Being bit by a spider was pretty cool.
In a matter of days, Peter turned from an asthmatic, scrawny, glasses-wearing kid to a hero with super strength, speed, and senses who was amazingly ripped, could stick to almost any surface, and fully heal a gunshot wound in a matter of days.
But, as Stephen Hawking said; one of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect … without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist. So of course, there were downsides to Peter’s overnight superpowers. For one, he couldn’t thermoregulate for shit. That one sucked, especially in the depths of New York Winter. However, there was no doubt for which downside affected Peter most. Enhanced senses were amazing in a high-speed battle. On a normal day in the city that never sleeps, though?
Yeah, not so cool.
Peter often woke up with his senses dialed to eleven. Usually, it would slip away by the time he left for the subway. There were also days where the overload and the burning throughout his entire body that it caused never left. Those were the bad days: the days that getting out of bed was torture, walking through the crowded school halls caused every whisper to ring through his brain, and he had no room in the chaos inside his own head for any thoughts.
Today was one of those days.
Which sucked because Peter was genuinely excited for school today. There was a whole school assembly first thing which featured a presentation from Dr. Helen Cho about the new development that allowed for nano adjuvants with immunomodulatory properties to be used for delivery of vaccine antigens.
Dr. Cho was the doctor to the Avengers, so Peter had met her a multitude of times, albeit half those times he was too severely injured to remember. Even when he was conscious and at least mostly functioning, Peter didn’t have more than a few minutes to discuss with Dr. Cho- she was a busy woman and looking after a team of self-sacrificial heroes was not an easy gig.
Peter had been a fan of Dr. Cho for years, reading all of her papers that he could get his hands on, and this presentation synthesized literal decades of her work. But because of his stupidly enhanced senses, the presentation would be more torturous than thrilling.
Peter secured his sunglasses over his eyes, scrunching his face when they still provided little relief from the sensory input raging as a tsunami through his head.
Surveying the quaint apartment, Peter remembered May telling him over their pizza dinner the previous night that she was picking up a double shift for a friend. It would be too easy to skip school and curl up in his bed where he would have some protection for the war raging in his body. But, Peter reminded himself, his absences had to be saved for Avengers activities. Unless he wanted to lose the scholarship that allowed him to go to Midtown School of Science and Technology, Peter would have to stop being a wuss, suck it up, and face the day.
Despite common assumptions, Peter did have some resemblance of respect for his health, which is why he opted to walk to school rather than be sardined in the New York subway at 7 am on a Wednesday morning.
Sure, it was a much longer trek, but attendance wasn’t taken until second period due to the assembly, and lateness would mean that he missed the noise of the entire school entering the gym.
The city definitely had it out for Peter. During the walk to school, a grand total of eleven drivers honked loudly on the road beside Peter, each one like an explosion through his head. By the time that Peter slid into the assembly, sinking into a free chair near the back of the stands, he had a tear of pain running down his cheek, thankfully hidden by his sunglasses.
Everything hurt so fucking much.
No, Peter reminded himself, he was not going to wuss out of this. He was Spider-Man; something as insignificant as sensory overload was not going to ruin him.
Peter tried at first to engage in the hologram presentation, but quickly found that trying to focus his vision only made things worse, and resigned himself to watching an online recording when they were released a few weeks later.
Clapping filled the gym as Dr. Cho finished her presentation. It took all of Peter’s strength to force himself to clap instead of covering his ears. Being at the back of the stands, Peter was able to half-jog out of the gym before he would have been caught in the stampede of students. A small miracle.
By the time that Peter sunk into his chair in second period APUSH, another stray tear had seeped from his eye. Peter buried his head behind the pile of textbooks he had dumped on the desk, hiding from the world as best.
“Nice sunglasses, Penis,” Flash Thompson called out from beside Peter. Peter lifted his head instinctively to meet Flash’s mocking gaze, glaring at him from behind said sunglasses. “Real fashion statement there. Or is it your way of pretending to be a celebrity who knows Tony Stark like you claim?”
Peter deliberated throwing back an insult, but quickly decided that he was in too much pain to deal with Flash right now. Instead, Peter dropped his head back to the desk, trying, and ultimately failing, to block out Flash's snickers.
The classroom was quickly quieted, however, as Mr. Dell shushed everyone. As Mr. Dell strode around the classroom, placing a worksheet on each desk, Peter thanked every God out there. Although Peter was sure that every answer he wrote on the worksheet from the previous lesson's reading made a total of zero sense, at least it was only worksheets as opposed to an overly loud lecture from Mr. Dell.
As with everything else today, the Gods had it out for Peter today. They took his thanking prays and threw it back in his face with ten minutes left of second period when Mr. Dell decided to play a video recreating the Battle of Gettysburg, which, of course, included resounding shots from revolvers and the occasional riffle.
Tears streamed down Peter’s cheeks freely, his entire body screaming in white-hot pain. He was going to vomit.
Without care for the teacher or the rest of the class or even his books that weren’t in his backpack, Peter sprinted out of the class. He barely made it to the toilet before he sunk to the ground, sobbing as he wretched his guts out in the stool.
Good thing no one in high school gave enough of a shit to do anything about Peter other than making noises of disgust.
Resting his head against the cool of the porcelain toilet, Peter was ready to give up. NO, he reminded himself once against. If he couldn’t do this, he wasn’t worthy of Spider-Man.
Heaving a breath, Peter pulled himself from the tiled floor, flushing the toilet and using the tap water to attempt to wash the bitter taste of vomit from his mouth, ignoring the judgemental looks from his fellow students.
Though second period had a few minutes left still, Ned was waiting by Peter’s lockers, the look in his eyes telling Peter his best friend already knew exactly what was going on. Ned knew Peter too well.
Ned solidified Peter’s assumption by signing to Peter in fluid American Sign Language rather than talking.
Ned pointed at Peter, then finger spelling O-K, raising his eyebrows to let Peter know it was a question.
Peter moved his hand in an s-shape up and down twice to sign ‘yeah’.
Really, Ned signed, because you don’t look too gr-.
I’m ok, Peter interrupted in sign again.
Do I need to call Tony, Ned tried.
Peter really must look bad if Ned was being this insistent.
No, Peter signed by tapping his first two fingers with his thumb, repeating the sign to indicate that there was no way that Ned was going to get his way on this.
At that moment, the chime of the bell rang over the speakers. His locker was directly below a speaker.
Instantly, Peter felt his ears fill with a warm liquid, his brain screeching, his chest constricting in pure pain. Stop, stop, he needed it to stop.
Peter’s legs gave in, and he crumpled to the ground, burying his head in his knees in a desperate attempt to soften the noise. He knew the bell had long finished, but its chimes echoed, amplified a thousand times around his skull, each echo like a bullet at close range.
From what felt like another world, Peter felt Ned grab his shoulders, heard the nurse speaking in front of him, felt himself be picked up bridal style. None of it mattered. He recognized the smell of the nurse’s office, the sanitary scent just contributing to the thousands of pieces of input that pulled at Peter’s mind.
“May’s working … ICU,” someone was saying.
“Secondary contact … Stark … just call it,” another voice said.
The next period of time was an eon and a second at the same time.
Then familiar hands gripped Peter’s shoulders gently, a motor oil scent that Peter would recognize anywhere drifting across his mind- a warm stream in the tsunami.
When Tony got the call, he was in a board meeting that Pepper had dragged him out of his lab for, listening to some entitled businessman present his ‘revolutionary’ idea that Tony had heard a thousand times before.
At first when FRIDAY alerted Tony to an incoming call, a piercing look from Pepper had forced him back into his chair.
It was only when FRIDAY cut in again to alert him that she had traced the number to Midtown School of Science and Technology that Pepper interrupted the meeting.
“I’m so sorry sir,” she said, smiling the half-smile that she used to apologize for whenever Tony had done something stupid, “But this is a family emergency. Tony will have to step out.”
Tony didn’t need telling twice, having FRIDAY ready a car, and hitting the gas towards where his kid was having some sort of panic attack in the nurse’s office.
As soon as Tony stepped into the office, taking off his signature sunglasses, the room went quiet. It was as though they thought that he wouldn’t come.
“Where is he?” Tony asked, forcing himself to keep his tone casual despite the fear bubbling in his gut.
Peter was curled up in a dark room, his head between his knees, his hands over his ears that seemed to be leaking dark blood.
The cogs in Tony’s brain turned at lightning speed, desperately working to figure out what was wrong with his kid. His mind replayed when he first met Peter. The kid had said something about his senses being dialed to eleven. Of course. Steve sometimes got sensory overload from his enhanced senses. Never as serious as what Peter was currently experiencing, but the symptoms were the same.
Tony strode over to his kid, placing his hands gently on his shaking shoulders.
“Hey kiddo,” Tony whispered, voice as low as he could get it.
Peter looked up at Tony, the sight his Bambi eyes so red and the tear tracks down his cheeks clenching Tony’s heart.
“Mr. Stark?” Peter half-sobbed.
“That’s me, Pete.”
Peter whimpered, blinking a fat tear from his eyes.
That was it.
The last thing needed to fully activate Tony’s da- no, mentor mode.
Tony pulled his kid into his arms, pulling his face into his shoulder and carding his hand softly through the kid’s chestnut curls.
“It hurts,” Peter whined.
“I know, bambino, it’s okay, you’re gonna be okay.”
Peter buried his face further into Tony’s shirt, his sobs lessening slightly. If the situation wasn’t so sad, Tony would smile at the pureness of his kid.
The pair remained in that same position for almost half an hour while Peter’s shoulders slowly stopped shaking and his heart rate slowed.
“Thank you,” Peter mumbled, voice laced with fatigue. It was no surprise that the kid was exhausted after that amount of pain.
“What, you thought I wouldn’t come?” Tony half teased.
“You’re the best, dad.”
Tony’s voice caught in his throat. Peter wouldn’t remember this later. And if Tony told him, he would surely never say it again.
But it was then that Tony truly realized that Peter was his kid in every sense but blood. And Tony would make it his absolute priority to make sure that Pete realized it too.
As Tony carried Peter through the hallways littered with students streaming out from the end of a class, he knew that there was no missing Tony Stark carrying Peter Parker bridal style out of the front doors. Tony didn’t give a fuck.
This was his kid, and he would have it no other way.