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Ghost Town

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Since the ‘pep talk’ with Mr. Stark on Monday, Peter has been feeling… well not better, exactly. But he definitely could be feeling a lot worse. It’s Thursday now, and the week somehow seems to have slipped away from him. Nothing exciting has happened with Spider-Man, and the most exciting thing to happen to Peter was having Natasha help him practice for a Spanish test.

Peter arrives home from school, having walked by himself for the first time since last Friday. Don’t think about Friday right now. You’ll mess up your good streak. Peter walks into the living room and sees no one home. “Hey, FRIDAY. Where is everyone?”

“The Avengers have left for a mission, Mr. Parker.” Peter frowns at this, isn’t he supposed to be helping with Avengers missions? They didn’t even call me.

Peter pulls out his phone to double check that he hasn’t missed a super important phone call from Iron Man. Instead of a phone call, Peter sees a text notification from Tony.

[From Mr. Stark :3]

Hey, kid. Got called into Ixtenco, Mexico. One of the ice crew was reported in the area. We aren’t taking any chances. Anyways, Pepper will be hanging with you until we’re back. She’ll be up to the penthouse a little after 5:00. Stay safe, Underoos.

Well, at least he got a text. Peter doesn’t know if he’s disappointed or not about not being able to be a part of the mission. He feels guilty about not helping people, but on the other hand… he doesn’t have to deal with facing Skip. Peter decides that if he can’t protect the people in Mexico, he can protect the people of New York. He hasn’t been on patrol since Tuesday, anyways.

Peter suits up and is about to swing out of his window before he remembers he should text Pepper. 

[To Pepperrr] 

hey, pepper. it’s peter. i’m letting you know that i’m going on patrol for a little bit. i’ll be back by 5 pm tho :):) 

Peter pockets his phone - magic suit pocket hehe- before finally swinging out of his bedroom into the streets of New York. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Peter’s been on patrol for about half an hour and not one interesting thing has happened. Well, that’s a lie. He returned a bearded dragon on a leash to a very upset teen girl. He also gave a touring family directions to the Empire State Building, but that’s definitely not a captivating story.

Peter’s perched on St. Patrick’s Cathedral, waiting for his suit’s AI, Karen, to report any suspicious activity to him. He’s only been sitting there for a few minutes before the world starts rumbling. Peter, not suspecting an earthquake in NYC, falls off the Cathedral before he can catch himself. Peter slings a web to the skyscraper across the street, and manages to safely land on the sidewalk below. 

The ground is shaking violently, people all around Peter trying and failing to maintain their balance. A woman holding her baby is stumbling as fast as she can toward Spider-Man, and falls to the ground a few feet from him. Peter rushes to help her to her feet, and she quickly points behind her. “The- there’s something over there. A monster. A monster!” she tells Peter frantically before running away from where she was pointing.

The ground is quaking less, and Peter starts running toward the danger. He’s nervous about swinging in case the tremors cause damage to the buildings. The closer Peter gets to the sound of commotion, the less the ground shakes. Peter finds this odd, he had been expecting the ground to rumble more the closer he got to the monster.

Finally, Peter spots the monster. It’s made of earth, and it’s big. Very big. The monster is in Rockefeller Center, causing damage to the buildings around it. Peter is about to face the creature, before he notices civilians trapped all around the monster. Peter swings in to start evacuating the civilians to safer areas.

Peter’s trying to come up with a plan to take down the elemental. He’s all by himself right now, there’s no backup coming from the Avengers. Peter’s strong, but he doesn’t know how strong his opponent is. Brute force might not work with this thing. Shit shit shit.

Peter grabs a couple of young kids and runs them away from Rockefeller. When Peter gets back, someone is hovering in the air, facing against the rocky creature. Peter can only see the back of the man. He has short brown hair and wears a long red cape. Green mist surrounds the man’s hands. He starts shooting thick green beams towards the monster, appearing to be doing damage to it.

Peter swings up and latches on to the side of a building, stopping around the man’s level. “Hey, uh, sir! What can I do to help?”

The man glances at Peter before shooting more green mist at the monster. “Stay back, kid! Help the civilians!”

Just as Peter’s about to protest, he hears a scream to his right. Peter looks over, but then his ‘Peter Tingle’ goes off. Peter turns back towards the fight right before being smashed into the building he’s on, knocked out cold. Peter’s limp form falls to the ground, thankfully not a very long drop. 

A black SUV pulls up to the scene. Nick Fury and Maria Hill exit the vehicle, their guns pointed at the moving rockpile. The mystery man notices them, and shouts “Get out of here! You don’t want any part of this!” before focusing his green energy back onto the monster.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Peter quickly sits up in bed before hands press against his chest. Peter starts panicking, pushing the hands away. “No, no!” Peter yells.

“Easy, Peter! Easy!” The hands stop pressing against him. “It’s Pepper, Peter! You need to lay back down, Pete! You’re in the medbay at the Tower!”

Peter’s vision swims before he can focus his eyes. When he’s able to see correctly, Peter sees that he is in fact in the medbay. Pepper stands over him, trying to calm him down. Peter lays back down, his heart still beating fast. He’d been having a nightmare about… about Skip. He tries to breathe, wanting to calm down before he freaks Pepper out more.

“Hey, Pete. Are you feeling okay? You have a mild concussion.” Pepper says to Peter, and Peter gently nods. “I’m glad. Are you hungry? Can I get you anything?” 

Peter actually feels hungry right now, so he nods again. “Broccoli cheddar soup?” 

Pepper laughs before ordering dinner on her phone. “It’ll be here in about half an hour. Also, the team will be back in about three hours. The people they were fighting ended up getting away again.”

Peter nods. Wow, is nodding becoming a habit now? “What time is it?”

Pepper looks up from an email she’s answering. “It’s about 7:00 pm. It’s still Thursday, don’t worry.”

Peter goes to sit up again before wincing, he hadn’t noticed his right arm was hurting until now. He looks down and sees it’s in a cast. “Ughhh, how long until this is off?”

Pepper almost laughs at Peter’s mildly annoyed reaction to breaking a bone. “For you? It’ll probably come off Saturday. And you’ll be out of here after you eat dinner. Hey, do you know the guy you were fighting with?”

Peter shakes his head. “No, I thought it was… what’s his name? Dr. Strange? But then he turned around and that definitely was NOT Dr. Strange.”

Pepper hums before looking back at her phone to finish her email. After a while, Pepper exits the room to go retrieve their dinner.

Peter sits in silence for a few minutes. Wait how did I even get here? I have to ask Pepper when she gets back. Peter sees his phone on the table next to his hospital bed and grabs it. The screen is even more cracked now than it was before. He has a LOT of text messages from May, Ned, and MJ.

Peter calls May, who is rightfully freaking out, and lets her know he’s alright. Then Peter goes to answer Ned and MJ’s texts. The last few texts read:

[Ned] PETER YOU BETTER BE OKAY I SWEAR TO GOD

[MJ] Ned Im sure hes fine But NEDS RIGHT YOU BETTER BE WITH THE LIVING RIGHT NOW PETER

[Ned] HOW CAN HE BE FINE WHEN THE LAST THING WE SAW WAS HIM GETTING KNOCKED OUT BY A WALKING PILE OF BOULDERS

Peter laughs, but also feels bad for worrying his friends. 

[Peter is typing...]

[Ned] HOLY SHIT HE’S ALIVE

[Peter] hey, guys. dw, im ‘with the living’

[MJ] Good observation skills Ned

[Ned] WHO WAS THAT GUY YOU WERE WITH? IS HE AN AVENGER? WHEN CAN I MEET HIM?

[Peter] no clue who he is :/ and i dont think hes an avenger? anyways i have a concussion so i should try to limit screen time. ttyl <3

Peter puts his phone down as Pepper returns with dinner. “I ordered you two orders of soup, I hope that will be enough?” Pepper sets Peter’s food on to the table next to him. 

“It’ll be great, thanks Pepper.” Peter smiles. “Oh, by the way. How did I get to the medbay from Rockefeller?”

“Fury called me and dropped you off in the parking garage. I had a medical team waiting for you by the time you got here.” Pepper smiles over at Peter before turning the TV in the medbay on. It’s playing footage from about an hour ago of the fight in Mexico.

The fight hadn’t lasted more than half an hour. And it seemed that only four of the ice villains had made an appearance, Skip not being one of them. Peter doesn’t even kind of know what to make of that.

After Peter and Pepper finish eating, Peter goes to the bathroom to get dressed in normal clothes. They check in with the medbay staff, and Peter gets the all clear to leave, as long as he rests the next few days. Woo, no school tomorrow. 

Peter and Pepper spend the next few hours playing board games, trying to limit Peter’s screen time since he had watched TV in the medbay. They’re sitting at the dining table playing checkers when the Avengers all walk in. Everyone looks fine, maybe just slightly tired. 

Sam and Natasha say hello to Peter and Pepper before heading off towards their bedrooms to take showers. Steve and Bucky immediately raid the kitchen. Wanda and Vision sit on the couch, talking to each other quietly. Bruce goes straight to bed, and Rhodey follows suit. 

Tony rushes over to Peter, and gently turns him to face Tony. Tony begins inspecting Peter’s face, fussing over his kid. Of course, he would never openly admit he was fussing. Seemingly satisfied, Tony takes a seat next to Peter.

“Hey, Pep. Thanks for hanging out with Peter. Did you guys have a good time?” Tony looks between Peter and Pepper.

“Yes, Tony. Peter kicked my butt in checkers a few times. Alright, I’m heading out. Make sure he gets to sleep soon.” Pepper looks pointedly at Tony. “Goodnight, boys.” Pepper calls as she heads toward the elevator. 

Peter and Tony say goodnight back before Tony focuses right back on Peter. “You’re sure you’re okay? You aren’t, like, hiding any injuries or anything?” Peter shakes his head. “Alright, good. God, I’m glad you’re okay.” Tony hugs Peter to him.

They stay like this for a few minutes, enjoying the comfort, before Peter tells Tony “Oh, you need to call the school tomorrow morning. The doctors in the medbay told me I have to stay home tomorrow because of my mild concussion.”

Tony freaks out for just a second about his spider-boy’s concussion, but quickly settles back down. “Will do, kiddo. Now, before you go to bed, do you need to eat anything?” Peter nods and the duo get up and head towards the kitchen. Peter grabs a few apples and sits at the kitchen island. Tony sits down as well. “Hey, Pete? You don’t know who the wizard was that was fighting the rock thing, right?”

“No clue. But I’m lucky he showed up when he did. How’d the mission in Mexico go?” Peter asks.

Tony rolls his eyes. “The whole team doesn’t even know what to think about Mexico. It was a hell of a legal battle to get there that quickly in the first place. Then the fight lasts like ten seconds, and the bad guys disappear for no reason. The only thing we really did was protect the people in the village.” 

Peter doesn’t know what to think about that either. He takes a bite of his apple. “Pepper said that only four of the six enhanced people were there?”

Tony hums. “She’s right. And all of them got away again. But enough hero chat, you need to get to bed. Don’t look at me like that, you know I’m right.” Tony gets up, and Peter follows.

They both begin walking down the hallway toward their bedrooms. 

“Night, kid.” Tony hugs Peter again.

“Night, Mr. Tony.” Peter hugs Tony back.

Once Tony is walking farther down the hall, Peter closes his bedroom door. Peter leans his head on his door for a moment, his head has been pounding for the last half hour. Not that Peter would tell anyone, of course. Then they would worry about him.

Peter turns around after a few seconds and sees his Spider-Man suit sitting neatly folded on his bed. Peter grabs it and puts it in his dresser drawer. He turns towards his bed and plops himself down on it, bundling up under the covers. Peter goes to open his phone, planning to watch TikToks. Then he remembers that he’s supposed to limit his screen time. His headache agrees with that idea, so Peter plugs his phone in to charge and puts it down for the night.

Peter thinks he’s going to have a hard time falling asleep, but the second he gets comfortable his eyes droop and he feels himself dozing off.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

May and Ben knelt in front of Peter, trying to comfort him. Peter had been crying, begging May and Ben not to leave. He had come up with any excuse he could think of that didn’t involve complaining about Skip. He knew that Skip would be very, very mad if Peter told anyone about their ‘little secret.’

May and Ben promised Peter that it was only for a few days, they’d be back Sunday night. Peter cried, but gave in. He would have to spend the entire weekend with Skip. Peter hoped and wished that Skip would only want to read regular comics and play regular video games this time.

A few hours later, Peter and Skip were sitting on the couch. Skip had gotten them both pizza, using money that May and Ben had left for them. Peter was sitting extra still, staying extra quiet. He wanted to draw as little attention to himself as possible, hoping Skip would just forget about their secret game.

“Alright, Einstein. You ready to play?”

Peter feels his eyes grow wet with tears. Of course Skip wouldn’t forget. He really liked playing with Peter. Peter shook his head, he really didn’t want to play with Skip.

Skip ignored Peter, and grabbed his hand. Skip led Peter to Peter’s bedroom, and started doing things Peter didn’t like. Peter tried his best to pay attention to anything else, but it was nearly impossible not to feel what Skip was doing.

That was the first night Skip took their game farther than just touching. Peter cried and sobbed, but Skip ignored Peter’s pleas to stop.

“Pete, baby, wake up!” Peter is roughly shook awake, and flinches away from the person shaking him. “Pete, it’s just a nightmare. It’s okay. It’s okay.” The person in front of him backs up.

Peter blinks his eyes a few times, wondering why his vision is blurry. Then he realizes he was actually crying. Peter wipes his eyes and his vision clear a little bit. Tony is on the bed with Peter, watching Peter’s face closely. Steve and Bucky are also in the room, Steve standing at the foot of the bed and Bucky standing in the bedroom doorway.

“Bucky woke me and Steve up, Pete. He heard you yelling when he walked by your door.” Tony studies Peter, looking for any hints at what Peter was feeling. 

“N-nothing, it’s nothing.” Peter whispers. 

“Bullshit, Peter.” Only Tony could say that phrase so gently.

“Kid, you freaked me out when I heard you. Was it a nightmare? You can talk to us.” Bucky looks at Peter, then to Steve and Tony. Steve hums in agreement.

“Petey, please. Please talk to us.” Tony tries to catch Peter’s eye.

“J-just you, Tony. Please.” Peter glances up at Tony before looking back down at his lap. Steve and Bucky look at Tony and Peter one last time before leaving the room.

Tony sits on Peter’s bed, his back against the wall. He gives Peter space, wanting Peter to choose if he wants physical comfort or not. And then Tony waits.

Internally, Peter’s freaking out. He should tell Tony. He should. But he also doesn’t want Tony to know that Skip is one of the six enhanced villains, because then Peter can’t help fight. Peter wants to help, he has to. Peter decided he can tell Tony about his babysitter Skip. But he can’t tell Tony about the last week. Tony can’t know about the last week.

“It was- I was um having a nightmare.” Peter keeps his eyes trained on his lap. 

“About what, bud?” Tony asks Peter quietly. “You can talk to me if you want to.”

“I know. It was about my babysitter. Sk… Skip. He was my babysitter when I was eight. He was sixteen. He was my fr- friend. He watched me every Wednesday, and sometimes overnight on weekends.” Peter takes a deep breath before continuing. “He um… he did things with me. To me. Things that were our little secret. ” The last three words are laced with venom. 

Tony feels his heart drop. He knows exactly where this is going, and he hates it. He hates that Peter had to go through this at such a young age.

“He was a great friend at first. He showed me comic books and we played video games. But then he started showing me magazines. Ones that had pictures of naked people in them. He wanted me to… to act like the people in the magazines with him. He took things further and further.” Peter’s whispering the words, barely having the strength to speak. He feels tears falling down his cheeks again. But he can’t stop. 

“It continued for almost four months. I didn’t tell anyone, I was too scared. The only reason it stopped was that his family moved away. It took another month before I told Ben and May. They noticed something was wrong, obviously. But they couldn’t get me to talk. By the time I did, there wasn’t enough money or evi- evidence.” Peter looks up at Tony nervously. “But I don’t want you to look into this, Mr. Stark. I just want to forget about this for now. Please, Tony.” 

Tony looks back at Peter, looks into his chocolate brown eyes. Tony can feel his heart shattering. “I won’t, Peter. I promise. You call the shots, remember?” Peter nods. “Good, kid. And... I- I am so sorry this happened to you. You don't deserve the shit life has thrown at you. But... thank you, for talking to me... Now, I know this is abrupt, but I feel like I should know. Any triggers?” Peter nods again, a slightly confused look in his eye. Why would Tony immediately know to ask about triggers?

“Ein- Einstein. Comic books.” Peter’s answer is short, but effective.

“Got it, bud. And do you want the team to know the triggers? They don’t have to know the reasoning, and they won’t ask.” Peter mumbles an okay. 

“You know, Pete… I have PTSD.” Peter looks up at Tony. “Yeah, after the battle of New York. I have triggers, too. I’ve overcome a lot of anxiety. It helps to have people to talk to, people to support you. I know I couldn’t do it alone. So, if you’re ever wanting to talk to a professional or anyone, just say the words.” Tony tries to reassure Peter.

“I feel like we’ve talked about talking to people a lot.” Peter quietly jokes.

“Heh. Yeah, Underoos. We have. It’s an important reminder, though. Right?” 

Peter hums, agreeing. “Hey, um. Tony. Can you… can you stay the night? It’s okay if you don’t want to, it’s just. Yeah. I don’t know, nevermi-”

“Sure, kid. I’d be happy to. Do you want me on the bed or an air mattress?” Tony waits for Peter’s answer.

“Um… air mattress, please. I think I still want just a little space right now.” 

“Sure thing, Pete.” After a few minutes, Tony has a bed set up next to Peter’s. “Do you want a hug, kiddo?”

Peter’s answer is to get up and give Tony a hug. Peter hugs Tony tightly.

“Hey, Pete. I love your hugs, but you have super strength.” Tony reminds Peter jokingly.

Peter lightens up his grip. “Oops… Sorry, Mr. Stark.” 

Peter and Tony both climb into their beds a few minutes later.

“Hey, Tony?”

“Yes, Petey?” 

“Thank you.”

“Anytime, Peter.”