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Ghost Town

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Thursday is a good day. Peter’s extremely surprised about how well Thursday has gone. Mr. Reese wasn’t in school because he and Mr. Harrington were out preparing for the school trip. Flash wasn’t in school today, either. Peter has no clue where Flash was, though. Due to these circumstances, school went by smoothly. 

Another thing making Thursday so excellent was that Peter was having Ned and MJ over to the Tower after school. Peter had asked Tony last night if he would mind if Ned and MJ over to help get ready for the trip. MJ would be staying the night so they could get to school early tomorrow morning. Ned has to go home around 8:00 pm, though, since his mother is the other chaperone.

Peter’s practically vibrating with nerves and excitement at the thought of having Ned and MJ come over for the first time. The last bell of the school day rings, and Peter bounces out of his chair. He had packed his things into his backpack a few minutes before class ended, so he was out of the classroom door about five seconds after the bell rang.

Peter tightly grips his backpack straps, rushing to his locker. When he gets there, he grabs the things in his locker and shoves them into his backpack. Peter sees Ned a few lockers down from his. Peter turns around, searching the crowded hallway for MJ. He spots her a moment later and waves.

MJ catches Peter’s eye and gives him a small smile, walking towards him. Ned joins Peter at his locker just as MJ reaches them. “Sup, losers?”

“Hey, MJ. You guys ready to go?” Peter looks between his two friends.

Ned excitedly nods so quickly that he looks like he’s vibrating. Peter giggles and starts walking toward the school exit. Peter had planned on the three of them walking back to the Tower together, but then he spots Happy standing next to one of Tony’s black SUVs. “Change of plans, guys. Looks like we aren’t walking.” Ned and MJ give Peter confused looks, so he points towards Happy. “That’s one of Mr. Stark’s cars.”

Ned’s mouth drops open. “Does that mean he’s in there!?”

“Probably not, Ned. You’ll have to wait until we get to the Tower.” Peter laughs.

The trio reach Happy and the car. “Hey, Happy!” Peter exclaims.

Happy grunts, putting on his silent tough guy act around MJ and Ned. Peter rolls his eyes as Happy opens the car door so the teens can climb into the backseat. They clamber into the large car and Happy shuts the door before going around to the driver’s seat. The partition between the front and back seats is already up.

The teenagers buckle up as Happy begins driving off to the Tower. Ned asks Peter questions about the Tower the entire way there, and Peter repeatedly tells Ned, “You’ll have to wait and see.” MJ is mostly silent, simply thinking about what the Tower will be like to herself. When the Tower comes into sight, Ned begins asking Peter even more questions that he refuses to answer. The SUV enters the parking garage of the Tower, and Happy drives to the private upper levels before pulling into a parking spot.

Ned, MJ, and Peter grab their bags and get out of the car. Peter offers to carry MJ’s heavy luggage bags, and MJ politely declines. Happy leaves, too. But he says goodbye to Peter before walking towards the public elevator, presumably heading off towards the more public levels of the Tower.

“Come on, guys.” Peter begins walking toward the opposite direction of Happy, towards the private elevator that would take the trip up to the penthouse. The three of them pile into the elevator, which becomes slightly crowded with their school bags and MJ’s luggage. Peter presses the penthouse level and the elevator begins ascending. 

Ned is shaking with anticipation and excitement. MJ is silent, but amusement glimmers in her eyes. Peter, however, is really beginning to feel nervous. He’s taking his friends to meet the Avengers. He has no clue who will be there, or what they’ll do. Will the team embarrass Peter in front of his friends? Or what if they don’t like his friends? No, they’ll love Ned and MJ. My friends are amazing.

The elevator doors pull apart, revealing the penthouse. To Peter, it’s his home. (His apartment in Queens is home too, of course.) But to Ned and MJ, it’s where the Avengers live. The freaking Avengers. The teens walk out of the elevator, Ned and MJ staring in awe about the space. “Alright, let’s drop our stuff in my room.” Peter leads the way to his bedroom.

He had tidied up his bedroom before he left this morning, not really wanting Ned and MJ to find his secret shit hidden around his room. He had even made his bed. MJ and Ned set their stuff near the bedroom doorway. Peter leans his backpack against his desk and then turns to face MJ and Ned.

“Okay, so… who’s ready for an apartment tour?” Peter gives an awkward smile and thumbs up, trying to bury his nerves. Ned and MJ laugh, then the friends all walk back out into the hallway. “Okay, um. These are most of the Avengers bedrooms. Tony and Steve’s is farther down this hall, then to the right, though. And Wanda and Vision have a separate apartment on the floor above us, I think. Or maybe it’s the floor below…?” 

Ned’s hanging jaw resembles a fish out of water. “This is so. Cool. So where’s, like, Falcon’s room?” Peter points to a door a little farther down the hallway. Ned whispers, “ So cool…”

Peter leads his friends back out towards the main living area. “So this is the living room. We have movie nights together sometimes… um. One time Clint and I were in the middle of a prank war, and he jumped out of a vent. I was sitting-” Peter stops. He had lost his train of thought. What was I talking about? Telling stories was also so frustrating with ADHD, especially when he was nervous or excited. 

“You were talking about Hawkeye and pranks, Peter.” MJ provides helpfully, used to Peter blanking out during storytelling. 

“Oh, duh! So yeah I was sitting on the couch watching TV and Clint pops out of the vent. He scared me so bad that I jumped up high enough to hit the ceiling.” Peter points to the high vaulted ceiling of the living room. “Yeah, there used to be a different light fixture up there, but I kinda broke it when I landed on the ceiling.” Ned whistles, impressed at the story. MJ laughs lightly.

“Yeah, and then Stark made me pay for the light. He could’ve afforded it.” Peter whips around a few seconds before the other two, the tingling on the back of his neck sensing something behind him. “Anyways, are these your friends?” Clint stands next to the teenagers.

“Hey, Clint. Yeah, yeah these are my friends. This is uh Ned, and this is MJ.” Peter points to his friends in turn.

“Clint Barton.” Clint reaches out to shake Ned and MJ’s hands. Peter’s friends’ faces are both varying degrees of shock.

“You’re Hawkeye.” Ned bluntly states.

Clint laughs. “Yes, but please call me Clint.” He’s clearly used to being ogled at. 

So cool.”

Peter elbows Ned. “So who else is around the Tower today?”

“Uhh, I’m not entirely sure. I just got back from the NYC SHIELD HQ. Nat is still there until about 5:00 tonight. Um, I think Bruce is also at SHIELD today? Tony’s in a business meeting that Pepper made him go to. And Steve is walking out of the kitchen.” Clint looks to his right, where sure enough Captain America is walking out of the kitchen while biting a sandwich.

Steve’s eyes land on the group standing behind the couch. “Oh, Tony told me you guys were coming. Are you MJ and Ted?”

Peter rolls his eyes. “It’s Ned. Tony just can’t ever remember his name.”

Ned looks ready to keel over from a heart attack at any second. “Hello, uh, Cap’n… sir… America.”

Steve gives Ned an awkward smile. “Well, make yourselves at home. We’re having dinner at 6:00 tonight. I think Sam is making cheese Ravioli for dinner, since you two are vegetarian.” Steve points at Peter and MJ. 

“Heh, Thor won’t be thrilled about that.” Peter jokes.

THOR’S HERE!?” Ned shrieks. 

Peter and Steve snap their hands over their ears. “Ned, buddy. Super hearing, yeah?” Peter winces.

“Oh- right. Sorry.” Ned’s face turns tomato red.

“That’s alright, son.” Steve’s eyes glint with amusement. “Anyways, to answer your question: yes. Thor is here.” 

Ned and MJ look at each other excitedly. They were about to meet the same guy they study in Physics! Peter keeps his focus on Steve. “Thanks, Steve. Um, do you know when Tony will be back from his meeting?”

“Oh, go on down to the lab in about fifteen minutes. He wants to meet you guys there. But he also says Ned and MJ can’t touch anything because he ‘doesn’t want a lawsuit from their parents.’” The teenagers laugh, and promise not to touch anything in the lab. They say goodbye to Steve and Clint before Peter shows them where the bathroom is, a game room, the dining room, and then the kitchen.

The group of friends hang out in the kitchen for a few minutes. Ned and MJ are talking excitedly about meeting Steve and Clint. Peter pulls them out of their buzzing chatter to tell them it’s time to see the lab. They pile back into the elevator, and Peter presses the button for the lab. The doors open into the lab hallway. Peter punches in the code, and the lab doors slide open.

Tony isn’t there yet when they walk in, so Peter herds Ned and MJ over to the couch that sits in the lab. They hang out on the sofa, Peter telling Ned and MJ about different things he and Tony have worked on. The trio turn their heads when the lab doors open a few minutes later, and see Tony standing there in one of his business suits. 

Tony is typing away on his phone and doesn’t notice the teenagers sitting in his lab. Peter notices that Tony looks absolutely exhausted, which causes Peter to worry. “Um, hey Tony." 

Tony looks up from his phone and his face lights up with a bright smile. “Hey, Petey!” Tony hustles over to where Peter has stood up and gives him a hug. 

“Tonyyy…” Peter complains, embarrassed in front of his friends.

“Oh, like they care.” Tony pulls away, though. “So, Ted and MJ right?”

Ned and MJ.” Peter rolls his eyes. “And you saw them a little bit at the meeting yesterday. And you’ve met MJ before the meeting.”

“Yeah, I remember. I just have a hard time with names. Pepper loves that about me.” Tony jokes. “So did Steve go over the rough game plan for tonight?”

Ned and MJ nod. Tony smiles. “Alright, great! So, who wants to mess with some safe junk in the lab?” 

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

The teens have a field day with Tony in the lab. They all lose track of time, and are surprised when FRIDAY tells them it’s time for dinner. 

“Was that the AI you tell us about?” MJ nudges Peter.

“Yep, that would be FRIDAY.” Peter replies.

The group make their way back up to the penthouse. The smell of Italian food hangs in the air. Tony leads Peter and his friends over to the dining area. The table has been pulled out to make more room for the guests. Natasha, Clint, Steve, Thor, Wanda, Vision, Bucky, and Bruce all sit around the table. Tony and the teens take their seats, MJ and Ned’s faces are priceless . Tony sits with Steve on his left and Peter on his right. Ned and MJ sit to the left of Peter. Sam brings in the last thing he needs from the kitchen and sits down.

The conversation is cheerful and never dulls, MJ and Ned asking the Avengers a bunch of questions and the Avengers asking questions right back. Peter’s nerves and excitement jumble up his brain, and he keeps interrupting people or talking too much. In the back of his mind, he feels embarrassed, overly aware of what he’s doing. Could you shut the fuck up, you complete idiot? God, could you be more annoying? No wonder Mr. Reese wants to punish-

“You’re not being annoying, Peter.” Wanda narrows her eyes at Peter.

Peter widens his own eyes. “I- what? I didn’t say anything.”

Wanda frowns. “Oh, sorry. I must’ve misheard something.”

The table is completely silent, everyone looking back and forth between Peter and Wanda like it’s the world’s quietest tennis match. Peter quickly excuses himself to the bathroom.

When Peter reaches the hallway, he practically runs to his bedroom. He closes the door. Well that was embarrassing. Was Wanda in my head? What if she’s been in my head before? Peter jumps just before there’s a knock on his door. 

“Peter? Can I come in?” Wanda stands on the other side. Peter opens the door.

“Were you reading my thoughts? That’s… that’s not cool, man.” Peter feels anger bubbling up inside him.

“No… well, not on purpose. It was an accident. I didn’t mean to.” Wanda seems to speak with sincerity.

“Well you were. How… How much have you heard? Have you listened to my thoughts before?” Peter’s nearly panicking. Wanda can’t know about Mr. Reese, or anything else.

“I heard something about you thinking you are annoying? And something else. Your teacher punishes you?” Wanda studies Peter’s face. 

Peter tries to keep his mind off his teacher, but quick images of his time with Mr. Reese flashes through his head.

“Peter, what the fu-”

“Get out of my head!” Peter yells. He shoves Wanda out of his room, and she slams into the wall of the hallway. Peter locks himself into his bathroom. Why did you do that? What the fuck were you thinking? Ned and MJ are here! Wow, you’ve really fucked up this time.

Peter’s hearing detects the others running down the hallway to see Wanda laying on the ground. He hears Steve ask her if she’s okay, and she says she is. She explains that she accidentally read some of Peter’s thoughts, and that she had been having some trouble with her telepathy lately. She avoids saying exactly what she had heard from Peter’s head. 

Peter hears Tony telling FRIDAY to override the lock on Peter’s bedroom door, then his bathroom door when Tony notices that Peter is hiding in his bathroom. The door opens and Tony walks in before closing the door again. His eyes land on Peter.

“You wanna explain yourself?” Tony’s voice has a hint of anger in it. “I’ve been really patient lately, Pete. Okay? But you can’t throw your friend into the wall so hard that she breaks through the drywall. That’s not okay. Doesn’t fly here.”

Peter flinches when he hears how hard he threw Wanda. It had felt like a light shove to him… just how strong was he? You’re dangerous. You’re a monster. Peter doesn’t respond to Tony.

“Pete, you have to work with me. This is being dealt with before tomorrow morning. You’ve got Ned and MJ out there and they are extremely worried about you. Everyone is worried about you. We’ve all noticed how you’ve been acting… off recently. Pete, I’m begging you. Please, talk to me. What is going on ?” Tony’s eyes are pleading, boring into Peter.

Peter avoids Tony’s eyes. “Nothing is going on.”

“Peter, that’s bullshit. Do you need a break from Spider-Man?”

“No!”

“A break, Pete. Nothing long term, just something to help with your mental health?”

“The last thing I need is a break from Spider-Man!” Peter is yelling at Tony, forgetting the amount of people standing outside in the hall.

“Then tell me what you need, Pete! Why won’t you tell me what’s wrong?” Tony isn’t quite yelling, but he certainly isn’t using his indoor voice, either.

Peter remains silent this time. What he needs is for everything to just stop. But that isn’t something you can just say to someone. And he can’t tell Tony about Mr. Reese. There’s too much at stake on that. He can’t risk it, not at all. So Peter stays quiet.

“Peter. Look at me.” Tony’s voice quivers. Peter looks up at Tony. “Pete, you’re not okay. I just want to help you. Is… is someone hurting you? Is someone bullying you? You can tell me anything, bud. You’re safe. It’s just you and me. Just lay it out right now.”

Peter doesn’t say anything, opting to stay mute. Tony studies Peter for a few moments. “Fine.” Tony leaves the bathroom and shuts the door, leaving Peter by himself. Peter curls in on himself and starts crying. 

Tony walks into the hallway. Every set of eyes is on him. Tony tells the Avengers he’ll be back in a minute before pulling MJ and Ned aside. “Do you two have any idea what’s going on with Peter?” Ned and MJ shake their heads. “You don’t know of any like… extreme bullying or anything I should know about?” MJ and Ned both say no. “Well, just… just hang out in the living room. Ned, your mother will be here in like half an hour. MJ, you can go home if you want to. Or you can stay here for the night like we planned.”

“I’ll stay here, Mr. Stark. The least I can do is keep Peter company tonight. He doesn’t… he doesn’t seem okay anymore.” MJ whispers the last sentence. Both of the teens are clearly worried about their best friend. MJ and Ned head off towards the living room, and Tony heads back to the other Avengers.

“Wanda, Steve, Nat. Let’s talk somewhere the kid with enhanced hearing can’t hear us, yeah?” Everyone gives some sign of agreement. They all head into Tony and Steve’s room, figuring it should be far enough for Peter not to be able to hear them. The other Avengers had gone to join Ned and MJ in the living room.

Tony turns to Wanda. “What exactly just happened? What did you hear in his head?”

Wanda hesitates, then decides that it might be a good idea to tell the others in the room about what she saw. “It was dinner, and Peter thought to himself that he was annoying. And… and that he deserved to be punished by his teacher or something. And then he ran off to his room, and I followed him. He got angry at me for invading his privacy, which is valid. Then when I asked him about what happened at the dinner table, these- these images flashed through his mind. I didn’t mean to pick up on them again, but they were so powerful .”

“What images?” Nat asks Wanda.

Wanda looks at Tony. She hesitates before answering. “Images of… of someone touching him. Sexually assaulting him.” Tony’s breath catches. “I couldn’t see who it was, Peter was trying to block the memories from himself, and me.” Her breath shakes.

Tony figures she’s talking about Skip. She must be. “That… those are old memories. From his childhood. I’m not going to get into it, it’s not my place. He told me about some things from his past. But… but what triggered it? I don’t know how to help him. I don’t get it.”

Steve, Nat, and Wanda are horrified by the news they’d just been burdened with. Peter had been sexually assaulted as a child. That boy has been through so much, and he’s so young.

“How do I get him to talk to me? Or anyone? He refuses to open up.” Tony rubs his face with his hands.

“Just be patient, Tony. Continue to be there for him so he has you to talk to when he decides to open up.” Steve tells Tony.

“I know. It just sucks, watching him go through all of this. I’m going to keep an extra eye on him on the trip. He isn’t going to be leaving my sight.”

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

Little did Tony know, he wouldn’t have to keep an extra eye on Peter. Peter plans to stick to Tony like glue, and if he can’t be next to Tony then he’ll be with Ned and MJ. The only way he’s going to enjoy this trip is by staying as far away from Mr. Reese as possible. 

It’s about 9:00 pm now, and Peter and MJ are hanging out in Peter’s room. MJ was allowed to sleep on an air mattress in Peter’s room as long as they kept the bedroom door wide open. Peter and MJ were laying on their beds, both in deep thought. Peter’s stressing about how the trip is going to go. He just wants a break from Mr. Reese, and school, and maybe even a few days off of Spider-Man. He’s honestly looking forward to not having to save the city or the world for a few days.

MJ looks over at Peter. “Pete? You okay?”

Peter blankly nods, keeping his eyes focused on one certain spot. “‘M fine.”

MJ squints at Peter. “You sure? Because you look like you’re zoning wayyy out. How about we go through a checklist of everything you have packed for tomorrow?”

Peter nods again, barely registering what MJ said. He feels so tired and spacey right now. MJ gets up and grabs Peter’s suitcase, then sets it on her bed. “Hey, come here. Tell me if you have something as I read it off, okay?”

Peter hums, and does as she says. By the end of the list, his mind feels slightly sharper. He leans back against his bed frame. “MJ? I’m sorry about- about earlier. I’m not really having a great time right now.” Peter throws up a peace sign to try and break the tension, or cope with humor.

MJ sits down on her own bed. “I know, Pete. We all care about you. We just want you to be safe and happy, yanno? And besides, the rest of the day was super awesome. I just had dinner with the Avengers, man.”

Peter lets out a small laugh. “Yeah, you get used to it after a while though. At some point, they started seeming a little less like the Avengers, and more like… more like family? I don’t know, I’ve only ever really had May and… and Ben. But now I have this huge family of super powered heroes. It’s exhausting sometimes, but it’s also amazing. And you and Ned? You guys are my family, too.” Peter smiles at MJ.

“I concur, Peter.” MJ smirks. “Now, we have to be up at like 4:30 or some stupid shit. So goodnight, loser.”

“Goodnight.”