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as simple as possible, but no simpler

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It’s simple.

Peter’s sitting on the floor of his bathroom, May’s out for work, a roll of gauze in his mouth. He holds a lighter under a pair of May’s tweezers, breathing heavily around the gauze, watching as blood sluggishly pours onto the floor around him. Eventually, he moves, plunging the tweezers into his stomach with as much caution as his shaking hands will allow him.

His noises, whimpers and cries of pain, are all muffled by the gauze in his mouth, teeth clenching painfully around it. At least this time he had the good sense to turn on some music in his bedroom to drown himself out.

It takes him a few extra minutes, precious minutes where tears roll down his pale, sweaty face and his throat aches and his jaw is sore, but he finally pulls the bullet and tweezers out of his body.

Unfortunately, his job’s not done yet. He slumps against the wall, moving to grab the needle and thread he stole from May’s old sewing kit, and starts the next part, stitching up the bullet wound. After he’s done, he takes a square of the gauze from his mouth and messily tapes it over his blood-stained stomach.

He looks around at the mess he’s made of the bathroom, and sighs. Convincing himself not to pass out, he painstakingly cleans the blood off the tiles, disposes of evidence and repacks his medical kit, hiding it away under the sink.

He barely makes it into bed before his vision goes dark.

Simple as that.


*

Okay, Peter would admit, maybe he should take better care of himself. He does have both Bruce and Cho who have told him countless times that they’re always in New York, always ready to help him out. But it’s either they put him through the torture of doing it all without medication, or he does it himself. It doesn’t really make a huge difference.

Plus, he’s hacked into Karen’s coding, with the help of his guy in the chair, of course, and they’ve removed the protocol that had her reporting injuries back to Mister Stark. Therefore, he’s never going to get in trouble for hiding these injuries.

His wounds heal anyways. It’s not a big deal if he stitches himself up in his bathroom after patrols. He heals. Why would it make a difference to spend the night in an uncomfortable hospital bed over spending the night in his own bed in his apartment?

He’s always careful, too. May’s a nurse. He knows about infections and dangers if he doesn’t clean everything properly. So he does. Simple as that.


*

“Patrol was okay?” May asks. She always does. Peter always does the same thing, ramble about the lighter things that happened – bike thefts and muggers with unloaded guns and helping people get home in the dark – never about the darker things like the drug rings and the gangs and the killers, and the NYPD shooting at him if they see him, even after proving to only be helpful to the city.

And May laughs, like she always does, lighthearted and relieved that Peter’s not getting into any trouble, just swinging around the city and helping teenagers get home after parties. Nothing dangerous. She ruffles his curls, presses a kiss to his forehead, and asks him what they should have for dinner.

It’s always the same. Lies woven out of fear for causing May more worry than she deserves. Pushing down the twinges of pain through his body as his stitches are pulled. Ignoring Karen’s constant pleas to just call Mister Stark or Doctor Banner or Helen Cho and get the help he needs.

It’s always the same. A fake smile that irritates the bruise he’s covered up on his cheek, a hug that sends shooting pain through his stomach, lies that hurt his chest, not because of wounds but something deeper and invisible. But he pushes it all down and doesn’t let it show.

Simple as that.


*

Sometimes, Peter ignores injuries in favour of helping people. Which he thinks is totally fair. He heals, they don’t. Simple as that. Even if it means letting wounds close up over bullets and having to cut himself back open to dig it out. Even if it means swinging deep into the forest so nobody can hear his screams when he resets bones that healed wrong. Even if it means passing out in vulnerable places like in dumpsters or on rooftops while attempting to tend to his wounds.

No matter what it means.

Because in Peter’s head, everyone else comes before him.

Simple as that.


*

The thing with all of this, though, is that it isn’t just simple. It isn’t this thing that Peter can just brush under the rug or box away or push down. It isn’t as simple as that.

Because Peter nearly bleeding out on his bathroom floor while May’s at work, Peter ignoring all of Karen’s pleas to call someone, Peter brushing off Banner and Cho and most importantly Tony in favour of doing it himself, Peter stitching himself up and rebreaking his own bones without help, it isn’t okay. It isn’t simple.

Everyone knows that. It should be simple logic. Just ask the doctors and nurses he knows to help him. It should be simple. But it’s not because the complex Peter’s grown is deeper than just logic.

It isn’t simple. It never was.


*

He isn’t careful enough. He knows he wasn’t. But he had been tired and in so much pain and so prepared to just fall apart, that he hadn’t thoroughly washed the bathroom.

Waking up to May bursting into his room, tears shining in her wide eyes, isn’t simple. May not having any clue what could’ve happened to him because she doesn’t know about the violence he faces every single day, isn’t simple. May’s hands tracing the healing bruise on his cheekbone, tears streaking down her face, glaring at the messy stitches in his side and the bloody tweezers sitting on his nightstand, a shiny copper bullet glinting in the sunrise beside them, isn’t simple.

May sending him to Tony because she feels like she failed him as a parent isn’t simple. It’s the farthest thing from simple.

Watching Tony break down, someone who hasn’t cried in over a decade in front of anyone, while watching the Baby Monitor Protocol. Of the two years he’d been doing this, hiding injuries and cutting himself back open to fish out bullets and stitching himself up. Of him swinging far enough away for no one to ever know to fix the broken ankle he’d been ignoring for the extent of the weekend. Of him pushing a roll of gauze into his mouth, muffling the cries of pain that threaten to escape him, and pulling it out blood-stained. Of him not caring about himself. It isn’t simple.

Nothing about it was ever simple.