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Ghost Town

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Peter wakes up a few seconds before his alarm starts blaring. Thanks, ‘Peter Tingle.’ Peter hits his alarm before laying back down. He stares at the ceiling for a few minutes, going over the amount of basic tasks he has to do today along with every other day. It just seems overwhelming. It’ll be forever before he’s back in bed. 

Peter grabs his phone and checks all his notifications for a few minutes. He sees it's 6:20 am and decides it’s probably best to drag himself out of bed now. Peter shuffles into his bathroom and takes off his pajamas, ready to take a shower. He goes through the basic morning routine of his everyday life. Shower. Brush teeth. Get dressed. Pack backpack for school.

Peter walks out of his bedroom, backpack on his shoulder, and heads into the kitchen. It’s 7:00 and the only person in the kitchen is Steve. Weird… there’s usually a few more people in here. Peter walks up to the island, about to ask Steve where anyone else is. Steve sees Peter and asks if he wants any waffles before Peter can even get the first word of his sentence out. Peter considers saying no, but then decides waffles sound good.

Steve hands Peter a few Eggo waffles, and goes to hand Peter the syrup. “N- No thanks, Mr. Rogers.” Steve raises an eyebrow at this, but decides to just let it go. “Hey, uh, I bet Mr. Stark is still sleeping?” As Peter asks this, Tony walks into the kitchen. His hair is sticking up in every direction and he’s still wearing his pajamas.

“Hey, kid. You ready for school?” Tony asks Peter.

Peter looks at Tony. “Uh… are you?” Peter jokes, referencing Tony’s bedraggled appearance.

Tony makes a face at Peter before grabbing a mug of coffee from Steve. “Hey, kid. I’m driving you to school today. Ah ah ah! No arguments.” Tony cuts Peter off before he can protest. Tony and Peter say goodbye to Steve before heading to the elevator. Peter finishes his Eggos as the elevator doors open to the garage.

Peter sees Tony and wonders why he’s up this early. Tony doesn’t wake up before 8:30 in the morning if he can help it. Clearly he had woken up in a rush, apparently wanting to spend time with Peter before school. Tony and Peter pile into Tony’s black Audi.

Peter waits for Tony to start the car, but the engine remains silent. Peter looks at Tony, a curious expression on Peter’s face. Tony looks at Peter. “I’m sorry… about last night. I may have been a little… harsh? I should’ve been there for you instead of just yelling at you. Anyways, um, you’re still grounded. One week instead of two. I think that’s fair.” Tony looks at Peter.

“Uh, sure, Mr. Stark. It’s fair.” Peter mumbles. Internally, Peter’s only slightly upset at Tony still. Peter feels worse for being so rude to Mr. Stark last night. He apologized for being a little harsh, so maybe I should apologize for being so rude. “I’m sorry about last night too, Mr. Stark.” Peter apologizes quietly.

Tony nods and starts the car, then pulls out of the parking garage. The car ride is silent for a few minutes. Peter is contemplating asking Tony questions about the fight in Times Square last night, but is hesitant. He doesn’t want to accidentally reveal that he knows Skip.

Tony senses Peter’s nervousness and asks “Hey, Petey. What’s on your mind?” 

Peter looks at Tony. “I was, um, wondering if you guys figured anything out about the uh… the snow dudes?” Smooth, Peter. 

Tony glances at Peter before returning his eyes to the morning traffic of New York City. “FRIDAY could only identify four of the people. Couldn’t get a good look at the last two through the blizzard. Let’s see, there’s uh… the one you fought? Her name is Vreni Stein. She has a twin brother named Lothar Stein. Then there’s Clotilde Forst. All three are German. Then there’s Maxine Hawkins. She’s Canadian.” 

Peter looks down at his lap. “Do you know what they want? Or how they got their powers?” 

Tony stops the car at a red light. “No, and no. We can’t find any relation to them besides three of them being German, and everyone having light colored eyes and hair. The only motivation they seemed to have was destroying Times Square.”

Peter thinks about the information for a second before asking “Do you think they’re gonna attack anywhere again?”

Tony looks at Peter while waiting for the light to turn green. “I wanted to talk to you about that, actually. If they do attack again, I was thinking you could come on the mission and help us fight. I won’t even put you on civilian duty. But I have some ground rules.”

Peter looks up at Tony as the car starts moving again. “Oh, my god! Really? Are you serious!?” Peter feels excitement bubbling underneath his skin. This is my chance to really help people, and prove myself a real hero to the Avengers!

Tony laughs. “Yes, I’m serious. But the rules are as follows - 1) You have to be with one Avenger at all times . Even if you aren’t engaged in combat. I mean it. 2) If they take the battle outside of America, you don’t get to go. That isn’t exactly my rule, that’s more of a legal situation with the Accords. 3) Comms. Stay. On. 4) You immediately leave the fight if your heater breaks. And if you’re injured, you tell us. Is all this understood?” Tony finishes his rules.

Peter nods his head quickly, an excited smile on his face. But then he remembers… Skip. Peter’s smile falls and he turns to face out the car window. You idiot, you can’t say no now. You… you can do this. This is your chance to help people. 

Tony notices the extremely abrupt change in Peter’s mood. “You’re sure you wanna do this, Pete?” 

Peter looks at Tony and quietly says yes. Tony finds this strange, about to ask why the sudden change in Peter’s demeanor. But the car pulls up to Peter’s school, and Peter quickly gets out and slings his backpack over his shoulder.

“Hey, kiddo. I’m picking you up from school, okay? And then we’re going to have a fun day after school doing whatever you feel like.” Tony really wants Peter to go into school and have a good day. So he tries to give Peter something to look forward to after school.

Peter nods. “Bye, Mr. Stark.” 

“Bye, kid. Have a good day!” Tony says loudly. Some kids mingling outside the school turn around and see Peter shut the car door on Tony Stark. Tony thinks the looks on the kids’ faces are priceless. Tony watches as Peter walks into his school before driving away, heading back towards the Tower.

When the elevator doors open to reveal the penthouse, Tony steps out and heads toward the kitchen. He grabs a bottle of aspirin for the awesome headache he’s been nursing since he woke up this morning. “Stark.” Tony turns around and sees Wanda. The look on her face tells Tony his headache is about to get a hell of a lot worse.

Wanda is standing in the kitchen doorway, holding something small and thin. “I found this in Peter’s room.” Wanda holds out the small item for Tony to examine, before deciding to just set it on the counter instead. Tony doesn’t like to be handed things.

Tony doesn’t look at the device right away. He keeps his eyes on Wanda, and asks “What were you doing in Peter’s room?” 

Wanda looks back at Tony evenly. “I wanted to do something nice for everyone. I was gathering everyone’s bedding to wash. I never have anything to do all day, so… I decided to do something useful with my free time. When I grabbed Peter’s bedding, that fell out onto the floor.” 

Tony finally drops his gaze to the item on the kitchen counter. It’s… a dab pen? “You found weed… in Peter’s room? Peter’s room?” Tony’s anger is barely being kept in check.

“Look, I’m not trying to get Peter in trouble. I’m concerned for him, like you. I just thought you would like to know.” Wanda waits for Tony’s reaction.

“Yeah, I appreciate it. Thanks.” Tony walks out of the room. Tony can’t figure out what to do. He considers calling May for advice and to let her know, but she won’t be out of class until… 5:00? Somewhere around that time. Tony feels nothing but shock and anger. How could his Peter be getting high? 

Tony takes a moment to plan out what he should do. He realizes that getting mad and yelling at Peter won’t do any good, that much was proven last night. So… what do responsible parents do in this situation? Wait, parents? Anyways, Tony figures the best route would be to instead show concern for Peter. Yes, he should stay calm, make it clear that these actions are not okay, and then support Peter emotionally. How’s that for responsible?

Now how does he, Tony Stark, connect to and support a 15 year old teenager? Tony thinks back to his days of addiction. Sure, he was a lot older. And maybe the things he was doing were more… extreme. But why was he doing the things he did? At first it was seemingly out of young teen rebellion. That’s what all the news magazines spun his addiction as, anyways. But Tony’s actions continued far into adulthood. His addiction was to cover up all the pain and anxiety. Was Peter feeling these emotions, all bottled up?

Tony thinks about how Peter has seemed off the past few days. Peter’s been extra quiet, he’s been extremely quick to anger. Yes, Peter has been either subdued or angry, with hardly any in-betweens. Peter avoided training and meals with the team this weekend. He took off Sunday without letting anyone know. But he’s only been acting strange the past few days, right?

The more Tony thinks about it, the more he realizes that Peter’s had weekends like this since Tony met him. Sure, those weeks and weekends hadn’t been this extreme. Tony had figured it was the extreme mood swings caused by ADHD. Then Tony realizes that ADHD mood swings tend to happen more often than whole weekends. So… is something else going on with his kid?

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Peter feels about ten seconds from a mental breakdown. He’s been sitting at the lunch table with Ned and MJ for the better part of twenty minutes, and still hasn’t managed to eat more than two bites. He should be hungry, right? His metabolism usually forces him to eat like twice as much as a regular person. But he just doesn’t feel like eating. He doesn’t even feel that nauseous right now.

MJ looks up from the book she’s reading. “Peter, for the last time, eat your lunch. Please. We don’t want you to faint, loser.” 

Peter decides to just force down a few bites, which he barely manages. MJ and Ned look at each other, but decide not to push their luck. 

Peter feels a hand ruffle his hair, and violently flinches. Flash appears in front of Peter, standing over the lunch table. “What gives, Penis? Lunch is almost over, and you’ve hardly eaten shit. Trying to be as ‘skinny’ as your friend Black Widow? Good luck with that, Parker.” 

MJ politely exclaims “Fuck off, Flash.” Ned moves to stand beside Peter. Flash snickers, grabs Peter’s lunch, and dumps it in the trash before walking away from the trio.

Ned looks at Peter. “Hey, man. You don’t need to listen to that crap. He’s just jealous you know Black Widow.”

Peter stands up and slings his bag over his shoulder, mumbling something about Flash not even believing Peter knows the Avengers. Peter leaves the cafeteria and heads toward 5th hour English class.

Peter’s English and Statistics classes go by slowly. Peter’s mind feels tired and foggy. He keeps thinking about the hurtful words Flash said to Peter. ‘Fat freak.’

The bell rings and Peter starts heading to his 7th hour class. Halfway there, Peter stops walking. Then he bolts into the nearest bathroom before seeing his lunch make a second appearance that day. After a few minutes of dry heaving, Peter gets up and cleans himself off. It’s just nerves. It’s just nerves. You’re fine.

Peter walks through the doorway into Advanced Biology. Peter sits in his seat and opens his Bio book. “Oh, my god. You look like dog shit, Penis.” Peter rolls his eyes at Flash, who sits right behind Peter. “Seriously, did no one tell you that making yourself throw up is unhealthy, Einstein?”

As MJ walks over from the other side of the classroom and sits beside Peter, Peter himself completely freezes. MJ looks over and sees Peter shaking. His breathing is laboured and his eyes have a far away look in them. MJ grabs Peter’s arm gently, before guiding him to the front of the class. “Mr. G, I think Peter needs to go to the nurse.” Their Bio teacher waves them away.

MJ has no plans to take Peter to the nurse, and instead gently leads him to the men’s bathroom. She doesn’t care about going in there, she just wants Peter to be in a more private place. She knows he hates having an audience.

“Can’t breathe. Stop. Please, don’t wanna.” MJ looks at Peter, trying to make sense of his strange mumbles. MJ grabs Peter’s phone out of his pocket, trying to ignore the violent flinch that follows. MJ opens Peter’s contacts and is about to call May, before remembering she’s in Detroit. MJ starts scrolling through Peter’s contacts before seeing ‘Mr. Stark :3 .’ MJ almost rolls her eyes at the stupid face next to the name before pressing Call.

MJ hears the line rings a few times before Tony picks up. “Peter? Hey, I’m on my way to pick you up, but I thought your school didn’t get out for like another half hour?”

“Not Peter, it’s MJ.” Her tone sounds worried.

“Peter’s friend? What’s wrong, why’re you calling?” And Tony’s voice sounds even more worried.

“Pe- Peter’s having a panic attack in the bathroom? I- I got him out of class before it got worse. I dunno why he’s having one. He’s saying things that I- I don’t understand.” MJ personally denies that her hands are shaking.

“I’m pulling up now. Give me a sec to get in the building.” Tony rushes up the steps and presses the button next to the front door, waiting for the office to buzz him in. Thank God he’s on Peter’s emergency contacts list. MJ directs Tony over the phone on how to get to the bathroom they’re in, which is a lot more difficult than anticipated. But eventually MJ hears the bathroom door open, and quick steps approach the stall. 

MJ opens the door and walks out, letting Tony trade places with her. She tells Tony she’s going to bring Peter’s stuff to the office, and walks out of the bathroom. Tony gets down on Peter’s level, ignoring the ache in his knees. Tony sets his hands on Peter’s shoulders, trying to comfort him.

“NO! No, no, no. Please. Please. Don’t touch me.” Peter finishes his pleading with a whine. Tony immediately lets go of Peter and tries to give Peter some space in the cramped bathroom stall. 

“Okay, kid. Okay. You make the calls here. No touching.” Tony doesn’t question Peter’s wishes, electing to blindly follow instead. His kid has got him seriously spooked. Tony spends the next ten minutes directing Peter to breathe with him. It takes a while, but they make enough progress that Peter’s eyes finally focus on Tony.

“T- Tony.” Peter cries before flinging himself into Tony’s arms. Tony hesitantly hugs Peter back, not wanting to upset the boy further, but also trying to provide comfort. They sit like this for a few minutes before Peter gets up and sniffles, dusting himself off. “”M sorry…” Peter mumbles.

“No, Pete. Nothing to be sorry about. It’ll be okay. Can I touch you?” Peter nods. Tony gently lays his hand on Peter before guiding him back towards the office. Tony checks Peter out of school, grabs Peter’s bag from the receptionist, and heads out the front doors with Peter.

Once they have arrived at Tony’s car, Tony opens the passenger door for Peter. As Peter’s getting in, Tony places Peter’s backpack in the backseat before walking to the driver’s door and getting in the car himself. “Alright kid, what do you want to eat?”

Peter looks at Tony, feeling very confused. But he answers anyway. “McDonald’s… but I only want a Medium Fry right now. I’ll eat m-more at dinner. Too nervous.” Peter fidgets with his fingers in his lap. 

“Sounds like a plan, kid.” A few minutes later, the duo is back in traffic, Peter eating fries and Tony eating a McDouble. As Peter’s finishing his fries, Tony pulls into the parking garage under the Tower. Tony and Peter get out of the car, Peter carrying his backpack. They head up the elevator, and arrive at the lab.

Peter drops his bag near the lab door. Tony gestures toward the couch that sits in the lab. “Sit, bud.” Peter does as he’s told.

“You wanna tell me what happened?” Tony looks at Peter expectantly.

Peter looks at Tony for a moment. He can’t just pretend that MJ and Mr. Stark brought him down from a panic attack in his high school bathroom. He goes for a half truth. “It was Flash. He was just- just bugging me. All day. That, on top of school… and- and not eating a lot today just… made me freak out, I guess?” 

“What do you mean ‘not eating a lot today,’ Pete?” Shit. Busted.

“I just wasn’t super hungry today I guess. I still ate, though. It’s just one of those days, I dunno.” Peter tries.

“Well, you’re eating a big dinner tonight, then. I’m making sure of it. You have to keep up with your metabolism, Underoos.” Tony sounds concerned. What else is new. “Now… we do have something else we need to talk about.” Peter snaps his head up. What is he talking about?

“Wanda was cleaning your room for you, and she found this.” Tony holds up- shit that’s my pen.

“Mr. Stark that- that’s not uh- heh- mine! I swear! I was- I was holding onto it for someone!” Peter loudly freaks out.

“Pete- Peter. Kid!” Tony tries to interrupt Peter’s rambling. “I’m… I’m not mad, Peter. You’re not in trouble. I know this is yours, like c’mon, kid. ” Tony pockets the pen. “Now, this- this is not acceptable. It’s not okay. And if it happens again, there will be consequences. But right now, Pete, I want you to talk to me. I get that Flash is bugging you, but it’s gotta be something more. You can talk to me, Peter.” Tony looks Peter in the eyes, wanting nothing more than to reassure Peter.

“Mr. Stark-” Peter begins.

“-Tony-” Tony interrupts.

Peter again decided to take the half truth approach. “T- Tony. It’s just… I’m just. Stressed. Stressed with school, with Spider-Man. Not stressed with balancing them!” Peter hurries to ensure. “I just… I feel this responsibility for everyone. Everyone I help, everyone I don’t help. And I know, I know it’s impossible to help everyone. But… I just can’t help feeling like this.” Peter feels tears at the corners of his eyes, and looks up at Tony sitting beside him.

Tony himself almost, almost looks like he has tears in his eyes. Does he? Good going, Peter. “C’mere, kid.” Tony wraps his arms around Peter. Peter immediately hugs right back, usually being a big fan of physical comfort with people he trusts. After a few moments, Peter pulls away. Don’t let yourself get too greedy, dumbass.

Tony looks at Peter again. “Peter. I get that you can’t help feeling like that. But I’m going to try and remind you that you can’t expect to be there for everyone at all times. Think about all the people you’ve helped, both as Peter Parker and Spider-Man. You’re doing a great job, kid. I’m really proud of you. And you shouldn’t forget that sometimes Peter Parker has to be there for himself, right?” 

Peter nods before Tony continues. “And, kid? If you can’t be there for yourself, you have May, Ned, MJ, the literal Avengers all backing you. You can talk to any of us, any time you want or need to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, Underoos. We all care.”

Peter nods again, not really having a lot to say. After a short pause, Peter says “Mr. S-Tony? Can you help me with my Statistics homework?” 

Tony laughs at ‘Mr. Stony’ before agreeing to help Peter. Peter grabs his homework out of his backpack before setting it at an empty desk. The duo get to work solving equations.