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Ghost Town

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Peter jerks into a sitting position in his bed, completely drenched in sweat. He’s shivering with anxiety, and hugs his knees to his chest. Peter’s eyes remain wide open while he attempts to calm down, the traumatic memories still flashing through his mind. He’s scared that he will dive into a full blown flashback if he so much as blinks.

Peter’s breathing eases slightly, now calm enough to glance over to his clock. The time reads 11:30 pm. Peter uncurls from himself and sets his feet down onto the carpeted floor of his bedroom. He sits on the edge of the bed for a moment, pushing down the memories that race across his eyes. Before he woke up, he had been having a nightmare about… Reese. Peter shakes his head in another attempt to clear his thoughts.

Peter stands up, swaying slightly. He feels completely exhausted, having hardly slept the past few nights. It’s now late Friday night, which is usually designated as movie night for the whole team. But Peter had gone to bed early, claiming to be tired. It’s true that Peter’s tired, but he also just… some part of him wants to be alone, closed off from everyone else. 

He had managed to fall asleep for about two hours, but of course woke up from a vivid nightmare. He feels frustrated at his inability to sleep, tears building in the corners of his eyes out of frustration. Peter wipes his eyes roughly, then ventures out of his bedroom. He pauses in the hallway, he hears multiple people watching a movie in the living room.

His feet drag slowly towards the living room. Peter’s hands are still shaking, and tears win over and begin to fall down his cheeks. He reaches the living room where a few people still watch movies. Peter stands quietly in the corner of the dark room, the TV playing Forrest Gump. 

Clint, Natasha, Wanda, and Bucky all sit on the couches, engrossed in the movie. On the TV, Forrest is getting fitted for his leg braces. Peter loves this movie, knows it by heart. He wishes he could enjoy it right now, but a second later Bucky looks over. He must’ve heard Peter’s breathing, because the kid still stands in the corner of the room, moving as much as a statue. 

Everyone else notices Bucky’s movement, and turns their heads to follow his gaze. Natasha is closest, and she gets up to move carefully toward Peter. Her eyebrows crease in concern, a frown on her lips. “Peter? Are you okay, honey?”

Peter nods his head, but his face crumbles. Natasha wants to hug him, but holds back. She knows the only person Peter is completely comfortable with right now is Tony, and she doesn’t want to risk causing Peter a flashback. So instead, she waits for Peter to make the first move.

Peter shuffles over to Natasha, sniffling and sobbing. He leans into her side, not wanting a full hug. Thankfully, Natasha understands and simply lifts one arm around Peter’s shoulders. She rubs his arm up and down soothingly. “Shhh, honey. It’s okay, Peter. You’re safe.” 

Natasha’s voice is so serene and sincere, and Peter locks onto her calming tones. He allows himself to be calmed by her. It slowly feels easier to breathe, his heart stops pounding in his chest. Everyone else is quiet, the movie paused, while Natasha calms Peter. They still stand in the corner of the living room.

“I wa- want Tony?” Peter mutters miserably, not really caring that he sounds like a child.

“I know, Pete. But he’s in D.C with Steve and Sam, remember? They’ll be back tomorrow night, and then Tony will give you all the cuddles in the world.” Natasha smiles at Peter, trying to add extra warmth to her tone.

“Ain’t that the truth, kid.” Clint adds with a positive and encouraging note in his voice.

A tiny laugh escapes Peter. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess.” Peter and Natasha move to sit on the couch that Nat had previously been sitting on.

“You wanna talk about it, Peter?” Natasha asks.

Peter curls into her side slightly. “Just a nightmare about stuff. I’ll be okay in a minute…” There’s a short pause before Peter adds, “I am kinda hungry though…”

Everyone laughs, and Wanda and Clint get up to go make some popcorn. The movie remains paused, and Bucky asks Peter if he would like to start at the beginning. Everyone knows how much Peter loves this movie. Peter shakes his head before turning it into a nod. “Actually, yeah. I really like this movie.”

So a few minutes later, Peter is sharing a bowl of popcorn with Natasha and watching Forrest Gump. Clint, Wanda, and Bucky all eat popcorn out of their own smaller bowls. Peter lets himself get lost in the movie, enjoying the time away from his thoughts and memories.

Everything is going well until young Forrest goes to find his friend Jenny at her house. Jenny runs to Forrest, grabbing his hand and running away from her father. Adult Forrest narrates the scene, talking about how Jenny’s father was always extra “touchy and loving” with his daughters.

The second it’s said, the movie is shut off. Everyone had forgotten about this part of the film, and they whip their heads over to Peter. He sits away from Natasha, his posture straight. Peter’s muscles are tensed, and his eyes are wide but unseeing. His breath comes in labored gasps. 

Natasha maneuvers herself in front of Peter, careful not to touch him. She speaks to him in calming, hushed tones. “Peter, you’re here. You’re in the tower. Clint, Wanda, Bucky, and I are all here with you. You’re safe, Peter.” She repeats her mantra, trying to calm Peter.

But Peter doesn’t even hear her. He doesn’t see her, or anyone else in the room. Instead, he hears his own grunts of pain, hears Reese panting in his ear. He sees the ceiling of the hotel room, sees the dark closet, sees the classroom as he’s bent over the desk. Peter feels painful fingertips on his hips, feels a hot breath on his ear. 

“St- stop- please- I don’t want to- I want Mr. Stark!”

The adults’ hearts break at Peter’s gasps and cries, unable to pull him out of his flashback. Peter now sits curled into a ball on the couch, flinching when anyone comes within three feet of him. Wanda gets out her phone and dials Tony’s contact, walking out of the room.

Tony picks up a few rings later. “Tony, Peter’s having a flashback. We were watching Forrest Gump and forgot about Jenny’s father-”

Tony understands immediately. “Shit- shit okay. It’s fine, you guys just forgot. Please be more careful next time. Anyways- um. Shit. Put me on video, maybe I can try talking to him?” Tony and Wanda are both doubtful this will help, but it’s worth a shot. 

Wanda walks back into the living room and sets her phone down near Peter. “Peter? It’s Tony, he’s on the phone. He wants to talk to you.” 

Peter feels his mind pull away slightly from the flashback. He can distantly hear Tony’s voice, and keeps his mind focused on it. Tony’s voice becomes clearer, and Peter can pick up on the words being said. He remains squished into a tight ball, but listens as Tony’s voice washes over him.

“, Pete. You’re in the Tower with friends. They all love and care about you, and they’ll protect you. It’ll be okay, kiddo. You’re safe. I promise you’re safe, and I’ll be back home tomorrow. We can spend as much time as you want together. I promise, Petey.” Tony continues talking, and Peter remains completely engrossed in Tony’s words. Peter slowly begins uncurling himself, watching Tony on the phone screen. 

“Hey, buddy! You’re safe, Peter. You’re completely safe. Look at who all’s with you.” Tony waits as Peter notices the four Avengers. Peter closes his eyes, taking a shallow breath. “That’s right, Pete. Just breathe. Nat can help you breathe, just follow her.”

Natasha coaches Peter into breathing smoother and deeper, and he does his best to follow her. He’s completely exhausted from the nightmare and panic attack he’s endured in such a short amount of time.

“Good job, Pete. You’re doing great.” Tony’s voice comes from the phone. “Now how does watching Frozen for the night sound? Maybe you can get some sleep, too. I bet everyone else would love a sleepover in the living room.”

Nat, Clint, Wanda, and Bucky all nod encouragingly. They actually would love a sleepover, and they will make sure it’s super calm and relaxing. Peter nods back, completely spaced out but still listening. 

“Yeah, I bet that’ll be nice, right Pete? You okay, buddy?” Tony asks, and Peter’s head dips in a small nod. “Okay, Petey. Sam and Steve say hi, by the way.” The phone screen moves to show Steve and Sam waving to the camera. A small chorus of “Hey, Pete/Goodnight, buddy/Stay safe” can be heard from the phone’s speaker.

The screen shows Tony once again. “Alright, you okay Pete?” 

“Y-yes.” Peter whispers.

“Okay, bud. I’m gonna let the others take over for now since they’re there with you. If you need to call me again, do not hesitate to. I’ll answer right away, okay? I love you so much, Petey. Sleep well.”

“Love you too, Tony.” Peter’s voice is quiet. The call ends. 

“I- I’m sorry, guys.”

“Don’t be, Pete. This shi- stuff happens to all of us.” Bucky says with a gentle smile on his face. “I almost punched someone through a wall one time because a kid said a Russian word to his friend. One of the ones that triggers my ‘programming,’ yanno? But Steve was there, just like we’re here for you. And you didn’t try punching anyone through a wall.”

“Ye- yeah. You’re not wrong, I guess.” Peter says. “Can we watch Frozen now?”

Everyone laughs lightly, and Wanda logs into Disney+ to begin playing Frozen. Bucky sits where Natasha had sat early, and Natasha has taken Bucky’s old seat. Peter quietly hums along to a few of the songs. Eventually he falls asleep, pressed against Bucky’s side.


The adults all wake up around the same time the next morning. Everyone is careful to be quiet, not wanting to wake Peter. Wanda goes so far as to fly instead of walk, not wanting Peter’s enhanced hearing to detect her walk. 

Clint makes breakfast in the kitchen, a difficult task when the enhanced teen is in the next room over. He ends up burning the food slightly, but figures it’ll be good enough.

Around 9:00, Natasha wakes Peter up to eat breakfast. He’s gotten about seven hours of unbroken sleep, which is really good. But Nat knows that she can’t let Peter skip eating breakfast, hence why he is currently sitting at the dining table. 

“You can go back to sleep after this, Pete. I just needed you to eat something.” Natasha says apologetically.

“It’s fine. I’ll just watch The Office on the TV until I pass out.” Peter jokes in a low voice.

Everyone smiles at that. Bucky swallows his food before saying, “Sounds like a plan, kid.”

And once Peter has finished his breakfast, he does just that. He makes a nest of pillows and blankets and puts on The Office. Peter makes it through a few episodes before his eyes begin to droop. Peter lets himself fall asleep once more.

He doesn’t wake up again until noon, when Natasha lightly calls to him to wake up. Peter appreciates her not touching him to wake him up. Peter curls back into his nest, not wanting to wake up yet. Sure, he feels much more refreshed than he has in days. But it was nice to get so much sleep… and not have to mentally exist for a while. It would’ve been better if you just never woke up again , a small voice in Peter’s head sounds.

Peter frowns to himself. And there it is. The suicidal ideation returns! Now shut the fuck up.

“We ordered Thai for lunch, Pete. You’re favorite.” Natasha coaxes Peter out of his nest.

Peter’s head perks up at this. He lifts himself into a sitting position on the couch. “The broccoli?” He asks, and Nat laughs.

“Yes, Peter. I said it was your favorite. Now come on, before it gets cold.”

Everyone eats at the dining table again, this time joined by Vision and Thor. Well, except Vision doesn’t eat. But he talks and he’s funny so… 

Peter eats just about as many helpings as Thor, grateful for the amount of extra Thai that Natasha had thought to order. Thor watches in shock as Peter matches his pace.

“Wow, you really have an appetite for the ages, young spider!” Thor laughs, a huge smile plastered across his face, his blue eyes sparkling. 

Peter doesn’t respond, still enjoying his food. Natasha smiles as Peter eats. She had been hoping that Thai food would be able to get Peter to eat a lot and cheer him up. She prides herself in how right she was about that.

After lunch, Thor and Clint join Peter in the living room. Peter hooks in his Switch so that the three of them can play Mario Kart. Clint doesn’t know about Thor’s absolute skill at the game, and Peter cackles when Clint’s mouth drops open in sheer shock.

“What the FUCK, man? When did you learn that?” Clint yells, and Peter continues laughing.

“Language, Barton! Our young friend is present. And for your information, I learned that like two days ago.” 

Clint sputters at the new knowledge, not sure what to say. Peter and Thor laugh, enjoying how shocked Clint is. 

They continue playing Mario Kart throughout the entire afternoon, Peter only winning once and Clint not winning a single round. Clint and Thor are both amused at how much fun Peter is having, and they’re relieved that Peter seems to be happy and carefree. At least for the moment. 

The elevator dinging is what interrupts their current match of Mario Kart. Peter pauses the game and vaults himself over the couch onto a wall, running sideways towards the elevator.

“Hey! No running on… the… walls. He’s already gone. Oh well. And I was actually winning this time, too.” Clint sighs.

“Mmmh- no, you weren’t.” Thor retorts.

“I stopped counting you, so according to myself I was winning.” Clint says.

Meanwhile, Peter is still attached to the wall as the elevator doors open. Tony, Steve, and Sam walk out and see Peter’s sideways face grinning at them. Tony barely has time to set his luggage down before Peter is lunging onto Tony, sticking to him with his powers. Peter is positioned on Tony like a child, his legs around Tony’s middle and his arms around Tony’s neck.

“Woah, kiddo. I’m not as strong as Steve, let’s keep our feet on the ground.” 

Peter obliges, but keeps his arms wrapped around Tony. He buries his head into Tony’s shoulder. “I- I’m sorry… I missed you so much.”

“Hey, it’s okay Pete. I missed you a whole bunch, too.”

They enjoy the hug for a few long moments before Peter pulls away and starts excitedly talking about his day, telling Tony about the Thai food and Mario Kart. Tony laughs, silently aweing how excited his kid is.

“So I take it you had a good day?” Tony asks when Peter finishes his stories.

“Yeah, definitely!” Peter says, then hugs Tony again.

Tony pats Peter’s back, then asks, “What do you want to do about dinner? Also, I’m feeling like another movie night.”

“We could make some spaghetti…” Peter suggests hopefully, and Tony agrees.

The team spend the evening eating pasta and watching The Office. Peter quotes the show half the time, and no one minds. They actually enjoy his small voice piping up at funny lines and jokes every once in a while.

Peter doesn’t detach himself from Tony once, always sticking to his side like glue. So it’s no surprise when Peter falls asleep around midnight, head in Tony’s lap and legs in Steve’s. Tony and Steve fall asleep soon after. Tony’s fingers are buried in Peter’s chocolate curls.

And if Wanda snaps a ton of pictures of the adorable trio, no she doesn’t.