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Ghost Town

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Peter manages to sleep through the night by some miracle. Not to say he had a peaceful sleep, though. His nightmares were plagued by his anxieties, both new and old. He barely remembers what the nightmares about, but he knows he dreamt of buildings collapsing on him, of Mr. Reese and Skip looming over him side by side, of fire surrounding him and black smoke suffocating his lungs.

But he must have been trapped inside of his own nightmares because Peter doesn’t wake up until Tony is gently shaking him awake. The deep sleep from the night has caused Peter’s mind to feel slow and heavy; he can barely keep his eyes open.

“It’s 7:00 in the morning, Pete. I can’t let you sleep in any longer. We have to be at breakfast by 8:00.” Tony’s standing on Peter’s left, in between the hotel beds. Peter mumbles an “okay,” his morning voice surprisingly deep. Woah, my voice sounds deeper than usual. 

Peter pushes himself into a sitting position, and Tony sits down on the opposite bed, which is technically Peter’s bed. The young teenager winces when he sees where Tony is sitting. Tony is casually scrolling through an app on his phone. He has no clue what happened right there-

Peter becomes more cognizant, and begins to understand why his voice is deeper than normal. He feels an ache in his chest, and his throat is sore. I’ll be fine by the end of the day. Peter grabs some clean clothes and his backpack before heading to the bathroom to get ready.

Peter takes off his pajamas, and realizes how filthy he still is from yesterday. Oh my God. Tony probably thinks I’m absolutely disgusting. He turns the shower on and grabs out his wax pen, going through the motions of the morning. Frankly it’s amazing that Tony hasn’t caught on to Peter being high again. Maybe he just doesn’t care anymore.

Peter grabs his razor from his backpack, numbly slicing into his skin. Morning routine. He just wants to focus on anything but his own emotions and thoughts. He sits in the shower, cutting again and again. Hitting his pen again and again. Scrubbing again and again. Scrubbing his skin until it’s raw and burning under the scalding shower water. 

Peter finally cleans the grime out of his thick hair before simply standing under the shower. He probably would have stood there all day if Tony hadn’t started knocking on the bathroom door. 

“Pete? You’ve been in there a while. We have to be downstairs in fifteen minutes, so let’s get a move on, bud!”

Peter feels a small weight in his chest. The few moments to himself are the only kind of “peace” he gets. He shuts off the water and dries himself off, careful not to get blood from his cuts on the white fluffy towel.

Peter walks out of the bathroom a few minutes later, his hair still soaking wet. Tony is sitting on Peter’s bed again, and Peter forces himself not to throw up in disgust. He wishes he could tell Tony not to sit there, but he knows he can’t. What if you did? What if you told Tony everything? What if he could help you-

“Tony?” Peter gasps out.

Tony looks up at his kid. “Yes, Peter?” He raises his eyebrows.

Shit. Peter hadn’t meant to say that. “I- I’m ready to go…”

Tony nods and stands up. “Alright, buddy. How are you feeling today by the way?”

Like shit. My head, throat, and chest hurt. I’m terrified my teacher is going to fucking rape me again. I just wanna tell you everythi-

“Better than yesterday!” The smile on Peter’s face doesn’t reach his eyes. Tony flashes Peter a mild look of disbelief before changing to a calmer look.

“Hey, Peter? You remember how we talked about how you can tell me anything ? Literally anything. I will never be mad at you. You can always talk to me about whatever’s going on in your life. And I will always help you.” Tony puts as much warmth and emotion as he can into his words, trying to get Peter to approach him.

Tony has been thinking more and more about what’s going on with Peter, and he’s started having some… suspicions. And Tony really does not like what those suspicions are. In fact, he loathes his ideas of what’s going on with Peter. Tony hopes beyond hope that he’s overthinking Peter’s situation, but he has a hard time believing that. 

The worst thing about it all is… Tony’s pretty sure he has to wait for Peter to tell him if anything’s going on. It’s really killing Tony not to just interrogate Peter right here, right now. But he’s mostly confident doing this would make everything so much worse. So, Tony waits.

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

Everyone’s in the middle of eating breakfast when Peter asks Tony for his headphones and sunglasses. Peter’s headache is doing nothing to help the clatter of dishes and voices all around him. 

“Oh, shit. I mean- crap. I forgot them in the hotel room. I can go get them if you want, Peter?”

“No! No, that’s okay. I can go get them. Don’t get up.” Peter gets up from his seat before Tony can argue. Peter is not about to interrupt Tony’s meal for his stupid headphones. Peter checks that Mr. Reese is in the restaurant and not watching Peter before he leaves.

Peter almost takes the elevator before deciding to just race up the large spiral staircase in the middle of the lobby. He doesn’t want to end up “stuck” on the elevator. Paranoid much?

Peter goes to pull out his keycard to his room, before realizing he left his wallet in the restaurant. Dammit. Peter turns back to go retrieve his wallet, but comes face to face with someone standing behind him. Peter backs up, hitting his door with his back.

“Woah, Parker. I knew you were a pussy, but come… on… Hey, are you good?” It’s Flash. 

Peter fidgets himself into what he thinks is a casual pose. (It’s not.) “What- yeah. Yeah I’m good. What are you, uh, doing up here?”

“I forgot my phone…” Flash is frowning at Peter.

“Oh, right. Uh bye.” Peter turns to leave, but Flash grabs Peter’s upper arm. Peter flinches, and pulls out of Flash’s grip.

“Wait, you didn’t even go into your room? Did you forget your keycard?”

Why is Flash being so nice…? Peter doesn’t trust this at all, but nods. “Uh- yeah…”

Flash goes to open his own hotel room door before gesturing to Peter to enter. “You can just go through our conjoined door thing.”

“Uh, thanks.” Peter is very confused, but walks through the door into his own hotel room before shutting it. He searches the room for a few minutes, trying to find his sunglasses and headphones. After a moment, Peter can hear Flash’s clunky footfall pass his room, heading towards the elevator. Peter can’t find his things anywhere. Where the hell are they? 

Peter hears a pair of footsteps approaching again, and figures Flash forgot something else and is coming back. But the footsteps stop outside Peter’s door, and his heart sinks. In his gut, he knows exactly who it is without even seeing him. What if I just don’t let him in? I could call Tony right now. Maybe- maybe I should. 

Peter gets out his phone, his thumb hovering over Tony’s contact. But he stops himself before pressing ‘call.’ The threats Mr. Reese had made loom above Peter’s head. But Tony said he can help me… That still doesn’t mean he can keep himself safe. Or May. I don’t actually know what Reese is capable of. 

Peter’s mind is at war with itself. He should call Tony, he should. He can’t do this again. I won’t be able to live with myself if this happens again. But Peter drops his phone onto the carpeted floor. A knock sounds at the door. Peter drags himself towards the door, which suddenly seems like it’s miles away.

Peter opens the door to find Mr. Reese standing there. He smiles down at Peter. As Peter looks up at the evil man, he almost thinks the smile could pass for kindness. But he knows it doesn’t. Peter’s already accepted this is going to happen again. He’s already accepted how powerless he truly is against it.

“I saw you sneak away during breakfast, Peter. You looked around for me, didn’t you? You wanted me to follow you. So, here I am. I’m so excited, baby boy.

Peter numbly walks into his room, hearing the door click shut behind him. He stands in the middle of the room, facing away from Mr. Reese.

“I want you to text Tony. Tell him you’ll be down in a few minutes. Make up some excuse. I’m going to watch you type it.” Mr. Reese grabs Peter’s phone off the floor, pressing it into his palms. Arms wrap around Peter’s waist, a body presses against Peter’s backside. Peter begins typing to Tony while kisses press against his neck, while hands run up his shirt.

[Peter] i’ll be down in a few minutes. couldn’t find my headphones. have to use the bathroom.

Peter gasps out a noise of discomfort as Mr. Reese sucks on Peter’s neck. He squeezes his eyes shut for a moment before adding a ‘:)’ to the end of the text and hitting send. 

“Good boy.” Mr. Reese bites Peter’s ear, and Peter flinches. 

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

The sheets are fisted into Peter’s hands as he stares up at the ceiling. Tears stream down his face. Grunts of pain and discomfort slip from his lips. 

“Please stop…” Peter whispers, begging for the misery to end. He stares at the ceiling above him.

After an eternal torture, Mr. Reese is pulling his clothes back on. Peter still lays in bed clutching the sheets in his fists. Mr. Reese looks down at Peter. “It may have been quick, but today was very enjoyable, baby boy. ” He kisses Peter’s forehead, and Peter doesn’t move. Mr. Reese leaves the hotel room.

Peter doesn’t even bother lying there a moment longer. He gets out of his bed, throws his clothes on. I’m disgusting. He doesn’t even have time to shower before he has to head out of the hotel room. Peter has to get back to Tony before he gets worried.

As he walks down the hallway, Peter rubs the tear stains from his face. He does his absolute best not to limp, despite the raging pain. Peter feels nothing at all right now. He’s simply in survival mode, trying to keep his life together. Keeping your life together isn’t going to matter very much longer.

Peter realizes he’s back at the restaurant, and heads to Tony and his friends. He sits back down next to Tony, as far away as possible. His sunglasses sit on his face. He pretends to be interested in his last few bites of food, but doesn’t eat. Peter notices Mr. Harrington and Mr. Reese aren’t there. He must have used some bullshit excuse to get away for a moment so no one would notice.

Peter’s beginning to wish someone would just notice. He’s running out of options. He won’t do this again. He refuses to. He completely drowns out the conversation happening at the table, uninterested in speaking or listening. This is unfortunate, because Tony happens to be attempting to talk to Peter directly.

After a few failed attempts at getting Peter’s attention, Tony goes to lay his hand on Peter’s shoulder. “Pete, baby” distortedly makes its way into Peter’s ears, and Peter snaps his hand up to catch Tony’s wrist before it even touches his shoulder, his spidey-sense flaring painfully.

Tony’s shocked at the look he sees in Peter’s eyes. Pure anger, fear, and hatred live in Peter’s brown eyes right now. Tony tries to keep his breathing even. “Peter.” He says quietly. “Peter, let go.” His tone is cool and calm.

Ned and MJ watch in complete shock and disbelief. They hadn’t even seen Peter’s hand move; it just went from the table to Tony’s wrist in a split second. They say nothing as Tony tries to calmly free his wrist from Peter’s powerful grip.

Peter is frozen; he isn’t aware of what he’s doing. He just keeps his fist on Tony’s wrist, unmoving.

Tony looks into Peter’s unfocused eyes. “Pete, baby. You’re really hurting me right now.” Tony still keeps his tone calm, but there is a painful strain to it. Peter’s grip is getting tighter by the second. 

Peter releases his grip when he hears the word “baby” a second time. Baby boy. Mr. Reese’s recent nickname rings in Peter’s ears. 

“I- I’m sorry, Tony. I don’t-” Peter doesn’t finish his sentence. He just sits on the bench motionless.

“Peter, let’s go somewhere quieter. Ned and MJ can come too, if you want?” Tony waits for Peter’s response, not terribly surprised when he doesn’t get one. 

“I think something triggered him.” Tony says. “We need to get him out of here.”

“What do you mean ‘triggered?’” Ned asks worriedly.

“Shut up , Ned. Questions later.” MJ gets up from the booth and begins reaching towards Peter.

“Don’t-” Tony starts, but MJ gently grabs Peter’s wrist. Peter only flinches slightly.

“Come on, Peter.” MJ says soothingly. 

She keeps talking to Peter, slowly leading him to a quiet section of the hotel lobby. Peter starts trying to wriggle his arm from MJ’s grip, and she immediately lets go. Tony and Ned stay a few feet further back from Peter and MJ.

MJ motions for them to leave. Tony is about to protest, but stops. Maybe MJ can get Peter to tell her something he won’t tell Tony. Tony hopes this is true, so he drags himself away. Ned follows Tony. 

MJ gives Peter space, but stays within arm’s reach. “Peter, do you feel up to talking yet?”

Peter slides against the wall onto the floor. MJ pauses for a second, then decides to follow suit. She sits about half a foot from Peter, glancing over one in a while. She figures she should do what she does best: listen and observe.

Peter’s mind is a messy haze. He was holding it together so well, then fell apart ten minutes later. That’s because I wasn’t holding ANYTHING together, dipshit.

“I’m good, MJ. I mean- I’m not good.” Peter starts. MJ sits silently, waiting for Peter to continue. “I don’t want to talk about it with you, but… Tony said a word that set me on edge. I froze up. My mind shut off completely. I didn’t know what I was doing, I couldn’t control what I was doing. It just- hurts so much.

MJ’s usually placid eyes sting with the beginning of tears. The raw pain she hears in Peter’s voice hurts. “I know, Peter.” Her tone, normally so neutral, comes out slightly thick with emotion.

“I just don’t know how much longer I can do this. It’s so hard, I feel so alone.” Peter’s tone is heavy, weighted with sadness.

MJ doesn’t know exactly what Peter’s talking about, but she doesn’t care. “You’re not alone, Peter. You’ll never be alone. I’m here, Peter. I can help you.

Both teenagers are nearly crying, and the wet emotion in their voices is clear. “I know you’re here. I know Tony’s here. But- I can’t explain it.”

MJ glances at Peter. “Would you like to try?”

“No. Definitely not.” Peter buries his face in his hands, his sunglasses pushing up into his hairline. “I just- I just need to calm my brain down. I’m okay for now. I want to enjoy the trip with you guys.”

“I know you do, Peter. I know. But you’re not ok- you’re not yourself. I know something’s going on with you. Something really bad. Or maybe it already happened. I don’t know. But I do know you’re not ready to talk about it.” MJ rubs her eyes. “I just- I hope you’re safe, Peter. I want you to be happy. I just want to help.”

“You can’t help me, MJ. I promise that- I promise that I will deal with everything after the trip.” Peter’s tone, so thick with hurt and pain only seconds ago, is now completely numb and empty. He stands up to go find Tony.

MJ remains sitting on the floor for a few moments. Her thoughts are collecting into a clean, straight path. She furrows her brow in concentration. The pieces begin clicking into place. Her heart beats loudly in her ear. Things she hadn’t picked up on, but had also noticed. Peter flinching, Peter disappearing, Peter being late to classes, Peter’s weird behavior.

 MJ lifts her eyes from the floor and her gaze lands on her class. Someone is hurting Peter. But who? She spots Mr. Reese, who catches her eye and smiles and waves. She squints her eyes, frowning. It wouldn’t be Mr. Reese. He’s an amazing person. He’s so kind and helpful, an all around amazing teacher. He’s one of MJ’s favorites. 

She spots Flash. It isn’t him, either. Flash is just an immature idiot. Maybe… maybe it happened recently. Only once. Maybe Peter isn’t ready to talk about a ‘one time thing.’ MJ hates how casual that sounds in her head. Nothing about this is casual. Peter is hurting, and she wants to help.

She should give it time. She doesn’t even know if what she thinks happened, happened. She should support Peter. She should observe and listen. Yeah, that’s it. Observe and listen. She can definitely help more if she silently finds out more. That’s how she helps people.

MJ gets up from the floor and joins her group of friends. Peter looks much calmer now, but is it an act? She realizes how well Peter can cover his emotions, how well he can lie. It took her forever to find out he is Spider-Man, she’s only known for about a month and a half. But with time, she thinks she can solve the puzzle that is Peter’s pain.

Tony looks at MJ, who nods at him. Tony takes that as a subtle ‘Peter will be okay.’ He only believes this because Peter looks so okay. What if Tony is wrong about everything he is thinking? What if Peter is just suffering PTSD from his childhood? (Mental note- he should talk to his kid about therapy.) Or maybe Tony is worsening Peter’s triggers and memories whenever he tries to force Peter to talk. He absolutely loathes how confusing this all is.

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

Tony hopes Peter can enjoy this next part of the class trip. They have travelled about an hour to Long Beach to visit the Aquarium of the Pacific. Peter had slept against the bus window the whole way over, mumbling quietly in his sleep a few times. 

Peter is awake now, his headphones and sunglasses already on. He seems completely calm now, almost happy. Tony notices Peter is already wearing his sunglasses and headphones. He hopes Peter doesn’t have a headache. He also hopes Peter isn’t faking being fine right now. He just wishes Peter could actually be fine. He can’t tell if it’s an act. It seems so true.

Peter is actually happy. He loves aquariums. He’s going to have a great time! He’s definitely not currently compartmentalizing the entire morning, tucking it deep into himself. He’s definitely not kidding himself about how fine he is. But dammit, Peter is fucking sick and tired of the pain. He’s sick of being used. So he has suddenly tucked everything away. It’s not his problem right now. Fuck the pain. Fuck your problems. Fuck it all. It’s going to end for good soon anyway.

It’s going to end soon because Peter has made up his mind. He’s decided that he won’t ever be hurt again. Not by anyone. He’s going to make sure of it. Peter can’t do it again. He isn’t strong enough. He feels broken now. He feels worthless. He feels absolutely disgusting. Peter doesn’t feel human. 

He keeps his distance from Tony, walking with a gap between himself and his father figure. Tony respects what he thinks is Peter’s wish for personal space. They spend the day together walking through the massive aquarium. Peter reads informational signs, stares at colorful sea life, smiles at an Octopus.

Tony finds it odd that Peter isn’t taking any pictures of the sea animals. Like… he hasn’t taken one single picture. When Tony had taken Peter to the aquarium in New York, Peter must’ve taken hundreds of pictures. Maybe it’s nothing, but Tony thinks it’s unusual.

The only pictures they take in the aquarium are when Tony takes a few selfies of him and Peter. He posts the pictures on his private Facebook, which is under a random name. He captions it with Glad to show my kid LA. He and this city are such big parts of my life. Love this kid. 

He smiles at the post for a moment before putting his phone away. He looks over to where Peter stands looking at a tank. His eyebrows are knitted together, and he seems deep in thought.

“Hey, Pete? What’s on your mind?” Tony asks.

Peter looks over at his father figure before finally hugging him. “I love you, Tony. You know?”

Tony hugs his kid back, relieved that Peter seems to be feeling a little better. “I love you so much, Peter.”

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

The day is almost done. They had spent the day in Long Beach at the aquarium, then at the surrounding shops. MJ had freaked out when she got to see the outside of the Queen Mary. Tony finds this amusing, and promises that he’ll take her, Ned, and Peter back here in the summer to stay at the haunted ship. MJ’s eyes light up in pure excitement, a big grin on her face.

But now Peter sits in the bathroom of his hotel room alone. He’s been in here for a while. Too long, he knows. He sits on the edge of the bathtub. Tony sits in the hotel room. But Peter tries not to think of Tony being so close. Tony will be better off after this.  You'll be doing him a huge favor in the long run.

Peter’s entire body trembles. He feels so cold. Maybe it’s your three bottles of prescription pills you just swallowed. What were they again? The Adderall that doesn’t work with your metabolism, and the headache meds Bruce made? He’s rambling to himself. He tries to push down his anxiety and loopy thoughts as he clutches his razor in his left hand and presses it to his wrist.

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

Tony realizes how long it’s been since Peter went to the bathroom to take a shower. Did he drown in there? Tony chuckles at his lame joke, then gets up to go check on his kid.

Tony is about to knock on the door, then realizes he doesn’t hear the shower. Peter must be getting out then. He still knocks, just to make sure. “Hey, Pete? You didn’t drown in the shower, did ya?” Tony still knows it’s a lame dad joke, he just can’t help it.

But then Peter doesn’t respond. Tony’s eyebrows lower, a confused expression settling on his face. He knocks and calls to Peter again, with no response. Tony’s gut is suddenly telling him something is very wrong. 

“Peter Benjamin Parker, if you don’t respond right now I’m going to break this door down!” 

No response. 

Tony kicks in the door and-

“Oh. Oh my God. Oh my- Peter. It’s okay. It’ll be okay.” 

There’s blood all over the floor. Blood all over Peter. All over his wrists. His half-lidded eyes are glazed over. Tony runs over to Peter and kneels down, pressing towels to Peter’s wrists. The crimson red stains the white linen. He doesn’t care about getting blood on his clothes. All that matters is Peter.

“FRIDAY, call 911!” Tony gasps out. “Scan Peter!”

“Vitals show he’s alive, but he needs immediate medical attention. They’re on their way.” FRIDAY answers from Tony’s phone.

Tony sees a razor on the ground to the right of Peter. He tries not to gag. Peter turns his eyes up to Tony.

“‘M sorry, Tone… had to. Couldn’t… anymore.” Peter’s head bobs. Tony sees how pale his baby is.

“Nope. It’s okay, Petey. You’ll be okay. Stay with me, Peter!” Tony taps his nanotech casing, and his suit wraps around him. He picks Peter up and flies down the hall, down the open spiral, and into the lobby. His armor retracts, he still holds Peter in his arms.

The medical team arrives seconds later. Tony absolutely refuses to let go of Peter’s hand until they board the ambulance. Tony sits there, trying to stay out of the way. He puts his earpiece in to speak to FRIDAY.

“Call- call Steve. Get the Avengers here. We need Bruce and our medical team here ASAP. Don’t- don’t call M-May, FRI. I’ll call her when I can.”

Guilt claws at Tony as the ambulance speeds to the hospital. He knew something was wrong, he should’ve pushed even harder. But he had thought he was doing what was best for Peter. This is all his fault. Peter had seemed so fine after this morning-

Tony can only watch as the paramedics try to save Peter.