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Ghost Town

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Peter wakes up on Friday, feeling disoriented. His mind is heavy, foggy. He looks over his right shoulder and sees Tony’s bed is empty. Peter stretches before bundling back under the covers. He doesn’t feel up to existing today. No, he feels much more like sleeping for the rest of eternity. At least that way he would stop feeling pain.

Peter decides he hates his life, at least today. The thought of having to get up and function as a normal human feels overwhelming, not worth the trouble. Why does living have to be so very tiring? Peter’s logical response to these worries is to hide under his blankets. He feels himself drift back into blissful sleep.

When Peter wakes up again, he feels only slightly more alert. He turns onto his other side in bed, then checks the time on his alarm clock. 11:36 am. How has no one woken me up yet? Usually Steve’s old man instincts would kick in by 10:00 am at the latest. The team must’ve all agreed to let Peter sleep in.

Peter stretches, planning to just keep sleeping through the day. He’s almost fallen asleep again, until his sensitive hearing picks up distant commotion. Peter stays under the covers, straining his ears to hear more. Peter can hear slightly raised voices coming from the living room, as well as the sounds of fighting. For a split second, Peter’s mind panics. What if Skip has found me? 

Peter waves away the thought, of course Skip hasn’t found him. Even if he did, he wouldn’t get past a living room full of Avengers. Peter still feels nervous, unaware of what is actually going on down the hall. He decides to go investigate. He grabs his web-shooters and puts them on his wrists, anxious about fighting a supervillain in the same room he watches Star Wars.

Peter slowly opens his bedroom door before stepping into the hallway. He climbs up the wall and sticks his hands and feet to the ceiling. Peter crawls along the ceiling all  the way to the living room, the commotion becoming clearer. As Peter gets closer to the living room, he realizes that the sounds of fighting he heard in his room are in fact coming from the TV. The voices, however, come from the Avengers.

Peter peaks into the living room, still hanging from the hallway ceiling. The news channel on the TV is playing the fight from Rockefeller Center yesterday. The Avengers are all strewn about the room, a few occupying different seats. Peter notices that Tony and Steve aren’t in the living room. Clint and Rhodey are standing in the middle of the living room, and they are the obvious source of the raised voices. 

Clint gestures towards the TV, half-yelling “...clearly should not be! He got hurt yesterday! I don’t give a damn what Stark says, the kid needs to pull back from fighting!” 

Rhodey is facing Clint, an annoyed expression on his face. “Clint, you have kids. Don’t you think you might be kind of biased about Pe-”

“Biased? Are you serious? It doesn’t matter if I’m biased about this or not, the kid is still a kid! No kid should be fighting against that!” Clint points to the TV again.

Rhodey and Clint continue arguing over Peter and the Rockefeller fight. The rest of the people occupying the room add a small comment or hum of agreement every once in a while. Well, except for Natasha. She has been watching the bickering in complete silence. She faces away from Peter, but he is willing to bet she’s calculating the argument with no expression present on her face.

After a while, Natasha either decides the fighting has gone too far, or she’s bored. “Hey, boys. The juvenile quarreling is fun and all, but we’ve had a visitor for a while now.” Everyone looks at Natasha with a confused expression, so she points behind her towards the hallway ceiling. Busted.

Peter crawls up onto the higher ceiling of the living room and hangs in a comfortable position. The silence that spans the next few moments is deafening. Apparently no one is planning on talking, so Peter decides to break the silence. “Hey, I uh was just wondering where Mr. Stark is?”

“Stark is in his lab downstairs. I believe Captain Rogers is down there as well.” Vision is the only one that answers Peter.

“Thanks.” Peter quickly crawls across the ceiling to the elevator before hopping onto the floor and making a quick exit. The second the doors close, the tension lifts from Peter’s shoulders. That was the most awkward interaction he’d had with the Avengers in a while.

When Peter arrives at the lab, he sees that Tony and Steve are in fact there. Tony is drinking what is probably his eighth mug of coffee, and Steve is sketching. They’re both talking in hushed voices. Peter silently hangs at the doorway for a moment before Tony spots him.

“Hey, Pete. How’d you sleep?” Tony asks Peter, who mumbles an intelligible response. “Kid, why are you just standing there? Get in here, come hang out.” Peter walks over to the couch in the lab and plops down. Tony and Steve had been expecting Peter to tinker, so his actions catch them off guard. They look at each other and silently decide to brush it off. Maybe Peter just needs rest after yesterday.

Peter can use some rest, of course. But the tiredness that he feels sinks into his bones, weighs every single piece of him down. He doesn’t feel like spending an ounce of energy today. Peter grabs a blanket off the couch and covers himself with it, planning to take a nap. But apparently Tony has slightly different ideas.

Tony walks over and shakes Peter’s shoulder gently. “Hey, spider-kid. Are you feeling okay? You sure you aren’t hiding any injuries from us?” Peter shakes his head. “Okay, Pete. Well, uh. Before you take a nap, I need you to eat something. Even if it’s small, okay?” Tony’s voice is so filled with empathy and concern, so Peter decides to just nod his head. He doesn’t even feel like eating, much less arguing about eating. 

Tony hands Peter a special granola bar made for super soldier metabolisms. Steve and Bucky always took these on longer missions. They had yet to make one strong enough for Peter, but the super soldier ones worked decently for now. Peter forces down the granola bar, along with a glass of water. Tony takes the glass from Peter, and Peter immediately lays his head back down and starts dozing off.

Tony walks back towards Steve, an apprehensive look marring his features. They wait a few minutes for Peter to fall asleep, knowing they can’t have any form of conversation about Peter thanks to his super hearing. 

When they think Peter is asleep, Tony starts expressing his unease. “I’m really worried about him. He told me what’s bugging him. It’s not my place to say, so I won’t. But… I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to help. And now he’s just gonna sleep all day, I guess.” Tony starts massaging his left wrist before continuing. “Do I let him sleep all day? Is that what I’m supposed to do? Or do I make him get up and… I don’t know.”

“Just let him sleep, hun. Let him sleep until dinner, and then maybe you and I can hang out with him and do something simple. Maybe we can go for a walk in Central Park later; it’ll get Pete out of the house, but it’s also not going to cause too much excitement. Unless you get him ice cream, of course.” Tony and Steve laugh at that, both knowing just how much Peter loves ice cream.

“Sounds like a plan, then. I just want to make sure he knows he’s loved and supported, yanno?” Tony looks at his coffee mug.

Steve nods. “I know, Tones.” A few moments of comfortable silence follow before Steve speaks again. “By the way, I know Peter is physically strong and capable. But… are you sure that it’s the best idea to let him fight alongside us?”

Tony nods. “I’m sure. He needs to stick with an Avenger at all times, obviously. But I think Peter will be alright. We can watch him while we fight. We do that with each other, anyway.”

“I’m not so convinced, Tony. He’s just a kid, and these fights can do some serious damage to our mental health, sometimes.” Steve’s tone is gentle, not wanting to upset Tony.

“I get where you’re coming from. I do. And we will set Peter up with a therapist if he is willing. But I think if we just let him be… an Avenger with training wheels…? I think it would actually help him to know that he is making a difference, using his power for good. I think Peter is actually safer helping us. Not all the time, of course. But on the smaller missions.” Tony sounds sure of himself. 

Steve nods. “We will watch out for him, Tones. And I don’t like this, but I don’t know Peter’s situation like you do. So, I’m with you. And if anyone has anything to say, I’ll come to Peter’s defense.” 

Tony smiles at Steve, and is about to say something but Peter starts whimpering. Tony rushes over to where Peter lays on the couch. He tries to gently wake Peter without touching him, but it doesn’t work. Tony softly lays his hand on Peter’s shoulder and shakes. Peter startles awake, but calms down surprisingly quickly.

“It’s okay, Petey. You were just having a nightmare. You’re in the Tower, you’re in the lab. Steve and I are here making sure you’re safe, okay.” Peter nods. “You can go back to sleep now, kiddo.” Peter turns over and starts drifting off again.

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The team eats dinner together, everyone discussing overly cheery things. Peter found it odd that everyone was acting like they were getting along perfectly at the moment, but he decided it would be better not to ‘poke the bear.’ Peter manages to eat one small serving of dinner before he starts to feel tired again. Peter gets up to put his plate in the sink. He’s about to go back to his room, but suddenly Tony and Steve are blocking his way.

“Hey, Underoos. How do you feel about taking a walk in Central Park with us?” Tony’s face holds an unnaturally excited look. Steve also looks excited, but at least he doesn’t look like he’s… trying to look excited? Oh lord, what’s Tony up to?

“I- I dunno, Tony.” Peter looks down at his pajamas. Will I have to change out of these? Can I even walk around in public with Iron Man and Captain America in my pajamas?

“Peter, I think we could all do with some fresh air for just a little while.” Tony notices Peter staring at his pajamas. “You know, you don’t even have to change. ” Tony bribes Peter.

Peter feels the tiniest bubble of excitement. He can literally walk around Central Park in his pajamas. With Iron Man and Captain America. No other teenager gets to do that. Peter still doesn’t really feel like leaving the penthouse, though. But he wants to make Steve and Tony happy, so he decides to just agree.

“Alright, Pete. Get your shoes and we’ll get going in about five minutes, bud.” Steve’s voice takes on the Dad Voice™.

Five minutes later, the trio is ready to disembark. They make their way down to the garage. Walking to Central Park was an idea, but Steve and Tony were worried about Peter’s energy level. So they decided to save Peter’s energy for walking through the park.

The drive to the park is quick, and before Peter knows it he’s stepping out of the car. Steve, Tony, and Peter all take in the “fresh” city air before walking towards the park. Peter gets mildly excited about the horse carriages lined up. He’s seen them a hundred times, but he’s a huge animal lover. The three of them stroll through the park, Steve and Tony occasionally asking Peter about school.

Peter’s trying to enjoy his time with Steve and Tony, he really is. But it’s like he can’t get his mind to experience the present moment. He should be enjoying himself. Why can’t he think. Why are his thoughts all jumbled up, it’s so annoying to not be able to think. He should be-

“Pete?” Tony calls from where he and Steve stand about seven feet ahead of Peter. They start walking back toward him. “Why’d you stop walking, kiddo? Do you want to sit down for a little bit?” 

Peter had stopped walking? How are you so stupid that you can’t even walk forward. It is the most basic human function, you fucking idio-

“Pete? I asked if you wanted to sit down?” Peter jerks back to the present slightly, and nods his head. He can barely understand Tony over the buzzing in his head.

The trio move to one of the park benches, Steve and Peter sitting down. Tony offers to go buy ice cream in the hope that it will cheer up Peter, but Peter doesn’t even seem to hear him. 

Once Tony walks away, Steve focuses his full attention on Peter. “You okay, bud? You seem really out of it right now. Is there anything you wanna do?” 

Peter shakes his head, but doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. Out of nowhere, another wave of draining exhaustion hits him. Peter lays his head on Steve’s shoulder, and then his eyes unfocus. Nothing about today seems real. Nothing around him is real. Peter hates this feeling, but at the same time… it’s like he doesn’t even feel that he’s feeling it. What the hell is going on with me? 

Steve protectively, but gently, wraps his arm around Peter’s shoulders. Peter is barely aware of the action, but his mind freaks out anyway. He’s touching you. Touching is bad. Didn’t you touch him first, though? And suddenly images of Skip and the things he did to Peter are flashing through his mind. He tries to block them out, tries not to think of them. But the images feel more real than the present that Peter exists in. He can numbly feel his body panicking. How does that even work, you freak?

Steve feels Peter start shaking, and looks back at Peter. Peter’s face is void of expression, his eyes are empty of emotion. It freaks Steve out to see the normally energetic Peter like this. Steve is about to pull out his phone to call Tony, when a mob of teenage girls run up to him and Peter.

The girls are freaking out, Captain America is in Central Park. Steve tries not to look annoyed, but he knows he has to get the girls away quick. Them yelling and asking for autographs is not going to help whatever is wrong with Peter. Steve, still having one arm wrapped around Peter, tries to ask the girls to leave. They hardly seem to hear him, trying to take pictures with Captain America.

Steve decides that Peter’s mid-panic attack face doesn’t need to be on social media, so Steve picks Peter up and heads off to find Tony. He hears the girls loudly complaining behind him about how rude Captain America was being, but Steve doesn’t really care. Peter tightens his hold on Steve, which surprises both Peter and Steve. 

Steve finds Tony waiting in line for ice cream, who then sees Steve walking over with Peter in his arms. Tony closes the gap between him and Steve. “What happened? Why are you carrying him? Pete, why’re you crying?”

Peter doesn’t answer, he hadn't even realized he was crying. Instead, he just shuffles to get out of Steve’s hold before hugging Tony. Tony hugs Peter back, then looks at Steve. Tony is completely baffled. Steve shrugs his shoulders, then mouths “Panic attack?” Tony frowns, but keeps hugging Peter.

“Are you ready to go back to the Tower, Pete?” Tony asks. Peter doesn’t respond, but Tony decides to take that as a yes. The trio make their way back to the car. Steve gets in the driver’s seat while Tony sits with Peter in the back. Peter still clings to Tony. You should let go of Tony. You’re acting like a freak. Why do you feel like this?

Next thing Peter knows, he’s waking up, laying against Tony’s side on the couch in the penthouse. A blanket covers Peter, and The Office is playing on the TV. Peter still feels fuzzy, but his mind is slightly clearer. He also feels calmer. More grounded.

Tony notices Peter’s awake. “Hey, kiddo. You can sleep or watch The Office if you want. But I’m thinking the three of us sleep out here tonight. What do ya say?” Tony wants to try and protect Peter from any nightmares he may have tonight.

Peter still doesn’t feel up to speaking, so he shrugs before laying back against Tony. Steve is watching the TV contentedly, he loves The Office almost as much as Peter. “Do you need anything, bud?” Steve asks. Peter shakes his head, then turns his attention to the TV. Peter wants to be carried into the world of Dunder Mifflin and forget about his bad day.

They all sit like this late into the night. They manage to get Peter to eat some vegetable soup, which Peter actually enjoys. The longer the night goes on, the more grounded Peter feels. He feels comfortable and safe with Steve and Tony. 

At some point, Bucky comes out and joins them, having suffered a lovely nightmare. He sits in the armchair and watches the TV. Bucky hasn’t seen many episodes of The Office, but he doesn’t really care.

Peter starts quietly spitting out Office trivia every once in a while, telling the real-life backstory of a joke that would happen. Steve and Tony had fallen asleep a while ago, but Bucky listens with rapt attention. He loves listening to Peter’s trivia during movie nights. 

Eventually, everyone in the room has fallen asleep. The Office still quietly plays on the TV.