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Ghost Town

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MJ and Ned walk down the long, drab hallway of the hospital. They drag their suitcases behind them, carrying their smaller bags on their shoulders. Clint leads the teenagers towards Peter’s room. He shoulders Peter’s backpack, the young boy’s suitcase trailing behind him. The entire journey has been mostly silent. Ned and MJ don’t fully understand Peter’s situation, but they know it will be wiser to let Peter tell them what and when he wants to. For now, they will be the most supportive friends they can be. 

Ned and MJ pass a waiting room and a nurses’ station on their way to Peter’s room. A few more moments of walking and Tony finally comes into view of the group. He waits outside of a door, clearly stressed and exhausted. He’s on the phone, but finishes the call when he notices Clint, Ned, and MJ approaching.

The final few words of the conversation can be heard before Tony hangs up. “I will, May. Ned and MJ are here, I’ll call you back.” Tony pockets his phone.

“Where’s Peter?” Ned blurts out. He is not hiding his anxiety for his best friend at all. Ned’s eyebrows are creased, a fretful look fixed onto his face.

“He’s in his room.” Tony jerks a thumb behind him, towards the hall. “I have to walk away from the room when I take phone calls because he hears me otherwise. You can probably see him now. He was wide awake when I last left.” Tony swivels on his heel and leads everyone towards Peter’s room.

They reach a bland door and Tony opens it, revealing Peter. MJ notices how small Peter looks in his bed. He looks so much more vulnerable than usual. He sits up in the middle of his bed. Dark bags hang under Peter’s emotionless eyes. He hides his arms under the covers of his blankets. Steve sits in the room with Peter, getting up when the door opens. Steve nods to Ned and MJ before leaving the room.

“Hey, buddy. We’ll be right down the hall if you need anything. You okay?” Tony asks, and Peter nods. “Love you, Pete.”

Peter mumbles something, and Tony smiles at his boy before following Steve out of the room. Clint sets Peter’s stuff down next to his bed and gives a slightly awkward thumbs up. “Have fun, buddy.”

Peter lets out a light laugh at Clint’s odd sense of humor, and Clint grins before exiting the room and closing the door behind him.

Peter’s small smile falls from his lips a moment later. He closes his eyes, still sitting upright. Peter takes deep steadying breaths, trying to keep himself composed and tranquil. He knows MJ and Ned are worried about him, that they want an explanation. He also knows they won’t ever push him to give them an explanation. And frankly… Peter isn’t sure how much he wants to tell his friends about. The Avengers all know. That was super nerve racking but… wasn’t it also relieving to get it all off my chest? Even if I have more to tell them- about Mr. Re- about him. Maybe I want to tell MJ and Ned? Peter’s head is buzzing with confused and mixed feelings.

Ned and MJ are sitting on opposite sides of Peter’s bed when he focuses back on his surroundings. Ned shuffles through his bag, then pulls something out of his bag and holds it out to Peter. “MJ and I, um, got you this.” Ned has a soft reassuring smile placed on his face.

Peter takes the item from Ned, revealing his bandaged wrists, and examines it. He knows he should be smiling at it, but he feels too numb. He can’t bring himself to look happy. But he’s also grateful for the gift. It’s a little snow globe of Tony’s old Malibu house. The snow globe is labelled “Iron Man’s Malibu Mansion.” Catchy. 

“Thanks, guys.” Peter keeps his eyes on the snow globe.

Ned and MJ both notice Peter’s wrists, but try not to pay any attention to the bandages. MJ brushes a strand of hair out of her face. “Of course, dude.” The following silence is awkward.

Peter knows they’re both shocked by his wrists, that he’s the reason the room is filled with awkward silence. “You guys don’t have to pretend like I didn’t just try to slit my wrists.”

Ned and MJ both wince at Peter’s abrupt language, feeling guilty. Ned frowns. “I’m sorry, Peter. We were just trying to-”

“I know. It’s just…” Peter struggles to turn his thoughts into actual words. 

Ned and MJ wait patiently, not wanting to force Peter to talk but also not wanting to keep him from talking. They simply want Peter to lead whatever conversation they’re about to have.

“...I- I didn’t exactly want to die… Like, yeah I’ve thought about it a lot before but I never planned on acting on it. It was just thoughts. But then I felt completely trapped. It was the only way out anymore…” Peter trails off, glaring at his bedsheets.

“...Trapped from what, Peter? ...You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to.” MJ asks Peter gently.

“From- from him - from-” Peter breathes deeply, pushing down his nerves. I want to talk about this. I want to tell them. I want to get it over with. I’m sick of holding everything in.

Peter closes his eyes, balling his bedsheets into his fists. “I was- um. When I was a kid I had a babysitter. His name was Skip. He would touch me… do things I didn’t want to do. But that was a long time ago, it’s a long story. I can’t talk about all of it right now if I want to continue.” Peter’s eyes remain closed. His eyebrows are knitted together. “It happened again. With someone different. The past few weeks. The last time was yesterday morning.” 

MJ studies Peter. “Peter- that means… Does that mean that it’s someone in our class? Do you wanna talk about-?”

“Reese-'' Peter spits out, then covers his mouth with his hand. His eyes widen in shock. He hadn’t exactly meant to say that. Why did I say that!? Secret’s out now…

MJ and Ned look at each other, their eyes the size of saucers. MJ turns back to her friend. “Peter- oh my God. Does anyone else know?” Good going, Peter. She looks totally freaked out now.

“Peter we should’ve known- we should’ve noticed. God, I am a complete idiot.” Ned rubs his face in his hands.

“What? No you aren’t! And- no… no one else knows.” Peter hesitates before saying, “But they should. Can you- can you get Tony, please? I wanna talk to him… I’m sorry guys; we can hang later… I have to get this over with.” 

“Okay, Peter. You can do this.” Ned says. “You’re super strong, and not just in a spider-strength way… Sorry, that was a lame joke.” 

“You really can do this, Peter. We love you.” MJ leads Ned out of the hospital room.

Peter lays back against his pillows. His heart is racing. He hadn’t wanted to rush things, but now that the secret is COMPLETELY out there he just wants to finish it. Well, not finish it. Your prize for “finishing it” is lifelong trauma and even spicier PTSD. Peter’s thoughts ramble along steadily until Tony walks into the room.

“Ned and MJ said you wanted to talk to me?” Tony walks towards Peter. “Can I sit on the bed, or do you want me in the chair? Either is fine, buddy.” 

Peter pats his bed, and Tony takes a seat right next to Peter on the small hospital bed. Tony waits patiently for Peter to begin talking.

He doesn’t have to wait long, because suddenly words are pouring out of Peter so fast that Tony can barely keep up. “It happened right after first hour. I got in trouble and had to stay after class. He- yanno… And then it happened after first hour again. And then- and then in a- a closet near the hotel lobby. It- and then-” Peter’s nearly hyperventilating, and Tony gently rests his hand against Peter’s back, relieved when Peter doesn’t flinch.

“Hey, Petey. You’re safe here. You can take a break if you want.” Tony rubs small circles in between Peter’s shoulders and hands him a glass of water. Inside, Tony is trying not to freak out. Someone on the trip, during the trip, has been hurting Peter. And Tony thinks he might know who...

Peter sips on the glass of water he holds before he begins to speak again. “He… he touched me in my hotel bed. More than once.” Peter’s shaking all over. Peter tightly shuts his eyes and brings his hands up to his head and begins lightly pulling his hair.

Tony moves his hands to gently grab Peter’s wrists. “Don’t do that, Petey. It isn’t good for you. Grab the bed sheets instead.” Tony leads Peter’s hands away from his head. 

Peter takes a few minutes to ground himself. He feels his breathing even out. His heart still races and his hands still shake, but Peter no longer feels so near to a panic attack. That’s a lie. You still feel like you could have a panic attack at any second. -Shut up, Peter-

Peter takes one final deep breath before, “It was Reese.”

Tony barely reacts outwardly to the news. After hearing Peter’s story, and connecting the rest of the dots… Tony can’t say he’s surprised.

Tony hugs Peter to him. “I’m sorry, honey. I’ll be here with you every step of the way. So will May. And everyone else.” Internally, Tony’s fighting back every single ounce of hatred and disgust he now harbors for Peter’s teacher. That man will regret what he’s done.

There’s a long silence that follows. Peter enjoys the comfort and warmth Tony provides. Tony adjusts his position on the bed so that he’s laying down, still holding Peter to his chest. “Speaking of, May is on her way. Weather permitting, she’ll be here tonight. Isn’t that exciting?” Tony asks.

Peter feels only a small flare of enthusiasm at the news. Better than feeling nothing at that news, I guess. “Yeah, that’s pretty cool.” He says quietly. He really is happy that May is coming. He hasn’t seen her in so long. He’s just so tired. He also feels guilty about how worried May probably is now. And her nursing classes- god dammit! You’ve really screwed up now, huh?

The silence stretches out again, and after a while Tony notices that Peter has fallen asleep. Tony is left to his own thoughts. 

Where does everyone go from here? Tony wonders this to himself.

Peter had an evaluation this morning, which cleared Peter to go home in two days. The doctors had made an agreement with Tony. The agreement included at least one person being with Peter every hour of the day, and Peter receiving care under the Avengers’ specialized therapists and psychiatrists. They’ll figure out a more detailed plan when they return to New York. 

Tony figures he and Bruce will have to come up with a spidey-enhanced version of whatever meds Peter’s psychiatrists will want him on. Tony almost likes this. It’s something he can fix, something he can control. The downside is that what he will be fixing is meds for his suicidal kid.

And what about May? She can only get a few days off her classes to be here without dropping out. And even if she did drop out, she would have to come stay at the Tower. She can’t be with Peter 24/7 and work. He can discuss that with May later.

Then there’s Peter’s schooling to consider. That is a problem for a later day. And what to do about Reese… the Avengers can come up with a plan for that evil man. Tony will make sure that man rots. 

There’s so many different things to worry about. Tony’s head is spinning. For now, he has to be here for Peter. He has to make sure his kid is safe, and maybe even happy. It’s okay if Peter takes a long time to be happy again, but Tony is going to do his best to make sure Peter is content.

Tony’s grateful for the Avengers, and for Steve. He couldn’t do any of this without them. Tony’s also slightly grateful for himself. He’s glad he found this kid. He’s glad that he can help May, who is such a great friend to Tony. He’s glad he can be there for her and Peter. 

Tony looks down to Peter and brushes some curls from his eyes. The young boy sleeps seemingly peacefully against Tony’s chest. God, he loves this kid. Peter changed Tony’s life when he entered it, adding new vivid brightness and color. Tony smiles down at Peter, his heart filling with warmth.

Tony’s life had been stressful before Peter. He had found the kid when Tony and Steve were going through… that rough patch for a few months. Peter and Tony’s relationship had started blooming about two months after that, right around Peter’s homecoming dance and the Vulture. ‘What was that… late September?’ Tony wonders to himself. Anyways, Peter had been there for Tony when Tony was at one of his lower points in life.

During that time, the Avengers had sat down together and began making amends. The Accords had been rewritten. Tony and Steve began working to fix their relationship. ‘A whole lot of couples therapy right there.’ It had taken months, but the Avengers were healed and whole again. There were still little things to work on, sure. But overall, everything was great.

Tony catches himself drifting off into his thoughts. He smiles at the memories of Peter that begin popping up. Of the movie nights, of the lab nights. Steve and Pepper yelling at Tony the first few times that Peter had stayed overnight… Tony may or may not have forgotten that teenagers need sleep. 

Tony relives his favorite memories of Peter, content to hold his kid safe to him for now.