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Dying Sun, Please Don't Go

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“You’re a sun that doesn’t die, sweetheart.”

 

She was dying now, however.

 

The shaking in her body did not stop. The redness in her eyes did not ease. The bruises on her wrists would not fade…

 

Her initial plan was to pick herself back up, let her eyes rest in her sleep, and to use her high-coverage concealer all over her wrists.

 

This...wasn’t supposed to happen to her. She was a sixteen-year-old girl who was a nearly straight-A student, she did Academic Decathlon, she has a few good friends, she had an amazing mentor, and she was Spidergirl. Penny had so much of her life together-the puzzle was nearly complete…

 

Of course, she had to remember life couldn’t be constantly benign to everyone.

 

Cloud nine was suddenly a reality after soon after the Vulture incident and a few weeks to follow. She may have been recovering, but something inside her was set off. Penny was making some of her best grades and school life now that Flash was taking a break from bothering her. Her friendships were at their prime, hanging out with Ned and even MJ. Ned was with her so much-he even was with her sometimes at the Stark compound with Tony, Happy, and Pepper. Her relationship with Tony had grown so much through time...dare say it, he was nearly like a father. Not that she’d ever admit it aloud...likely.

 

Then came an issue she thought would be fine.

 

Penny felt it and she blinked, her face reddening. He kept on walking after that. All she could do was stand by her locker and try to contemplate what had just happened. Did he just...slap her bottom?

 

“Excuse you, you asshole?!”

 

Penny turned her head and saw an odd scene. There was a girl who was even taller than his 5’9 height. Her dark strawberry blonde waves shifted as she sharply pointed a finger to his chest, and her wide nearly-hazel eyes were fiery.

 

“You don’t do that to people, and you know it! I swear to god if you do it again you’re gonna get it!”

 

The boy rolled his eyes. “What’re you gonna do ‘bout it, Calman?”

 

The boy started to walk off. “A hell of a lot more than your brain will ever comprehend,” She huffs.

 

He went off to his next class before the girl turned her head to look at Penny. She was able to get a clearer look of who she just defended.

 

The dark strawberry-blonde with caramel colored skin started over to her, concern in her large eyes. “Are you okay?”

 

Penny nodded. “Yeah...thanks for doing that.”

 

“Well, he deserves worse than that, but I deserve to not deal with admin punishment. What’s your name?”

 

“Penny Parker. You?”

 

“Adelaide Calman.”

 

Penny smiled. “That’s a really pretty name.”

 

“Thank you!” She replied. The cheer in her voice was bright and complimented her glowing face. For a moment, Penny forgot that she had a pimple lingering under her hairline.

 

“What do you have next?” Penny asked, leaning against the locker.

 

“AP Spanish. You?”

 

“Oh I have Spanish too! Wanna walk together? I’m still adjusting to the campus since I’m new. I just moved from D.C because my dad got a new U.N position.”

 

“The U.N? That’s cool!”

 

“Yeah, I agree! The move was kinda harsh, but we’re all pretty happy, so far…Oh shit, there’s probably only a minute left. We might wanna rush,” Adelaide laughed.

 

That was the very day that Penny Parker and Adelaide Calman began a friendship. But Penny never said anything about the incident-not even to Ned or Aunt May. Telling Tony was a terrible idea. There was no reason for her to go crying to her mentor-and she knew that very well. That was the end of it.

 

It was persistent, however, and in many forms. This boy, who she learned was a new boy named Alex Willard, had erased Flash from his bullying ways towards her. Penis Parker? Now she was Twat Girl or Pussy Parker. He slapped her bottom a few times in the hallways. She strongly told him to stop. It was odd when he actually did...but of course, he had to compensate for it.

 

It was in chemistry class when he had a pair of scissors-for what reason, she did not know. He was initially trying to cut her whole braid off, but only ended getting half-an-inch below her hair tie.

 

Penny had swept around so fast and yelped, the whole class’s attention on her.

 

“Miss Parker!” Her teacher, Mrs. Yang scolded for the interruption.

 

“He tried to cut my hair-he got a little!”

 

Mrs. Yang was at first hesitant to believe it, but she saw the pair of scissors in his hand. Her usually casual brown eyes became blazing, increasing the look of lines around her eyes. “Mr. Willard, outside please!”

 

Alex’s light tan face downturned from its smugness to a frown. He obliged, going outside with the teacher likely to the principal’s office.

 

Penny tried her best to go through out the rest of her day without the thought of his face in her head, but it wasn’t working. Her engagement in class, for the day, was now very low.

 

Right before last class period, she switched out her books and got some more pencils from her locker when she heard Mrs. Yang’s voice call out to her.

 

Penny turned around to see the woman across the hallway, not getting much attention because her voice wasn’t super serious or loud.

 

She walked over to her teacher, standing somewhat taller than her in her cream-colored pumps and even more elongated by her teal pencil skirt she wore with a black blouse and sweater. “Yes, Mrs. Yang?”

 

“I just wanted to let you know that Mr. Willard has been suspended for three days and that I’m really sorry it happened. I’m going to keep an eye on him much closer, for now on, as well as making sure that you don’t have to work with him in any class projects.”

 

Penny was surprised. Most teachers didn’t really care that much, but she guessed this one did. She was a new teacher, and she actually kinda liked her class. It was somewhat more engaging than the others. Less monotonous. It may have been this school versus a lot of worse ones, but it was still public and did not care as highly as some private schools when hiring teachers.

 

All Penny figured to do was nod. “Thank you, Mrs. Yang,” was all she could figure to say.

 

“Your welcome. And don’t hesitate to tell me if he’s a problem to you, or any other teachers. I guess I didn’t recognize him as a problem because he was new, and most new kids tend to be more nervous and shy here.”

 

“I understand.”

 

“Alright. You have your next class in a couple minutes, I suggest you hop to it!” She said with a lightened sense of brightness.

 

Penny mildly smiled as she started off.

 

“Have a nice day, Miss Parker!”

 

“You too!”

 

It had brought a significant alleviation to the day’s pain, but the issues would not really stop.

 

There was the occasional commentary of “Twat Girl” and “Pussy Parker” for a while, but she learned to ignore him over that. What really pissed her off was what happened two weeks later.

 

It was the very last class of the day, being her history class. It had actually been a great day for Penny. The sun had been shining with no clouds, she and Ned both scored an 100 on their math test, and they were talking about what Adelaide and her family always did for her birthday, which was apparently taking a vacation at the Four Seasons in Orlando near Disney World. It made sense, since it was almost summer and her father made a significant salary. They had been planning to go shopping at a few places with money they’d saved up next weekend. The day, so far, that had been filled with joy for Penny...just, of course, to get ruined.

 

It wasn’t like Mr. Oliver in her math class cared where any of the kids sat, so he didn’t oppose Alex right beside Penny, as uncomfortable as it was for her, but she couldn’t change seats because there were none left. At least Ned and Adelaide were on her left, which gave her a general sense of comfort. For the moments she convinced herself, Penny was sure Alex would not bother her.

 

In peace, Penny took her math notes, organizing them with a couple of Adelaide’s colored gel pens she let her use.

 

That’s when she felt it.

 

It wasn’t like she was wearing a shirt that let her bra straps show-she really wasn’t. Penny had on a long sleeve navy shirt with her medium-length locks hanging over casually her shoulders and back. There was no way that she was suggestive or could’ve been “asking for it”

 

Penny felt a complete split in her bra straps.

 

She jerked, dropping her pens and wrapping her arms around her chest. Ned and Adelaide leaned over their desks to look at Alex, their eyes both blazing at the boy with all of their fury.

 

Mr. Oliver turned around, confused what the ruckus was. “What’s going on? Miss Parker, why are your arms cuddling you like that?”

 

“Alex used scissors and cut her bra straps!” Adelaide accused.

 

“Miss Calman, please don’t yell! Mr. Willard, don’t touch people. And maybe you should get a sweater, Miss Parker,” He said. Mr. Oliver wasn’t very concerned, at all.

 

“A sweater isn’t gonna help me!” Penny responded. What was this man thinking?

 

“Can we please stop interrupting my class?”

 

“Mr. Oliver, can I please go to the office?”

 

“...Yes, you may.”

 

Penny abruptly left the class room, still clutching her chest. She did have some size to her, but it wasn’t like she was constantly threatening to spill out at any moment. It wasn’t like she wore many tank tops that displayed herself, either! This was all Alex’s doing, and she wanted to kill him for it.

 

In embarrassment, she rushed down the hallway. Penny desperately needed a bra-it wasn’t like she could go braless! She still had P.E next, and the shirt would definitely show all of it.

 

Penny got to her locker, into her backpack, and swept out her phone. It was only then she remembered that May was doing a very important meeting at work....

 

Pepper.

 

Penny had gotten to know Pepper very well, so it wasn’t weird that she had her cell phone number, and she’d made it very open that if she needed her she could call her. The only road block was if she had a meeting. Pepper Potts was a busy woman, so it wouldn’t be surprising, but it was worth a shot.

 

She tapped Pepper’s number and waited…

 

“Hello?”

 

“Pepper?”

 

“Hey, Penny! Aren’t you still in school?”

 

“Can I ask you a huge favor?”

 

“Of course! What is it?”

 

“Something happened at school. Would it be a stretch to ask you to pick me up and take me back to my apartment and possibly back to school?”

 

“What happened at school, sweetie?”

 

Penny hesitated, but she eventually let it out. “A boy...cut my bra straps and I need to go back and get another one from my apartment.”

 

“Oh my god! I’ll be there as soon as I can!”

 

“Thank you so so so much, Pepper!” Penny thanked.

 

“Your welcome! I’ll be right there! Bye!”

 

“Bye.”

 

Penny hung up, now hearing footsteps outside behind her. She turned around and saw Ned coming towards her.

 

“Are you okay?!” He asked. “What’re you gonna do?”

 

“I’m fine. Aunt May’s at work, but I was able to call Pepper. She’s gonna drop me at the apartment.”

 

“I can’t believe he did that! He can be charged for sexual assault, you know!”

 

“I know, I know, Ned! I don’t know if I could even press charges in any way-but it’s not like I should!” She says quietly.

 

“What’re you talking about?!” Ned gawks. “He cut your bra straps! That’s terrible, Penny! Besides, he’s been bothering you for a while, anyways!”

 

Penny’s face sterned. “Ned...I can’t press charges,” She states firmly. She was sure of it. If she pressed charges, the whole school would know, Alex would freak at her, and it would just be overall chaos. Being Penny Parker and Spidergirl, both identities didn’t want to deal with it.

 

Ned sighed. “Okay…” He settled. He hated it with all of his being that Alex didn’t get what he deserved-or wouldn’t, but Penny didn’t want charges. There was nothing he could say to convince his best friend otherwise.

 

Pepper Potts pulled up to the school in a white Audi sedan twelve minutes later. Penny sighed a sigh of relief right before getting into the side front seat.

 

“A boy cut your bra straps?!” Pepper exclaimed. She was alarmed, obviously, knowing how absolutely outrageous that was.

 

“Yeah, I know.”

 

“Has he been bothering you before this?”

 

“...Yeah…” Penny pushed out quietly.

 

Pepper drove away from the school and towards Penny’s apartment since she already knew the address. “Have you said anything to anyone about it? That can be considered sexual assault!”

 

“I know...I don’t know, I’m just focused on getting a bra.”

 

“How about this? Do you have any sports or activities after school?”

 

“Um, not today.”

 

“Well we can take you to the apartment and then the compound, if you like. I know you have the internship and Spidergirl stuff, so you could do all of that stuff early today.”

 

Penny smiled. “Really? That would be great, Miss Potts-if it’s not too much to-”

 

“No, no, no, not at all! It’s great to have you around. I know I work a lot, but I have loved getting to know you-and I know Tony loves to have you there.”

 

Penny is kinda surprised by that...ish. “He said that?”

 

“Well, Tony being Tony, he never truly admits it, but I see it in him. He’s definitely a lot happier with you working with him and all. You bring a sense of joy to the compound, I guess, since there’s always the stress of work and people and I think you just kinda...alleviate it,” Pepper concluded before she took another graceful turn.

 

Penny is stunned. She generally knew Mr. Stark and Miss Potts cared about her, but she never really knew how much they really did. “T-thank you, Miss Potts…”

 

“Your welcome, sweetie.”

 

A thought, however, then filled her head. What if Mr. Stark found out? What if she lost the internship-his support of Spidergirl? She couldn’t risk it, it was so much of her life! Losing the internship and time and everything that came with it would kill Penny!

 

“You can’t tell Mr. Stark!” She blurts.

 

Pepper looked at her with perplexion in her eyes. “Why-why can’t I tell him?”

 

“I just...don’t want him to know,” Penny responded quietly, hoping Pepper would take it.

 

“...Okay. I won’t tell him, I promise.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

The drive was filled with some more talking about what happened on the way there, as well as on the way up to the apartment. In a rush while Miss Potts waited at the door, Penny went into her room, shut her door closed, and yanked off her now-ruined and expensive bra from under her shirt before tossing it onto her bed. She grabbed another one from her closet and pulled off her shirt at the same time, cold air rushing onto her skin. After finally coming to comfort that she had a not-cut bra, she rushed her way out and they proceeded to the compound where Penny could cheer up. However, upon getting there, the memory got worse right after Mr. Stark greeted her. She couldn’t do it, and choked out that she’d be in the restroom.

 

The mixture of emotion for Tony was a powerful combination of confusion and deep concern. Penny never did that. Penny usually cheerfully told Tony about her day and they’d work on something, maybe watch a movie, just talk-even with Pepper, Rhodey, and Happy joined them. Not today, apparently, and he just didn’t know why.

 

“Is she okay, Pepper?”

 

“Yeah, why?” Pepper lied. She wanted to keep her word to Penny, and she would really try to. Sometimes there were secrets that teenage girls just wanted to keep-not that Pepper wanted to keep this under wraps from her own fiance, but she would do it for the usually bubbly teenage girl.

 

“She just started tearing up and ran off to the bathroom. Something’s wrong, Pepper-did something happen at school? Was it Ned, Adelaide, that punk Flash?”

 

“Tony-”

 

“Is she being bullied, is she getting depressed, did someone make sex jokes about her-teenagers are really harsh, Pep, anything could happen to her-”

 

“Tony, she didn’t want me to tell you!” Pepper cut him off.

 

This doubled the confusion. “Not tell me, why can’t you tell me? I don’t understand, there’s pretty much nothing she can’t tell me!” He exclaims.

 

“I know...I think she needs some space right now...But all I’ll tell you is that something happened at school.”

 

“So it was a stupid teenager?”

 

“I’m not telling, Tony. Maybe you should talk to her when she gets out, if she doesn’t look too upset. Maybe she’ll come to realize she can talk to you.”

 

All Tony could do was simply nod and say “okay” before Pepper walked off, saying she needed to answer a phone call and she’d be back later. So for another five minutes, Tony just kinda sat on the sofa with the tv turned on, hoping Penny would come out...until she did.

 

When Tony saw Penny, he could only see a slight trace of her crying. He knew she had been, but that she was done.

 

“You okay, Penny?”

 

“Yeah, I’m fine. Why you ask?”

 

“I just heard you had a bad day, that’s all.”

 

Penny feared Pepper told him. “Oh…”

 

“It’s okay, kiddo, Pepper didn’t tell me anything. She only said something happened at school after I noticed you seemed kinda upset about something.”

 

“I’m fine, Mr. Stark!” Penny tried to reassure.

 

“Mmmmhm. Come over, sit down,” Tony coaxed.

 

It worked. Penny came over and sat down by him, but with a significant sense of shyness. She wasn’t usually shy around Tony since she first knew him. When she came to visit him, she was a bright light of energy and personality-the child was sunlight. Tony saw it, Pepper saw it, even Happy and Rhodey saw it when they were around. It reminded them of what children were like, since none of them had any of their own. The closest thing to a child any of them had was Rhodey’s niece, Lila, but he didn’t really have her around or even see her.

 

So now that Penny was really upset, Tony worried for her deeply and Pepper did as well. They both loved her...nearly like their own child. She wasn’t, however, their child.

 

“So what’s going on, Pen? I’ve never seen you upset since the Vulture incident. You’ve been happy, you’ve been acing your grades, and you’ve had a great time with Pepper and I here. I don’t want to see you unhappy, kiddo, I really don’t.”

 

“...Just a bad day,” Penny swallowed.

 

“Well all that Pepper told me was that something bad happened at school, nothing more. You know you can tell me anything, right?”

 

“Yeah,” She simply answered. What was she supposed to say? “A boy cut my bra” ? No, she couldn’t just say that! Penny wasn’t really sure how he would react to that.

 

“Well what is it? Believe me, I was a teenager too. I know it’s kinda different now for teens then it was back then, but we still had drugs, sex, bullying, and anything else you can think of.”

 

Penny didn’t know what to say to Tony, so she did the one thing she could think to do: reiterate what she just said: “I just had an....awful day, for some reason. It just felt slumpy and sluggish. Things are just weird right now.”

 

Tony nodded. “I understand, kiddo, I’ve had those days when I was younger, too. I mean like, my parents weren’t exactly around, and I was at boarding school, so it was easy to feel that way…” But then he felt that he was making it all about him. Not exactly a good move, he thought. “How about this? Wanna watch a movie or something-what’s your favorite? We’ll just chill for today. Also, I’ll text May and let her know you’re here.”

 

Penny brightened up a bit. “Okay...Have you seen the new Star Trek movie?”

 

That was the end to that day.

 

But another came along, and it was worse than Penny could’ve imagined.

 

Ned suggested it, Adelaide didn’t find the harm in it, so Penny thought it would be alright. It was a school party, so they could go out and be in a social scene. When she thought about it, she would’ve much rather brought Ned and Adelaide back over to the compound like they did over the weekend and after school a couple days, and it was really fun. Adelaide made suggestions to the Iron suits and Penny’s such as a auxiliary cloud footage backup to Friday and item compartments-and Tony even acknowledged them with positivity. Ned just geeked out over it, which Tony rolled his eyes to, but wasn’t really bothered by it. They ended up playing in the lab a little bit and watched tv, played a few games, and it was the prime of Penny’s daily life...of course, until now.

 

Penny may have been a few sizes smaller than Adelaide’s size ten, but she still dug out a dress that was perfectly her size out of generosity. It was a wide sleeveless turquoise lace dress only an inch above the knee. So both Penny and Adelaide were wearing cute and more casual dresses and Ned wore his confidence hat.

 

That night, May dropped the three off at the townhouse. It wasn’t extremely rich, but it wasn’t super cheap. It was a middle class townhome, and it appeared to not be that bad. It reminded her of Adelaide’s place, but hers was more expensive looking inside and was an apartment near the United Nations Plaza, courtesy of both a U.N job and a job as a accomplished lawyer. A nervousness filled Penny, however...it was because it dawned on her at that very moment…

 

“What if Alex Willard is there?”

 

“Then I’ll kick his ass to hell,” Adelaide answered.

 

“Who’s Alex Willard?” May asked, ignoring the slightly-too-much language.

 

“He’s-” Ned was about to answer “a boy who bothers Penny really badly” but Penny cut him off and said he was a boy at school she didn’t particularly like.

 

“I’m sure it will be fine, honey. Have a good time, kids! I’ll see you at ten thirty! Love you, Penny!”

 

“Love you too, Aunt May!”

 

The trio of teens got out of the car and proceeded towards the townhome door. They got to the door and rang the doorbell, but Adelaide noticed Penny’s nervousness on her face. In comfort, Adelaide’s soft hand gently gripped Penny’s.

 

“It’s okay. If anything happens, I’ll be there for you, I promise. Kill me if I don’t.”

 

Penny softly chuckled just before the door opened to a boy who motioned for them to come in. Inside was general loud chaos, but not the worst chaos they’d ever seen, like at Liz Allan’s house. There were red cups on the living room coffee table, streamers on the floor, people jamming to the upbeat party music, but what Adelaide spotted first was the most concerning:

 

“Ned, Penny...There’s alcohol here,” She quietly deadpanned.

 

The two then saw it: a big bottle of Grey Goose sitting on the kitchen countertop, as well as a couple bottles of beer. Another bottle of what looked like Smirnoff was broken and sat sadly on the floor.

 

“I’m not drinking,” Penny says.

 

“I’m not either,” Adelaide quickly replies.

 

“Not me.”

 

“Adelaiddeeee-”

 

Aggressively due to the slurred voice and the feeling of his touch on her hips and butt, Adelaide swept around and snatched his wrists very tightly. “I swear to god if you ever touch me again you’re gonna cry because of your broken jaw,” She growled at the one and only Flash Thompson.

 

The last thing that happened before it happened to her was a chuckle from him.

 

Penny was grabbed and thrown into what appeared to be a dark room with a scream from both her, Adelaide, and Ned, theirs for her name. The door slammed, and there was only a weak nightlight on in the corner close to the floorboard. Her body was now on the floor, and she could feel the impact in her bones.

 

“WHAT THE FUCK?!”

 

A body was on top of her, now, and a zipper was unzipping. She was horrified by the face she came to recognize.

 

“GET THE FUCK OFF ME, ALEX!” Penny shrieked.

 

He slapped her left cheek, making her yelp. Penny tried to flip him over, but he was kinda bigger than her. Alex dragged her body up by her left arm and threw her on a bed. It may have been a comfy one, but that was absolutely no comfort to her, especially since she could hear a pair of pants being thrown to the floor.

 

BANG BANG BANG

 

“ALEX YOU BASTA-GAHH!” Penny heard Adelaide scream.

 

Penny gasped for breath and tried to push him off of her, but snatched her wrists, put them both under her head, pressed her head down hard against them, and found her dress zipper.

 

“YOU FUCKWARD-”

 

Alex slapped her lips. And it really stung.

 

He yanked it to the floor, and that was when Penny found a weak spot. She kneed his stomach with all of her force, him yelling in pain. Penny, however, barely made it off the bed just to be thrown right back onto it. He yanked her cotton underwear away from her skin and groped her.

 

“NO! NONONONONO”

 

“JUST TAKE IT!”

 

It happened.

 

What came out through it were sobs-sobs of terror while she heard chaos outside and Adelaide and Ned yelling her name, she was getting it. All of his weight was on top of her, sometimes his hands making her chest sore from using her as a hand cushion. The whole time, she sobbed and wished and wished for it to be over.

 

“You have no boobs. Grow some, Parker,” He growled.

 

Suddenly, it was done.

 

Penny was nearly confused that Alex was now tired and his pants were being zipped up. But then there was a chuckle.

 

“Not bad, Parker.”

 

There was a second door in the room, apparently, so it was that one that opened and closed instead of the one where Adelaide banged on.

 

“FLASH THOMPSON IF YOU DON’T GIVE ME THAT KEY I WILL SMASH YOUR HEAD ON THE FLOOR SO HARD YOU WILL WISH YOU WERE NEVER BORN!”

 

So there Penny was. The shaking in her body did not stop. The redness in her eyes did not ease. The bruises on her wrists would not fade…

 

Within another two seconds, the door swept open.

 

“Oh my god, Penny!” Adelaide cried with tears in her eyes. She rushed over to her, kneeling on the bed and cupping her face, her thumbs wiping away her tears.

 

Penny’s eyes refocused, and they looked all around Adelaide when they could see. Penny’s eyes became more terrified because on Adelaide’s left wrist was a monstrous gash.

 

“A-A-Ade-”

 

“No, don’t worry about me, my pain is temporary!”

 

Penny started to sob harder as Ned came in, asking her if she was okay.

 

She collapsed.

 

Penny collapsed in both Ned and Adelaide’s arms, being sandwiched by them while her eyes felt worse, the tears increased, and her body felt the worse it had in a long, long time.

 

It lasted slowly in Penny’s mind, but it was five minutes that Ned, at least, realized. With hesitance, it was Ned who broke the silence.

 

“What do we do?”


Adelaide was disappointed with what they did.

 

For as long as she known Penny Parker, she never saw her as a good actor. But there was something different about now…

 

She could hear May asking Penny about why she was home so early. It broke Adelaide’s heart that all Penny did was go home. There was no justice. There was no healing. There was no recovery or jail time or smiling...Everything was shattered.

 

Adelaide and Ned knew it well, but they knew that their beloved best friend Penny Parker knew it the very worst.


She had to go back to school the next day.

 

Penny, however, and rightfully so, would not wake up.

 

May knocked on Penny’s bedroom door. “Penny? Sweetie are you up?” She asked. But then, she realized something: the door was locked.

 

May was perplexed by this. Penny had never locked her door. Not when she had been mad, not when she was with friends, not ever! Maybe it had been on accident, but she highly doubted it. So she flexed onto her toes and grabbed the one spare key she kept above the door and put it into the keyhole.

 

What May saw when she opened the door was Penny in sleep-and deep sleep, it seemed. But there was something different about...she didn’t even know. Penny’s hair was really really all over the place, she was sleeping on her stomach-and somehow with a pillow over her head-how she was not suffocated, May did not know.

 

She attempted to gently rock her awake. “Penny, sweetie?”

 

But she got the weirdest reaction.

 

Penny jerked up, and she looked absolutely mortified. The expression on her face was something she’d never seen in her entire life. Not when Penny was a baby, not when she was a toddler...only now.

 

“Penny?”

Penny’s face slowly softened. “Yeah?”

 

“It’s...time for school-is everything okay?”

 

Penny nodded abruptly before she started to slide out of bed. She found it harder than she realized, though, to walk, because of the soreness below her waist.

 

She tripped over her backpack.

 

“Penny, are you okay?!” May exclaimed, helping her niece up onto her feet. “Did something happen, you’re never like this in the morning!”

 

But then May spotted something:

 

There was a pool of crotch blood on Penny’s shorts.

 

“Penny...you’re bleeding.”

 

“What?” Penny said, she was completely dazed. She then looked down. “Oh...I’m on my period,” She lied.

 

“Penny, you just had it two weeks ago! Are you healthy, have your hormones swapped around or something?!” May questioned in complete concern.

 

“Aunt May, I’m fine!” Penny attempted to reassure. It took effort, but Penny walked to the bathroom. She knelt down-well, more like slipped down onto her knees and looked under the sink in the cabinets where she kept her pads and tampons. She had no idea what to do when she saw there were no pads, but a few tampons, only.

 

“Aunt May, do you have pads?”

 

“No I’m out, too. Why, don’t you usually use tampons?”

 

“I think...I’ll...It’s fine,” Penny mumbled out. She closed the door and pushed herself to her feet just to sit down on the toilet. She pulled down her shorts and found a pool of blood soaking both her underwear and shorts. The only thing she could think of was get a new pair of underwear and stuff a ton of toilet paper inside them. So that’s what she proceeded to do, as well as putting on a pair of jeans and a long sleeve burnt orange shirt to cover her wrist bruises, as well as putting heavy duty concealer on them, even setting them with powder.

 

Sloppily, Penny slid stuff into her backpack after only bothering to brush her teeth-not even caring to wash her face or brush her hair. She tied her shoes and walked out.

 

“There’s sausage in the fridge, as well as orange juice and-”

 

But Penny walked out the door without a goodbye, very movement robotic and her body feeling worse and worse by the minute.

 

The day was absolutely sickening. Every time she saw Alex-especially when he looked at her, she felt sick to her stomach. She nearly went to the nurse, but resisted it. He never sat by her in class-was in fact far away from her as possible in the classroom, but she could not focus, nor could she barely write any notes. Her day was wasted, but it did not matter when she was in the same room as her rapist.

 

In every class, both Adelaide and Ned made an effort to sit by her on both sides so no one who would bother her would. Not Flash or Alex-literally not any boy or girl in the room. Penny Parker had a octupled strength defense duo, but for an incredibly serious matter that only the three of them knew about.

 

Adelaide gave her an SOS pill, supposedly picking it up last night when they thought of it before going home themselves. Penny quickly took it, but when she got a look of herself in the mirror, nausea rose and she ended up throwing up in the toilet, Adelaide holding her hair back and giving her water and a granola bar after.

 

By the time P.E came, Penny had to ask to sit out for that class. Thankfully, the P.E coach agreed, but she didn’t know how many days he’d say yes to her. He did notice how terrible she looked, so it was more convincing, but not as convincing as a broken leg cast. So for the whole time, Penny finally rested, but she had to get up from her position lying down to standing…

 

A sick thought filled her head.

 

Happy was picking her up today to take her to the compound.

 

Panic filled Penny. No no no, Mr. Stark and Pepper couldn’t know this-she couldn’t let them! She had no idea what would happen if she told them or it slipped out or-

 

The car horn startled her.

 

Like, really startled her.

 

She had pretty much forgotten she was outside, but it all came back to her. Happy’s car was waiting for her, so she assumed he just pulled up while her thoughts were slowly killing her.

 

“You ready kid?” Happy called.

 

Everything was killing her, but she found her way to her feet and got to the car anyways.

 

Penny closed the car door, quickly buckling her seat belt.

 

“How was your day, kid?” Happy asked as he started to drive.

 

Penny nodded. “Good,” She answered simply.

 

Happy wasn’t sure why he didn’t hear more from her, knowing she was usually a rambling, bubbly kid, but he simply let it go. Maybe she had a bad day, but he decided not to bug her.

 

The drive felt endless for Penny. All her eyes could do was lose focus of everything as they looked out the window. It was all white clouds. No blue skies were there for her, anymore. They were gone only hours ago. The moon was gone, the blue had disappeared, and every star in her life faded.

 

She was a fallen kingdom, crumbled on the ground.

 

“Kid.”

 

Again, she was startled. It was just Happy, though, who was saying that they were there. It was true, now recognizing the grayness of the garage.

 

She swallowed.

 

Penny got out of the car and headed upstairs into the compound. This place was usually always a heaven, but now it was half heaven half hell. It was half home half a disastrous place of destruction. She had no idea what would happen here-if anything at all. She had to keep the secret that her life fell apart just last night.

 

Alex Willard’s face was in her head, and he would not let go.

 

It was slowly ruining her.

 

“Penny?”

 

Mr. Stark’s voice was usually one of the greatest comforts there was. Now, it was a terrifying thing.

 

Penny turned around. “Yeah?” She responded, but had no idea her voice would come out so quietly.

 

Tony didn’t understand what he was seeing. The last time she was not happy-seeming, she was upset. Now there was darkness under her eyes, a whole vibe of tiredness on her-and why was she wearing a long-sleeved shirt and jeans in the eighty-five-degree heat?!

 

“Are you okay, Penny, you look exhausted? If you needed to go home and rest, why didn’t you say so?”

 

“Happy was already there to pick me up…” Her voice couldn’t rise any higher.

 

Tony was about to speak, but then he felt his phone ring. He looked and it was May Parker calling him. Penny’s aunt didn’t call him too many times, but she was now.

 

He picked up, holding the phone closely and tightly to his ear.  “May?”

 

“Is Penny with you?”

 

“Yeah, she is nearly every day, why?”

 

“Tony, last night she came back very...I don’t know-she-she-she was very frazzled and she looked shaken! I don’t know what happened, but she went straight to bed and didn’t say a thing! Then this morning, she didn’t wake up on time, so I had to go wake her up. When I went to open the door, though, the door was locked! She never has locked her door, before! So I opened her up and gently rocked her awake and then she popped up from her bed with the most horrified face I’ve ever seen on her face! Then she didn’t eat her breakfast, but she usually does, and just shot right out the door to school!” May rambled all in one breath.

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah-but she was at a party last night with Adelaide and Ned! I was going to pick them up at ten thirty, but they walked back and dropped her off at nine twenty! I’m not accusing you of anything, but did they go over to the compound last night?”

 

“No, not at all! The last time I saw her was yesterday after school with both of her friends. Did anything else happen? Right now she literally looks like you described her-she looked exhausted and her voice is really quiet, too,” Tony said, all while still looking at Penny, seeing if there was anything else super noticeable.

 

May knew one other thing to mention, but she chose not to, since it was...girl stuff. “No, but if you can, please try to see if she’ll tell you what’s wrong! She’s pretty close to you, Tony, you’re the only other person besides me that she would tell serious things to-maybe even Miss Potts! I just want to know if my baby is okay!”

 

“I will, May, I promise. She’s with me right now, I’ll try to talk to her. Bye.” Tony then hung up. “So May told me about last night and this morning. Your aunt is worried sick about you, Penny, and Pepper and I are too.”

 

“I know,” Penny finally said, but with no volume increase. Now, there were tears in her eyes, but she had to keep them in-she had to. Penny was frozen in position, and she couldn’t move or those tears would fall out.

 

Tony could see the water in her eyes. Something was really wrong, and it actually broke his heart to see it. He was about to speak, but then Penny walked away and sat down on the sofa, covering her face and...becoming smaller.

 

“Penny? ...Honey?” He tried.

 

Tony barely heard it, but his hearing detected one small sob that she was trying to cover up.

 

Quickly, Tony sat down beside her and put his hand on her shoulder. At that moment, she could kinda feel Uncle’s Ben comfort-or the comfort of a father...But it wouldn’t fix what happened.

 

“Kiddo, I’m not mad at you, I promise. May, Pepper, they’re not mad, either. We all just want to know what is wrong and how we can help you. You’re one of the most important things to us, you know.”

 

All Penny did was slightly nod, her face still in her hands.

 

“Now May said that you, Ned, and Adelaide were at a party last night. What happened, kid, were there drugs, were there alcohol?”

 

“Yeah but that’s not what happened.”

 

Penny’s heart stopped after she said that, for a second.

 

“Then what happened?”

 

Penny couldn’t do it anymore...She was here now, and she didn’t want to keep bottling every. Single. Thing about that night all inside of her.

 

“When my friends and I went to the party, it looked pretty normal. It was a townhouse and we didn’t hear too much noise outside...But when we went inside Adelaide saw alcohol…”

 

“Were you hungover?” He quietly asked.

 

“No, none of us took a sip, Adelaide didn’t like that there was alcohol there. But then Flash Thompson touched her and she freaked, got into a fight with him...And then I was tackled into a room that was apparently beside the doorway.”

 

Tony took note that Adelaide was a very aggressive girl, and that it didn’t surprise him.

 

Penny’s breath was shaky. “God-actually, there was a lot before that-before the party…”

 

Tony didn’t question, he just let her speak and tell it to him however she wanted. He just wanted her to be comfortable with telling him.

 

“So there’s this...new boy who transferred to our school, right? He was new...and his name was Alex Willard.”

 

It was starting out with a boy, so far, and that was the sign to Tony that the very worst had happened.

 

“So I’m just at my locker, right, getting my books? Slapped my ass. But then that’s how I met Adelaide, because she scolded him but he just walked away.” Penny took another breath. “A few weeks later, it was all okay. Apparently, he calls me Twat Girl, but I’ve learned to ignore that...Then we sit in chemistry and he tried to cut my braid, but only got half an inch off. He went to the principal’s office and got a three day suspension...It doesn’t end, though.”

 

Tony guessed that was the day where Pepper wouldn’t tell him what happened.

 

“In math class, Alex sat next to me, but I couldn’t move because there were no other seats. As I took my notes, he...had a pair of scissors...and cut my bra st-straps,” She mumbled at the end in all nervousness and fear.

 

In all honesty, Tony wanted to kill the kid who did that, but he let her continue.

 

“So that’s why I ended up calling Pepper because May was at work...I just got another bra and we ended up going to the compound because all that was left was stupid P.E. But then, of course, we have last night, where I left off.” Penny had to take another breath because nothing would calm her down about what she was going to tell this man. “Adelaide banged on the locked door trying to get to me, terrified of what just happened, but got in a fight-Ned seemed to as well...And some people say ‘you asked for it’ when you wear a dress, right? I was wearing a fucking normal dress that was down to my knees...Just ripped it off and...you know,” Her voice cracked at the end-Penny just hoped he knew what she was saying so she didn’t have to say it any blunter.

 

He hoped and hoped that she wasn’t saying what he thought Penny was saying.

 

“It was over, eventually, you know...But that wasn’t supposed to happen-he just walked all over me and left me like I was nothing-I’m not nothing!” She cried.

 

And she broke.

 

She broke hard.

 

Penny became a mess of sobs and trauma was the hurricane in her head. Never before had she felt the anxiety she did now-in the way it was, either...and of course, it was in front of Tony Stark, whom she was trying to prevent from seeing her weakness...She failed.

 

Tony held her close in comfort. He had never been good at dealing with crying, most of the time, but for only two people he would try his hardest for: Pepper and Penny. Penny needed him right now because he was positive that what he thought happened...had actually happened to her.

 

Her tears never stopped, and he rubbed her back in soothing motions. Penny couldn’t stop-she couldn’t stop at all. Tony realized she wouldn’t, probably, and continued to comfort her. His father was never there for him...He didn’t have the heart to not be there for her...Never had it crossed his mind to not care for her. Ever.

 

“I’m sorry…” Her whisper pushed out.

 

“No. You do not have anything to be sorry about. This…boy-that son of a bitch raped you…” Fury was inside of him-and it was inside of him deep. Brilliant, beautiful, bubbly Penny Parker...was ruined by this-no, she was not ruined, actually. Penny Parker was strong as hell-she would not be ruined by this.

 

But it was pain.

 

And it was pain inflicted on his girl.

 

“Did you go to the police?”

 

“N-no.”

 

“Have you told anyone?”

 

“You and my friends are the only ones that know-please don’t tell aunt May-please don’t tell her!” Penny begged.

 

“May’s gonna find out eventually, honey-”

 

Please …”

 

When all was said and done, he knew that for Penny, he wouldn’t for as long as he could. “Okay.”

 

Penny sniffled. “What do I do? I-I-I don’t know what I should do-he gets away with everything but the whole school will know and he-he’ll keep bothering me and-”

 

“Penny, that boy will never bother you or anyone ever again-I will guarantee you of that. He is going to go to jail for what he did-for anything and everything h-”

 

“Nononononononononono no one can no-NO ONE can know!” She panicked.

 

“Hey! Penny, honey, look at me!” He attempts to soothe. Tony takes his hand from her back to wipe away some tears from her eyes with his thumb, it definitely not being what she expected today. “This boy did something absolutely terrible to you, Penny. In order for him to go to prison a few people will have to know what happened so he will never hurt you again. I’m talking police officers, Aunt May, this kid’s parents.”

 

“But the whole school could find out! They’d never leave me alone-I’d nev-”

 

“Penny, I will do absolutely everything I can in order for them to not find out, but people like your aunt and the police will need to know.”

 

“I don’t know if I can do it...I’m not strong enough to just let them know…”

 

Tony thumbed away more tears and put his hands on her shoulders. “Honey, look at me...You are the strongest girl I have ever met in my whole life, as well as the absolute most intelligent and amazing. You balance this life of being a student at a high-ranking school in New York City, living in Queens-notably not the safest and easiest city in this world, and being an accomplished superhero. If they find out, fuck them, because they don’t know how goddamn strong you are and how stupid they are to hound you about it.”

 

Penny could only nod at him because she didn’t know what to say. What was she supposed to say to him? There was so much support from him..but she didn’t know how to react, at all.

 

Tony slid his hands off her shoulders. “I think you need some rest, kiddo. You’re exhausted beyond belief. How ‘bout we get you to sleep in your guest room, ‘kay?”

 

All Penny could do again was nod as Tony helped her up and towards the room she forgot she had there. It happened fast, but it was the best feeling she’d had in a while when she snuggled into the covers and fell asleep.

 

Tony closed the door and his breath came out unsteady. He...didn’t know how to comprehend anymore. Penny Parker was just raped…

 

He didn’t know what to do.

 

“Oh god,” He whispered into the silence the oxygen brought. That was all that he did for a moment, just standing there by the doorway. The whole time, he could only wonder two things: one of them was about what to do because he didn’t know. The second was why did it have to happen to Penny?

 

Finally, Tony thought of one thing to do.  “Friday, check for STDs, would you?”

 

“...No STDs, boss.”

 

The next thought that invaded his head was absolutely mortifying...but he had to ask it for Penny’s sake. “She’s not pregnant?” He asked quietly before he realized that she wouldn’t be, considering it was a day or two after, same for the STDs.

 

“...Not pregnant, boss.”

 

Tony breathed a breath of deep relief. The slight possibility of that being a yes...was one of the worst imaginable things he could think of.

 

“Does she need any medical treatment of any sort?”

 

“She has vaginal bleeding as well as major bruising on her inner thighs, minor bruising on her wrists which she has seemed to conceal with heavy duty makeup concealer. Penny is otherwise healthy, boss.”

 

“Is there anything I can get her right now?”

 

“I would suggest to let her rest. Later, however, she will need menstrual pads for the bleeding. I can order oral medication for the bruising for faster healing, and pads if needed.”

 

“Pepper may have them,” He muttered, but then he realized that maybe telling her was something Penny didn’t want...But for Penny’s sake…

 

“For evidence purposes against the perpetrator, I would suggest taking her to the hospital for a Rape Kit. She cannot shower or do anything to tamper with possible evidence against him, hoping she hasn’t already showered,” Friday advises. “Boss, Miss Potts has just arrived back at the compound. She’s making her way up.”

 

“Thanks.” Tony departed the hallway where Penny’s room was and made his way to meet Pepper. What was he supposed to tell her? Pepper wouldn’t know how to deal with it just as he didn’t-and she loved Penny just as much...It was going to hurt badly, just like it hurt him.

 

He saw Pepper come to greet her normally, wearing a blush pink shift dress and cream pumps as her work clothes. Her smile was soft, yet bright...a similar brightness that Penny had.

 

She greeted him with a kiss but then noticed the expression on his face. “What’s wrong?”

 

“Do you...have menstrual pads?” He asked with mild awkwardness. It was probably the weirdest question he’d asked in a while, but he needed to ask it.

 

Pepper was highly confused by this. “Why?”

 

The awkwardness was now gone. There was now only the darkness of what he knew in his eyes and soon to come out of his mouth.

 

Where would he start?

 

Tony found his words, but they were quiet with the weight of what he knew. “Last night, Penny, Adelaide, and Ned were at a party. Apparently they saw alcohol and were going to leave, but then someone started a fight with Adelaide…” He started out, but then he had no idea how he would phrase what happened to Penny.

 

“Tony?” Pepper’s voice came softly. She didn’t understand what he was trying to say and could only understand that something happened-but she didn’t know what.

 

He didn’t realize how close to silent he was. “She was raped.”

 

It hit like a bullet. “What?”

 

“Penny was raped last night at that party by a boy who has been bothering her for a long while.”

 

Pepper’s facial expression change was terrifying. “ That boy?”

 

“What do you mean-”

 

“What Penny didn’t want me to tell you was that there was a boy who cut her bra straps with a pair of scissors at school!”

 

“Yeah she told me. She told me everything...It’s all this one fucking boy.” Tony was now boiling inside. It would’ve been excruciating for him to find one word to the feeling.

 

He was never a functional man-never ever. Penny was so much better at being so. Now this happened...Penny was always better than him, and that was the way he wanted to keep it-for her sake and future, he knew that so much potential could be filled. If there was one thing Tony Stark would do for the rest of his life, it was making sure that this did not ruin her.

 

Not that he noticed, but all of it was getting to him-as it would to the majority-but this was in a way that was incredibly individual just as he was. There was a tightening in his hands, clenching in his jaw, fury in his eyes. It was uncontrollable.

 

Why intelligent, beautiful, hilarious, nerdy Penny Parker?

 

“She doesn’t have any injuries, does she?” Pepper asks, wide-eyed from the shock.

 

“Vaginal bleeding, bruised thighs, wrists. No STDS or such, thank god. She needs medical attention, though. Penny’s sleeping right now, but I don’t know what to do!”

 

“Well we can get a doctor, maybe Helen Cho, here since going in out in public could look suspicious. Does May know?”

 

Tony took a deep breath. “Penny didn’t want me to tell her.”

 

“Tony, you have to-”

 

“I will, Pepper, but Penny asked me to and telling May ‘hey, your niece got raped, you want to come over here,’ is not a truck I want to hit her with right away!”

 

“She’s her guardian!” Pepper exclaims. “I suggest you call her, Happy picks up her up, brings her here, and then we talk to her about it. And no one else knows?”

 

“No one except her friends. She’s terrified people at school will find out about it, though.”

 

“That will not be happening,” Pepper assures. “Do you know anything about this punk?”

 

“His name is Alex Willard. That is all I know. Friday, get me every scintilla of information you have on this little bastard,” He demands.

 

“Yes, boss,” The A.I swiftly responds and starts working.

 

“You don’t think her friends told anyone, right?” Pepper asks softly, fear in her voice.

 

“No, I met them, they’re both good kids. Adelaide was the one banging on the other side of the door and trying to reach her-those two kids somehow got in a fight with these other kids. There was alcohol and stuff, so they were trying to leave and get out, but that didn’t work,” Tony explained.

 

It was hard for Pepper to comprehend everything she was hearing because it was just so much bad. Penny was raped, her friends got in a fight, she had bruises, she needed a doctor, literally everything was piling so high on her brain.

 

It was disgusting and horrifying, everything she just received.

 

The look on Tony’s face, though, added to it. She knew how deeply he felt and cared for this teenage girl...almost like his own daughter-no, as his own daughter. Hell, Penny kinda even looked like him. They did so much together and had grown so close that if people saw them interact with no context that they’d think the two geniuses were father and daughter. Except they weren’t biologically. Maybe something out there knew it was really meant to be.

 

“Hey…” She gently cooed. Pepper let him fall into a hug with her, hoping maybe the stress would deflate at least a little.

 

It wouldn’t at all.


Penny only slept for two hours. After that, her awakening was slow and sluggish. At first, her mind was at ease, but it replayed absolutely everything since two days ago.

 

It was sickening.

 

“JUST TAKE IT!”

 

Sickening?

 

It was more than sickening, that scream.  

 

Her phone was buzzing. Ned’s face was there with the Star Wars ringtone she set.

 

Penny didn’t want to ignore it. She pushed her hand out and snatched the phone, answering before it was even at her ear. It was beside her since she didn’t want to put it up against her ear.

 

“Penny?”

 

“Hi, Ned,” She greeted groggily.

 

“I didn’t see you after school, where are you?”

 

“Happy picked me up. I forgot about it, completely...Mr. Stark knows,” She just about cracked at the end.

 

“They do?”

 

Penny sighed. “Yeah,” She confirmed in a whisper. “Ned, I don’t want anyone to know. People at school would freak and harass me about it! Alex Willard is popular, he’s got goonies, and there’s not a lot of people who would even care if he raped me.”

 

“Penny, I will punch anyone in the face who says you deserved it or any shit like that,” Ned boldly states. “You’re my best friend, both you and Adelaide. We’re gonna defend you through it all no matter what. You’re untouchable, after this, you hear me?”

 

“Ned, never in my life will I be untouchable. I don’t care if I have Tony Stark or the Avengers to defend me! I have three years left of high school, and this is how I’m going to be known: Penny Parker, the raped kid. Never in my life did I think my life would be ruined like this!” Penny quickly exclaimed.

 

“Your life isn’t-”

 

Penny hung up.

 

She hung up on Ned.

 

Never in her whole life had she hung up on him.

 

Tears were coming for her eyes, Penny knew it. They were going to spill out into a sobbing mess and it was going to torment her again.

 

There was a knock on the door, though.

 

“Penny?” Came Tony’s gentle voice.

 

“Come in,” She replied on automatic.

 

The door quietly opened up, a concerned and caring Tony walking into her room and closing the door. “You okay, honey?”

 

Penny hummed a yes.

 

“That’s good. If you want to, you can go back to sleep. It’s only been two hours, and it’s been a long day…”

 

“I’m okay, Mr. Stark,” She said, but only at a mutter.

 

He walked over to her bed and Penny leaned up from her sleeping position, her back against the headboard. Tony asked if she minded him sitting down and she shook her head. He sat beside her, but not too close. Tony didn’t want to make her uncomfortable.

 

“How are you feeling?”

 

“Alright. I’m not really feeling the bruises, so….”

 

“That’s good. How are you feeling otherwise?”

 

“Just...tired,” Penny sums up. But then she blurted out something else. “Scared.”

 

“You’ll never be seeing him again, Penny, I swear to you,” He assures with all of his might. All Tony wanted for her (besides happy, healthy, educated, and such) was to feel safe from the bastard that raped her and anyone who wants to comment on it.

 

“I’ll see him at school.”

 

“He’s going to be arrested.”

 

“His dad is a lawyer…Maybe all he’ll get is a slap on the wrist,” Penny speculates firmly.

 

“If needed, I’ll be getting the absolute best lawyers around. Honey, that boy will pay his dues. I promise you will never see him again.”

 

“At what cost? What if I have to testify or do some whole trial-I can’t do it-I just can’t!” Penny cries.

 

Physically, Tony offered a hug and Penny took it. Her face was buried against him as he rubbed circles against her back. It was all getting to her, obviously. Why should it not-she was raped, pure and simple. Everything was crashing because of one boy-one boy who didn’t deserve what he had if he heart the will to do that. Tony did not care if he was drunk, or if he was rich, or if his dad was a fucking lawyer-this boy would be charged and that was final. No one could simply hurt Penny and get away with it.

 

Absolutely no one.

 

“You’re okay, sweetheart, I promise,” Tony soothed.

 

Penny sniffled. “Does May know I’m here?”

 

“I was planning to call her and talk to her about it all here, if that's okay...I know, Penny, that you don’t want me to tell her, but she has to know. That’s the only other person who has to know that isn’t a lawyer or police officer, I promise.

 

Penny pulls away from him and nods. “I just don’t want to hurt her. She’s been hurt enough.” An image of Ben appeared in her head, but she made herself push it away. Not right now.

 

“I know, Pen...I know.”

 

Penny wiped her eyes of the almost tears and breathed out. The intense feeling of oxygen was a relief. “I’m sorry.”

 

Tony became perplexed. “For what, Penny?”

 

“It’s kinda a burden on you, this whole situation.”

 

Tony’s face grew serious. “Penny, this isn’t a burden for me, but it should be for the school, for this kid’s parents, and for this punk himself,” He states in full contradiction to her words.

 

“But what if something gets out in the tabloids?”

 

“Then they’re just tabloids. They’re unreliable and no one believes them.”

 

“You’re right,” Penny concedes. She feels her face. It’s hot and dry. Slowly, she makes herself get out of bed. “I’m going to wash my face.”

 

“There’s some face wash and moisturizer in the bathroom next door since you probably don’t have any with you.”

 

“I don’t. Thank you.”

 

Penny starts out of the room into the marble bathroom, finding a tube of gentle face wash and cold, lotion-like moisturizer on the counter. Ducking her head down, she splashes cold water on her face, a new and refreshing feeling. She squirts the creamy face wash consistency on her face, rubbing it around and then washing it off. Penny snatched the washcloth and dried her face. When the teenager looked up into the mirror, there was something very different about her that she couldn’t nail. She could see the dark undereyes, the frowning, the moderately red face, but she soon figured out it was just every piece of depression in her eyes. She didn’t even know if it was riddable.

 

Penny applied the cool moisturizer on her face and was done with it. Did she feel a little better? Well, her face did. The rest of her was going to take time, both the inside and out. She would’ve showered, but she was terrified to see the bruises. The teen couldn’t handle the reminder of what happened to her, right now.

 

Penny exited the bathroom and decided to go see what Tony and Pepper were doing. It felt like kinda a good idea to go back to sleep, but she wide-awake. Wait-did Pepper know? Penny didn’t know if the CEO knew. It wasn’t necessarily bad, it was just that how many people knew was adding up. Ned, Adelaide, Tony, Pepper, then May. Who now? Maybe it was going to be someone that she would die if someone knew. Flash? Willard’s gang? Teachers? Literally anyone at school who thought she was weird, already?

 

With hesitance, Penny walked into the living room and wasn’t overly startled over what she saw. It was Pepper on her computer while sitting on the sofa, probably making business emails. The strawberry-blonde immediately looked up with concern in her crystal blue eyes. “You okay, Penny?”

 

The teenager nodded. “I’m good, Miss Potts.”

 

Pepper was semi-convinced in a partial manner. She stood up and put her computer aside, noticing Penny was still in jeans and a shirt. It was much later in the day, 5:15, to be exact. Day-wear wasn’t always the best sleepwear.

 

“If you want to sleep more, I have an extra pair of pajamas that will fit you loosely, but they’ll fit. I’ll go get them,” Pepper says.

 

“Oh, that’s okay Miss-”

 

Pepper, however, had exited the room.

 

Penny shut her mouth. She started to resist because one, the pajamas were probably very expensive and she didn’t want to get them dirty or spill anything on them. Two...no, that was Penny’s only reason. The teen didn’t want to ruin Pepper’s nice sleepwear.

 

When the businesswoman came back into the room, she had a set of gray silky pajamas in hand.

 

Penny’s jaw actually dropped, her eyes agape. “Miss Potts, are these silk ?” She asked in awe.

 

Pepper smiled. “Yes they are, and they’re washable.”

 

“Wow-I-thank you, Miss Potts, but what if I get them dirty-”

 

“Don’t worry, sweetie, it’s a gift.”

 

Penny was even more stunned now. The one and only Pepper Potts was giving her a silk pajama set?! “But if it gets dirty or-”

 

“It’s a gift, Penny. And I’m very sure you’re not going to get it dirty. I trust you.”

 

Those words rung in Penny’s head over and over again-those last three words. “Th-thank you, Miss Potts.”

 

“Your welcome, sweetie. And you can call me Pepper, if you like.”

 

Penny didn’t exactly realize it, but she was smiling at Pepper. Beautiful, strong, business woman, Pepper Potts was another person she looked up to. Tony Stark, of course, was her idol, but Pepper Potts was a super accomplished business woman who was once asked her favorite position by a perverted reporter and she responded C.E.O.

 

She always loved the woman, but that line really did it.

 

“I’ll...go put them on,” Penny says before starting to the bathroom.

 

“I trust you”

 

Those words meant more than Penny could say.

 

She closed the bathroom door and stripped of her clothing, forcing herself to not look at the bruises in her thighs while the ones on her wrists were unavoidable, concealer semi-melted. Unfolding the pajamas, she found a packet hidden inside.

 

It was proof that Pepper knew, but giving her a pad was too helpful to be worried about.

 

Penny swapped out the sad wad of toilet paper for the pad as well as the jeans and shirt for the button-up silk shirt and long pants. As soon as she pulled the silk onto her skin, it was instant comfort. When she looked into the mirror, something felt very different about her. It just felt...fancy, the teenager supposed.

 

When Penny stepped out of the bathroom and went back into the living room, Tony and Pepper were talking until they noticed the Spiderling in the new clothes. “You rock silk, kiddo,” Tony commented.

 

“Thank you,” She smiles.

 

“Miss Parker should be here in a few minutes, Boss,” Friday alerted.

 

“Thanks, Fri. You ready, Pen?” He asked softly.

 

Penny could only nod, the fear and anticipation in her chocolate brown orbs. She had no idea how long she would’ve been able to keep all of this from May, who was one of the last people she wanted to hurt in this world. Tony, Pepper, Adelaide, and Ned were already on her victim list with her...It was no surprise that she would be forced to add May.

 

Within another two minutes, Penny’s face fell when she heard May’s voice call her name. Tony’s arm was wrapped around her, ready to let her be captured by the likely embrace May was going to give at first sight. There was no way that May didn’t care for Penny in all fifteen years this girl existed. Penny was May’s niece and raised as her daughter.

 

“Penny?” She called again, now in the living room. Her eyes were big with worry.

 

Penny backed out of Tony’s arm and into the tight hug her aunt gave her. “Penny’s what’s going on?”

 

“Um...you might wanna sit down.”

 

So she did sit across from her niece who was beside Tony and Pepper the entire time. At the very moment the words of explanation came out of her mouth, her worst fear for May had come true.

 

By the end of the story starting from the slapping to the event itself, tears had streamed far down May’s cheeks and her body was on the verge of shaking. May didn’t know when her niece came home early. May didn’t know when her niece locked her door and woke up horrified. May didn’t know when her niece needed a pad. May didn’t know when she didn’t eat breakfast like normal. May had been in the dark of it all...It was darker where Penny was, though.

 

“Why...didn’t you tell me?”

 

Penny could barely push it out. “I didn’t want to hurt you…”

 

“Oh, baby…” May stood up and opened her arms for another hug which the dirty-blonde teen obliged to. She forced herself to breathe calmly, even as her aunt was teared up and torn apart over what happened to her niece.

 

Pain was not only limited to the aunt and niece. It was shredding up Pepper, scorching Tony. This was a girl that was sunlight, that was bright, that was intelligent, that was beautiful, that was amazing. Why was it always that the worst things happened to the very best people?

 

Why his Penny Parker?

 

“We need to go home...Penny, go get in the car, I wanna talk to Mr. Stark and Miss Potts real quick.”

 

Penny pulled away with a concerned look on her face and a quick glance to Tony, who gave her a look that said “go ahead”.

 

She nodded. “Bye, Mr. Stark. Thank you for the pajamas, Miss Potts.”

 

Penny walked away and towards the garage where the car Happy would take them home in was. May wiped away the few tears on her cheeks and her whole face grew sincere. “I...Mr. Stark-”

 

“Tony,” He calmly corrected.

 

“I...honestly don’t know why she didn’t come to me first, Tony, but I’m just glad she spilled to someone,” May hesitantly admits to the billionaire.” When something goes wrong in her life, Penny is usually very determined to keep it to herself whether it’s a bad grade or she did something bad. I guess it just means she trusts you more than almost anything. I don’t know what the two of you have done to grow so close, but I’m so thankful for it. Penny, I think, probably loves you like a father.”

 

Those words hit very close to him. Probably loves you like a father hit again on repeat-an intense loop like his ACDC playlist. Even May could see that it did in his eyes.

 

Tony didn’t know what to say to that, so May continued on. “I just can’t thank you enough...I just can’t.”

 

“There’s no need, Miss Parker.”

 

“May,” She corrects just as he did for himself.

 

“May. Please call us if you need absolutely anything.”

 

“You’ve already done plenty-”

 

“May, I’m serious, I don’t care how miniscule of a thing it is, please call me...It’s a long road. I don’t know what it’s like, but it’s long...And I don’t want her to be alone,” Tony admits quietly by the end.

 

“She will never be alone and I’ll do anything to make sure it stays that way. Penny has me, she has you two, and she has Ned and Adelaide. I just hope she knows that.”

 

“She does,” Pepper says in assurance. “I’ve seen the way she looks at us. Penny knows we’re there for her. Even if she didn’t for a bit of time, she should know now.”

 

May nodded. “Well, thank you again. Would you, um, still, like to get dinner next weekend or so, Pepper?” She asked, but with a bit of nervousness. They’d discussed it before, but have never actually gotten to doing so.

 

“Yeah, of course! Wherever your favorite is, we can go.”

 

“Okay, cool. Well, goodnight, and thank you again,” May thanked them as she started walking out to the garage. When she got there, Penny was sitting in the back of the car on the right, looking down to the floor, so May sat on the left right beside her. As Happy started to pull out, Penny leaned into her aunt, the dark overcoming the car as they left and drove into the night.

 

By the time Happy dropped them off, Penny felt ready for a shower. There was suddenly a dirty feeling to her there wasn’t earlier. She went into her bathroom and stripped of her clothes, turned on the shower, and got inside when the water was warm. It soaked her immediately from head to toe. She cleansed her body and then her hair, a weird internal feeling of something being washed away came upon her. The whole time Penny conditioned her hair and shaved her legs, she contemplated this. But by the time she washed the conditioner out and then her legs and armpits were smooth, she just gave up. It was just a shower, and just another one of her weird thoughts. Plus, her naked body wasn’t her favorite sight considering that was how she got hurt.

 

Penny turned off the water and sighed before pulling open the curtain. She dried herself with the towel, starting at the legs, then the arms, then the rest of her. Cold was around her as she pulled on her underwear and then the silk pajamas. There was a comfort, now, in the softness. Maybe it was just that it was from Pepper who’s smile and strength brought power and light to the room, so it brought power and light to her head.

 

She settled that the reason she wondered was it.

 

After moisturizing her face for the second time in one day (which made it soft, especially with the mattifying treatment May found for cheap on the internet), Penny entered her bedroom, closing the door and flopping back onto her comfortable bed. She snatched her corgi socks and peony hand cream off of her nightstand, pulling them on and rubbing the cream on her hands. When she finished that, she finally relaxed into the bed, doing absolutely nothing but lying there.

 

“JUST TAKE IT”

 

But obviously, everything good in her life had to be ruined.

 

This time, it was ruined by Alex Willard.

 

Alex fucking Willard.

 

Penny closed her eyes. No one at school had dealt with what she had-they really had not. Sure, people had issues. Some were discriminated against for different race or sexuality, some were pressured harshly about grades, and some were just problematic children. None of them, however, were bitten by a spider, got superhero spider abilities, got recruited by Tony Stark to fight Captain America and other Avengers, goes on a crazy journey to bust a villain who turned out to be her date’s dad, got crushed by a whole building, is bullied by Flash Thompson, starts getting slapped on the ass at school by someone else, gets a bit of her hair cut off, her bra straps cut, and then raped.

 

No other person in the whole entire school or world went through her exact timeline of events.

 

Oh yeah, and her parents were dead and so was her uncle.

 

Life wanted her to die, didn’t it?

 

“Kill me,” Penny whispered. She wasn’t that serious. Whenever Penny said that, she was very Gen-Z jokeful-a Tumblr jokeful. The authenticity of those words had grown in her head, however…

 

No, though. Obviously, she did not feel suicidal.

 

She would also never do that to Aunt May.

 

Penny turned onto her side, a slight glow of the light of the street coming from behind the window curtains. Thoughts flooded and flooded until it drove her down into her peaceful sleep.

 

But then, of course, she had to wake up.

 

In the morning, she got dressed in a more normal manner being a pair of denim bermuda shorts with a peach and white striped tee shirt and a loose coral sweater on top to cover the bruises. Penny put on makeup, a layer of foundation, concealer, blush, and mascara. She sprayed a little bit of the Bath and Body Works Mad About You fragrance she had left on her. It was the cute Penny Parker she felt before in appearance.

 

JUST TAKE IT!”

 

Not inside, however.

 

That morning had felt closer to normal. May had made her a small, but filling breakfast of sausage and eggs with orange juice. She rode the bus, but in the back alone with her thoughts. She arrived with some time to spare, unseen and unheard…

 

“Penny!”

 

Until Penny turned around to hear the cry from Adelaide.

 

The dark-strawberry-blonde-borderline-caramel practically ran to her from the other end of the hallway.

 

“Hey, Addels-”

 

“Are you okay? I didn’t know since you weren’t answering your phone!”

 

Penny froze. “I-I’m sorry-I wasn’t paying attention to my phone.”

 

“You’re okay, though, right? Or at least...relatively?” She finished quietly.

 

Penny nodded. “Relatively,” She confirmed.

 

Adelaide bit her matte rose-colored lip, getting a step closer. “I haven’t heard anything about you, but I bet Willard is gonna do something. If he does, I’ll break his fucking jaw,” She just about growls at the end.

 

“You’re quite aggressive,” Penny mutters. “Where the hell do you get it from?”

 

“My mom’s a redhead, so she’s fiery. I may be adopted, but you’re still raised by those people.”

 

“Wait-what!?” Penny exclaims. She didn’t know Adelaide was adopted! Sure, she was Hispanic-American and all, but she’d never seen her parents. Now that she thought more about it, her name was very white and not Hispanic at all. “I-I didn’t know you were adopted!”

 

“It’s not a problem. It’s never bothered me, trust me. I was five and they saved me from a worse life. They love me and I love them, so that’s what matters. I’m happy. If I was with my first parents and never moved to New York, I would’ve never met you.”

 

Penny gaped. She knew that Adelaide cared about her a lot in an almost obnoxious manner...but there was something about those words that touched at her heart gently. It was meaningful from her silky voice, her deep green eyes, the sweet look on her face.

 

Adelaide giggled. “Okay, now you’re kinda staring. Is Penny an astronaut?”

 

The Spiderling snapped out of it. “Uh, not anymore.”

 

“Dykes.”

 

Adelaide swept around so ferociously that it was a lion attacking. “Call Penny a dyke again!” She snapped.

 

“Aww, Adelaide Calman has a girlfriend!”

 

“Flash,” Adelaide said in a deep and dangerous voice. “Call Penny a dyke again,” She seethed.

 

Flash backed away and rolled his eyes. “She must be a good dom in bed, Parker, with that fire.” He walked down the hall and away.

 

Penny stood agape. She’d always never gotten quite the grip of how defensive her one-out-of-two best friend was. Her temper was flashy and quick to trigger, usually, and it was strong. Never had she ignored things. She was the type of girl to rip up someone’s homophobic sign in the streets, or to give homeless people some money five times in a day. Adelaide Paloma Calman was quite the force to be reckoned with. The girl had fire, ambition, a passionate smile, a quirky intellect, and a perfectly curved body.

 

She blinked. It’d been a while since she’d thought of Adelaide that way.

 

The classes started and ran through just fine and smoothly. Sadly, Penny missed a bit of homework since she did none last night, but she had solid A’s so she knew she could make up for them with classwork and tests and such. Both Adelaide and Ned offered to help her if she needed any help with the content, Ned adding he doubted she would with how smart Penny was. That made the teen part-time-superhero smile.

 

Lunch came quickly, the trio sitting at the table they sat at everyday: the end of a table in a corner. Penny munched on the cafeteria food, Ned chewed his sandwich and two apples, and Adelaide ate her homemade flatbread with some cucumber slices and a ridiculously large jug of water.

 

“I was thinking,” Adelaide announced, perking Ned and Penny’s attention. “If you would be comfortable with it, maybe you’d want to come over this weekend? Ned, you could come, but I don’t think...sleepover…”

 

“Yeah, no, I’m fine,” He assures. “You and Penny would have a lot of fun! Don’t you live in The United Nations Plaza? Like, a super luxurious place?”

 

“That’s not exactly the point, but yeah,” Adelaide said in a non-judging manner. She knew she was privileged, living in a 3.5 million dollar apartment in the U.N Plaza versus small apartments in bad neighborhoods, plus deeply caring and devoted parents who would do so much for her. “My parents would be happy to meet you, Penny! We could do literally whatever you like!” She smiled.

 

Penny didn’t have much internal debate. She found herself unable to say no to the blindingly (no, seriously, she had some stunning gold highlighter on) bright girl. It would be fun, and a distractor. As many distractions as she could get...whatever would help with the pain.

 

She nodded. “Okay, Friday night right after school?”

 

“Yeah, that sounds good. I’ll ask my parents tonight and my mom will probably want to check with your aunt just ‘cause…”

 

Penny furrowed her brows. “Because of what?” Ned asks.

 

Adelaide sighed. “This is going to sound like absolute bull coming from me, and I get it...but my mom just doesn’t want to be known as the super rich snob mom. She wants to seem normal.”

 

“Relax, it’s not that big of bull. Penny works with Tony Stark, for god’s sake!” Ned says.

 

“My dad works for the U.N and my mom’s a lawyer! It’s still very successful! Besides, my mom doesn’t know anyone here and she likes to make a good impression on people,” Adelaide explains, somewhat nervous.

 

“Adelaide, it’s fine. I’ve seen money, and it won’t affect our friendship,” Penny assures.

 

She sighed again. “Okay...next topic, maybe?” She nervously suggests, a pang of regret coming through her.

 

It was now Mrs. Yang’s chemistry class at the smack-down end of the day. Penny scored a straight one hundred, Adelaide a ninety five, and Ned a ninety three, so they figured their group notes were worth the time. The rest of class was just taking notes while Mrs. Yang gave a somewhat engaging lecture and covered test topics.

 

Halfway through, Penny needed to use the restroom, asking the teacher and letting her go. The dirty-blonde was feeling calm and collected at the moment. Things were going well enough that the bad things just weren’t on her mind. It was easy waters in her head.

 

After coming out of her stall, she was dragged and slammed against the sink, a shriek escaping her.

 

“Hey, Parker. Whatcha up to?”

 

“SON OF A BITCH, LET ME GO!” Penny screamed at Alex Willard. Anxiety filled inside her very quickly.

 

“JUST TAKE IT!”

 

Penny wouldn’t this time.

 

She was about to throw him off of her-about to risk her other identity because she wouldn’t do this again, but somehow, she didn’t have to.

 

Penny looked over her shoulder and he was on the floor. Adelaide had tackled him to the ground, his nose broken and bleeding. He grunted in intense pain, unable to get up.

 

“Touch her again and I’ll break your jaw,” Adelaide growled. She held him to the ground, the boy on his stomach with his cheek to the cold and dirty floor, the other in Adelaide’s sharply manicured hand.

 

“How-how-’fuck you so strong?!” Alex gasped in pain and horror. Burning heat started to attack his cheek. “HOT! HOT !” He screeched.

 

“Oh shit!” Adelaide swore, jumping up from him.

 

That’s when Penny saw that her hand was bright red.

 

Adelaide shook out her right hand, her body against the back wall as Alex got up, even with his bloody nose. He was huffing and puffing in anger, now running at her body on the wall. He was going to kill her if he could.

 

“WILLARD!”

 

The roar from Mrs. Yang didn’t even phase him, but Adelaide simply got out of his way and he slammed into the wall.

 

The two girls had pure mortification in their eyes because they knew they were going to be held responsible for this.


May was unreachable, so Tony Stark and Pepper Potts were her other emergency contacts.

 

The two did not know what exactly to expect in the principal’s office of Midtown School of Science and Technology, but they soon found out when they entered. There was a scared Penny with a bruised cheek, a closed-off and appearing-to-be-anxiety filled Adelaide, a boy they didn’t know to be Alex Willard yet with a beet colored cheek and bloody nose, and a pair of snooty looking parents.

 

“Mr. Stark. Miss Potts,” Principal Morita greeted, but in more of a cold manner.

 

“Principal Morita, I want to know why the hell my intern has a bruised cheek and she looks terrified-as well as her best friend who looks like she is going to have a panic attack any second now,” Tony demands.

 

“Take a seat,” Morita says with an irritated tone.

 

Just as the couple sat down right beside Penny with Adelaide beside her, another couple walked inside: an alarmed tan and blue-eyed man and then a frantic-looking redhead with a businesswoman look to her.

 

“Adelaide, what happened?” Gray Calman asked with the alarm that matched his appearance. He sat next to his daughter and his wife on the other side of him, the copper redhead named Audrey Calman sharing the same concern, observing every inch of her. Tony and Pepper sat on on the end of the row of chairs closest to the door, the two teen girls in the middle, the Calmans on the other end, and the Willards across from them along with the principal and Mrs. Yang.

 

Mrs. Yang swallowed, attempting to not antagonize the two girls so greatly knowing the good things about them. “In my chemistry class, Miss Parker asked to use the restroom, and I let her go. A minute later, Miss Calman asks the same thing, so I let her go with no suspicion of just talking and skipping out since they’re always very engaged students. Within another two minutes, I suddenly think I hear a yell, so I leave the classroom and see Alex Willard trying to attack Adelaide, only to run into the wall.”

 

“And what about the bruised cheek Penny has?” Tony asks sharply, dying for answers.

 

Mrs. Yang looked at Penny to explain. The teen nervously pushed out her words in a generally quiet tone. “After I came out of a stall, Alex slammed me against the bathroom countertop, resulting in a bruised cheek.”

 

“So he just walked into the girl’s restroom and attacked you?!” Audrey Calman asked with a sense of outrage in her voice, even though it wasn’t her daughter.

 

Alex Willard rolled his eyes.

 

“Yes, he did,” Adelaide responded straightly.

 

“But then you were in there, Miss Calman?” Principal Morita asked suspiciously.

 

Adelaide looked strong, but defensive, and not loud like usually. She had this sense of iciness all over her, contradicting the fire Penny always saw in her. “I walked in and saw my best friend slammed against a bathroom countertop and he suggestively asked her what’s up, so I do not take any chances, I get him off of her.”

 

“Then why do I have a bloody nose, Calman? Huh? Why the fuck do I have a bloody nose?!” Alex Willard snarls.

 

“Watch your language!” His mother beside him snaps, the only thing his parents have said the entire time.

 

Penny saw everything inside of Adelaide’s eyes and knew she would never forget it as she spoke. “I was taking no chances, thinking since you were a typical football boy that you may be stronger than me, so I apportioned all of my strength into putting him on the ground where he couldn’t move.”

 

“Bs, she was trying to attack me!”

 

“And let you attack Penny instead?” Pepper asks outraged with brows raised this boy-no, this punk.

 

“Well, I’m not exactly fighting all the time, so I wasn’t really thinking about how much was too much and that ‘oh, maybe I should not hold him so hard’ because I was trying to protect Penny,” She added coldly, all while looking straight in Alex’s eyes.

 

“Then why is my cheek darker than a sunburn?!”

 

The blood almost seemed to drain from Gray Calman’s face. “Is your skin sensitive?”

 

“The fu-”

 

“Impact against the cold floor with bacteria and all may have just affected you oddly, I don’t know,” Audrey adds. “I don’t think that’s as big as the issue that my daughter went to a party where you were and she came home with a monstrous gash on her left arm!”

 

“Gash?” Tony blurts. What gash? Was it under Adelaide’s cream-colored baggy cardigan?

 

“Yeah, my daughter walked home at a dangerous time of night with a bleeding and horrific gash all the way back to our apartment from a party where this Alex WIllard kid, right here, was!” Gray almost yelled in outrage over his daughter’s injury.

 

Everything in Tony’s head stopped.

 

Alex Willard?

 

Alex Willard?

 

Penny panicked, inside because as it turned out by the look on Tony and Pepper’s faces that they didn’t know that this kid was the boy who assaulted her, and never in her life had she seen such a face that Tony Stark had right now.

 

God, even Pepper was unsure if she’d ever seen her fiance so angry. However, this was not just anger. This was more than anger, than rage, than fury, than every mad emotion combined. It was all on his face in a dangerously silent manner that the room was silent with him.

 

He hurt his girl again ?

 

A second time?

 

Tony’s eyes finally turned to the boy-the punk-ass bastard sitting beside his parents with a bloody nose and a pathetic face.

 

Every second longer the silence was there, the more afraid Penny got.

 

“My intern, Mr. Calman, was also at that party,” Tony enunciated very clearly for emphasis of his very emotion in this moment. “Penny, Adelaide, and Ned Leeds all entered and saw alcohol, and were about to leave when Adelaide was attacked, as Penny accounted. She was then thrown into a room, assaulted, and then just left-just LEFT !”

 

The silence was still there, obviously, because no one in the room could’ve anticipated such...rage over a teenage girl from Tony Stark. They dealt with angry parents before, the Principal and such...But Tony Stark was not even Penny’s father, and he was acting like someone had pressed the button to destroy the world.

 

“Ned and Adelaide helped her back to her apartment at a dangerous time at night, then walked home themselves alone, Adelaide with a giant cut and Ned with crazy memories like the rest of them. The three were in silence, and no one else has appeared to say a thing. Then this punk attacks her again in a bathroom planning to do God KNOWS WHAT!”

 

“Well what were your intentions, Mr. Willard?” Principal Morita asks, but in a tone that implied he was not very concerned with the situation, which earned both offending parent duos death glares.

 

“Nothing.”

 

“Bullshit,” Penny finally murmured.

 

“Then why did you slam Penny’s head against the counter?” Pepper attacks.

 

There was no answer.

 

“Young man, why did you slam my daughter’s best friend’s and Tony Stark’s intern’s head against a bathroom counter?!” Gray attacked as well.

 

Alex’s answer was still silence.

 

“If you can’t even answer that, then why was there a gash in my daughter’s arm?!” Audrey adds.

 

“Your daughter is a freak,” He muttered.

 

Gray knew he shouldn’t have been bothered too badly by something so simply said, but he was on a raging scale. “ Excuse me ?” He seethed.

 

“There is something crazy about that dyke and her sub-I swear-”

 

“Did you just call her a dyke?!” Pepper’s jaw drops. A mixture of anger, annoyance, and more burned inside of her.

 

She bursted, plain and simple, like always. “He can call me dyke all you want-I don’t care if I’m gay, you can’t just keep hurting my best friend!” Adelaide yells.

 

When she realizes what she just said, she’s in a worse place than before.

 

“Well, shit.”

 

“Language, Miss Calman,” Principal Morita reminds, getting more irritated by the drama.

 

“You’re more concerned about my language than the unspeakable actions this guy’s committing?! Real good rule of law there,” She attacks.

 

“So this is not Mr. Willard’s first incident?”

 

“No, he and others were at a party with alcohol before assaulting her. Now he’s assaulted her again-” Tony starts.

 

“Mr. Stark, what do you mean by assault? What injuries did she sustain to proof he did so?” Mrs. Yang asked.

 

Tony froze. He knew he couldn’t just oust Penny out like this, knowing how much she wanted absolutely no one more than there had to be knowing what happened.

 

He stood up and faced the door. “We’re done here.”

 

“Rape.”

 

Tony nearly winced.

 

“What, Miss Parker?” The principal asked.

 

Penny was tired of all of it, no matter how much fear she had. Besides, it just fell out anyways. There was nothing else to say. So she owned up for the first time since it happened that wasn’t to anyone close to her. “Alex Willard’s form of assault was rape.”

 

Gray’s face fell almost in a mournful manner, as well as Audrey’s. Adelaide already knew this, the memories of banging on the door to save her plaguing her head.

 

“We’re done here,” Tony said again, but much quieter. He went and helped Penny up, the people except Morita and Yang flooding out of the room. So much for bringing all of them in, leaving it inconclusive.

 

For the first time, Alex’s father spoke, and he was mad. “I don’t know what you are accusing Alex of-”

 

“Assault of my daughter and rape of her best friend!” Audrey immediately snapped back.

 

“My son doesn’t pull shit like that!”

 

“Maybe because you don’t even know your own son!” She attacks back, almost daring to poke a finger to his chest.

 

The Willard family starts to go the other way, but Tony wouldn’t let them leave so fast. “If we weren’t in public, your son would be a lot more injured right now!” He directs loudly at the father.

 

“Get out of my face, Stark, I don’t care if you’re a rich superhero, Alex isn’t a worry!”

 

“Except he is, because he raped Penny Parker, and that boy should be in jail for it,” Tony burned and seethed, his fists curled and eyes burned like hell’s flames. There was so much unimaginable and unfathomable rage inside him, they could never make humor of it in any magazine because this fury from him was unheard of.

 

“I don’t know what fantasy world you live in where you demolish anyone you like-”

 

“Well I don’t exactly understand how you raise your son in a world so horribly that he rapes an innocent girl, so we are even, but she is still hurt by that monster you have as a son!” He fires.

 

“I’m not going to take your billionaire shit, we’re done here.” The Willard trio goes away to the other end of the hall while it just leaves the other two on the other side. Penny and Adelaide were in a tight embrace when Tony and Pepper looked over, the CEO wondering if she heard a sniffle.

 

“She’s the best friend Adelaide’s ever had,” Audrey muttered, catching the two’s attention. She sighed, turning to them. “I’m sorry we met this way, like this,” She apologizes.

 

“It’s fine, I’ve met people in worse ways, Mrs. Calman.” Tony replies, his voice slightly more calmed down from how he viciously attacked Willard. The tension in his chest and fists were still there, not disappearing, but his eyes made a significant calm.

 

“Audrey, and my husband’s name is Gray.” She just barely smiled. She couldn’t knowing the pain and drama this was being.

 

“Your daughter really defends Penny, doesn’t she?” Pepper comments.

 

Gray exhales. “She’s...always been a loud and outspoken child, we guess. But then again, all of this is...just horrible. I don’t know what kind of people his parents are and how they raised him, but never would I want to be closer than ten feet from them, especially not my daughter.”

 

“Yeah, a lot of parents are screw-ups.” Tony literally knew that because his father was a major one.

 

“Well, for not even being her mom and dad, you two do well,” Audrey says, her mild smile still there, but her blue-green eyes showing compliments to the couple.

 

“May put us in as the secondary emergency contacts, and she was unreachable, so of course we would’ve been here for her. I know it’s odd, obviously, since she’s my intern...But it works,” Tony sums up.

 

Gray looked over to his daughter who appeared to be crying and started over to her, catching Audrey’s attention. “I’m sorry, but we should probably go for the night...Until we see eachother again? I don’t know if this is going to court or what-and I’m a lawyer. Have a nice night, Mr. Stark, Miss Potts,” Audrey said goodbye as she rushed over to her family while Penny walked back to hers.

 

In silence, they walked to the car, unsure of what to say to each other. Penny was hurt, and they both felt helpless. They weren’t even sure if they comprehended everything well enough-everything was so fast. Bruises, bloody noses, being called a dyke and a sub, it was all too much, but it was too much since Penny was slapped on the ass.

 

Five minutes after they left, a sullen-faced Penny looks on her phone and sees a text:

 

I

I Adelaide, Dear, Get A Rhyme °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖° : Yeah...I’m a lesbian. :)

 

Immediately, the spiderling texted back.

 

I Penny’s At Denny’s d(=^・ω・^=)b : I didn’t know. That’s cool!

I

I Adelaide, Dear, Get A Rhyme °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖° : I didn’t want to bring it up wrong, but that was wrong, so (^_^)

I

I Penny’s At Denny’s d(=^・ω・^=)b : It’s fine...I’m actually bi, so you’re not alone (*^▽^*)

I

I Adelaide, Dear, Get A Rhyme °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖° : Really!? (●⌒∇⌒●)

I

I Penny’s At Denny’s d(=^・ω・^=)b : Haha, yes! We both have tumblrs, we live in gay land, it may be a CRIME to be straight on there!

I

I Adelaide, Dear, Get A Rhyme  °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖° : omfg!!!!!

I

The two texted as they drove back to the compound, being an odd distractor from what just happened. The pain wasn’t so obvious to either of their attentions through texting each other. Penny actually had to make herself not laugh at a short penguin video Adelaide had sent her.

 

Then, she received a text from Ned.

 

I Ned Needs A Bed™ (⌒▽⌒ゞ : I saw you and everyone at Morita’s office?!?!?! What happened?! Are you two okay!??!?! Mr. Stark, Miss Potts?!?!?! WHERE WAS MAY!??!

I

I Penny’s At Denny’s d(=^・ω・^=)b : ALEX FUCKING SLAMMED ME INTO THE BATHROOM COUNTER THEN ADELAIDE CAME IN AND TACKLED HIM AND THEN MAY COULDNT COME SO MR STARK AND MISS POTTS DID AND ALEX’S PARENTS AND ADELAIDE’S!!!!!!

I

I Ned Needs A Bed™ (⌒▽⌒ゞ : Then what?!??! Are you two okay!!??!?!

I

I Penny’s At Denny’s d(=^・ω・^=)b : ….I was forced to reveal that I was raped.

I

I Ned Needs A Bed™ (⌒▽⌒ゞ: Penny, I am so sorry!!!!!!!! I fucking hate Alex so much, I wish he could just go away!!!!!!

 

Penny knew how to make him go away. She could kill him and she knew it. Mr. Stark would kill him. Or of course, just do it all herself and get rid of herself…

 

Obviously, however, she wouldn’t do that to May or Adelaide.

 

She blinked in confusion, however, because she added Adelaide to the equation. For Penny, it was always just May. She wouldn’t do this or that to Aunt May, there was no way in hell! But now, Adelaide was there.

 

Adelaide was in the equation just as equal as May.

 

Penny sighed. The image of her was constant-constantly constant. Her hair, her dark brows, her deep hazel eyes with gold and mascara, the way her dimples appeared when she smiled, her rose colored lips, the curve of her from head to toe. The quirky voice, the strong stances, the intellectual debate, the dorky love for Star Trek-and she was smart, the intense femininity she had didn’t change it...

 

Did she have...butterflies in her stomach?

 

The feeling was so unfamiliar after Liz.

 

Penny swallowed. That joy she had with her was paused. She looked at the text again, the image of the monstrous Alex Willard inside of her.

 

The other scary part of it was that he was inside of her with all of him, noises and pleasures.

 

It was vivid.

 

“JUST TAKE IT!”

 

Her tears had came out so hard, her breath not knowing what to do with itself, her chest sore, her feet dangling, his ugly face had been above her.

 

And she had done nothing.

 

She had done absolutely nothing at all.

 

Penny had been left as a naked toy-that’s what Alex had treated her as. Just a toy to use for himself, and you just fix it if it breaks. Never in her life had she felt such miniscule worth, and never in her life was she just left to fix herself or be broken. There was help, there was Tony, there was May, there was Ned, there was Adelaide, there was...Ben.

 

Ben had been gone for a while.

 

He wasn’t helping her any time soon.

 

It was flooding her from her toes all the way up to the height of her skull. Penny’s soul was drowning in the weight and hurricane of these memories, this portion of her life she’d never rid of. It was now a percentage of who she was, whether it was for the good or worse. Even if it contributed something good to herself, it hurt herself in a way so much more detrimental than not having that piece of character the trauma gave her.

 

Penny wasn’t even paying attention to her breathing, or the cringy blood rush in her ears, or how she was leaned over forwards. Darkness fell over her eyes because her hands were over the sockets, no more light from her phone or such. Then, of course, the breathing grew more rapid and she became less aware of herself. Even her hands shook where they were.

 

A line grew in his forehead when he heard a noise he thought was from Penny. “Penny, you okay? Penny?”

 

The spiderling was trapped within herself, her own memories, her own mind. She wasn’t feeling the slowly rising feeling of nausea or the trembling, but she was a little bit aware of the heat she felt all over her body.

 

Tony looked in a mirror to the back and Pepper turned her head around to see her. Tony’s face fell very quickly, remembering when he was in Rose Hill, Tennessee, and he was sure he looked the exact same.

 

Penny was never supposed to have his issues.

 

Never was the girl (although, he’d never thought the very exact words) he loved like his own daughter supposed to have anxiety and panic and trauma.

 

“Tony, drive faster!” The strawberry-blonde exclaims.

 

“I am, Pep!”

 

Pepper unbuckled her seatbelt, knowing she was going to look ridiculous doing this. She kicked off her pumps and started trying to climb over the middle console to get in the back.

 

“Are you seriously climbing over the seat?” Tony blinks.

 

“For Penny, yes, yes I am.”

 

He shrugged. He would’ve done the same, but he was not crashing the car.

 

Pepper made her way over to the middle of the second row, starting to rub circles on her back and coax Penny to lean into her. Slowly, but eventually, the anxiety-filled teenager went against her, crying hard and heavily. Penny’s body was clenching and curling, naturally trying to become smaller even though it would just make her hotter.

 

“Hot…” Penny murmured.

 

“I know, sweetheart, I know,” Pepper tried to console, but she knew she was failing. It didn’t mean she would stop trying, though. “We’re gonna be there soon, I promise, god, I promise, Penny.” She kissed the teenager’s forehead, a mourning occurring inside the grown woman for her. Pepper may have not been a mother, or been around teenagers (little kids, yes, since her sister had them), but she would try to be understanding and to help Penny because this child was one she loved with her heart, and she knew Tony did too.

 

Penny had said nothing the whole time until now, twenty minutes later. Her words could very barely be heard, but it was audible just enough. “Ben, help me…”

 

Neither of them had the heart to say that Ben wasn’t there.

 

“Miss Parker is experiencing a moderate anxiety-panic attack,” Friday stated over speaker another fifteen minutes later.

 

“We kinda knew that already, Fri,” Tony murmured, taking a turn. They were literally only four minutes away, or so. But if he sped up possibly a little too fast, they’d be there in a snap...which he thought of and quickly risked doing.

 

They arrived and never had Tony been so fast to get out of the car in his life. He opened up the car door, sliding to Penny’s other side. “Honey, breathe with me-I need you to breathe with me!”

 

“‘Ant it to stop…” She murmured.

 

“I know, honey, I know, it’s going to stop soon,” Tony attempted to soothe. He had no idea how to get her inside, though. Could he carry her-she was probably somewhat light.

 

“Pepper, she’s probably lightweight, right?” He asks quietly.

 

“Why?” Pepper responded in the same volume, her eyes slightly squinting.

 

“Well, how are we gonna get her inside? I could carry her.”

 

“I thought we’d just wait it out.”

 

“It’s going to get worse, out here, she needs to be warm!”

 

There was only a slight thought process before Pepper blurted a simple, “Fine!”

 

Tony reached over for the fifteen-year-old-girl, Pepper letting go of her for the spiderling to fall into his arms with her head over his shoulder. He lifted her from the car, her body not weighing that much more than anticipated just as Pepper got out of the car and closed the doors. The two headed inside, trying to be careful to not hurt Penny in any shape or form as they headed upstairs and down short hall. When they finally reached Penny’s bedroom, Pepper pulled the duvet open and Tony laid the teen down while Pepper brought the duvet over her again. Quickly, Tony grabbed the weighted anxiety blanket he ordered for her two months ago and laid it on top of her, instantly seeing how Penny snuggled down a little deeper and had gotten slightly calmer. The tears weren’t stopping, though, and neither did all of the abnormal breathing. It kept going, even if it was slowly losing life and turning back into the normal Penny.

 

“I don’t wanna hurt,” The two just barely heard.

 

Pepper swallowed and Tony watched her closely. Penny’s head was mostly lost under the duvet with the rest of her. They didn’t know what exactly to do, at this point, between leaving or staying or doing more to help her.

 

“What do we do?” Pepper whispered.

 

Tony quietly sighed. “I’m going to stay with her, just sit on the loveseat...just to make sure it doesn’t get worse. You don’t have to, if you don’t want to.”

 

“No, I want to...I’ll stay with you both.”

 

The couple sat down on the magenta velvet loveseat across from Penny’s king-sized guest bed, Pepper lying her head on his shoulder. She was tired now, too, kinda wanting to sleep. But then she remembered something. “We have to call May.”

 

Tony’s eyes grew a bit at the reminder. “Shit, you’re right. I’ll be outside,” Tony said before quietly getting up and going outside, calling May. When she answered, the aunt was frantic, Tony trying to calm her down and telling her Happy could pick her up if she liked. She had declined, saying she could drive herself before she hung up.

 

He wished he didn’t have to keep calling Penny’s aunt like this, making him feel like he’s kept her in the dark of everything that happens to her niece.

 

Tony returns inside to the dark room, sitting down and neither of them said a word. They could only quietly sit and see if Penny would awaken or if she was going to be in a deep sleep.

 

Five minutes passed, Penny was silent. They both assumed that she was fast asleep, hopefully, her anxiety gone. May was soon coming and Penny would most likely go home and do whatever she would most likely do. Make herself do her homework, maybe.

 

“I hope that bastard never gets the future he wants,” Tony finally says, but near silent.

 

“I know,” Pepper agrees.

 

Around thirty minutes later, Friday notifies the two at minimum volume that May has arrived. Tony and Pepper leave the room where Penny is sleeping to go to the living room where a panicked May had entered. It looked like she just threw herself together to get there, dressed in simple lounge clothes and something hanging out of her purse.

 

“What happened-where’s Penny?! I’m so sorry that I didn’t pick up-the meeting was incredibly important and it was running overtime and I didn’t even see who it was-my phone screen was face down!”

 

“May, it’s okay,” Pepper instantly tries to calm her.

 

“Penny’s asleep, right now...Alex attacked her.”

 

“No…”

 

“Not sexually, but it still hurt. When she went to the bathroom after coming out of a stall, he slammed her into the bathroom counter-she could’ve broken her jaw, but it hit more in the middle of her cheek than her jawbone,” Tony explained in the first part. “Adelaide apparently came in and tackled him to the ground before they were found out and brought to the principal’s office. We got there as fast as we could, the other parents were there and all, too...And I didn’t even know that kid was Alex at first-I would’ve started beating him if I wasn’t in a public setting. Adelaide’s parents were furious, too, because he called their daughter a dyke and somehow, she got a giant gash on her arm at a party he was at.”

 

May had to take a moment to absorb what had happened. She was only able to imaging a large, ugly bruise on her niece’s face because of him. Thank god that she didn’t get any more injured-because she had been injured enough. Her parents, her uncle, her life...Everything was being ripped up, jabbed at, and damaged. All she wanted was for every single bit of it to stop. But she couldn’t, and she was helpless as she felt.

 

“...Penny’s asleep?”

 

“Yeah, she is.”

 

“How long do you’ll think she’ll be asleep?”

 

“Well...in the car, she started to have a panic attack, so I don’t know how long she’ll be asleep,” Tony quietly admitted.

 

“Oh, my baby…” May nearly whimpered. “The last time she had a panic attack was right after...the Vulture. The only time before that were a few attacks when Ben passed away. Some stress-induced anxiety attacks during midterms and such happened, but not a panic attack…”

 

“I’m sorry, May, we tried our best to help her. All we could do was try to comfort her, but I don’t know if it helped much-Pepper literally climbed over the front seat so she could try to help her.”

 

May was sure she didn’t appreciate this woman enough on a daily basis, so she made a mental note to thank her now.

 

“We carried her inside to bed, though. Penny’s deep asleep, right now.”

 

May sighed. “God...I can never thank you two enough. I need to start taking a couple shifts off, though, because I need to be there for her. I’m so grateful to both of you-god, am I grateful, but I still need to be there for her. She’s having such a tough time, I can’t let her be alone. I don’t know what it interrupts for you two to be her emergency secondary contacts and-”

 

“May, it interrupts absolutely nothing,” Tony cuts her off and assures. “We want to be there for her just as much as you do. I know you’ve been taking more shifts so you can make a little bit more money but I cou-”

 

“No no no, you do not need to be offering me anything whether it’s money, or security, or even a place in the compound like you’ve offered in the past!”

 

It was true. Tony had initially offered to house the two in the compound in the guest rooms without any rent paid, which May sharply and strongly declined. Just because Tony was rich didn’t mean she was going to be taking advantage of anything of his-and she meant absolutely anything. Of course, she would accept any gifts like for Penny’s birthday, or how the two of them were both pitching in to buy Penny a car for her sixteenth birthday (not even a very expensive one), but they weren’t just going to move into his compound without paying for rent or food or anything. Never was her life bad enough that she would pick up and leave her apartment to move in with a billionaire superhero-it was just never going to be that way.

 

“Come on-”

 

“No, Tony,” She firmly said, her stressed russet brown eyes just as firm.

 

Tony huffed, but not too dramatically. “I just really care about Penny and you both, so-”

 

“Tony, just let it go,” Pepper cuts him off. “May is happy with her apartment and lifestyle and you do not have to give her anything,” She doubles May’s voice.

 

“If there is absolutely anything I can do for you, please, for the love of god, please tell me because I am happy to help you with absolutely anything,” Tony begs May.

 

The brunette shook her head. “I’m good, Tony, thank you...But if there’s something small- and I mean small that I need from you...I’ll tell you,” She settles.

 

“Good, because I want to help you both.”

 

“I know, and thank you...But I think Penny has the world from you two just being there for her. The way she comes home after being with you puts her in such a good mood, that and having Adelaide in her life.”

 

“Adelaide? I mean like, she’s almost kinda vicious for her,” Tony laughs while Pepper rolls her eyes with a smile.

 

“Yeah, I don’t know, but Adelaide and Ned are her endgame best friends for life. I was never that close to people when I was that young. I’m glad she is, at least,” May smiles. She then realizes something: Penny has school tomorrow.

 

“Wait, Penny has school tomorr-”

 

“Midtown School of Science and Technology sent an email regarding Miss Parker, saying that she may take the rest of the week off in regards to the new discovery of her assault,” Friday informs.

 

May furrowed her brows. “Just for her cheek?”

 

“N-No…” Pepper’s jewel-like eyes were almost depressed, her voice low. “They found out about…”

 

May’s eyes grew. “How?”

 

Tony sighed. “Penny confessed when I was telling them that he assaulted her, they demanded to know what type. I knew how much she wanted to keep details under wrap, so we were going to leave, but she went ahead and said it. She probably thought they wouldn’t think the accusation was legitimate unless she said how it happened...but I could hear how terrified she was when she said it. It’s in my head...forever,” He finished in near silence. He could hear that one word over and over again, the freezing wince feeling on an intense loop, the way she looked like she just wanted to hug herself and never let go on a heavy routine. It was like how he could never forget how he fell from space, or how exactly his parents were murdered.

 

That’s how much he loved Penny.

 

He just hadn’t put it in those words, yet.

 

In comfort, Pepper took her fiance’s hand in hers, porcelain meeting tan, soft meets rough, petite meets sizey. She could visibly see him lose at least a very slight amount of tensity in him.

 

“I’m sorry, Tony.”

 

“It’s okay, May...But how ‘bout this? You can stay here so you’re there if Penny wakes up or when she wakes up in the morning.”

 

“Is there an open guest room?” May meekly asked.

 

“Uh, there’s literally a guest room assigned to you-hell, even one for Ned and Adelaide!”

 

May blinked. “Oh...I didn’t know that,” She said obliviously.

 

Tony chuckled. “It’s down there, right next to Penny’s, it’s stocked with pajamas and literally anything you need.”

 

So that’s where she slept that night. May slept in luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets, trying to rid of the worries in her head, eventually falling asleep as did Tony and Pepper in their own room by nine.


Penny awoke at midnight. No, seriously, it was exactly twelve o’ clock with zero seconds and nanoseconds on the clock. Her room was dark and her bed more comfortable than ever. Memories weren’t quite in her head, at the moment, but just a blankness...except, of course, for the sleepless feeling.

 

The teenager sloppily reached her phone, grabbing it and shutting her eyes at the bright light of her lockscreen. It was a picture that Ned insisted they take with the three of them, Mr. Stark, and Miss Potts. At this point in time, this picture could make her cry. It was a time where she felt so jubilant, bright, energized, sharp, and intelligent...but now she was this mess and disaster. She felt so unable to rid of it.

 

Penny ended up on social media, just scrolling and liking, glee in her eyes when she saw a corgi puppy. Then it was Tumblr, seeing Adelaide’s GIF sets she made for Star Wars weekly. They were beautiful, having strong contrasts and highlights. Her favorite that Adelaide had made was the 5-for-black-5-for-white set that was actually for Doctor Who featuring Amy Pond (Penny now felt so dumb, remembering that Adelaide dubbed her as her character crush). There was no doubt or question that every single original post that Adelaide made grew a bold grin on Penny’s face. Her blog was ultimately goals, having a pastel pink theme and a perfect name (peonypond) with posts that seemed like masterpieces (yes, even the shitposts). Penny loved her own blog, all reblogged content with a blabbery blog description and such, but Adelaide’s reminded her of why she loved her.

 

But she blinked.

 

Loved her?

 

Did she love Adelaide Calman?

 

Penny felt a huge gaping feeling inside of her. Once in a blue moon did she think, “yeah, I’m obsessed with her,” but not exactly loving her. Could she see that? Kissing Adelaide Calman’s lush rose pink lips? Her hands on her voluptuous waist? Telling this tall and gorgeous girl that she loved her every single day?

 

She couldn’t just imagine it.

 

She wanted it.

 

Penny couldn’t really believe herself. It was twelve o’ clock in the morning, and she just suddenly realizes she has an undying crush on one of her best friends, Adelaide Calman?

 

Yes...yes she did.

 

Penny wanted to rub her eyes, but she remembered she had mascara on. She was too dumbstruck to decide to take the next step and wash her face because she had this love and adoration for this girl, this girl who came into her life and whirled her around. This girl who scolded Alex Willard the very first time he touched her. This girl who let her have a dress and wanted to shop with her-for her, even, already talking about what to buy her for her birthday and Christmas. This girl who had crystal seas of sometimes-brown-sometimes-green for eyes, thin yet sleek deep brown brows, perfect lips, a plump ches-

 

No, that was shameful to think about.

 

Penny made herself keep her eyes open so she wouldn’t see Adelaide and think in any other bad ways about her. She didn’t feel this with Liz, as much as she thought she was amazing. This girl...was a whole new world of incredible.

 

She needed an escape. Penny finally made herself wash her face of makeup and buildup off, putting on moisturizer afterwards. She stripped of her day clothes and into some extra pair of pajamas she didn’t even realize were there, at first. It was funny, though, that she was in pajamas considering she wasn’t planning to go back to sleep.

 

Food.

 

Penny wanted food.

 

It wouldn’t kill her if she didn’t eat, but maybe something small, at very least? Mr. Stark probably had cereal or something. An apple?

 

Penny quietly crept out of her room and into the hall. She was surprised that Friday hadn’t said anything to her, yet, but there was no telling if she would just leave her alone or not.

 

When the teen reached the living room, a figure was on the sofa with the tv on. It turned its head when she stopped walking. “Penny?”

 

“Mr. Stark, what’re you doing up?” Penny asked, confused.

 

“I...couldn’t sleep. I was really worried about you, kiddo,” Tony tiredly admitted. “Are you okay?”

 

Penny continued walking to the sofa where Tony was, tired-eyed in a Black Sabbath t-shirt and sweatpants. “I’m okay...was gonna get a granola bar or something?”

 

“Honey, if you’re hungry, I can probably dig out more than a granola bar, if you like,” Tony offers. He stands up and heads to the kitchen, starting to forage through the fridge. “I mean like, I don’t know what teenagers munch on at midnight, but I know what I munch on: these gluten free toffee bars from Whole Foods.”

 

“Breakfast of champions...since it’s a.m.”

 

“You’re picking up my sarcasm, that proves I’m doing my job.”

 

“Aww, being with me is a job?” Penny teased.

 

“No, being with you is an absolute joy, actually...wait, you were teasing, I’m a fucking idiot.”

 

Penny snorted. That actually meant a lot to her, considering her doubts of her purpose being with him and Pepper. Even if it didn’t feel like it, some days she’d wonder why the hell she was there. Yeah, she was Spidergirl, but why the intern? She shook the thought away when another entered. “Swear jar. Five pickle slices.”

 

“Fuck you...ugh, this is terrible.”

 

“You did it to yourself,” Penny smirks.

 

Tony digs out a pickle and starts slicing it up. “But seriously, you can come rummage in here if you like, honey.”

 

Penny shrugs, standing up and almost galloping to the pantry, a trait when she’s her usual quirky self, which was odd to find at fifteen passed midnight. She looks around and finds a bar of dark chocolate, ripping the wrap open and biting off a chunk.

 

Tony looks over and shrugs. “Why dark chocolate?”

 

“It’s supposed to be a stress-relief food...I need some stress-relief,” She says casually.

 

His face fell, not wanting to think about everything that was stressing her. Tony pushed it aside and huffed at the pickles. “I can’t believe I fell for that. Ten slices.”

 

“That’s the deal. I’ve only eaten one papaya slice-one! Your influence has not reached me.”

 

“Come to the dark side, we’ll rule the galaxy as father and son in a place where pickles and papayas are banned forever.”

 

“I’ll never join you!” Penny plays along. “Yeet!”

 

“Yaat.”

 

“Yeet.”

 

“Yiit.”

 

“Yoot.”

 

“Yuut.”

 

“It’s yeet, you uncultured swine .”

 

“Yeah, well maybe it wasn’t good enough for me.”

 

“You’re stalling and you’re crepe at it.”

 

It was infuriating how she even said crepe instead of crap. Tony picked up a pickle slice and ate it, wanting to cringe at its taste.

 

Penny smirked. “Nine more, Mr. Stark, and you can’t eat them later.”

 

Tony wanted to say, “Jesus christ, kid, you’re going to kill me,” but he didn’t because he believed she would nail him on it. He started to eat more of the pickle slices, the taste disgusting his mouth.

 

“You can do it.”

 

“Do you forget how you reacted to the papaya?”

 

“I didn’t eat eat nine slices.”

 

“This is an outrage.” Tony ate another slice, and another, hating every second of it. Meanwhile, Penny ate and chewed on dark chocolate peacefully, watching him in glee.

 

“Two more, god, no!”

 

“That’s the point, only two more.”

 

“You’re going to be the death of me, kiddo.”

 

“No, probably of me with the way you are sometimes.”

 

Finally, Tony had eaten all of the pickle slices, feeling victorious that it had ended.”You happy kid?”

 

Penny finished the chocolate bar with a sharp snap of it breaking off and her eating it. “Yep.” She threw away the wrapper and went back to the sofa, just plopping down and snatching a knit blanket, snuggling it.

 

“What’re you, a blanket thief?” Tony smirks at her.

 

“Yes. Yes I am.”

 

Tony shook his head. “You watch too much fu... fudging Phineas and Ferb .”

 

Ewwwww you caught my trick so quickly!”

 

“That’s what happens when you make it so obvious!” He explains, ruffling Penny’s head of hair. She giggled like she always did, for some reason, when someone ruffled her hair.

 

“I don’t make things obvious!”

 

“Yes, you do, Pen!” Tony argues back. “Give me something about you that’s not obvious!”

 

Instantly, Penny thought of many things, but one she definitely shouldn’t ask like her bra size or celebrity crush. Instead she thought of a few different ones. “My main fandom?”

 

“Kid, that’s a lame and easy one, it’s Star Wars.”

 

“Then who’s my favorite Doctor?”

 

“Tenth, that’s just as easy.”

 

“My favorite color?”

 

“Are you kidding me, Penny, it’s blue!”

 

“What kind of blue?”

 

“The blue on your suit-royal blue!”

 

“Not quite royal.”

 

“The color on your suit, is in fact, royal blue, Miss Parker,” Friday corrects.

 

“Ugh!”

 

Tony chuckles. “Okay, fine, here’s one I don’t know: your favorite ACDC song.”

 

“It’s Shoot To Thrill.”

 

“I’ve taught you well, young padawan, about the world of rock and heavy metal music.”

 

“Ugh, please no.”

 

“Come onnnnnnn! Cut her tongue, don’t believe a word she says, she’s on a hunt-”

 

“Cooking cooking misery-what NO! I just got that song stuck in my head, that’s unfair!”

 

“No, it’s plenty fair, kiddo, you just love Black Rose by Volbeat.”

 

“Volbeat is not even popular!”

 

“Yeah, but it’s good enough for me. My playlists are filled with hundreds of songs I probably won’t even recognize when they come on, but I liked them when I heard them a week ago, so I added them to a playlist.”

 

Penny hums. She snuggles deeper with her blanket on the sofa.

 

“You comfy there, dear?”

 

“Mm-hmm.”

 

“But you don’t seem tired.”

 

“I’m not, I’m just comfy.”

 

“I didn’t think spiders needed blankets,” Tony jokes.

 

“No, but Penny Parker does!”

 

“Fine, half-spider-half-human Penny Parker needs a blanket.” He then exhaled, realizing another five minutes have passed. “So you’re really not tired?”

 

“No. You?”

 

“I was just awake worrying about you, kid, so definitely not...What do you want to do?”

 

Penny’s eyes grew. “Homework-I have homework-ohnoohnoohnonono-”

 

“Honey, relax, they excused you from class for the rest of the week-that’s three week days and two days on the weekend to finish whatever!” He assures her, putting a hand on her shoulder.

 

“Really? That doesn’t sound right.”

 

“Well, that’s what Friday said the email said. Come on, we can do absolutely anything. There’s the lab, we can watch tv, literally anything you want.”

 

Penny deeply exhales. “I...guess we can watch Phineas and Ferb.”

 

“Does it have to be Phineas and Ferb?”

 

“Would you rather it be Spongebob?”

 

“...No, Phineas and Ferb will do.”

 

Penny reached for the remote and turned on one of two hundred Phineas and Ferb recordings she had on his tv, watching intently next to Tony, cuddled in a big red knit blanket. The episodes kept going on and on, Tony getting on his phone, at one point.

 

By the time it was three o'clock, Tony realized it had become a marathon. Penny was still as intent on watching it as she was three hours ago, therefore, he would continue to watch it with her.

 

Suddenly, it was five fifty five in the morning. Tony rubbed his eyes, in disbelief that they’d watched a cartoon for that long. But by now, he looked over, and Penny had drifted to sleep...or so it seemed.

 

Tony had started to get up, but then Penny jumped from her position. “I COULD’VE DROPPED MY CROISSANT!”

 

“The fu-”

 

“FIVE MORE PICKLES!”


One night at the compound quickly turned into three, for Penny.

 

The spiderling didn’t know how it happened, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t good. Of course, there were a few very low times where severe anxiety attacks had plagued her, but whoever was there, at the time, helped her. May soothed her twice, and Tony the other time. Penny had one more just last night, but she dealt with it alone and kept it under wraps.

 

It was in the afternoon, and Penny was freshly dressed in an outfit that made her confident: her favorite pair of dark jeans, a purple Han Solo quote shirt, a simple dark brown faux leather jacket, and a pair of navy Nikes May had found on sale a year ago. Her makeup was done, her favorite perfume was on, and she was currently looking through her duffel to see if May grabbed everything. Toothbrush and paste was there, bra was there, socks were there, hair brush was there, clothes were there, and every other item. Adelaide had made sure if it was still okay to do their sleepover that day, knowing that life had thrown her around and around. Penny was still adamant on doing it today right after school, so everything was good. Originally, Adelaide’s mom was going to pick them up and take them back to their place, but Penny was not going to be at school, so she was going to be driven to Adelaide’s apartment building where the 5’9 teen was going to wait for her outside.

 

The drive was calm and simple with Happy, neither of them have said anything except their “hellos” so far. The teenager was simply on her phone scrolling on social media when she received a text from Ned.

 

I Ned Needs A Bed™ (⌒▽⌒ゞ : Penny, you won’t believe what I found out!!!!! Some boys who I think were at the party were talking about Adelaide, right? Well they say that something is crazy freaky about her and that they were sworn to secrecy all about it or she would dig up all the dirt she could find on every single one of them-which there is, but they’re not talking about it!!! These people spread rumors like wildfire, and they are in absolute silence about her!

I

I Penny’s At Denny’s d(=^・ω・^=)b : The hell? There’s nothing freaky about her except her viciousness! Ned, what happened while Adelaide was fighting them-you never clarified!

I

I Ned Needs A Bed™ (⌒▽⌒ゞ :  They locked me into a bathroom, the only one who probably knows anything is Adelaide!

I

I Penny’s At Denny’s d(=^・ω・^=)b : You serious?!?!?!

I

I Ned Needs A Bed™ (⌒▽⌒ゞ: yeah….I’m sorry, Penny!

 

Penny swallowed. She was about to go be with her other best friend, so maybe she could find stuff out. She wasn’t going to de-legitimize Ned’s claims just because someone else was also in her picture-and also her extreme crush, but she wasn’t going to quickly assume something was that fishy with her either.

 

Eventually, Happy pulled up to the building where Adelaide and her mom were waiting outside, letting the spiderling out and her best friend cheerily greeting her along with her mother. Penny had pretty much forgot that doormen existed since there wasn’t one in her building, so she was surprised when one opened the car door for her. She thanked him and grabbed her duffle and purse, going to greet Adelaide and Mrs. Calman. Happy practically scurried off in the car, the three females heading from the glass port-cochere inside.  

 

Penny tried to not be in too much awe of the building, but she was anyways. It was grand and spacious with the grandeur. No, it wasn’t the absolute most expensive-looking place in New York City since it was old with red carpet, but it was much bigger and nicer than her small apartment complex in Queens.

 

Her worries about Adelaide (via Ned) were forgotten.

 

Adelaide laughed. “I’d kill to see this look on your face five more times. It’s okay, though, I felt the same since I’ve never actually been in a multi-million dollar apartment building until I first moved in.” She didn’t mention the six-hundred-fifty-thousand-dollar house they used to live at in a loving, gated neighborhood in Kennesaw, Georgia.

 

“We’re from exterior Atlanta, so it was big, but not nine million people plus tourists and worse criminals big-I’m so scared to let Addel go anywhere alone without an adult in this city,” Audrey explained.

 

“I didn’t think you were from Atlanta, since you didn’t have a southern accent!” Penny says.

 

“The most southern voice I get is ‘y’all’. One of my parents is from North California and the other is from Atlanta, but just has never had the accent.”

 

The three of them went up the elevator and then headed down the hallway, but Penny was in a slight daze, or at least that’s how she would put it if she looked back on herself. Adelaide was chattering nonstop and Penny was minimally responsive. When the cheery best friend realized, she quieted down, thinking that maybe she was overwhelmed or she was thinking about everything that’s happened.

 

When they reached the apartment door, Penny heard a scraping against the door and Mr. Calman’s voice. The door had then opened and showed an adorable deep brown-coated Cocker Spaniel with some of the most precious eyes she’d ever seen.

 

“Hi, Snick-Snicks! Hi sweetie!” Adelaide kneels down and greets her hyper dog.

 

Mr. Calman smiled. “That’s Snickers. Snickers, that’s Penny.”

 

Penny giggled and her best friend’s dad let the trio inside and her eyes brightened, even though they were only passing a coat closet. Then there was a gallery area where a canvas hung on the walls of what appeared to be a baby Adelaide, another next to it of maybe 6-year-old-her and a puppy-form of Snickers. The vibrancy intensified when they reached the living room, a lively view of New York City with comfortable-looking furniture right in front of her. There was a dark-brown-colored sofa that was deep and appeared very cushiony, even with the floral throw pillows at the sides with a side table on each end, a massive gray-wood coffee table in front of the sofa with a wicker tray on top as well as candles and a few books. A loveseat also sat in reachable distance from the table. The whole living room set faced so you could watch the sixty-five inch tv on the wall from the comfort of the sofa with a city view to the side.

 

God, was Adelaide lucky, Penny thought.

 

“Huānyíng lái dào wǒ dì dìfāng, péng nī,” Adelaide throws her arms up with an impeccable accent.

 

“Uh, what language is that?!” Penny’s eyes grew.

 

Adelaide blinked, first, before she remembered. “...Oh, sorry, I forgot I took Spanish here. It’s Chinese. Bienvenido a mi casa, Penny!”

 

“What?! Where did you learn Chinese?” Penny asks enthusiastically, forgetting about the Spanish translation and the “‘forgot I took Spanish here part”.

 

“My dad knows six different languages on top of English since he works for the U.N: Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French, Korean, Japanese and Russian.”

 

“Wow, that’s a lot!”

 

“Well, I learned Spanish in high school, and the rest through college courses because I actually kinda wanted to be an interpreter when I grew up since I thought I’d be good at it and it paid well,” Gray explained. “I’m actually an interpreter today, but not a traveling one like I thought of back in college.”

 

“That’s so cool!” Penny compliments. “I can barely speak Spanish.”

 

Audrey had put her quilted purse on the kitchen counter, a closed-off room behind the living room. “Do you know what you want to do for dinner, Adelaide, Penny? We can make something here, we can go out, we can order anything.” She calls.

 

Adelaide shrugs. “Whatever Penny would like!” She responded at the same volume. “What would you like to do?”

 

“Uh, what’s your favorite?”

 

Adelaide didn’t directly answer, knowing she had a to-die-for favorite Italian restaurant nearby. “Do you wanna order something? Thai, Italian, pizza, Chinese, that cool-looking Greek place near school?”

 

Penny’s lips curled. “Sure. The cool-looking Greek place near school sounds good to order in.”

 

“Hey, you know the cool-looking Greek place near school?!” Adelaide calls.

 

“Want me to order from there?” The redhead mom asks as she walked back into the living room. She had discarded her shoes and was barefoot on the wood floor.

 

“Yeah, please, I’ll look at the menu online,” Adelaide nods, grabbing her computer from the coffee table and opens it up, quickly changing it from one Google Chrome tab to another.

 

Penny squinted her eyes, sitting down next to her best friend. “What was that tab?”

 

“Oh, just an application tab for a summer program. It’s a language thing for Arabic in Dubai.” It was, however, a semi-lie. She was doing that program for two weeks, but that was not the application.

 

“Dubai, are you serious!? That place is sosososososo rich-the buildings are amazing!”

 

“I know, it’s great! Intense crime punishments, but amazing,” Adelaide balances. “Do you want to go to my room?”

 

“Yeah, of course.”

 

With that, the duo went past the gallery and kitchen to enter Adelaide’s bedroom. It was a delicate baby pink, a queen tufted bed sitting against the wall with a massive black and white tapestry of the Eiffel Tower overhead. A forty-inch tv sat on the opposite wall, as well as a canvas of a baby panda and another of a Lily Pulitzer dress with the words “oh shift” underneath.

 

This didn’t exactly reflect the super-neon-brightness that Penny knew from Adelaide.

 

The spiderling watched her best friend flop back on her very fluffy lavender duvet that had decorative rosettes on it. “What do ya wanna do?”

 

Penny shrugs, but that was just as she thought of a pounding question in her. “Can I ask you something?” She asked meekly.

 

“Of course!”

 

“...You...seem to have a lot of money...and your parents care a lot about you-like so much…”

 

Adelaide simply nods with no biased expression as Penny took her time saying her words.

 

“Why don’t you go to private school like all the other U.N kids or such?”

 

Adelaide swallowed. “We could barely afford the move, but it was a million-dollar-a-year job offering versus two-fifty-thousand. The U.N is paying us, but there is just a lot of other stuff we needed to afford-just crazy taxes and expenses and things I cannot even name because I don’t know them. We still own our house in Kennesaw with not much mortgage left, but enough to hurt us, anyways. Even with financial aid, the school I would’ve applied to would’ve been too much. My parents were planning to switch me to a private or boarding school, however, in January because they think they’ll be back on their feet by then.”

 

Penny’s face fell completely at the explanation. She wouldn’t be at Midtown in January? Penny could still see her-but she’d be at private school, probably dressed in a formal uniform every day and surrounded by snobby kids with everything handed to them?

 

“I’m sorry, Penny, I was terrified to tell you,” Adelaide admits quietly.

 

Penny nods. “It’s okay,” She replies, barely audible. “We still have time, it’s only September.”

 

Adelaide finally sat up, ready to face her more closely. “That summer program I said I was doing...I’m doing it, but that application was for the school I’m going to get into.”

 

“You know you’re going to get in?”

 

“Penny, I went to private school my whole life. Kindergarten until now. It was number ten in the country, this school is number four-and I think I can do it...God-you could do it so easily-you’re fucking brilliant!”

 

Penny shook her head. “I bet I’d hate it there. Don’t they have uniforms and snobby kids and-”

 

“No and only a few. They’ve been making a lot of schools more diverse, and stuff, with insane amount of financial aid, so it’s not all only-white and snobby. It’s relatively diverse and has a whole bunch of clubs-like Gay Straight Alliance, which I will join immediately. That’s kinda hard to think about, but I get it if you don’t... God , I wish you could go,” She finishes in a whisper.

 

“I couldn’t get in.”

 

“You have such good grades and personality and brilliance, Penny, please know that, for me!” Adelaide begs. “You deserve a spot at somewhere really good-not just at Midtown with the kids with no potential or character like Flash Thompson or half the people there. You deserve so much better than you probably know in every single imaginable way.”

 

“I can’t ever see myself at somewhere like that…”

 

A pain was in Adelaide’s eyes-an intense one. It was almost something Penny had never ever seen before in her entire life-except for May’s and Tony’s. But Adelaide opened her computer and opened a tab. “It’s called Kent School...I actually really like how it sounds, and stuff. There’s a lot of class variety and kids board from all over the world...Would you maybe look at the scholarships since they offer them full?” Adelaide lowly requests.

 

Penny gapes for a moment, only just now realizing she was still standing in front of the bed. She swallowed and blinked, her eyes falling to the ground. She couldn’t-she’d never get in, she’d never be good enough, and they could never afford it.

 

Abstinence to dreams was key for a lower-class citizen, right?

 

“Maybe…”

 

Adelaide nods. “Do you want to talk about something else? ...There’s a bisexuality sticker I want to show you on Redbubble…”

 

They quickly fell into a whole different conversation, talking about stickers then watching Vines then playing on a Minecraft server on their computers. Within an hour, the Greek food got their and they ate outside on the sofa. The sun had set somewhat lower, making it half-to-twilight. Star Wars: The Return of The Jedi somehow ended up on tv, so the two girls devotedly watched with a bowl of ice cream until the very end, both Calman parents on their laptops (Audrey actually on Pinterest).

 

Penny gasped. “Hey, you know what we need to do?!” She exclaims. Her mood had perked way up to level five hundred since they abandoned the whole “private school” topic. She wasn’t even thinking about if she regret it, she was having too much fun with her best friend to care. Even if she was thinking about it, she just wanted to savor the time with her before it was gone. There were months between now and when she would be gone from Midtown forever. What path would she be on because of Kent School versus Midtown? Would she become a four-point GPA student who did three clubs, a sport, and have straight As? Penny didn’t know what exactly private school was supposed to be like, but she imagined that maybe that was a reality for some students. Most of them ended up at the big Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and anywhere else that Penny only could dream of going. Mr. Stark had offered her a free ride to MIT cost-wise, but she had to decline because she couldn’t just let him pay for the thousands of dollars it cost to go! They may have offered financial aid, but they couldn’t pay almost anything.

 

Adelaide adjusted her legs so that she sat in Indian pose. “What?”

 

“We need to recreate Vines!”

 

“aaaaaaaHHHHHHHH we have to!”

 

“And you know which one we do first!?”

 

“Duh! Lemme get my phone out!” Adelaide fumbled and quickly found her phone with its Kate Spade case. Penny sat with a purposely straight face while Adelaide brought up the Camera app on the video setting, counting down from three to two to one and starting. “I’m lesbian.”

 

Penny squinted her eyes and her lips curled. “I thought you were American.”

 

Gray choked on his coke, scaring poor Snickers who had been watching the two girls.

 

“Oh...my god,” Audrey comments, very entertained. “You okay, there, Gray?” She laughs.

 

When Gray has recovered from instantly grabbing a napkin and a bottle of water, he sits down. “Boys are terrible. She has great taste.”

 

The two kept making Vines involving a scenario where Penny throws an empty plastic water bottle against the window (with parental permission for that and the swearing), tortilla chips falling from the cabinet, getting fake punched in the face, a lot of dish soap, and a whiny voice about Chipotle.

 

Audrey stared in near horror. “What’s happened to our daughter?”

 

Gray snorted. “The internet.”

 

Audrey nodded, still a mixture of amused and terrified as any sane parent would be.

 

Within the hour, a football game started (since they were, of course, from Georgia where the SEC was popular) and the two girls decided to go to her room and put on face masks from The Body Shop, lying on her bed and watching Friends on Netflix as the sun started to fall further down. They didn’t even realize it, but it was suddenly dark and now nine thirty at night. The city had its nightly glow, intense and usually annoying.

 

Penny yawned, drawing Adelaide’s eyes the screen to the girl next to her. “You good?”

 

“Mhmm.”

 

But then it just popped its spot in her head.

 

Even when you didn’t ask for it, things you didn’t want there could sometimes invade. It was, for Penny at this very moment.

 

“JUST TAKE IT!”

 

His voice was everything pathetic, disgusting, and unworthy of love to Penny.

 

Adelaide furrowed her brows and closed the laptop, it just being a somewhat lit room with the New York City lights. “Something’s wrong...talk to me?”

 

Penny swallowed, almost unable to speak. “ Him ,” She admitted.

 

It broke her heart again. “Penny...I’ll kill him before he touches you again. I promise you that,” She gently, yet firmly assures.

 

“I’ll be surprised if tackling him to the ground didn’t convince him. God, I’m surprised you didn’t kill him right then and there at the party...What happened outside the door where you got the gash and all?”

 

Adelaide remembered the gash that was said to have the majority possibility of scarring, to never go away. Her eyes looked at the black tv. “Just fought.”

 

“Well, you get gashes with knives of sharp objects, what got thrown at you?” Penny inquired.

 

“Broken Grey Goose bottle. It’s fine, Penny, it doesn’t hurt anymore.”

 

“Ned said you silenced every single person in the room,” She blurted.

 

It was like she froze, but Penny was not completely sure, even with her Spider senses.

 

“What do you mean?” She asks in a near silent tone.

 

“Apparently, if they said a thing, you’d dig up every single piece of dirt on them you could find and they don’t talk about anything that went on that night-not even Flash fucking Thompson who would visit Hell just so I’d go there instead of Heaven,” Penny explains. “Adelaide, what happened?” She repeated her question.

 

“Got a bottle thrown at my arm, it sharded, it might scar, and I screamed at them.”

 

“No, you always yell and scream and people still go on with stuff, something different happened that night and I want to know what it is!”

 

“Pen-” Adelaide’s voice suddenly heightened and snapped.

 

Penny froze, catching something in her eye. “What’s that glow under your hand?”

 

“My phone!”

 

“Your phone is at the edge of the bed…”

 

Adelaide’s face fell into the emotion of crestfallen, seeing the yellow-white rim of light come from under her hand. Tears were now in her eyes, making them visibly glassy. “Fuck…” She whispered. Her hand loosened and raised, a beaming ball of white-yellow light on her hand with a mild heat radiating from it.

 

Penny had unconsciously backed away a slight bit. “Adelaide?” She said shakily.

 

Her eyes looked at the duvet. “Never have you been the only teenager blessed or cursed with something that has to be hidden.”

 

Penny was shaken from head to toe. Light came from her best friend and crush’s hand-bright light! She’s known her for months and she never found out-even when she revealed herself as Spidergirl to her?! “H... how?

 

Adelaide finally found the will to look at her, except her voice was quiet laced with a serious sense. “I’m adopted...When I was three, I had two loving parents, but they were kidnapped with me and brought to a facility in Honduras. They were experimenting, and they got this out of me. A U.S operation blew up the facility with me being the only survivor, and so I went under the custody of the U.S government before I was the custody of a special orphanage in Iowa that was for kids with secret backstories like me. My parents found me and took the risk of adopting a super-powered child, insisting it increased all the reason to get me versus any other kid. So they raised me like normal, and I gained most control of it over time. The light’s capabilities are just blinding and heating, can be shot at things, but I’ve never done that except once.”

 

Penny slowly shook her head in a slight manner. “The whole time-I’m fucking Spidergirl and you have this?”

 

Another pair of eyes was implanted in Penny’s brain forever-the emotion and reason inside them, specifically. “Some have less lenient situations than others. Moving here was also priority protection sake, not just money, my parents were happy with the money we had before. Private school is even another protection...And then I met you...and God do I wish I could use what I have to do good, but how am I supposed to do that? Why should I do that when I can be the career kid I think I can be otherwise?”

 

“Mr. Stark-”

 

“No, there’s no reason-absolutely no reason-”

 

“Ade-”

 

“I can’t just endanger my parents lives for my own desires-and they think the same for me, so why not return the favor?! I am what I am, and I’m solid that I will live my life as Adelaide Calman, not Adelaide Calman who’s some light-beaming superhero!”

 

“But you want to be more!”

 

“For my parent’s safety, Penny, I can’t-I goddamn can’t because it’ll kill them-hell, it could kill you!”

 

“I have something abnormal too-”

 

“They can still kill you, Penny-imagine if they want to hurt me-well, they’ll just find you, torture you, and try to kill you-I can’t let that happen-Pen-I can’t let that happen-I love you too much just to let you die while I get what I want and my parent’s lives are in danger too!” Adelaide rants all in one breath.

 

Penny is frozen in ice.

 

Adelaide said she loved her.

 

The whole world around Penny had stopped. Her face, her eyes, her body, her everything loved her...in that way, right? Was she overthinking, was she fantasizing, was she all wrong?

 

“You...love me?” She whispers.

 

“Of course I do-”

 

“Romantically?”

 

Slowly Adelaide confessed. “Yeah, Pen…’Course I do.”

 

Nothing moved except her heart, her lungs, her blood, and everything that kept her alive. Her head was empty with no new connections being made. It was just a fact that comprehending something like this was hard. There had been so much being poured into her brain with the pressure of everything, nothing was as sharp as it used to be.

 

Adelaide visibly swallowed. “I know we’re just friends-“

 

“Are we? Just friends?” Penny questions im return to both Adelaide and herself.

 

“Well, what do you want?”

 

“It doesn’t work that way, Addel.”

 

“Because I care about you so much, yes it could...I wasn’t going to just ask you on a date, you know. I was just trying to keep my mouth shut on at least that ...but I’m planets away from perfect.”

 

“Then you really don’t know yourself…” Penny muttered.

 

Adelaide wasn’t realizing how tense her body was, crunched in its own figure, so focused on Penny it didn’t care much for itself.

 

“I’ve hid something groundbreaking from you for this whole friendship. Is that somehow perfect to you? For as the one big secret you keep, yourself, most people don’t like finding out one exists from them.”

 

“That’s the whole point-I can’t get bothered by secrets if I’m one of the people creating them. I didn’t keep it from you because I didn’t want a friendship based off of you only knowing half of me,” Penny lowly explains.

 

“Well has mine ruined it?”

 

“I don’t know-no! Maybe?”

 

An addition of discomfort came to Adelaide’s eyes before she sighs. “Do you want to be alone?” She asks, standing up from the bed.

 

“No.”

 

“Why-you don’t know all of me-“

 

“Because I want the you I know and the you I don’t.”

 

“In what way do you mean?” Adelaide inquires.

 

“Same as you.”

 

Penny didn’t realize it, but her eyes were on her crush’s lips, desiring a kiss.

 

“Oh, fuck it,” Adelaide sighed. She knelt onto the bed, culled Penny’s face, and gave her the first kiss Penny had received and Adelaide ever had.

 

Three words: warm, soft, and luscious. Many different types of aesthetics, except it was on her lips. She was sucking in all the right ways, and Penny didn’t know what to do. She just kinda copied, slightly startled when she heard a minute moan.

 

When Adelaide pulled away, she came back to reality and was horrified to see Penny’s face, even though it wasn’t bad. “P-“

 

She had smashed herself against the curvy-figured-girl’s lips, her hands on her waist. Adelaide's hands went onto Penny’s back, and they were pushed against each other before they knew it. There breaths were molded, inhaled and exhales so close together. Penny has never felt so warm with another body before-especially since she’d never kissed anyone before. It was a new euphoria that she hadn’t really thought much about since she saw Liz Allan, intensifying when she fell in love with Adelaide Calman.

 

Eventually, they took their breaths, parting with stars in their eyes. Lust was in both of their eyes, a very passionate lust in both pairs.

 

“What do you want to do?” Adelaide whispers.

 

“I...I mean like, we can if you want to, but if you don’t want to, I-uh-”

 

“Have sex?”

 

“I…”

 

Adelaide grins. “I know you look at my chest a lot when I wear camis-which I kinda started doing a lot when I hit puberty.” But then her face softened, realizing that was an unstable assumption. “...Unless you don’t?”

 

Penny swallows. “Yeah, I do,” She admits in near silence.

 

“I could go slow, but we would have to be silent. I mean, like, the walls are thick and my parents wouldn’t hear…Penny, please, if you don’t want this, there’s nothing wrong-”

 

“I do, Adelaide.” She lifts her head up to kiss her again, placing her hands on Adelaide’s curved hips. Her thumbs gently pushed up under the baby pink tank top the light-powered teen wore (of course, coincidentally a scoop neck that was a bit showy).

 

“Tell me if I do something you don’t want,” Penny whispers.

 

“I want anything, I just want you to feel good.”

 

Adelaide backs away and starts to strip away Penny’s shirt, revealing her slim, light-skinned body, as well as her b-cup bra. Penny returned the favor, pulling Adelaide’s blouse up and over her head to the bed’s edge, revealing her breasts in their bra that looked like absolute god’s work to Penny.

 

“You’re absolutely perfect,” Penny admires her body, the perfect curves and plumpness she has.

 

“JUST TAKE IT!”

 

“Wait, no…” Penny blurts.

 

Adelaide does not look disappointed nor mad, but she immediately stops and backs away from her. “I need to put on my pajamas,” the dirty-blonde realized.

 

Adelaide rolled off to the side and went to get her pajamas as Penny found hers in her duffel. When the spider-teen finally finished pulling her pajamas pants on, she looked at the girl she nearly just had sex with and was still awestruck. She was a goddess in a satin cami and two-inch shorts, her hair being tied at the nape of her neck and then washing her face off in the bathroom. When Adelaide finished, it was weird to see her lashes not as extravagant, but obviously not bad. She stepped out to the door of her bathroom. “What?”

 

“N-nothing!”

 

“So convincing there, Penny.” She strolled over to the bed and tucked herself under the covers on her side. “Do you just want to go to sleep? I’m sorry if I did something wrong, I-

 

“Nonono, it’s okay! It was just his voice in my head, I couldn’t stand it, I’m sorry-”

 

“Penny, you have nothing to be sorry about,” She assures. “Anyways...Do you want to sleep?”

 

Yeah…We can go to sleep-do you want me be in your-be in your bed?”

 

“You can be wherever you like, but I’m going to sleep...What are we now?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Are we dating, was that a stint-”

 

“What do you want it to be, Adelaide?”

 

She tried to sound as casual as possible as her tiredness started to set in with an increasing intensity. “Definitely dating you.”

 

“Good for you, that’s what I want too.”

 

Within the next few minutes, Adelaide drifted to her sleep with Penny beside her, more to discuss in the morning.


By morning, the two girls were woken up by nine and Penny went home by ten, memories in her head of the night before. There was a jubilance in her eyes that May noticed at the very first sight of her. It was also odd, because it was pretty much that Penny hadn’t started her homework right away and was swept up about something...She just didn’t know what.

 

It took over an hour of texting, but Penny definitely remembered every single bit of homework she needed to do. When she did, she dropped her phone on her bed and her heart literally stopped for a straight second, like a jolt in her.

 

Two essays, a test coming up, a quiz, and maybe six different homework assignments?

 

She wanted to shriek into a pillow until her vocal cords collapsed.

 

Penny was on the verge of tears five times while she bulldozed over everything she could. Within the hour, three homeworks were done, but everything else still there. So then another hour and she finished another two homeworks (yes, a little sloppily) and was currently on one of two essays. The time kept on and on and on, May bringing her some lunch and she forgot about it with no thought, her focus so intense on everything that she felt trashy and stressed all in one big bubble of bad.

 

She flopped her head onto her pillow, nearly yelled, had a short crying session, and went back to work.

 

There were another three of these in the next two hours, the time just ticking away as she rotted in her bedroom, nothing else in her life in this dark room of hers (despite having windows she could’ve opened the curtains too, but she wouldn’t). All of her text notifications were off, her eyes wanted to stay away from all the intense blue light of her computer, but grades had to be wonderful. Penny Parker was a successful student, and she could not let absolutely anythings top her. The ninety-nine she has in History she knew she could raise to one hundred if she just did this fucking paper right.

 

A text from Mr. Stark.

 

Penny didn’t even see it come up on her phone, considering that it was face down on her bed. Nor the text from Ned, but his was just single. Mr. Stark’s started to grow into spam, which he was quite good at, or at least to her text address.

 

Her head was now in her hands.

 

She was never going to understand this Spanish content.

 

Penny moved onto studying for her quiz, but her brain wasn’t comprehending the material like it could’ve been. But, you know, she had to keep trying, even though she hadn’t eaten and drank anything since ten and it was nearly four o’ clock. Her mouth was dry, and she didn’t even take her eyes off her work when she put the plate of food she regretted not eating on her cheap-four-year-old nightstand from TJMaxx. She was terrified of letting any grade letter slip-Penny was devoted to making sure she wouldn’t have to fathom a B instead of an A plus on her report card. She almost considered asking Adelaide, but she knew she would be distracted by the thought of her and everything, so she pushed that idea away like she would’ve done to any other.

 

“Penny? Sweetie, you haven’t come out in hours!” May called over the door. She opened up the door to find her niece heavily studying everything, her materials messy on her bed, her food uneaten and sadly cold.

 

“Have you been studying this whole time, Pen?”

 

“Yeah, why?” She responded in a practically groggy manner.

 

“It’s been six hours!” May exclaims.

 

“Wow, I didn’t even notice,” Penny casually brushed off, but that was on the surface. Inside, she was very dead.

 

May sighed. “Do you wanna take a break? I can remake your food-maybe it will give you some energy?” She tries.

 

“No, Aunt May, I have to finish this.”

 

“That’s the point, Pen, if you eat, you’ll have the energy to work more and better! ...At least a granola bar?”

 

It ended up being just the granola bar and a bottle of water.

 

She was finishing her last thing at the last couple minutes before seven o’ clock. Penny hadn’t even realized she spent her whole Saturday on homework when she could’ve been texting Ned or Adelaide, maybe watching tv, or possibly reading her book. Hell, there was a dream world inside her head where she was at the compound with Mr. Stark watching a movie with him, Miss Potts, her friends, and her aunt. It didn’t exist, though, because some good things only happened once just as bad things could.

 

Penny typed the last word and she felt the rush to her jaws, the one she got when tears rose in her eyes just as they were now. She was on the thin, stringy line of breakdown. It was happening at his very moment in time and it would not stop. It would flow.

 

Falling against her pillow, her tears fell as quietly as her sob. The school stress was just extraordinarily painful, it really was. There was even a time where she could cope much better with a few things to do for school and she could still get A pluses on all of them! But she was changed. Her life has changed. For as much as Adelaide Calman loved her, Alex Willard hurt her just as much.

 

“JUST TAKE IT!”

 

Penny never understood why that was the line out of all of them that stuck with her so closely.

 

Her phone started to vibrate loudly in a manner that just urged Penny to snatch it from the bed. It was Mr. Stark calling her. He never called her unless it was an emergency.

 

“Hello?”

 

It was too late to correct her voice crack from the crying.

 

“Penny, you okay, honey?”

 

“Um, yeah, yeah, I’m okay.”

 

“That doesn’t sound very assuring...Have you been crying?”

 

“No, why would I be crying?” Penny lied. She held her breath.

 

“Kiddo, I can hear you sniffling and your voice isn’t its normal vibrancy.”

 

“...Fine, I’ve been crying, I’m just stressed out about all the school work I’ve just spent the whole day on all this school work I need to finish because I didn’t want to get into the same situation I’m in now LATER AND-”

 

“Penny, honey, take a deep breath.”

 

Penny tried and tried and finally did so, it being hard because of all the mental carriage. A bit of it was lifted from her shoulders and she could breathe just a bit more carefree.

 

“You feel better?”

 

“A little,” She whispers.

 

“Okay...I’m sorry, Penny, I originally texted to see how you were doing, but then you wouldn’t answer and I thought something was super wrong like something big happened like you were kidnapped or hurt on patrol, so I called and I just want to help you, sweetheart,” Tony rambled out over the phone.

 

“Thanks, Dad,” She whispered.

 

Oh no.

 

“What did you say, hon?”

 

Penny immediately hung up.

 

Shit .”

 

In the next ten minutes, pretty much all she could do was internally panic. She accidentally called Tony fucking Stark Dad.

 

He was probably disgusted, maybe she was going to lose the internship and the suit-no, she was, she’d never see him or Pepper again, and everything she built with him would be laid to waste-

 

“Penny?” May knocked on the door before opening it up.

 

She swallowed. “Yeah?”

 

May weakly smiled. “I just wanted to say hi...See how you were doing with your school stuff.”

 

“I finished, thank god.”

 

“That’s good, Pen.” She sat down on the bed, brushing a long brunette strand away from her face. “I thought that maybe we can take you to do something fun tomorrow. What do you say? I kinda sorta contacted Tony and Pepper about it, see if they wanted to join us to maybe go get ice cream or go to your favorite store since Tony said you and him have done that before.”

 

Penny rubbed her eyes. “Sounds good to me.” It was a lie, considering that she accidentally called him Dad, but there was nothing she could do.

 

“And I mean like, if you want, you can invite Adelaide and Ned, but-”

 

“No, they’re both busy tomorrow. Adelaide was having a day with mom and Ned said tomorrow was his study day, plus his part time job.”

 

“That’s okay, there’s Pepper, Tony, and I.”

 

Penny cracked a smile starting from the edges of her lips. “That sounds great.”

 

The next day came quickly with ease. The two Parkers got dressed in the morning, May especially determined for her niece to have a great day. While she wears a navy-and-white striped blouse with a pair of white bermuda shorts, Penny wore a polyester, baby blue henley with some slightly ripped denim shorts and a pair of neon pink sneakers, some Paris Amour perfume from Bath and Body Works sprayed over her, and her makeup done in its normal fashion. At first, looking in the mirror was painful like it was the day after, but she was mostly comfortable with it now if she looked put together. Otherwise, it was just another thing she wanted to avoid.

 

The four of them met at the ice cream parlour within an hour, flowing into getting their ice cream and starting to talk at a table easily. The three adults had always gotten along when May realized Tony Stark was not as bad as she once thought. She always only knew him just as the rest of the public did: the billionaire playboy superhero. So knowing how deeply he cared for Penny instead of taking advantage of her or something stupid was both a surprise and something she embraced. Even when she talked to Pepper Potts, a literal CEO, they got along great.

 

“I’m gonna use the restroom,” Penny says, getting up and heading to the back where the girls’ restroom was. When she got out, a pair of eyes were on her and were terrified.

 

“Pussy Parker!”

 

“What the fuck, Flash?!” She whisper shouted at him. It was him and two other of his goon friends, and they had backed her into a corner where the bathroom doors were.

 

“So you got raped, huh, Parker?”

 

It was the blood draining out of her body, her soul fracturing into pitiful shards like a delicate pane of glass. “What?”

 

“Please, a few people know how weak you are, but not everyone knows. You might be oh-so smart, making straight A’s and winning decathlon for us, but you’re not really special-you’re just a weak-ass pussy, hanging out with Stark and being his toy.”

 

“I’m not his toy, you son of a bitch, now leave me alone!” She urged with a near-silent deadliness in her voice.

 

“No, seriously, you probably got him to not give a fuck about Pepper Potts anymore, huh?” One of his friends laughed.

 

“Don’t you dare talk about her like that!” Penny seethes with a boiling inside of her. At the same time, though, she’s scared, especially with one of his pale high-looking friend rubbing his pants down there with a sick look on his face. That’s where the fear was coming in, and that’s when she didn’t have anywhere to run because behind her was the bathroom, and anything could happen to her in there considering it was empty and isolated.

 

Penny looked over the boy’s shoulders and heads to see this pure and raw fury that was on all three adult’s faces.

 

The fear doubled because those three would defend her though death, and she didn’t know what they would do.

 

Tony was sharp to stand up, but May stood up faster and motioned for him to sit down. Her walk was strong and when May got as furious as she looked, Penny knew that shit was going to go down. Never mess with May Parker.

 

May physically turned Flash around by the shoulders and the noise of her bitch-slapping his cheek made every single person in the parlour turn around to look.

 

Flash shrieked like a high-pitched-voice girl. The pain literally burned, his cheek a blood-like tomato red.

 

Her voice was death’s advocate. “Never talk or even be a hundred feet from my daughter ever again. Do so, and your life will make hell look like heaven’s sweetest, you hear me?”

 

Flash was practically blubbering with his words, and one of the boys sprinted out of the restaurant. He was wise to do that since May dragged the other two out by the ears.

 

When the door slammed shut, the room was dead quiet a few seconds before someone started to slowly clap and it became the ice cream parlour phenomenon. Claps filled the parlour and someone finished their video recording on their phone, sliding it in their pocket.

 

This was not how Penny’s day was supposed to go.

 

So instead, they had a movie marathon at the compound.

 

Finally, but in all horror, Penny was required to go back to school. Yeah, she’d see Adelaide and Ned, but she would see Flash and his friends, thankfully not Alex Willard since he was suspended, but that wouldn’t last for long. He would return and do god knows what to her or even others.

 

By eleven, Penny was requested to go to the office, her stomach churning with fear all day that she still wasn’t up to par with her normal work ethic and energy. Nausea was nearby, but not present, and her eyes were occasionally blurry. Flash gave her a nasty look from the halls to class and that was definitely where part of the nausea started, and it was continued going down the hall.

 

When she arrived in the office, she paled and her eyes grew. Two police officers had come and Principal Morita was also there.

 

“Miss Parker, this is Officer Dyla and Officer Lawson. They are here in regards of your sexual assault case and need to ask you a few questions. Please have a seat.”

 

The way that Principal Morita treated this made Penny feel so uncomfortable. The room felt immediately stuffy having both the principal, vice principal, and two police officers in the room. Tony wasn’t there, Pepper wasn’t there, nor May, nor Adelaide, nor Ned. Weren’t they supposed to have her guardian or back-ups here, anyways? Wouldn’t have they called them?

 

The dark-skinned woman cop and the maybe-six-foot man sat down on the loveseat across from her. Officer Dyla started going through questions in a simple fashion, putting Penny at a miniscule slightness of ease. When Penny felt hesitant to ask a question, though, the two officers would wait patiently, but Principal Morita would urge her to answer them in an irritated tone, earning an equally irritated look from the female officer Dyla.

 

“Have you taken a Rape Kit, Miss Parker?” Officer Lawson gently asked, his first question of the time.

 

“No.”

 

“Have you showered since the night?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And I assume these are different clothes from that night?” Dyla asked, crossing her legs.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Would you like to go to the hospital to attempt a rape kit? We know that evidence will be likely minimal because you’ve showered and changed your clothes already, but maybe we can get your clothes from that night and such things to see if they can find evidence,” Officer Dyla asks. “You do not have to, but it’ll provide important evidence to support your case.”

 

Penny swallowed.

 

“It’s a school day, Officers,” Principal Morita reminds. “She should go back to class.”

 

“You called us here, sir, we’re just doing our jobs. A minor has also been assaulted, and we are doing the best of our ability to help her,” Officer Lawson reminds him back.

 

“Would you like to, Penny? We just need to call your parents or guardian for permission.”

 

She sighed, but her voice fell to a whisper. “I...I don’t know.”

 

“Make a choice, Miss Parker, you’re wasting away any class time you have if you decide not to,” Morita grumbled.

 

“Principal Morita, you have no business in pressuring her from getting treated for sexual assault. Should I assume that you have any business in covering her assault?”

 

He paled. “No, Officer, Lawson.”

 

“Good, because that would be alarming.”

 

Penny called May and she was able to come. She ended up leaving school and the police escorted her to the hospital, May meeting her there. The whole time being in the car and being at the hospital, she was anxious, and she was anxious as hell. They took the clothes May brought for evidence, and she went through all the procedure as directed, tense and jumpy the whole time. Thankfully, at least the nausea eased, but there was still pounds of weight on her mind. There was no escape from any of it at all.

 

Eventually, yes, she was finished, but the doctor and officers wanted to talk to May in private, leaving Penny alone in the blankness of a hospital room.

 

A buzz hit her phone, Penny picking it up in a nearly sullen manner to look. She smirked, though, at the funny Tik Tok they both found and died over... Except she wasn’t laughing to tears, right now. There was no energy or comfort to laugh-barely the smirk on her face as the short video played without noise since her phone volume was down.

 

When the three people came out, Penny immediately put down her phone and her face fell into a crestfallen manner at the practical mourning that was on May’s face. The aunt sat by her and took her hand gently, the icy feeling on her hands reaching Penny’s warm, teenage youthful hand.

 

“They’re going to test the clothes, and everything...And they’re going to arrest him on the accusation.”

 

Penny’s eyes grew with horror instead of any joy. “Nononononono, everyone at school’s gonna find out and Flash is gonna bother me and-”

 

“I thought I would’ve knocked some sense into him by bitch-slapping him and making him scream like a young toddler girl! No one will bother you!” May firmly assures.

 

“But they’re all going to stare at me all day and think I’m wor-worthless-I’m not-”

 

At this point, Penny had tears streaming down her face already and her body was shaking. May embraced her and attempted to the best of her ability to soothe her niece, but it just didn’t get much better. The crying and shaking would not falter with Alex Willard in her head.

 

‘We really appreciate your time, Mizz and Miss Parker,” Officer Dyla says in a quiet tone. “You may go home now and we’re going to take care of the perpetrator...But there is likely to be a trial within the week or so. You’ll need a lawyer, but if you can’t afford one, you are guaranteed one by law...It’s likely your niece will need to testify, Miss Parker.”

 

“No…” Penny murmured, mortified to lift her head into the blinding hospital light and to look at the officers.

 

“Penny, you may not have to, however. We’ll see what we can do,” Officer Lawson tries, but Penny is still buried against May, unable to lift herself to visibility. She was a young child in a large, dangerous world, and she became quadruple the victim of it. Her parents. Uncle Ben. The Vulture. Now this.

 

May rubbed her back. “Thank you, Doctor Bowles, Officers.”

 

“No problem,” Officer Dyla whispers as they exit the room.

 

“Shh, Pen...We can go home.”


In the darkness of Penny’s room, she laid flat on her bed. Silence was reality just as that Alex Willard would be arrested on the accusation of rape, and that she would go to school tomorrow with eyes on her, overly-curious and unforgiving. Teenagers were a stupid entity.

 

Yes, Adelaide or Ned or Tony or Pepper could be a text or call away, and May in the living room, but Penny felt so unmotivated and frozen within herself to do so.

 

She was on this bed alone, but she was surrounded by five people.

 

The noises of New York City were feet away, the bustling, the people, the crime…

 

The crime.

Penny hadn’t been Spidergirl in over a week.

 

It was flooding her brain, this sudden pang of intense guilt as if someone had stabbed her. It flowered all over her-it even had thorns of all the other things wrong. Someone could have been killed, someone could have a lost bike forever, someone could be injured in a hospital with medical bills...She could’ve stopped all of it. Even though she didn’t stop her own rape.

 

Penny was melting from the freezing. Her body rolled over from her bed, catching herself on the floor. She found the secret spot for her suit and pulled it out, yanking her clothes off and the suit on. Once the cap was on her head, she was greeted by the loveliness of Karen’s voice. She really missed Karen, despite her being just an A.I.

 

“Hello, Penny, how are you?”

 

“G-Good...So where’s some small crime, right now?” She whispered, trying to keep her voice down.

 

“There’s a robbery on thirty-fourth.”

 

Penny sighed, looking around her room. Trying to not creak the floor, Penny locked her door and used heavy objects to block it. Creeping to the other side of her room, she opened up her window in a incredibly slow fashion, making sure May didn’t see her. Finally, Penny closed the window once outside, Queens blaring all around her. She climbed her way up to the top of the building, ignoring Karen’s pestering. By the time Penny reached the top of her apartment building, the cool air breezed past her. Queens was a place people didn’t really want to grow up in, but here she was...It wasn’t her fault.

 

“That robber is on thirty-fourth, Karen?”

 

“Yes. No weapons, but they’re also attacking someone.”

 

“Alright, let’s go.” Penny sprung and stretched her hands, preparing herself to swing around since she hadn’t in a bit of time. She launched herself, at the air’s mercy and at the mercy of her own abilities.

 

Penny Parker was Spider Girl, not a girl who was simply raped at a party, at this moment, and it just felt really really good.

 

Upon Penny’s arrival, she quickly and easily knocked out the robbery perpetrator and gave the civilians back their money, quickly rushing away so they wouldn’t know a thing about her.

 

“Thank you, Spider Girl!” came a little girl’s squeaky voice.

 

This was a reason she did this.

 

“Where to next, Karen?”

 

“There’s an assault, but it’s really far. It’s late at night, Penny, and I think you should go back to your apart-”

 

“Where is it, Karen?”

 

“You should-”

 

“Karen, tell me where the fuck it is!” Penny snaps. She wasn’t just going to go back home when she just got out. Penny desperately needed-no, she required a distraction. She couldn’t bare the thought of thinking about Alex Willard.

 

“...It’s on fifty sixth avenue, but I-”

 

“Yeah, no, don’t tell me anything, let’s just get going!” Penny swings off, adrenaline rushing into her body as a hurricane flood. This was Spider Girl, Penny Parker vanished for the night. There was a hero out there, a little girl thanking her for their rescue. This was not Penny Parker, who she desired escape from. This was Spider Girl, who she could be for nights and nights and go to sleep proud and wake up to be the mess of Penny Parker all over again.

 

Penny found the scene and immediately got to work. She punched one man in the face and body slammed him against the ground, something she never usually did. Upon realizing that, she webbed up another man, but a force came up from behind her. He knocked her down to the ground against her spine, making her yell in pain. It wasn’t just a normal knock-against-the-body...It really fucking hurt.

 

Penny couldn’t get up, especially not when another foot kicked her body and something that felt like a hammer was dropped on her arm, making her yell against the fabric of her suit and the concrete.

 

“Penny, you appear to have an anxiety-like heart rate, I need to call Mr. Stark,” Karen alerts her.

 

“N-No, don’t call Mr. Sta-Stark!” Penny pushed out as much as she could, but speaking was getting harder and her body felt horrible. She could just barely hear footsteps running away, and then there was a throbbing in her head.

 

“I need to call someone, Penny. I’m calling Adelaide.”

 

Penny immediately regretted putting Adelaide as an emergency contact.

 

“Hello? Penny?” Adelaide immediately picked up. “What’s up?”

 

“Adel-Ad-”

 

“You in trouble? What’s the noise about-are you at a shootout or something?!”

 

A shrieky ringing blasted through Penny’s ears and she shrieked, her body’s system weakening and she was trapped within herself and all of her pain. She shouldn’t have been taken down so easily by this, she couldn’t comprehend it. Yeah, Penny hadn’t eaten or drunk any water since maybe in the morning, but that couldn’t have been it...right?

 

She was fading and she was fading fast. Penny’s eyes just wanted to shut down and let everything take her.

 

“Penny? Penny !”

 

“Love…” Penny murmured before she was gone.


“She’s waking up…”

 

Her mind was rising into consciousness, taking in the masculine voice. She would’ve panicked, but she didn’t have the energy. The cold was gone. Now there was...warmth. Her back felt bruised, as did her arm.

 

“Pen?”

 

Adelaide’s voice too?

 

Why?

 

She tried to lean up, but they both urged for her to stay lying down. Penny was still in a blur, barely catching a glimpse of Pepper’s worried face.

 

“Why...am I here?” Penny whispered.

 

“Karen alerted Adelaide and she called me,” Tony kept his temper down. He didn’t know why Penny did what she did, but he didn’t dare want to yell at her. God, he just wanted her to be safe and okay. He could’ve helped her...

 

“I told her not to…”

 

“Yeah, well I scampered to the scene and called Tony, and he met me there...Those three men won’t be a bother to anyone else,” Adelaide finished in a mutter.

 

“H-how?” She tried to fake not knowing what she could do.

 

“You know how, Penny...They all know.”

 

“Oh…”

 

Tony sighed. “It’s fine, she told me about it. We’re on good term, we’ll keep it under wraps. We’re worried about you-your back is bruised and your elbow might be broken, you’re incredibly dehydrated and you need to eat,” He explains.

 

Penny hummed in response. “Kay.”

 

Pepper, with a soft face brought over a bowl. “I heated up the pasta Tony made earlier and here’s a big glass of water, but you’re going to have to sit up the best you can, sweetie.”

 

Adelaide helped Penny sit up and the dirty-blonde teen thanked the CEO for the food. Shakily, Penny took a bite with her right hand, Adelaide steadying the bowl so she wouldn’t have to use her left hand, which was connected to her possibly broken arm.

 

“What were you doing out there, honey?”

 

Penny swallowed at Mr. Stark’s voice. “I…”

 

His eyes were in agony. “Pen, you could’ve gotten more hurt than you already have...I don’t think I could bare that,” Tony finishes in a whisper.

 

“I needed to escape...”

 

“Escape from what?”

 

“Just...all the pain as being Penny Parker who got hurt. Penny Parker doesn’t mean much to anyone, anyways.”

 

“No, Penny Parker means the absolute world to five different people,” Tony contradicts. He couldn’t believe she thought so lowly of herself. “She means the world to Ned, she means the world to Pepper, she means the world to Adelaide, she means the world to May, and she means the world to me-to me , Pen! I...I couldn’t bare this world without you-let’s put it that way.”

 

“I’m just a kid from Queens.”

 

“But you’re our kid from Queens- my kid from Queens, honey!”

 

“I just want to feel okay again,” Penny breaks. She was shocked she had the energy to have tears rush to her eyes and to cover her face, even though it hurt her left elbow. Adelaide took the pasta and water before Tony comforted her with a hug, rubbing circles in her back and trying to soothe her the very best he could.

 

“This is going to go away one day, honey, I swear to you...This is all going away-I promise...I promise, honey.”

 

Penny sniffled. For all she knew, he may have been right. Maybe it was going to improve, but what was she supposed to know? What was it going to take? Therapy? Would Alex be gone forever? Would she have to testify and be in the same room with his repulsive face?

 

“Just follow my heart beat, breathe to that...I gotcha, Penny.”

 

Her head was buried against his chest, and she could hear it thump gently. Her ears fell victim to focusing on his heart and only his heart, her feelings softening and her tears easing slowly. The rubbing on her back was of deep comfort, kinda like how Ben used to do.

 

“I love you,” Penny slipped. She tried to jerk away when she realized her mistake, but Tony held her close firmly.

 

“Love you too, Pen,” He whispered in return.



August


“SO I WAS SITTING THERE-”

 

“BARBECUE SAUCE ON MY TIDDIES-ADELAIDE! NED!” Penny jerked up and screamed the end of the Vine. That was one way to wake her up.

 

“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you!” The duo sang loudly, yet sweetly.

 

Ohhhh now Penny remembered.

 

“Happy birthday dear Penny! Happy birthday to you!”

 

Penny laughed as Adelaide came to give her the first kiss of the morning. “Happy Birthday, pumpkin-spider!” She whispered in her ear.

 

“Thanks, light of my life.” Penny slid out of bed onto the floor and got up.

 

Adelaide was literally the most cheery she has ever been in her life, proved by the giant grin on her face. “Okay, so go get dressed! I chose out an outfit for you, it’s kinda your first present of the day!”

 

First?!

 

“Just bare with me, pumpkin spider! Ohmygodohmygod, I’m so excited!” Adelaide nearly shrieked, the two going (well, Adelaide practically ran) out of the room so Penny could get dressed.

 

Penny entered the bathroom with the Starbucks Ned left on her nightstand and found a beautiful garment hanging: a brightly-multi-colored Lilly Pulitzer shift dress with a pair of gold sandals and a pair of pearly stud earrings, a bottle of Jo Malone perfume also beside it on the counter with an engraving of her initials on it.

 

She gasped at the sight. The dress was so gorgeous and so vibrant-it looked absolutely perfect! So did the earrings and the gold slide-ons. Penny used her thumb to feel the dress’s lovely knit fabric. She found a sticky note over the size and brand tags.

 

Don’t worry about the price, Pen! Let’s just say the dress was under $200 : D

Happy Birthday, sweetheart! I hope you love it!

-Love, Adelaide


Penny could not help the huge smile on her own face. She started to get dressed, doing all of her hygienics, sliding her dress on, doing her makeup, spraying her perfume, and putting on her shoes. At the end, she felt like a goddess and her smiling wouldn’t stop. She felt so incredible already, and she just woke up.

 

When Penny went outside her room to the living room, the high-beam energy from Tony, Pepper, May, Adelaide, Adelaide’s parents, and Ned attacked her viciously. “Happy Birthday!” They exclaimed all at once.

 

Penny was overwhelmed with joy. “Thank you so much, guys, this is just amazing! This outfit-this dress!”

 

“You can’t resist Lilly Pulitzer!” Adelaide smiles, in her own sleeveless Lilly Pulitzer dress, her makeup done with matte red-orange eyeshadow, gold Fenty highlighter, and magenta matte lipstick.

 

“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” Tony wishes. His protege/kinda-sorta-definitely-daughter-figure looked flawless and so beautiful. He couldn’t believe she was already sixteen. When he met her, she was just a fourteen-year-old girl sleeping in her twin bed with one friend and a shitty Spider Girl suit. Now, she was here, it was her birthday, she had a highly-advanced Spider Girl suit, and she was sixteen years old.

 

“Thanks, Dad!”

 

“Okay! So I made you breakfast, Penny! Your favorite pancakes with blueberries and a glass of orange juice! Second: Each of us got you something, so we want to sit down and let you open presents and before that, we’re going to go down the schedule of the day!” Ned announces.

 

“How well did you plan this?!”

 

“We all pitched in, but Adelaide was bouncing off the walls all morning since, like, six,” Audrey guessed the time.

 

“SHHHHHHH I must celebrate my girlfriend!”

 

“We know all about you celebrating your girlfriend, Addel,” Her dad nods.

 

“Anyways!” Ned goes and shows Penny the food.

 

“Oh my god, this looks so good, thank you so much!” Penny sits down. They started to form together, having breakfast at the table in all birthday glee. By the time they finished, Adelaide bounced up from her chair and ran (in heels, mind you) to another room, coming out with wrapped boxes.

 

Nooooooo you didnt!” Penny laughs.

 

“Penny, it’s your birthday, of course we did!” May says. She stood up, and they all started to gather around the coffee table and it was Ned’s gift Penny started to open first. Inside his box were two funny graphic tee shirts about science and Penny immediately adored them, hugging her best friend and thanking him.

 

Next, Pepper handed Penny a slimmer and more rectangular box that was kinda heavy, but not too heavy. She unwrapped it and her eyes grew into giant cognac-tinted orbs at the Stark Industries logo on the packaging.

 

“You said that your computer was getting very slow and it was pixelating, so I thought that you’d really appreciate a new computer,” Pepper explained.

 

“It’s perfect, Pepper, thank you so much!” Penny hugs the CEO snuggly, grinning from ear to ear as the strawberry-blonde says, “Your welcome, sweetie!”

 

“My turn!” May sing-songs and gives her box to Penny, wrapped in a rose-patterned wrapping. Penny rips the wrapping up, seeing that underneath the red roses was a box of Stark Industries wireless noise cancelling headphones.

 

“Pepper and I teamed up and we both thought since you love music so much that I’d also get you a pair of really good headphones to go with it.”

 

Penny stared at the high-tech headphones, reading all the notable features on the box. “Thank you so much, Aunt May!”

 

“I was going to, originally, get you a sentimental gift, but I decided to let Tony take that task this year.”

 

“How?”

 

In Tony’s hands was a plump petite box with no wrapping at all. He handed it to Penny, the spiderling carefully opening the box up. On buttercream silk was a heart golden locket, miniscule-sized engraving in cursive on the front.

 

Tears were not far from rising to her eyes. “I…”

 

“Read it?” Tony asks her, nervous because maybe she won’t like it.

 

With all my love, to you, mia cara figlia

-Dad

 

 

Penny was awestruck, her mouth hanging open and her eyes never shrinking. “Wh-what does mia cara figlia mean?”

 

“It-uh...It means my dear daughter,” Tony translates, almost as if he was bleak, thinking that she wouldn’t like it.

 

Awww , Mr. Stark!” Ned blurts.

 

“It’s Italian, my mom always said Italian stuff like that. If you don’t like it, I-”

 

The tears in Penny’s eyes were so visible. “ I’m never taking it off ,” She whispers.

 

“Really?”

 

“Of course not!” Penny smiles with passion and joy. “Can you help me put it on?”

 

Tony stands up and helps her put it on. He clapses the necklace together and Penny is jubilant.

 

“There’s, um, also an emergency button inside, so you can press it in any time of trouble. If it breaks, god forbid, you can use your fingerprint or pressed skin contact on the back of the locket.”

 

Her locket now on her neck, Penny turned around and embraced him tightly, grateful for everything she got from everyone. There was so much adoration inside of her it was about to explode.

 

“I love you, Dad.”

 

“Love you too, sweetheart,” He whispers in return.

 

“ABABABABABBABAB There’s ONE more thing!” Adelaide announces as they pull apart. She swipes an envelope out from behind her and hands it to Penny with a smirk. “So you know how you have this dying dream to go to Australia and you have one thousand dollars saved for it and you need, like, five to ten?”

 

“...Yeah…” Penny replies slowly, nearly horrified. “You...didn’t…”

 

“Open it, sweetzles.”

 

Penny opens the envelope and immediately laughs. Inside were copies of plane tickets to the Sydney International Airport. Not just two, even, there were eight tickets. Eight.

 

“Oh my god! These are for tomorrow !”

 

“Hell yeah, they are! It’s summer break and we’re going to Australia! Happy birthday, babe!”

 

“But how?”

 

“Let’s just saw that we all split up the cost,” May smiles.

 

“I just can’t believe it…” Penny is awestruck once again. “We’re going.”



Penny couldn’t stop staring.

 

“Hey, that picture is going to last forever, so you’ll always be able to see the koala,” Adelaide reminds.

 

“But it’s so cute!”

 

The ocean breeze of Kangaroo Island at this lodge exhilarated the three teenagers on the terrace, the twilight off the night was beautiful.

 

They were spending a whole nine days here, and this was day six. They had started in Sydney, then went to Melbourne, then were staying here the last few days. They had gone to Bondi Beach, had seen koalas and kangaroos, and savored the warmth of the Australian Sun. Now in all of their phones were pictures of Penny and Adelaide kissing at the Sydney Opera House, Pepper feeding a giraffe, Ned sipping a latte at a coffeehouse in Melbourne, and a lot of more fun pictures.

 

So now, at this night, they were on the terrace after a fun day on the beach and observing more koalas and kangaroos in their natural habitat. Pepper, May, and Audrey got to have a day at the spa, leaving Tony and Gray to watch the kids for a bit of the time on the beach as they took pictures for Instagram, played in the beach water, and saw sea lions. By the time the sun had set, they were all peacefully in one of the two hotel suites they were staying in as the moon and stars slowly were rising to life.

 

Penny, Ned, and Adelaide sat on loungers beside each other, on their phones yet with each other. Their arms were wrapped around the person-next-to-them’s shoulders. Penny’s head was on Adelaide’s shoulder and the girlfriends hands were intertwined.

 

“This has been amazing, guys,” Ned comments.

 

“Yeah...I still wanna hug the koalas.”

 

“Same, Penny, same,” Adelaide nods.

 

Ned swallowed, bringing his hand to his stomach. “They had a local news segment today about you-know-who…”

 

Penny’s face faltered from its calm cheer. “They did? What about him?”

 

“Just saying how it’s been all the months and everything, a minor still in jail for rape, that whole thing.”

 

Alex Willard was arrested, and he stayed in jail. Thankfully, it was worked out that Penny actually did not have to testify, in some miraculous way. But now, Midtown School of Science and Technology was known for this rape case, tarnishing their record. It took some time, but kids did not stare anymore, the admin did not give guilty looks, but Penny did actually take that thought Adelaide gave her and ended up acing a full scholarship to the same school Adelaide would be going to starting in January, even Ned did so as well and received a full scholarship, him claiming it was a miracle. So now the three were at a better school, away from the terrifying toxicity of Midtown where the rape case sat defining everything the school was. They were away from it, now, never to experience it again as long as they worked hard at their new school where it turned out to be pretty good and opportunity-aiding.

 

Penny hums quietly in response. “I can’t even believe it’s been that long...He’s not getting out, right?”

 

Adelaide caressed her hand before gently kissing it. “No. Never again. If anyone were to ever hurt you again, they’d be dead within seconds.”

 

“I’d participate in killing them, but I have no powers.”

 

The two girls giggle at Ned. “You have power of knowing some hacking, so you’re not entirely useless.”

 

“Gee, thanks guys,” Ned sarcastically rolls his eyes. “But it’s okay,” His face and voice softens. “I don’t think I could do good like you can, Penny.”

 

“Mm, me neither, Pen,” Adelaide adds. She crosses one leg over the other, some breeze being felt on her skin.

 

“No. You could, you just don’t know it.”

 

“Whatever you say, pumpkin spider.”

 

“You know it, light of my life.”

 

“You two are fanfiction worthy,” Ned compliments.

 

Penny laughed out loud and Adelaide snorted at that comment.

 

Penny frowns. “Aww, you got lipstick on my hand.”

 

“Who cares?”

 

“Me.”

 

“At least it’s a good shade.”

 

The stars were gaining visibility, as was the crescent moon of the Australian night. The temperature was kinda cold, considering it was actually winter temperatures in Australia, but they all had jackets and Penny’s body was close to Adelaide’s and Ned’s too Adelaide’s other side for warmth. Somehow, it wasn’t raining, either, even though winter was the rainy season in the big outback continent.

 

“The stars are really gorgeous-and don’t say ‘not as beautiful as you’, Adell,” Penny warns.

 

“No, you’re not a star, stars die and they can die quickly. You’re the sun...You live for a long time.”

 

“Damn.”

 

“But you’re as beautiful as the sun...Okay, maybe not up close, but from a distance.”

 

“You know the sun is a star, right?”

 

“See, you’re double the beauty.” The two nuzzled their noses with the other’s.

 

“God, you two are adorable.”

 

Once, again, they laughed at Ned and accepted Adelaide’s conclusion, turning their attention to the night above.