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Siberian Spring

Chapter Text

"Stark, do I look like a babysitter to you?"

Tony Stark looked up and hesitated, knowing those words were a well-placed trap. Natasha Romanov stood in the entryway to his lab, across from Tony's desk. Her arms were crossed at her chest and an unamused, but otherwise unreadable expression rested on her face. Her hair was red again, Tony noted, having last seen her as a dark brunette. This time, though, it was longer. Before it had been cropped into a neat pixie cut. Now, it reached just to her shoulders, but the playful curl at the end kept it from touching them.

"You look like a lot of things, Nat," Tony replied in as even a tone as he could manage, barely sparing a glance from the latest enhancement to his suit. "I can make you a list. No wait, I'll have FRIDAY make you a list."

Natasha's expression slid into a glare and she crossed over to the metal desk. She placed her hand down forcefully and leaned over so that Tony was forced to look her in the eyes. Nothing was said, but the silence perfectly highlighted her displeasure. Despite himself, he swallowed thickly. He wasn't scared of her. At least, that's what he told himself.

Tony sighed and set his tools down before he leaned back in his chair. "What do you want, Nat? I'm busy."

"I want to know why you're sending me to Siberia with Spider-Man."

"Oh? That's all?" Tony let an amused puff of air escape his nose as he moved forward to retrieve his tools. "It's Spring Break."

"What does that have to do with anything?" Natasha's tone betrayed her annoyance. Clearly, she felt, Stark was screwing with her.

"Well, the kid can't miss school," Tony replied as if that had been the obvious answer all along.

"Stark," Natasha warned.

He glanced back at her and dramatically rolled his eyes as if her questioning was ridiculous. "Look, I want to give the kid something to do that gets him out of trouble," he explained to Natasha's narrowed eyes. "And he hasn't been formally introduced to SHIELD yet, so I figured, hey, send the kid to Russia, he's out of my hair and it's an educational field trip. Win-win."

"I'm going to Siberia to get extremely sensitive information and bring it back to the compound," Natasha explained in a tight voice. "I'm not going on a 'field trip.' This isn't for kids."

"And fighting aliens in New York is a regular Family Friday activity?" Tony retorted with a small laugh. "Come on, Nat, just take him with you, show him around, get out." Natasha didn't look convinced and Tony softened his expression. He would never admit that he looked as though he were begging, but his eyes betrayed a deep wanting. "Look, Petey needs this. His midterms were a little rough, but he made it out, but only because I took his suit for the week. So, he feels a little… useless. No biggie. Probably. So I wanted to make it up to him."

For the briefest of moments, Natasha seemed almost amused. Stark had a real soft spot for the kid and everyone on the team loved to tease him about it. If she hadn't been more occupied with the prospect of taking a child on a mission, she might have also poked a little fun at Tony for the affection that was evident in his voice.

"Then, why don't you take him somewhere yourself?" she questioned. "It's not like you need charity to go on vacation." Tony sucked in a hesitant breath and Natasha caught his wary expression before he could restrain himself. "Why don't you take him somewhere yourself?" Her words came slowly and her eyes narrowed as she started to realize that he was indeed hiding something from her.

Tony let out a long breath and looked at anything in the room beside Natasha. The wall, the ceiling, the half-finished prototype robots sitting on the other side of the room. Still, he couldn't escape her all-consuming gaze. As usual, it was very difficult to hide something from Natasha. She had been trained to dig out the truth, after all, and he knew he wouldn't be able to keep the secret much longer.

"We're meeting with the Secretary of State next week," he mumbled.

"What?" Natasha shouted. "And I'm being sent out to Siberia? You're trying to get me out of your hair too!"

"Yeah, because last time you threatened him!"

"It was just light intimidation! You can't negotiate without a few threats!"

"Yes! Yes, you absolutely can!"

Natasha pulled her hand from the desk to pinch the bridge of her nose in agitation. She turned around and paced a few feet over towards the wall. "You're a real piece of work, Stark," she commented with an edge to her voice.

Of all the reactions Tony could have gotten from her, he figured this was likely best-case scenario. He'd seen her mad before and, more specifically, mad at him before. If he wasn't on the receiving end of a taser, he considered it a small disagreement. Rather than rebuke her criticism, he just shrugged, picked up his tools, and began to tinker with his suit once more. The silence between them was heavy, but manageable, though it soon became clear that Natasha wasn't just going to walk away from the conversation.

"Look, Nat," Tony offered, stealing a hesitant glance at his friend. "We need this to go smoothly. We're hanging by a thread. We also need that info and Petey needs a break. If it makes you feel any better, I can absolutely guarantee that you'll have more fun in Siberia than we will in Washington."

There was another long pause, but Natasha did turn halfway around. The expression on her lips couldn't quite be called a smile, but the ends of her mouth were turned upwards and a playful glint appeared in her eyes once more.

"That bad?" she asked, though she knew these meetings were not fun. The Avengers weren't exactly on Congress's good side and the administration only tolerated their existence.

"The worst," Tony replied with an exaggerated huff. "I don't even think they're putting out appetizers for us."

"Tragic." Natasha turned back towards Tony and stopped just a few feet from his desk. "Alright, maybe a few days with the kid won't be so bad."

"He's a good one," Tony insisted. "A little impulsive. Kinda dumb sometimes. But, he tries. I'm sure you'll get along just fine. I think he could learn a thing or two from you. You know, not as much as he learns from me, but, well I am me after all."

"Has he learned humility from you?" Natasha asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Unfortunately not."

"Thank God."

The pair shared a smile and Natasha crossed over to the wall the desk was against. She leaned her back against it, the palms of her hand pressing against the cool surface. "Okay, Stark, I'll take the kid for the week. Show him around, introduce him to all the nerds out there. I'll do my best not to break him."

"That would be preferable," Tony replied. "Otherwise I'd have to hand you over to his aunt."

"Hard-ass?" Natasha questioned.

"Nah. Impossibly hot. Hotter than any aunt should be. Like, holy shit."

"Aren't you engaged?"

"I've got eyes, Nat."

"Right..." Natasha shook her head.

"Just keep him safe, got it?"

"When have I ever gotten into needless danger?" Natasha teased. Tony was about to respond that he was serious, but he noticed she was now staring at him with a devilish smile playing on her lips. She pushed herself off the wall, offered him the smallest of waves, and exited the lab without another word.

"Karen, how much longer do I have to do to school for?"

"Approximately four-hundred and twenty-two days are left of your secondary school career," came the kind response. "Of course, that is not including higher education, which would extend your days left in school. There are a few variables, but I can make you a list of possible outcomes."

"Nah, it's cool, thanks." Peter sighed as he glanced out the dirty classroom window. At least it was now more like four-hundred twenty-one and a half days left of school. He was also thankful to have Karen whenever he had questions or just wanted someone to talk to. After a few other modifications to his suit, Peter developed wireless earbuds that connected to Karen's mainframe and were also easily hidden in his ear. He was an honest kid and never used her for answers on tests, but he did chat with her during study hall.

"Hey!" heaved a voice before Peter heard the sound of someone flopping into the seat next to him. Tearing himself from the window, he found Ned looking over at him excitedly.

"Hey, man," Peter greeted. Ned immediately picked up on his somber expression.

"You cool?" Ned asked.

Peter pondered his response for only a second before nodding. "Yeah, I'm cool. I just hope we don't get our English midterm back before school lets out. I don't need to give May something to ground me for."

"I'm sure you did fine," Ned insisted. "Besides, didn't you have, like, the whole Avengers there to help you study?"

Peter blanched at Ned's casual dropping of his superhero buddies, but they were also in the corner of the classroom, away from most of the rest of the class. He didn't think anyone would overhear.

"Ah, yes," Peter replied dryly, just keeping himself from rolling his eyes. "An old soldier, a scary lady, an archer, a god, a billionaire, and a Hulk. Tutors of the year. Not to mention, they obviously have nothing better to do with their lives than help some kid with his English homework."

"But you're not just some kid. You're," Ned dropped his voice so low Peter wouldn't have understood him if he didn't know exactly what he was going to say. "Spider-Man."

"Yeah, well he doesn't need good grades. I think he's got plenty of job security as it is."

Ned just shrugged, but he managed to draw a smile from his friend, something he hadn't seen in a few weeks. "So?" he asked, prodding Peter playfully with his pen.

"So? What?" Peter asked, batting his hand away.

"You said that Tony Stark was going to send you somewhere super cool for Spring Break! It's Friday and Spring Break starts tomorrow. So, where are you going?" When Peter elected to stare at the floor rather than answer, Ned offered, "Hawaii? Japan? Oh! Australia! I wonder if you'll come back with an accent! G'day, mate," he tried in what was perhaps the worst attempt at any accent Peter had ever heard.

"No, it's not any of those," Peter mumbled.

"Private Island, then? Disney?" Ned frowned. "Oh, is it Canada? Sorry, man."

Peter looked back up at him. "No! And there's nothing wrong with Canada!"

"Then where is it?"

Peter pursed his lips and then sighed before leaning his head into his arm that rested on the desk. His fingers brushed his hair back and he heaved another sigh before mumbling, "Siberia."

"Alright, Petey, chop-chop. Let's go. Last call for Peter Parker flight 182 to beautiful Siberia!"

Peter groaned as he lugged his suitcase across the hanger inside the expansive Avengers compound in upstate New York. He still wasn't thrilled about spending his Spring Break in one of the coldest places on Earth. He thought ruefully of all the fake messages he had to record for Aunt May so she would think he was on an internship-provided vacation.

"Hi May, it's Peter. Just wanted to let you know that we landed in Hawaii and it's already so awesome. We'll be in the mountains so I don't know if reception will be the best. Don't worry, I'll call you. Talk to you soon! Love you!"

"Hey May, hope you're doing well. Hawaii is so great. We went snorkeling today. I miss you lots. Love you! Bye!"

"Hi Aunt May, it's me! Hawaii is the best and Mister Stark is so cool! Okay, talk later, love you!"

Peter looked over at Tony. "Isn't this a private jet? We can leave whenever we want!" Preferably, never. Maybe only to go back to his apartment so he could spend his Spring Break like a normal kid; doing absolutely nothing of value.

"Nope, we're on a strict timetable, kid, so let's move." Tony was right behind him, about an inch away from physically shoving Peter towards the small sleek jet he would be taking to Siberia. It was the jet of choice for a small team outing somewhere, whether that be to a mission or a hideout. Peter might have found it cool if he wasn't so busy huffing.

"I can't believe you're sending me to Siberia," Peter grumbled for the tenth time that morning. Tony restrained himself from eliciting a strained groan of his own. Were teenagers always so angsty? Was he like this as a kid? How did his parents ever make it through the teenage years? And how would he make it through Peter's teenage years?

"Hey, there are plenty of kids out there who would love a free trip to Siberia!" he replied with a stern sideways glance. "Be grateful!" He tried to ignore how much like his father he sounded, as he always tried to do every time he interacted with Peter. Tony had never seen himself as a parent and he was sure Peter didn't see him as one either, but there was something about the kid that made him just so… Parent-able. It was probably all the dumbass things he did and the constant eye rolls.

Peter's eyes flipped up and around again as they stepped up to the jet and Tony once again restrained himself from pushing him up the ramp and quicking shutting the door. Peter wasn't entirely convinced that it was every kid's dream to head up to Siberia when there were other places in the world that weren't Siberia to go to, but he didn't argue that point. It was only when he turned back to Tony at the base of the ramp to the plane that he noticed he was the only one of the two who had a suitcase.

"You got your bags on the jet?" he asked Tony, who shook his head.

"Nope, not going."

"What?" Peter shouted, his voice bouncing off the metal walls and creating a small echo. "You're sending me to Siberia by myself?"

"I'm not an idiot, Pete. Jeeze. Of course I'm sending you with someone." Tony turned to look up the ramp that led into the jet and Peter followed his gaze. As their eyes focused on the inside of the plane, a woman came into view and took a few steps down the slope. She stopped about halfway down the ramp and rested a hand on her hip. A bored expression lingered on her face and her lips were pursed in a tight line. She looked like she had neither the time nor patience to deal with either Peter or Tony. This was the first time Peter had ever stopped so closed to the Black Widow and it was in that moment that Peter's brain stopped working. The only sound that escaped his gaping mouth was a mangled, "Wha-"

After another half a minute of Peter gaping at the unamused Natasha, Tony said, "Okay, so Peter, Natasha. Spider-Kid, Black Widow. This is going to be great. Wonderful. You two will be the best of friends."

"Let's go, kid, they're expecting us at five," Natasha said simply before disappearing back into the jet. Peter's head snapped over to Tony who looked rather pleased with himself.

"You're sending me with her?" Peter whispered furiously. "Seriously?"

"What?" Tony asked with an innocent smile. "Nat's the best, you'll have so much fun. Besides, you guys can bond about spider stuff. You know… webs. Climbing. Avoiding bug spray." He placed a hand on Peter's back and not too gently shoved him up the ramp. Peter almost tripped over himself but managed to save both his footing and the duffle bag he was carrying from meeting the floor. "Chippy-chop, Spider-kid. Let's go, I wouldn't want to be the one that makes Nat late."

With one last glare, Peter made his way to the top of the ramp. "Bye, Underoos!" Tony called. "Have a nice trip! Don't forget to try the snowcones!"

Before Peter could shout back, the door was closed and the jet started making whirring noises. The front wall dropped down and the morning sunlight streamed into the hanger. The jet slowly moved forward from its spot towards the entrance. After another moment to wait for the signal, it shot out quicker than a person could blink and was out of sight before Tony had even raised his hand to wave.

Chapter Text

For the first few minutes they were in the air, Peter chose to watch the world pass by from one of the side windows. The jet moved so fast; quicker than any airplane he'd ever been on before, and it wasn't long until the beautiful greenery of the East Coast turned into the ocean which soon became just clouds passing by.

Once he'd lost interest in the puffs of white and the haze of blue that surrounded him both from the sky and the ocean, he decided to look around the back part of the jet. There were buttons and doors and all sorts of cool blinking lights that he couldn't even begin to understand. He also knew if he touched anything, Natasha and Tony would both kill him, if he didn't accidentally eject himself.

Finally, he moved towards the front of the jet, where Natasha was busy manning the controls. While the plane pretty much flew itself, she kept a close eye on the radar as well as the communication devices in case anything came up. When Peter crossed over to the two chairs at the front, Natasha turned herself slightly to look at him before glancing back at the tracker.

Peter flopped into the co-pilot's chair and gazed out the large windshield. He stole a quick glance at Natasha, who was busy fiddling with something on the communication device before he looked at the sky once more. The silence that lingered wasn't exactly uncomfortable, but Peter also wasn't very used to not talking.

"So, do you fly this thing often?" he asked, his words slowly spilling from his lips as he looked over to where the woman was sitting. She looked up, raised an eyebrow, and said nothing for such a long enough period of time that Peter started to mentally kick himself for saying anything at all.

"Yes," she finally responded. "Quite often."

"Oh, it's super cool," Peter replied, noting she didn't leave much room for discussion. "I mean, like, really super cool. I've never been in something like this before. The plane we took to Germany wasn't anything like this!"

Although Natasha didn't engage in the conversation, a faint smile crossed her lips. Peter took note and figured that she wasn't completely bored with his chatting, so he continued. "My friend Ned would freak out if he knew we were flying in this thing," he said. "Maybe someday I can show all him these kinds of things, but he's gotta learn to chill out first. MJ wouldn't be a problem, though. Nothing impresses her. At least, that what she says. But you know what, I bet she would be impressed by this ship. She'd never admit it, but that's MJ for you, I guess."

With a sideways look, he found Natasha's entire focus was on the sky ahead of them, but she didn't seem agitated or bothered by his rambling. He wouldn't have gotten to the second sentence with Tony before the scientist told him to can it.

"I can shut up now," he offered. "If you want. Mister Stark says I talk too much."

Although Natasha would never admit it, she didn't mind the kid's rambling at all. It was different from other travel partner's she'd had, most of whom were too intimidated by her to talk at all. Peter seemed to be doing the exact opposite—talk as much as possible to mask his discomfort.

Still, she just shrugged indifferently. "You'll know when I want you to shut it," she told him. Peter couldn't think of anything to say back to her. He figured she was absolutely correct.

"Okay." He looked out the large front window at the clouds passing by. Little white wisps hit the windshield and dissolved in a mesmerizing way. It was a good thing this jet practically flew itself and the pilot was so focused on the task at hand. Peter knew he would get distracted immediately.

"So, uh, my school offers Russian, you know," Peter started, not sure where he was going with this line of thought. He didn't know much about Natasha but knew she was Russian and knew how to speak Russian as well as multiple other languages. This was the first thing that popped into his mind. The Black Widow didn't respond at all, so he continued. "I take Spanish, but I was interested in taking Russian. I think MJ said she might do it next year. Do you, uh, think it's hard? I mean, not that I only take easy classes, but I kinda want to keep my GPA up or May will kill me."

Natasha looked over at Peter, regarding him for a long silent moment. He shifted uncomfortably in the chair and looked at the floor, then back out the window. Regret welled in his stomach and he began to think that maybe this hadn't been the best topic of discussion.

"Any language is easy if you want to communicate badly enough," Natasha finally answered in an even tone. Peter looked back at her and saw the smallest hint of kindness in her eyes, a vulnerability that he hadn't seen before, and one that quickly disappeared in favor of a more neutral expression.

"Oh?" he asked. He thought he understood what she meant, but he wasn't completely sure.

Natasha returned her focus to the plane's controls and the open sky. "When you're in a place you don't know with people you've never met who don't give a damn about you, you figure out how to talk to them as quickly as you can," she explained. "It makes it easier for them to see you as another person, as a human being, rather than a captive. And, when you want information out of someone and no time to find an interpreter, you get that information any way you can."

"Ah." Peter sucked on the inside of his cheek, feeling uncomfortable with Natasha's blunt explanation. The thought of being captured had never once crossed his mind, but he was now sitting with someone who had been both the captor and the captured. "I, uh… We're just in high school," Peter mumbled out, fidgeting unconsciously with his fingers. "So, uh I guess we don't need to learn a language that bad."

Natasha turned back to Peter for a moment with an intense stare that made the boy want to disappear into his seat. "I know," she said and turned back to the controls. There was something in her voice that Peter couldn't place. It sounded a lot like regret or sadness, but her blank expression gave him no clues.

"I know I'm young," he offered, sitting forward in his chair. He still felt the need to fill the silence with something, anything, even awkward conversation. "But I want to help. I want to be a good guy. You know, fight crime, help people." Natasha didn't respond. "And I know this wasn't your idea of fun—going on a trip with some idealistic kid who can't shut up, but I really, really appreciate it. Even if it is to Siberia. Why is it Siberia anyway? Can't they have a base in Hawaii or something? Sorry, not important. Anyway, I know you probably think that sounds stupid, but helping people—that's important to me. There's so much bad in the world and I think people need to see something that's good. If that good is Spider-Man than awesome. I want to give people hope."

Peter sucked in a breath to say more but stopped just short of the sounds leaving his mouth. He had said all he wanted to. There was nothing left for him to add. Instead of continuing, he watched Natasha expectantly, wondering what her reaction would be to his little speech. If she did have an opinion on it, her expression didn't give any clues. However, as the minutes passed and the silence lingered, her face softened into a thoughtful look and her gaze soon slid from the dashboard to the floor before it flickered back to Peter.

"I think that's the best damn thing I've heard in a long time," she said.

The rest of the ride was pleasant Peter went on about school and his friends and how May would kill him if she knew where he was right now. He also talked a little about his fears being Spider-Man, that someone would find out his identity and hurt his friends. Natasha was generally silent and didn't offer him much in the way of comfort. Still, talking this out with her was much easier than talking with Tony. While Peter enjoyed the company of the engineer, he wasn't very good with emotions. Natasha wasn't either, but at least she didn't mind listening to them.

Suddenly, Peter felt the plane dip downwards and the thin white clouds dissolved into a thick layer of sparkling snow. He pressed himself against the window to look out upon the icy earth. He could see for miles, though there wasn't much to look at. Every now and then, a hill dipped up and down or he spotted a snow-covered pine forest, but for the most part, the world was flat, white and empty.

"Welcome to Siberia," Natasha quipped when she saw him gazing out. "Hope you brought a coat."

Peter nodded, but couldn't bring himself to speak. He felt the same way he felt when he visited the Grand Canyon. He'd wondered what was the big deal with a bunch of rocks and valleys he could look up on Google Images, but once he got there, he was amazed at the beauty that surrounded him. For a split second, he thought about taking a picture on his phone, but he realized it would be useless. No picture could capture the beauty of the sprawling tundra, just like none had done justice to the golden canyon.

And, he knew, just like when he visited the Grand Canyon, he would get sick of the beauty pretty quickly. This time, he would be too busy freezing his ass off.

The jet hovered over a spot in the frozen tundra for a moment before the snow parted and the Earth opened to reveal a metal structure below. Peter breathed out an amazed, "Woah," before he could stop himself. Avengers Tower was pretty cool and so was the compound Upstate, but he had never seen something like this with his own two eyes. It was perfectly hidden. If he'd searched for years, he would never have found the entrance.

The jet was lowered into the ground and Peter's view of the icy landscape became the grey metal interior of whatever landing room they were in. It was a good few minutes before the metal gave way to windows and doors and the jet landed with a gentle thud.

Peter was so busy gazing around at his surroundings, he became startled when Natasha pulled his arm and started to drag him towards the exit. He stumbled a little and then bashfully regained his balance as he scurried to the ramp.

When the ramp descended, Peter was greeted with the smiling face of a young woman and the stern blank look of a middle-aged man. Both were dressed in dark formal clothing. Peter knew they were SHIELD agents, but he thought they looked like lawyers.

"Ms. Romanov," greeted the man. His expression showed great respect for the woman before him and Natasha nodded politely back. He then moved his gaze towards Peter and a thin frown crossed his lips. "Mister Parker," he acknowledged. Peter swallowed and nodded back to him. He wasn't sure if the guy was happy to see him. It didn't appear so, but over the past few months, he'd learned that outward expressions weren't always indicative of inward opinions.

"Welcome," the cheery voice of the woman rang out. Peter couldn't help but smile and immediately felt at ease with her there. "We're so glad to have you both for the next few days. We have your rooms all made up and your schedules set. Peter, we're so glad to have you here for the first time. Welcome to Siberia and welcome to SHIELD!"

"Thank you," he replied. He wondered how someone could sound so happy in such a desolate place and in such a tough job, but she managed it.

"Peter, this is Special Agent Jacob Harrington," Natasha introduced, pointing to the man. She gestured to the woman and said, "This is Agent Alice Anderson." Alice grinned back while Jacob only briefly acknowledged that he was mentioned. "I think we'll head to our rooms and meet you for dinner," Natasha continued, grabbing Peter's shoulder as she started to guide him towards the hangar doorway.

"Wonderful," Alice replied. "We'll make sure your bags arrive shortly."

"Thank you!" Peter called behind him just before Natasha could whisk him from the room. He turned back around to find himself walking down an artificially lit white metal hallway. It looked pretty dull and Peter's eyes were already tired from the harsh lights. He already missed windows. Still, the place was pretty cool. Along their way, they passed laboratories, conference centers, and many other rooms Peter couldn't immediately identify.

He refrained from asking Natasha what everything was for and where they were going, but as they rounded a corner to the living quarters, he said, "How far underground are we?"

"About ten-thousand feet," Natasha replied. "This is one of the most secretive SHIELD locations in the entire world, which is quite a feat since they are all hidden quite well. Only about ten people work here full time and less than a hundred know of its existence."

"Woah," Peter breathed, looking around with newfound appreciation. "So, uh, no windows I guess? Or… air?"

"Air is filtered down through invisible vents and then heated," Natasha explained. "But no. No windows." The stopped outside of a plain looking door. It almost exactly matched the stark white wall behind it, but the door itself was more of very light beige color. Next to it was a blue blinking pad which Natasha pressed her hand to. There was a content beep and the door slid open.

The pair walked into the room and Natasha flicked on a light. Peter found himself not in one room, but rather in an entranceway that led to many rooms. It looked like a big hotel suite, like the kind rich people stayed in. A kitchenette was to the right and a bathroom was over to the left. There was a big living room and then two more doors that Peter could see led to two large bedrooms. The only thing missing was, of course, the windows and a balcony.

"This is so cool!" Peter couldn't help himself from exclaiming as he started walking around the suite. He poked his head in the bathroom and was amazed at the size of the detached tub and large single stall shower. Turning back to the living room, he walked over to the rooms and peered into each one. Both looked exactly the same with a dresser, a television, a nightstand, and one giant luxurious looking bed. Peter walked into one of them and flopped onto the bed, his arms outstretched and thumbing the soft sheets. "Oh my God!"

Since Peter was too busy exploring the vast set of rooms, he didn't see the thin smile that lingered on Natasha's face. She thought she would be more put out by the antics of a child, but found his enthusiasm intriguing. It was a lot different from traveling with Iron Asshole or Captain No-Fun. Of course, she loved both of them. They were part of her found family after all. But Peter was different and Natasha liked a little different.

There was a knock at the door, which Peter didn't hear since he was too busy jumping all over the bed in what was apparently his claimed room. Natasha opened the suite door to their suitcases and dragged both into the room. She parked her bag outside the unoccupied room and walked into the other with Peter's duffle bag.

"Alright," she said as she threw the duffle onto the sheets, just missing Peter's head. "Get ready. Dinner's in ten."

"Okay!" Peter called to her as she left the room, shutting the door behind her. He scurried off the bed and grabbed his duffle bag.

Within the next few minutes, his clothes were put away in the dresser across from the bed and he was changed into a slightly nicer polo and jeans. He peered out of the room and saw that the bathroom was unoccupied, so he quickly went in to wash up.

When he came out, Natasha was waiting by the door and they wordlessly left the room and started down the dull hallway once more. This time, they continued the way they had come and it was only a few more doors before they entered a large kitchen. This, Peter figured, was obviously the living quarters of the compound. The doors they had passed must have been rooms and suites like the one he and Natasha were staying in.

He was led to a dining room where Jacob and Alice were. When they came in the doorway, Alice grinned and Jacob simply nodded. "Oh good!" Alice said. "Just in time!" She set down two plates and walked back towards the kitchen for the rest. "We're about ready to eat. Why don't you go take a seat." With a glance behind her, she added, "You too, Jacob! I'm all set."

Jacob sat and Peter followed Natasha to two seats on one side of the table. Peter glanced around the dining room while the two adults sat in comfortable silence. It was slightly smaller than the kitchen but nice. A pretty lamp hung from the ceiling and the wooden table looked new and expensive. The lighting was so nice, Peter almost forgot that they were thousands of feet underground with no windows or natural light. Almost.

Alice came back with two more plates and soon everyone was gathered at the table. Their meal was a nice roasted chicken and veggies along with chocolate cake for dessert. Peter found it to be quite good, but he was also pretty hungry after a day of traveling.

"Jacob tells me this is your first trip to a SHIELD location," Alice said a few moments after everyone had taken their first bites. "Well, besides the old Avengers Tower and the Compound in New York, if you even count those."

Peter nodded as he struggled to swallow a too-big bite of chicken within an appropriate amount of time to respond. "Yeah," he started, coughing down his food. "Yeah, this is my first time. Mister Stark sent me so I could learn more about SHIELD. It's really cool down here."

"It is," Alice agreed. "And it's pretty cool outside too." Peter laughed at her joke and Natasha smiled while Jacob remained as stoic as ever. "I've been here about a year. Jacob's been here on and off for about ten years."

"Eleven," he corrected simply and offered no further explanation.

"Right, eleven. Anyway, it's quite the change of pace."

"How often do you guys get to leave?" Peter asked before shoving another forkful of food into his mouth.

"Missions, I assume?" Natasha chimed in. "If I remember correctly, you're not able to come and go as you please. Though," A devious sparkle appeared in her eye. "I was a special case."

A million questions popped into Peter's mind, but he didn't have the words to ask them. He knew a little about Black Widow's past, but not much and he wasn't always able to discern what was true and what was Tony pulling his leg. For example, he was pretty sure she didn't eat babies for breakfast, but he didn't know what parts of her time in Russia were embellished.

"Yes, a few missions here and there," Alice nodded. "Most of us aren't trained field agents. At least, that's not our specialty. We mostly work in the labs to produce new technology. But we do get vacation time and full benefits!"

"That's awesome!" Peter replied, thinking about all the cool gadgets and inventions under this very roof. "What kinds of things are you working on?"

"Classified," Jacob replied shortly and, though his expression didn't change, Peter felt the man's harsh eyes fall upon him.

Alice frowned at her partner and turned back to the boy. "A lot of the things we work on are sensitive. But, I know there are a few things I can show you tomorrow."

Peter smiled back at Alice and cast a wary glance towards Jacob. There was something about the room that pinged his Spider-Sense. It wasn't something glaring, like "red-alert, you're all going to die!" but it was the sort of feeling that makes a person a little wary. Peter wasn't sure what it was exactly but he was able to mostly shrug it off. His best guess was that it was the lack of windows and the fact that they were so far underground. That would be enough to make anyone a little on edge.

Maybe it was how short and stoic Jacob was. While the Avengers came with many personalities, Peter had never met anyone so difficult to talk to. At least Alice was friendly.

Dinner was over soon and they were excused to their rooms until the next day. Natasha would be in meetings and Peter would fill his day with tours and lessons on SHIELD. He was excited to check out the lab with Alice.

Natasha pushed open the door to the suite and Peter followed her in. She flipped on the light and started to walk towards her room. Just as Peter reached his doorway, Natasha stopped and turned to him. He froze, still a little intimidated by her. Had he done something wrong at dinner? Talked about something he shouldn't have.

Instead, she just nodded to him. "Have a good night," she said. "And always keep your guard up." With that, she disappeared into her room, the door closing before Peter could feel his feet to move again.


Chapter Text

Peter turned the last thing Black Widow had said to him around in his head for quite some time. There was, of course, no natural way to know what time it was, but he also barely glanced at the clock on his nightstand as he laid awake. Part of it was adjusting to the time change, while the other part was a feeling that something was off.

Natasha was always a little paranoid, Peter reminded himself. The idea of guarding oneself at all times was ingrained in her from a young age. It was entirely likely that the comment was just parting bedtime advice, like when Tony would tell him, "don't literally shit the bed" or "if you fail another Spanish test, I'll launch your ass into outer space." Maybe he and Black Widow were bonding! Ned would never believe it. Though, Peter wasn't entirely sure if they were bonding or not. He didn't feel like they were on a first-name basis, but he also didn't know what else to call her. Ms. Romanov? Too formal. Ms. Widow? Kinda weird.

Sometime between debating whether his Spider-Sense could have bad days and appropriate formal names for assassins, Peter drifted off to sleep. He awoke to a preset alarm blaring and he ruefully rolled over and covered his head with the blankets. Now that he had gotten to sleep, he wanted to sleep forever, and without sunlight poking in, it would be easier to doze off again.

But, he knew Black Widow would kill him, perhaps literally, if he was late. He rolled over, found the power button and turned the alarm off before laying on his back for another moment.

Just before he was about to fall back asleep, he got up and flipped the overhead light on. He peered out of his room and found the bathroom empty, so he quickly showered and dressed. Once ready to go, he left the bathroom and that was when he found Natasha seated on the couch in the living room. She was briefly looking over documents but didn't appear too engrossed. When the bathroom door clicked shut behind Peter, Natasha looked up and set the files aside.

"All set?" she asked, standing from the couch and crossing over to the doorway. Peter silently nodded. "We'll have breakfast and then you're spending the day with Alice in the lab."

"Really?" Peter asked, his eyes lighting up at the prospect of spending the day in such a cool lab. He wondered if it was as high tech as Tony's, though that seemed hard to believe. Still, Tony was just one guy and SHIELD was a massive organization.

"Yes," replied Natasha as they passed through the residential hallway. "Do what you're told and don't do anything that Tony would do. In fact, just do the exact opposite of what Tony would do."

"Okay," Peter nodded slowly. He figured that meant don't touch things he wasn't supposed to touch and don't go into restricted areas. "What are you going to do all day?"

"I have meetings with some of the agents here," Natasha explained. "Debriefings, seminars, and gathering information on various terrorist organizations. Tomorrow, we'll spend half a day and head out in the evening."

"Cool." Peter didn't know what else to say to that, though he was happy he wouldn't have to spend the full week in Siberia. He might actually get the chance to hang out with friends or chase down some bad guys before he had to go back to school. Though, he remembered, Tony told May he would be gone for the week, so he assumed he'd be bunking at the compound for the rest of break.

"Kid," Natasha said, stopping just short of the entrance to the dining room. Peter looked up at her and noted the hard look in her eye. She was looking away from him and into the kitchen to be sure no one was there. Then she took another glance down the hallway. "You see anything that seems off, you let me know. Got it?"

It took a few moments for the word to form in Peter's mouth and another for him to spit it out. "Okay…" he stuttered, searching Black Widow's face for any hint of what she really meant. Was she feeling off like he was? Did she hear something that made her suspicious? Or was this just typical Black Widow behavior.

Swallowing thickly, Peter decided to chalk it up to her usual self. This was a strange and unsettling place, being so far underground. Anyone would get a little jumpy, especially a former assassin trained not to be comfortable in any situation.

Natasha said nothing more and turned to walk into the kitchen. Breakfast was a simple bowl of cereal and orange juice and was eaten in an eerie silence. Black Widow finished first and went to clear her plate. She didn't return to the dining room, but Peter was only halfway through his second bowl and knew he'd be starving if he didn't eat as much as he could.

He was just about finished when Alice walked into the room carrying a half-eaten apple. She looked surprised, but pleased to see him and, since Peter had a mouthful of food, he just waved.

"Good morning, Peter," Alice greeted in a cheery tone. It was a complete change from how he had spent the morning so far with Natasha. But, for some reason, her cheeriness seemed off-putting. While Natasha wasn't exactly friendly, she was honest and genuine.

"Morning," Peter gasped as he swallowed his food.

"How did you sleep?" Alice asked as she sat down. "I hope well. It can be a little strange with no moonlight or sunlight, but you get used to it. In fact, I find it pretty cozy now!"

Peter nodded, wondering to himself how anyone could find being thousands of feet underground 'cozy.' His Spider Senses were going off like crazy and he felt on edge. "Yeah," he lied with a fake smile plastered on his face. He just wanted to go to the lab. Hopefully, he could forget how far down he was inside the familiar setting of a laboratory.

"Are you excited to go check out all the tech we have down here?" Alice asked, either unaware of or pretending not to notice Peter's discomfort.

"Oh, yeah," Peter replied, brightening at the idea. He was glad they were on the right page. "I can't wait to see what you have down here!"

"It's pretty cool," Alice said as she finished her apple and tossed it in a nearby bin. "I'm afraid there are some rooms we won't be able to get into, but I think there's plenty in the less secured area to keep you busy."

"Do you think I'd be able to tinker around a little?" Peter asked. "I've been working on developing some better web shooters and I have everything I need, but I keep messing things up. Maybe a change of scenery will help."

"Of course," Alice smiled and stood. "I have a meeting at one this afternoon anyway, so that will give you some time to mess with that." She placed her hands on her hips and stretched. "Well, are you ready to go? I can give you a quick tour of the base before we hit the lab and a little history lesson too."

Peter agreed and after he cleaned up after himself, the pair started down the long white metal hallways that connected the compound. There weren't many people stationed at this base, so they only passed one other person on their way to the lab. The man they walked by gave just a curt nod but didn't make eye contact. Peter noted that everyone stayed away from each other. Alice was the only one who had offered a smile.

"Everyone is a little distant here," Alice explained, as though reading Peter's thoughts. "It's a cold place and it's not fun. I try to brighten things a little bit, but most people here just want to put their heads down, get to work, and get home to their families at some point."

"What about you?" Peter asked. "Are you just trying to get through the years here and get home?"

Alice laughed and shook her head. "Nope, I love it here! I also don't have a family to get home to. Most of the people here are married and have kids, but I'm younger and don't have any of that."

"Oh," Peter replied with a hint of pity in his voice. Alice didn't seem to mind her situation at all, but Peter felt bad that someone so nice didn't have anyone outside waiting for them.

"Don't give me that," Alice teased, lighting pushing Peter's shoulder. "It's fine! I love my job. I'm happy here."

Peter caught her eye and smiled, though it didn't quite reach his eyes. He felt that Alice was being genuine but, there was something that seemed off about her words. Sure, they were truthful. He did believe that she was happy here. But they, also seemed hollow, like there was something missing in her tone.

His Spider-Sense was still going off and he felt a little anxious, but most of it melted away when they came up to the lab at the other end of a long hallway. Alice swiped her card and the two of them stepped into the gigantic lab.

Everything was metal, but unlike Tony's lab, it was very, very white. Peter thought it looked like something out of an action movie where all the bad guys would do their bad-guy experimenting. There was no one in the lab, though. It was just Alice and Peter and their footsteps made echoes as they moved around on the tile floors.

What truly caught Peter's eye, though, were all the robotics and technology that sat on tables around the room. Everything from prototype AIs to weapons to miniature robots was in his line of sight. He didn't know which one to go up to first, or if he would even be allowed to get a better view.

"I've heard you go to a big science school in New York," Alice commented as she watched Peter look around like a child in a candy store. "So you must be really excited to be here."

"Yeah!" Peter nodded. "This is… wow. This is amazing. Like, I've never seen anything like this before in my entire life. It's huge! It's gotta be the biggest lab ever!"

"Oh, no, there are labs on other SHIELD properties that are bigger than this one, but it does come close," Alice told him. For a moment, Peter tried to imagine a lab bigger and nicer than this one but decided his time was better spent ogling the robot on the table next to him.

"Can I-" Peter started as he moved towards the table.

"Of course," Alice cut him off. "Anything in this room is pretty much up to be tinkered with. A lot of these are designs that were rejected or as used for testing some of the other projects." She gestured towards a door at the far end of the room they were in. "That's where all the good stuff is. Unfortunately, no guests are allowed in there without prior permission, so we'll just have to stay here."

Peter nodded and for a very brief moment mourned the loss of not getting to see all the cool stuff in the other room. However, there was so much in this room alone that the feeling was fleeting and he marched right over to one interesting looking robot and pulled up the specs.

Over the next two hours, Alice pointed out as much as she could to Peter, but she explained that she didn't know much about the technology in the lab. Her specialty was in research, but she did know a little about what the scientists and engineers were working on. Peter didn't mind, happy to get the opportunity to work with technology as advanced as what was in the lab. He couldn't even imagine what the other rooms held and he hoped that one day he would be able to see it for himself.

Peter was so engrossed with one particular machine he was pulling apart that Alice opted to cater lunch in. There was a small section of the lab where one could eat, so the two ate there. Peter was about halfway done with his ham and cheese sandwich when Alice stood and grabbed her plate.

"I need to run to a meeting," she said, stepping away from the simple wooden table. "It might take a while so I'll probably just come to grab you for dinner. You're welcome to stay here or go to your room, but please don't go anywhere else without either myself or Agent Harrington." Peter nodded and Alice added with a laugh, "It's not like you can get very far without one of us anyway!"

"Got it," Peter said. "I'll hang here for a bit and then head back to the room. I have some homework I want to get done anyway."

"Great!" With that, Alice spun around and exited the lab, leaving Peter alone. He cleaned up the eating area and then went back to the robot he had been working with before. It was nice being alone now, not that he didn't enjoy Alice's company, but it was easier to focus without the pressure of keeping up a conversation.

Once he had explored every part of the robot he had wanted to, Peter decided to head back to his room. He set everything back exactly where he had found it and exited the lab. As he began walking down the hallway, he felt his stomach growl. It had been about two hours since lunch and dinner wouldn't be for another two or three. His enhanced abilities also gave him an enhanced appetite, not to mention he was a growing teenage boy. Even normal, non-superpowered teenagers were basically human garbage disposals. Unfortunately, he hadn't thought to ask Alice about snacks.

He turned the corner and found himself back in the residential hall. Alice had said to not go anywhere except the lab and his suite of rooms, but he figured the kitchen had to be safe to go to as well. There was nothing classified on the residential side of the compound. No labs, no meeting rooms, just living quarters and lounges.

The residential hallway was long and just a boring as the rest. At the very end was the kitchen and Peter passed the room he was staying in on his way. The doorway to the kitchen was at the end of the hall, but it was closed when Peter got to it, which he found odd. He had no idea the kitchen had a door, but he figured it must be one of those cool hidden sliding doors.

"-know if the plan is going to work now. There have been some unexpected events."

Peter's hand hovered over the door and he froze the moment he heard Alice's voice. At least, he was pretty sure it was Alice, but her voice was a lot deeper and less upbeat than he was used to.

"What kind of events?" asked another voice, one that Peter didn't recognize. It was deep and male, but it didn't sound like anyone he had ever heard before. There was something in his tone, though, that made the hair on the back of Peter's neck stand up. He knew he probably shouldn't be listening to this conversation, but he also couldn't pull himself away.

"We have guests," Alice was saying.


"Black Widow and Spider-Man."

Peter sucked a breath in at the mention of his alias and held it. Why would Alice be talking about him and Natasha like that? It sounded like she was angry that they had come, but why?

"That shouldn't be an issue," the unnamed voice replied.

"Are you sure?" Alice asked. "I wouldn't want their presence to complicate things."

"Collateral damage. But truly nothing of value will be lost. So long as you do everything as instructed, it will just look like a tragic accident that no one could have prevented. Do you have your… body ready?"

"Yes, sir. About halfway through dinner, I'll pretend to feel unwell and return to my room. That should give me enough of an alibi. Should anyone survive, they'll easily believe me dead."

The male voice became deeper, darker and stated, "No one will survive."

"Of course sir."

Peter realized he had been holding his breath and let it out as silently as he could. He realized he was shaking as he sucked more air into his lungs. Slowly, he backed away, not wanting to catch the end of the conversation in case Alice realized he had been listening. He knew enough already.

He took a few steps backward before turning on his heel and booking it down the hall to his room. He slammed his hand on the scanner and the door unlocked. Within a second, he was inside the suite with the door closed.

His heart hammered in his chest and his palms were so sweaty, they slipped down the metal door. He was breathing hard, as though he had just run a marathon. The hunger he had felt just moment was gone, now replaced by a sinking black hole in the pit of his stomach.

Something was wrong. Alice was planning something… with someone. It was bad. People would die.

Peter dragged himself to the couch and flopped onto it as he tried to put everything together. His first thought was to find someone and tell them, but he couldn't risk running into Alice. He also had no idea who to go to about this. What if everyone was in on the plot? No, he needed to find someone he could trust. That, of course, was Natasha, but she was in a meeting in some restricted part of the compound. There was no way for him to contact her. This was supposed to be a safe place, after all. An allied location.

He pulled himself off the couch and went to his room, thinking to grab his cellphone. He hadn't used it since he got there because no notifications had come in. Now he knew why. As he clicked his phone on, he saw he had absolutely no service. He opened the phone and went to settings, but found all the wifi networks were restricted. It wasn't malicious, he knew, it was just the way the SHIELD base worked and he hadn't thought to get the internet code. No one had told him. He and everyone else thought it wouldn't be needed.

As he set the phone back in his duffle bag, the door to the suite opened. He jumped and whirled around to look out his bedroom door. It was Natasha who had just come back from her meeting. He had never been so grateful to see the Black Widow in his entire life.

"Nat!" he called, louder than he meant to and all but ran from his room. Despite the sudden shouting, Natasha slowly turned to him with a raised eyebrow. When Peter stepped just a foot away from her, he dropped his voice into a low tone. "We need to talk. I… I heard something. Something bad. And I know it's gonna sound crazy, but it's absolutely true, I swear! You just have to believe me because I know we're all in danger."

Natasha's facial expression changed, though it was only the slight widening of her eyes. Her lips still formed a thin frown, but her featured seemed deeper and more concerned. "Out with it, then," she said, stepping away from the door.

Peter followed her back to her room and he closed the door behind him for extra protection. He didn't think to check to see if they were in a bugged room, but figured they didn't have much time anyway.

"I heard Alice talking to someone," he whispered in a voice that was just barely audible. "Someone bad. They're planning something. I don't know what, but it involves something bad. People are going to die. It sounds like they want to kill everyone at this base and probably take something."

Natasha listened to every word he said, but there was nothing that showed whether or not she trusted this information. Hesitantly, Peter asked, "Do you believe me?"

There was a long pause, so long in fact that Peter felt his throat get hot with the anticipation of her disbelief. But, finally, Natasha slowly nodded as she pieced together everything Peter had said. "Where did you hear this?"

"Outside the kitchen," Peter replied in a meek voice. He swallowed a thick lump in his throat, trying to steady himself now that he knew Natasha was on his side. "I went to get something to eat and found the door closed--Did you know they have a door on the kitchen? Because I didn't! Anyway, I know it was Alice. I heard her voice and then there was another voice. A guy. I have no idea who it was. I was afraid to peek in the window in case someone saw me."

"Is there anything else?" Natasha asked.

Peter thought for a moment. "They mentioned something about a body," he replied. "Sounded like she had a body double or a dummy she's going to set up so people will think she's dead. They're planning this to happen during dinner."


Peter nodded. Natasha fell silent and pinched the bridge of her nose, clearly trying to think all of this through. Unnerved by the silence, Peter asked, "Should we call someone?" He was immediately waved off.

"We need to get out of here first," Natasha replied.

"What about everyone else?" Peter asked.

"We don't know who knows what. We're too far underground to get out quickly, so we need to focus on escaping and then we can call in backup to get everyone else out." Peter wasn't thrilled by the answer, but he understood her reasoning. This revelation had severely damaged all trust he had in anyone at the compound.

"Okay, so what?" he asked. "Do we just head to the ship and high tail it out of here? Should we make something up? Or would that be suspicious? Do we have to leave our stuff behind? I've got books and stuff here from school and I-"

Natasha pressed her hand to Peter's mouth in an effort to quiet him. He stopped talking immediately and looked up at her with big eyes. The Black Widow sighed, searching his face for a moment before she said, "I need you to stay calm. You can't let anyone know you think something is wrong." Briefly, she reconsidered her words. "Actually, no. You're sick now. I'm going to tell Agent Harrington that you're not feeling well and won't be eating. Then we'll head to the jet."

Peter nodded and Natasha removed her hand. "Are you sure?" he questioned. "That's the same excuse Alice is using."

"And she's using it because it's a good one," Natasha replied. "Or at least the best we can come up with on short notice. Usually, when I have to book it out of someplace, I don't have a kid with me, so I need to work with what I've got."

Peter wanted to remind her that he wasn't a kid, he was a teenager and that made a world of difference, but he figured this wasn't the time. Instead, he just nodded and glanced worriedly towards the closed bedroom door. He was scared, but he wouldn't admit it. He already didn't like being so far underground and the threat made him feel claustrophobic.

He jumped when Natasha placed a hand on his shoulder. "Thanks for telling me," she said, looking almost awkward. She wasn't used to working with many people and she certainly had not worked with a child before. This was also not supposed to be the kind of mission one "worked." It was originally hardly a mission at all. But, while this wasn't the situation she wanted to be in, she was glad if she had to be with any kid, she was with Peter. He had a good head on his shoulders, even if he talked too much.

"Get your stuff together and we'll leave as soon as I get back," Natasha told him as she crossed to the door. Once more, her expression became serious. She spared one quick glance back at Peter to catch him nodding before she opened the door and walked out. Peter watched as she went to the door of the suite, opened it, and then shut it behind her with a definite click.

Once he could feel his body again, Peter moved to his room and began packing his bags. He was halfway through getting the stuff out of the bathroom when he heard the first explosion.

Chapter Text

The booming sound filled Peter's ears with white noise and his stomach with dread. He instinctively checked the clock, as though an attack on one of the most secure bases in the world ran on a set schedule. It was only four, far too early for dinner. Alice must have started early.

As he ran out into the living room, Natasha burst through the door to the suite. She seemed relieved when she saw him and Peter knew just by the look on her face that she'd started to run towards the jet, but turned back when she remembered Peter was with her.

"Take what you have and let's go," she said, her voice jerking Peter to reality. He always paid attention when the older Avengers gave commands, but there was something about her voice specifically that gave him greater pause. Tony's ideas were often shut down by Cap or blurted out as more of a suggestion. In Peter's memory, no one had ever shot down an order from Natasha.

"My math book," he started weakly, glancing over his shoulder to the bedroom he hadn't finished packing. "I can't leave it here. That thing costs, like, a hundred bucks and my homework's in it."

Natasha pursed her lips, as though to keep herself from shouting at the kid. Of all the things to be worried about in an emergency situation, she couldn't believe that Peter's first thought was about some school textbook. To be fair, Peter also had no idea why he wanted to get that book so badly. Perhaps it was because he couldn't allow himself to believe that this whole situation was really happening.

"Consider it an internship expense," Natasha snapped, grabbing Peter's arm. She crossed over to the door with him and pressed herself against it, trying to hear out into the hallway.

"I need to get my suit on," Peter said. He was thankful he'd packed that in the bag he was holding first, but he hadn't found the time to get it on. With everything happening around them, he felt naked without his suit. At least Natasha was wearing her usual black leather outfit and had her guns on her. She might not be a god or a mutant, but she could fight, something Peter worried he wouldn't be able to do on his own.

"No time," Natasha replied, her tone still oozing contempt for Peter's needless interjections. He knew there would be an end to Natasha's very short line of patience, so he quieted down about his worries.

After another moment, Natasha must have felt it was safe to head out because she grabbed the door handle and pushed it open. It was only then that Peter heard more screams and bangs, likely from a gun of some sort. Natasha still had a strong grip on Peter's arm and the two made their way down the hall towards the labs and conference rooms as well as towards the chaos.

Peter loved being Spider-Man. He loved being part of the Avengers. Well, being an auxiliary Avenger. An Avenger Intern. He just wanted to help people and keep everyone safe. Running through those halls at that moment was torture because he could hear the sounds of people screaming, of people dying and there wasn't a single thing he could do about it. He knew Natasha would do anything they to save those people if there was something that could be done, but if she was booking it to the jet, then there must not be any hope.

If I had just put my suit on, Peter thought ruefully. If he'd put his suit on first thing, he'd be able to go and help. He'd be able to save the SHIELD agents and stop Alice. Maybe he could even figure out why she was doing something like this and who she was working for. Everything had come crashing down so quickly that he still couldn't believe the kind, outgoing woman he had met the day before was plotting something so evil.

If I'd been more perceptive. Less trusting. More alert...

They rounded the corner towards the hangar where the jet was. It was then that Natasha let go of Peter's arm so the two of them could sprint through the large metal door that opened up into what looked like a giant underground garage with no ceiling. They ran up to the sleek black Avenger's jet and Natasha keyed them in with a well-placed handprint on a hidden scanner on the side of the plane. The door open and the ramp unfolded and the two of them scurried inside.

Natasha ran to the cockpit and launched herself over one of the big black chairs. She fell into her seat and immediately began coding in locations and accessing the entrance to the hangar that was overhead and very far away. Peter, meanwhile, lingered by one of the side windows, looking out at nothing as the bangs and shouts reached him, even inside the jet.

"There's no time," Natasha said, catching Peter's attention. He turned, but she still had his back to him as she got the engines started. "I scanned the area and found three explosives ready to detonate. Even if we went back to help, we'd never make it back to the ship in time. The best thing we can do is get out of here."

"How did you-" Peter started, but Natasha cut him off.

"Because I know you, and I know how Tony has trained you. And, as infuriating as it is, the two of you are extremely similar. You want to do all you can and then even more than that, even if it means killing yourself." Slowly, she turned herself so that just one eye met Peter's. "And Tony specifically told me to make sure you get back in one piece."

"But those people," Peter said, his voice beginning to rise with anxiety. He took a few careful steps towards the front of the jet. "Agent Harrington. What about him? His family?"

"The people who work in these SHIELD bases are trained from day one on how to handle situations like this," Natasha explained in an even tone as she turned her focus back on the controls. "And they accept the risk that, if their training doesn't help them, then they might die. It's not a secret. This isn't the kind of job for everyone, but those who take it know the risks."

"Doesn't mean they deserve to die," Peter mumbled, crossing his arms as he took a seat on the side of the jet.

This earned him the briefest, but harshest glare he had ever received from Natasha. "I never said deserved," she said with a cool bite in her tone. Peter swallowed and looked out the window, decidedly ending the conversation. He didn't want to argue and he knew he was being overdramatic, but he also wanted the screams to stop.

Finally, the plane rumbled and started to take off. The simple white ground below started to grow smaller as Natasha slowly took the plane up higher. Peter let himself relax into the chair. He wasn't happy about how all of this turned out, but perhaps he could talk to Tony about it later.

Peter was contemplating whether or not he would want to just go straight home or stop by the compound when the plane violently shook and he was launched out of his seat. It took a moment for him to realize he was on the floor, but he started scrambling up when he heard Natasha shout, "We've been hit!"

"By what?" Peter asked, trying to get up on steady feet at the jet rocked violently back and forth. He made his way over to the wall and braced himself against that, but had to also grab the chair so he wouldn't go flying. Natasha didn't answer him, but he heard what sounded like an explosion off to the left. Upon looking out the window, he saw that bits of the wall had been shot at and icy dirt and snow were falling into the base.

Slowly, he started to move towards the front of the jet so he could get a better view of what was going on. Another blast didn't hit the jet, but the aftershock caused it to rattle and Peter fell over. He caught himself before he fully went down and used the two hands he'd firmly planted on the ground to give him leverage as he got back up.

When he reached the cockpit, Natasha was struggling with the controls. All of the screens and beeping made Peter's heart race and he couldn't quite tell what exactly was going on. One thing he did notice, however, was a digital outline of the ship with a red 'X' marked over the left wing. It didn't register for a moment, but when it clicked, his gasped loudly. The left wing had been hit.

He wanted to ask more questions. He thought about hopping in the second seat and trying his best with the control. However, Natasha was extremely overwhelmed and, since he'd never flown a jet before, he didn't think he'd be much help. But, he knew one way he would be more helpful.

Turning on his heel, he made his way along the wall and back to where he had been sitting. It was difficult to get there amidst the rumbling and violent turning of the jet, but he got to the sitting area relatively fast. Above the single seat was a compartment where his half-packed duffle bag was. It took a few tries since the jet was still shaking at every moment, but eventually, Peter managed to get the hatch open and grab his bag.

A minute later, Peter was suited up. He moved back to the cockpit and noticed that they were almost to the top of the tall entryway that would return them to the surface. He also saw that Natasha was frantically typing codes into one of the computers, but a negative error message kept beeping back at her.

"The roof isn't opening," she explained without looking up at him. "But we can't stop and we won't be able to break through it." Peter caught his breath as he peered up at the roof. As he released the air in his lungs, he knew exactly what to do.

"I'll be right back," he said and turned, though he glanced over his shoulder to see what Natasha would say. She spun her chair so she could look at him and he noted her surprise at seeing him in his suit. What surprised Peter the most, however, was that she didn't say anything, just nodded at him.

"You're not going to stop me?" he asked, bewildered. He knew it wasn't the time for that question, but he couldn't help but blurt it out.

"Something has to be done," Natasha reasoned with a shrug. "While you're out there, try to get the wing straightened out. It's damaged, not destroyed."

Peter had so many other questions, but the jet made a violent lurch to the left and he knew there wasn't much time. He ran to the emergency exit on the side of the jet and pulled his mask on before he kicked the door open.

"Peter there is an unknown aircraft directly behind you," Karen's sweet voice told him as he braved the rapid winds and climbed onto the side of the jet. For a moment, he looked down, though he immediately regretted it. He couldn't see the bottom, but he did see another small plane coming up behind them. Thankfully, he was able to stick to the outside of the jet, which helped him as it shook.

He crawled up to the top of the jet and saw that they were just about to hit the roof. Without another thought, he shouted, "Karen, get the explosive webs ready!" There was an upbeat ding and Peter knew they were good to go. "Aim for the middle of the roof there. And… go!" Two webs launched from his shooters and they hurled towards the top of the cylinder. The second they made contact with the metal of the roof, they exploded and Peter was thrown towards the back of the jet. He was able to cling on with the stickiness of his suit and as he looked upwards, he saw blue sky. They were free.

Unfortunately, Alice was behind them in a tiny jet of her own, as she helpfully reminded them when she sent another rocket their way. It missed Peter by a mere inch, though he knew she was likely getting another loaded. Still, he had more work to do before he could head back inside the jet.

Scrambling upwards, he moved towards the left side where the end part of the wing flapped wildly in the wind. It was detached from the base and hanging on by a sliver of metal, so Peter launched a web and managed to stick the parts back together. This immediately steadied the plane and the constant and violent rocking almost completely ceased.

"Whoo-hoo!" Peter whistled as he held onto the web with one hand and found his balance. He found this quite fun. The wind whipped at him and he wished he had his mask off so it could blow through his short hair. He felt like he was one some sort of amusement park ride if that ride involved running away from a crazy lazy on top of a billion dollar jet.

From the angle Peter was at, Siberia looked quite beautiful. A clear, crisp blue sky was above him and below laid frozen white snow that sparkled in the sunlight. He saw they were coming up on a forest of what he guessed were pine trees, but he also couldn't be sure because he wasn't a botanist. He could almost forget that he was sent to Siberia against his will and then attacked by a crazy lady. Almost.

Maybe this hadn't been such an awful trip after all. Peter wasn't happy about leaving all those people behind, but it was another lesson to be learned. He also would have to explain how his math textbook went missing, but he hoped Tony would cover the expense… Without telling May. Regardless of payment, May absolutely would kill him for forgetting his book.

"Incoming missile," Karen reported, breaking Peter from his thoughts. He turned and saw the rocket coming at him, but there wasn't much he could do. Natasha couldn't dodge the missile in time and it smashed right into the back engine of the jet.

Suddenly, Peter was falling, hanging onto the jet only by the web that now fruitlessly tied the left wing together. With another lurch of the plane, Peter was thrown forward past the ship and into the trees.

The only thing he saw was white before his world went black.


Chapter Text

The first thing Peter felt was itchy. Something thick and prickly laid on top of him while he himself laid on something equally scratchy. The next thing he noted was the dull pain that encompassed his head and the overall ache in his body.

He realized he didn't know where he was. The memories came back to him quickly and he knew he couldn't be in the SHIELD base. Dread pooled in the pit of his stomach as he was once again forced to remember the lives that were lost in that place. The people he couldn't save. The ones he had to leave behind.

The guilt boiled up to a point where Peter knew he needed to do something in order to push the thoughts from his mind. As much as the pain in his body wanted to lull him back to sleep, he knew he needed to open his eyes. Slowly and deliberately, he cracked an eyelid open, intending to survey his surroundings before he decided if he wanted to be alive to the world quite yet.

What he found was darkness, pierced only by little glints of sunlight that filtered in through what must have been cracks in the wall behind him. It took some time for his eyes to adjust to the dark, but once they did he realized he was in a very small room in what appeared to be a very small hut. He was laying on a tattered couch, what appeared to be the only seating besides a mattress in the corner of the room.

A flash of red pulled him from his inspection of the room and he saw that the Black Widow was seated on the floor in front of the couch. Her back was up against the part of the couch that morphed into the armrest and she was tinkering with something in her hands. Peter felt relieved to know that she was okay and nearby. He didn't know what he would do if he had managed to lose her. Not that he needed a babysitter, of course! But, being stuck in the middle of the tundra by himself didn't seem like the best idea in the world.

In his effort to figure out where he was, he must have shifted a little, because Natasha leaned back and turned herself so she could see him better. Their eyes met and Peter opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out before she turned back to whatever she was holding in her hands. He only caught it for a second before he couldn't see her face anymore, but Peter saw relief in her eyes. At the very least, Peter figured, she seemed calm. They must not be in danger anymore. Well, immediate danger.

"Glad you're awake," Natasha said, her tone even and seemingly devoid of emotion. Still, Peter could tell that she was happy he woke up and he simply nodded in response, though she probably only heard the movement of the blanket against the couch.

"Where are we?" Peter rasped, finding his voice more hoarse than he expected. He wondered how long he'd been asleep. It felt like it had only been mere moments between hitting the ground and waking up on this couch, but something told him much more time had passed.

"Someone's abandoned hunting cabin," Natasha replied. Peter wasn't sure if the place looked quite like a cabin. More like a hut or a shack. Still, it shielded him from the outside. It was then that he realized he wasn't as cold as he could have, probably should have been given where they were. His eyes darted to the corner of the room where a fire popped and crackled and he realized he was wearing one of his winter jackets that Natasha must have pulled from his duffle bag.

"Someone's?" he asked.

"I didn't exactly ask permission," she deadpanned. "We're lucky we flew over it anyway. I was able to crash the jet nearby."

"Oh, right, the jet!" Peter jumped a little at the memory of the sleek plane. He regretted the movement instantly and his hand flew to his side with a groan. Natasha responded to the noise, but only to give him a look that said, 'nice going, stupid.' Peter would have been more offended by the gaze if he wasn't so thankful she wasn't as much of a helicopter parent as Tony was.

"Yes, the jet. It's over in the woods about a mile back. I'm not sure what state it's in. I smelled fuel, so I wanted to get away in case it exploded."

Peter would normally have found the prospect of an explosion pretty cool, but at that moment he really wished that jet was fully functional. It was slowly beginning to dawn on him that they were trapped here with no way of contacting anyone. Unless Nat could get his communication system working on his suit again or the jet magically became un-crashed, they were out of luck.

"So, I guess Mister Stark thinks I went offline, huh?" he asked. Slowly, he started to shift himself on the couch so he could prop himself up on one of his arms. It ached, but it didn't hurt the way that jolting around did. Natasha glanced at him and just shrugged, as though she couldn't be bothered to care what Tony Stark thought. "I mean, he's probably freaking out. One time, I went on a hike and the connection cut out 'cause he was working on the suit the day before and messed something up. He flipped! Called my phone about a million times and had someone… I think Hawkeye maybe? Well, he had them go looking for me. Finally, he remembered to call May and she told him where I was."

Natasha wasn't looking at him anymore, her focus largely on the suit. She nodded along with Peter's story, though he couldn't quite tell if she was really listening or just humoring him. With Tony, he could always tell, but Natasha was like a wall; totally unreadable.

"Sorry," Peter apologized, guessing that his rambling was probably not her favorite thing. But, Natasha just shrugged and looked over at him.

"That's pretty funny," she said, kindness flickering in her eyes for just a moment before they returned to their standard neutral expression. "Stark's such a hardass."

Peter let out a tight breath which morphed into a strained laugh. "Yeah," he breathed. "He kinda is. It's weird, being out here, you know, on an Avenger's thing and him not being here."

"Can't have him holding your hand forever," Natasha commented. "Consider this a crash course."

"Emphasis on 'crash,'" Peter added, a rueful look on his face.

Silence fell over the pair for a moment as Natasha didn't acknowledge Peter's last remark. She seemed to have found some sort of setting within the suit that she was more interested in but quickly dropped the whole thing to the floor with a huff. Peter watched as she picked it up and thrust it onto the couch before she stood.

"I'm going to see if the jet is still in one piece," she announced. "I can't get the communications on that stupid suit up and running. It's like Stark has a security block on the whole thing."

"Ah, yeah." Peter felt his face heat up as he sheepishly replied. "It's a baby monitor."

"A what?"

"Baby monitor," Peter replied, looking at the floor. God, why had Mister Stark even added all of those security features? And given them such a stupid name? Now here he was in front of the world's deadliest and coolest assassins and he looked like such a little kid! "Parental controls. Mister Stark doesn't like it when I mess with the suit without his permission, so he encrypted a bunch of stuff. If Ned were here, I bet he could get into it…" Peter trailed off, leaving Natasha silent and looking at him like she'd scraped him off her shoe. She didn't mean for her expression to be so personal, but she couldn't believe she was dealing with something like this.

"Goddamnit, Stark," she muttered, pressing her hand against her forehead. "Well, this will teach him."

"You're not mad at me?" Peter asked, daring to steal a glance up at her.

"You? No. Stark? Always." Her expression softened. "It's not your fault you have a nanny cam on your suit. We'll just figure something else out."

Peter found himself really appreciating how calm Natasha was at that moment. He knew in the same situation, Tony would have absolutely freaked out, but it didn't seem to phase her. Trapped in Siberia with a kid and a rogue SHIELD Agent chasing after them and no way to contact the rest of the team? No big deal.

"I can come with you," Peter suggested, wanting to be as helpful as possible. Natasha stared back at him with an intense look that included an almost amused raised eyebrow.

"Cool it, kid. You were just thrown off a jet and into some trees," she said. "Just stay here for a little bit."

Peter didn't want to admit it, but the idea of being stuck alone in this cabin sort of freaked him out. What if the owner came back and they weren't exactly thrilled to find some kid crashing on their couch? And what if it got dark, or something attacked Nat and she didn't come back?

"No, I'm fine," he insisted, shifting so that he was properly sitting on the couch. His muscles ached and he wished he could go back to sleep, but he didn't want to be left alone. "Fast healing," he added to Natasha's skeptical look.

"It's a mile walk. Possibly more."

"I want to stretch my legs."

Natasha stared at Peter for another long minute before she finally shrugged and turned towards the door. "Whatever you want to do," she told him. "But I'm not carrying you back this time." Peter didn't respond, but his cheeks heated up at the idea that Natasha had to actually carry him to the cabin. That, of course, made sense, but it wasn't something Peter really wanted to think about.

On the bright side, she had allowed him to go, which honestly surprised the boy since he was so used to being told "no" by the other Avengers. Natasha was different. Or, maybe the situation was different. He hopped off the couch and grabbed his suit. Natasha was already at the door and she turned around when she realized Peter wasn't right behind her.

"I need to change," Peter said with a sheepish look. "My suit has a temperature control." Natasha didn't say anything, but she did turn around so that Peter could get into the suit. There wasn't much in the way of privacy in the old cabin, so Peter just turned himself around as well and quickly slipped into the comfortable, but hi-tech fabric.

"All set!" He called, crossing over to the door with his mask in his hand. Wordlessly, Natasha turned and opened the door.

The pair stepped out into the frigid daylight. Peter immediately pulled his mask on and asked Karen to turn the heaters in the suit on. It was so cold, much colder than Peter had ever experienced. Even the sunlight bore no hint of warmth and the frozen snow on the ground only served as a reminder of how cold it was outside.

Peter glanced at Natasha who walked silently ahead of him. She wore her usual leather suit and her head was exposed, but she didn't seem affected by the elements at all. He wondered if she had some sort of heating system in her suit since it certainly could be more high tech than it looked. However, her face was still uncovered and red painted her cheeks like a bad burn. Still, she seemed completely unphased.

They walked through the forest in silence as the sun rose higher in the sky. At least Peter could tell that it was around the very middle of the day, which meant it was warmer. Unfortunately, he also realized, this was about as warm as he could get. He had the heaters on full blast and he could still feel the biting cold through the suit.

Eventually, he began to feel the pulling ache of his body, though he did his best to ignore it. He could have stayed back in the creepy cabin, Peter reminded himself, but no. He wanted to venture out into the freezing cold tundra to find a possibly exploded plane with the silent scary lady. He briefly realized that Natasha hadn't even asked if he was okay. She didn't give him so much as a sideways glance when he slowed down to baby a particularly piercing pain in his left knee. Rather, she just matched his speed while staying just a few feet ahead of him.

About a half hour into their trek, Peter started to notice some trees were bent and others were down completely. When he saw a still smoldering, heavily burnt pine, he knew they were close to where the ship went down. He couldn't help but marvel at the destruction around him and he found himself amazed that such a small jet had done so much damage.

Finally, they came across a long indent in the snow that trailed straight ahead and had left in its wake countless destroyed trees. Further ahead, they saw it, the jet still intact but smoldering on one side. Natasha picked up the pace once they were closer to it, knowing that even if Peter continued slowly, he wouldn't lose sight of her.

"Well, it's all in one piece," Black Widow said as she inspected the side of the plane. She looked down and picked up a black part of what must have been the wing and added, "Mostly."

"Do you think this thing is still gonna explode?" Peter asked, coming up behind her. He surveyed the plane warily, not particularly wanting to be near the thing if it burst. When Natasha shook her head, he was relieved.

"No, I don't smell gasoline," she told him, pointedly sticking her nose in the air. "We should be fine, though it would serve us well to get out of here quickly. They know where the plane went down, so I wouldn't want to stick around."

Peter wanted to question who "they" were, but he figured they had more important things to do. Still, Alice had been the only one who had chased them, but she was working with someone. Who that someone was, Peter had no clue, but he wondered if Natasha had a hunch.

Natasha moved to another section of the jet and placed her hand on what looked like just the side of the plane. There was a weak dinging sound and a door slid open. Peter gasped in surprise and all but ran over to check out the hidden scanner. As soon as Natasha pulled her hand from the metal, the blue lights of the scanner died and it returned to blending in with its surroundings.

"Go find what you can of our luggage," Natasha said, turning her head slightly to look back at Peter as the two entered the downed jet. "I'm going to see if I can get the communication system up and running again."

"Got it," Peter replied and the two separated to opposite ends of the plane. Peter walked towards the back of the jet, stepping over the jagged upturned metal floor and ducking under low hanging wires. He found his bag at the far end of the ship, wedged between a part of the floor that was sticking up and a chair that was bent at a weird angle. He bent down and found that, though his duffle was tattered and torn, its contents had stayed inside and intact, apart from a bottle of shampoo that exploded in one of the pockets. Typical, Peter thought ruefully.

He found Natasha's own bag on the other side of the plane, stuck in another corner. It was bulkier and more well made, so there was just one tear along the seam on the underside of the bag. He grabbed the bag and doubled back to get his and then returned to the front of the plane where Natasha was trying to send out a distress signal.

Peter stood behind her, silently watching as she connected some wires and then pressed a blue button. When nothing happened, the disconnected the cords, tried another combination, and then tried the same button. Again, nothing happened.

"I don't think that's the right button," Peter blurted out before he could catch himself. Natasha stopped and turned around in the chair. She was looking at Peter with a raised eyebrow, though she didn't seem angry at the interruption. "Sorry," Peter whispered.

"What button is correct?" she asked, ignoring his apology.

"Uh, this one," Peter replied, pointing towards a more muted color button. "See, that wire is connected to the mic over here." He traced the finger along a red wire towards a speaker to the right of Natasha's chair. She nodded and didn't respond, but she did connect that wire and pressed the button.

There was a muffled beeping sound and Natasha leaned forward. "Hello?" she asked and heard the deep echo in the speaker. A smile crossed her face and she looked at Peter with a thrilled glint in her eye. "You're not as stupid as Stark is."

"Thank you?" Peter questioned, but Natasha's smile was infectious. It wasn't shown often, but when it was, Peter had no choice but to copy it.

"He's not stupid," Natasha corrected, turning her attention back to the controls. "But he freaks out too much." She pressed down on the button and leaned forward. "Hello. This is Agent Natasha Romanov. Our plane is down. Does anyone copy?" She released the button and leaned back in the chair, staring at the speaker. Peter held his breath.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, there was a beep and then a voice came through. "Nat?" It was patchy, but there. Natasha flew forward and pressed the button as soon as the voice reached her ears.

"Clint?" Peter wondered how she knew. To him, the voice could have been anyone.

"Yeah. Where are you?"

"Siberia. Long story. Are you getting my distress signal?"

"Distress?" Clint sounded alarmed. "Are you okay?"

"Do you consider trapped in Siberia with a kid after an attack on the SHIELD base there 'okay?'"

"Shit. Are you hurt?"

"No, we're fine. A little banged up, but just fine."

"Okay, send your location."

"Clint, I don't know what part of stuck in Siberia in a crashed plane you don't understand, but I'm lucky I got the comms up and running at all."

There was a pause and Peter feared they had lost him altogether, but then the scratchy static came back. "Alright, we'll find you. Just stay where you are. Wherever you are."

"Will do. Thanks, Clint." Natasha leaned back as the line went dead. "Alright, I guess we're bunking here. We can't go running all over the tundra, so we'll have to hang around here. We'll be fine. The ship is stable and there's no gasoline left to light."

Peter slowly nodded and then looked back at the destroyed plane interior. He knew she was right, but he couldn't help but ask, "You sure this thing isn't gonna explode?"


Chapter Text


Natasha insisted that the plane would not blow up. In fact, she said it so many times, that when Peter continued to ask "if she was sure," she began to pointedly ignore the question. Peter grinned the entire time and Natasha looked out the windshield to avoid him seeing her smile at his antics.

Peter settled into the copilot's chair and spent the first hour checking out all the cool buttons and gadgets on the dashboard. Since the plane was totaled and nothing was working, there wasn't much he could break. He managed to get the windshield wipers connected again and also figured out how to get the radio on. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything to pick up in the wasteland that was the tundra.

Then, Peter got bored. He knew they were out in the middle of nowhere and he heard Natasha say they couldn't send a location, but surely they had to be close to finding them. He slouched in the seat, his back resting against one armrest and his legs draped dramatically over the high back of the chair. If Tony were there, he would have loudly complained about being bored because he knew it would get on the man's nerves. However, with Natasha, he didn't dare express his boredom. He was past thinking she would kill him, but light maiming was probably still on the table.

Natasha, on the other hand, seemed perfectly content to wait for hours, possibly days. She sat in the chair looking out the window, sometimes fiddling with the buttons on the dashboard, even picking at the tears in the captain's seat. How she managed to meaningfully occupy herself, Peter had no idea. He was bouncing around in his own chair, legs vibrating with restless energy. He was hungry, and cold, and bored, and just a lot of things all at once. Natasha seemed just content and still, like waiting around was her favorite thing to do.

"Hey," Peter ventured, wanting to speak before he even thought of what to say. Natasha looked up and over at him, her face as neutral as ever. "Um. Do you have a favorite movie?"

Peter could have kicked himself for such a dumb question, and the way he was perched on the chair, he might have been able to. He lifted his head above his knees to see Natasha's brows furrow together, though she didn't seem angry. Rather, she looked confused, as though no one had ever asked her this question before. Had she never been part of awkward icebreakers? That question was, like, god-tier level awkward for conversation starters at summer camp.

"No," she replied.

"Oh, really?" Peter asked, continuing on despite telling himself not to. "My favorite movie is Star Wars. I'm not super sure which ones. I mean, they're all super good. Well, except the prequels but everyone kinda likes to pretend those didn't happen. Except for memes. The prequels make good memes. Do you know what a meme is? Sorry, anyway it's a good series. The new movies are out now for the new trilogy. They're really good even if you've never seen Star Wars before. It's a good introduction."

All of this came out in just a few breaths, so when he was done, Peter sucked in a big amount of air. Natasha was still staring at him, looking bored and unimpressed. "Sorry," Peter apologized again and looked back out the windshield at one of the trees the jet had skidded against.

"You talk when you're nervous," Natasha said causing Peter to glance back at her. He opened his mouth to protest this but realized she was completely correct. As he fell silent, she added, "You'd be an interrogator's dream."

"I would be fine!" Peter insisted. "If I ever got kidnapped, I'd be good. I wouldn't say anything."

"If they tied you up and dug a knife into your thigh," Natasha noted. "If they just sit silently a few feet away from you? Interrogator's dream."

Peter shifted uncomfortably in his chair, not enjoying the mental image of him being kidnapped. "Well, who would do that anyway?" he asked, crossing his arms. "That's stupid. They'd just jump right to the stabby part, right?" Peter had never been tortured before unless you counted the five-hour long practice ACT he took the month prior.

A breath of air escaped through Natasha's nose in what was just a small puff of a laugh. "Sure, kid," she replied giving every indication that Peter was, in fact, not correct, but that she wanted to drop the topic. There were no current plans for the kid to be kidnapped and tortured and he didn't know any major secrets that couldn't be gathered from any other Avenger.

Peter chewed on his bottom lip and flopped back on the chair. "You should still see Star Wars," he mumbled. If only there was a TV on this plane. Well, there likely was one, multiple in fact, but they were all smashed to pieces."Your Aunt is probably worried about you," Natasha suddenly said, her eyes flickering back over to Peter. He was a little started out of his mourning of the broken televisions and found himself nodding before he even registered the comment. Once what she had said sunk in, he quickly shook his head and sat up a little straighter.

"May thinks I'm in Hawaii," Peter explained. "Mister Stark told her this was part of my internship. That we were going to some inventor's conference or internship fair or something. You know, so she wouldn't actually worry. But I don't think she would have ever expected something like this to happen, even if we'd told her the truth." He gestured to the broken plane around them. Even if May knew, even if she had been told where he was really going, this was so far out of the realm of possibilities in her mind.

"She doesn't know about Spider-Man?" Natasha asked. Peter noted that she actually seemed genuinely curious, as though she really did want to know about his life and family.

"No," he replied. "It would kill her worrying all the time. If I even stay over at Ned's longer than expected, she's calling everyone in the neighborhood."

"It's good to have someone to worry about you," Natasha replied and Peter nodded.

"Yeah, yeah, I know," he said quickly. "And I get it. After Uncle Ben died she got even more protective. I wouldn't want to hurt her or make her scared, so it's better if she doesn't know about this. If she just thinks this is an internship, then she doesn't have to stay up worrying about my safety."

"And if you do get hurt? Or you don't come home?" Natasha's simple words stung a bit. For all that Peter was able to do, he was still a teenager with the same sense of invincibility that all teenagers had. Even before he'd gotten his powers, he felt like nothing could hurt him, like the idea of not being able to come home was absurd. And, even now, as he put himself in increasingly more dangerous situations, he'd never considered the idea that he could actually die.

"I…" he started, his tone dropping to become more solemn and thoughtful. "I don't know."

Natasha pursed her lips. It was never her intention to make the kid sad. "You have more to lose than a lot of us, kid," she told him, crossing one leg over the other and sitting back in the chair.

"It's just my aunt," Peter replied with a shrug. "Well and I guess Ned too. Maybe MJ."

"And that's a lot more than a lot of us have."

"Thor has a whole planet," Peter argued, though he didn't know why he felt the need to contradict Natasha.

"Thor is also a god and the leader of that planet. He has more responsibility, not necessarily more to lose," she explained. "And it's not a competition, but it's worth thinking about the people who you do get to go home to before you throw yourself into danger. Think about Stark. What would he do if you didn't come back?"

Peter shrugged. "Find some other kid to be Spider-Man I guess." Natasha immediately frowned and Peter knew that was not the right answer. "What, any kid can get bitten by a radioactive spider and shoot webs from their ass." He paused, a sheepish look appearing on his face. "Not that I shoot webs out of my ass, but you know what I mean."

"Stark cares about you," Natasha said in a much softer tone than usual. "The Avengers care about you, and so does your aunt and friends."

Peter shifted uncomfortably and looked behind him to view the ruined back of the plane. "Why are you telling me this now?" he asked. It sounded like a lecture. Like a Stark lecture.

"Because I don't know how much longer we'll be stuck out here and I need you to think about this stuff before you go throwing yourself into danger."

"I will. I can handle-"

Suddenly, something caught Peter's attention and the words died on his lips. He couldn't quite figure out what it was. If it had been anything particularly visible, Black Widow would be out and killing the threat before he'd even had the chance to sit up. Instead, she just sat patiently in the captain's chair, awaiting Peter's response.

Peter started to feel chilly, like goosebumps but worse. If he hadn't been wearing such a skin-tight suit, the hair on his arms would be standing up. He pulled himself from his lounging position on the chair so that he was sitting more formally. Black Widow either didn't notice or didn't care because she didn't even so much as look at him as he changed positions. There was something going on, something that was wrong, but he couldn't put his finger on it.

"Where are you going, kid?" Natasha asked and Peter realized he was standing and heading towards the exit. He turned to her, his eyes wide and his mouth open, but no sound immediately came out.

"I…" he started and then fell silent, choosing to turn back towards the exit, but he made no movement. Thankfully Natasha was patient because she didn't say anything and allowed Peter to take in the eerie silence. It was then that he heard a tiny high pitched beep in the distance.

"Did you hear that?" he asked, whirling around to face Natasha again. If a mostly neutral expression could appear shocked, her's certainly did. She tilted her head to the side and allowed herself to focus on the silence that followed Peter's words, but she heard nothing.

"No," she replied.

"That beeping. You don't hear a beeping?" Peter pressed his voice rising as he became more panicked. "There's a beeping and I can hear it and I don't know where it's coming from! It sounds like it's coming from everywhere at once!"

"What kind of beeping?" Natasha asked, standing from her chair.

"I don't know! Beeping beeping! The kind that beeps!" Peter was now frantic. "We need to go! We have to get out and get far away from this thing!" He took a tentative step towards the exit and turned to see what Natasha was doing. Though he was confident he was right on this, he didn't want to leave Nat behind. Thankfully, she started to follow them. He turned his attention to the door and bolted.

They had just exited the plane and were running into the forest when the plane exploded. In the moment the sound registered, time seemed to slow down. Peter and Natasha were thrust forward by the blast and both went careening through the air until the landed on the frozen snow.

Peter barely registered the warmth of the fire nearby as he scrambled up into a wobbly standing position. He looked around frantically, his eyes clouded by smoke as he tried to find Natasha. A distant ringing in his ear made him feel like he was floating like he was somehow both there in the moment but also not completely real.

And then, like being sucked out of a vacuum, the world rushed back.

His head was bleeding, he knew that much. He could feel the not yet dried liquid on his temple and blinked as ruby droplets tried to run into his eyes. His arm hurt and he knew he must have landed on it, but he also knew it wasn't broken. Bruised at best, fractured or sprained at worst. He took a breath and realized he must not have breathed since the plan exploded because his grateful lungs hurt as they took in the oxygen. Maybe that was due to the oxygen being mixed with smoke, he couldn't tell.

"Nat!" he called out but found his voice hoarse and uncooperative. He broke into a fit of coughs as his throat cut in protest. He whirled around looking ahead of him instead of back at the smoldering remains of their jet.

It was then that he saw Natasha lying on her back in the middle of the forest. He ran over, finding himself stumbling over his new explosion-related injuries. Ignoring the pain that bubbled up and rested in his chest, he knelt down next to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. She was also bleeding from the head and her eyes were closed. But, she was breathing and, Peter noted as he moved his hand to check the base of her neck, she had a pulse. He moved his hand back to her should and gently, being as careful as the situation allowed, tried to wake her.

"Nat! Natasha!" he said, ignoring the protest from his aching throat. "Hey, wake up. Please wake up! I-I don't know what happened and I can't deal with all of this alone!" The petty criminals and thugs of New York City were nothing compared to a rogue SHIELD Agent and an exploded plane. He also really, really didn't want to see another person die. Not now. Not like this.

Finally, Natasha's eyes shot open and she looked frantically at Peter. It was the first time he had ever seen her look completely unsure of herself and her surroundings. His face brought her a sense of familiarity, which helped, but the danger was evident in the air. She tried to sit up and Peter placed a hand on her back to help her, but she stopped just short of a sitting position. She looked down and her eyes widened and Peter, curious, followed her gaze. His breath hitched and he froze.

She was impaled.

A long piece of metal stuck out of her stomach like it was nothing, like the suit she was wearing wasn't made of high tech fabric designed to prevent exactly that. The metal piece was jagged and rough and Peter couldn't tell what part of the plane it had come from. The base of it was tinted a sickening red as the very thing that threatened her life also saved it. He knew if he tried to pull it out, she would bleed to death.

"I'm okay," she rasped. Peter didn't believe her and she didn't quite believe herself.

"No, you're not!" Peter replied in a tone that fully displayed his fear. His eyes moved to look into Natasha's and she shook her head at him.

"I'm okay," she repeated and shrugged his hand off her shoulder.

"No, you're not!" Peter said once more, his volume beginning to rise. He didn't even understand how she could lie to herself like that. How could someone look down and see a piece of metal sticking out of them and then say that they were fine? "You're not okay! You're so far from the definition of okay, you should be the antonym in the dictionary! How can you say you're okay? Look at you!"

Natasha didn't reply to Peter's carrying on. Peter meanwhile had never wished more that Mister Stark was there. He looked to Tony Stark as a mentor and even a friend, and even though he knew he'd probably get yelled at or have to deal with a lecture, he needed someone to tell him they'd be okay. That Nat would actually be fine. That he wasn't alone and trapped in the middle of Siberia with an assassin that was about to bleed out.

"Are you hurt?" Natasha asked, pulling Peter from his thoughts.

"What?" He looked at her blankly.

"Are you hurt?" she asked again, reaching up to brush Peter's blood-caked hair away from the gash that rested at the very top of his forehead.

"No." He shook his head, though he knew he was lying. "Who cares? I'm nowhere near as hurt as you are right now! We have to get you help… Somehow."

"The team is on their way. There's nothing else we can do."

"No, there has to be something! Anything! We can… I can…" Peter looked back at the fire that now engulfed what little remained of the jet. "We have to…" He trailed off, his mind working faster than his tongue could string words together. There truly was nothing he could do. He wasn't a doctor; he didn't even have any bandages on him. He couldn't contact anyone and, even if he could, he had no way to direct them to where they were. "Oh yeah, we're just in that one spot in the frozen wasteland that is Siberia. Take a left at this tiny abandoned cabin and stop when you get to the raging plane fire."

Peter opened his mouth again, about to ramble on about some other idea that could get them out of this situation when something caught his eye. A figure was moving towards them, but every sense Peter had told him not to trust it. This wasn't an Avenger or even a wandering traveler.

The figure came closer and Peter saw that he was wearing a dark green outfit with brown combat boots. There was a weird logo on his shoulder and he carried a big gun. Peter moved to place himself between the man and Natasha, though he felt her weakly try to push him away.

"Hydra," she growled through clenched teeth. "I should have known."

Peter swallowed thickly and stood with his fists balled at his side. He didn't have a choice. He'd heard about Hydra before and never in a positive light. If he met this new villain, he would likely die, but if he sat and did nothing, he would definitely die.

"There is something we can do," he said, taking a step towards the Hydra grunt. "We can fight."


Chapter Text

"Peter, get back," Natasha growled, though her voice was faint. Peter didn't respond and instead watched the Hydra grunt just stand there. His weapon was pointed down at the ground, but his finger was perched on the trigger.

"Just relax," Peter replied after a long moment. He pulled on his mask. "I got this." Though, he didn't really know if he, in fact, had this. Honestly, he felt like he was staring down death. This was nothing like a Friday night mugging or a low key bank robbery. This was the real deal with a real criminal who really wanted to kill him. The muggers and the robbers usually didn't want to hurt anyone. They were desperate and needed money, but they weren't murderers. Hydra was a whole different beast.

Peter took a step forward and the agent gripped his gun tighter. "Hey," Peter called out to the man. "What's a guy like you doing in a freezing cold place like this?"

"Pest control," came the gruff reply. Peter grit his teeth. He'd never heard a voice like that, so hollow and full of contempt. It sounded like this man really hated both Peter and Natasha, though he was sure they'd never met before. He took another step forward.

"Peter," Natasha warned, her voice sounding even further away than it had before. Peter ignored her, though he felt bad doing so. She was hurt and trying to protect him, but there was nothing that could be done. He could lay down and let this Hydra agent kill the both of them, or he could fight. And Peter wasn't the type to roll over.

"We're controlled," Peter told him. "Or did you miss the giant plane on fire behind you? Now, I suggest you hit the road. Uh. The snow."

"I've been ordered to arrest the two of you." The man now took a step forward which made Peter more anxious than he'd have liked to admit. Though he never really believed his words would make the man leave, he had a little hope he'd get out.

"For what?" Peter asked. "You can't arrest us! I don't see your name on this country!"

"Silence would highly benefit you now." The agent took another step and Peter took one back. He chewed on the inside of his cheek and glanced around, trying to figure out exactly what he was going to do. There was no escape. It was either fight or be captured and Peter feared for Natasha's health if they were captured.

He saw an opening and took it.

Peter flung his arm out and shot a web at the man's face mask. He then jumped and grabbed onto a tree high above the tundra. The agent dodged the web and fired off his gun, but Peter was quicker and managed to hop onto another branch. The one he had previously been perched on exploded into wooden confetti. Damn, he thought. That's one high powered gun. This wasn't a capture them alive situation. This was capture them or kill them.

He shot a web at a tree on the other edge of the clearing, closer to the plane. His plan now was to get the man away from Natasha. He wanted the Hydra agent to focus only on him. Thankfully, this seemed to work. Maybe the agent hadn't heard or seen Natasha since she was half buried in the snow and her voice was so weak. Or, perhaps, he figured he would get Peter out of the way first.

A blast rocketed through the air and hit the tree Peter had just swung from. Heat fanned his backside and Peter knew he was just a few inches from being incinerated. He jumped to the next tree, hands barely touching the bark before he moved to the next. Another blast came from behind.

This cycle repeated until Peter had run the agent around the clearing and into the woods. He'd passed the plane and dragged them our further away from where Natasha lay. But now, he didn't know what to do. He knew he needed to dodge blasts and stay alive, but he also couldn't keep going like this forever.

Taking a chance, Peter jumped down to the snowy forest floor and aimed a web shooter at the villain. "Exploding webs!" He called out to Karen who swiftly deployed said mini-grenades. The Hydra agent dodged one but was caught by the other. He fell backward and Peter ran up to him, swiftly webbing him to the ground before tightly tying his gun to a nearby tree.

"Now that I have your attention," Peter started, puffing his chest out. "I think we should have a little chat. Namely about how you think you're going to arrest us. More specifically about how you're not gonna do that." He then shot him a devilish grin, one only a teenager could be capable of. Peter couldn't see through his mask, but he imagined the man was glaring. This had gone much better than Peter originally thought it would. He'd heard countless stories of how ruthless Hydra was and how even the best of the Avengers had trouble taking their agents down. Maybe this was a special case. Or, maybe the others had just been trying to impress Peter with their tales of heroism. Either way, this Hydra agent was down and Peter had securely webbed him up.

He also had no idea what to do next. "Okay, Karen, I got him," he told his AI, hoping Karen would have some advice. She was programmed by Tony, after all, and Tony had done a lot of things like this before!

"Would you like me to activate Instant Kill Mode?" she asked in a far too sweet voice for the words she was using.

"What? No! What the hell, I thought that was turned off!"

"It was enabled approximately five hours ago."

Oh, Natasha must have accidentally turned the option back on when she was trying to get the communication systems back up and running.


Peter's heart sank to his stomach as he whirled around without a second thought to the Hydra agent. He didn't know exactly where he was since he had dragged the battle out so far into the forest.

"Karen," He said. "There's a plane fire somewhere around here. Can you find it?"

"There is a smoldering plane about 600 yards away. I can show you the way," Karen replied as yellow dots lit up the inside of his mask, appearing as though they were on the ground itself.

"Thanks, Karen!" Peter took off running back past the trees and into the clearing the plane had made when it crashed. It did appear as though it wasn't on fire anymore, just smoldering like Karen had said. He knew that he and Natasha had gotten thrown not far from there and made his way past the plane and back to where this whole fight began.

She was still there, the ground beneath her soaked red and Peter did his best to avoid looking directly at her stomach as he knelt down in the snow next to her. "Nat?" he asked with great hesitation, pressing a gloved hand to her forehead. It was sweaty and her face was flushed.

To his surprise and utter relief, she cracked one eye open and then the other to look at him. She seemed startled at first until she realized it was Peter and then a relieved grin crossed her lips. "Hah," she breathed in a wispy voice. "You're not dead."

Peter couldn't help but smile back at her, though she couldn't see it through his mask. "I know, surprised me too. Now come on, we have to think of something! We can't just stay here! I mean, I hope the others are coming, but if they're not… Well, we have to do something! Karen! Where's the nearest town?"

"Fifty miles away."


"Stark told me not to let you swear," Natasha said, her amusement still showing in the way she smirked up at him. Peter faltered in figuring out what to say next. He couldn't believe that someone who was currently impaled could be so calm. Perhaps the blood loss was messing with her. "Lucky for you, I don't really care what Stark wants." Nope, same old Natasha.

Peter breathed out a nervous laugh, catching himself before he told her to be quiet and rest. He certainly wasn't going to be the one to give the Black Widow orders no matter what state she was in.

As Peter opened his mouth to voice the bleary outline of a plan, he felt something sting his right side. Swiftly, he glanced back the way he had come and saw the Hydra agent standing there. He was without his gun and he pulled the remaining webs off his torso. Peter looked down and saw a knife sticking out of his side. He braced himself and pulled it out, letting Karen clot the wound with repairs to the suit itself.

"Back for round two?" Peter asked, trying to sound more authoritative. Like he didn't just make a huge mistake by leaving the agent there alone. Like he wasn't just a kid with no backup.

As another knife came whirling at him, Peter tucked and rolled away from Natasha, just missing a tree before he jumped up and shot webs at the man. The Hydra agent dodged easily, now used to the tricks Spiderman had up his web shooters. Peter knew that the guy learned quickly and he would have to figure something else out.

Again, Peter played another round of dodge-the-gunshots while leading the agent away from Natasha. This time, though, the agent wasn't up for the same games. As Peter predictably moved to yet another tree, the man was able to send another knife. The knife latched onto the base of the tree Peter was moving to and as the boy touched the branch, it exploded.

Peter was thrown back into the forest, branches and leaves following. Before he knew it, he was on the ground, his back screaming at him for getting caught in his second explosion of the day. He didn't have time to wallow, though. He scrambled up in time for the agent to grab him by the neck and throw him into another tree. His head bounced off the bark with a sickening crack and Peter's vision went black for a moment before the white snow he was buried in appeared in his vision.

Groaning, Peter pushed against the ground to get up, but a rough boot forced him back down. This was certainly not going the way Peter wanted it to. In fact, this whole spring break had been a complete bust, but he would be damned if he ended up dying on such a shitty trip.

He lifted up his right arm and shot a mini grenade at the agent. The weight immediately lifted and he felt a thump against the same tree he had just been thrown against. Peter rolled over, ignoring everything in himself that said to stop. He wasn't going to give up. Not with a teammate down.

He picked himself off the ground and shot webs at the agent, trying once more to tie him in place. However, he wasn't fast enough for how quickly the man ripped the webs off of himself and before Peter knew it, he was being charged at once again. He didn't have time to dodge this attack and was sent into yet another tree. He was really starting to hate trees.

Peter fired a large web that only succeeded in pushing the Hydra agent back a few steps. He was then thrown again. It fell into a sick routine. Peter would shoot his webs, the agent would falter, but then charge forward and send Peter into a tree. It felt like every goddamn tree in the entire forest had his back print on it. And he knew by how long the darkness lasted each time his vision wavered that he didn't have much time left before he would be completely useless.

His back hit the tree and he fell. Peter could feel the snow and hear the crunching of sticks as the agent came to collect him, but he couldn't see and he couldn't move. "Peter," Karen's voice called to him. "You have suffered multiple fractures, bruised ribs, and a severe concussion. I suggest you retire from this fight."

Peter couldn't help but feel angry about her suggestion. Of course, Karen was just an AI. She didn't know any better than to protect Peter. "Not an option," he muttered through gritted teeth as he felt the crushing weight of the agent on his back once more. He gasped for what little air he could take in. This man was going to suffocate him.

There was a whooshing sound, and then the crushing stopped.

For a moment, Peter thought he was dead which completely freaked him out because he couldn't be dead! May would kill him! She would revive him and then kill him again for everything he had made her suffer. And he felt guilty because he knew someone was going to have to explain to May that the only family she had left in the world had been killed by a lunatic in Siberia. Which, by the way, was a place she had no idea Peter had gone to.

And then he was being carefully rolled over, his mask was removed, and he realized that the blackness was because his eyes were squeezed shut. Slowly he opened them and a familiar face came into focus.

"Hey," Clint said, helping Peter sit up. Peter slowly moved and braced his back against Clint's arm.

"What are… Where are… What's going on?" Peter asked, unable to land on just one question.

"Relax. We're getting this taken care of. Sam picked up your friend there. No idea where he's gonna drop him off, but I wouldn't worry about it."

Peter smiled, allowing himself to relax now that he knew he was saved. Then, he shot up, nearly knocking heads with Clint who had bent over to examine Peter's wounds. "Nat!" Clint snapped his eyes back to meet Peter's. "She's hurt. Badly. She got hurt by a piece of metal. It… It's sticking out of her stomach and it's so gross and she's so hurt and I don't know if she's still… you know…"

"Hey, hey. Chill." Clint placed a hand on Peter's quivering shoulder. "Cap's got her."

"Captain America is here?"

"Yeah, we brought the whole fucking calvary in." Clint stood up and offered a hand to Peter. "Can you walk?"

"Not well," Peter replied honestly as he took it and braced himself for the ache of his bones.

"Well then it's good we're not in a walking competition. Come on, let's get you to the ship." Clint took Peter's arm and wrapped it around his neck while his own grabbed Peter's waist. Slowly, they limped back to the waiting ship.

"Is Mister Stark here?" Peter asked as they walked up the ramp. Clint shook his head.

"Nah, he's back at the compound. Had an important meeting to get to or some shit like that," Clint rolled his eyes only for them to settle on Peter's shocked face. "Well, he doesn't know you got the shit kicked out of you. When Nat sent the distress signal she said everything was fine."

Peter slowly nodded as his eyes adjusted to the darker interior of the plane. "Is Nat gonna be alright?" he asked as Clint lead him over to a sitting area and gently pushed him back into a chair. This plane was much larger than the sleek jet he had originally taken to Siberia. The cockpit was blocked off by a wall with a heavy metal door, much like he'd seen the few times he'd flown commercially. This sitting area had two rows of big plush chairs facing each other on each side of the aisle. Behind him was a bathroom and a miniature medical bay, where wounds could be stabilized until landing.

"She's gonna be fine, kid," Clint said, reaching overhead and grabbing a pillow and blanket. "She's the toughest person I know." He also grabbed a medical kit and sat down in the seat beside Peter so he could begin patching his wounds. "Now, about you." He looked at Peter expectantly as he placed some antibacterial solution on his forehead.

Peter winced when the sting of the liquid hit the wound. "Concussion. Bruised ribs, torn muscles, fractures," he listed. "I dunno, I think Karen knows more than me. But I'm healing. I definitely don't feel the fractures."

Clint nodded, but he saw Peter's eyes droop and he knew the kid was exhausted. The fight and his healing ability must have worn him out. He pulled out a granola bar from the inside of one of the armrests that were loaded with snacks. Peter didn't see him get it and wondered if Clint had pulled it out of thin air.

"Eat this," he said, placing the wrapped bar in Peter's hand. "Then sleep. We have a few hour flight ahead of us." He wrapped a bandage around Peter's forehead and cleaned the rest of the scrapes littered on the kid's head and arms. As Clint worked on Peter's wounds, the boy slowly ate the granola bar. It was chocolate peanut butter, but Peter barely tasted it. He hadn't realized how hungry he was.

When Clint was done, he stood up and showed Peter how to recline the seat all the way back. Peter lay flat, his head pointed to the ceiling the edges of his vision fading to black. He was exhausted. "What about Nat?" he started, turning his head to stare back at Clint.

The man pulled the blanket up closer to Peter's chin. "When you wake up, I'll give you whatever news I have." And with that, Clint walked away. Peter was so tired he couldn't determine whether Clint went to the front of the plane or the back, or if he'd simply gone to grab a seat across the aisle. After a moment the boy didn't care. He was too busy falling asleep.



Chapter Text

When Peter woke up, he immediately knew he was no longer on a plane. The gentle rumble of the engine was gone and he was laying still and on his side in a very quiet and stationary place. He could tell he was on yet another couch, though unlike the one on the plane, this was a more luxurious couch. In fact, it was more comfortable than even his bed back home. That didn't seem fair, he decided. Even the blanket that was draped over him and the pillow against the armrest of the couch seemed more comfortable. Or, perhaps he was just tired. Anything can feel luxurious if you're tired enough.

He realized that his feet weren't pressing up against the other end of the couch, but something softer, yet still firm. He could feel the outline of a button with his toes and realized he must be touching someone who was sitting on the couch. Peter also realized in the moment that, if he wanted to know where he was and who he was laying next to, he probably should open his eyes.

Slowly, Peter let light filter in as he pried his eyes open and gazed out at the familiar communal living room of the Avenger's compound in upstate New York. He'd only been there a few times since his trips upstate were usually planned out for training, but he knew this was the part of the large campus exclusively for the more permanent residents.

It made him feel safe, knowing he was back at the compound. The last thing he remembered was getting on that plane with Clint after the battle with the Hydra agent. He nearly shuddered at the thought of the fight. If the other Avengers hadn't come when they had, well… Peter didn't want to think of it.

And then there was Nat. He tried not to think of her sprawled on the red snowy ground. Clint had said that Captain America was taking care of her and that she'd be alright, but Peter didn't wake up in time for an update on the plane. Now they were in the compound and he had no idea where she was.

He needed to get answers and he figured whoever was sitting at the other end of the couch would know. Peter turned his head slightly, peering over the blanket to find himself looking at the side of Tony Stark's face. He was crouched over some file or folder that Peter couldn't quite read from his position. Tony's face was tight and deep purple bags lined the fleshy part under his eyes. He looked exactly like he did when he didn't sleep for a night or two, except he seemed far more worried than usual. Peter guessed it was because of him.

The movement on the couch caught Tony's attention and the man turned to see Peter peering back at him. The corners of his mouth turned upwards, but Peter couldn't exactly call it a smile. It certainly didn't reach his eyes. Tony placed a hand on the boy's covered leg and threw the folder on the coffee table.

"Glad you're awake," Tony said simply. Peter noticed the absence of a quip or sarcastic comment.

"Yeah," Peter replied with a touch of hesitation. He moved to sit up and rested his back against the pillow that leaned on the armrest. Peter drew his feet back so he was no longer touching the side of Tony's leg and the man adjusted his own position so he was resting back on the couch.

Tony started to say something, but Peter immediately asked, "How's Nat?" Tony immediately sighed and Peter felt his stomach drop.

"She's in surgery," Tony replied, though he sounded reluctant to divulge the information. He glanced at his watch. "Or she just got out. Last I heard, she's doing alright. Banner and his team are good, she'll be fine."

Peter just nodded. He squeezed his blankets between his fingers and wondered if Clint had just been placating him on the plane. Surely he'd known she was so bad off she'd need surgery.

"And you," Tony continued, giving Peter a particularly scrutinizing look. "How are you feeling? Banner got so tied up with everything going on with Natasha, he only gave you a quick look over."

"I'm fine," Peter replied so quickly that Tony gave him a look. Peter recognized the look as the one Tony would give when he didn't believe Peter was actually okay. "Really," Peter added. "I'm all healed up. Good as new! FRIDAY, tell him!"

"Mister Parker has a regular heartbeat, is well rested, and is currently in the process of healing a sprain in his leg," the feminine AI voice rang through the room. "All former injuries have been mostly healed aside for some bruising on his ribs." Peter smiled at that. He could feel the sprain in his leg and the bruising on his ribs, but everything else felt just fine.

Tony pursed his lips as if he didn't believe what was reported, but the kid did seem fine. In fact, Peter looked far removed from the injured and exhausted boy Clint had brought very early that morning. Tony nearly had a heart attack when he saw the state the kid was in, but Clint mostly managed to calm him down before running off to go find information on Natasha. After the check-up from Banner, Tony had decided that Peter looked worse than he actually was, which didn't do much to ease his anxiety.

"Alright, come on then," Tony said, standing up. Peter looked at him a little bewildered. He was sure Tony was going to not believe him, insist that he get a checkup, or just give him a lecture for managing to find trouble in Siberia of all places. However, Tony just looked tired. Maybe a little defeated. Peter felt guilty but he didn't know why.

"Uh, where are we going?" he asked as he planted his feet on the ground and stood. He felt the pull in his leg and the pain in his chest, but compared to what he experienced just hours before, he could manage.

"You're getting something to eat and then we're going to debrief," Tony explained as he walked towards the door that opened into the expansive kitchen. Peter followed, slower than normal, as he adjusted his walk to cater to his injuries.

"Debrief?" Peter asked as he passed through the doorway. Tony walked to the fridge and grabbed some milk and then pulled a random box of cereal from a top cabinet. Peter took a seat on a stool at the island.

"Yeah, you know. Talk about the mission? What happened?" Tony glanced at him with a raised eyebrow. "You cannot be as smart as you are and not know what a debriefing is." He walked over and placed the milk and cereal down before grabbing a bowl from another cabinet and a spoon from the drawer. Once Peter had all the supplies gathered, he poured himself a bowl of what happened to be Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

"I've just never had one," Peter replied as Tony wandered over to the Keurig to make himself a cup of coffee.

"Oh, you have," his mentor replied, sticking a cup into the machine. "But just you and me after simple missions. You probably didn't even realize it. To be honest, debriefings are supposed to be done by people who weren't involved, so I guess they weren't really real."

"I didn't realize there were rules," Peter said and shoveled some cereal into his mouth. He swallowed and added, "Are you mad at me?"

Tony turned to him, looking rather surprised. "For what?" he asked as his coffee started to pour.

"For… everything. Getting caught up in all of this. Nat getting hurt. Me getting hurt."

Tony grabbed his coffee and turned off the machine. He didn't respond to Peter for a long moment which made the boy nervous. Perhaps Mister Stark really was angry at him. But, finally, Tony set the mug down on the counter across from Peter and leaned on his elbows that rested on the surface.

"I'm not mad," Tony told him. "I'm… I don't know. This wasn't supposed to happen. You were supposed to be safe."

"Well, I'm safe now," Peter reasoned.

Tony raised an eyebrow. "Getting blown up, attacked, and nearly crushed is your definition of 'safe?'" he asked. Peter swallowed and looked at his cereal. Tony sighed and took a long sip of his hot black coffee. "I just wasn't ready for you to be in so much danger so soon. At least when you run off to fight the latest alien outbreak in the city, you've got the whole team for backup."

"Hey, Nat's pretty tough," Peter replied with a light smirk dusting his lips. "If she hadn't been… you know. She probably would have taken that Hydra guy down super quick!"

Tony didn't seem to find the humor in the situation as evidenced by the darkening of his eyes. "Yes, well she was and she didn't. And you could have been hurt. You were hurt." He suddenly shook his head and waved his hand around, as though trying to brush off all of those thoughts. "But I'm not mad and it's not your fault. What's done is done. Now, let's talk about what happened." He grabbed a stool and brought it around so he was facing Peter with only the island counter separating them. "Welcome to your first debriefing," he said as he settled into the seat. "These things suck. Let's start."

For the next half hour, Peter told Tony everything that had happened in the few short days he spent in Siberia. He started from the very beginning, when he was on the plane with Natasha and about to land. He started to go into their conversations, but Tony waved him to move on. He reminded Peter that debriefings were supposed to be, well, brief. Thorough, but brief with only the important parts left in.

Peter jumped straight to getting to the SHIELD base when he first felt his Spider-Sense go off. He explained that he'd brushed it off, thinking it was just his first experience being so far underground. Looking back, he realized how long he was.

He talked about Alice and Jacob. How Jacob was cold and stern, but Alice seemed so friendly. How he never expected things to turn out the way they did because not once did he ever suspect Alice capable of doing something like this. Briefly, he talked about playing around in the lab and Tony's eyes shown with just the smallest hint of pride as Peter very quickly talked about how cool the whole place was.

Peter explained how he heard about Alice's plans and how he immediately went to Natasha about it.

"I was really surprised she listened to me," he said. His cereal had long since been finished and he'd even found time to slurp the sugary milk out of the bowl. "I thought she'd say I was crazy or something. It's really great that she knew what to do."

"Why would she not believe you?" Tony asked. He'd refilled his coffee again and he took another sip of his now half-empty mug.

"I dunno," Peter shrugged. "Because she doesn't know me. Because I'm a kid?" Tony didn't respond, but he nodded and Peter continued with the explanation of their escape. He talked about waking up in the cabin, them going to the plane, it blowing up. Tony visibly winced as Peter described the fight he'd had and Peter was careful not to talk about Natasha's injury. The image still burned in the back of his brain no matter how hard he tried to put it out of his mind.

"Do you think she'll be alright?" Peter asked after he had just wrapped up the part where Clint came in.

"How many times are you going to ask that?"

"Until I get an answer."

Tony looked at the stubborn kid, no, the stubborn Spider-Man. It was hard to see Peter as the child he was before this mission. Maybe it was because Tony himself wasn't there this time and he wasn't able to protect him. Maybe the coldness he expressed towards Peter was just guilt, and maybe Peter had that same guilt about being unable to protect Natasha. Damn, the kid was becoming too much like him.

"I've given you one," Tony replied after a pause. "And I don't know at this point. But, Banner and his team are the best. I wouldn't worry too much about it."

"You didn't see what I saw!" Peter told him, suddenly raising his voice as he smacked his hands on the counter. Tony pressed his eyebrows together at the sudden outburst, but he didn't scold the kid. "There was metal sticking out of her! And blood! She could hardly talk! I don't know how anyone could survive that!"

Peter realized that he'd been shouting and he leaned back in his chair, preparing himself for whatever lecture Tony was about to give him. However, it never came. Tony just took another sip of his coffee and let out a long sign.

"I'm sorry, kid," he said, speaking after a long and uncomfortable pause for Peter. "You shouldn't have had to see that."

"I mean, it's part of the job I guess," Peter mumbled with a shrug.

"No, your job is to go to school. Get good grades. Don't make your hot aunt cry. Your job is not to fight to the death and watch a teammate bleed out. Not yet anyway. You're too young for that." Tony put his hand up and gave Peter a look, catching him just before the boy reminded him of his age. "You're too young," the man repeated more firmly.

Peter closed his mouth and pressed his lips together. He looked down at his empty bowl of cereal, letting Tony's words sink in. He was right, of course. Peter was young, too young for all of this. He should be training and learning, not out there fighting one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world.

"Well, it happened," Peter finally said, looking up to meet Tony's eyes. "Nothing can change that. But we can figure out what happened! We can do right by the people who died." Peter's eyes dropped to the counter again as the weight of his words caught up with him. "The people we had to leave behind."

"It's not an easy thing," Tony said, watching as Peter refused to make eye contact again. "But you make the best decision you can."

"I know, but those people. They died and we couldn't do anything about it!"

"They knew the risks when they took the job." Tony noticed how quickly Peter's face soured at those words.

"Nat said the same thing," he said in an icy voice. "It doesn't make it any better."

"Got it. Sorry, kid." Tony took the last sip of his coffee and set the mug down on the counter. He grabbed Peter's bowl and his empty cup and tossed both dishes in the sink. Peter noted how he didn't even bother to move them to the dishwasher. Someone else would do it. Probably. "Alright," Tony continued. "Anything else to add? No? Briefing over then."

Peter blinked. "Oh, cool. Now what? I probably have to go home, huh?"

"Nah, I told May you'd be gone for the week, so you'll just stay here for the next few days." Peter seemed to perk up at that. He'd never had an extended stay at the Compound before. "How about you rest up and meet me in the lab later today? I heard your comms are down in the suit."

"Yeah they got real busted," Peter explained as he hopped off his stool. "Nat tried to fix them. I dunno if it hurt or helped."

"We'll find out and make sure they don't break again." Peter noticed the harsh determination in his voice. Tony started towards the other door out of the kitchen while Peter stood in the entrance way between the kitchen and living room. "Don't touch anything. You want something, ask FRIDAY how to do it."

"Got it, Mister Stark!" And with that, Tony walked the other way. Peter made his way back to the couch he had woken up on. He was really struck by how soft Tony had seemed, how the man's usual harshness was nowhere to be found in this conversation. Peter didn't think he'd ever seen Tony so worried, so defeated. When Peter got into trouble, it was usually his own fault, but this was the first time he had gotten hurt without backup and without Tony being able to reach him.

He figured Tony must have felt pretty powerless. You can prevent getting yourself into bad situations by not being stupid, but this was a grim reminder that not every bad situation is actually preventable.

Peter flopped onto the couch. He could feel his healing factor knitting together his bones and muscles and tried to keep his mind off of the details. After all, it was rather gross. Instead, he had FRIDAY turn on the television. There was nothing else for him to do and he was so tired from the healing factor that he didn't even feel like ignoring Tony and going exploring. That, he figured, could wait until it didn't hurt to walk.

It ended up that staying in one place was the best idea. Hawkeye came walking into the living room not long after Peter had popped The Office on. He didn't seem to notice Peter curled up on the sofa and instead passed right by him to collect something from the bookshelf on the other end of the room. Peter noted that his face looked drawn like he hadn't slept. In fact, he looked just like Tony had when Peter was talking about all that happened in Siberia. Defeated. Sad.

"Mister Hawkeye?" Peter ventured, pulling himself into a sitting position. Clint jumped, nearly dropping the book he'd picked up.

"Shit, kid, you startled me," he replied as he turned to face Peter. "And call me Clint."

"Sorry," Peter replied. He hesitated, a question pulling on his tongue, but he wasn't sure if it would be appropriate to ask. He already seemed too exhausted and it didn't take Peter being a genius to guess what about.

"She's better," Clint said in answer to the question Peter never asked. He grasped the book firmly and walked over by the couch. "Bruce said she did real good. She'll be back to normal in no time."

Peter breathed a sigh of relief he didn't know he had been holding in his chest. "Is she awake?"

"Not yet. You wanna go see her?"

He hesitated. There was something about seeing the Black Widow in such a vulnerable state that felt wrong. Disrespectful, even. Peter wasn't sure what his hesitation was really tied to, so he just said, "Let me know when she's awake?" Clint didn't seem to notice the discomfort in his voice and just started to step away.

"Alright, kid, I'll let you know," he said and disappeared into the kitchen. Peter slumped back against the couch and resumed the show he was watching. This time, though, he didn't feel as restless. He even managed to slip into a light nap.


Chapter Text




"Yup." Peter passed over the drill and Tony grabbed it from him. He used it for a moment before placing it next to him. He grabbed the screwdriver again, then used the drill and then programmed something on the minicomputer.

Peter had woken up a few hours before and Tony immediately went and got him to come to the lab. It was surprising, honestly. Tony was a good mentor, but he'd never prioritized Peter so openly before. Peter thought he'd be hanging around the living room for a bit longer before Tony collected him.

But now, here they were in the lab, together, working on Peter's suit. Tony had been absolutely determined to fix the communication devices. If they didn't work on the moon, they weren't going to be good enough for him. Peter knew his mentor never wanted him to be in a position where he couldn't communicate with him again. After the communication lines were reinstated and strengthened, he and Tony went to town on adding new features and he even got Tony to remove a few parental controls.

"Alright." Tony put down a hammer and shut the minicomputer. "Looks like we're all set here. I'm gonna send this over to testing just to be safe, but you should have it back tomorrow."

"For training?" Peter asked with a hopeful glint in his eyes. Tony regarded him for a moment before slowly nodding. The idea of Peter taking and throwing punches again made the man hesitate, but he knew he wouldn't keep him from the action for long. And, it would be better if he were more prepared.

"Yeah, we'll do some training tomorrow," Tony confirmed, pushing himself away from the table to stretch. "You did good work today, kid. I better be careful or you might be able to make these mods yourself."

"Nah," Peter shook his head with a bashful smile. "I'm still just learning. Ned, though, he can do some pretty cool shit." Tony gave him a look and Peter immediately corrected himself. "Stuff. Hey. You know, it's not fair that all the other Avengers get to swear."

"You must be this tall to use that kind of language," Tony said, sticking his hand out level to his shoulders. Peter jumped off his stool.

"I am that tall!"

"This tall, then," Tony corrected and moved his hand up to his forehead. "And be out of high school."

"So two more years?"

"We'll talk." Tony slid from his stool and he and Peter started packing up the lab. They worked in comfortable silence until Tony had one of his many robot contraptions take the suit away.

"You think Nat will be back to normal soon?" Peter asked a little hesitantly. Tony hadn't been forthcoming with information about their teammate and Peter wasn't sure if he really didn't know much or if he was once again trying to protect him.

"Haven't heard anything, kid," Tony told him, sparing a quick glance to the boy. "I can't imagine she'll bounce back too quick. Her healing factor isn't as robust as yours and her injuries were much more serious. But she'll be back to normal soon. The woman basically subsists off of spite." That made Peter laugh and Tony came over to place a hand on the teen's shoulder. "Don't worry too much about all of this. You're safe. That's enough, right?"

"Well, there is still that whole exploding base," Peter replied, looking towards his feet. "I mean, are we ever going to catch the person behind that? Or arrest Alice? I mean, people died, Mister Stark. There has to be some justice."

Tony kept his hand firmly planted on Peter's shoulder as they exited the lab. "Kid, we do everything we can to bring some justice to this world, but sometimes it ain't enough. We're going to do everything we can to find the people who did this to you, but it just might not be enough."

"'Did this to me?'" Peter asked, raising a critical eyebrow at Tony. "I'm not one of the people dead ten thousand feet underground in Siberia. Mister Stark, I know you want to keep me safe and I really appreciate that, but we should be finding the people responsible to avenge the people who died. Not to get payback for a few bruised ribs."

The paid had walked from the lab towards the kitchen and Tony stopped just outside the doorway. He regarded his mentee for a moment. He felt he was no longer looking at the bright-eyed, naive kid who started working as a superhero a year before. Now, he seemed much older and his sense of right and wrong had sharpened. Peter was also not afraid to voice his real opinion anymore. As much as he wanted to please Tony, he also wanted some say in these matters. Although Tony was proud that Peter had grown so much, it also meant he was losing a little bit of control.

"Fine," Tony relented, much to Peter's surprise. "We'll do everything we can to find the people responsible for the murder of those SHIELD Agents. But I also want to beat the shit out of that guy who knocked you around the forest back there."

Peter grinned. "What happened to the whole language thing?" he asked.

Tony stuck his hand out so it was level with his own head and just an inch above Peter's. "This tall, kid. This tall."

Peter laughed and followed Tony into the spacious kitchen. "Alright, what do you want for dinner, kid? Chinese? Thai? Mexican? Pizza?"

"You cook?" Peter asked. "How much changed while I was out of the country?"

"Nothing, I was going to have FRIDAY order it. FRIDAY?"

"Yes, sir?"

"What do you want?"

Peter hesitated for just a moment, startled by being put on the spot. "Uh… uh. Pizza."

"Original," Tony replied with a roll of his eyes, but a kind smile. "FRIDAY order some pizza for us."

"For just the two of you or the whole compound?" The AI asked.

Tony sighed. "Just get enough for everyone who's here. If Bruce is around and finds out we didn't get pizza for him, he might go all Hulk on us."

"That'd be pretty cool," Peter chimed in as he leaned against one of the fancy marble counters.

"Go get washed up for dinner," Tony told him, pointedly ignoring the comment. "FRIDAY will help you find your room."

"My room!" Peter asked with a wide smile.

"Your guest room," Tony corrected and couldn't help but chuckle as Peter's face dramatically fell. "When you convince Aunt Hottie to let you drop out and move in with a bunch of superheroes upstate, I'll get you a room."

Peter grumbled good-naturedly and followed the tiny lights FRIDAY lit up to form a path to the bedrooms. He wasn't particularly saddened by the realization he didn't have his own room in the compound, but he couldn't help but think how cool it would be to have a spare room in the same place the Avengers lived! He couldn't wait to graduate high school. Tony would even let him swear.

He was so focused on all the colorful four-letter words he could use in his tricked out Avengers bedroom that he didn't notice someone else turning down the hall. Peter suddenly collided with a hard mass and jumped back, catching himself against the wall to avoid falling.

"I'm so sorry," Peter quickly said, worried about what Avenger he'd managed to crash into. But when he looked up into familiar green eyes, he couldn't stop the gasp that escaped his lips.

Natasha stood before him looking somewhat startled and somewhat amused, but otherwise as unreadable as ever. She didn't look as though she had spent the past day in intensive care, or like she had ever had metal sticking out of her stomach. In fact, she looked very well rested and perfectly normal.

"Nat," Peter managed to choke out. "Uh, Natasha. Miss Widow." He shook his head violently and immediately apologized, "Sorry. I just, uh. You're alive. And… walking."

"Yes," Natasha replied, her expression becoming more amused than anything else. That put Peter at ease. "I'm definitely alive and so are you."

"But how-" Peter started, but Natasha cut him off.

"You did a great job back in Siberia. Your quick thinking helped us get out of there in one piece." Peter smiled at Natasha's praise. He was so caught off guard that all of his other questions about her health and wellbeing dissolved from his memory.

"Thanks so much. I mean, it was kinda crazy and all, I mean I'm sure all that stuff wasn't supposed to happen, but then it did and it got so crazy and you got… Are you sure you're okay?" Peter couldn't help but ask her that again. His mind was racing and words were spilling out and he was afraid she would walk away without answering any of his most pressing questions.

"I'm just fine, Peter, why wouldn't I be?" Natasha asked innocently as if she hadn't been fighting for her life just mere hours before.

"I don't even know how to answer that," Peter replied. "I mean, Nat, you had metal sticking out of your stomach. You were in surgery for hours."

"It wasn't as big a deal as it looked," she told him in a calm voice. "And I heal quickly. Most of us around here do." Of course, Peter knew that. His own healing factor had helped immensely over the past two days. However, he couldn't imagine it would have him up and walking around as if nothing was wrong just a day after being impaled.

"It didn't hit anything important," Natasha added when she realized he was not quite believing her. "And Banner is a fantastic doctor. Best in the world. Don't worry about it, kid. What's important is that you and I are both here and are just fine."

Peter couldn't argue with that. "And bring whoever did this to justice," he said with a wider smile. Natasha matched it with a frown.

"You want to go back there?" she asked.

"Not necessarily," Peter replied. "But we have to find Alice and whoever she was working with. And we have to get justice for all the people who died."

A strange look crossed Natasha's face and Peter wondered why she wasn't immediately agreeing with him. Jumping back into danger for the sake of what's right was Natasha's whole thing. Surely she wanted to go back to find the people responsible as well. Then again, she was still recovering, even if she was recovering quickly. And Tony always said that the body might heal fast, but there's no healing factor for the mind. Maybe she was not in the right mindset to go back just yet.

"I mean, once we're all better," Peter said before Natasha could reply. "It's been a long few days. We can go back there some other time. Maybe when I get out of school for the year. I mean, not that you guys should wait on me, but I'm out of school on June 15th and if that happens to work out, I want to help."

Natasha's expression softened and she placed a hand on Peter's shoulder. "If we're able to make it work, we will. You did a great job this week. I'd be happy to have you on my team again."

Peter's bashful smile returned, but before he could say anything, Natasha was already walking away. She turned down one hallway and was gone and by the time Peter reached the corner, he didn't see her anymore.

Peter had his pizza and his training and got much more comfortable in the Avenger's compound than he ever thought he would. It was a paradise of all the best technology and all the best lab equipment and the best food anyone could order for takeout. One night he'd told Tony about a burger place his class had gone to in DC and that night, it was sitting there waiting for him on the kitchen counter, as warm and fresh as if they had just gotten it from down the street.

But, by the end of the week, he missed May and Ned and MJ, and he even missed the comforting routine of going to school. Thankfully, the half-week was short and soon Happy was driving him back to the big city. When he showed up at his doorstep in his Hawaiian shirt and some souvenir nick-nack Tony had given him for May, his Aunt hugged the rest of the air out his lungs.

And then it was time to get back to school. Spring break was the line between just going to school and seriously starting to finish up the year. Peter had more projects, more tests, and more things to do before he could collect his yearbook and pack it in for the year. He was also not taking the easiest of classes and finals were sure to be tough. He continued to patrol as Spider-Man, but as May came to a close and June ramped up, he went out less and less. Tony said he'd keep a close eye on the city so long as Peter focused on not failing.

With everything happening in his real life, he didn't get much in the way of Avenger's updates. He had no idea what was going on with the investigation. There were no news reports, obviously, and Tony never had anything more to tell him than, "we're investigating." Peter also never heard more about Natasha's injuries, not that it was really any of his business, but something had seemed off about that day in the hall. He couldn't figure out how she managed to look so... okay after all that had happened. Something about her words and actions had also seemed off like she was out of her normal character. Peter figured it was just whatever medication they'd had her on. He remembered coming to a few times and that medicine made you loopy as hell. And, he also didn't have time to really question the whole situation. School just took too much of his time.

Then, like a giant wave that is watched out in the distance, June 15th finally came ashore quicker than expected. Peter found himself outside the school surrounded by cheering peers and crying seniors.

"Hey, wanna get together for a DND session at my place tomorrow?" Ned asked. "My parents are out of town to take my sister to camp."

"Lame," MJ replied in a deadpan voice and an eye-roll.

"Well, are you in?" Ned pressed.

"Of course."

Ned then turned to Peter. "What about you?"

"Huh?" Peter asked. "Oh yeah! Sure, I'm up for that."

"For what, Peter?" MJ questioned.

"For… fun."


"Right. That."

MJ reached over and lightly knocked a fist on Peter's forehead. "Is there anything going on up there, or have you turned your brain off for the summer?"

"No, no, just. I can't believe summer's here," Peter replied. "It just came so quick."

"Not quick enough," MJ commented. "And you better keep that big stupid brain of your turned on because we're having Decathlon practices every other week until August, and then we're having them every week."

"Got it." Peter smiled back. The three friends said their parting words and then walked down opposite streets towards their respective homes. About five minutes into his walk as Peter turned down a less trafficked road, he heard what sounded like a car pull up behind him. He spared a quick glance, thinking it was just someone parking for takeout but found himself looking at a sleek motorcycle. The rider took off their helmet and suddenly Natasha was standing before him, straddling the bike.

"Hey, kid. You just won a free trip back to Siberia. You in?"

Peter grinned at her. He didn't know what he was going to tell Aunt May and he didn't know how he was going to get out of the decathlon practices, but he didn't care. He ran over to the bike, grabbed the spare helmet and said, "Hell yeah, I am!"