptom of anxiety, which Peter had quite obviously. And then you mix in his spidery sense and other body changes. It struck Tony like a slap to the face.
Enhanced senses. However cool and useful. Had to suck.
Tony had a new project now at least.
“We’ll work on fixing that when me and Pepper customize your room and get everything settled here. FRIDAY, make a note for me, please? Light dimmers and sound resistant walling, we’ll figure out the rest we can work on later. For now how does some early morning breakfast sound?”
Peter nodded immediately with a wide grin, gently separating his hands from the ceiling first before he dropped to the ground. Flipping onto the tips of his toes and fingers just moments before hitting the ground. The shock was absorbed through his muscles and his balance corrected itself more naturally than any regular human’s might have. Peter glanced up at his chemistry book, which was still stuck on the ceiling. The webbing should dissolve by the time Peter ate breakfast and it would fall onto the bed again, so it was no real worries there. Peter looked back to Mr. Stark, who was just standing there and staring with an unreadable expression.
“Are we going to…?” Peter’s unsaid sentence was interrupted.
“Yeah, yeah, alright show off human slinky. Let’s go get something from the kitchen.” Peter smothered a bark of laughter. The insult didn’t sting like it should have if any other person would have said it. The teasing smirk on Mr. Stark’s face and the affectionate nudge of their shoulders deflecting the hit before any impact could be made-besides if anyone was a show off between the two you could guess who it was-. The teasing remark only left Peter warm.
Stumbling out of his room, shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Stark. He adjusted to the light in the hallways with rapidly blinking blue eyes. Squinting and staying a mere breath’s away from Mr. Stark until his vision had adjusted and he could see shapes as more that fuzzy blobs. The sharp and clear shapes of very expensive furniture and equipment made the thought hit Peter. He’d just slept over in the Stark Tower like it was no big deal. He was getting breakfast with Mr. Stark. Like it was no big deal.
Ned was gonna flip.
Peter took a seat on one of the barstools as they entered the kitchen, his long and lanky legs still being barely able to brush the rung closest to the floor when they dangled uselessly at Peter’s knees. Peter didn’t pay it much mind however as Pepper seemed to materialize from nowhere as she always did. Though, even Peter hadn’t expected her to be awake this early. She scowled at Mr. Stark.
“Tony, stop infecting Peter with your early mornings and screwed up sleep schedule, teens should sleep in while they can. It’s a teenage right.” Pepper glided forward, her kitten heels clicking in a very familiar tack-tack sound in Peter’s ears. Her warm hands grabbing onto his shoulders as she leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss to his temple. Leaving Peter to almost melt into a pile of goo and warm fuzzies on the barstool, the affection however subtle turned something in his chest into a coal or an ember. Burning and glowing, spreading like a fire into a gushing warmth and pleasant feelings. Mr. Stark just rolled his eyes at his steady partner. Making Pepper scowl at him, before her face was forced into a small, fond half smile, before she turned her full attention and full smile to Peter.
“Morning hun, I’ve got some paper work and a skype meeting with a few of our partners in the European branches and companies. But, I’m sure Tony will get you taken care of and fed before you two go back to your natural habit in the lab. I’m still only a phone call away if you need anything. Like beating sense into Mr. I-can’t-take-care-of-myself over there.” Peter grinned widely in reply. Nodding happily. Turning Pepper’s genuine, but tired smile. Into a sweet and relaxed smile instantly.
Pepper always liked Tony’s protégé. He was smart for his age. Mature and responsible-most of the time- sweet, pure, and honestly just had this air of innocence about him. His sense of justice and how he was so driven to protect anyone and everyone. Even the bad guys. Pepper couldn’t help herself. Couldn’t tear away her eyes or get rid of the urge and need to watch him learn and grow. See him blossom into a handsome, beautiful, and gentlemanly young adult. Couldn’t help but spoil him in attention and affection whenever she could. The gratitude and grin she’d get in return was always more than worth it. It really gave meaning to the saying of something being ‘the world’. Peter’s smile meant that that boy was happy and healthy. And that meant the world to Pepper.
Peter liked Pepper just as much and maybe more. She was also so kind and so sweet to him. Doting over him and making sure he was in good health and happy. Asking him about school and how Ned was. Making sure she was informed of Peter’s life and that he could always talk to her about anything (the stab of guilt that he never told her anything really was not slight, but it was ignored). She always smelled like coffee to, strange because she never drank it, but it was nice. Familiar. It made Peter feel easy, comfortable. It didn’t smell like coffee anywhere else.
The woman ruffled his bed hair affectionately and laid another kiss on his cheek before she hurried off. Heels clicking loudly in his ears, His enhanced senses making the sound all the more loud, but the sound was present everywhere Pepper had been so Peter had learned to not mind just how loud it could be when he couldn’t tune it out. Mr. Stark just huffed.
“She acts like I’m going to starve you or poison you. Which I’m not! Frozen waffles are completely edible and completely safe food, right?”
“Frozen waffles actually hold little to no nutritional value-“ Mr. Stark glared up at the ceiling speaker and the AI went quiet, with the feeling that the AI was silently judging Mr. Stark’s choices. Leaving said male to grumble as he rummaged through the freezer.
“Why are all my AI’s sarcastic or back talk me?” Peter shrugged. He liked the AI’s personally as they were, they felt almost human to him. It was almost like having someone, a relative, at home constantly.
A disembodied, artificial family member, but still family all the same.
KAREN was honestly and probably the best thing about the suit if Peter had to pick-not that other things weren’t great- she was greater though. In a way that was a little hard to describe. She was probably the AI that felt the most human to him. KAREN was always ready to talk with him. Sassy, a little pushy, but she always listened and after advice (mostly to tell Mr. Stark) It really felt like she was attached to him and cared about him.
It was an absurdly pleasant feeling.
Either way the frozen waffles were plopped into the toaster regardless of FRIDAY’s and Mr. Stark’s comments. Leaving the smell to infect the kitchen with the smell of coffee and motor oil that only got stronger when Mr. Stark started brewing his own cup. Grinning at Peter when the cup was finished.
“Just eat healthy with that hot aunt of your later yeah?” Peter gave a tight smile that could be easily misinterpreted as discomfort at the joking pass on his aunt. His body was tempted to tense and curl in at even the thought as everything he’d been ignoring bombarded his head. The coil in his chest squeezed hard enough to take his breath away, leaving him slightly dizzy. It was probably the uncertainty that what Mr. Stark had said that was freaking him out. What if he never ate with May again? What if she never forgave him? What if she just, never let him come home? Or if she just… left?
No, May wouldn’t just abandon him… she wouldn’t?
No. No, it was just a stupid nightmare. May had never laid a hand on him ever. She never would either. She didn’t believe in physical punishment. She wouldn’t ignore and punish him forever either. She was just frustrated. Peter could understand that. He’d always been a handful and hard to handle for a kid. She never stayed angry for long.
Still, the fact he had no clue when he’d see her again or when they’d have their usual movie nights again. The ones when Peter had gotten a good grade or for a special occasion where they’d bring out all the blankets fresh from the dryer and set up camp. May on the recliner and Peter on the couch as they’d rotate between their choices for the night. Often falling asleep there. The scarier thoughts that dominated his head, not knowing when he was going to eat or how he’d survive should it get colder or -god forbid- stormy out. It scared him that he didn’t know. He had never quite been good with uncertainty and instability. It sent a nervous twist into his stomach.
Yet, he smiled.
Cause that wasn’t now, and Mr. Stark had more important things to worry about than a teen getting a well-deserved punishment and being upset about it. Besides, who knew if Mr. Stark would agree with May -she had a good point- and kick him out. Though, Mr. Stark knew the whole truth of why Peter was sneaking out. He built the suit after all.
That didn’t mean that Mr. Stark still couldn’t be agitated with him...
The toaster made a loud ding, startling Peter out of his thoughts. Tony quirked a brow at Peter’s sudden skittish and jumpy behavior but brushed it off. He was a teen, he’d probably been zoning out or nodding off (despite being awake doing chemistry, thought Tony had no clue how long Peter had been awake doing that). Shoving waffles in front of Peter instead of questioning him. He didn’t want a repeat of last night, no matter how odd it seemed to Tony in the light of day -how did a teen forget to eat? He remembered basically devouring the entire fridge without Peter’s metabolism as a teen- It was as much as a passage into teen hood like sleeping in.
Then again, Peter wasn’t him. Peter was a good student and an anxious one, Peter always got nervous for tests, incessantly worrying about everything in general honestly and wasn’t in the best financial situation. Not eating as much because he was so nervous he got sick or because he didn’t want to worry May or their budget made perfect sense thinking about Peter.
When would the kid get some kind of sense of self-preservation?
After the kid was done practically inhaling his breakfast like it would be the last thing he ever ate -teenagers + metabolism = human garbage disposal- they got back into the lab and worked until late afternoon; when they finished the final trials of testing Peter grinned widely at him. Blue eyes practically sparkling.
“This is so cool!!! I mean, no loss of aerodynamics and the integrity of the suit is still the same and running at equivalent power, but we’re able to store enough to power the back up with the-“ Tony watched Peter ramble and trip over his own words in his excitement, struggling to get everything he was thinking out of his mouth. Arms flailing to get his point across and expend a little more of the boisterous energy as concepts and terminology too advanced for his age passed his lips.
God, this kid was brilliant, Tony felt a sense of great pride puff up in his chest, warm and real even though he had no credit or rights to Peter’s academic prowess or ideas (like that genius web solution, Tony was still amazed that every trial to improve it failed exponentially). Yet that is.
Another thing they’d work on together.
When Peter had finally ran out of breath and all of the dirty tools were cleaned and put away Tony grinned at him. “Why don’t you go give her a real test run with a patrol? But don’t stay out too late, your aunt gets worried and as much as I know it’s a weekend, I don’t want a news report of Spiderman collapsing from exhaustion alright?” The tightening in his chest was shoved away but sheer excitement. It still surprised and hurt him that even one small indirect mention made the chasm widen and spread apart his ribcage all over again. Peter grappled at the distraction Mr. Stark had presented him, nodding with a half-smile.
He’d be fine. After all, he did to this to himself, right? He deserved it…
If he told Aunt May he realized his faults would she bring him back? Had she heard his messages yet? Was she missing him too? (Probably not, who would miss him anyway? All he did was cause trouble for anyone near him. Parker luck)
Peter slipped on the suit again, the buzzing in his head quieting as he settled into the suit like a second skin. The bravery and courage having a mask gave him returning immediately and giving him a pleasant tingling feeling under his first skin. The urge to go and swing through the city scape was stronger than ever, making his heart thud in his chest. A relaxed smile lifting behind his mask.
He was Spiderman too. Not just Peter Parker.
Of course, he’d be fine.
And he was off with a small fair well to Mr. Stark, crawling down the Stark Tower and flying off into the world. Watching as the skyscrapers of Manhattan bled and melted into the familiar streets of Queen with a giddy grin. The gnawing ache and guilt ebbing away for the satisfaction and purely good and heady feeling that came from helping people as Spiderman.
But eventually even that had to end as the sun started dipping low into the sky. Mr. Stark’s warning about staying to late ringing into his ear. Peter sighed, there was also the fact he needed the light before it was dark so he could do his homework. He didn’t have much charge on his phone, nor a charger on the roof so using his phone for light wasn’t really an option.
Wait. Shit. Wasn’t his backpack at Mr. Stark’s?
It didn’t matter too much he guess however. His energy levels were starting to dwindle and Peter wasn’t quite sure how much he could gain back by just sleep and whatever food he could get his hands on. Not to mention passing out was disorientating and scary, not to mention Peter wouldn’t have Mr. Stark there watching over him if he passed out mid-air or some random street of New York. There would be no one to save him.
So, Peter swung back to his hammock, feeling satisfied, but also a little hollow. It would be the first time he’d come home from patrol without his bed or one of his Aunt May’s voice telling him ‘welcome home’. He wouldn’t get a cup of hot chocolate or smell fresh sheets when he collapsed and finally fell asleep. The thoughts dispersed as soon as his feet touched the pavement of the roof however. Any adrenaline he had left drained into nothing.
He was so tired. And it hurt too much for him to care.
Tomorrow was another day anyway.
Chapter 5: Spiral
When the warm morning light had hit his face and his eyes had fluttered open into a squint. Peter had thought maybe it would be an okay day, despite his over whelmed senses to the brightness. It was so warm and sunny, it was hard to be pessimistic. It was also Sunday, only one more day until he could get more web fluid and mooch lunch off of Ned.
(Who if he was already suspicious was going to get more so, but that was fine. Peter could deal with that. May would take him back soon. As long as he managed to survive one day at a time. He’s just gotta be calm. Ned tends to mirror Peter and his emotions. If Peter is hysterical Ned will be even more so. If Peter stays calm Ned will calm down too.)
Yesterday had gone well too, patrol had been good, he’d helped more people without worrying about collapsing mid swing. Witty lines also came easier when he was completely coherent. Staying at Mr. Stark’s had been even better. Science-ing into the late hours of the night, Thai food and Pepper-passing out hadn’t even really killed the mood luckily- He really thought today was going to be a good day. That he’d survive.
Until he ran out of web fluid (he’d just been in a freaking science tower the night before, how had he forgotten to stock up)? Peter had to think that the most agonizing thing about it was the fact he could only watch as his hammock slowly dissolved away without any more webbing to solidify it after a whole night of his weight and natural weather.
Then he remembered that he’d left his backpack at Mr. Stark’s. Another missed assignment wouldn’t kill him he guessed. Eighty percent of his grades were tests anyway, and most of his teachers were willing to overlook a few missed assignments. With students like at his school there were so many of them working or at internships in the evening. Most homework was optional anyway. He didn’t want to risk calling Mr. Stark either when there were only two possibilities of what would happen. He’s send Happy to his apartment building. Not good. Or Tony would call for Peter to come there. Which was a long walk or sneaking onto the subway since he couldn’t sling to the tower-not terrible- but there was the possibility of Peter’s metabolism being a jackass and forcing him to pass out. Without someone to look out for him that was scary. He already felt woozy and collapsing once was an accident. Twice was a reason.
A reason that was his fault. Who knew how Mr. Stark would see it? May loved him so much and he loved her just as much no matter how hard or confusing it got. He’d never let them accuse her. She hadn’t done anything wrong… it was his fault. Besides, she was just a little mad, she’d come to her senses eventually. She’d never abandon him… would, would she?
No, he refused to accept that. She’d raised him since he was a toddler. She loved him.
Everything overwhelming him at once had slowly grated on his nerves, leaving him to gradually become more agitated and anxious as seconds turned to minutes. A nervous gnaw in his empty stomach that rivaled his hunger and made him almost thank that he was hungry, because he was sure he would have thrown it up if he’d had anything. His hands twitched as he tried to bat away the clouds in his mind and the urge to call
Tony May for help.
Soon enough however, the clouds in his mind shifted and turned into very real and very dark clouds on the physical horizon of his beloved city skyline. Looming over ominously and threatening. Images of being a child again, hiding from the loud noises and flashing lights all over again. Alone and praying. It was a stupid fear he’d had since he was a kid, he shouldn’t have ever had it, yet he did. He should be over it, yet he wasn’t. It was still a very real fear.
It was paralyzing.
The first drops of rain had Peter retreating into his second skin for comfort. The heater in the suit with KAREN’s low and constantly humming voice was also nice as Peter huddled on the roof, close to the wall and small overhang that could shield him as his already unstable panic rose.
His breaking point however came as the world grew to his darkest point. Cold and lonely. Only for the calm to be interrupted by an eruption of light striking right in front of him and the abrupt, loud crash that reverberated painfully in his ear only moments later. Peter forced himself to swallow a scream, only letting out a small barely there whimper from the hand he’d clasped over his mouth. His nails digging into his skin and almost drawing blood even with the protection the suit afforded him. Shuddering as the rain began to mix with the salt water that was dripping down his cheeks as his pulse raced and his breath came in harsh gasps before he finally broke and desperately grabbed at his phone.
She had to listen.
But the bad day only turned worse. She didn’t listen, didn’t even text or pick up once. She probably didn’t even look when he called. Just pressed reject. Not even after an hour of trying. Peter kept trying, only stopping once when he passed out-whether it was hunger or hyperventilation he didn’t know- It was just scary. But the moment he came to he was back to dialing until his fingers went numb and his phone finally died.
He didn’t know what to do.
The panic hit him like a tidal wave, downing him and covering him quickly with no hope of reaching the surface. Suffocating him. His lungs felt crowded in his ribs and everything was too tight, too much. Too much sound, too much sensation, too much of everything. But he couldn’t take the suit off without feeling cold. It was unbearable and Peter couldn’t fight the panic anymore. It was too hard to fight. It was consuming him.
His legs gave out first and he sunk into a kneeling position, his limbs more like lead than flesh and blood as his body practically slumped its entire weight onto the wall where his hammock once swayed. His whole body shook like a leaf in a hurricane and his heart was pounding so loud it felt like a bass drum in his veins. Peter threw the mask to the ground, pressing his palms against his roughly. KAREN’s voice was nonexistent in his panic and he was having a hard time breathing as it was. His skin itched, burned, and trembled with cold and shock while his head raced in every direction.
Oh god, what was he going to do? He was cold, and soaked to the bone, it was loud, and he was alone, and scared, and his chest hurt so bad. He couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t get a grip. He was spiraling and he knew exactly what that felt like. It hurt so bad. He was gonna die. He was gonna die. He was gonna die. Drenched on a roof top of a place
he’d once he called home. Where he’d been safe and warm just less than a week ago. Now all he had left was regret and fear.
Now all he wanted was somewhere to call home.
He wanted to be someone else.
Someone that could keep a home.
But that was all his fault anyway. If he tried harder maybe he would keep a home and family. If he stopped being so god damn annoying and difficult, not be so ungrateful and stuck up. Cut the shit and stop lying all the time. Not have his FUCKING PARKER LUCK.
His hands were gripping his hair hard enough to almost pull it out when he was suddenly taken off the ground. His legs barely keeping him up, rather it was the warm arms wrapping tightly around his torso that smelled like motor oil and cologne. Holding him securely against the new-comer’s chest as sobs wracked Peter’s body, physically jerking his small body with every movement. Gasping for air as his head was held in a stable hand. Only pressing him closer to the warm safety.
Mr. Stark. Tony.
“I’m sorry, imsorryimsorryimsorry. You shouldn’t have, have, to deal with me. I’m sorry-“ Tony only hushed him firmly, but not unkindly. Rocking Peter in his arms as he obsessively checked both the teen in his arms and his surroundings. He didn’t know what had happened, but if it was enough to make the readings of Peter’s suit go that kind of hay wire then it was something seriously wrong.
“Hey, hey, Petey, Petey it’s okay. What’s wrong kiddo? Hey, c’mon bug, you can talk to me. It’s okay, nothing’s going to get you here. You’re safe bug.”
“My, my phone’s dead and she wasn’t answering me, I tried for an hour. I thought she wouldn’t be mad anymore, but she isn’t listening. And I know she wants space but its cold and, and, and its loud, and I don’t know what to do.” Something in that sentence wasn’t clicking right with Tony as he held the distraught teen in his arms. Rubbing his back as the teen continued to sob and gasp for breath, faced scrunching in a heart-breaking way. Tony just wanted to wipe away his tears and hold him until Peter never cried like that again.
“Petey, hey, hey, it’s okay. What do you mean Petey? It’s okay, shhh.” Tony gently spoke to the fragile kid. Being gentle with the teen as he gasped another breath. Tony held a little tighter as the teen wobbled a little in his arm. Tony was now holding nearly all of Peter’s weight, the adult felt slightly lucky and slightly horrified that carrying Peter’s soaked weight was barely even a struggle. Even without a good grip like he’d had when he carried Peter to bed just last night.
Just last night.
How quick things changed.
“S-She got angry with me and, and wanted some space. That was fine! It was fine, but now it just started raining and its really ridiculous but thunderstorms still scare me, which is stupid, I shouldn’t be a wimp like this. And she still isn’t picking up her phone. She never used to leave for long when she needed space so I thought she’d let me back in soon, b-but. I don’t know. She won’t answer me.” The teen was nearly whispering near the end and wheezing, Tony’s heart seized and his blood went cold. Peter wasn’t being ‘let in’ by a woman who was angry with him. Peter only had one woman in his life that could force him out of shelter. May. It made so much sense. Peter hadn’t gone on patrol since Tuesday before he came to the tower, and Tony would have to have been blind to not see the remnant of web fluid on the walls of the odd stairwell to the roof. In the same pattern of one of Peter’s Hammocks. Peter acting so odd and collapsing from low blood sugar. How quiet he’d been.
May had kicked him out.
And Peter thought it was his fault.
Hot blooded anger and sorrow were the dominant emotions running through Tony.
Crushing him tighter against his chest, Tony held Peter as close as possible. As if he could shield him from everything the teen was feeling and had probably been through in the long days he’d faced before this. Or at least Tony could protect him from the storm. Vowing to make sure nothing. N O T H I N G. Like this would ever happen to Peter again.
“She said I was doing drugs cause I’ve been running so late with patrol so often because of all the thieves right now and police budget cuts,” Peter hiccupped. “But, but she knows me. She knows I’m not like that. So when she said I had to leave I thought it’d be like when she left to cool off. I thought it was just my turn to leave and let her calm down. It was my fault. I tried to call her. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It’s my fault. You shouldn’t have to deal with me.” Tony’s arms only held steady, showing no sign of freeing Peter or letting him go. The hand in Peter’s hair only shifting to support his head better as Tony pressed his face into the crown of Peter’s head. The teen’s normally brown and fluffy hair was matted, dirty, and wet. It only added fuel to Tony’s fire.
God, who could convince a kid that being kicked out or left alone for any amount of time was their fault? Especially a vulnerable and anxious teen like Peter? Who would dare, dare, tell Peter, this sweet, innocent, precious kid that being scared was his fault. That he was stupid for feeling afraid. That any of his fears were stupid. Like he wasn’t being listened to.
No kid should ever feel like that.
Not his kid.
Tony didn’t know how long he stared there. He didn’t care. Not one bit about being soaked, how numb and cold his skin had gotten. The raw fury being held back need to comfort Peter and force into the teen’s head that none of this was his fault. As long as Peter was safe in his arms everything could be sorted out. Fixed.
It would be hard, he didn’t know how long Peter had lived like that. How long he’d been cast aside and kept at arm’s length. How long he and his feelings had been ignored. How deeply set Peter had put the delusion that everything was on his shoulders and his fault.
Honestly, the more he thought about it the more scared he got. Peter had that kind of mindset for as long as Tony had known him, even in subtle ways. He’d always thought that it was his duty to help people. What had he said? ‘When you have the ability to help and you don’t, then when the bad things happen it’s your fault’? Peter had said his Uncle had told him that before he died. How Peter always took the world onto his shoulders. Peter always took the blame, even when he’d done nothing. Especially when he’d done nothing.
This kid was going to kill him. The only comfort Tony had was how Peter clung to him, even as the kid slumped into him. Fading into unconsciousness. How Peter had trusted him to help, to tell him everything even when he was panicking. How Peter relied on him.
Tony heaved a sigh, shifting Peter in his arms as he reached into his pocket to pull out his phone and call Happy. He needed to get Peter home and dry. Then he’d have to figure out a few things and take care of them when it came to cross those bridges.
Like making sure Peter always had a home to return to.
And that Peter knew that just as well as Tony did.
Chapter 6: Constant
Sorry for taking a while! School and work is rough X)
It took Happy only mere minutes to speed over to their location once he heard the words ‘Peter’ and ‘panic attack’ in the same sentence that didn’t involve his own mental issues and PTSD. Tony decidedly left the more gritty details he’d scraped together however, he wanted Happy to be fast, not detour to pick up any willing mercenary (probably a certain arachnid, immortal, and taco loving merc. Seriously, the fan boy crush he has on Peter was insane) or worse. Pepper.
It was scary what that woman would be willing to do.
Especially for Peter.
Not to mention he also wanted any claims he’d scraped together to be evidenced or testified fact before he went spouting out accusations that he’d taken as implied and not out right stated by Peter, who could be argued to have been not in a right state of mind (Peter really hadn’t been stable, but Tony knew more than anyone that instability and panic had a way of making the truth slip out) That didn’t stop Tony form obsessing or agonizing over it.
He swore he’d protect this kid, yet he was warped and twisted to expect nothing. To think he’d deserved nothing he needed and deserved every bad thing he got. Taking anything-everything- as his fault. Even his own guardian’s neglect. If this turned out to be true.
And all of it had probably been there from the start.
Probably even years before that.
Why hadn’t anyone noticed? Why hadn’t he? It was so obvious looking back.
The light in his eyes and the pure happiness that Peter held when anyone even gave him a shred of attention. How those same eyes nearly resembled bright Christmas trees at any praise or affection, large grin and practically grinning. The bashful way that Peter would stutter when he was offered even the smallest thing (that wasn’t food, Steve’s finest lecture on super human metabolism nipped that in the bud) how Peter acted like anything was too much and that he didn’t need it. Didn’t deserve it. He’d always thought Peter was too hard on himself.
He’d grown up with Howard for christ’s sake. How had he not seen it?
How couldn’t he see his own god damn child suffering?
Tony was so stupid in thinking that Peter would tell him something like this. Bullying, being ill, maybe. But something like this… Tony knew just how well you learned how to shut your mouth. How quickly it started to feel normal to bite your tongue and not say a word. How normal it felt to be silenced. Like it was always going to be that way. Scraping for any affection and word you could get. The way you felt like you deserved it. Like it was your fault for even just breathing and existing.
Never before had Tony been so happy to have Happy’s familiar car horn break Tony free from his thoughts. The loud sound going off was almost quiet in comparison to the heart beat pounding in his ears and the thunder rumbling above. Adjusting his grip, Tony shifts to he can pick Peter up. Cradling his exhausted form against his chest like a child and using the iron man suit to get them both down to the street quickly. Happy was already there, scrambling to get the car door open for them, the man didn’t even seem to notice his own soaked coat as he stared at Peter’s form helplessly while trying to get Tony and Peter into the dry car as quickly as possible.
It struck both Tony and Happy almost immediately as soon as they could get into the car and looked over Peter. It was eerie how pale and small Peter looked curled up and quiet in the back seat of the car. Both of them exchanged guilty looks. They hadn’t pressed far enough when they even had the smallest inkling. Now Peter was soaked, anxious, and shaking even when he was unconscious. It wasn’t looking good at all. Peter had been a little off on Friday, a little quiet, a little less bright. It was only one night, and Peter was already so much worse.
Tony would take care of him though.
Holding tightly onto the teen, Tony secured both of them into the backseat as Happy started to car back to the tower. Peter’s skin was freezing as Tony’s hands shifted Peter into a more comfortable position. Tony immediately order FRIDAY to work the heaters in Peter’s suit at a higher rate and asked for his temperature.
Extremely low compared to Peter’s baseline temperature of 96, he was almost at 94 degrees. The heater was working according to FRIDAY, just gradually as to not shock Peter’s system. They already had problems with Peter’s body temperatures, spiders couldn’t thermo-regulate, and apparently spider humans couldn’t either. But, even with the heater being helpful and FRIDAY diligently monitoring Peter’s health. Tony still took off his suit jacket and tucked it around Peter’s limp form. It was the thought that counted her guessed. But what probably counted more was the multitude of vehicular laws Happy was breaking to get Peter back home ASAP.
Eh, there’s a reason he had a multitude of lawyers on payroll anyway.
Getting Peter out of the car and into dry clothes and warm bed once the car had stopped its hellishly slow-but illegally fast- pace was the easy part. Trying to think of ways to get proof of why he’d been on that rooftop, how long he’d been living on it, and getting him out of that house would be the harder part.
No one ever said that Tony Stark was one to back down from a challenge however.
Especially not one so important to him.
With Peter’s full help it would make it easier, but Tony had doubts about that happening. If Peter had suffered even as bad as the minimum neglect and emotional abuse as Tony was calculating for Peter’s behavior, he’d be evasively honest at best. Peter would never lie to anyone, not out right. But somethings felt more important to hide than how persistently ethics could nag for the truth.
It probably was already happening already. Peter had never said he was with Aunt May besides giving her a phone call. Which Peter had done, Tony had heard his voice (if he’d paid attention to what Peter was saying could he have protected him?) But Peter had also said he’d forgotten to eat, that was probably an outright lie. Peter had probably been desperate, embarrassed, and not in any mindset to want to go anywhere, but still wanted to see him in the tower. A warmth burst through Tony’s chest.
It would be a mess to sort through, but damn it if the kid didn’t deserve better than this.
His kid deserved better than this.
Tony would make sure Peter knew that too.
“Sir, you have a communication request on my inner systems.” Tony stifled the almost immediate and irritated sigh, he really was in no mood to play politician. He had actually important matters compared to playing diplomatic niceties and passive threats over money and fights over superiority.
“Who is it?” The bitter disdain was palpable in his voice.
“It’s an AI system, its naming system is blank but it is calling itself KAREN. It seems to have a similar structure to my own code.” Tony paused. KAREN. The name sounded familiar, Tony scraped his mind. Peter. Peter! Peter named his AI system KAREN, Tony had heard him talking to her with that name multiple times. God, why was his head so scrambled today? Why would KAREN want to talk to him though? KAREN always gave him a hard time, half the time she’d delete some of the… video… feed…
KAREN was programmed to protect Peter and record practically all of Peter’s life. Video feeds from the mask, and audio feeds from both his mask and his phone. Hell, KAREN monitored body signs just like FRIDAY did. KAREN probably told FRIDAY to get him when Peter started panicking. Which means, she’d probably be more than willing to work with him this time.
“Patch her through! Patch her through!”
“Mr. Stark?” The programmed voice echoed into the speakers where FRIDAY once was, surprising him. He hadn’t expected that title to come from the AI, it struck Tony as odd. She sounded so much like… Peter.
“KAREN, give me all you’ve got.”
And, for once in the AI’s life, KAREN gave all the information files to Tony’s personal computer. Not a single thing skipped. Which was another surprise. KAREN was usually rather snarky for an AI and listened to Peter more than Tiny ever programmed her to. Even if Peter wanted to hide things that he shouldn’t hide. Or if it was just those stupidly amusing (and probably embarrassing) vlogs that Tony secretly enjoyed. It was almost human how attached and protective the fond AI had gotten of her charge. Though, it was Peter. Tony could empathize with the power of that teen’s grip. He could make a priest commit a sin if it was for him.
“Peter told me it was nothing to worry over and report, that it was just normal teenage things. However, my systems declared it otherwise as it may be crucial evidence that would be useful to the pursuit of Peter’s well-being. That being said, I’ll go against Peter’s wishes just for today. Is there anything else I could get for you Mr. Stark?” Tony sifted through the files, talking as he sorted through the information formats.
“How have his body readings been for the last week?” KAREN hesitated with a lengthy pause.
“Spikes in elevated heart rates and uneven breathing… as well as low blood sugar and high blood pressure in intervals gradually worsening. Diagnosis suggests mild panic attacks and malnutrition leading to the severe attack about an hour ago.”
Tony took the information silently, “When did he start having panic attacks occurring regularly?” Another pause.
“Stats indicate the mild beginnings of panic attacks have been common since Peter has been under my supervision and is predicted to have had them long before my supervision as well. But there has been a large spike in them during the fall of last year and have been erratic in volume and severity since. The last major spike started after his patrol on last Tuesday.” Tony nodded, before frowning. It was a stupid and useless question, but he’d never been innovative without being insatiably curious.
“KAREN? Why do you call me Mr. Stark?” The voice gave another pause. Tony had no clue when he’d programmed his AI’s to hesitate or to contemplate their own answers, but he swore they were gradually getting more human.
“Because that’s what Peter calls you, just as he calls me KAREN.”
“Start calling me Tony. Subtle influence and all that jazz on the kid. Plus I doubt he’s going to be arguing with an AI over my title.” Tony swore that he could hear a smile in the AI’s voice with her last passing words.
“As you wish Master Tony.”
Tony shook off the small pause of shock the AI had left in him. “FRIDAY, restrict access to the lab to only me.” Tony contemplated. “And Peter. From now on, wherever I am allowed. Peter is. No exceptions.”
“It shall be done sire, if he wakes up shall I guide him to you?” Tony shook his head.
“No, just, tell me. I’ll go myself. Peter’s no doing so hot right now, so I’d prefer to take care of him personally until I get the chance to fix your codes. I’ll be altering your protocols to better suit his needs by the way.”
“Yes sir.” Again, with the AI’s sounding so self-satisifed. As if they were proud of him. How did they even get voice tones? Was it something they learned from their vocal recognition systems? It was another question that Tony shook off. Peter liked KAREN and Tony would be lying if he said he wasn’t fond of FRIDAY (even if he did miss Jarvis) and both the AI did their functions just fine -excusing KAREN’s habit of listening to the self-sacrificing idiot over him. He created her for god sake’s-
Sifting through the files to direct his thoughts back on task, Tony plucked out small footages from the hours just before. He’d looked into the incident on Friday and the hellish week leading into it later, assuming he isn’t able to coax or pry it out of Peter himself -maybe he should ask Steve, they weren’t on the best terms, but also not the worse. Maybe the American SpiritTM would invoke an honest confession, or it would just summon a bald eagle, either would be cool- The video file loaded up and Tony held his breath as he hesitated, before clicking on the play button and mental preparing himself.
The mask’s eyes were just a little blurry in the rain and humidity. Tony made a note to fix that. If Peter had ever been web slinging it would be dangerous in the rain. Tony did not put it past Peter to slip and slam into a building on a beautiful clear day. Not even mentioning during a storm. (That kid was out to kill either Tony or himself.) The thunder from the storm was silent in the recording, the storm mustn’t have started yet. Peter’s red and blue hands were clutching tightly onto his worn blue flip phone as the film jostled. Peter scooting closer to the smaller roofing.
“Hey, hey, May, it’s, uh, it’s me, me, Peter. It’s, ah, it’s really cold. And I’m getting kinda, really, nervous, and, and, and, well, I know its stupid and really childish, but I still have that kinda bad fear of storms… its really stupid I’m sorry. But I need you. Can, can you call me back… soon?”
And the tape went silent, only Peter’s hard breathing and shifting could be heard as the wind picked up in the hidden mike. Peter’s fingers twitched around the phone at the bottom of the screen as he seemed to look at the horizon. The tell-tale signs of Peter’s anxiety started getting more frequent through his twitchiness and stuttered. His panic attack was probably just budding now. A full hour before Tony got to him. He’d been panicking and scared for an hour.
His heart ached.
Watching Peter’s fingers fumble with the small phone’s keypad was hard enough. But the tone Peter’s used as he called again broke him. The high pitched whine that slowly had more panic and fear bleeding into it.
“May, please. I won’t be bad anymore. Please. I swear I never did drugs. I’ll stop sneaking out and I’ll stay home and I’ll do decathlon religiously. But it’s really cold and I’m scared. I don’t wanna die. Please. I’m sorry May, help me please. I’m sorry. Please?-“ This time the phone call was cut off by the voice mail. And Tony watched as Peter tried again and again. Getting rejected again and again. Peter had never sounded so much like a scared kid. Begging for acceptance and safety. Things any and every kid should have no matter what. The only way anyone could hear that and not feel the need to protect him was emotionally dead. Maybe Tony was biased though. You didn’t become a hero and stay a hero because you didn’t have a sense of empathy and protectiveness.
May was never going to answer the phone. Tony knew it. And even the Peter on the film knew by the way his whole body began to tremble. Tony didn’t even need to hear the hiccups in Peter’s face to see the fat tears rolling down his cheeks. Tony had seen them when Peter had gotten his leg broken in five places shoving Tony out of the way of a lab accident. Remember it made him feel sick with guilt. Peter had just smiled for a second and asked if he was okay, before he couldn’t help but cry. Seeing Peter shaking and trying to stifle his sobs miserably once had been enough to know he didn’t want to see that again.
Hearing it was just as bad.
May was supposed to love Peter. Protect him, hold him, love him.
Not toss him out like a broken toy.
Rage, hot and boiling in his veins like lava stirred in him as he watched Peter pass out, only to be jolted awake by the thunder. A forceful reminder that he was cold and alone after he had a moment of peaceful unconsciousness. Tony hated how it was her number that he immediately dialed again. Never wanted to hear that panicked and desperate voice ignored again.
Tony wanted to shield Peter forever.
Peter would not be going back to that house.
The paperwork to do just that without going on trial and fighting an uphill battle, and keeping from Peter having to see that woman again. It was just going to be a plain bitch. But there was a reason Tony had top grade lawyers… Pepper was a good ally too.
He was in for a hell of a fight still.
Not that May would stand a chance again Pepper once Tony could get a hold of the spit fire blond -Japanese time zones were not that bad PEPPER PICK UP THE DAMN PHONE-The she demon would find glee in destroying May Parker legally and physically.
Pepper was a force to be reckoned with.
Tony and Pepper?
No one could or would warn May enough.
Tony’s chest rumbled as he finally let out a soft chuckle. The first since he got the alert from FRIDAY. God, he was so relieved. It was bad. But the situations that it could have been. Low oxygen levels. High heart rate. Tony remembered flying so fast the roofs blurred together. Worry and fear making him sick to his stomach.
What if Peter was hurt?
What if Peter was dying?
What if Tony was too late?
The suit had never been faster, but to Tony it felt like he’d been crawling to Peter as if all his limbs were broken and he had no suit to help him get there. The anxious race of his thoughts and the tense feeling in his chest. As if he’d get the alert that Peter’s heart had stopped any second that he failed to reach Peter.
That he’d failed one of the few people who mattered so much to him.
That he’d failed his kid. His son.
The reality of the situation had made relief sink into his bones with the anger and fear. It also made him guilty for being relieved. But, this, this could be fixed. Tony couldn’t bring people from the dead. But he could save people. He could help Peter. He was relieved that Peter was there, standing, breathing. Now sleeping peacefully where he belonged. Frightened by just how pale his skin was and the way the boy’s thin body shuddered. The trembling so strong that Peter shook like a leaf in hurricane winds. And the rage. The pure rage, at whatever, whoever, thought they had the right to give Peter that look of despair and pure panic. Tony’s hands twitched.
Tony never wished more than ever that he could reverse time, go back to when Peter had been safe, stable, and sound asleep in Tony’s arms. Safe and tucked away from hard and cold reality. Peter hadn’t been fine then, but at least he’d been dry. Better.
His fists clenched. No, he couldn’t reverse time, but he had learned that he could pick up the pieces times left behind. Put them back together to make something that wasn’t quite the same, but equally as strong and beautiful again. He would be there for Peter, show Peter he deserved so much more than a cold shoulder. More than even the world could offer. That anything that bitch or anyone else had done to him wasn’t his fault. Tony would protect Peter, he’d be Peter’s constant.
“Sir, Peter is awake.”
Starting right now.
Chapter 7: Never Ask for More
Dedicated to a dear friend who knows me by both names and all my little imperfections and loves me anyway.
When Peter’s eyes peeled open it was difficult, it almost felt like his eyes had been glued shut and it felt like he’d been sleeping for years, yet he was still tired. A bone deep tired. Peter blinked. This also wasn’t the rough and cheap plastered popcorn ceiling in May’s house. Stained with rust and water, but felt at least familiar. This wasn’t the broken tiles of the school ceiling or the open dark sky on his roof top. Peter blinked. It was smooth ivory and if he squinted he could see little odd pale marks in the smooth surface. In the middle. Peter blinked. Wait. That… was his web fluid, wasn’t it? His head turned, seeing his back pack slung on the ground, a chemistry book closed neatly on the desk along with his phone on a charger and his suit, still slightly wet and slowly drying into the warm air. Why was it drying out in the open where people could see…?
The thunderstorm, the dead phone, his panic attack.
The metaphor of memories hitting someone like a train had always made Peter squirm uncomfortably and roll his eyes. But with his own memories being dumped onto his chest like a piano being dropped in those cartoons, Peter understood the feeling. Sudden, crushing. It made Peter’s body shoot up, only swaying slightly as nausea and dizziness hit him along with the embarrassing memories. Cold rain and him sobbing like a little kid in Mr. Stark’s arms.
God wasn’t he pathetic for a super hero.
“Master Peter?” And the said brunette’s head shot up so fast it almost gave him whiplash, his ears whined at him. The AI’s voice was nearly silent and the lights were so dim no one normal would be able to see, but it still felt like so much. Too much. He shook off the feeling best he could, looking up curiously. He’d never heard FRIDAY call him anything other than Mr. Parker, Spiderling, or young sir when she seemed particularly snarky about him emulating Mr. Stark’s habits of working late into the night in the lab.
“FRIDAY?” Peter swore to god, if AI’s could have emotions. Than this one did. KAREN too. Still, even with FRIDAY’s capabilities of sass and exesaperation at her creator and his student, the almost relieved tone still surprised him. It reminded him a little of Pepper’s little quirky and soft smiles she gave when he would talk about school or little domestic things.
“Good evening young sir, would you like me to turn up the lights?” Peter bit his lip as his head pounded at the thought of bright swirling lights. Bright, close, disorientating lights that reached and grabbed and-
“No thank you.” Peter hesitated again. But his mouth won out in the end. He didn’t want to think right now. He wanted to talk and to hear. Do anything but leave himself to his thoughts, intrusive or intuitive all the same. “What am I doing here?”
The soft spoken AI was quick to answer, “Sir thought you would be more comfortable in your own room and clothing rather than the medical bay or the common room.” Peter glanced down at the mention of clothes and gave a snort as his anxiety gave him a small break just to laugh at the ridiculousness that came in the from extremely familiar hello kitty pajama pants and a very corny spider man brand shirt.
Wonder where he got these clothing gems.
It felt like only seconds after FRIDAY had mentioned his change in clothing and location when Peter’s ears perked at the sound of a creaking door opening slowly. His eyes squinting as they registered light pouring in from the hallway and the sight of a familiar older man squishing himself through the gap in the door with a sort of purposeful and poised clumsiness that Mr. Stark only seemed to possess.
Tony squinted in the dark room, but didn’t comment. FRIDAY had briefly and quietly mentioned Peter’s small request to leave the lights down. The sensory thing and the whole room renovation was still a project that needed work. But Tony had been working on calculation Peter’s metabolism and something to remind Peter to eat before Peter’s panic attack happened, he’d need to rearrange his to do list. Pepper and FRIDAY would probably beat him to it. (Or Pepper would beat him to half of his to do list. That woman could be a vicious mama bear. It was kind of hot honestly).
More important matters however as the kid looked at him with dazed and slow eyes, those god damn doe eyes that just hammered in the fact that Peter was still just a kid. A god damn kid. It ignited a multitude of conflicting emotions in Tony as he strode over easily and crushed the teen into his arms. Holding tightly as if the world was going to snatch him up and away from Tony.
It wouldn’t be the first time.
Tony’s fingers gripped a little tighter as he felt Peter almost melt into his head. Peter’s soft hair was warm on the crook of Tony’s neck. Peter burrowed deeper into the feeling. It felt like when Ben was still alive and he’d hold Peter in his arms. Tell Peter that all the monsters couldn’t touch him. The memories made the sick feelings of guilt at betraying Aunt May bubble up until he managed to shove them down enough to through bask in the feeling of safety enveloping him.
His spidey-sense had never been so quiet.
It usually was a constant hum in the back of him mind. Comforting and keeping him alert, spiking to warn him of inevitable or immediate danger like an unseen friend that would shove you awake before the teacher could catch you asleep in class. It’d never been completely silent like this.
An odd feeling. Albeit a nice one.
Peter’s fingers curled into Tony’s black and worn t-shirt as Tony shifted. The older man buried his face into Peter’s slightly curled brown hair and calmingly ran his hand down and up Peter’s back to soothe him more as Peter pressed himself closer unconsciously in his swirling thoughts. Tony whispered softly, as not to break the atmosphere.
“C’mon bug, I got something for you.” Tony gently tugged Peter onto his own unsteady and wobbly legs. Keeping Peter tucked close into his body as he stumbled and let out a small whimper as his stomach and head pulled a Star Fox reference and did a barrel roll in protest of the motion. Swirling uncomfortably and leaving a burning feeling in his chest. “It’s okay, I know you’re not really feeling the greatest. But, you’re going to eat unless you want Pepper to lock the lab for both of us. I hope you like pizza.” Peter quirked the smallest smile.
“Hawaiian?” Tony gave a playful scowl, squeezing Peter’s shoulders reassuringly as he made a face of mock disgust.
“Yes, I got two of your blasphemy pizzas and two taco pizzas because I can and will convert you yet to the wonders of actually pizza toppings on my future grave!” Peter gave a weak giggle and Tony called the action a small victory, especially with today having been such a emotionally draining day for Peter. Tony knew the feeling of having a panic attack like that, it sucked everything out of you. Leaving a blank slate that made it almost hard to muster up the energy to even open your eyes, much less smile and laugh. Tony held the hope close to his chest as he herded Peter into the next dim hallway
(How FRIDAY changed the lighting without orders to was a little odd. She never changed the lights when he was hung over. But this was for Peter, so he didn’t bother to question it, rather choosing to just silently thank the AI, vowing to add little pleasant fixes when he tuned her up to suite Peter’s needs in the tower).
Peter stayed quiet and docile as Tony tugged him along the hallways and acted relatively normal as Tony pressed him gently into a chair and tossed a couple of frozen pizzas into the oven, fiddling with the oven settings to brace himself for facing Peter. While Peter seemed to be content trying to ignore and avoid talking about it ever even happening. But they needed to talk. Which is why Tony sucked in a breath and faced Peter head on. It was the only non-physical way besides duct taping him to a chair that he could force Peter to look at him and not try to dance around the issue.
“I know I’m not the best with communication. Anyone could tell you that. Pepper especially, probably even you. But I’m going to be honest and straight forward with you right now. None of that. Any of it. It wasn’t your fault. And I won’t blame anyone for it until I know the whole story. But, if I’m trying to be better at this whole communication thing, I’d appreciate it if you were too. Which telling me why and for how long you’ve been on that roof sounds like a good place to start.”
Peter shifted in his seat, almost squirming under Tony’s watch, but he did trust Tony. He really did. God knows he wouldn’t be here if he didn’t. Tony knew everything, about Spiderman, about his anxiety and at least a few of the things that haunted his dreams. Not all of them admittedly… but one or two. Tony would listen though, maybe he could even get May to listen and answer him. Help Peter come up with a plan to not be so flighty on May every day after school. He said he wasn’t blaming anyone, even though Peter deserved it, but that was good, right? He had to give it a shot.
“Since Tuesday, it hasn’t been very long, not really. I was getting my homework done and eating my lunch. I.. May and I got into a fight, it was pretty much my fault. So, I’ll be okay! Don’t worry.” Peter gave a smile, and only got a scoff from Mr. Stark, sending a curl of cold fear into his stomach.
“You’re not okay Peter, you passed out the other day, you had a panic attack, outside in the freezing rain. And it’s not your fault. People fight, and that’s not something you blame only yourself for. So none of that. And I am going to worry about you Peter, you worry too much about others and not about yourself, so I have to worry for you. Gotta pick up the slack right?” Peter gave a small crooked grin, Tony gave a curled smirk. “You not okay Peter, and that is just fine.”
Tony clapped a hand on Peter’s shoulder, it was warm and real in a way that was hard to describe. It made Peter smile without much thought. A similar, more solemn smile tilting on his mentor’s lips as well. “But I care about you bug, in a real, non-sarcastic chick flick way. And I’m always going to be here. Always.”
God, he felt so pathetic, his heart ached in his chest. The walls and damns he built so carefully each time he broke down were weak. His new walls were crumbling in record time as he felt his eyes burn and itch within seconds. Filling his chest until it felt like he was going to implode. Peter couldn’t help it as he squirmed off his chair and threw himself into Tony. Clinging to him tightly as Tony held him just as closely.
The only constant thing he had left in his life was Tony. And it honestly too good to be true. Too good for Peter to even deserve. And yet, Peter had it. Despite his stupid Parker Luck and everything else rooting against him. He had this. But he didn’t deserve it.
But God, he didn’t want to let go.
However the beeping of the oven broke him out of his scrambled thoughts, coaxing Peter to retreat quietly and wipe the tears that had soaked down his face. His heart rate slowly calming down as he gently built himself back up. Managing a grin by the time Tony had pulled the pizzas from the oven. Cursing as the pot holders barely protected his hands from the heat.
Not that Peter would fare much better. Heat would burn the hairs on his skin and leave him with one less ability until his skin healed and allowed the hairs to stick to surfaces once again. He’d learned that after his first attempt at cooking since he had gotten his abilities, the first time May had taken off since Ben was alive. The first time Peter had truly been left alone. Ben usually stayed with Peter when May needed a break, they’d always get take out and watch old musicals. Ben would give Peter advice. Everything Ben had told him was held close to his heart. When Peter had intervened with a situation at school and gotten bullies onto his case too. Peter had smiled. He’d gotten a best friend, and his uncle had grinned with such pride.
“If you have the power to help and you don’t; and then something bad happens, then it’s your fault.” Ben had told him to not be a by stander, to help other people when he could. Peter wondered if Ben was watching him right now, that proud grin and the fond look in his eyes. Or would he blame Peter, refuse to look him in the eyes like May did when she was disappointed.
A shudder wracked through his body and Peter shoved the thoughts away, everything was feeling just a bit more sensitive than normal. He took a breath. He was in the tower. Exhale. Tony made pizza. Inhale. It was warm and dry. Exhale. He was safe. Peter grinned and rolled his shoulders to relax just in time for Tony to drop one of the whole pizzas in front of Peter. Tony rolled his eyes and made a fake gagging sound as he dished out his slices, making his own face of disgust as Tony forced a slice of his own pizza on Peter’s plate.
“Tony! You called me and said it was an emer- oh! Hello Peter.” The concerned tilt in Pepper’s voice immediately dissipated to warm fondness at the sight of the teen. Peter in turn gave a wide grin and held out some pizza in offering. Tony silently thanking god as immediately Pepper drops her phone and multiple files onto some random table and sets herself up to sit and eat with them. Making sure to fuss over Peter drinking something healthy at least and insisting he was too skinny. It filled Tony with just a small bit of warmth.
This. This was his family. Right here.
“Tony! Pepper is on my side! Pineapple does belong on pizza!” Tony blinked, breaking out of his small moment of spacing out to give a small melodramatic gasp.
“Pepper! I was supposed to be your hero! Your fiancé! And you hurt me like this. Et tu Brutus?” Pepper gave a smirk that looked eerily like when Peter did something he wasn’t supposed to in the lab and wasn’t saying anything to deny it. Then she gave a small shrug and looked fully like Pepper again. An innocent smile and a playful gleam in her eyes.
“I like vigilantes better.” And Peter burst out laughing. Almost falling off his chair as Pepper followed, giggling along with him as Tony just gave them a look of shock and mock hurt, a hand held over his chest. Right above the jagged metal of the arc reactor.
“Right in the heart Pep, right here. You too Peter. Traitors, the lot of you.” Yet, Tony still smiled when Peter and Pepper huddled together, eyes still watering from laughter as they stole food from each other’s and traded little stories, bundled close together with Peter squished in between the two of them. Looking at both of them with bright eyes, all his worries momentarily forgotten.
And Tony didn’t think he could ask for more.
Chapter 8: Her Son
A little lack luster admittedly. I'm very sorry, but I really wanted a chapter with Pepper and really needed to get the ball rolling on the right track. So here we go! There might be a couple more fluffy filler chapters before I'm able to get into the meat of things though. So I apologize ahead of time!
As it turned out, Tony learned eating pizza and having a panic attack took a lot out of a teen. Peter was asleep again, this time on the couch due to all of the photos Pepper had promised to show him only if he sat on the couch. The teen’s long limbs were splayed out haphazardly on the couch, hair falling in wisps in front of his eyes. Tony didn’t even bother trying to restrain himself and instead gently smoothed the hair out of Peter’s face. He looked so young, so peaceful asleep and not drenched and pale. What probably helped the image was the way Pepper was softly running her fingers through his hair as he slept nearly on her lap. Pepper had said she pulled him up because she didn’t want him to get a crick in his neck from sleeping curled up. Tony knew she was just a sap and loved Peter’s hair.
“I know you called me here for more than work, it’s something to do with Peter isn’t it? He didn’t mention patrol or his aunt once this entire night.” Tony sighed quietly, not looking at Peter or Pepper as he kept his eyes trained to the ground.
“I found him on the roof of his apartment, he was having a panic attack and it was storming. Found out his aunt kicked him out, he’d been sleeping in a web hammock on the roof since Tuesday.” Pepper got a knowing look in her eyes.
“That’s why he fainted on Friday. His metabolism had his body over worked and empty.” Tony nodded, his callused fingers were rough against Peter’s soft skin, yet Peter only sighed and melted further into Pepper’s lap. “And, what was this Aunt’s full name again? May?”
“Pepper.” Tony gave her a fond smile.
“No, I remember, it’s May Ann Parker. I’ll get on that. And I’ll make sure to get the paper work very soon too. It’ll be on your work shop desk within the week. You handle getting him a place in the workshop and I’ll handle his room and school records.” Tony raised an eyebrow at Pepper before grinning.
“You are a force of nature and a blessing.” Pepper gave him a sly grin and tilted her head onto Tony’s shoulder. Her hands never leaving Peter’s quiet form, but still giving equal attention to both of her boys.
“Does that mean I’m allowed to add on my own requests. Like having my own little bit of… let’s call it justice.” Tony gave a small laugh and pressed his lips into her soft reddish hair. Pressing himself closer to Pepper.
“Tear her to shreds.”
“Will that be all Mr. Stark?”
“That will be all Miss Potts.” Pepper smiled and gently pulled her phone from the table, humming a quiet and bouncy tune as she tapped on her phone. Peter fast asleep on her lap and Tony curled around her like a blanket. His head buried into the joint between her neck and her shoulder, until he too fell victim to soft and evening breathing. Pepper held back a soft bout of laughter.
There was no blood in this family, yet all that came to her mind as Peter loosely hugged her sides and Tony nuzzled closer to her neck, was the saying ‘like father, like son’. Pepper finally pulled up the number on her phone as she reached as gently as she could to the blanket on the back of the couch, scooting out of the two males’ grips and laying a blanket over Peter’s prone body as she walked with near silent footsteps out of the room. Listening to the phone ring with an almost murderous rage burning like Extremis in her blood.
How dare she.
How fucking dare she.
Peter was the sweetest thing alive, with a heart like gold and a smile that gave Pepper a drug like sugar high. And to see that smile so strained and the bags under his eyes so dark. To hear that her little boy had fallen and fainted on the fucking ground because some bitch had the nerve to kick a teenager, a child, on the streets.
There was also pain.
He hadn’t trusted her. Or Tony. He hadn’t trusted any of them. He hadn’t come to them for help. He hadn’t thought they would help him. Shield him. All he had done was simply taking the beating, the starvation. And god, did it ache. Peter had been hurt, and he hadn’t come to her, he didn’t trust her. What would make Peter feel like he couldn’t turn to her? Why would Peter feel like he didn’t have anywhere to go…
Oh, that bitch.
The anger came back, like a dangerous toxin that muddled her emotions and twisted.
It burned like a knife.
The phone finally picked up with a loud click, and Pepper smiled with a sweet smile, the edges of her lips curling up in what looked like a dangerously innocent smile. Like that of a calm feline, ready to sink its teeth into anything nearby. Certain and ready to tear into her next victim.
There was blood in the water alright.
“Matt Murdock, how can I help you today?”
“Matt! It’s me Pepper,” Her voice was sugary and bouncy, like honey as she leaned into the phone. Eyes glittering as she slowly watched the board set moved her chess pieces into place. May had chosen a dangerous game. With a very dangerous player. Pepper would make her regret it with every fiber of her being. “Listen, I’m wondering if maybe I could pull a small favor, for old time’s sake.”
The paper work was going to be hell. Pepper was already getting a head ache thinking about it. Her head was spinning on her shoulders and she was about ready to call it a night and let her thoughts and scrambled emotions settle before tackling the task once more. The legal team and Matt need some time to research and draw up some contracts and pull some strings before Pepper could really get started anyway.
Six hours, she managed to organize everyone and get things started in six hours… god, she was getting sloppy. Or she was just on an overload of emotion and information. She rolled her shoulders and let a sigh out. Why did the world make it so hard to go by the books? She was starting to find the appeal of being a criminal as opposed to jumping through impossible hoops.
But for Peter? She’d jump every single one of them and more.
Trudging on her tender feet. Pepper walked back into the living room of the penthouse and was greeted with a dead silence. Pepper blinked, surprised, before she slowly pulled her mace out of her hand bag and moved closer slowly. Her heels tapping quietly as she checked the couch and the kitchen first.
Both empty. Pepper’s heart tightened before she willed it away. She was just paranoid. Nothing could have happened in the span of a few hours. Both of her boys were nocturnal or sleep deprived for better words, but when they crashed, they both crashed hard. Them being asleep for less than a few hours set her slightly on edge as she peeked into the lab. Still empty, and no new work station yet. Pepper gripped tighter to her bag and rushed down the hall, her shoes clattering until a voice from the over-head finally halted her flight.
“Shhh, don’t worry Miss Potts, they don’t need anything, but a camera may be recommended.” FRIDAY gave a small warbling sound, almost like a giggle. Soft and like a whisper in the air as Pepper finally let herself relax and go slack. Peeking into the entertainment room and seeing two brown heads of varying shades butting against each other.
“I’m just being honest here, if light sabers were manufactured, there is no way it would stop at a certain length without some metal element, it can’t just be a laser, the light would shoot until it was stopped, like a laser point.”
“Spiderling, shush. It is a shiny, instant cauterization death stick. What we should be arguing about is Carrie Fischer’s hairstyle. How much hair spray does she need?” A piece of popcorn got thrown at the darker haired brunette, prompting a shout of indignation.
“You do not speak about the Queen like that. Blasphemy.”
“You only know that word because of me and your pineapple monstrosity!”
Pepper almost slumped in relief with a fond smile, leaning against the door way. Neither of the boys saw her watching in the door way, bother of them were focused on the screen, which was presumably playing some form of Star Wars. Peter was hunkered down at Tony’s side, his knees bent at almost awkward angles as he watched. Tony was curled around the teen, the popcorn snuggled in the space between them. Two mugs of either coffee or hot chocolate on the coffee table in front of them.
Pepper gently slid the door closed with a smile. Giving a soft laugh as soon as it closed, “FRIDAY? Save that footage, just for me please?”
“Already done Miss Potts.” Pepper leaned against the door, a fond smile and a gentle light in her eyes. She never thought she’d see the day Tony was like a father. Was a father. She had never put the two together. Tony’s sweet, caring love. And need to take care of and dote over his loved ones… No, it wasn’t Tony at all. Tony was meant to be a father. It was her.
She never thought she’d see the day where she felt like a mother.
And yet, the realization didn’t scare her. It only settled over her like a firm and secure blanket. Filling her with a giddy and bubbly warmth. Her hand splayed against the door, fingers cold against the warm wood. Behind that door was her fiancé. Her fiancé… and his son. Their son. Her son.
It was a heady feeling. Feeling so light, so happy. It felt like liquid joy swirling inside of her. It almost made her dizzy as she grinned like a mad man. Finally pulling away from the door with a determined gleam in her eye. Fists curling as she briskly walked away.
This was her family.
A family that she was going to fight tooth and nail to protect.
For her Tony. Her fiancé.
And for her Peter.
Chapter 9: Domestic Morning
I"M SO SORRY I DIDN"T REALIZE
Okay, so real talk, I had no clue how long this went un-updated. I'm a total shit head. I am so very sorry and will make amends with one-shots and more updates to this fic! So, please enjoy this fluffy domestic scene as my pentence and get ready for an angsty, time-skip arc ahead of you! ;) I hope you enjoy (I have a cavity from the fluff, so Imma start working on that angst right away)
The phone was in his hands, heavy and foreboding. Peter glanced at Tony, who was still fast asleep on the couch next to him. It pulled a smile from Peter’s mouth. Last night’s impromptu movie night had been fun. Peter flipped the phone in his hand again, refocusing on it. Making his chest tighten and steal his breath away as his eyes tingled, but stayed dry.
He’d cried too much already, he didn’t have anything left.
Especially for a deactivated phone.
Peter could still perfectly remember the numbers, they were engrained into his mind. Just like Ben’s, and Mom’s, and… everyone’s numbers that had ever mattered to him. He knew them. They swam behind his eyelids. Even as he slowly let go of the people behind them. His grip tightened on the phone.
He’d lost another one, hadn’t he?
God damn Parker Luck.
Slowly, Peter tucked the phone into his pocket, gently pulling himself up from the couch so he didn’t disturb Tony. Another glance had Peter smiling again. Tony would leave him, Peter knew it, he always knew it. But, the time in between, Peter had always learned to treasure it. So, he’d hold the feeling close.
It’d rip him apart, but it wouldn’t kill him.
It never did.
His footsteps were near silent as he treaded out of the private living room into the main common space. The air was silently chilly, nipping at the expanse of forearm that his rolled up sleeves left vulnerable. The hardwood was almost unbearably freezing against his bare feet. It was better than cold concrete however.
A soft sigh made his hackles rise, a shudder running through his spine as Peter gripped his web shooters, still on his wrists and slowly glanced around, before his eyes landing on a familiar silhouette leaned in an arm chair.
Pepper was slumped into the chair, her mouth was closed in a pout and her face was relaxed in a way that Peter had rarely seen, it made Peter smile again. Her expensive heels, a different pair today from yesterday were half off her feet as her legs half dangled off the chair and half sprawled onto the floor. Peter rolled his eyes softly. Adults. They took care of themselves worse than teenagers.
Maybe it was just his grown-ups.
Peter kneeled down, tugging Pepper’s heels off softly. Not even eliciting a breath from Pepper, it must have been a long night for her. The company liked to run her in circles. Just like Tony. Though Tony at least showed love and appreciation. Peter moved up, grabbing the back of Pepper’s knees and her lower back, lifting her up quietly and quickly moving her to the couch not even two feet from the arm chair. The last thing she needed was sore muscles.
She barely weighed a thing to Peter as he laid he back down, quickly ripping off his hoodie to tuck it under her head as a pseudo pillow. Before hunting around the common space and placing a stray blanket over her body with a nearly silent chuckle. CEO’s. He could see how Tony and Pepper got their similarities.
He picked up the shoes he’d discarded, placing them neatly beside the couch so she could find them easily before Peter peeked into the kitchen, turning his head up to the ceiling absently as his eyes still trailed over the cabinets. Thanking them wouldn’t be too hard would it.
Peter adjusted his tank top on his shoulders, just barely missing his hoodie as goose bumps lined his toned arms, outlining the occasional scar and the fine edges of his muscles dipping beneath his skin.
“FRIDAY, do you know where Tony keeps his aprons?”
Peter never had a problem with anything he’d owed through his life. There was nothing wrong with generic brands, or most cheaper alternatives. However, Peter had to admit, making omelets in expensive pans was so much easier. Peter almost groaned in bliss when he managed to flip and not break his third omelet. Usually by now at his old place he’d have given up and made scrambled eggs. Peter bit his tongue in concentration to re-center his focus as he moved the omelet to the last plate.
The coffee machine beeped just in time, almost startling Peter until he regained his balance. Moving the plates to the island where they almost always ate during a lab binge. Peter looked around with a slight frown, Tony was still scarce, Pepper was still passed out. He’d probably wake her last though. Peter slowly grabbed the finished cup of coffee, black with a small hint of cream. The mug was warm in his hands as Peter toed over to the open door into the private living room. Kneeling down next to the sofa.
Tony was still passed out, drool was dried against his cheek and his hair was jutting out in every direction as his arms curled around his head and his chest protectively. Peter frowned at the thought, but shook it off. Flicking the end of his apron at Tony’s face instead. Still holding Tony’s coffee in his hand.
“Up. Up. Up. The Coffee Gods command you. Up. Up I tell you… Pepper’s switching you to decaf if you’re not up in five seconds.” Tony sat up rim rod straight without even a snort or a twitch.
“No! No decaf! We do not say that name in this house hold.” Peter smiled and shoved the coffee mug in his hands, seeing Tony turn his head and give him one of those proud smiles that melted Peter’s chest. Peter hid the feeling with a cocky smirk.
“Good thing I made normal black and omelets. Now up! Before I wake Pepper and tell her to have a turn.” Tony held up one of his hands in surrender, legs already swinging down to the floor. Taking a swig of his coffee with a blissful sigh.
“Yup, alright, do not call my literally and figuratively hot fiancée. She will kill me, you stand a change bug-a-boo. So, let’s go put your puppy eyes to good use and start this breakfast without my murder.” Peter grinned and scampered off, hands empty again. Apron still tied tightly around his waist as he padded off to Pepper.
With her he picked a simpler method, gently tapping her on the shoulder. “Breakfast is ready. FRIDAY said you had a meeting in about an hour too. You should probably get up.” And Pepper’s eyes fluttered open easily, flicking blearily to him to the figure of Tony shuffling to the island counter, gripping his cup of coffee like it was a life line. Pepper gave a small huff and a smile.
“Alright, I’m awake Petey, thank you for making breakfast. Thank you too FRIDAY.”
“My pleasure Ms. Potts!”
Peter hopped the counter easily as soon as Pepper made a show of tossing the blanket aside and stretching to wake herself up. Peter ditched the apron and sat on the smooth counter with a large grin before grabbing his omelet and shoving a huge bite into his mouth. His stomach had been aching since he’d started cooking, but he wanted to wait for Pepper and Tony first. Peter grinned as he dug into his food, it wasn’t too bad for something he hadn’t made in a while. Peter grinned even wider as Tony let out an exaggerated moan.
“Great omelets, bug, you gotta cook more, for me. I’ll pay you to be chef, please.” Pepper rolled her eyes at Tony, instead giving Peter a soft smile, another proud smile that hit Peter in all of his weakest spots, he could practically feel himself getting wrapped around Pepper’s fingers.
“It’s delicious Peter, thank you. I really appreciate it.”
Peter smiled wider, sipping his own coffee, sweet with sugar and creamer, to hide the stupid smile.
Yeah, he’d treasure this while it lasted.