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Of Suits and Heroes

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A/N: Hello all. This is the first fanfic story I ever publish here. I've been writing this story since August 2017 but had only posted it on FF.net up to now. Marvel fandom is fairly new to me, so please be warned that there might be mistakes regarding storylines etc., even though i thoroughly studied the marvel wikis before i began writing this.

In any case it's a Tony Stark-Peter Parker and Steve Rogers-Wanda Maximoff mentorship-kind-of-story. Big time A/U. Both Tony and Peter are not really canon-like, in the sense that through writing this, my Tony came out more authoritative and father-figureish, while Peter more teen-angsty and less childish compared to the movie. There will be spanking and discipline scenes throughout the story.This is a multi-chapter story. I'll play the posting of the first 12 updates by ear, depending on the feedback I will or won't get. Be warned, updates will be kind of slow, as my life is pretty hectic at the moment.

Major differences from "Homecoming and Civil War":

1. Peter's powers: Web is produced by his body because of the bite, not with artificial web-shooters.

2. Aunt May knows he is Spiderman.

3. Characters introduced later on and storylines might also differ in various ways (e.g. underage 16 yo Wanda etc)

Also keep in mind that English is not my first language, so it's quite possible to spot small mistakes here and there (hopefully nothing major, as I am doing my master's degree in English and have practiced writing papers as well as fiction in the English language to a great extent for quite a few years).

 

Sorry for the long-ass AN! I hope you'll enjoy this! Please give this a try, review and let me know what you think.

I'm pretty sure there's no reason stating this, but i obviously own nothing of the marvel universe. I simply play with its characters.

 


 

 

Sighing frustrated, Peter rubbed his burning eyes before quickly scanning through his short text. Having been sick and tired of hearing Happy's voice every single time he made contact with him and never getting any type of feedback from Stark he had decided that sending a debriefing-type of email each night, instead of phone calls would be best. He doubted anyone was reading those emails, but he sent them anyways; He honestly doubted that Happy even heard his words when he used to call to inform him of his paroles and actions.

Hitting the send button with more force than needed he zapped his screen off and threw himself on his bed staring at his ceiling. His fatigue dissipated and in its place a strong urge to break everything in his room to calm his anger arose. It was six months. Six god-damned months since Germany. Six months of him busting his ass to do as he was told, to help the little guy in the neighborhood, to stop small crimes and leave the big, bad guys to the big, capable avengers. There were moments he felt it was more than worth it. There were days that he had stopped awful things from happening, when he had saved young women from assault and old people from being robbed and beaten possibly to their deaths.

But then there were nights when serious crap took place and he was told to stand down, because it was out of his league, often resulting in criminals getting away with awful things, till someone from the avengers managed to intervene or the police reacted in a timely manner. He was told that he had to stand those down till he was trained and ready. Till he'd stand a chance in such situations and be an asset instead of a problem. Yet none seemed to inform when he would be considered trained or capable. It was that conversation that persuaded him they'd never take him seriously. Grabbing a small rubber ball from his nightstand he threw it hard on the opposite wall huffing angrily. He was so naive to believe Stark really took interest in him. He used him to his advantage in Germany and then forgot his existence, pretending to observe his progress from a distance and having him wait for his call.

"So stupid…" He whispered angrily to himself. Glancing to the clock on the wall above his desk he quietly creeped to his door and opened it. His super hearing informed him that aunt May was fast asleep in her room. He had a good four hours before breakfast and stood little chance of sleeping, a common occurrence these past few weeks.. Moving to his wardrobe, he grabbed the suite Stark had created for him and quickly slipped it on, before opening his window and jumping into the night.

He soared his way through the city jumping from building to building and hoping to find a scene to fight off some of his frustration. While he was swinging towards the tallest building in the neighborhood he was currently in, he felt his communicator vibrating. As soon as he landed, he glanced on the small lcd screen and wondered who was contacting him that was not stored in the device's memory.

"Who is this?" He asked demandingly as he accepted the call.

"What the hell do you think you're doing out at this hour? Your paroles end at midnight and it's past 2 o'clock in the night!"

The voice sounded familiar, and a vague sound of some sort of engine could be heard in the background.

"Who the hell is this?" Peter asked frustrated.

"Tony damn Stark, Parker!" the voice answered annoyed.

Peter was so surprised that he remained completely silent at the answer. How the hell did Stark know he was out and about? He knew his suit had a tracker, but he doubted anybody bothered checking whether he was on action or not.

"How kind of you to grace me with your contact, Mr. Tony Damn Stark" Peter answered back angrilly, surprising even himself.

It was Tony's turn to remain silent for several seconds. He was used to the kid stammering around him and doing anything possible to appease him. This was too new to interpret or handle easily. Deciding to ignore it he asked again "What are you doing out at this hour? The agreement was paroling till 12 o'clock in weekdays and 1 in weekends!"

"Yeah, well, you can take your agreement and shove it up your ass, Stark!" Peter yelled and terminated the call.

His rage flaming up he returned his gaze to the street below him, only to see two large vans parked and ten heavily armed guys overlooking some sort of transaction between two other men. Guessing it was either drug or gun smuggling he threw himself towards the scene using his web shooters as fast as he could. He kept moving to avoid the bullets shot towards him and made sure to blast the tires of the two vans to not allow whatever was carried in them to be taken away.

As soon as the tires were ruined he lunged on one of the smugglers attempting to use his web to disarm two of the men. When nothing shot from his wrists he felt his adrenaline rising as he realized that for some reason he could not eject the organic matter. In a matter of seconds the smugglers caught up to that bit of information too, and Peter felt a dizzy spell as his spider sense alarmed him of danger coming from every direction around him. Screaming at the searing pain that erupted in his head he started jumping almost blindly around trying to make it to the roof of the building where he could find take cover from the roaring guns. He merely made it to a 4th story balcony, where he collapsed on its floor and felt the dizziness gradually winning over. He heard shouting and guessed the criminals attempted to remove their stuff from the vans. The loud noise of an engine made him think that someone had arrived with a motorbike to their aid. When loud blasts started sounding, his vision was already darkening and vaguely through his rapid loss of all his senses, he could make out a flying reddish figure closing up to him.

 


 

His eyelids fluttered and he was impressed by how difficult he found peeling them open was. When his body seemed to adhere to his mind's wish, he groaned loudly at the throbbing the sudden light caused to his head. Slowly bringing his hands to shadow his vision, he started taking in the environment around him. He was in some sort of hospital room. He could see an IV hanging above his head and a screen that made low beeping sounds on his left side. A bedside table was on his right side, where a bottle of water rested, a plastic cup and a pair of sunglasses. Moving his head slowly he spotted a large glass door opposite to him and near the foot of the bed two chairs, both vacant.

He tried to use his spider-sense to make sure he was safe, but he realized that he could not access the familiar environment-scanner. He tried to gulp down but found it hard, as his throat felt dry. He slowly used his hands to sit up straight on the bed and was relieved to only feel his limbs tired and heavy, but no pain indicating he was injured. Right when he attempted to remove the IV from his forearm the door opened and he was startled to see both his aunt and Tony Stark entering the room. May let out a sigh of relief, shoved her foam cup of coffee to Stark's hands and rushed to Peter hugging him tightly.

"Oh, thank God Peter!" She whispered as her hand stroked his hair tenderly, "thank God!"

Through the mess of his aunt's brown strands Peter regarded somewhat surprised Tony Stark, standing close to the bed with an unreadable expression and tired looking face.

"Morning sleeping beauty" he quipped when their eyes met.

Peter only swallowed hard, wondering why he suddenly felt apprehensive in the presence of the man that till yesterday he wanted to strangle.

Leaving the foam cups on the bedside table, Tony came closer and touched a hand to the boy's face, feeling his temperature and closed up to his face in order to check his pupils. Not spotting something worrying he then stood back to his full height and asked, "How are you feeling, Peter?"

Startled by the use of his first name, Peter remained silent. When his aunt finally broke their embrace she repeated the question.

Managing to bring words together, the teen replied in a hoarse voice. "Ok… My head hurts and I am thirsty…"

Tony quickly filled the plastic cup with water and offered it to Peter, while he pressed on a small red button above the nightstand. In less than a minute a young doctor entered the room smiling down at Peter.

"How are we feeling Mr. Parker?" he asked cheerfully, as May hastily left the bed to allow the man to check her nephew up.

While Peter repeated his previous answer, the doctor retrieved a small flashlight checking the boy's eyes and then read his vitals on the screen on the left of the bed. Nodding to himself he took hold of Peter's arm and instructed him to try and produce web.

Peter turned alarmed eyes to Tony and his aunt.

"It's ok Peter, you are in the Avenger's headquarters, on the medical wing." Tony informed with a neutral voice.

Peter nodded to the words and brought his middle finger to his palm trying to produce his web, but only a pitiful amount of the substance glistened on his wrist. Peter turned alarmed eyes to the doctor who quickly swiped the web with a cotton bud and enclosed it in a clear, glass vial.

Turning reassuring eyes to Pete he informed him, "When you were brought in, we ran multiple check ups that informed us you've been sleep deprived for quite some time. You were also found undernourished, which made your aunt very upset, as she insists you've been eating all your meals, as per usual. That is correct?"

Peter took a small sip of his water to buy some time before quietly answering, "I've been eating some, but not as much. I've been giving most of the food to various homeless guys around the city. I just didn't have any appetite the last couple of weeks and felt bad to just discard the food. As for the sleep, I haven't been sleeping well either. I am always on edge at nights." He chose not to disclose the reasons of his temper and stopped at that.

The doctor nodded skeptically. "You are a teenage boy Peter. That means that even without your powers, your body needs nourishment and rest, as it develops at a rapid pace. Considering the sudden addition of your super powers to the equation and the fact that they develop along with the rest of your body, it is not surprising that they collapsed along with you."

The doctor's words were met with silence by all parties. May shook her head worriedly, Tony seemed somewhat frustrated, while Peter felt simply miserable and stupid. With a small voice he inquired, "They'll come to me, right? My powers?"

The doctor seemed sceptical but nodded. "I cannot be completely sure, as you are the very first patient with such an issue, but I believe they will. Already, you seem to have produced some web, through your night's rest, so I believe that after a couple of days of recuperations and considering that your healing factor will soon kick in and start working its magic, you'll be fine soon. We'll run some tests on the sample i took and let you know of more details tomorrow."

Peter nodded and Tony took a step closer looking at the doctor. "Thank you Randall. Do you have any idea, how long he needs to remain in here?"

Peter's eyes shot to the man disbelievingly. He couldn't believe he was such a burden to him, that he couldn't wait to get rid of him from his facilities.

"Hopefully, he'll be completely fine in three days tops!" Said the doctor smiling. Tony nodded and followed the doctor outside, where they continued their talk for a while, glancing to him every now and then.

Peter, despite his condition felt his rage fire up again and had to take deep breaths to avoid alerting the adults, as he notices his pulse indicator changing its soft beeps when his heart rate accelerated.

"Aunt May, can't we leave here today? I'd rather be home and resting in my bed, eating your food, instead of this…"

His aunt turned her eyes to him and her face grew serious as she shook her head negatively. "No way, Peter. You've been home all these days, doing this to yourself. I want you on medical supervision at least until you're completely well and we'll see from there."

The young man blushed at her implied mistrust and averted his eyes. He felt like crying in misery and screaming in frustration at the same time.

His aunt's voice broke the silence again, "What's the matter, Pete?"

Peter glanced at her concerned eyes and shook his head lightly.

"Nothing aunt May, I was just being stupid. I promise it won't happen again. I'll take better care of myself, i promise."

The woman took the few steps between her spot on the floor and the bed and sat down looking at him straight in the eye. "Don't lie to me, Peter." Her tone was hard for the first time. " Even if I believed, which I don't, that all this fiasco was you being careless, it wouldn't explain your leaving the home at all hours, getting in a situation you know you're not allowed in, a situation that almost got you killed!"

"I had no say in that damn agreement that does not allow me in such situations, May!" He said trying hard not to shout. " This was all Stark's bullshit, okay? I never wanted to not get involved in hard stuff. What sort of hero am I, if I can't save the city from the big criminals, huh?"

May's eyes narrowed as she answered in an elevated tone, "An underage one! And that is precisely why you had no say in that damn agreement! Mr. Stark discussed with me and we decided what would work best for your situation, without making you quit using your powers!"

"You had a say in this? And you didn't ask me?" Peter asked back angrily and then his anger shot through the roof, "WHY THE HELL DID YOU NOT FUCKING ASK ME, MAY? WHY DO YOU ALL KEEP ACTING LIKE I CAN'T TAKE CARE OF MYSELF OUT THERE? WHY DO YOU TREAT ME LIKE SOME SORT OF INCAPABLE KID?"

Peter opened his mouth to continue yelling to his stunned aunt but the door of the room burst open and Tony Stark took purposeful steps towards him leaning so close to the teen's face that he completely cut off his momentum. With a steely voice he told him "You will stop talking to your aunt in such a deplorable manner, right now, because so help me, young man, in recovery or not, I will make you sorely regret this!"

Peter blushed but he felt his anger escalate even more as he yelled to the man "You don't get a say, how i interact with my family! You are nothing but a manipulative bastard, who used me and then tried to get rid of me! So leave me the fuck alone, and go live your life! I am not your responsibility, I am nothing to you, so fuck you and your orders, Stark!"

Acting solely on instinct, Tony grabbed the boy's arm that did not have an IV, turned him on the side and landed five blazing swats to his thinly covered bottom. Right after he turned the boy back to his previous sitting position and raised his finger to his face, "You are my responsibility, whether you like it or not. I tried to give you space to train by yourself and feel as independent as possible, which was obviously a mistake. You are too immature for that. You may think what you want of me, but you will be respectful towards your aunt, and you will man up and accept the conditions of your super-power activity or I'll make sure to lock you up somewhere until you come to your senses and stop being a danger to your own self! Am I clear?"

Peter remained dumbfounded, while May seemed somewhere between satisfied and worried for her nephew's state.

Not wanting to be so close to the man anymore, Peter silently nodded and averted his eyes. Tony freed his hand and stood. Taking a deep breath he regarded the young man with a hard countenance.

"You may hate me all you want right now, but all I've done so far was to protect you and make sure you're safe. I brought you into all these and that is not a responsibility I take lightly. I was wrong to be absent, I thought it would work best. But it is quite obvious, that you more than need someone to keep an eye on you and most importantly keep you in line. And you got it, kid. Whether you like it or not. Get some rest and lose the attitude. We'll talk more tomorrow."

With these words Tony nodded towards May and walked out of the room, leaving it in complete silence.

 


 

 

A/N: So, opinions? Please review! Next update will probably be sometime this weekend :)

Chapter Text

 

 

As soon as the man left the room Peter turned his stunned face to his aunt. "Aren't you going to do anything?" He asked almost accusingly.

"Excuse me?" May asked back taken aback at the sudden return of the teen's attitude.

"You just sat there, while he hit me! That's abuse! We can put him in jail!" Peter said through clenched teeth.

May shook her head frustrated. "We'll do no such thing! Peter that man cares for you, came to rescue you, brought you here, made sure you'll receive the best possible doctors and smacked you a couple of times, on your ass to bring you back to your senses. You were completely out of line! You know more than well that if Ben was here and had witnessed this, you'd still be over his knees getting your butt handed to you!"

Peter did not answer to that. It was true after all. If uncle Ben had seen his behaviour he'd be receiving a real punishment and not just some random swats. He still felt humiliated. Throwing his head in his pillows he quietly asked May, "Can i please be alone for a while?"

May regarded him thoughtfully but understanding his thoughts needed to calm down and think over the events of last night she nodded and moved to her feet. Before she left the room she kissed the top of the boy's head and caressed the side of his face. When the door closed behind her Peter huffed relieved.

His hands snaked below him and felt his still stinging bottom. The timing was awful, because if his powers were intact he wouldn't have felt a thing. His mind raced to Tony's words. Could they be honest? Could he really care? Would he really keep an eye on him? Possibly even help him train? And then, what's with the smacks, and the threat? Did that mean that he should expect discipline from the man, when he disregarded him?

A talk between him and Happy popped into his head then. He remembered the man saying that new younger members of Avengers always had trouble adjusting to the strict discipline of the team at the beginning. Peter couldn't help but wonder if that was what he meant. He shook his head hard. He didn't know what to think or what to expect and that made him nervous and frustrated. He turned his head to the screen and scanned his vitals. He checked his wrist and attempted to eject web once more and was relieved to see a much bigger quantity ejecting. Turning to his side, he closed his eyes and attempted to slow his thoughts down in order to get some more sleep. He'd do his best to rest and eat enough to be able to leave that place the soonest possible. If Stark meant what he said, he'd come for him and then they could talk. If not, then Peter would be proven right and he'd have to figure everything out on his own.

 


 

Dr. Randall woke him up four hours later. Peter couldn't believe how easily and for how long he slept, considering he was out of it the whole previous night as well. The doctor was very happy with the progress he seemed to make.

"Sleeping seems to accelerate your healing ability to a great extent!" He marvelled when Peter ejected a web-ball which flew with speed and accuracy to the opposite wall. Peter smiled satisfied and May sighed relieved, rubbing her eyes tired. "I am positive, that by the time Mr. Stark come tomorrow morning you'll be completely recovered! Just keep resting!"

Peter nodded smiling a little, "Thanks Doc." Then a sudden thought crossing his mind, when he looked at his aunt he asked, "Is there a room where my aunt could lie down? She's too tired and honestly, having people in the room does not make sleeping any easier."

May looked a bit surprised by his proposal but when the doctor agreed that Peter sleeping was imperative right now she allowed him to lead her to a vacant room a couple of doors after Peter's.

"Dr. Randall, please have someone checking up on him every now and then. I'd feel much more comfortable leaving him alone that way." May asked before the man left her room.

"Every hour his nurse will be checking his vitals and making sure he is alright. No need to worry Mrs Parker."

Nodding thankfully, the tired woman lied herself down on the bed and allowed herself to sleep.

Peter remained lying still each time the nurse entered his room. As soon as she left, he opened his eyes checking the time and soon realized he had an hour in between visits. Hoping May would be out of it for at least a few more hours he started scanning the outside of the medical wing through his windows. They were rather high, though he was not sure how many floors. The windows were large and the outside of the building was made of glass and some sort of metal, possibly aluminium. That would allow him quick movements but he should be sure his agility was back one hundred percent if he wanted to avoid falling. Checking how the windows opened and thanking his luck they were not noisy, he returned to his bed satisfied and decided to sleep some more, to offer his body the opportunity to catch up with him. A couple of hours later his aunt woke him up. It was around seven in the afternoon and he had to eat.

He was already through half his meal when his aunt spoke, "Feeling better?"

He smiled at her and after swallowing a rather large bite, nodded. "Yeah, better but still sleepy." He returned his eyes to his plate quickly, as he was never good in lying especially straight to someone's face.

May did not seem to catch up on anything and only patted his leg affectionately. "I am sure you'll be as good as new by tomorrow. And even if everything happened in a rather awful way, I am glad Mr. Stark will be watching out for you more closely now. It makes me feel better, that you'll be safer."

Peter could not contain his ironic snort, "I wouldn't hold my breath for that, May. He is manipulative and arrogant, busy and insanely rich and successful. There is no reason whatsoever for him to spend time and energy on me. Don't fool yourself."

May remained sceptical before retorting, "I don't know Peter. I told you before, he seemed pretty worried about you to me. I don't believe he'd wait a whole night sleepless and restless to make sure you're ok. People who don't care don't do such things, you know?"

Peter shook his head at her words. "Why would he care? He doesn't even know me, we barely got to know each other in Germany and he hasn't met me once since."

May shrugged, "He seemed to know a lot about you though. And he also seemed eager to get to know you, even now. He seems to be a good guy, Peter. Please give him a chance. He can keep you safe and he can train you and he is a male figure that you could use in your life, now that Ben's gone. So please, give him a chance, yes?"

Peter remained silent and stared at his empty by now plate.

"Please, Peter! For me! Promise me!" The almost desperate tone in her voice made him nod besides himself.

"I promise, May." He said in a hushed tone.

May smiled and clutched his hand tightly. Taking the empty disk she left the room to give it to one of the nurses. When she returned, the young boy had already lied down, eyes closed, his breath slower but steady. Deciding to leave him to rest, May quietly closed the door and moved to her room smiling.

 


 

Peter shot up on his bed startled. His spider-sense had alerted him but it seemed it had only detected the nurse who smiled reassuringly to him before quietly leaving the room. Looking at the time indication on the screen Peter realized he had less than an hour before sunrise. He had to be quick. He removed the IV hastily and jumped to hang from the ceiling. Satisfied that no dizziness occurred and that his feet were solidly connected to the surface he tested his web and his vision. Satisfied that he'd be safe he quietly approached the window and reached for its handle and turned it. As soon as the window gaped open a loud alarm started sounding throughout the floor. Peter remained still for less than second cursing himself for not considering the possibility of an alarm and glanced behind his back bewildered. Seeing figures approaching he cursed and jumped into the night sky swinging his way to the close by forested area. If they were closer to the city things would be considerably easier, as he could move a lot faster, but with no buildings to shoot his webs at he had to hide out in the trees until a car with the correct direction passed so that he could jump on it.

The alarm completely ruined his plan though, as he hoped to have at least half an hour head start before anyone noticed his absence. He wasn't wearing his suit so tracking him would be next to impossible and he had planned to go straight to his home and let May know he was there safe and did not wish to remain at the Avenger's HQ as Stark's charity case. He was more than sure, that would be the last he'd seen of Tony Stark; That he'd be bored to pretend he cared and chasing him around, which would finally allow him to live his life alone with his aunt and do his job the way he wanted to and not the way somebody else demanded.

His thoughts were interrupted by the several lights that illuminated the building. His enhanced vision allowed him to make out May's figure looking anxiously outside of the window he had escaped through. Feeling a pang of guilt, Peter averted his gaze and moved through the trees closer to the tree line hoping a car would pass soon enough.

Right on cue, the lights of a vehicle ripped through the dark road and Peter quickly moved to the closest tree branch that would allow him to jump on the car's hood. When the car zoomed closer Peter took the leap and landed softly on its hood. He held his breath as he feared the driver might stop and check what the noise was, but after the car continued its route unbothered he sighed with relief. A relief short-lived, as he gasped at the abrupt feeling of falling he then experienced. The sun-roof of the car had suddenly opened and his spider sense failed to notify him. Peter landed gracelessly on the soft seat of the car and looked around him alarmed.

"Morning jog?" an all too familiar voice asked in a tone of composed anger.

Peter regarded Tony Stark dumbfounded. "What… What are you doing here?"

"I never left." Tony simply answered. "I was consulting with doctors and worked on a new project in the base's lab, while i waited for your test results. Imagine my surprise when the alarm went off and the entire building was searching for an impossibly stubborn child, that should be resting and waiting for medical feedback!"

Peter gulped but clenched his fists in frustration, "I am not a child! And I am completely fine. I made it through here, my spider sense woke me up when the nurse approached earlier and my web was strong and plenty as ever." He quipped and crossed his arms regarding the older man challengingly.

Tony lowered his head and pursed his lips taking in a deep breath. "There are so many wrong assumptions in your last sentence that I am sorely tempted to have your IQ tested as well." He managed in a clearly elevated tone. "Your spider sense alarms you of danger, but the nurse was no danger, was she? Your spider sense also failed you mere seconds ago, when the roof of the car was opened. Your reflexes were not up to their game, judging by your clumsy fall to this very seat. Last but not least, your strong and plenty web, might run out any minute, as your organism had less than 12 hours to produce new and store it." There he paused.

Peter lowered his gaze at his words and looked bewildered out of his window as the car made a U-turn and started heading back to the base.

In a quick motion, Tony smacked the side of the teen's thigh only to elicit a surprised yelp. "Your healing and skin protection has yet to recuperate, as well! So tell me more, about how fine are you, Peter!" The man's voice had lowered to a demanding angry whisper now.

The boy remained silent and regarded his hands.

"What the hell were you thinking leaving the damn base, huh?" Tony asked again.

"I wanted to get home. I don't like feeling like i burden you or anybody else." Peter said in a quiet resigned tone.

"Wasn't I clear earlier, Peter?" Tony asked frustrated.

"About feeling responsible for dragging me into this? No you were pretty clear. Clear as the day. You hate you dragged me into this, cause now you feel like you have to watch out for me, like you're obligated to keep me safe till I am an adult. But it was quite obvious you only HAVE to do that." The teen returned now looking at the man straight in the eyes.

Tony blinked his eyes a few times cursing himself for not being more eloquent and the teen for being so melodramatic. "I don't have to do anything if I don't want to, got it kid? You forget who I am? I wouldn't have bothered with dragging you to Germany, or checking out your progress and whereabouts, or coming to save your ass when we talked yesterday! I wouldn't have bothered with anything more than covering your hospital bills or your funeral's if I didn't want to do this! I wouldn't spend my night in the damn base, discussing with my closest people how to go about this with you, how to establish a relationship that will benefit and better you. I wouldn't wait sleepless for your test results and I wouldn't have bothered running behind your ass when you decided to run away like a spoiled 6 year old!"

The small speech left Peter completely silent. He searched Tony's eyes for any indication of lying but he couldn't spot any. He felt exhausted and spent. He allowed his head to touch the headrest and closed his eyes. After another minute he quietly said, "Thank you, Mr. Stark."

Tony regarded the kid and internally groaned at how small and vulnerable he looked at the moment. He spread his arm and clutched the teen's shoulder strongly making him open his eyes. "Remember, Peter, when you thank someone, or apologize to them, always look at them in the eyes. Like I am now." when the boy opened his mouth Tony shook his head to silence him. "No, let me finish! It's me that should firstly apologize, for not being there for you from the get go, and to thank you for making me realize it last night."

Peter blinked unsure of how to respond. "I am sorry." He then whispered looking at the man in the eyes. "For worrying you, if I really did."

"Oh, you did! You more than did. And the worst part is, you broke your word, our agreement. And for that there will be consequences. But we'll talk more on these matters later, after you're cleared by Dr. Randall. I've already talked to your aunt. After your release, you'll be spending the next week in my home, where we will deal with your misconduct and set up some ground rules. We will use those days also to arrange your training and plan how we'll make school and spider-business work. Understood?"

Peter swallowed hard at the man's tone, but what he heard made his heart pound excitedly. He would at last be trained by Iron Man and spend a whole week at his home. "Understood, Mr. Stark."

"Tony. I want you to call me Tony. Unless of course we are out in the field."

Peter smiled. "Ok, Tony."

As the car slowed to a stop Peter's door was almost ripped open as his aunt dragged him out to hug and yell at him with all her might. Tony almost flinched on the kid's behalf, and sincerely hoped to never get on the bad side of that woman.

 


 

Peter was nervously cracking his knuckles while May was signing his release papers and Tony was talking with the doctor. They were both smiling which let Peter guess he was healthy and strong again. His imminent departure with Tony alone, made his stomach churn with anxiety and excitement at the same time.

When the adults finally approached he got up and regarded the doctor expectantly. Dr. Randall smiled down at him before saying, "Everything seems back to Normal Peter. To be on the safe side, do not exercise your powers for another two days and make sure you eat your meals and stay hydrated. And no more escaping acts, you only slow your recuperation, alright?"

Peter blushed at the last part but cleared his throat to answer at the man a hushed, "Sure thing Dr. R. And again, sorry for the chaos i caused yesterday."

Smiling and shaking his head dismissively the doctor turned on his heel and left the young teen with his aunt and Tony.

May enclosed him in a firm hug before breaking it up and holding him by the shoulders. "You are to listen to anything Mr. Stark says, do you hear me? We've talked about your discipline and about your week with him, he is well aware that I will kill him if anything happens to you and you should be well aware that I will lock you up in some windowless cellar from which you will not be able to escape if you cause any more problems to the man or worry me with your escapades? Am I understood Peter Parker?"

The boy blushed yet smiled before groaning to her "Crystal, aunt May, now please go! You're kind of embarrassing me…"

Smiling fondly she kissed his cheek loudly before turning to Tony. Offering her hand for a handshake she too blushed, when he brought it for a gentle kiss. Shaking her head at him, she retracted it only to raise her finger to his face, "You take good care of him, do you hear me? I'll call before dinner to make sure everything is ok. I trust you with him, Mr. Stark, do not make me regret it!"

Tony nodded dutifully. "I won't Maam. Rest assured, he will return safe and sound. And hopefully a little less careless and disobedient."

Now blushing profusely Peter hid his face in his hands as he collapsed in the nearest armchair, waiting for the two adults to finally say goodbyes.

When May disappeared through the corridor, Tony's voice alerted Peter to get up and follow him. The two made their way to the elevators, which led them directly to the garage. When they entered the car, the glass that secluded the driver's space went down and Happy's face appeared.

"Hey, Spidey. Long time, no see!" The man quipped.

"Hello Happy." The teen answered a bit awkwardly.

"Take us home, Happy. Pete will be spending the week there." Tony announced to break the awkwardness. The driver nodded and the glass slid back up into place as the engine purred and they began moving.

His anxiety and apprehension getting the best of him, Peter cleared his throat before asking, "So, what's the plan for today?"

Sensing what the question hid, Tony leaned forward resting his arms on his knees and looked at the teen seriously. "Today will be a bit crappy, sorry kid. We'll discuss and implement your punishment and then talk ground rules later in the day. If you're in the mood we can watch a movie or whatever after dinner."

Peter took a deep breath and regarded the man apprehensively once again. "What punishment? Can't you tell me now?"

Tony contemplated refusing, but then again the car ride would give the kid some time to come to terms with the fact. "I talked to your aunt and we both agree that the fact that you endangered your life the way you did and the escaping last night warrant a spanking." When he finished his sentence he intently watched the kid for reactions. Other than slumping of shoulders and slight blush Pete remained composed and slowly nodded.

"I take it you are familiar with such a punishment?" Tony asked pushing his luck. "Sorry, for asking, but if someone told me that at 15 I would probably at least profusely disagree, to put it mildly."

Peter cleared his throat before answering laconically, "My uncle always spanked me, when i screwed up big time. And after the last two days, I would be lying to myself if I said i did not royally screw up. May tried to spank me too a couple of times, but with my super powers, it was impossible for her."

Impressed that he mentioned it himself and did not attempt to save his ass with secluding the information, Tony nodded. "I have arranged the solution for that. I need you to know, Peter, you might not know me too well yet, but I would never do something to hurt you. You will be punished, it will suck but it will not be anything more or less than what you can take and deserve. Can you trust me on that? I know I need to gain your trust on many things, but I do believe the last two days must have shown you that I do sincerely care. And that is not something that comes easy to say or admit."

"I trust you, Tony." Peter simply said.

The two of them slipped in a comfortable silence for the rest of the journey. Sooner than Peter would like, a large impressive mansion started coming in to view. The design was modern and futuristic, as he would expect for Tony Stark's living space to be. Before long the car was parked in a spacious garage and the two men left Happy as they proceeded to the staircase that soon led them to a large and bright living area.

"So this is living room. On your left is the kitchen and on the right the dining room. At the end of the corridor is my office. Upstairs we have bedrooms, bathrooms and a playroom. There is also a lab right next to the garage. If you're up to it I'll take you to see everything later, there is also an outside and inside pool and a gym."

Peter beamed and whistled.

Tony smirked as he commented, "Yes, I know, no shabby at all!" Sobering up he then instructed. "Look, spiderling, I hate to drag this out any more for both of us, so head upstairs and grab a quick shower. Your room is the first on the left of the corridor. You'll find clean clothes in the room's dresser. Change and come meet me at the office. If you get lost simply ask Friday for help."

"Friday?" Peter only asked.

A female voice sounded from overhead, "How may i be of assistance young Mr. Parker?"

Peter looked surprised but ecstatic and Tony only shook his head smiling.

"Quick shower, clean clothes, my office! Try to be there in half an hour or so, ok?" Tony repeated.

Peter gulped and nodded before turning his back and heading to the instructed room.

In less than twenty minutes he was dry and dressed and headed for the scientist's office. Knocking nervously he entered the bright space, and couldn't help but stare around in awe. The room screamed Tony Stark. Minimalistic furniture in black colour, a large window covering one entire wall, computers and gadgets everywhere and a large sofa that looked comfy and stylish.

Tony rose from his chair behind the desk and gestured for the teen to sit on the sofa as he leaned on the edge of his desk and regarded him intently. "So, Peter, do remind us both, why we're here."

Peter not expecting that looked at the man almost pleadingly. "Come on, Tony, we both know why!" He said quietly.

Tony shook his head. "Peter, this is not a game, and you have no say in how it plays out. I will ask only once more, remind us why we are here."

Peter felt his temper rising besides himself. He had already screwed up, yet he felt his anger rising at the scolding tone. Managing to control his tongue he answered tensely, "For worrying you and May and for running away from the hospital yesterday."

Tony shook his head. "Nope. Only the hospital part is acceptable. Me and May will be worrying even when you go to the movies alone with your friends, that is not why you're about to be spanked and you know it."

"Yes it is! There is no other reason, I deserve to be punished!" Peter said through clenched teeth.

Tony grasping what the teen did not wish to admit he sternly answered, "Since this is the very first time, this scene plays out between us, I will ignore your little outburst and your refusal to accept your mistakes. But that's a one-time-deal. If this has to happen again and you refuse to accept responsibility of your actions, there will be added consequences." Waiting for any reactions and receiving none other than an angry glare, the man continued, "You are here for breaking the conditions of your spider-man action agreement. You are here, because, even though under-age you disregarded the rules, attempted to intervene to a criminal scene for which you had no clearance and almost got killed in the process. You are here, for allowing your pent up feelings and frustration to get the better of you and lead to risking your health and your powers. Is that clear now, Peter?"

"Yeah, I want to discuss this deal thing…" Peter only answered.

Tony shook his head."Discussion on the agreement will take place later today. Right now, we are talking about your actions two days ago, stop acting up and start listening. You worried me and May, because you almost got yourself killed, by being involved in something you are not allowed to be involved in. Yes or no?"

Peter could only nod to that.

"I want verbal answers, young man!" Tony said sharply.

His eyes snapping back to the man, Peter quietly said, "Yes sir."

"No that we're clear, repeat it please. Why will you get the spanking you're about to get, Peter?" Tony demanded once more.

Peter feeling more guilty than angry by now only miserably repeated his transgressions. At the end he fought hard to raise his eyes, look at the man's face and quietly say "I'm sorry."

Tony felt for the kid. He must have been fighting hard to keep his teen temper at check and he seemed to remember his advise to always look at someone when you thank them or apologize to them. Nodding he stood back up and moved to his desk. Opening a drawer he removed a thin metallic paddle and returned to his previous position.

"I made this not by chance, but with consideration of your healing abilities and your pain tolerance. It is based on the tests the doctors run and it is designed to hurt you as much as any spanking would hurt any kid in the world. As you correctly noted, using my hand would be useless and I hate the idea of using the iron man costume for this. It would feel too distant for my liking. Is this ok with you?

Peter gulped and only nodded, not trusting himself to speak right now. "Can we please get it over with?" The boy asked.

Tony nodded and walked the few steps to the couch purposefully. He sat on the couch next to Peter and instructed him to get up.

As soon as the boy was on his feet, he used his hand to gently tug him over his knees. He used his left one to secure the teen's legs his left hand to hold on Peter's right on the small of his back. With a swift motion he lowered his pajama bottoms and his boxers and rested the paddle on the pale skin.

Taking in a much needed breath he raised the implement and brought it down cautiously with little strength. Noting a small reaction from the kid he brought it down again with more force which elicited a hiss and left a light pink spot on the affected cheek. Deciding to continue with this amount of strength Tony upped his rhythm and quickly covered the young man's behind with solid smacks turning it to a rosy red after a minute or so.

Peter used all his willpower not to jump of the man's lap and willed himself to accept his punishment and prove himself mature enough. The burning sting on his cheeks intensified with each blow and memories of how bad this particular punishment hurt rushed to his mind. Encounters with his uncle's slipper or his aunt's wooden spoon.

Tony judged by the colour and the kid's soft sobs and decided to bring this to an end. Reminding himself that this was a serious occasion and he could not afford be too lenient on the kid and risk an reoccurence, he raised the paddle higher and brought it down harder and faster for the last part of the spanking.

Peter's cries elevated considerably at the new assault and pleas and promises started leaving his lips. He swore his bottom would be completely useless after this and that he would lose his ability to sit down forever. The smacks kept falling filling the room with the sharp slapping sound. When Tony felt the bottom in front of him had paid for the poor decisions of his owner's he immediately stopped. The flaming red cheeks radiated heat and he could tell that sitting would remind him of their conversation for the rest of the day. His hand instinctively started rubbing the heaving back and his lips parted offering reassuring words to the crying boy.

"You're ok, little spider. You're ok." He said as he cautiously redressed the pained rear and helped the kid to his feet.

When Peter stood in front of the man he tried desperately to clean his face from tears and snot, but Tony only hushed him as he drew him in a hug, ready to break it if the kid resisted it. When he felt the smaller body relaxing against his own he cupped the back of his head and asked quietly, "Do you hate me?"

Peter shook his head vigorously eliciting a small smile from the man. Tony kept his thought of 'Good, cause i hate myself right now.' to himself, judging it would only confuse Peter on how serious he was about the situation.

When the sobs quieted down and normal breathing could be felt again by the kids, Tony broke the embrace and put his hands on Peter's shoulders. "You took that well and I am proud of you. I hope you learnt your lesson, because if I ever have to repeat this, you won't enjoy the consequences, alright?"

"Yes, Tony. Sorry." Peter answered in a hushed tone.

"Enough with the apologies. How about you lie down here for a bit, while I go make us some snacks? Does that sound nice?" Tony asked.

At the teen's nod, he got up and moved to the door lingering long enough to watch the teen lying down on his stomach on the couch.

When Tony softly closed the door Peter's hands immediately flew to his sore ass and attempted to rub some of the sting out. Not managing their task in the least, he brought them to rest below his head as his eyes closed on their own accord. His last thoughts were, thoughts of wonder. How could he feel so much better after an ass busting, instead of worse? How could he feel like his life had somehow changed for the better? Sleep quickly took over and fogged his mind, as he slipped in a peaceful slumber.

 

A/N: Do review please! Have a great weekend!

PS: The spanking implement idea was inspired by an awesome picture drawn by Arkham-Insanity in Deviant Art, in case you wanna check it out  (it pictures Tony paddling Peter with a metalic paddle and Captain America standing in the background watching displeased) ;) .

 

Chapter Text

 

Tony's thoughts raced as he fumbled in the kitchen. He took his time taking out all the essential ingredients to fix two generous sandwiches, though he felt like he could not stomach anything at that moment.

The fact that he had proceeded with punishing Peter made it all too real. There was no stepping back now; And if he wanted to be honest with himself he didn't want to step back. But he couldn't help but feel completely incapable and inadequate to support a growing super-hero, a teenage boy. His crappy relationship with his father did not make things any better, nor the complete absence of any mentor he could turn to for advice.

Sighing he withdrew his phone from his back pocket and proceeded to call the one and only person he felt like talking to at the moment.

"Hey, TIn-Man. Survived?" her voice quipped as soon as she answered.

Tony smiled besides himself and leaned on the counter in front of him. "Hey, hot-mess! Survivor speaking."

"You ok, Tony?" Her voice held concern now.

"As ok as possible. What the hell did I got myself into, Peps?"

"Oh, come on! It's not that bad! You just get to know a side of yourself you never had the chance to meet till now. I am sure you'll be a rocking good mentor to that boy." Pepper answered instantly.

"Yeah, thanks for the pep talk, but i sincerely doubt that my name and the word mentor can coexist in the same sentence."

Pepper shot right back, "A certain spiderteen seems to disagree. Gee, Tony, the kid almost killed himself in the effort to catch your attention and did not seem to oppose in having you arrived from what I've heard! He even followed you to your home knowing he'd be punished, do you honestly think he'd do any of those things if he didn't really want you around?"

Tony smiled faintly at her words. "When you put it that way…"

"You might not see yourself as anything close to a mentor, Tony, but that little stubborn guy, does. And honestly, that's pretty much all that counts. You want to be there for him, he wants you to be there for him, so suck it up and work with each other to find a balance."

"You're so cute when you try to be strict, you know that?" Tony chuckled as he sat himself on one of the counter's bar stools.

"Got work to finish for you, tin-man, so if that's all I really need to go." Pepper answered fondly.

"Yeah, yeah… Go work your magic, babes. Talk to you later."

"Love you! Feed the kid!" Pepper hastily added and proceeded to terminate the call.

Chuckling at her, Tony threw his phone on the counter and proceeded with the sandwich preparation. He took his time, knowing that Pete would not wake up for at least half an hour. When he loaded the bread with generous amounts of ham, cheese, tomato, lettuce and mayo, he proceeded to wrap them up and store them in the fridge to keep them fresh.

Having nothing more to do with himself at the moment he proceeded to check the kid's room and make sure he'd have anything he might need for his short stay. Pleased to see everything in order he returned to the living room and continued to his study, creeping in as quietly as possible.

Peter was snoring lightly, making hard for Tony to contain a soft laugh. Sitting in his desk he regarded the thin body sprawled out on his sofa and contemplated how he should proceed when he woke up.

Bringing out two pieces of paper he started scribbling on them all the things he wished to discuss with Peter. When his task was completed he checked the clock of the office and noticed it was closing 40 minutes from the moment the kid lied down to rest. Not wanting to wake him up abruptly, Tony stood and started preparing some coffee in the office's coffee-maker. The soft sounds of the machine and the strong aroma of the high-quality coffee did the trick and the young body started stirring. Yawning deeply Peter slowly sat up on the sofa wincing slightly, before he turned his head to the man in the room.

"Got any cookies to go with that?" He asked a bit awkwardly.

"Nope, but I do have a ridiculously big sandwich waiting for you in the kitchen. Would you like to eat?" Tony answered back.

Nodding vigorously the kid stood up and Tony hid his smile in his steaming mug, as he reached to grab a few sheets of paper and a pen from his office before leading the way to the kitchen.

When Peter managed to find a somewhat comfortable way to sit on the wooden bar stools of the counter, Tony placed the sandwich in front of him along with a big glass of fresh juice. He watched Peter devouring the food marvelling how fast he finished it. "I happen to have a second one of those if you're still hungry" the man offered.

"Won't you eat?" Peter asked before gulping down a generous amount of the juice.

Tony shook his head and retrieved the second piece from the fridge. "No, kid, eat up. I'lll prepare something later if I'm hungry."

Smiling down at the plate Peter proceeded to consume the whole thing in less than 3 minutes. Spotting the teasing glint in Tony's eyes he quickly said, "Since I got my powers I can eat really large portions of food." He said almost apologetically.

"Thanks captain obvious!" Tony chuckled, but shook his head reassuringly,"Kid, when I was your age i ate like that and even more, without any superpowers to blame it on. No need to worry."

Peter snorted lowly at that, "It's your food I'm eating, why should I worry?"

"Let's see how smart-ass you'll be for the next part, spider-tongue", Tony quipped amused. Seeing the confused glance Peter gave him, he placed the papers on the table.

"Talking time." The man declared evenly.

Peter nodded his face turning solemn and sat up straighter in his stool. "Get ready to hear it, then, Stark!"

"Oh, I'm more than ready, Parker! You see, if this is going to work we both need to lay down our lines and find some common ground. So I will hear you, but so will you. This will not turn into a quarrel or an opportunity for either of us to blow out anger, agreed?"

The boy nodded and regarded the man expectantly.

"I want to begin with the reason for your recent choices. The agreement. I want to know what you believe needs to change, so that we can work out a solution that me, you and your aunt will agree upon. So, this is your chance. Shoot."

"I want the curfew gone. It makes no sense, bad guys don't work early in the night and you know it, nor do they have to be home by midnight!. I need to be able to be out till morning to get the chance to fight crime."

Tony shook his head, "There is no way you won't have a spidey-curfew. You got school and you're underage. This would be completely out of the question." Peter instantly opened his mouth to protest only to be stopped by Tony's warning look and his emphatic next words. "BUT, I do agree that it's a bit tight." After some silent pondering, while flicking the pen with his fingers he continued, "How about we push weekdays to 1 o' clock and weekends to 2 o' clock AND if you'd like , arrange two weekends per month where we can patrol together, with no preset time-limit. We call it a night, whenever we deem it right."

"Patrol together? Like Ironman and Spiderman, as a team? Like, we'll also tackle the more dangerous guys? Together?"

Tony had to try hard not to laugh at the almost awestruck way the kid spoke. "Don't sound so excited, groopy. I am not used to a fan club, that's Rogers' territory."

Peter blushed a little but could not resist the huge grin that spread on his face "That's what I was hoping for ever since I got my powers. To fight with you, learn from you… Cap is too much goody-two-shoes for my taste."

"We got that in common kid, just don't let that slip in front of him. But let's clear some things out, on your solo days, same rules stand. Small crimes ONLY. Anything big will be immediately reported to the base and whoever is available will deal with it. You got a taste of what the consequences will be, if you ever break that rule again. Are we clear on this?"

Not particularly pleased by the second bit, Peter asked "When will I be allowed to tackle harder cases?"

"When I feel sure you stand good chances ending a scene unscathed. And not a minute before. Plus, there would be no way your aunt would allow anything less than that. So, are we agreed on this part?"

Peter huffed annoyed, but still nodded.

"Another thing i want to make perfectly clear, when we patrol together, you will be under training. That means that especially in the beginning you might not always be cleared to get involved. If I ask you to stand by and observe that's what you do. If I say you can improvise, you can do whatever you feel will work best, if I tell you to do something specific you do whatever that is. If I tell you to god damn sing, you'd better god damn sing. Clear?"

"Oh, I might sing anyways, Stark." Peter answered smiling.

"Aha, adorable, Spidey. Now, please state that you're agreed to the above."

"Fine, I agree. But you have to promise to let me do stuff too, it's all over education Tony, experiential learning is the new thing nowadays."

"You'd better keep in mind the very recent experience of your spanking then, cause that's a certain thing we'll be reviewing if you ignore me while we're out on the streets. We'll see how much you like experiential learning then, smart-ass."

The instant blush that spread on the boy's face satisfied Tony, who added in a lighter tone, "Rest assured, you won't be benched. You'll be mostly,actively engaged, I promise."

"Good." The teen responded.

"Anything else on the agreement then?" Tony further pushed.

"Just one thing. If through training you are persuaded that I am good to go for a level-up-crime-scene, do you promise to add it to my solo-allowed-acts?"

"Yes, I guess that sounds fair."

"Cool!"

"Ha, joke's on you, spiderling, next part is super UNcool. Get ready for what I like to call General Rules of Conduct!"

Groaning and tossing his head back dramatically Peter almost whined, "Come on now, Tony!"

Ignoring him completely the man raised his clenched fist high before dramatically flipping his thumb, "Rule of Conduct Number One: Never put yourself in unnecessary danger."

Allowing some silent seconds for emphasis he continued counting with his index finger, "Never lie. For anything. No matter what has happened, lying will only land you in hotter water, Peter, that's a fact for every aspect of your life now and in the future." After another second, his middle finger joined the two others, "No slacking in school. Super powers are not the sole thing defining you. You are a smart kid with hell of a lot potential. I will be damned if I allow you to throw any of those away simply for your spider-business."

"Objection!" Peter called calmly.

"Declined." Tony answered back calmly. "These three are non-negotiable. Breaking them will almost always land you in spanking territory. I do leave open a small window of situations that might be resolved with grounding and other forms of discipline depending on the case."

Groaning Peter dropped his head dramatically on the table. "Fine, ok."

"Also, I expect you to be respectful at all times to everyone. You are allowed to be angry as hell, or consumed with any other teen-hormone-inflated emotion, but you're not allowed to let them take control of your words and actions. I know that's a challenge at your age and that's the only reason I do not include it to the three golden rules. You should still expect punishment for disrespect, though. I believe it's imperative for a young man to exercise his self-discipline, and controlling your emotions is the best way to train on that. More things might be added to this list of rules. We'll discuss any addition in advance though. Any questions?"

Pete seemed sceptical now. "Where's the limits of respectful? Is the way I'm speaking to you when I call you Stark, or when i get sarcastic disrespectful?"

"No! God no, kid! That's your style and quite honestly, it rocks. Disrespect is when any of these things are meant to hurt or make someone feel inferior. Or when you use it to blow out steam. Like at the hospital, when you yelled to your aunt, or when I called you, before you collapsed, and you called me Tony Damn Stark and proposed to shove a certain agreement to a certain place of my body."

The intense now blushing of Peter told Tony, he understood more than well.

"Well said, Stark."

"And I will add a single exception. During crime-fighting activities you are allowed to use whatever tone and attitude you wish to the bad guys. Sometimes it's a tool more than useful, while others there is not much to really respect to some of the criminals. These are fine lines though, Peter. I don't want you to be unnecessary cruel to anyone, so make sure to always be in control of yourself, especially duty. Yes?"

"Yeah, Tony, I understand."

Nodding the man said, "Enough with the serious matters for now. I am dangerously close to Rogers' territory again and I don't like that at all!"

Something in the man's words, combined with previous mentions of the Captain, made Peter comment thoughtfully, "My spider sense tells me you two might be working together again."

"Your spider sense might need more of Dr. Randall's help, it seems completely tuned out."

Completely ignoring him, Peter continued "But I guess you wouldn't advertise that with cap wanted and all…"

"Damn, Peter, I am worried now, your spider sense should warn you of imminent pain in certain body regions if you don't change the subject or, preferably, drop it altogether."

Eyeing the man with suspicious eyes, Peter probed, "Top secret, huh?"

Sighing resigned - and secretly admiring the kid's gut and his persistence - Tony only said, "You'll learn more on the matter soon. For now I cannot discuss anything."

"Knew it!" The kid whispered triumphantly as he grabbed his glass of juice and sipped its remaining contents.

 


 

The living room was dark, its only source of light coming from the TV-screen and the lights of the city that flowed in through the large room's windows. The day had rolled easily with Tony and Peter cooking together, resting after lunch, playing pool in the game room, visiting the lab and then concluded with dinner in front of the TV, with Peter making the selection of the film.

Tony was almost completely still, sitting straight in the large comfy sofa and looking at the ridiculously large TV screen almost accusingly, "What's going, on? Why did titled come out, the movie can't have ended, we never learnt if that was his son!" He turned to Peter expectantly.

"There is a sequel, isn't there?" He asked, hope sparking in his eyes.

Peter's laugh filled the room, loud and warm. "Tony, it's written and directed by Jim Jarmusch and Bill Murray is the central character. Dude, of course there is no sequel. And you're not supposed to learn if he was his son!"

Tony was completely silent now, looking at the kid completely disbelievingly. "That's the cruelest and stupidest way any movie has ever ended in the history of cinema." He declared dejectedly.

Peter chuckled again, "Oh, don't tempt me, Stark! I can't believe you hadn't seen this masterpiece."

"I come close to perfection kid, but everyone has his flaws."

As the duo rested lazily on the couch a few silent minutes passed.

"Hey, Tony?"

"Yeah?"

"What are we gonna do tomorrow?"

"Training kid. Intense training. This week won't be just fun and games."

"So, it's gonna be punishment?"

"No, not punishment. Just a reality check for what you're getting yourself into. I believe you'll enjoy it for the most part."

"Cool."

"Hey, Peter?"

Smiling Peter answered, "Yeah?"

"How come you didn't try to chortle me when I punished you this morning?"

Peter was surprised by the question, but he was more surprised at how difficult he found forming an answer. "I guess it's your Ben effect."

"Wow… I had no idea I had one of those. What is that again?"

Chuckling Peter continued inwardly thanking the man for managing to turn that particular conversation from embarrassing to comfortable. "I call Ben-effect the way my uncle managed to make me see things from other people's perspectives. How he made me concentrate not solely on the consequences my actions brought to me but to others too. He had a way to make me somehow feel a better person after each and every punishment and its accompanying conversation. Does that make sense?"

"I think it does."

"You made me feel like he did. You made me care more for what I caused to others and myself rather than for the punishment. Of course with uncle Ben, there was also the fact that I cared about him. I don't care about you."

"Oh, that's nice to hear!" Tony managed to respond neutrally to that.

Peter rushed to explain, "No, no! That came out completely wrong! I mean, he was there my whole life, he raised me. With you, it's not the same. Not yet anyways. I don't know if it will ever be, or even if that's something you want or don't want or whatever."

Tony chuckled but resisted his urge to call out the comment on Pete's eloquence.

Peter smiled awkwardly but continued, "What I know is, that from the very little we know each other, you have the same effect on me. You make me want to become better. No matter the cost or the pain."

Tony allowed a few seconds to pass in case the kid had anything more to add, before responding in a self-assured tone, "I am a hell of a mentor, dude."

The pillow that landed squarely on his face took him by complete surprise.

 


 

 

A/N: Fluffier chapter, more concentrated on the relationship-building and hopefully shedding light to the characters and their views of the recent events. A huge thank you to all of you who take the time to leave kudos or comment :) 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

"So, absolutely no chance?"

"None whatsoever."

"But I've repented thoroughly, truly and deeply! I've been a model prisoner! I worked for you, did chores, studied my eyes off and trained my butt off." Peter paused and then continued more quietly, "Not to mention you almost... you know... my butt off..."

Tony peered at the persistent youth through his sunglasses slightly amused, "Are you embarrassed to say the word Pete? Come on, now! It's spanked. I almost spanked your butt off. And, yes, you are 100% right on every little part of your speech. But as the model prisoner you claim to be, you're gonna serve the rest of your sentence, as agreed, without further complaints. You're on lock-down until Tuesday and there is no way I'm letting you off a minute earlier."

Peter threw his head back frustrated. He expected as much if he wanted to be honest with himself, but he hadn't missed a comic-con weekend ever since he learnt of their and Ned went every single year and this year even Mary Jane would join in, and he'd miss it.

Tony felt a pang of guilt for the kid. He had indeed worked hard for the duration of his stay with him to earn back his trust and prove he had realized the how wrong his actions were. But he had still assigned him a week of grounding and going back on his word during the very first punishment that he had doled out to the young man, he'd lose the game before it even started. He owed the kid integrity and consistency.
"Cheer up kid, it's Friday, no school for two days, a lot more time for training."

Peter looked up at that. "Do I have to do even more chores and stuff?" He asked gloomily.

"No, Spider-dude. I'm happy with your diligence and how seriously you dealt with the matter, so even though I am not lifting your restriction, we'll focus on your training some more during the weekend and even try a couple of scenarios together to find a rhythm between us before we get out in the field. How does that sound?"

Peter's lips split into a grin without his consent. "Cool!"

"Cool? Wow! And I thought Comic-con was cool."

"Yeah, well... You're ok too."

"Flattered, kid... Flattered!"

As the ridiculously expensive car they rode in came to a slow stop in front of Peter's school, Peter threw his backpack on one shoulder and scooted towards the door. "See you later Tin-man."

"Laters Spider-kid"

 


 

The silence on the other line made Tony tap his pen anxiously. If this didn't end well, Peter would be one angry, sulky teen. And angry, sulky teens with superpowers were not a good combination.

"I just don't know... do you honestly think it's a good idea?"

"My dear May, I wouldn't propose it if I didn't. For better or worse Peter has found himself with these powers and he needs to learn how to control them, and himself with them. He needs to learn to tame his super-hero syndrome in order to live a long healthy and fulfilling life. If we don't offer him a context to do his thing in a subtly controlled environment he will keep doing it unprotected and will be endangering himself. He needs a little more freedom, more discipline and someone to teach him."

"I just feel so worried..."

"I understand that, but I am afraid that if we don't offer him the context to practice with safety and backup, he'll just keep going at it secretly and obsess over it, forgetting school and everything else. He is lucky to have people able and willing to train him. But we need your consent for that."

"And school will still be a top priority?"

"If he knows what's good for him it'd better be. I was clear and adamant about that bit. The kid has an incredible mind. I won't allow him to not exploit it."

"Ok, then, I guess. I am signing the document and sending it to you, Tony."

Throwing his pen in the air triumphantly he answered, "You won't regret this May. I promise I'll do right by him".

"You'd better!" said the brunette woman. "I've missed him."

"I can imagine. Well, he'll be all yours before you know it."

"I have a very busy weekend with work anyways, so maybe it's better he won't be home alone. Anyways, kiss him for me and let him know I agreed."

"Sure thing May. It was nice talking to you!"

"Bye, Tony."

As soon as the call ended, the man hopped on his feet releasing a triumphant howl as he threw his hands in the air.

"Now, that's a mature reaction!"

His head snapped towards the familiar amused voice and his face lit up. "Pepper! I didn't expect you till… Yeah, well, who am I kidding? I had no idea when that conference was supposed to end and I won't pretend I did."

Pepper shook her head as she walked to him lacing her hands behind his head. "Ever the romantic!"

"Just the way you like me, babe!"

"So, I take it young Peter is your protege now." She concluded evenly.

"Yep! Just got aunt approved!"

Pepper looked at him and couldn't help but smile warmly at his excited eyes. She had not seen him as happy for a long time. Clearing her throat she continued with the more pressing matter at hand. "So, Peter will be with us today too?"

"Nope! He is with us till Tuesday. Today is only Friday." The man answered while breaking the embrace and moving to his laptop screen to check if the signed document had arrived yet. Glancing at the thoughtful eyes of Pepper he probed, "Why do you ask?"

"It's, Cap. And he's not alone." Pepper answered in a serious tone.

 


 

Ned and M-J looked at him with disbelieving eyes.

"Come on man, I am sure you can get May to change her mind." Ned said in an almost desperate tone. "It's the Comic-Con!", he added almost whispering the words.

M-J rolled her light blue eyes before talking in a more indifferent tone, "Relax, Ned. It won't be the end of the world. We can all hang out after Tuesday and do something together."

"Yeah!" Peter agreed eagerly, happy to hear the girl proposing spending time together on her own. "I am sorry, Ned. But I really screwed up. There is no way I can get her to let me out."

Ned looked at him pointedly before clearing his throat and answering, "Well, what if you'd sneak out then? Meet us there, creep back in…"

Mary-Jane snorted sarcastically at that, as she reclined on her elbows and stretched her jean-clad legs over the grass of the school yard, "Yeah, piece of cake. You just jump off your fourth-floor balcony, right?"

Ned laughed awkwardly at that but kept his gaze on Peter. "Right, stupid idea!"

Peter glared at him discreetly before repeating, "I can't sneak out this time, Ned, trust me!"

The other boy's shoulders slumped at that but he nodded defeated.

Mary-Jane smiled a bit at Peter before nudging Ned with her shoulder, "Cheer up, Ned. I know I am not as cool as Peter, but then again, imagine all the kids in school seeing the two of us, alone there…"

Ned's face lit up at the implication, but he had little time to answer as Peter sprang to his feet hastily covering his head with the hood of his dark-blue oversized sweater.

"Gotta go guys. May sent someone to pick me up, I don't wanna make them wait."

Ned and Mary-Jane glanced up at that, but did not comment it. They had a couple of questions regarding their friend's whereabouts and weird pickups from school this past couple of days, but they had decided to not ask him yet, in case he wanted to share the information with them on his own.

"Bye, Dude." Ned told him lazily.

"Bye, Peter. See you on Monday!", M-J said a bit more cheerfully.

Peter waved to both of them and ran from the spot of the schoolyard the three of them were sitting at, towards the gate and around the corner of the school building, where Tony's car was waiting for him. When he opened the car's door and threw himself into the comfy back seat, he was surprised to see Tony inside too.

"Hey there.", the man said.

"Hey! I didn't expect you'd be here! Did you leave headquarters early? Is everything ok?", Peter asked suspiciously, as he got the hood off his head and made himself comfortable for the car ride.

"Everything's fine." Tony answered evenly. "So, I got a bit of a surprise for you. Well, three of them to be accurate."

Peter's face lit up. "Comic-Con?"

Tony laughed beside himself, "Let it go, kid! No Comic-Con, no!"

"Then what?"

"First things, first! Your aunt agreed and signed the contract. Our deal is officially May-approved!"

Peter howled excitedly at that throwing his fist in the air enthusiastically. "Yes!"

Tony smiled at his enthusiasm and continued. "W also got guests! Oh, and Pepper's back! So you get to meet her too."

Peter was still smiling but seeing Tony's face turning more serious he asked a bit worriedly "Guests? Who? Family of yours?"

"Kinda… Look before I let you in on this, I need you to not tell anyone! I mean it, Peter! Our guests are in a bit of a situation. Things are on the way to being safe for them, but they're not yet. So, top secret stuff, agreed?", Tony asked seriously.

Peter sat up in his seat and took a couple of seconds. Before his mouth opened to a big round 'O'. "It's Cap, isn't t? I knew it! I knew it!" He whispered excitedly.

Tony nodded but he kept his serious look on. "Pete, I am not kidding. They're not in the clear yet. I need to trust you that you won't say a thing. Got it?"

Peter's face turned serious too. 'Sure thing, Tony. Who's they, though? Isn't Cap alone?"

Tony shook his head as he shouldered off his jacket and removed his sunglasses to get a bit more comfortable. "Nope, he's with Wanda Maximoff. You might remember her from Germany."

"Cool! She has awesome powers!" Peter said excitedly.

"Yeah, and from what Pepper told me she is the main reason Cap tried to smooth things out. I am working on getting him out of the hole he dug himself into and will probably make it of. He has taken Wanda in, her being only sixteen and all. He wants to offer her as a normal a life as possible and they're both tired from all the hiding."

Peter nodded. "I can imagine." Then a thought crossed his mind and he shifted uncomfortably. "Do they know about me?"

Tony smiled reassuringly at him. "They know you are my protege Super-teen. So your reputation is pretty safe and cool and all."

Peter smiled broadly at that. "Thanks for that Tony."

"Yeah, well. Wanda is already way too beautiful and cool, I couldn't make things any more difficult for you than they already are…" he had no chance to continue teasing as a rather heavy school bag was thrown emphatically to the spot right next to him. Laughing loudly he reached forward and ruffled the kid's hair.

"So, how was school, kid?"

 


 

As the three adults discussed things quietly in the living room sipping their coffees, Peter and Wanda watched them from the kitchen island. Peter still found it a bit hard to believe that he'd be sharing the same home with Captain America and Wanda Maximoff for the next few days. He stole glances at her and captain interchangeably, not at all used to seeing them dresses in regular clothes. Captain wore a dark green t-shirt and jeans, while Wanda was wearing black leggings and an oversized burgundy sweater. seeing her like that took Peter by surprise. Her outfit during the battle always reminded him the comic-book sorcerers that often appeared in his favorite comic-books, while this girl next to him, seemed like a next-door teenage girl, bored out of her mind.

Wanda was lost in her own thoughts. She found it hard to believe that Tony would manage to do as he had promised. She looked over at Peter and contemplated if he would be interesting enough to hang around with. Making her decision she cleared her throat. "So, give me a Tour?", she asked in an even tone.

Peter looked at her a bit startled. It was the first time she talked to him after they greeted each other when he and Tony came home. "Sure…" He answered, his voice pitching a bit, which made him flush and look away from the girl. He rose from his seat and called back to her, "Follow me!"

Wanda stood from her stool and quietly and walked behind Peter glancing over at the adults. None of them even seemed to notice them, as they kept going over papers and plans. As the teens left the kitchen and the living-room behind them, Peter moved towards the dining-room and made sure Wanda was close-by. "So, this is the dining-room. We usually eat in the kitchen, but I guess now that there are five of us we'll start eating in here."

Wanda's absent-minded, "Mhm" was the only answer, as they continued walking towards the corridor.

"That door over there is Tony's office and the two doors left and right are bathrooms." Peter explained but sensed she wasn't exactly in a mood for discussion, then again he didn't understand why she had wanted him to walk with her around the house. Still, he started climbing the stairs and he kept pointing at various doors indicating rooms and bathrooms. Then smiling he waved for her to follow him to the spacious area of the play room. "Come over here. This is sort of the highlight."

Wanda seemed a bit more intrigued at that and smoothly walked towards the door Peter kept open for her. She stepped inside to the spacious comfortable room, filled with screens, it also contained a number of video game consoles, a pool-table and a chess-table, a bookcase, and a large television in front of a sofa and a few armchairs.

"Wow!" She commented.

"Yeah, it's pretty cool. On the bookcase, there are books, movies and a large number of video games to choose from. On the first floor there is also an indoor pool, a gym and in the garden, there is an outdoor pool as well." Peter added hoping for some more interaction with the girl.

"Sounds nice." She said in an even tone. "So, how long have you been living here?" She asked.

"Just a couple of days and I'm staying until Tuesday. Then I'll go back to my own home."

"Oh!" Wanda seemed a bit surprised. "Sorry, I thought, you lived here permanently. I heard your parents…", her voice trailed off after that not sure how he'd react.

Peter shook his head reassuringly when he saw how awkward she grew. "My parents are dead and my aunt takes care of my now."

Wanda didn't press the matter anymore. "So, it's been a while since I went, well anywhere really, and I would love to get a coffee and walk around a bit at the you like to join me?" She asked in the same even, distant tone.

Peter cleared his throat awkwardly at that and couldn't decide what to mention first. "I thought you and Cap are not to be seen outside, yet? Isn't that what Cap told you downstairs when you guys were filling me in?"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. But nobody will be suspicious of me because they believe we're still on the run. Plus if you were with me, nobody would even bat their eyes twice. I am sick and tired of being locked up." Wanda said her voice now sounding tired and hoarse.

Peter could really feel for her, but he knew that leaving the house was out of the question for both of them. "Look, unfortunately, I cannot leave the house till Tuesday, cause I'm on lock-down. I screwed up a couple of days back and I can't go anywhere until Tuesday… And I'm pretty sure Cap won't be happy if you leave the house without informing him and before it's safe for both of you."

Wanda shook her head and smiled. "Pete, you're sweet and all but I don't need you or anybody else sweating over my safety. I've been on my own for quite a few years, now. I am trying to get Steve to understand it too but he is so hard headed… Anyways. I'm going outside to check out the garden and all if anybody asks. If you change your mind, follow me and we can take Steve's car to the city."

"What if someone recognizes the car?" Peter tried, getting really uncomfortable with the whole situation.

"They're fake plates, Peter. We're not stupid!" Wanda answered in a bored voice.

Peter's mind started racing as she slowly got up and started moving towards the stairs. He had to find a way to change her mind. He couldn't let her jeopardize Cap's and her own safety, but he couldn't get himself to rat her out to the adults either.

As the two of them, with Wanda now leading, passed in front of the living room again, Tony looked up at them. "Everything alright, kids?"

"Yeah!" Wanda said. Peter looked at surprise at the girl. Her voice sounded cheerful and sweet all of a sudden. She was smiling at Tony charmingly as she continued, "Peter told me about the gym and the pool and I thought we could take a walk around the garden and get some fresh air."

Tony nodded and glanced at Steve, who smiled at his ward warmly. "Sure, you go ahead. Just remember to stay within the property's grounds."

"Of course, Steve. See you!" She answered and she walked leisurely over to the next staircase.

Peter followed her numbly feeling his face flushed and not knowing what he should do. When Wanda turned towards the entrance to the garages he whispered after her, "Wait! Tony's AI might let him know that you left with Steve's car!"

Wanda turned at that. "Might?"

"Well, probably. I mean, she does inform him of anyone who is coming in the property." He explained quickly hoping that would be the trick.

"Yeah, that seems reasonable. When someone comes in, it will let them know. But I'm going out. Hopefully, it will be fine."

Peter stared at her disbelievingly. "Hopefully? What about when you return? How are you going to come back in, without them knowing?"

Wanda rolled her eyes losing her patience, "Honestly, Peter, I don't give much of a shit, if they'll know or not. Steve was kind enough to offer me his protection and he is always sweet and nice, but he needs to understand that I do not need to be babied over. I am more than capable of protecting myself and honestly so are you. You wanna stay here, make sure you don't lose brownie points with Stark? Be my guest! I, am going out!"

Peter's temper rose at that. "Brownie points with Tony? That's what you think I worry about right now? The government wants you and Cap locked up more than it wants anything else right now, Wanda. And you wanna risk all that for a walk in the city?"

The girl opened the door of a dark blue Citroen angrily, her blue eyes darkening a bit. "For the last time. Nobody knows the car, nobody suspects we're here, Tony is halfway through clearing shit out for us and if you'd come with me, I'd risk nothing."

With that, she sat in the driver's seat and ran her fingertip over the sensor that communicated with the car's ignition. The vehicle started rumbling quietly and the girl slowly drove towards the now opening garage door.

Peter, cursing under his breath ran the few steps to where the car waited and slid in the front seat, slamming the door.

Wanda stared at him and her face slowly split into a smile. Turning her eyes back to the road she told Peter reassuringly, "Trust me, you won't regret this."

Peter chose not to voice his thoughts of the contrary, as he secured his seat belt and shrunk as low down as he could in the car seat.

 


 

 

A/N: Two chapters in one day, as chapter 3 was rather small ;)
Comments and thoughts please! 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

The busy bistro was buzzing with life. It was a rather busy afternoon with people coming in and out constantly. The loud murmurs of the small groups scattered around in the store's tables, was pleasantly interrupted every other minute by the door's attached bell, that rang each time the door opened or closed. The strong aroma of coffee, mixed with freshly baked cupcakes, added a coziness to the atmosphere that had even Peter eventually relax and start enjoying himself.

He had persuaded Wanda to wear his dark blue hoodie and cover her head with its hood, leaving her hair loose to aid in hiding her face. Nobody seemed to glance at them twice as they slowly sipped their beverages on a small table close to the store's window.

"See?" Wanda beamed. "It's pretty safe."

Peter hated to admit it but he couldn't really disagree. They were just two random teens in a busy bistro, in a crowded city. He also hated to admit that he rather liked the more relaxed and easygoing side of the girl. Her smile was sincere and her eyes were sparkling with excitement and pleasure.

"It seems so. At least for now," he answered smiling too.

"Well the car is parked right outside and we'll go straight home after this, so I don't see any trouble should be headed our way," Wanda replied, sipping her steaming cappuccino slowly.

Peter snorted at that and looked at her incredulously as he retorted with a hint of sarcasm, "I am more worried about what will be awaiting us when we get back home, to be honest."

The girl waved his words off and looked around her longingly. "Oh, come on... They'll shout, we'll apologize and it'll be over. I told you, Steve has always been pretty sweet and understanding."

"Have you left like this before, then?" Peter asked raising his eyebrows. He found it hard to believe that Steve Rogers would be 'sweet' and 'understanding' over something like this. From what he had heard of the captain he had pictured him as rather strict and authoritative person.

Wanda's answer came a few seconds later. "No, cause up to now it would be too dangerous. But I have had my share of disagreements with him and I always manage to make him see my side of the story. I have my way with him, don't worry, honestly."

Peter swallowed his gulp of plain filter coffee with difficulty before answering, "Great, that sounds very reassuring."

"Hey, that's enough for over-worrying. In any case, we already did this, so lets at least enjoy it. Tell me about what you've been doing. Has Stark trained you? How long have you been fighting crime?" Wanda asked excitedly.

"Not much," Peter admitted flushing lightly. "I was only allowed to deal with small cases around my neighborhood, 'cause I'm underage and all'. But now Tony has agreed to start training me and we'll even work together some nights."

"Why don't you go after the cases you want anyways?" Wanda asked perplexed. "Tony is not your legal guardian or anything and from what I understand you live with your aunt, so why not just do your thing no matter what?"

"I tried that, but it didn't end up so well. It actually ended up with me in the hospital and my aunt and Tony furious at me. And I get it, I really do. I can't tell you I am ready to tackle harder cases yet. Not alone anyways. I need the training. And the deal was that I'd follow Tony's rules and orders on the field if I wanted to train with him."

Wanda stayed silent for a while and then smiled and shrugged, "It seems to be the best deal for you I guess."

"What about you? Did you always have your powers? Have you been training with Cap'?"

Wanda's eyes darkened and her fingers tightened slightly around her warm porcelain mug. "They emerged when I was twelve." She answered laconically. "I have been practicing with them ever since. My brother and I spent many hours training with each other. I also had about a year of training with the Avengers. That was the sole reason they let me get involved in Germany. They knew that I was an asset and that I could hold my own in a battle."

Peter looked at her with his interest spiked, not sure what to ask her about first. "So, you have a brother? Where is he?"

Wanda took a deep breath and her blue eyes glossed a bit before answering, "Had. I had a brother. I lost him two years ago. It was after his death that Steve found me and I joined him and the Germany occurred and we got divided and then Steve and I had to run away…"

Not missing how quickly she skipped the death of her brother, Peter locked eyes with her and only said, "I'm sorry you had to go through so much. I know part of the story on how you forgave Tony for the Stark Industries weaponry that resulted in the destruction of your hometown and all. But I had no idea about your brother. I'm really sorry for your loss."

The girl smiled at him before saying, "Thank you, Peter. I miss him a lot and I wish I had met Steve while Pietro was still alive. Things would be so different with him here. But the past cannot be undone. And I hate depressing people. So tell me about you."

"Nothing much to tell." Peter smiled and blushed a bit. "I live with my aunt, whom I hope you'll get to meet at some point. I go to school, I like comics and I have a thing for journalism. I like taking photos too, but I don't have a good enough camera yet. And well that's pretty much it." As soon as his small speech finished, Peter couldn't help but feel a bit embarrassed by how much more his new friend had to go through up to now compared to him.

Wanda immediately took her phone out and asked, "Well, if you like photography and don't own a camera, I'm pretty sure that means you have an Instagram account right?"

Blushing, even more, Peter mumbled "a Yeah it's PeterMan.S" Watching her retrieving her smartphone he then asked hastily, "You're on Instagram with a nickname, right?"

The girl rolled her eyes at that. "No, I am on there as Wanda Maximoff and regularly check in the places I visit. Of course, I got a nickname Peter! You were just followed by 'Wendy Pan'!"

It was Peter's turn to laugh now. "Seriously, Wendy Pan?"

Winking at him she quipped, "Shitty childhood or not, I do have my fairytale crushes. Peter Pan rocks and Wendy rocks even more. They're meant to be together!" Wanda looked at Peter's face as he burst into laughter before turning her attention back to his social media profile and quickly scrolling down silently.

"Well, PeterMan, I can see some awesome shots here." She said, catching his eyes. "I can't wait to see what you'll manage with a real camera."

She watched his face blush and his smile widen for all of a second, before all pleasant expression completely melted away from his face, as his eyes peered over her head and through the store's window. Wanda turned discreetly and spotted a rather unhappy looking Pepper glaring at them through her oversized sunglasses.

 


 

 

The pair of teens sat on the sofa of Tony's office silently. Wanda wore an unreadable expression and was staring at the large window, while Peter was following with his gaze Steve's feet, as they paced the spacious area, and Tony's fingers were tapping on his desk impatiently.

"What on earth were you thinking, kids?" Steve finally spoke up. His voice was not raised but it held so much frustration and worry that it made Peter slump even deeper into the couch. This was definitely not the way he imagined the first day with Steve, Wanda or Pepper would go.

"We're not kids, Steve…" Wanda said tiredly.

Peter looked up for the first time since they were summoned to the office to look at his new friend incredulously.

"Wanda, this is not the time for smart-ass answers." Steve retorted immediately. "You know more than others well… No! Scratch that! You know first-hand how hard things are out there for the two of us. You know how dangerous it was and still is, for both of us. What on earth possessed you when you decided to go out like this in the city? What if someone recognized you?"

"That's why I asked Peter to come with be on the safe side! Plus nobody even glanced at us a second time, Steve! I would never jeopardize our safety!" Wanda answered impatiently.

Tony watched with an unreadable expression the dialogue with his attention focused on his friend.

Steve's pacing stopped as he stood directly in front of the girl. "You were not jeopardizing our safety? Are you kidding right now? If anybody recognized you…"

"Well nobody did! Steve, come on!" Wanda answered exasperatedly.

"And that was by sheer luck, Wanda Maximoff. Sheer luck!" Steve now yelled at her.

Wanda looked at him stunned. It was the first time he had ever raised his voice at her and on top of that in front of other people. She rose to her feet slowly and holding her chin high and her arms crossed she teleported out of the office.

Steve remained stunned for only a second before turning to Tony looking bewildered.

Tony spoke for the first time. "Friday, please let us know if Wanda is still on the property."

"She is in the purple guest-room, Mr. Stark." The melodic voice of the A.L. echoed.

Sighing in relief and taking a deep breath, Steve quickly made his way out of the office closing the door behind him.

Peter was left looking at the spot Wanda had just disappeared from and momentarily overcoming his hesitation to talk or look at Tony he exclaimed frustrated, "Why couldn't she teleport to the city like that then? That way I wouldn't need to join her in the car!"

Tony raised a single eyebrow at that. "Well, she would risk being seen when she appeared out in the city, which would multiply the probability of someone recognizing her. Now, on that second comment, are you sure you wouldn't? Does that mean she pressured you following her? Or maybe held an energy ball in front of your face and threatened your safety? Was it a difficult decision for you between ' Wanda possibly killing me for not breaking my grounding and not joining her' and of 'going out with Wanda and keeping her safe'?"

Gulping Peter answered "Well, now that you phrase it like that… No. Not really. But she made it look like it would be safer if I went with her. And she was right, you know. It wouldn't had been safe for her to be out there on her own. The two of us passed as a typical, unimportant pair of teens, you know..."

"It wasn't safe for any of you to be out there together with the situation as it currently is, Peter," Tony exclaimed his tone rising. "If someone realized who she was, and the government was mobilized to arrest her, do you think you'd just be left alone to return home and tell us the news? No, you'd have been arrested, if not killed on the spot, along with Wanda. You both jeopardized your safety and my efforts to secure safety and freedom for both Steve and Wanda. Do you realize that?"

Peter looked at the floor, his cheeks flaming. "No, Tony. I am sorry. I didn't think it was such a big deal. I mean, I did at the beginning, but when it was decision-making time, it was either rat her out or go with her."

Tony sighed at his words and slowly moved from behind his office desk to sit next to the kid. Placing a hand on his shoulder he told him, "I understand you didn't want to get her into trouble. I understand that you felt like you had to protect her, but as we've already discussed, it's not your place to save everybody. The right thing to do in this case would have been talking to us. To me, if you were afraid that Steve would chew her out. If you had come to me, I would have arranged for the car to never have reach the town and for Wanda to return safely home."

"And then you would chew her out and I would still be the prick that ratted her out," Peter said gloomily.

"Or I'd blame it on Friday and that would be the end of it. And nobody's safety would have been on the line, and we wouldn't be having this conversation right now would we?" Tony added a bit more sternly. "Do you understand how reckless and dangerous your decisions were today, Peter? And I am talking about your decisions here. Not Wanda's."

Peter averted his gaze from the man and slowly nodded. "Are you… Are you going to punish me?"

"I think you already know the answer to that, Peter. I think you knew the second you chose to get into that car."

The teen took in a deep breath and nodded miserably.

Taking pity on the kid, Tony continued, "Still, I do recognize that this was a hard call for you to make. So, even though you broke your grounding, I am not going to postpone your sentence beyond Tuesday. You will only be getting a spanking."

Peter chuckled beside himself at the way the man used his words. " Well that's such a relief!" he commented, making Tony chuckle as well. After another second, the man rose to his feet, moved to the desk and opened one of the drawers retrieving the small paddle.

Peter eyed the implement with narrowed eyes and he started contemplating how easily he could bribe the maids to throw it away for him. When Tony came back to the sofa instead of sitting down on it he gestured for Peter to get to his feet. Peter followed the silent direction and looked at the man not sure what he should do next.

Tony tapped the desk's surface and Peter realized it had been emptied of all the things that usually were placed on its surface. Sighing he took the few steps to the furniture and slowly bent over until his torso rested on the cool wood.

Tony followed the kid and stood on the left of his presented rear. He placed a gentle hand on the kid's lower back and rested the paddle on the still unaffected buttocks.

"So, Peter. Why are you getting this spanking?"

Peter had to use all his willpower not to say something that his butt would regret and after taking a deep breath he said in a hushed voice, "For jeopardizing my safety and for breaking my grounding."

Tony landed the first two swats at these words and probed, "Let's add another thing to the list. You disobeyed a direct order." Two more emphatic swats landed on the kids bottom eliciting a yelp and a hiss. "Even though we were not on the field today, the order given to you was for the protection of our team members, our extended family. You never break such orders, Peter."

As two more swats landed Peter and clenched his fists in an attempt to not throw his hands back. The punishment had only started but his bottom was already uncomfortably warm and it smarted. "I'm sorry, Tony!"

"I know you are. But these are the consequences of your actions. Consequences you knew to expect, isn't that right?"

When Peter nodded miserably, Tony drew his hand back again and started peppering his target with fast swats. He hadn't used much intensity or force yet, wanting to warm up the kid's bottom before moving on to the main part of the punishment.

Peter hissed and yelped and did his best not to let tears escape his eyes yet. After all, it was a considerably lighter spanking than the previous one he had received from the man. It was during these thoughts that the paddle stopped coming down. Peter turned his head to look at Tony trying to hide his relief.

But Tony did not set the paddle down. He simply offered his next instruction, "Peter please unbutton and lower your jeans. You can leave your underwear on for now."

Catching up on what was happening Peter groaned audibly before following the instructions.

When he finished, Tony gently tugged the boy's hands onto the small of his back and secured them there. Not allowing more than a few seconds to pass he raised the paddle and started spanking again each swat delivered more vigorously than before and with a little more force behind it.

Peter's feet started wiggling on their own accord as the discomfort multiplied immediately. His butt burned much more intensely without the protection of his jeans.

Tony focused on the task at hand, trying to ignore how small the kid seemed to him right now and how he much hated himself for eliciting the pained cries and yelps. Knowing they were only half-way through he upped the tempo even more and started concentrating more spanks to Peter's sit-spots. After another volley of smacks to the tender under curve, Tony paused long enough to tug the last layer of clothing, that covered Peter's bottom, down.

Inspecting the redness and being relieved that it was still only a vibrant pink, he once again drew his hand back and landed ten considerably harder swats in quick succession.

Peter, not able to hold his tears in any more, burst into tears.

"You need to start thinking before jumping head first into trouble!" Tony said before laying down five fast, stinging swats.

"You need to stop putting your safety at risk!" Ten more sharp swats followed that comment.

"I promise I will, Tony! Please stop!", Peter begged through his tears. His bottom was burning insanely and he couldn't understand how he could be so stupid landing himself in a spanking situation again, so soon after his previous punishment.

"You promised me the same thing a couple of days ago too, didn't you, Peter?" Tony asked laying the next swats all on the same sit spot. "Empty promises mean nothing, Peter. Promise someone something, only if you truly mean it." Another five smacks were then delivered to the kid's other cheek.

Glancing at the now blazing backside, Tony decided to wrap things up. "No more rash decisions! No more breaking rules! No more breaking groundings! No more disobeying important orders! And most importantly, no more endangering your safety! I told you before and I'm telling you again, Peter you are important to several people, Myself included. So please stop treating yourself like you don't matter! Understood?"

Peter's miserable "Yes, Tony!" was barely audible, but for the man, it was more than enough. Raising the implement for the last time he covered the teen'svbottom with the last round of blazing smacks aiming most of his efforts to the sitting area that would keep the message alive for the rest of the day.

When the last swat was delivered, Tony immediately left the paddle on the desk, tugged Peter's underwear back into place carefully and then gently helped him up turned him to face him and then he enclosed him in a tight hug. Peter returned it eagerly and Tony rubbed his back comfortingly.

"So, you think you can keep out of trouble for more than three days this time around?" The man asked when Peter finally broke the embrace.

"Well, I am not promising anything of the sort again, that's for sure!"Peter quipped and ran his hands over his eyes to get rid of the remaining tears that had not been absorbed by Tony's t-shirt.

Relieved that the kid's wit was back, Tony chuckled and pointed with his head to the couch. "Why don't you lie down for a bit. I'll go help Pepper with dinner and you can come join us whenever you feel ready."

At the mention of the woman's name, Peter's face fell once again. Through his still hitching breathing, he said gloomily, "Pepper's gonna hate me. We have barely met and…", he did not have the chance to finish his sentence, as Tony's hand cupped his cheek gently.

"Hey, Pepper does not hate you, nor could she ever. You'll get to know each other and you'll soon realize that for yourself. She was worried today like all of us, but she is just glad both of you are safe." The man said in a gentle tone.

"Promise?"

"I promise. Now rest!"

 


 

 

Pepper was chopping carrots and bell peppers when Steve entered the kitchen. Tony was still in the office with Peter and she had only just started preparing the vegetables to accompany their steak dinner. Glancing up at the blonde man she smiled sympathetically. Steve was stern and hard on his people but that didn't mean he didn't feel like crap after any kind of discipline session.

The man slowly approached the kitchen island and threw himself on a stool.

"How is she?" Pepper simply asked.

"She is so tired of all this hiding and running around. And can you blame her? She is sixteen, she needs a home, friends, school… Not the life of being a fugitive."

A bit perplexed by his answer and a suspicion starting growing in her mind she probed again in a sweet voice, "Well, yes, the motives are always there. She definitely had her reasons for endangering her safety, as well as yours, for that matter. But hopefully, the consequences have helped her realize how much she risked today."

She looked up from the vegetables at Steve and as he averted his eyes guiltily and his face lightly flushed, Pepper got all the confirmation that she needed. Stabbing the knife loudly on the cutting surface she crossed her arms and angrily spoke in a loud voice "Are you serious, Steve Rogers?"

Tony's approaching footsteps made both of them turn towards the man, who had heard his girlfriend's words and he looked at his blonde friend with narrowed eyes.

"What did you do to invoke the wrath of the Ginger one?" He asked in a mock-frightened tone.

Slapping his shoulder emphatically Pepper answered, "It's what he didn't do that you need to be asking him about!"

Tony looked at the man confused and waited.

Steve's voice was loud and irritated when he spoke to Tony. "I couldn't do it ok? I couldn't punish her! I scolded her and we had a long talk and I believe she understood what she did wrong and why she mustn't do it again."

Groaning loudly Tony threw his eyes at the ceiling before asking pointedly, "And why is she not to do it again, if I may ask?"

Steve cleared his throat uncomfortably before retorting "Because it would be dangerous for her safety."

"So instead of punishing her you just stood there, in front of a sixteen year old girl, listening to her excuses of why she thought was ok that she left this house just to have some fun in the city? This being the very same child who knowingly left the house while she is wanted by the whole USA government and she was explicitly told not to leave this house, because it would place her in dangerous position and make this bad for both of you and therefore she shouldn't leave this house again until you're in the clear? And exactly what's different this time around? 'Cause if my memory serves me correctly, Steve, that's the very same things we told both her and Peter a few hours ago!" Tony quipped sarcastically.

Steve shook his head tiredly and rubbed a hand to the back of his neck. "We talked, she understands… She has been through a lot, Tony, I can't simply go ahead and lay down the law on her. She is sensitive and vulnerable right now."

Pepper yielding the wooden spoon with which she was stirring the vegetables in her pan answered angrily, "Which is exactly why she needs structure and a safe base, Steve! Someone who she can trust and listen to. Someone who holds her accountable when she screws up! She might have been through a lot, but she is bloody sixteen! Do you know what shit I pulled when I was her age and nobody was there to set the boundaries I needed?"

"I'd be interested in those stories…" Tony intervened at that, earning another slap on his shoulder.

Steve sighed and rubbed his face with his hands. "I know, you're right, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it this time. If there is a next time, I promise to hold her accountable and punish her. I don't know how I'll bring myself to do that, but I will." Pausing momentarily he turned his head to Tony. "Does that mean you punished Peter?"

"Yes, I did. He knows full well by now, that if he endangers his safety or breaks any of the specific rules set out for him, he will be punished. That's what he expected and that's what he got. Plain and simple. I learned that from you, you know. And by the way, you had always the handled younger members when they messed up. Up to now, that is." Tony answered.

Steve nodded knowingly and started having second thoughts on how he had handled things. Before he could even pray that he had not screwed up, Friday's crystal voice echoed in the kitchen.

"Mr. Stark, as per your earlier request, I have to inform you that Miss Maximoff just teleported from the premises. Unfortunately, I cannot tell where to."

Feeling his surroundings momentarily swirling around him, Steve shot from his stool and looked at Tony bewildered and silently asking for his help.

"Alright," Tony sighed, "I'll go get her, but you'll promise me, you're gonna deal with her appropriately when she is back! I won't be able to help either of you if she screws everything up because of some teenaged rebelliousness! I mean it, Steve!"

The soldier's eyes looked back at the man decisively and he gave a nod. "You're right. I promise this will not happen again. Just bring her back safe please, Tony? It kills me I cannot go out there on my own right now."

Tony shook his hand reassuringly and then ran to the stairs that led to his lab and his suit.

 


 

A/N: Please take the time to leave some feedback 

Chapter Text

 


 

Tony scanned the indications on his screen impatiently. His suit was programmed to search for the girl as he flew around the city following her phone's signal. It took a little less than twenty minutes for Tony to finally spot her, sitting on a bench, her knees drawn to her chest and her arms hugging them, in an empty park. Scanning quickly for any other people close by he felt relieved to find none as he quickly landed in front of her.

Wanda didn't appear surprised by his arrival but kept staring at the night sky from her seat.

Ironman walked over and sat slowly on the wooden bench, not sure if it would take the weight of the suit. When it only creaked but managed to hold the powerful armor, Tony stretched his legs in front of him and rested his hands on his thighs. Opening the face of the mask he turned to the girl and watched her staring above.

"You know, for someone who desperately wants to stop being a fugitive, you seem to try very hard to continue being one." He commented.

Wanda glanced at him momentarily at that before returning her gaze to the sky. "I don't even know what I want anymore."

"You're contemplating to keep living like this? That's what you're trying to tell me?" Tony asked in an even tone, not believing her words for a second.

Wanda took a couple of minutes before answering. "No, but I am not sure that what you offer will be freedom for me."

"Ah! So you just hate the idea of having someone taking care of you and making sure you're safe."

Wanda glared at the man now. "Nobody would hate that."

"Because that's what Steve wants for you, you know. To have a home, to go to school, to have a safe place to train and develop your skills and your knowledge. To follow your dreams…"

"To tell me what I can and I can't do, to tell me what is safe and what is not, to worry over every friend I make and every decision I attempt to make." Wanda interrupted the man without looking at him.

"Well, fortunately for you and every other underage person out there, my dear witch, all these are part of ensuring all the things that I listed." When the girl did not attempt to answer, he continued, "Steve cares for you, Wanda. He doesn't want you to become his prisoner. Up to a few minutes ago he argued that you were mature enough and had realized the wrong of your actions. An hour ago, he was dealing with you as if you were an adult. And that's his sole mistake here, today. Because you are not an adult, my dear. You are a teenager and you need the guidance and the boundaries and the chance to grow up in a safe place with someone who cares about you and respects you. That's more than many of us ever had while growing up."

The last words made the girl turn to look at the man with worried eyes. "Is he mad?" She asked after another minute.

"He is beside himself with worry about your safety and feeling guilty about how wrongly he handled your earlier escapades." Tony answered truthfully. Before sternly adding, "You should thank your lucky stars that Steve insisted on handling this. If you'd been facing consequences from me, you'd be grounded for at least two weeks and possibly unable to sit down for the first half of that grounding."

Wanda's face flushed at that and she stared at him with worried eyes. She had never seen this side of Stark and it surprised her. During their Avengers days, he was the one who always made inappropriate or sarcastic comments. The one who usually managed to make Steve see things with a more laid-back attitude. Thinking that Peter had probably awakened the fatherly instincts of the man, she couldn't help but feel sorry for her friend and understand his earlier worrying over the consequences of their outing. Deciding that stalling anymore was pretty much useless, Wanda stood up and faced the man. "Can we go home?"

"Only if you promise me that this is the last time I have to chase after you before you and Steve are officially in the clear. And if you dare to break that promise, young lady, it will be me that will handle your punishment. So think it over. Think it over very well!"

Her temper slightly raising with the man's tone, Wanda had to take a couple of breaths before being able to control her tone of voice and to answer through gritted teeth "I promise I will." And, besides her anger, this time she meant it.

Nodding, Tony got up as well. "Can you teleport us both home?" He asked, closing his mask and scanning the area again. "It's safe."

Wanda nodded and rested her palm on the suit's bicep before the two of them vanished in a puff of red swirling smoke.

 


 

 

Peter was setting the dining table when he caught the red glimpse out of the corner of his eyes. Turning around he watched Wanda and Ironman appearing through the red flare and smoke. His eyes met those of his friend and he couldn't help the sympathetic grimace his face made. Steve had been notified by Friday that Tony had spotted the girl a few minutes ago and since then he had gone from worried, to relieved, and then angry. Nobody had filled Peter in on what had happened and Wanda left again, but seeing Steve, he was pretty sure she was in a heap of trouble with the man.

Wanda averted her eyes from Peter and hesitantly looked around her to spot Steve, who, as soon as he saw them, walked quickly towards them and enveloped her in a tight hug.

Tony opened his mask, winked at Pepper and ruffled Peter's hair as he moved towards the stairs.

Steve gently broke the hug and brought his hands to rest on the girl's shoulders. "Are you hurt?" he asked in a calm voice.

When the girl only bit her lip and shook her head the man nodded and continued curtly, "Go to your room then, right now! I will join you shortly."

Wanda lingered for a few seconds before turning around and making her way to the large staircase. Her anger had completely evaporated the moment she saw Steve's face, while guilt and worry took its place.

"And, Wanda?" Steve's voice made her pause at the fourth step and turn her head to look at him. "Do not even think of leaving like this again. Am I clear?" He spoke in such a steely voice that Wanda could not keep the surprise from her face. Swallowing hard she whispered "Crystal," and continued ascending the stairs to her room.

His face flushing as if the scorching words were addressed to him, Peter turned his attention to folding paper towels and setting the utensils for their dinner.

Pepper glanced at the man and without asking she headed to the fridge, took out a bottle of wine and poured a glass which she offered to him. Steve smiled at her gratefully and took the glass, sat in the comfortable living room couch and took a long sip.

 


 

The knock on her door was curt and served solely as a warning. He did not wait for an answer before turning the doorknob and entering the beautifully decorated guest room. Wanda glanced up momentarily from her spot on the king-sized bed. She was reclining on the many pillows that rested against the bedpost and stared at the opposite soft purple wall. She had already changed to a soft pair of pyjamas that she found neatly folded in a drawer of the room's wardrobe. The royal purple color of the outfit made her look paler than usual.

Steve closed the door behind him and moved to sit at the edge of the bed close to her. They both remained silent for a few seconds. When the man turned to look at her, Wanda couldn't help but hesitantly move her gaze to meet his eyes. She did not find the anger she expected in there. She found worry, frustration and a decisiveness she was not at all familiar with.

"Why?" He simply asked.

The girl did not lower her eyes but her fingers started fidgeting with the light blue comforter of the bed. "I don't really know. I… I feel a bit worried about what will happen after this."

"After our conversation?" Steve asked confused.

"No. After Tony works his magic. After we're free. I have been alone for a long time, Steve. And I am talking about even before the Avengers. I don't know how to do this closeness thing. How to be part of something bigger."

Understanding what she was trying - but not daring - to say, Steve took her small feminine hand gently into his much larger one. "Darling, before all these happened, you had the chance to be a part of something. You came to our team. You were trained. You had something close to a family. We all had. That's what awaits us after Tony "works his magic". You won't be alone anymore. No. You won't be allowed to do anything you want just because you want to do it. You will have people to answer to, rules to follow and responsibilities to attend to. But you will also have people to care for your needs, to support your decisions and your dreams. Don't worry about the future too much, Wanda. And don't let your fear and insecurities lead you into dangerous situations."

"I thought maybe if I escaped again, you'd give up and live your life without feeling obliged to take care of me…" She whispered lowering her eyes.

Steve moved his hand to gently cup her cheek and made her look at him. "I will never give up on you. And I don't feel obliged to take care of you. I want to. I always had and I always will, even when you'll be forty years old and with a family of your own. We're not blood, Wanda, but we came to be a family. Can you fit that idea in that thick head of yours?"

Managing a tiny smile and with her eyes glossing over, the girl nodded.

Steve took a deep breath and talked again. "I have to apologize to you."

She looked at him surprised now. "What on earth for?"

"For not doing right by you before. For transferring my responsibilities to you. For not making sure that you really understood how wrong and dangerous what you did was." Steve answered in a serious tone. When she did not speak, he continued. "You know from our Avengers days how I've always handled discipline. You might have never been at the receiving end, but you do know, what it entails. Am I correct?"

When the girl only nodded, Steve shook his head and spoke in a much stricter tone. "Verbal answers, young lady!"

Almost jumping at the strictness that had abruptly taken the place of his caring and sweet tone, Wanda said in a quiet voice, "Yes, sir."

"Good. So here are the things you don't know since this is your first time. You need to keep in mind a few things when you are disciplined. Firstly, No powers! If during your punishment you teleport or use your powers in any way in order to intervene with the consequences of your actions, you will only make things worse for yourself. Is that clear?"

"Yes." Wanda answered with flushed cheeks and trembling voice.

"And secondly, once the punishment is over, it is over. Whatever you were punished for is forgiven. No grudges, no lingering anger or disappointment. Clear?"

"Clear."

Nodding, Steve looked at the forlorn girl one more time before finally speaking. "Please come and stand in front me, then, Wanda."

Feeling her stomach drop at the realization of what was about to happen, it took Wanda a couple of seconds before she could bring herself to scoot down from the bed and walk to Steve. The man did not let her wait, he simply took her hand and gently guided her to his right side and then over his lap. Arranging her body in order for her torso to be supported by the bed and her feet to dangle to the other side, Steve kept hold of her wrist and secured it to the small of her back. He took a minute to decide if he'd remove her pyjama bottoms or not, before tugging them down in one swift motion.

"No! Steve, what are you doing?" Wanda immediately reacted loudly, looking over her shoulders bewildered at the turn in events..

"Calm down! This is a safety precaution. It's the first time I'm doing this to you, so I need to be sure I am not using too much force and for that I need to be able to see your skin. But, you need to get accustomed to the idea that for serious infractions, spankings will always be on your underwear or your bare bottom."

"But…" Wanda had little chance to retort as Steve added, "With boys, it's always on the bare, so don't even think of arguing over this! This is your first spanking, so I will let this slide, but as I told you before, you have no say over what your punishment entails." When Wanda only groaned in frustration, Steve raised his hand and let it hover over the pantie-clad bottom in front of him. "Do you trust me, Wanda? To discipline you without really hurting you?" He asked.

Wanda took a couple of seconds before answering the words she knew to be true. "I trust you, Steve."

The next sound that echoed through the room was Steve's palm connecting with the bottom in front of him.

Wanda yelped in surprise at how uncomfortable the resulting burning sensation was. She hadn't been spanked in so many years and this was almost overwhelming.

Steve watched the light pink imprint of his hand and decided to continue with this force for the first part of the spanking. Raising his hand, he brought it down, again and again, keeping a steady quick rhythm, which had the girl over his knees wiggling and softly crying sooner than he expected.

Pausing for a few seconds and rubbing the girl's back reassuringly, Steve asked, "Tell me why you are being punished, Wanda."

Wanda turned over her shoulder to look at him through her teary eyes in surprise. "Seriously?" She grunted through her clenched teeth.

Steve shook his head disapprovingly before landing five considerably harder swats to her thighs that made the girl yell out in pain. Then he simply repeated, "Tell me why you are being punished, Wanda!"

Realizing she would not win this fight, the girl grunted out "For going out!"

Steve bit his lip impatiently and landed a volley of smacks that covered her entire rear. Then he stated, "No, young lady, you are being punished for going out after you were explicitly instructed not to. Any other reasons?" After posing the question, Steve started smacking again in a steady, but slower pace.

Racking her brain Wanda managed to say through her pained vocalizations, "For putting myself in a dangerous situation!"

Steve nodded satisfied with this answer and upped the tempo of the spanking considerably. "You mean a lot to me, Wanda. A lot of people care for you. You will not put yourself in unnecessary danger!" the man lectured as he let his smacks come down more forcefully now and he watched the bottom under his palm turning to a darker rose color.

It was at this point that Wanda could not control her tears anymore and she broke out in loud sobbing. This was much worse than she had expected.

"What else is this spanking for, young lady?" Steve asked after another round of solid smacks.

Wanda racked her brain to come with an answer but couldn't come up with anything else. "I don't know!" She said through her tears.

Raising his right knee, Steve brought his target higher and started bringing his hand down again, now aiming at her sit spots, as he named the rest of the reasons. "Let me help you then. This spanking is also for sneaking out of this house a second time, even after you were scolded and warned to not repeat your actions."

Wanda was sobbing loudly by now, her legs kicking wildly. She could not believe how much this type of punishment, that she used to consider as childish and stupid, hurt.

The smacks kept coming, harder and faster than before. Steve was really laying into the girl wanting to make sure there would be no repeat of this behavior. "This spanking is also for using your powers in public when you know we are wanted!"

Wanda cries reached a whole new level when all the smacks were now falling to the same spots of her lower buttocks and upper thighs. "I didn't!" She managed to yell through her sobs, desperate for the punishment to end.

"Oh, but you did! When you Teleported out of here and into the city!" Steve argued back in a strict tone.

"I'm sorry! You're right!" Wanda managed through her tears and sobs. Her legs stopped kicking and she just jolted a bit each time the palm of the soldier hit a specifically sore spot.

Taking in the much more subdued body language, the vibrant red color of her skin and the heat it radiated, along with the girl's pitiful crying, Steve could not bring himself to continue. Landing one last spank to each sit spot, he finished it. He gently released her right hand from his grip and after pulling her pyjama bottoms back up into place carefully, so as to not irritate the girl's now very sore behind then he started gently rubbing lightly small circles on her heaving back.

"It's over, darling. It's done. Try to calm down, now…"

Taking in the man's soft words and touch, the teenage girl managed to calm her breathing after a while. When Steve felt her trying to move, he immediately helped her to her feet and stood up with her. Not sure how she would react, he took a step closer and brought her to a gentle hug. When he felt her relaxing in the embrace, he brought one hand up from her back to stroke her hair and rested his chin on the top of her head. At this moment her small frame felt even smaller in his arms.

"Are you angry with me?" The man asked after a few silent seconds.

Wanda shook her head slightly but couldn't bring herself to say anything.

"Do you want me to leave you alone and come back in a little while?" Steve asked a bit concerned.

Her head shook again negatively and the man breathed out a silent sigh of relief. Then, he gently broke the embrace long enough to bring the girl back to the bed and to slowly lay her down on her side. He grabbed a soft fleece blanket that rested on the room's armchair and covered the girl with it, before sitting next to her and running his hand through her brown locks soothingly.

Wanda's eyes closed on their own accord and she felt sleep creeping in on her, even though it was only seven in the evening . "I'm sorry, Steve. For everything." She managed to whisper.

"I know you are, Wanda. But let's worry about none of that now. Remember what I told you? You were punished and now you are forgiven and we move on."

The girl nodded again and managed to open her eyes and look at Steve to make sure he was really not angry or disappointed anymore.

"Do you want me to bring you something? Some Water? A snack?" Steve asked.

"Some ice would be awesome…" Wanda mumbled and her cheeks flushed a bit.

Smiling at her Steve shook his head. "No ice. The aftermath is part of the punishment. But some sleep will probably make you feel a little better. I'll go downstairs to let you rest for a while and I'll wake you up in half an hour for dinner, how does that sound?"

"Ok…" The girl mumbled as her eyes started feeling heavy again.

The man rose from the bed and he tucked the blanket around the girl a bit more snuggly, before quietly leaving the room, closing the door behind him.

When she heard the door close, Wanda slowly turned her body to lay on her stomach and moved her hands to cup her still burning bottom. A hiss escaped her lips when she attempted to rub some of the pain out. She contemplated a cold shower, but she felt her body so heavy and her mind so tired that she simply couldn't bring herself to move.

 


 

When she opened her eyes again more than half an hour had passed. Realizing she must have fallen asleep she rose carefully and decided to try and sit down. Even with the soft mattress, her bottom hurt a lot under her weight, making her hop up immediately. Glancing at her door, she raised her hand and used her magic to turn the key and lock it. Feeling safer now that no one could just come in unannounced, she took a couple of steps and quickly walked to the wardrobe and opening one of its doors. She lowered her pyjamas bottoms and glanced at her reflection in the full-length mirror that rested on the inner side of it, before turning around and peering over her shoulder at her backside and upper thighs. Her brazilian panties covered little of her buttocks and she gasped at how red the whole area looked. She used her hand to feel it, wincing at how hot her skin still felt. The previously softly spoken Captain Steve Rogers had really done a number on her behind.

Closing the wardrobe door quietly she proceeded to put her pyjama bottoms back up and returned to her bed laying on her stomach again. Her mind traveled back to details of the punishment and she couldn't understand why she didn't feel angry about it. Right on cue with that thought, a soft knock was heard on her door, which did not open immediately this time.

Smiling at the man's tact, Wanda waved her hand again making the key turn and the door to open.

Steve walked in hesitantly and looked at her.

"Feeling any better?" He asked.

"Yeah, I actually do." Wanda managed to smile back.

"Dinner's ready. Would you like to join us downstairs?"

Wanda was ready to decline and ask to eat alone in her room. Her butt still hurt something awful and she felt embarrassed to face everyone after all that had happened. But then she took a better look at Steve's concerned eyes and realized just how eagerly he had asked the question. "You know what, I actually do." She said after another second.

Steve's face broke into a relieved smile. The girl moved to get up, walked to her pair of slippers that rested on the other side of the bed, slipped them on and followed the man out of the room and towards the stairs.

As they entered the dining room, Pepper, Tony, and Peter looked at them smiling.

The pair moved to the two remaining chairs and sat down, Wanda more gingerly than Steve.

Peter smiled at her knowingly, and as the adults started talking pleasantly, he offered her the platter of steaks to choose from. "I've already chosen the most crispy one. Sorry about that. Thought it would go nicely with my ass." Peter whispered to the girl conspiringly.

Rolling her eyes at his attempt to make her feel less embarrassed about the situation, Wanda served herself a small portion of meat trying hard to hide her smile."At least you heal fast." She commented casually making sure none of the adults heard the embarrassing conversation.

"Not with Tony's special paddle, I don't. Cause that's how cool a superhero I am. I managed to have a special supper-paddle made just for my mentor to tan my ass with." Peter commented.

Coughing to hide her chuckle Wanda answered casually, "And I got a serum-infused super-soldier hand for the same thing."

Covertly raising his glass of water to Wanda, Peter quipped in a low tone, "To our uncomparable coolness, then!"

Lifting her glass and lightly clinking it with her friend's Wanda shook her head barely able to believe that she was actually taking part in this surreal dialogue.

Taking her fork and knife to cut her first bite of her food, the girl glanced at Tony, who was sitting across from her and caught a quick smile he sent her way. Smiling at him a bit awkwardly, Wanda brought the food to her mouth and sighed contently as the bit of tasty home-cooked meal filled her senses.

 


 

 

A/N: So, as it feels a bit awkward to post for mute numbers, hits and kudos, please, guys, drop a line!

Chapter Text

 

 

With her long legs resting comfortably on the large couch, and her back reclined on three cushions stuck together on the other end, the woman watched absentmindedly the muted TV's flashing lights, that made her filled glass of red wine glint in the otherwise dark room. Enjoying a large sip, May focused her attention back to the movie that slowly unfolded its plot. Right when she thought of how much she enjoyed the deep silence of the house, a red masked head suddenly intruded her line of vision making her scream and drop her glass to the carpet-covered living room floor.

"Seriously, May, you need to get used to this!" Peter commented trying hard not to laugh as he continued hanging upside down by a web thread that was stuck to the ceiling.

The woman, who had gone from comfortably sprawled on her couch to standing clutching her chest took a moment to allow her heartbeat to slow down, before grabbing her slipper and smacking her nephew's conveniently upturned butt emphatically. She knew more than well he didn't feel a thing, but couldn't help herself in not trying.

"You're gonna give me a heart attack one of these days!" She scolded loudly as she dropped her slipper to the floor. "And look at this mess!" She waved emphatically over the dark red stain. "This carpet is going to be professionally cleaned out of your allowance mister!" She continued jabbing her finger to his chest.

Peter righted himself and plopped on the couch as he took his mask off in order to look at the woman apologetically. "Sorry, May. I didn't mean to scare you. Not that much at least! I just wanted to say goodnight, I'm going to meet Ironman for our first patrol."

May who had squatted to pick up the glass from the floor looked at him surprised. "I had completely forgotten this was tonight." She said mostly to herself. "Won't Mr. Stark come get you?"

Peter shook his head. "Nope. We're meeting downtown. He might attract attention by flying to my window, you know."

Realizing he had a point, the woman only nodded. "Peter, I need you to be very careful. Listen to Mr. Stark and don't do anything too dangerous!"

Peter smiled at her reassuringly. "No need to worry, May. Tony will be with me at all times and I'll come straight home after we're done."

"Ok, Petey. I will leave you breakfast at the table in the morning. I have a morning shift so I'll be gone by the time you'll wake up. You'll have lunch at Tony's?"

"Yes. Happy will come pick me up by noon and I'll be home in time for dinner."

The brunette woman smiled fondly at him as she clasped his hand tightly in her own. "You be careful, do you hear me?"

"I'll be fine, May. You need to stop worrying. You know, me having superpowers and all…" Peter teased her.

The woman smiled before answering dismissively, "Sure I'll stop worrying. When I'm dead. Now get your butt out of here, don't make the man wait. Better three hours too soon…"

Peter picked his aunt's favorite Shakespeare phrase right up with, "...than a minute too late! I know, I know! G'night May!"

May watched him all but running from the living room and vanish behind his bedroom's door.

 


 

Peter was holding his breath as he kept glancing at the man next to him. "Now?" He whispered excitedly.

"No. We're waiting!" The man whispered back, his eyes never leaving the target.

Peter let all of five more seconds pass before asking again, "Now?"

"Spidey, I swear to God…"

"Ok! Ok! Chill! Don't get too…" the boy never got the chance to finish his phrase as Ironman's voice rang in a decisive "NOW!"

Launching right after Ironman, Peter released an exhilarated howl as he soared towards the man the two of them had been tailing for the last hour. Landing gracefully on his two feet with one hand touching the ground and the other extended and ready to shoot web the young man quipped to the startled man "Surprise douchebag!"

The man who had just opened his car's door scanned around him frantically before attempting to reach in the vehicle.

"Seal him in!" Ironman yelled as he flew directly over the vehicle with his suit's fists clenched and ready to shoot if needed.

Peter immediately shot his web with both hands and watched the substance slam the door with great force against the man's leg causing him to scream in pain. Not allowing any time for the man to react, Spiderman leaped and landed on the car's hood shooting more web and effectively gluing the guy's limbs to the car seat, before he had the chance to take hold of the large machine gun that rested close to where his extended arm was immobilized.

"Jump back!" Came the next order and Peter promptly obeyed. Concentrating on his spider-sense to make sure nobody would get the chance to ambush them, he still watched Tony hovering over the man and shooting what Peter knew was a tranquilizer dart to his neck.

As soon as the guy was out, Iron man landed on his feet and moved towards Peter extending a fist. Peter immediately pumped the iron fist with his own and howled enthusiastically for the second time that night.

"That was awesome, T… I mean Ironman!"

"You did good, Spiderman." The man smiled even if the kid could not see his face. Proceeding to send a message to the police department with the position of the man, Tony watched Peter swinging his web to the building near them and soaring towards it landing on its rooftop. Igniting his flying boots he promptly followed and the two of them sat there watching the lights of the police cars from a few roads away approaching quickly.

As soon as the man's unconscious body was taken into police custody and the car was thoroughly searched, Tony raised from his sitting position on the edge of the rooftop and motioned for Peter to follow him as he walked a few feet away from the edge.

When being seen by pedestrians was impossible due to their position, he clicked the side of his mask, making it open and reveal his pleased face. "Good job, kid!"

Peter promptly removed his mask as well and beamed at the man. "You were ok, too, old man!" He answered cheekily.

Rolling his eyes at his response the man simply asked. "Did you have any issues?"

"Nope!" Peter promptly answered.

"Ok. We need to work on your swinging and soaring a bit. You seem to have gotten the hang of it, but it is a bit slow. You might need to be able to move much faster, especially if faced with super-powered or alien villains."

Peter's eyes popped out at that. "Do I get to face super-powered and alien villains?" He asked back excitedly.

"Hell no!" Tony shot down immediately. "You're not even close to ready for that. But moving faster is one of the many things you need to get better at if you ever want to get there."

"Oh, Ok." The teen answered disappointed. Then glancing up he asked, "Anything else on your feed?"

Tony closed his mask again and eyed the pop up of police feed but saw no calls for any sort of trouble. "Black Widow?" He called then, directing the signal to his fellow Avenger.

When she answered he asked, "Got anything for us?"

Peter watched expectantly but his face fell quickly at Tony's words that clearly indicated it was time to call it a night.

"Ok, kid. That's it for tonight. Go get some rest and I'll see you tomorrow at lunch."

"Sure, Tinman. Goodnight!" The teen said without much vigor, and promptly wore his mask and ran towards the edge of the roof and promptly jumped off it. Tony watched the red figure swing away before using his communicator. "Straight home! Straight to bed," he said emphatically.

"Sure thing!" Came the answer.

Recognizing sincerity in the kid's tone and knowing that Friday would inform him of any unauthorized detour, Ironman ignited his boots and started soaring away in the crisp night sky.

 


 

Peter was gazing out of his window at the large garden of Tony's property as the large gate opened and it slowly came into view. As the car followed the familiar route towards the garage, he spotted Wanda lazily swinging in one of the cocoon swings close to the pool.

"Friday, could you please tell Tony I'm here and I'll be at the pool with Wanda?" Peter asked as soon as the car was parked inside.

"Of course, Mr. Parker" came the breezy answer.

Smiling and waving goodbye at Happy, Peter jogged outside of the garage and towards his friend.

Spotting him Wanda smiled slightly and took off her sunglasses as the boy approached.

"Awesome day, right?" Peter asked as he promptly sprawled out on one of the sunbeds near the girl.

"The AWESOMEST!" Came to her excited answer, which made Peter turn and look at her a bit surprised.

"I think it's the first time I've ever seen you being moderately expressive." He quipped, his brow furrowed. Sitting up he extended his hand and clasped her knee looking at her tauntingly, "Are you feeling alright?"

A slow side smirk developed on Wanda's face as her hand slowly moved in a perplexing way. Peter's expression turned from taunting to surprised and then panicky. His body was slowly rising from his seat and floating over the water.

"Sorry! Sorry! Joking!"

Laughing a bit Wanda returned him to his original position and said, "We're cleared. Steve and I. Tony did it. We'll be returning to the Avenger's base tonight!"

Peter jumped up at that, "Seriously? This rocks! Wow! I'm so happy for you guys!"

Wanda chuckled with his enthusiasm and her smile grew even bigger. "Today is basically celebratory lunch here before we move back to the base."

"Hey, how about you come to my house for dinner then later tonight?" Peter asked excitedly. "You'll meet May and we can go out afterwards, meet my friends for a while before my patrol shift! Maybe we'll get Steve to let you join me too, What d'you say?"

Wanda groaned at that and her face fell slightly before answering, "I'd love to, Peter. But after last week's fiasco I… I can't go out till Monday."

Peter grimaced at that. "Grounded?"

"I hate that word, but yeah…"

Before he had a chance to answer Friday's voice rang through the speakers on the pool-house's wall, "Peter and Wanda you are expected in the living room."

Sighing the girl rose from her swing and walked along with Peter towards the house. When they entered Peter smiled at Tony and shared a brief one-armed hug with him, before walking towards the large corner sofa, where Pepper, Steve, and Black Widow were already sitting.

"Hello!", he greeted a bit awkwardly, still not feeling very comfortable around Steve or Pepper and the barely known Natasha.

"Hey, Peter! I'm so glad we have you with us today! How are you?" Pepper asked smiling warmly at him and patting the vacant space near her for him to sit.

"Thanks for having me, Pepper," the boy said as he moved to sit next to her. Then turning to Natasha, who sat on the other side of him he extended his hand, "I don't think we've met formally. I'm Peter Parker."

"I know Spidey!" The woman answered shaking his hand and smiling. "Natasha, you can call me Nat."

Tony entered at that moment carrying a round tray of filled glasses, followed by Wanda who carried a round tray filled with various snacks. As they deposited the goods on the coffee table, Tony went and squirmed his way between his ward and Pepper, while Wanda sat on the couch's arm right beside Steve.

"I guess Wanda filled you in, Pete?" Tony asked smiling, accepting the glass that Pepper offered him.

"Yeah! Congrats' Cap'! Peter said, in turn, raising his juice filled glass he had received from Pepper to the man.

"Thank you, Peter!" The man smiled back.

Clearing her voice and making everyone turn towards her she said looking between Steve and Tony, "Not that I don't enjoy the drinks and company, but I think we all know there is more than that on your guys' agenda." Said Natasha

Nodding his head and smiling at how well their friend knew both him and Tony, Steve said, "We need to proceed with some arrangements now that everything is settled."

"Like what?" Wanda asked a bit confused. "I thought we're staying at the base in our old quarters and we'll continue our Avenger's work, right?"

"Sure, Wanda, that's right," Tony answered in an attempt to smooth out the situation. "But you are still an underage girl and you have the opportunity at last to attend school and have a new life here that is not restricted only to the Avengers."

Wanda couldn't help but scoff at that. "Guys, come on! You can't be serious! I can't go to school after three years of absence. They'll put me in a class with 13-year-olds! Plus, I don't think it any school would consider the enrollment of Wanda Maximoff."

Steve nodded at her words, "That is true and we do understand how these things might concern you, but we have figured out a few solutions to these problems." When the girl did not interrupt him but looked at him expectantly he continued, "You can be enrolled as Wendy Jones, who just moved from Vermont to New York to finish school here and live with your aunt, Natasha Jones. Natasha will be the person to contact the school of course since anyone else would recognize me."

"Won't they know Natasha?" Peter asked.

"Aw, Peter! You know me so little!" The woman commented, amused as the rest of the adults all laughed at his words.

"Nat is one of the best spies in the whole world, kid. If she doesn't want to be recognized. She won't," Tony told him.

"But still… I don't want to be three grades behind my age group. I'll be the school's joke! What will we tell them, that I was abducted and lost three years of education?" Wanda asked her voice slightly raised.

"Hey!" Peter admonished lightly. "No need to get defensive. We're discussing this."

"Sorry," the girl said flushing lightly.

Natasha took over after that. "Wanda, I've talked to a school as Mrs. Jones, who is considering the school for her niece. They can offer individualized courses with four professors who can get you up to speed with the rest of your peers. If you agree to this and apply yourself by next year you will be enrolling in the 11th grade. If for any reason you don't make it in one year, the individualized program can continue through the summer, or if you're not willing for that, through next school year as well."

"Also, it will be Peter's school, so you will have someone you know already there," Steve added.

"That sounds pretty cool," Peter commented hesitantly. "It's a real cool school and there is a bunch of individualized programs for all sorts of students, so nobody will really bat an eye."

"And what would we tell them about these last years? And what if someone recognizes me? I've been wanted for a long time!" Wanda asked again anxiously.

"What we'll tell them is up to you. I won't sugarcoat this for you. You'll need to create a lie that you will easily remember. An accident that took away your family a couple of years before and left you in recuperation for two years. Or you grew up as an orphan with your grandmother, had it rough and ran away for two years but changed your mind and decided to come back to finish your education." Natasha offered. "We'll make the story up together, I can guide you through this. As for recognizing you, that is easily fixed. You are Wendy Jones, not Wanda Maximoff to them. Wanda Maximoff will be making appearances with the Avengers now that she is not wanted, so nobody is going to link her with a school girl with a different name. I thought we could also add glasses. They're in and it would make you look rather different."

Wanda remained silent for a while. "I guess it sounds interesting." She commented. Then looked at Steve. "Do I really have a say in this?"

"Of course you do. You can refuse to go to school and we'll arrange for some tutors to come to the base and sort of, well, home-school you. But I think living the real experience would be so much more beneficial for you, darling."

Nodding Wanda took a deep breath. "Ok, I'm in. High-school it is."

Steve smiled broadly and clasped her hand in his. "This is the right decision, Wanda. It really is!"

"So, would you consider letting me out of my grounding a day earlier, 'cause Peter invited me over ton…."

Steve's "Nope!" never allowed her to finish her phrase. As the man rose to his feet he turned to Pepper, "Do you think we could set the table, I'm starving!"

Pepper smiled and stood up happily. "Pete, Wanda, set the table please! Tony, go get the wine from the cellar! Steve and Nat, I'd love some help with the salad."

As everyone immediately veered towards different directions Peter couldn't help but think that Pepper might just be the real 'Captain' of them all.

 


 

Peter and Tony were lazily sitting at the edge of the pool, their feet dipped in the cold water and their faces turned towards the sun.

"So, how do you feel about Wanda coming to your school?" Tony asked.

Peter turned to look at the man surprised at his question. "I think it's great." He answered.

"You sure? I hated how we just threw this at you without talking to you first. But everything had to be arranged as soon as possible in order for Wanda to begin on Monday." Tony answered a bit apologetically.

The teen shook his head. "No need to worry, Tony. I like Wanda. I don't see why having her at school would be bad. We're friends. It will be nice."

"You like her just as a friend, right?" Tony dared to probe. It was the first time he had ever asked about that part of the kid's life and he wasn't sure how he'd react.

"Wanda? Yeah! I mean, she is older and kind of like family. You know Avengers and all. Plus, there is MJ."

"MJ?" Tony asked raising an eyebrow and smiling at the kid.

Flushing a bit Peter couldn't help but smile. "She is so amazing. And hot. But mainly amazing. But also so very hot…"

Tony splashed a little water on the kid, "Don't get all tee-hormonal now! So are you two dating or what?"

"Dating? Are you kidding? She knows of my existence for all of a month now. No, we're friends I guess."

Tony hissed and grimaced at his words, "You need to be really careful with that kid. If you like her you really need to make a move before "being friends" gets too big an idea in her head. Friendzone is a hard place to be, Pete."

Peter looked at the man faking surprise. "You know what friendzone is? At your age? I am shocked!"

Tony chuckled lowly in his throat at that as he slowly removed his sunglasses and smiled a toothy smile at the kid. "Oh you're gonna pay for that comment, SpiderLing!"

Peter had only enough time to scream a frantic "No!" before Tony promptly grabbed him and dropped both of them in the cold water.

 


 

Peter pedaled as fast as he could on his bike towards the school entrance. He dismounted his bike and quickly secured it to the rails right beside the gate with a chain, before walking quickly through the gate. He scanned the schoolyard that was beginning to fill up with students despite the fact that it was still early.

"Peter!"

At the familiar call, he turned to his left and saw Wanda and Natasha wave at him from the building's main entrance. The boy jogged to them and couldn't help but marvel at Natasha's work.

The older woman's hair was raven black instead of her usual striking red color. The look was so natural, that Peter wasn't sure if it was a wig or she had actually dyed it. A grey business suit adorned her and she carried a black briefcase.

Wanda had her hair loosely braided on one side of her face and she wore a pair of oversized glasses that resembled the style most of the other girls around the school also wore. She was dressed in tight blue jeans a dark green jumper and a black leather jacket.

"What do you think? Do I pass for a regular student?" She asked Peter anxiously.

"F...Freaking yeah!" Peter answered. "Awesome work, Nat!"

Winking at him the woman quipped, "That's Mrs. Jones around other people, Pete."

"Right! Sure, Mrs. J.!"

Turning to the girl with concerned eyes, Natasha asked, "Do you need me to stick around anymore?"

"No, go ahead. I doubt that people seeing me with my 'aunt' will make things any easier. Pete's here, so go ahead."

Nodding the woman smiled at her encouragingly. "You totally got this. You killed it with the headmaster and you're gonna kill it with everybody else too. I'll see you later! Bye Pete!"

"Bye Na... Uh, I mean Mrs. J.!"

The two of them watched the woman walk away for a moment, before Peter turned to his friend. "So, did they show you where you'll have your classes and all?"

Nodding the girl answered, "Yeah, they also gave me the tour of where everything is. Not that I remember all of it, but I got the basics. Cafeteria and Bathrooms."

"Cool! Now look at that bench over there, the slightly broken one, you see it?"

"Yeah," Wanda answered.

"That's where we meet with MJ and Ned in the mornings. Let's go and wait for them." Peter said as he started moving to the spot.

Wanda followed him and glanced around her trying to take everything in. As they sat on the bench her gaze wandered to her left and a few feet away at the side wall of the school's building. There a group of 5 guys and three girls were hanging out talking and laughing. She felt startled when one of them suddenly turned and looked directly at her. He had dark blonde hair, a strong jawline, and intense, vivid eyes. He was too far away to tell their color, but his gaze was almost magnetic.

"Hey, Pete? Who's that?" the girl asked not taking her eyes off the guy.

"Who's who?" Peter asked following her gaze but not sure for whom she was asking.

"The blonde guy with the red leather jacket."

"Uh... That's… Why?" Peter asked suddenly noticing that his friend and the guy were staring at each other pretty intensely.

"Peter, I might not be allowed to use my powers in school in case someone sees, but I swear I'm gonna risk it if you don't start speaking!"

"Gee, relax! Ok! He's Quill. Peter Quill, but everyone calls him just Quill. He's a senior and he and his friends are not the best crowd to hang around with in the school." Peter told her.

Finally breaking eye contact with the guy, the girl turned to Peter. "Pete, it feels so surreal, but he's so, so hot!"

"Why surreal?" Peter chose to ask, not sure if he could comment on Peter Quill's hotness.

"Because it's coming from me! I don't think I've ever had the luxury of liking someone that way up to now, you know?" She told him smiling slightly.

Nodding his head Peter smiled at her warmly, "I am so glad you can now, Wanda."

Wanda immediately kicked his foot emphatically, "It's Wendy in here!" she hissed at him.

"Right! Sorry!"

"So, do you know the guy? Is he looking at me still?" Wanda asked after a few silent seconds.

Glancing behind his shoulder Peter quipped, "I think we're past the looking stage…"

He didn't have the chance to say anything more as Quill had already approached the bench and stopped in front of them.

"Hey!" He said, cocking his head slightly to one side. "I'm Quill."

Her cheeks flushing slightly, the girl smiled back at him, "Hi, Quill. I'm Wendy."

Peter was left watching their intense staring and their small talk. As it was starting to be painfully clear, Quill seemed to find Wanda hot as well. As the numerous possibilities of how this could end up passed through Peter's mind, he could only mumble to himself "Oh, boy!"

 


 

A/N: Chris Pratt... Yeah, sorry couldn't help myself! If I can't have him, I guess Wanda can :P 

I'd love some feedback too. Things will start advance in terms of plot and action over the next chapters 

Chapter Text

 

A/N: Note regarding MJ (Mary-Jane in my story). I know that in Homecoming Mary-Jane Watson never showed up. Instead, the witty Michelle girl made an appearance, telling Peter that her friends call her MJ. I decided that I want Mary Jane in my story though. I love the idea of her and Peter having a relationship in high school. It doesn't mean that they'll be together constantly up until his college days; after all, he is known to have other relationships as well. But I wanted to give them some high school romance. I think it would be a sweet past for them to share when they actually end up together in the future. Sorry to those of you who love MCU canon characters/pairings only, but then again I guess you wouldn't be here if that was true, since this is as non-canon as it gets :P

Reviews and feedback are always appreciated!


Wanda, ready for the day, strolled into the spacious kitchen of the Avenger's base. Walking to the fridge, she gave a last look at her reflection on its black-mirror doors and smiled in satisfaction. She had chosen a black skater dress combined with her burgundy leather jacket - the one that resembled Quill's. Her favorite all-black converse sneakers and a pair of burgundy high knee socks covered her feet and legs, while her hair was styled in a high, messy ponytail. Her smile faded as she turned around anxiously to make sure nobody had spotted her checking herself out. Relieved that she was alone, she made quick moves to open the fridge, retrieved the milk and headed to the counter to get a bowl and cereal, all the time wondering why a bunch of superheroes wanted a mirror-door fridge.

"Good morning, Wanda," called Steve's warm voice. The girl turned her head and smiled at the blonde man, who had just entered the room.

"'Morning," She answered smiling. Then raising the bowl in her hands asked, "Do you want me to make you a bowl?"

The man approached her and landed a kiss on the top of her head before shaking his own negatively, "I just need coffee for now." He walked towards the coffee pot and filled it with his favorite brand of strong filter coffee glancing at Wanda every other second. "You look really nice today," he commented after another minute.

Wanda looked at him amused because his tone of voice revealed a different comment than his statement. "Oh, Steve! Come on! What kind of example is that? I thought we're not supposed to lie," she teased him smiling as she walked to the island and took a seat on one of the stools.

Steve with his back turned poured the coffee into a mug and chuckled before turning back to face her. Clearing his throat he answered, "It's not a lie! You do look nice. You are a beautiful young lady and your clothes show that. They just show it a bit more than what I'm comfortable with, I guess."

Still smiling and munching on her cereal, the girl answered, "There is no need to worry about this, Steve. Most girls in school dress like this. Heck, some even dress like they're going clubbing."

The man nodded knowing that he had to come to terms with how different things were from when he was growing up and chose to change the subject. "So how is school? Three weeks have passed already. How do you like it so far?"

Wanda stirred her milk thoughtfully with her spoon before making eye contact with her guardian. "I really like it. The tutors are great and I think I'm doing ok with the schoolwork. Peter and the rest of the guys are very nice to me and we have bonded quite a lot. I'm glad I made this decision." Pausing for a few seconds she added a bit shyly, "Thank you for insisting I go to school, Steve!"

"You are very welcome, darling," The man smiled widely, as he leaned forward and rested his elbows on the island's surface near the girl but remained standing. "I am so happy for you."

Realising now was probably the best opportunity to ask, Wanda turned to face him making sure her eyes were looking at him as cutely as she could master before asking, "Happy enough to let me go to the school dance on Friday?"

Steve's look turned more serious immediately as he asked, "What dance? Is there a dance already?"

"Yep," the girl answered examining his facial expressions. "It's your basic school dance, though. Nothing major. Punch and snacks, ugly decorations, tolerable music, all students gathered in the basketball court.… Everyone is going. Peter, Ned, Mary-Jane, Quill," she continued casually.

Steve cleared his throat awkwardly before asking "And have you been asked by anyone special to attend the event with?"

Wanda contemplated telling him about Quill for all of a second, but was pretty sure he'd immediately say no when he probed further and learned of his age. "No, we want to go all together. As a group of friends. Kinda lame, but you know…"

Steve contemplated this for a few seconds before nodding. "I guess you can, yes. I want you back by midnight as always on weekends though, and you know the rules regarding alcohol and substances, correct?"

Not managing to stop her eyeroll the girl said, "Yes, Steve!" Then she hopped on her feet grabbed her backpack from the floor and landed a quick kiss on the man's cheek before hurrying out of the room shouting, "Thanks! See you later!"

"Come straight home, we have training sessions today!" Steve called after her but was not graced with an answer. Shaking his head but not managing to hide his smile he brought his mug to his lips for a much-needed sip.


"I can't do it. I can't, I won't!"

"Peter for God's sake!" Wanda groaned loudly. "MJ has been all over you ever since I met her. She was possessive as hell when she first met me and up until she saw me with Quill! She is staring at you when you are not looking, flirts with you every chance she gets, and if you don't hurry up and ask her, someone else is going to ask her and you'll have to come to this thing alone!" She told her friend in an irritated voice for what had seemed like the hundredth time in the last couple of days.

"So, you're going with Quill?", Peter asked, desperate to change the subject.

Smiling widely his friend answered, "Yep. He asked me yesterday!"

"Did you tell Steve?" Peter asked again.

The girl snickered before answering in an even tone, "About the dance, yes. About Quill, no. He'll completely flip out if he learns he is a senior, and it's not like they can meet so that he can give his approval. Not that I believe he would give it anyway, but just saying. So I told him we'll all go as a group of friends, which is not a complete lie by the way. I've been throwing his name in with the rest of yours ever since we started hanging out together and he never asked anything about him specifically."

Peter nodded. "I think you're right about him. He'd definitely flip out." Scanning the schoolyard from the bench he shared with Wanda he then whispered frantically. "Oh God! Here she comes!"

Glancing to her left, where Quill was already hanging with his own friends, Wanda got up from the bench and grabbed her backpack. "Do it!" She told Peter in a no-nonsense tone and patted his shoulder before heading over to her boyfriend, who was already smiling at her.

Peter watched Mary-Jane approach him. She was looking really beautiful today. Her ginger hair was loose and her eyes were shining like green gems under the bright sunlight. She was wearing a pair of high waisted dark blue jeans with a purple loose-fitting cropped top that allowed just a hint of her belly's white soft skin to peek through. She walked briskly to where Peter was sitting and claimed the spot right beside him. "Hey!" She said cheerfully.

Peter tried to form a greeting. But he couldn't. Her sweet scent mixed with her favorite perfume and freshly laundered clothes, filled his senses. When her eyes narrowed, looking at him in a perplexed and amused way, his own closed for the briefest second.

"Hey! Pete! What's going on?" She asked again a soft awkward laugh escaping her lips.

"Will you come to the dance with me?" Peter immediately said as he opened his eyes looking into hers anxiously.

At her stunned silence, he added, "Uh… And, you know, good morning…"

MJ remained still for another second before leaning forward and pecking the boy's lips lightly. So lightly that Peter wasn't sure if he imagined it or it really happened.

"I thought you'd never ask!" she said happily.

Peter's face split in a huge grin and he turned slightly to peer towards Wanda, who was leaning on the side wall of the school, holding hands with Quill. Catching the boy's smile she grinned and immediately raised her free hand to give him a thumbs-up.


Glancing at the ringing phone's screen, Tony Stark immediately stopped his tampering with the device he had in front of him, on the lab's counter, and swiped on the screen to answer, "Hey, Spidey. Everything alright?"

"Hey T.. Yeah, everything's great," came the boy's apprehensive answer.

His eyebrows furrowing slightly at the kid's tone, he asked again his voice concerned, "Are you sure? Do you need some help?"

"No, no! Nothing like that. Well not exactly… Listen, could we meet today? Do you have time for a quick coffee? There is a place on the corner down the road from my building. I need to talk to you about something."

Not exactly relieved with the boy's answer and concerned voice the man answered immediately, "Of course I have time, Pete. I always have time, you know that." Glancing at the time he realized the kid must have just finished with school. "Do you want me to come over right now?"

After a brief pause Peter answered, "I don't want to bother you… It's not anything major…"

"Peter, please answer my question truthfully. Do you want me to come over now?" The man asked again, his tone more curt than before.

"If you can. That would be nice. I don't think I can focus on homework right now anyways." The boy answered.

The man walked out of his lab and started walking up the stairs to his bedroom to get changed. "Let your aunt know where you're heading and what time you'll go home and I'll be on my way. Meet you there in 30 minutes."

Smiling, Peter thanked the man and ended the call. He continued walking at a leisurely pace as he typed a quick text to May letting her know he was going to meet with Tony and would be home later in the afternoon.

The walk from school to the coffee shop took him 25 minutes, even though he could easily have made it in 15. It was a sunny day though and he enjoyed strolling in the busy streets. He even took a couple of photographs with his phone camera, as he walked. When he reached his destination he walked into the small store and chose the most secluded booth at the far corner of the cozy place. Tony was a famous man and he valued his privacy, as did Peter. Taking a seat he ordered Tony's preferred double espresso and his own plain filter coffee from the young waitress who immediately approached to serve him. As she moved towards the store's bar to give their order the young man started tapping his foot impatiently, his eyes flying to the door every few seconds.

Right when the waitress came back with the beverages, Tony entered the store. He wore a jockey hat and sunglasses to avoid drawing attention. Quickly spotting Peter, he walked to the booth and slid to the seat across from the kid whilst removing his sunglasses.

"What's up? You got me worried!" the man immediately asked looking at him worriedly.

Peter brought a hand to the back of his neck and rubbed it as he looked at the man apologetically. "Sorry for worrying you! It's kinda stupid, but I didn't know who else to talk to about this."

"Hey!" Tony snapped in a sternly. "There is nothing stupid with you needing my help or talking to me, alright? I want to be here for you Peter."

Smiling gratefully Peter lightly pushed the man's coffee closer to him. "Thanks, T.. I got you your favorite."

"Thanks, Pete," the man smiled as he brought the cup to his lips and took a small sip of the strong liquid. "Mmm, it's good. Now, please tell me what's going on before I turn greyer than I already am."

Taking a deep breath, Peter just let the words that had been torturing him all day long out. "I've never had a girlfriend before."

Tony looked at him a bit perplexed. Seeing that Peter had no intention to continue talking without prompting he commented, "Before? Before, like, you have now?"

"Yeah... I mean, kind of…. Probably, though I'm not sure."

"Ok, Pete. I need you to walk me through this. Did something happen with that MJ girl you had told me about?"

Peter nodded eagerly and scooted forward in his seat to come closer to the man. "I asked her to the dance today. And she kissed me. On the lips. And she accepted."

The man smiled and leaned over the table to ruffle Pete's messy hair. "That's great, kid!"

Peter shook his head jerkily. "No, it's not! I've never done this before! I don't know what to do, or how to do it. I mean, the dance is on Friday and it is already Wednesday. What do I do tomorrow when I see her? Do I kiss her? Do I hold her hand? Do I talk to her like nothing ever happened? And what about the dance? Are we supposed to hang out alone all the time? Do we get to spend time with the others? Do I dance with her the whole night? Do I have to ask her for a date right after or later next week?"

Tony fought hard to keep from chuckling at Peter's rant. He remembered from his own first dates and attempts with the opposite sex how hard and confusing everything seemed to him. Clearing his throat he answered, "You first need to chill out. I mean it! Chill out! She kissed you, so the major stressor of whether she likes you or not is out of the way. She likes you. And she made it clear. Are you with me?"

When the kid nodded, Tony continued, "When you see her tomorrow, I'd suggest you kiss her. If she feels like she doesn't want a kiss on the lips she'll let you know, but I sincerely doubt that. Since she kissed you first she is comfortable with the action so she probably will just appreciate the fact that you'll make the next move first."

"Right…" Peter said swallowing hard and taking a timid sip of his own coffee.

"You need to sort of leave things to move on their own. Kiss her when you see her tomorrow and then see how she reacts the next time you meet. She might take your hand in hers on her own. Or she might kiss you again, signifying it's ok to do so when you both feel like it. You don't need to stress over these things. They will come naturally, trust me," Tony continued.

Peter nodded again.

"At the dance, you will go collect her from her home, I'll make sure to arrange for a nice enough car, but nothing over the top, to drive you to the dance and back at a time we'll arrange together. At the dance, you'll make sure to spend time both alone and with friends. It's important to share that you two are heading to the couple-zone and that you still like spending time with your friends. This way you will ensure neither of you will get bored and you will also have the alone, more intimate moments. Again, go with the flow. Ask her what she wants and don't be afraid to tell her what you want. That's all it really takes."

"You think so?"

"Kid, I scored Pepper! I know so!" the man quipped before taking another sip from his cup.

Laughing Peter had to agree on that one. "Thanks, for coming all this way just for this."

"Kid, I told you. I am here for you. For anything from dates to villains. Get that in your head, please."

"Yeah, Ok. I will."

Tony started tapping his finger on his cup lightly before asking, "So the dance is on Friday. What time do you think you should have MJ and yourself back home?"

"Well, MJ doesn't really have a curfew. She lives with her sister Gayle right now, as her dad is currently working in a school in Georgia and she didn't want to leave school and move there with him. Gayle is pretty easy going. She doesn't have to be home at a specific hour, so whenever's good."

Deciding to not worry so much about the received information on MJ's family at the moment, the man answered immediately, "Well, you do have a curfew and a long night on Saturday with patrols and everything. So, I want you back home by midnight."

"Midnight? Oh, come on Tony! I'll have time to sleep in on Saturday morning!"

The man raised a single eyebrow at that before evenly answering, "No you won't, because you'll also have homework to complete. No, Peter. No arguing. You'll be home by midnight. Understood?"

Sighing but knowing the battle was lost, he answered, "Yeah, ok. Understood."

Smiling Tony started tapping his finger on his cup again. "Is Wanda coming too?"

Peter's eyes enlarged a bit at that. He cursed inside his head for not remembering Wanda's excuse on how they would all go together. Taking a sip of coffee to gain some time he tried to think about what to say. Tony wouldn't probably speak with the Captain about the school dance, he thought. "Yeah. Actually, before I asked MJ, we had sort of decided to go all together as a group. So I guess we'll definitely have to spend time with the others as well."

Tony nodded pleased. "So, it's you, MJ, Ned, and Wanda?"

"And Quill," Peter answered as casually as possible. Choosing his words carefully to not raise any sort of suspicion he quickly added, " He's a great guy. We started hanging out together recently."

Tony nodded again. "Well, that sounds great. I'm sure you will all have a great time. I'm glad Wanda will come too. How is she doing?"

"She seems to enjoy the whole school experience. Her lessons, hanging out with us... I think it's been really good for her."

"I couldn't agree more. Ok, so to recap, your curfew is midnight, and…"

"Oh come on! More rules?" Peter groaned as he slumped back in his seat theatrically.

"Yes! More rules! I love rules!" Tony answered unbothered about the kids demeanour. "I know this is supposed to be a school dance so supposedly you won't have any access to alcohol, BUT, I've been there myself and know for a fact that there will be alcohol there. Somebody always manages to sneak something in. So, no silly business with that, got it?"

"Well, a beer wouldn't kill me, I'm fifteen!" Peter tried, just to check how Tony would react.

The look on the man's face grew rather grim as he leaned forward in his seat. "You might get to drink a beer when you are with me or May or some other trustworthy adult supervising you at home but not until next year. Fifteen is too young. And even when you get to sixteen it will be a seldom treat and never without an adult present. Got it?"

Gulping slightly at how serious his tone was Peter nodded vigorously. "Got it, Tony. No alcohol. Fair rule."

"That's my Spidey!" Tony quipped quietly and smiled at the kid.

Peter glanced at his watch and back at Tony, "I'd better get home, I got a load of studying to do for tomorrow."

Nodding the man smiled, "Off you go then. I'll finish my coffee and leave as well. Pepper will have my head if I'm not back on time for our date night."

Smiling Peter got up and started walking to the door before turning back and calling again, "Thanks for everything T.."

The man waved a dismissive hand, "Anytime, P.."


"Damn! How the hell am I gonna pull this off?" Peter mumbled to himself as he stared at his reflection on the car's window glass and tugged helplessly at his blazer. His black tuxedo was fitted perfectly on his frame, yet, he felt so awkward dressed like this for the first time in his life that he just knew he must be resembling a penguin.

Right on cue, his date exited her apartment and moved gracefully towards him. She was wearing a dusky lilac dress that ended right below her knees. The flared skirt moved about as she walked, while the top part of the dress accented her small feminine waist and tall neck.

"Wow! You look amazing, MJ!" Peter could only whisper, when she finally approached the car, completely forgetting his self-consciousness over his clothes.

Letting off a pleased giggle she answered, "You do too, Pete."

Smiling he opened the back door for her and waited until she was settled inside before gently closing it and climbing in on the other side of the car.

A little less than ten minutes later, the couple walked through the decorated with balloons and ribbons school gate. They walked briskly to the bench, where they always hanged out and waited patiently for the others. Ned's round figure quickly came into view. He sported only a grey shirt and black dress pants without a tie or blazer.

As he joined Peter and MJ, he winked at Peter. "Wow you guys look awesome!"

MJ smiled and answered enthusiastically before Peter got the chance to, "Thank you, Ned! You do too! I'd definitely make a move on Celia Reynolds today, if I were you, from what I've heard she doesn't have a date!"

As the two of them kept discussing Celia and possible courses of action on Ned's part, Peter glanced at his watch every now and then, wondering where Wanda and Quill where. Scanning the schoolyard, he had to make a double take as he spotted the couple walking towards them, not from the direction of the gate, but from the back of the school's building.

Wanda was adjusting her burgundy dress and smoothing out her hair, while Quill was a bit flushed and also tried to smooth out his dark blue blazer. The two of them looked like celebrities at the very least. Wanda had styled her hair in loose shiny curls framing her face that sported just the right amount of elegant makeup. The dress was tight on her figure showing off her narrow waist and all of her feminine curves. While it was a maxi style dress it had a rather high split on the one side that showed most of her right leg as she walked. Quill in his dark blue suit, with his blonde hair, styled backward and his eyes glinting, casually hugged her close as they approached the small group.

"There you are! We've been waiting for over fifteen minutes!" Wanda said in a slightly out of breath voice.

"Yeah, I can see you got bored of waiting!" Peter quipped rolling his eyes.

"You look so hot, Wen!" MJ said excitedly to the her.

As the two girls started discussing dress choices and accessories, while moving ahead towards the school, Quill quickly walked towards Peter.

"Hey, man, I know you and Wen' are close and all. I saw how you looked at us when we joined you… I just want you to know that… We didn't… Like… Do anything too inappropriate, back there."

Peter eyed the older boy a bit surprised. Quill didn't pass for the decent guy who defended his girls' honour. Still, Peter appreciated the gesture. "You don't need to explain yourself to me, Quill. You two can do whatever you want to. I was just a bit surprised."

"So, we're cool?"

Peter couldn't resist a chuckle at that. Quill, one of the most popular and feared guys at school asking him if they were cool. He needed to remember this day. "Of course, man."

Smiling, the blonde used his shoulder to nudge Peter's conspiringly. Opening his blazer slightly he let Peter take a look at two silver flasks that rested in its inner pocket. Winking at Peter, Quill said, "What'd you think?"

His eyes glinting excitedly Peter nodded enthusiastically. He'd been wanting to try some alcohol ever since last year but never had the chance. Small sips of May's wine left him disgusted. He had decided he didn't like its taste and no other alcoholic drink was ever brought in their house. Burying Tony's rules from yesterday to the back of his mind, he decided nobody would know if he had a bit tonight. "Hell, yeah, man!" He said to Quill in a thrilled voice and the two of them laughed as they bumped their fists theatrically.


After enjoying enough dancing and socializing, the small group quickly managed to sneak away from the basketball court without any of the chaperones noticing. They moved to the furthest classroom of the school's first level and entered it quietly trying to muffle their laughs and giggles.

Celia and Ned moved to one corner of the room and started talking as the other two couples drew some chairs and sat in a small circle to the front of the class.

"Come on, Q.! Take them out already!" Peter demanded eagerly.

Wanda turned to her friend and then to her boyfriend with questioning eyes. "Take out what?"

Quill leaned in for a quick kiss before reaching into his blazer's pocket and taking out the flask. "It's bourbon. I filled this from my step father's least favorite brand. He'll probably never notice, he only has this stuff to serve guests."

"Ooh! I love bourbon!" MJ clapped her hands excitedly too.

"You've tried this before?" Wanda asked a bit thrown off by how everybody seemed to think this was a good idea.

"Yeah!" Mary-Jane waved off dismissively. "My sister and her husband have this cupboard at home filled with all kinds of drinks. I've tried a few of them at times when I'm home alone. They've never noticed."

Peter whistled impressed. "So cool. My aunt only likes wine. I tried it once but hated it."

"Guys, I don't know…" Wanda said, before turning her gaze right at Peter's and continuing, "If my aunt finds out…"

"How will she Wen?" Peter answered immediately. It's only ten o' clock! We're supposed to leave in two hours. We can drink a bit and be completely sober by the time we need to get out of here!"

"I don't know Peter…" Wanda said again. Her eyes traveled to Quill who shook his head lightly and cupped her face tenderly.

"You don't have to do anything you don't want to," he told her in a reassuring tone.

The girl gulped and threw a side glance at MJ. How bad could it be if she had it a couple of times? If her small frame could tolerate alcohol then she could too. She had gone through much worse after all. Her competitive nature settling in, Wanda shook her head decisively. "No, it's ok, I'd like to try some."

Smiling a toothy smile, Quill opened the flask, took a sip, and passed it on to his girlfriend who brought it to her lips hastily before she had time to change her mind. As the liquid traveled from her tongue to her throat, the unfamiliar burning sensation numbed everything at its pass. Wanda had to fight hard not to cough her lungs out. She squeezed her eyes shut and took a long steadying breath that somewhat eased the burn that was now settling in her stomach.

MJ smiled knowingly at Wanda as the older girl passed her the silver bottle. "It gets easier and more pleasant with each sip you take, Wen. I promise," she told her, before easily gulping down a sip of her own.

When Peter's turn came he took it eagerly and quickly drank two consecutive gulps. His eyes almost bulging out at the intense sensation he shoved the bottle into Quill's hand as he loudly cursed "Fuck, that burns!"

The four of them burst out laughing.

"Hey! Ned, Celia!" MJ called. "Would you like to join us?"

Ned's hand that waved her off dismissively as he and the blonde girl continued making out served as his only answer.


"Fuck, this was a bad idea!" Peter mumbled as he watched MJ dancing alone on the other side of the room giggling every so often.

"How the hell will you get her home like this?" Wanda asked, her words coming out a bit slower than they usually did. She brought a hand to her head feeling the room spinning lightly and giggled when a hiccup escaped her lips.

"Worry about yourself! How are you going home like this?" Peter asked back, his own voice slurring much worse than his friend's. He was slightly drunk. He could tell. The room was spinning, quite a bit actually, his stomach felt funny and his ears buzzed. He felt his reflexes being completely off as he more than once landed on his ass when he tried to get up from his chair.

Quill checked his girlfriend over worriedly. She was tipsy that was for sure, but if she could manage to stay out for another hour without drinking anything else then her aunt would probably never realize. "You'll be fine. We'll just try to get you home a bit later. 'K, Wen?"

The girl giggled again, enjoying the floating sensation that drinking had given her. "Yeah, sure," she waved dismissively. "Hey, Quill, how come I feel so awesome and Peter so bad?"

Quill chuckled as he hugged her close to him. "Because Peter drank more than he should since this is his first time. I tried to warn him but he didn't care."

"But, MJ drank the most of us all and she is happier than me. See? She is dancing," Wanda giggled again.

"She will feel worse pretty, soon, trust me. She is more used to drinking but she is tiny. This won't end nicely for her in the morning."

Peter who had been listening to their dialogue took a deep breath and slowly got to his feet. He went to Wanda and tugged her away from Quill for a minute. "I need to take her home. I know it's close to curfew and that the car is supposed to take you home too, but I'll be real quick, ok? You just need to stall a bit if anyone calls. I'll get a cab sneak her in her house and will be back in less than twenty minutes."

Wanda nodded not really registering everything he said but thought it sounded like a solid plan. "Ok. You go, I stall. Done."

With unsteady steps and his head spinning worse and worse by the minute, Peter approached MJ and gently guided her out the door trying to hush her so that they wouldn't attract any unwanted attention. He managed to successfully get them out off the building and headed to the gate. Relieved that the guard was busy giving directions to a passing driver, the two teens managed to walk past the gate and across the road. After walking a few feet, Peter frantically raised his hand at an approaching cab and thanked his lucky stars when it stopped in front of them.

Helping a now groaning MJ in, he followed suit and sat beside her holding her close.

The cab driver eyed them with annoyed eyes, probably thinking over how possible it was for either of them to puke in his car. "Where to?" he finally asked.

Peter had to think longer than he should what the address was. After all, MJ's house was on the same street two buildings down of his own. When it finally came to him he managed to mumble it to the man and took a deep steadying breath, when the vehicle started moving, making his dizziness increase dramatically.

When the car finally came to a stop, Peter all but jumped out of it. Shoving some dollar bills in the driver's hand, he then helped MJ out of her seat as well and the two of them approached the door of her building.

"I don't feel well, Pete. Not well at all!" the girl mumbled miserably. She was barely standing on her two own feet. Peter struggled to keep them both standing as everything seemed to spin around them.

"My sister's gonna kill me," MJ mumbled again.

Peter shook his head as if the movement would clear his thoughts and weighed in his options. Before he had time to form a plan and share it with MJ the girl grew completely limp in his arms. Slightly panicking, Peter did the only thing that came to mind. He lifted her up, threw her passed out body over his shoulder and eyed her balcony. Fifth floor. He extended his wrist and tried to throw his web but missed the spot he aimed at.

"Shit!" He mumbled exasperated. He attempted a second time but again he missed.

Taking a deep breath he extended his hand again and was ready to shoot for the third time, when a strong hand grabbed his own and twisted it behind his back, immobilizing him. A black leather-clad arm reached out and took the girl's fainted body off of Peter, who was then tugged roughly to turn around.

When Peter's eyes met the fiery glare of the redhead woman, he all but exclaimed utterly surprised, "Nat? What the hell are you doing here?"

Natasha Romanoff glowered daggers at him as she hissed, "I think that's a question you need to answer! What the hell Peter? You thought it was a good idea to try and use your powers drunk, while carrying an unconscious person?"

"How do you know I am drunk? I am not!" Peter answered back in a defensive tone with his voice trembling slightly.

"Like hell, you aren't! You reek of whiskey! And just how would you explain this to your girl here come morning, huh? How would you explain sneaking her in her room when she was God damn unconscious, Peter? Are you completely out of your mind? Not to mention you could injure or worse yet get both of you killed!"

The woman's angry words silenced Peter completely. He realized how much he hadn't assessed everything when he made his decision. His mind drifted to Tony's training and the words that now rang loudly in his mind: 'Assess, assess, assess! Assess the danger, assess the consequences, assess the probability of success!'.

When he averted his eyes, the Black Widow let go of his arm and pushed him towards the building's door. "You will ring this bell and tell your girl's parents in what state she is and have them come down here to get her," she told him sternly.

"But, Nat…"

"No buts! Right now!"

Peter's mind tried to think fast but it was so fogged by the alcohol that he couldn't form any plan whatsoever. He extended a trembling hand and rang the bell. As soon as the bewildered voice of a young woman answered on the other side Peter did not think twice before sprinting top speed in the other direction.

Natasha still holding MJ cursed quietly. Having no other option but to answer through the door phone she called out through gritted teeth, "Ma'am, I found your daughter, drunk, puking near here. I asked if she needed help and she gave me this address before passing out. She is unconscious right now. Could you please get down here and get her?"

She waited patiently as the woman called a male's name. When a light was turned on on the fifth floor and her trained hearing caught the sound of an elevator moving, Natasha gently propped up the girl in a sitting position on the wall beside the door before taking off at the direction Peter had gone.

Cursing for having to do this, she immediately called Tony through her communicator.

"Hey, Nat. Everything ok?" Tony answered back immediately.

"Got a bit of a situation here, Tony. I was patrolling near Peter's neighborhood and just found him, drunk, trying to use his powers to sneak his passed out girlfriend into her house."

The dead serious "what?" on the other side of the line made Natasha curse once again for having to do this.

"Yeah. I stopped him before he did anything stupid but he took the chance to run away from me when I was busy with the girl. I am already looking for him but cannot yet spot him. I'm worried he might use his powers again."

Tony answered curtly, "Stop the search and go get changed to ordinary clothes. I'll call Wanda in case he returned to the school. In any case, you should stand by, in case someone needs to get them from school."

"Got it. Keep me posted."

"Sure." As soon as their call ended, Tony rushed to his lab and got in the suit before calling Wanda.

The girl's voice sounded slurry and she stammered through a series of excuses on why Peter was there with her, but could not come to the phone. Not wanting to lose any more time, Tony ended the phone call and immediately called Steve.

"Tony?"

"Hey, Cap'. We got a situation. Pete and apparently Wanda as well drank something more than punch tonight. I am currently searching for Peter, who left school. Wanda's still there. Can you contact Natasha and have her pick Wanda up? I contacted the driver and he said nobody has returned to the car yet."

Only a silent second passed before Steve quipped "On it."

Tony zoomed through the buildings scanning for the kid while he attempted to call him, without receiving any answer on the other end. He arranged for his suit to search for his phone signal and soon enough a red dot appeared on the map in front of his eyes that moved on a very slow pace. Relieved that the kid was not using his powers, Tony moved to his direction and in less than a minute landed in front of an exhausted and nervous Peter Parker.

"Are you hurt?" Tony asked in a composed voice, as he quickly walked to him and looked him over from head to toe.

At the timid shake of the teen's head, the man in the suit nodded curtly. He scooped the teen in his arms instructed him to tuck his arms in and not move around before he took off in the night sky towards the kid's house.

Peter didn't dare say a word as he heard the man instructing his suit to make a number of calls.

"Nat, I got Peter… Yeah, he's safe. Ok, let me know when you get Wanda home."

Sooner than Peter would have liked, the man landed on the kid's balcony and the two of them made quick moves of entering the room and closing the shades to avoid being seen.

Opening his mask to reveal his angry face, the man sternly instructed, "Living room. I'm sure May's waiting up."

Peter moved miserably to the appointed direction and knocked on the living room's door case lightly so that he wouldn't startle his aunt.

The woman jumped a little from her spot in one of the armchairs but relaxed upon seeing her nephew. "Pete, where you've been? It's late! I was worried! Why haven't you answered my phone calls?"

Spotting the man in the suit approaching behind Peter her eyes narrowed, "What is going on?"

"Peter, let your aunt know what happened tonight." The man prompted looking at the woman reassuringly.

Peter cleared his throat before saying in a low voice, "Uhm… We kinda drank a little bit of alcohol, May. And MJ got really drunk. So I tried to get her home and sneak her up in her room. Got caught by an avenger, who let Tony know."

May's eyes flew between the guilty looking teen and Tony dumbfounded.

"Alcohol, Peter? You are fifteen! What kind of drinks did you have?" she asked, her voice raising slightly.

"Uhm… Bourbon…"

Not knowing this bit of information himself, Tony closed his eyes momentarily trying hard to compose himself.

"What on earth were you thinking?" the kid's aunt exploded hopping to her feet. Then she turned to Tony and asked demandingly, "Did he use his powers drunk?"

Tony nodded not trusting his voice to speak yet.

May brought her hands up and ran them through her hair angrily. "Peter," she continued, "you have no idea how disappointed I am in you. You had the chance to spend a wonderful evening with your friends and girlfriend and you chose to intoxicate yourself, endanger your safety and Mary-Jane's too? I don't even know what to say to you anymore!"

Clearing his throat Tony spoke then, "I wanted him to tell you himself what happened. Is it ok if he comes to my house for the weekend? I'll have him back to you on Monday."

The woman nodded immediately before declaring, "And you can consider yourself grounded for the next two weeks, young man! And that is on top of anything Tony doles out, do you understand me?"

"Yes ma'am," Peter said in a trembling voice. He hadn't ever seen his aunt this angry or disappointed in him as she was right now and he absolutely hated it. "I'm sorry, May!"

Shaking her head, the brunette woman took the few steps between them and crushed her nephew in a tight hug, as she kissed the top of his messy hair. When she let him go, she propelled him towards Tony saying quietly, "Be good.I love you."

Tony, feeling a tad calmer by now, smiled a small reassuring smile towards May then looked towards the teen who just averted his eyes with his face flushed. Scooping him up again in his arms, Tony exited the apartment from Peter's balcony and took off towards his own house this time, for what he knew would be a long weekend.


 

Chapter Text

 

 

Wanda glanced down to her phone and all the pleasant feelings that the amber liquid had offered her started fading away and giving their place to realization and sincere worry. Not only over the music she would soon face with Steve, but also over Peter. Were he and MJ ok? Had Tony found him? Was he still drunk and using his powers? Her head was spinning lightly and her ears continued to lightly buzz but she could feel that the effects of the drink were starting to wear off. Quill had helped a lot with that. He kept making her drink water and had opened the large window of the classroom, allowing the crisp fresh air to fill the room.

The phone rang in her hands and her eyes traveled yet again to its screen. She felt a mixture of relief and worry when she saw Natasha's codename on the screen.

"Is that your aunt?" Quill asked.

"Yeah… I'd better get this," the girl answered and rose from her seat to walk a few feet away.

"Nat?" she answered timidly.

"Can you walk?" came a crisp answer.

"Of course I can walk. I am not completely drunk. Just a bit tipsy," the girl answered in an annoyed voice.

"Hey! You're in no position to take that tone with me or anyone else right now, do you understand me?"

Taking a deep breath to calm her rising temper the girl managed a strained "Yes Ma'am."

"Don't you 'yes Ma'am me', young lady! I'm not Steve and this won't earn you any brownie points. Get your things and come to the gate, I'm waiting. If you need an excuse as to how I found out, tell them Peter's aunt called and let me know," said Natasha in a crisp manner. "Two minutes," she added and ended the call.

Wanda walked back to Quill and leaned in his arms. "She's here. Peter screwed up, his aunt found out and called mine. She's waiting outside."

After a short whistle, Quill commented, "That was fast…"

"Yeah…"

The older boy brought a hand to cup her soft cheek. "Hey, Wen?" When the girl's eyes met his own he continued, "I really enjoyed tonight. I feel like a douche for bringing this drink now and getting you into trouble."

The girl smiled at him reassuringly, "I had the time of my life, Quill. Don't you dare feel bad about this. It was my decision to do it after all."

"So, we'll talk tomorrow?" The boy asked hopefully.

"Don't count on it. I might be locked away from technology for a while. If not I'll call you first chance I get. Otherwise, see you here on Monday."

Nodding the boy said, "Come on. Let's not keep your aunt waiting. I'll walk you out."

"No, don't!" Wanda said in an almost panicked voice. "It's better to meet her under different circumstances," she explained in a more even tone.

"I see your point but there is no way I'll let you walk to the gate alone. You're still not steady enough."

"But, Quill…"

The boy simply shook his head. He grabbed her clutch bag from the desk it was laying on, draped his own jacket over her shoulders and put his arm around her waist as they walked out of the classroom.


Peter barely made it to the closest bathroom of the Stark manor in time to empty his stomach without making a mess. The flight had not helped his nausea one bit. Tony followed him immediately, stepping out of his suit and leaving it in the middle of the hallway. He walked to the kid and gently held his forehead as he ran a soothing hand over his heaving back.

His mind traveled back to his own first drinking experience, at fourteen. It had ended with him over a toilet just like Peter was now. It had also left him with a bad habit of drinking himself to sleep and getting drunk every chance he got whenever he was outside of his house with friends. A habit that followed into early adulthood and took a lot of effort and willpower to break. As another bout of nausea ran through Peter and the sickening sound of throwing up hit his ears, the man vowed to himself that he would not allow Peter to go through what he had to, or risk his health and safety like he used to.

The kid reached out and flushed the toilet, then tiredly fell from his knees to his butt and reclined against the bathroom sink, pale and exhausted.

Tony placed his hands under his arms and helped him to his wobbly feet. He turned on the faucet for him and instructed, "Rinse your mouth and splash some water on your face. It will make you feel better, trust me."

The young man obeyed silently. When he finished and just stood there dripping over the porcelain sink, Tony reached for the soft grey towel that hanged next to it and used it to pad Peter's face dry. The kid leaned on the man and allowed him to take care of him.

Finished with drying him, Tony scooped the small framed kid up in his arms and carried him to his room. He laid the exhausted body on the bed and removed his tie, shirt, pants, and shoes. Leaving him only in his boxers for the night, he maneuvered him under the covers, before sitting down on the edge of the bed and running a hand through the kid's brown hair.

"Better?" Asked the man.

A light "Mhm" was Peter's only answer.

Tony noticed how the kid kept his eyes firmly closed. Not in a relaxed-almost-asleep manner, but in an 'I-really-can't-face-you-right-now' one. He couldn't blame him though. Peter knew he had screwed up big time and he knew he was going to be punished, while he had spent his last ten minutes throwing up and being carried and put into bed. He was bound to feel embarrassed.

"Pete, it's going to be ok," the man said in an even tone.

"I know," came the almost whispered answer.

With a smile smile on his lips, Tony secured the covers around his charge before getting up to leave his room. "Sleep it off for now. I'll be checking up on you and if you need anything tell Friday and she'll let me know."

" 'K…"

Walking to the room's door Tony turned off the light. "Goodnight, Pete."


Natasha scanned the schoolyard impatiently. She soon spotted the girl in the stunning dress walking to her, with a blonde, handsome young man by her side.

As soon as the couple stopped in front of her, Natasha immediately placed her hands on Wanda's shoulders and checked her over.

"I'm fine. Honestly," the girl mumbled.

"And I am very glad to hear that," Natasha answered in a composed tone. Then, turning her scrutinizing eyes to the young man again she extended a hand, "Natasha Jones," she said in an even tone her face serious and slightly stern.

Quill, never breaking eye contact with the woman took her hand and shook it firmly. "Peter Quill. Nice to meet you, Mrs. Jones."

Allowing a second to pass, her eyes never leaving those of the young man, Natasha eventually allowed a small smile to form on her face. "I take it you were my Wendy's date tonight?"

Quill not sure what to answer to that only glanced at his girlfriend who appeared rather irritated with the woman. "I'm afraid that's something you have to discuss with Wen, Mrs. Jones."

When the woman raised an eyebrow, the blonde did not allow a retort as he turned his full attention to his girlfriend.

Wanda met eyes with him and smiled slightly. She made a move to give him his jacket back but he shook his head negatively and tugged it snuggly around her, "Keep it. You can give it back to me on Monday. See you then. Call or text if you can, ok?"

Wanda looked at him flushing lightly at the exchange in front of the older woman but nodded immediately. "Bye, Quill," she finally said and walked ahead of Natasha, who had no choice but to follow her.

Easily catching up with the girl, who still could not walk on a straight line, Natasha snaked an arm around her slim frame and the two of them continued walking more briskly now to the parked car.

"He seemed nice," Natasha commented in an attempt to break the ice and get the girl talking.

"He is," Wanda answered laconically.

"Are you two dating?"

"Kinda, yeah."

"Does Steve know?"

Wanda's eyes flew to Natasha's and the woman immediately knew the answer. "You need to tell him, Wanda."

Having reached the car, the girl opened the door and slumped in the back seat, where Natasha soon joined her. The older woman tapped the glass that separated the back of the car from the driver's and the vehicle rumbled back into life.

As it started moving smoothly, Wanda answered the woman in a troubled voice, "I want to. I really do. But it will never fly with him. Quill is a Senior, meaning 18. Two years older than me. There is no way Steve would agree to that. Is there?"

Natasha glanced at the girl hating to admit that she was probably right. Steve was making sincere efforts to not overreact to every little thing that occurred with raising a teen in the 21st century, but his Wanda dating an older guy and all the possible implications…. No, that probably wasn't gonna fly with him. "Look, I'm gonna talk to him, try to smooth this over for you. But you need to tell him. You can't keep lying about who you are with or what you're doing! This will only end up with you in more trouble than you could handle and Steve's trust in you ruined."

"Yeah, I think that ship has already sailed after tonight's fiasco," Wanda answered. Bringing her hands to cover her face she groaned, "What the hell was I thinking? I didn't even particularly wanted to try…"

Natasha scooted closer to the girl and raised her hand to bring her arm around her shoulders and pulled lightly bringing her close to her side. When she felt the girl relax in her arms, she asked, choosing her words carefully, "Did someone press you to try?"

"Not Quill if that's what you're hinting. Nope, he was the only one who said I shouldn't do anything I didn't want to or felt uncomfortable with. But then MJ was all excited and went on about how many times she had drunk before and my stupid competitiveness kicked in."

Nodding in understanding, Natasha ran a hand up and down the girl's arm. "I know the feeling. Shall I guess it was MJ who brought the booze then?"

Wanda took a minute to answer that. Deciding that any more lies would not help the case she shook her head. "Quill did. He filled two flasks from his father's least favorite brand. But he wasn't drunk, you saw him."

Sighing lightly Natasha nodded. "Kid, I need you to be honest with Steve with everything you've told me ok? I cannot keep these from him, I hope you understand. And as a general advice, don't lie to him. It's better for both of you if he knows the truth even if he doesn't like it, better that than being lied to."

Wanda nodded miserably, "He's going to murder me."

"Nah. He's going to bust your butt but that's about it."

"You make it sound like it's no big deal."

"Well, it isn't as big a deal as you ending up in a hospital from alcohol poisoning, is it?" Natasha asked pointedly.

Wanda shook her head but didn't answer to that. She glanced out of their window and tensed up as the Avenger's base slowly came into view. The car moved to the front entrance of the massive building. As the headlights illuminated the area, Wanda spotted Steve sitting on the stairs in front of the large door. His forearms resting on his knees and his face serious and concerned.

When the engine stopped, Wanda made absolutely no move to get out of the vehicle. Natasha nudged her with her shoulder and reached over opening her door for her. Having nothing else to do, the young girl slowly scooted further to the door and got out of it never even glancing towards Steve. She closed her door, as Natasha walked towards her. With the woman's comforting presence, she walked towards the man who was now standing with his hands behind his back.

Allowing a few silent seconds to pass, Steve took the two steps that separated him and his charge before opening his arms and hugging her tightly to him. "Are you alright?" he asked evenly.

When he felt her nod he took a step back to check her over himself. Satisfied she was indeed looking fine he nodded curtly and placed his hands on her shoulders guiding her towards the entrance of the building, with Natasha following closely. The three of them entered the elevator and waited patiently in the thick awkward silence to arrive at their floor. Once there, Wanda stepped out first, with the two adults on her heel. She headed towards the long hallway that led to the various rooms of the base but paused to look over at Steve.

"May I be excused?" she asked lamely her eyes meeting his for only a second before she lowered them back to examine her hands.

"Yes, you may. There's a bottle of water on your nightstand. Make sure you drink as much as you can before sleeping. You'll need the fluids."

"Yes, Steve. 'Night," the teen mumbled and all but ran in the direction of her room, surprised at how quickly she had sobered up. Other than a slightly heavy head and slow limbs she felt normal. Grateful that she wasn't nauseous, she proceeded to change from her dress to her pyjamas, brush her teeth and wash her face. Pausing momentarily she grabbed Quill's blazer from the armchair she had draped it over along with her own clothes and brought it to the bed with her. Hugging it close she breathed in his unique smell. A combination of leather, woody perfume and a hint of tobacco.

Natasha lounged on the large comfortable couch with her feet propped up on the dark brown coffee table. Her eyes followed Steve as he joined her in the room handing her a glass of white wine. Sitting down himself he took a small sip of his own glass and looked at the woman expectedly.

"What?" Natasha prompted.

"Who's the guy?"

"What guy?"

"The guy whose blazer she was wearing. It couldn't be Peter's it was far too big," the man said impatiently.

Taking another sip of her wine Natasha told him in an amused tone, "You notice far too many details for a guy, Steve!" At the man's impatient glare she only shook her head and continued, "His name is Peter Quill. He is handsome, kind and from what she told me sounds like a pretty decent guy. They've been together for a while."

Sighing the man prompted, "How long?"

"I didn't ask her. And frankly, I don't know if that is important. Even if it was a mere week, she seems pretty into him and he seemed pretty into her," Natasha answered pointedly.

"Did he get her drunk?" Steve asked through clenched teeth.

Natasha rolled her eyes before staring at him disbelievingly, "She got herself drunk, Rogers. Nobody forced a bottle down her throat. And drunk is not the correct word anyways. She was tipsy at the most. She told me she didn't want to drink much but another girl in their company bragged about how much she has been drinking and she took it as a challenge. Still, she didn't drink much. She'd be puking all over the place if she had, trust me."

Steve sighed but nodded at her words. "I can't believe she actually did it. After I specifically told her no alcohol whatsoever. And she lied to me, Nat. Right to my face. I asked her if there was anyone special who wanted to take her to that dance and she lied to me to ensure she wouldn't miss it." The man paused a second at that, thinking over his own words. "Why would she though? Why did she expect a no?" He wondered out loud glancing at the other woman who starred in her drink uncomfortably. "Nat!"

Groaning the woman exclaimed, "Ok, he's a bit older. He's at her school but older than her. That's why she expected a no."

Sitting up a bit alarmed the man asked, "How much older?"

"He's a senior. Eighteen years old."

"Are you serious? Please tell me you told him you don't want him anywhere near her again!" Steve almost yelled hopping to his feet.

Natasha sat up on the couch as well eyeing the man with unwavering eyes, "I did no such thing! The kid seems great. I'm a fucking spy, Steve, I can tell when something's off. He has the older guy allure, a bit of bad-boy air around him… He brought the alcohol to the dance, but he tried to persuade Wanda to not drink any if she didn't want to."

Steve began pacing as he repeated her words incredulously, "Older guy allure? Bad boy? He did bring the booze? And from all these, you deducted he's a decent guy?"

"No, I deducted he's a decent guy by the way he treated her. By how he told her it was ok not to drink when she had doubts about trying it, by how he brought her to me even if he knew how awful an impression that would make. By how he shook my hand, by how he looked into my eyes, and into hers. By how he threw his jacket over her when she was cold... "

"Oh, come on, Nat! You sound like a stupid schoolgirl, right now!" The man huffed annoyed.

"Don't you patronize me, Steve Rogers!" The woman hissed annoyed. When the man's eyes flew to hers apologetically she continued, "I know you don't like it. And to a certain extent, I can see why. But trust me, She is a teenage girl, head over the heels with a very cool and very handsome young man. There is no way you can win this argument. Pick your fights, Steve! The important thing is she lied and drank. Being in love and dating is completely normal."

"Not when the guy she's dating is trouble. No, there is no chance I will allow this to continue. Whether she likes it or not."

Shaking her head Natasha scoffed. "Then prepare yourself for some serious teen-girl cold war, Rogers. No, brace yourself actually! And just for the record, I am on her side on this one!" With these words, she stood up and briskly walked out of the room.

Steve sighed heavily before grabbing both of the glasses and moving to deposit them in the kitchen sink. With heavy steps, he proceeded to Wanda's room and quietly opened her door to glance inside. He felt his heart skip a beat when he spotted the blazer clutched in her hands peeking out of the covers.


Tony drank a long sip of coffee as he glanced at the clock on the kitchen's wall. Deciding Peter had gotten enough sleep after nine solid hours, he turned to the fridge and grabbed a couple of oranges. He worked quickly to cut them in half and place them in the juicer that stood on the counter next to the fridge. Filling a tall glass with the strongly scented liquid, he placed it on a tray along with a second glass filled with water. He placed two pieces of dry toast on a small plate and put two Advil pills on a paper towel.

He then proceeded to carefully carry the tray to the kid's room. He knocked lightly as best as he could with his arms full and when he received no answer he opened the door and entered the still dark room. Peter's bed was empty but he could hear the shower running in the adjacent bathroom. The room carried a slight odor of liquor, which reignited Tony's anger over Peter's disregard of the rules and for his own safety. He set the tray down on the bedside table then walked briskly to the large window above the kid's desk, he drew the curtains to allow the dim light of the cloudy morning to light the spacious room. He then opened the window to allow the cold fresh air in. Sitting in the desk's chair, Tony patiently waited for the kid to exit the bathroom. The shower stopped after another minute and Peter opened the door emerging with a wrapped towel around his waist through a cloud of steam that slowly dissolved as it poured out into the room.

He paused for only a second before noticing the man staring at him through his furrowed brow, a solemn expression pasted on his face.

"G… Good morning," Peter stammered finally.

"Good morning, Peter," Tony returned, his tone curt. Then he indicated the tray on the kid's bedside table. I want you to take the pills and drink the water. Then eat the toast with the juice. Take your time with it if you have to, but make sure you finish it all. You need the fluids for hydration and something solid in your stomach. Then join me in my office. You got thirty minutes."

Nodding the teen did not manage to look at the man in the eyes as he slowly walked to his bed and sat on its edge.

Tony stood up and closed the distance between them. He placed a hand on Peter's shoulder and squeezed it reassuringly before heading out to allow the kid to get ready and eat.

When the door shut behind him Peter had to try considerably hard not to allow his tears to spill. Taking a deep breath he grabbed the two pills, popped them into his mouth and swallowed them with the help of the water. Even though he knew it would take about half an hour for them to kick in, he couldn't help but feel relieved that his throbbing head would soon feel so much better. Nibbling at his toast with difficulty he managed to eat most of it before swallowing down the fresh orange juice. Surprised at how much better he felt after eating he got to his feet and quickly changed into fresh boxers, grey sweatpants, and a simple black short-sleeve t-shirt. He then grabbed his mobile phone and checked the time. Relieved he still had a few minutes before he had to report to Tony's office, he quickly called MJ.

When the girl's hoarse voice answered he immediately asked, "Hey, MJ. How are you?"

" 'Morning Peter. I've been better. What the hell happened yesterday? Gayle has been ranting over how some random lady brought me home and left me there. I could swear you were with me."

Her voice didn't sound angry, just confused. Peter thought it over for a second before responding: "It was Wen's aunt. She called her, realized she was drunk and on her way to pick her up she found us walking towards your home. She rang your doorbell and explained to Gayle but then my stupid drunk mind panicked and I fled not wanting your sister to see me drunk. I was afraid she wouldn't let you see me anymore. Mrs. J. came after me and left you there when she made sure someone was coming down to get you."

The girl sighed on the other line. "Damn. Last night got really fucked up, didn't it?"

Peter scoffed lightly. "To put it mildly. But it had some pretty great moments too, right?"

"It sure did," MJ answered back sweetly.

"Look, I gotta go, May wants to chew me out for a bit and I wanna make sure Wen is ok, too."

"Sure, thing. Talk to you later?"

Peter thought that over. "Probably. If I end up not having phone access I'll see you on Monday, 'k?"

"Sure, Pete. Bye."

"Bye, MJ."

As soon as he terminated the call he glanced again at his screen. With 4 minutes left he hastily dialed Wanda's number but got no answer.

Less than a minute later the small device beeped in his hand. Looking at it he smiled on Wanda's laconic text, "Can't talk. I am pretending to be asleep as long as possible. Everything Ok?"

Peter typed away quickly, "Yeah, just checking up on you. I gotta go. Text you later."

Getting to his feet he walked to his door and opened it. With a feeling of doom, he took a deep breath before making the first step towards the man's office.


Wanda remained sprawled under her warm covers still clutching Quill's blazer. She hated how she could not bring herself to get up and out of her room, but she just couldn't. Right upon these thoughts a knock was heard on her door. Panicking, she curled up and tried her best to ease her breathing. She heard the door open and someone walking close to her bed. A thump was heard as something was placed on her bedside table and then the mattress sank under the added weight of the person that sat at the edge of her bed.

A hand reached over and tugged the quilt down to uncover her face. Wanda kept her eyes shut in the best impersonation of sleep she could master. As the hand gently ran through her hair Wanda knew from the fresh soapy scent that it was Steve.

"Come on, Wanda. I know you are awake," the man said in a calm tone.

The girl opened her eyes hesitantly and met his own.

"Good morning," Steve smiled.

"Good morning," Wanda answered timidly.

The man gestured with his head to her nightstand. "I brought you breakfast."

The girl slowly sat up on her mattress and rested her back on the headboard. Steve took hold of one of the glasses and offered it to her. "It's orange-carrot juice. It helps with hangover symptoms."

"Thanks, but I don't really have any."

"That's very good to hear. Drink this anyways, hydration and vitamins are never a bad idea," the man insisted. He watched the young girl bring the glass to her mouth and downing the liquid in four long gulps.

"I have brought you some painkillers too, but if your head doesn't feel heavy or aches, then maybe you don't need them."

"No, I don't. I know I was still stupid for trying, but I really only got a bit tipsy, Steve. I wasn't drunk, I promise," the girl answered in a quiet tone.

The man nodded in understanding. "Ok, I believe you. I'll take the pills and leave you the toast and fruit here. Make sure you eat these though, alright?"

"Mhm."

"Take a shower when you've eaten and come find me in the library. It shouldn't take you more than 40 minutes."

Nodding Wanda watched the man rise to his feet and walking out of her room without another word.


The soft knock on the large white door made Tony turn away from gazing out of his office's window and call "Come in, Peter."

The teen opened the door and took one step inside. He remained there, right in front of the door as he leaned backward on it making it close due to his weight. Clasping his hand behind his back he glanced towards Tony expectantly.

The man closed the distance between them and rested a hand on his tense shoulder. Gently massaging the spot he said, "We both know that you're in trouble, but you're not about to be executed."

Peter looked at him doubtfully at these words but nodded anyway. He let the man lead him to the comfy couch where he sat with slumped shoulders.

Tony frowned and started feeling a bit worried about the kid's demeanor. Sure he'd seen him anxious over punishment before, but there was something particularly off this time. "Peter?"

The young brown eyes reluctantly moved up to meet those of his mentor. Seeing only concern there he managed to keep their eye contact and not lower his eyes immediately.

"Kid, what's wrong? Are you afraid of me?"

The sincere fear these words held made Peter shake his head hard. "No, Tony, of course not."

"What's going on then?"

"I just feel like shit for ruining this," Peter said after a few silent seconds.

"Ruining what?" the man asked back confused.

"Us. This. Your trust," Peter said his eyes traveling back down to his now fidgeting hands.

"Oh, Peter. You honestly think that some teenage mischief will make me turn my back on you?" When the young man's eyes reluctantly looked up at the words he continued, "Kid, no matter how badly you screw up, I'll still be here. To bust your butt, to teach you, to support you, to help you. No matter what. Got it?"

At the hesitant nod, the man shook his head and leaned back on the couch a bit more comfortably. "You know, ever since yesterday I've been contemplating whether or not I'd share this with you, but I really think I should. It might help you realize why I am so adamant about no alcohol and why I am taking this so seriously."

Peter allowed his body to somewhat relax as well as he slightly turned to the side to better face his mentor.

"When I was a year younger than you I grew curious about alcohol. And that's completely normal, you know? That age is the age when you start to question everything around you. When you want to gather as many experiences as possible. And alcohol is everywhere. On the dinner table for the adults, in your father's or aunt's hand every other evening, while they're relaxing. In your friends' parties all around. So you get curious. What is all the fuss about? Well, as I was saying, one night, when I was fourteen, and my parents were off to some dinner or whatever, I went to the living room, looked in the liquor cabinet and decided I'd try a couple of drinks."

Peter had relaxed quite a bit by now, listening intently and feeling much better knowing Tony understood what was going through his head.

The man continued, "As you can imagine, drinking vodka and bourbon before I had even tried a beer did not end very well. And even though one would expect that the burning taste and the night of puking that followed would at least deter me from trying again, all I could think of was that small period of time before the nausea kicked in. That small period of bliss. And I tried it again the next night and then the next and the next… Within a couple of months's my tolerance had improved vastly and I drank myself asleep at least twice a week. This habit followed me to my adult years and as easily as it was built it was one thousand times harder to break. The number of times I stupidly endangered myself while drunk is too many to count. The number of times I made poor decisions due to being intoxicated are too many as well. The number of times I wished I had someone back then to realize what was going on and to care enough to correct me are innumerable."

"I'm so sorry, Tony. I hate that you had to go through all this," Peter said his eyes genuinely saddened.

"That is why, Pete, I cannot let this slide. I can't encourage irresponsible drinking especially when you're not even at legal drinking age."

"I know," the kid answered in a hushed tone.

"You're six years away from legal drinking age and only three from independent living. I don't live in a bubble. I know very well that most people drink casually during their college years. I wouldn't expect you not to. But I damn well expect you to drink responsibly. To create a healthy attitude towards alcohol and to drink in good company with the goal to enjoy it and not to get intoxicated. Do you think that's fair?"

Peter looked at the man's brown irises for only a second before nodding.

"So, from now on, no more drinking without permission and supervision by me or your aunt or someone else approved by us," the man said in a stricter tone.

"Yes sir," Peter answered without hesitation.

Tony stood up and walked to his desk. He opened the drawer that contained the paddle. He took it in his hand and moved back to the couch. Sitting down he took hold of Peter's wrist and without a word tugged him until the kid sprawled across his lap. Adjusting the small frame a bit, the man lowered the sweatpants Peter had on along with his boxers in a single motion. He used his left hand to circle around the slim waist and rested the paddle on the still pale bottom.

"Why are you getting this spanking, Peter?"

Tony's voice was dead serious and held enough sternness to make Peter immediately answer, "For drinking alcohol when I was not allowed to."

"And?"

Swallowing Peter added uncertainly, "And for getting drunk?"

"And?"

Peter now squirmed uneasily. He racked his brain to remember what exactly had happened yesterday and then Natasha's words replayed in his mind. "And for trying to use my powers while drunk which put me and MJ in danger."

"Exactly. Keep these three things in your mind while we're here," the man answered. Then he drew the paddle away from the kid's butt before bringing it back down with a sharp swat.

Peter hissed at the stinging sensation and quickly reached for one of the couch's throw pillows, to hug tightly and bury his face in. The swats kept coming in a steady rhythm and pattern. Tony smacked the same spot twice before moving to the next covering every inch of the kid's butt.

Peter quickly started yelping and squirming in a vain effort to avoid the oncoming punishing spanks.

When his bottom turned a dark pink, Tony stilled the paddle. Peter who was now softly crying glanced over his shoulder surprised but hopeful. His hopes were quickly dashed when Tony tipped him a bit forward, raising the lower part of his bottom higher. Then the man maneuvered Peter's legs so that they dangled between his own two securing them there.

Realising how little he was able to move Peter closed his eyes tightly guessing he wouldn't like one bit what was to follow.

Tony raised the paddle again and brought it sharply down to the untouched till now sit spots.

"There will be no more alcohol," two swats to each sit spot accented his words, "no more disobeying the rules set for your own safety," another four landed sharply to the kid's upper thighs, "and no more reckless use of your powers!"

Peter who was now crying openly shook his head frantically. "No, sir! I promise!"

Tony's hand did not relent as it kept peppering the sit spots and upper thighs. He felt Peter struggling in his grasp and he could tell the kid must be really feeling it by now. Deciding to bring things to an end, he upped the speed a bit and started smacking all over the rear end again. When every inch of the kid's sitting area was a glowing red, Tony stopped and threw the paddle on the carpeted floor. He opened his legs to allow Peter some more comfort and space to move around and his hand started caressing the heaving back.

"It's over Pete. Breathe. Breathe for me, champ."

As soon as Peter's tears stopped and the sobs subsided, Tony carefully readjusted the kid's clothes wincing when Peter hissed loudly as the fabric rubbed over his punished rear.

Peter slowly got to his feet and allowed himself to be enveloped in Tony's arms. He hugged the man back and rested his face in his chest as Tony kept running a soothing hand over his back.

"Do you think you learned your lesson?" Tony asked when he felt the kid's breathing calming a bit more.

"Yes, yes I did!" Peter immediately answered.

Breaking the embrace Tony ruffled his hair, "I hate being this hard on you. Please make sure I won't have to repeat this particular lesson."

Shaking his head Peter answered, "Nope, no repeats!"

With a hint of a smile, the man said, "I decided not to ground you since May already did. But to make sure this particular lesson is something you will remember for a long, long time I want you to stay in this room, sit in the office chair and start working on a four-page essay on the dangers of alcohol and the benefits of responsible drinking."

At these words Peter's eyes flew to meet Tony's as his mouth gaped open, "You're kidding, right? Come on man! You just obliterated my butt! I learned my lesson! This is bullshit!"

Raising a single eyebrow Tony crossed his arms over his chest and answered, "For someone with an obliterated butt you have quite the attitude. You just made this worse on yourself. I want this handwritten with references. Complain again and I'll make it six pages."

At the no-nonsense tone, Peter raised his hands in defeat, "No! Nope! No need. Sorry. I'll do it!"

Shaking his head the man indicated the chair, "Sit your obliterated butt down and begin. I want this done for dinner tonight."

Sighing dramatically Peter slowly walked to the chair and gingerly sat on it.

Tony walked to his side and retrieved a stack of A4 papers from one of the drawers and handed them to the teen, "You can use the internet for research. I'll call you when it's time for lunch." With a last ruffling of the light brown hair, the man left Peter staring at the white paper in front of him with a pitiful expression.


Wanda shifted her weight from foot to foot. She felt her face radiating heat at the utter embarrassment of her current position. She thanked her luck for everyone else besides her and Steve being out of the base because there was no way she could survive someone coming in and seeing her standing in a corner like a 3-year-old in time out. She could hear Steve clicking away on one of the library's computers like he had been doing when she first entered the room.

Steve rubbed his face in defeat as he kept looking at the screen. Glancing at the fidgeting young lady in the corner he rose from his seat and walked in front of the large table that accommodated five computers on the one side and empty space for reading on the other. Leaning on the edge of the wooden surface he called in a calm voice, "You can come out now, Wanda."

The girl turned away from the wall impatiently and walked a couple of steps between herself and her guardian. She felt rather uncomfortable just standing there.

Reading her discomfort the man drew a chair out and motioned for her to sit as he remained reclined against the table next to her.

"Can you just get this over with?" Wanda asked impatiently after a few silent seconds.

"Get what over with?"

"I don't know… Punishing me or whatever," the girl answered in a hushed tone.

Steve understood she was still feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable when facing consequences from him and he could understand it. The two of them knew each other well but this aspect of their relationship was very new to both of them.

Drawing a chair the man sat across of her. "We'll come to that, darling. But how about you talk to me first. What was all this about?"

Glancing at the man through long eyelashes she asked back, "What do you mean?"

"I mean feeling like you needed to lie about the dance and your date. Drinking…" Steve trailed off.

Wanda appreciated how calm and welcoming his tone was. Meeting his light blue eyes she knew there was no point in beating around the bush. "Quill is older. He's eighteen, a senior. I… I was sure you would never allow me to go with him. I was also afraid that if you learned that we are seeing each other and his age you would forbid me to see him."

The man nodded in understanding. "I know we haven't had the chance up to now to live in circumstances where dating or going out with friends was something you had access to. And so you're not sure where I stand in all these and what I would or would not allow. To be completely honest with you, I'm not sure either. If we had this talk yesterday I'd tell you to forget about Quill and that you'd never see him again period."

Wanda's eyes flew to meet his own at these words but he shook his head reassuringly, "I discussed this with Natasha and even visited a couple of parenting forums to see what other parents would do in such a situation…." Wanda's giggle stopped him in his tracks. "What?"

The girl looked at him with a hand clasped over her mouth as a couple of more muffled laughs escaped her lips. "I… I'm sorry, it's just… Parenting forums? Really?"

Raising an eyebrow amused the man quipped, "I'd be careful if I were you, young lady, I've found quite a few interesting ideas in there, don't tempt me to try them out right now!"

"Shutting up, shutting up…" the girl said smiling.

"You can see Quill and date him, BUT under specific conditions."

"Such as?" Wanda asked disbelievingly.

"I will always know when you two are doing something together. No visiting his house if his step-father isn't present and even then no hanging out behind closed doors."

"Wait," Wanda interrupted, "How do you know he has a step-father?"

Now it was Steve's turn to chuckle, "Oh, darling, you think I'd allow you to date that guy if I hadn't run a full background check on him?"

Wanda shook her head slightly amused, "Of course, what was I thinking…"

"For now he'll get to see Natasha here and there. If he asks why you never invite him over you say you're not allowed having boys over, simple as that. Then, later on, if you decide you want to share with him who you are, I also meet him."

"To put the fear of God inside of him…"

"Exactly! Questions?"

"Yeah… Why would I tell him who I am?"

Steve peered at the girl for a second, "Because I know first hand how hard hiding can be. You're not a wanted person anymore, so even if you decide to let him know and things turn ugly, I can easily persuade him to not say anything to anybody."

Wanda felt there was more to that but also knew Steve well enough to tell he wasn't willing to share any of it with her at this point.

"Ok, then. I mean, thanks, for giving me a second chance in doing this right."

The man nodded before resuming in a stricter tone "Now, why would you drink if you didn't really want to? I never thought you were one to be pushed around by others…"

Wanda sighed at that and remained silent for a few seconds. Drawing her legs to the seat of her chair she hugged them with one of her arms as she tugged some stray locks of hair behind her left ear with her other. "It was stupid, really. Nobody pushed me. It's just that Peter's girlfriend went on about how much she likes it and how she has tried a couple of times… Peter was also excited at the prospect… So, I kinda felt like I had to prove myself. I felt competitive over this. I mean I've been through hell, so if MJ could handle some alcohol then so could I," the girl stole a glance to her guardian who regarded her intently through his penetrating blue gaze. "I know it was stupid, Steve I really do."

"I am glad you realize that. Drinking at your age is alluring, I can understand that. But it's also dangerous and illegal. I don't want you drinking around every chance you get just because other people do it. I know that after eighteen you'll have much more opportunities to drink with friends and I want to trust that you have self-control, that you know how much to drink to have a good time but also have full control over your actions. Plus, Wanda, powers like yours and especially in such an early age demand control. One small slip last night and you don't know what could have happened."

"I know. You're right. I won't drink again, I promise," the girl said staring at her wiggling toes.

Steve shook his head at that, "I don't think the solution is to never drink again, Wanda. But until you're of legal age you certainly are not allowed to drink without my permission and possibly supervision."

Glancing up at that a bit surprised, Wanda nodded.

"Last but not least, I want to talk to you about lying. I know that you didn't know how I'd react and I have taken that into consideration in regards to your punishment, BUT, lying is completely unacceptable. No matter what you've done or what situation you're in, if you lie to me about it or attempt to distort or hide the truth you'll only make things that much worse for yourself. Am I clear, young lady?"

Gulping at the stern tone and stony countenance, Wanda slowly nodded while quietly answering, "Yes sir."

"Aside from the spanking you have coming, you are grounded for the weekend. Also, as soon as your spanking is over you are to sit in one of these chairs and write some lines I've prepared for you."

Her eyes enlarging on the last part, Wanda asked not able to keep the whining tone out of her voice, "Write lines? Come on Steve!"

Raising his eyebrows the man said, "Told you those forums have good advice. Now, are we clear?"

"Yes, sir."

Nodding once, Steve extended a hand to the girl and motioned with his head for her to get up. Wanda gingerly obeyed knowing that discussion time was over. She stood on Steve's side and allowed him to guide her over his hard knees. She found the position more uncomfortable than when the last time when her hands and legs could lay on the bed. Now dangling on either side of Steve's lap she felt more vulnerable and the position much more embarrassing. She took in a sharp breath when she felt him baring her behind but refrained from attempting to stop it.

Steve landed the first smack on the upturned behind eliciting a surprised yelp from the girl. "Why are you receiving this punishment, Wanda?"

Managing to drown her initial answer of 'because you're an old-fashioned douche', Wanda answered, "For lying to you and for drinking alcohol."

Nodding Steve began spanking at a steady fast pace. Round after round he reddened the whole bottom and sit-spots. When Wanda started crying and kicking her legs he knew they were close. Pausing briefly he rested his hand on her thigh as he told her in a strict voice, "Granted that this time I can understand why you felt you had to lie I will finish this spanking just with my hand. Next time lying is the reason or part of the reason for your punishment, you'll be feeling a hairbrush across your butt. Am I understood?"

"Yes! Yes, Steve," Wanda answered through her tears.

Steve raised his hand again and started smacking sharply on the girl's unsuspecting upper thighs. When they turned a vivid pink he landed twelve more spanks to her undercurve before ceasing completely.

As Wanda laid over his knees crying her heart out, the man reached over and carefully readjusted her clothes. Once that was done, he helped her up and sat her on his lap hugging her tightly. He patiently stroked her hair until her tears stopped and her breathing returned to normal.

"Better?" he asked kindly.

"Mhm…"

"Good. I didn't like having to do that, Wanda. I hope you know that," the man said, his voice sweet and kind.

"I know… I am sorry."

"I know you're sorry, darling, and you are forgiven," the man said sympathetically. He then helped her stand before maneuvering her back to the chair she sat in before her spanking. "Take a seat at the table please."

"Steve, please, can't I do it later? I really don't want to sit right now…"

"No, darling, sitting on your spanked butt is part of this punishment. Now go on, I don't want to have to ask you again."

Wanda obeyed and slowly sat on the chair. She squirmed vainly to find a more comfortable position but had no such luck. While she situated herself, Steve brought her a pad of lined paper. In the first page, the sentence 'I will not drink alcohol without specific permission until I am of legal age' was written. Steve flipped to the fourth page where a second sentence graced the first line 'Lying or distorting the truth is unacceptable and will always lead to trouble'. Wanda's face flushed brightly at the prospect of writing lines like a 7-year-old but kept her mouth shut.

"Neatly written, four pages back and forth for each sentence, no skipping lines," came the simple direction by the man. "Start working on these and I'll call you for lunch. If you're done earlier you're free to do as you please as long as you don't leave the inside of the base."

"I swear I'll tell Tony about the parenting forums and you'll never hear the end of it," Wanda mumbled pouting as an answer to the man. Steve could not help but chuckle. He kissed the top of the girl's head tenderly before exiting the room.


"Wanda, I swear, it'll never be the same again!"

Rolling her eyes at Peter's overdramatic declarations about his ass Wanda quipped in her phone, "I get it, Peter, you got your ass handed to you and so did I. Can we stop sharing cringe-worthy moments now please?"

Peter in his own room in Tony's manor stood up and started pacing around his room as he usually did whenever he was on the phone. "Yeah, Ok. Hey, what about Quill? Did Cap' find out?"

Wanda smiled a bit at that. Sprawling a bit more on her messy bed she answered in a pleased tone, "He actually did, but it went better than I hoped for. Natasha talked to him and buttered him up apparently. Oh, and of course the mommy-blogs!"

Peter paused in front of his window at that, "What?"

Laughing loudly Wanda stood up herself and moved to the guitar that laid in its stand at the corner of her room. "Yeah, he got into 'parenting blogs' as he calls them to read about teen relationships and how wise it would be to forbid me to see him…. I know! I got into the computer he was using when I got the chance and found out he visited a bunch of mom-blogs. Adorable right?"

Shaking his head Peter mumbled, "I think it will be hard to keep that bit information away next time I see him in suit."

"Did you talk to MJ?"

"Yeah, she's fine. I covered up for yesterday saying it was your aunt that found out you were drunk and she found us on her way here. So even if she remembers her face, Nat is covered. Thankfully she can't recall anything of the night."

Wanda's face grew a bit serious at that, "You know Steve said something that I can't get out of my head. On one hand, he knew Quill had a step-father."

"What, how?" Peter interrupted.

"He said he ran a background check before taking his decision of allowing me to see him. But then he added that I might at some point want to tell him the truth about who I am and that it would be ok to do so."

Peter paused his pacing for the second time. "He said that? What the hell?"

"I don't know! I don't know what to make out of this…"

Tony's voice calling him from downstairs made Peter turn his face towards the door, "Hey, I gotta go, Tony wants me. See you on Monday?"

"Yeah, sure! Bye, Pete!"

Hanging up the phone, Wanda took hold of the guitar and brought it with her back to her bed. Sitting down she was thankful to notice that other than a dull heat no pain was lingering from her punishment. Her fingers flew to the strings and she started playing random melodies thinking over Steve's words and wondering.


 

Chapter Text

 

The sound of the ringing bell was almost drowned by the hastily moving students who hurried to gather their things and leave the classroom as soon as possible, yet Professor Gerting's voice managed to be heard over the commotion, "Mr. Parker, a word please!"

Feeling all eyes turning on him in surprise, Peter gathered his things and approached the teacher's desk, as his classmates filled out of the classroom."Yes Mr. Gerting?" he asked, somewhat surprised himself. His science teacher rarely had comments for him that demanded privacy.

The middle-aged, grey-haired man removed his glasses and intertwined his fingers on the desk before establishing eye contact with his student. "It's about your essay on circuits." The man paused long enough to retrieve said paper from the stack of papers in front of him.

Peter all but gasped at the big, red, circled 'C-' that was marked on the top right corner.

Clearing his throat the professor continued, "Compared to the rest of the handed in work of your classmates this was satisfactory, but knowing you, this is clearly last minute and not your usual quality work, Peter. This is sloppy, poorly referenced and completely vacant of your usual critical thinking and insight."

Peter looked at the man dumbfounded. He knew it wasn't his best work, but after two years of impeccable performance, he'd expect the man would've cut him some slack.

"I would like you to work on the paper again and hand it in on Wednesday."

Peter now gaped at the man disbelievingly, "But Mr. G! That only gives me two evenings! I've got a ton of homework for the rest of my classes, not to mention the oncoming exam for your class in two weeks! It's not an F and you said it yourself, it is satisfactory! Why do I have to redo it?"

The man shook his head before answering, "Because I would hate to be forced to lower your term grade to a B. I know you're aiming for Ivy League universities and a B would not look nice at all in your future applications. You need to learn to produce top-notch material, Peter and this clearly is sloppy work. I don't want you losing your focus. If you wish I can take this directly to your guardian and discuss it with her."

"No, sir. That won't be necessary," Peter said through gritted teeth. "You'll have the new essay by Wednesday." Not expecting any answer by his up-to-now favorite teacher, the young man turned his back and left the classroom as quickly as he could without running.

Arriving at his locker he attempted opening it, but his trembling with anger hands could not get the combination right. Yelling angrily he punched the metal door causing a big dent to form on it.

"Shit!" Peter mumbled looking around him to make sure nobody had noticed what happened.

"Indeed… You ok?"

Jumping a bit at the spoken words he turned to face Wanda before shaking his head tiredly, "Stupid Gerting wants me to redo a perfectly satisfactory essay or he'll drop my term grade."

Wanda grimaced and gestured with her head for Peter to follow her outside. "Sorry to hear that. Can't you take the lowered grade and tell him to shove it up his…..? I mean you are some sort of genius, right?"

Peter laughed sarcastically at that, "Tony was a genius, graduating from MIT at 17. I am just doing better than the average student. If I want a chance at an Ivy League school I need my GPA as perfect as possible. Plus, Tony would be extremely disappointed if I screwed up in Science of all things."

Tugging a few stray locks behind her ear Wanda clicked her tongue and eyed her friend sideways, "I seriously doubt that Pete. You need to tell him if you're in a tight spot. He could help you, or you could arrange to do fewer patrols until things at school get back under control."

"Are you kidding?" Peter exclaimed disbelievingly. "I fought tooth and nail to get to be able patrol and to be taken seriously! I am not gonna look like a stupid kid who can't handle what he is assigned!"

Rolling her eyes Wanda chose not to voice her thoughts on male pride and ego. "Well, hang in there then. It's a rough week. It will pass."

Humphing in an annoyed way Peter shook his head and mumbled something under his breath before collapsing at their usual bench at the back of the schoolyard. "Anyways, how was your day up to now?"

"Kinda weird. Mrs. Kloss announced that she will go on leave due to some urgent family matters. I am expecting the substitute tomorrow."

"That's bad luck. Mrs. K rocks. I hope she'll be back next year," Peter answered rubbing his eyes tiredly.

"Yeah. I hope whoever comes in her place is at least tolerable. Hey, Pete? Don't go rabid on me or anything, but you really look like shit. Ghostly pale, dark circles… Even if you don't say a word, if Tony sees you he'll know immediately you're in over your head."

Smiling at her concern he simply shook his head dismissively. "Tony won't see me till next weekend hopefully. And I'll try to get some more sleep tonight. Don't you go turning into May on me."

"Aren't you worried though that she might tell Tony how tired you look?"

"Are you kidding? All you have to do to reassure May that you are ok is to ask for food."

Shaking her head, Wanda chuckled and hopped to her feet to greet her fast approaching boyfriend with a kiss.


The muffled ringing made Peter jump from his seat. He looked around him in a bewildered way to search for his phone. After some rummaging under the loose papers and open books that cluttered his desk, he managed to grab it and answer before checking the caller. "Hello?"

"Hey, kid, everything ok?"

"Tony?"

"The one and only. I saw you were still at home and got a bit worried."

"Still at home?" Peter asked his mind still foggy. Removing his cellphone from his ear for a second to check the time he saw he was half an hour late to start his patrol. "Shit! I lost track of time! Shit, shit, shit! I'm off Tony, I'll be out of the window in less than five!"

"Hey, hey, hey! Slow down!" Came Tony's suspicious answer. "I asked you if everything is alright!"

"Yeah, yeah, everything's great, just a lot of homework and I lost track of time. Sorry!"

"Don't apologize, Pete. School comes first. Always. If you need to take the night off or the whole week..."

"No! No way! I can handle this, don't worry!"

"Are you sure? It's ok having a rough week kid, nobody will think any less of you…"

"No, Tony, really. It's fine, I promise. I need to go! Bye!" Hanging up the phone abruptly the slim framed boy ran to his wardrobe and made fast work of pulling his suit on before throwing himself out of his window.


The glowing blue eyes followed the fluid movements of the young superhero examiningly. He watched from a distance noting his reflexes and more aggressive than usual attacks. He analysed his defensive moves and his judgement calls. Five minutes into his second scene for that night and Tony knew Peter was somewhat off his game. Not to the point that he was endangering his safety but enough to get the man worried. He opted to continue to observe from a distance and not get involved unless absolutely necessary.

When the time neared Peter's curfew, he watched in relief the kid move through the town towards his home. Allowing ten minutes to pass, he made his own way towards the familiar by now balcony. As soon as he approached the building he turned down the power on his own suit to avoid making loud noises that would stir or startle Peter or May in case they were already asleep.

Almost silently he managed to land on the balcony floor and then promptly removed the armor before glancing through the kid's window.

Peter for the third time that day all but jumped from his chair, feeling that someone was watching him. When his eyes met those of Tony he sighed in relief. "You scared me, man, I thought someone had followed me home!"

"Just me…" Tony said casually as he climbed through the window into the teen's room. He scanned the small space and knew that Peter had no intention of sleeping any time soon, what with his laptop turned on with a word document open, and numerous books and printed papers cluttering the kid's wooden desk. Returning his gaze to Peter he noticed how quickly the teen turned his back on him to presumably continue working on his assignment.

Walking to the twin bed next to the desk, Tony sat down and peered at Peter intently. "This does not look like you're handling things, Pete," he said in an even tone after a few silent sighed but said nothing, simply shaking his head. He felt too exhausted to argue and he had a shitload of work to go through."Why didn't you tell me you needed some time off?" Tony asked again.

"Because I don't! Ok?" Peter snapped in an exasperated tone turning towards the man as he threw his hands in the air. Tony's brow immediately furrowed and he eyed the young man with what Peter had come to recognize as the "warning look".

Sighing, Peter rubbed his eyes as he apologized, "Sorry. Sorry for snapping. It's just a bit busy at school, but I can make it work. I can do this."

"Nobody doubts you can, Peter, but that doesn't mean you have to. You might be doing solo acts but you are also part of a team. That entails the luxury of asking for help when you need it."

Peter's fatigue started winning over as he reacted angrily again, "I don't want to need help, Ok? I need you all to back the hell off and let me handle my own shit!"

Tony immediately stood and walked directly over to the kid placing his hands in his denim pants pockets before informing Peter in a stern tone, "You obviously can't handle your shit if you can't go through a simple discussion without behaving like a disrespectful brat! This is your last warning, mind your attitude!"

Losing it now at the scolding tone, Peter jumped to his feet as well, "I am minding my fucking attitude! I wasn't bothering anyone, I came home to do my damn homework minding my own bloody business! I am just trying to attend to my responsibilities and all of you people are all over my case constantly!"

"Ok, you know what, I've heard and seen enough! You look and sound like you haven't slept in days, you were decent enough out there but you were obviously off your game, and you are clearly not willing to solve this logically…"

Peter interrupted the man in an accusing tone, "Wait, you mean you followed me out there even after I told you everything was under control?"

His tone rising slightly Tony answered, "Yes because what you told me was clearly a lie, possibly to yourself as well, along with me! Peter that's enough! Consider yourself grounded from Spider-Man duty for a week. If you're not gonna take this seriously on your own accord. I will do it for you!"

"This is bullshit!" Peter exclaimed angrily.

"Utter one more word that is not respectful acceptance of your grounding and we'll be visiting my house for a quick attitude adjustment."

Peter groaned loudly before slamming his laptop shut and plopped dramatically face first on his bed.

Tony pinched the bridge of his nose trying to remind himself how irritable he also used to be at Peter's age and took a couple of deep breaths."One week, Pete. Focus on just school and rest. We'll talk tomorrow." When he received no answer he rolled his eyes at the drama-queen attitude and simply ruffled Peter's hair as he climbed out of his window and into his suit.

Peter waited a bit before peeking through the window. When he made sure he was alone he pressed his pillow over his mouth to muffle his angry yell of "FUCK!"


Peter waited patiently for the answer on the other end of the line.

"There's a call I wasn't expecting this morning," came Tony's amused tone.

"I feel like an ass. Sorry about last night," Peter said in what he hoped was an apologetic tone.

"Apology accepted. And don't worry, I get it. Everyone loses it every now and then. It comes with the territory. Did something happen at school?"

"Nothing too important. Don't worry. Just stupid teachers who think we have nothing better to do than completing their assignments."

"Which is kinda true, you being a student and all."

"Not true for me, Tony. Or Wanda. Anyways. Look, is there any chance you might change your mind about my Spider-Man grounding?"

"Nope. You focus on school for this week, it won't be the end of the world and you know it. School should be your top priority now anyway , Pete. We've talked about this."

Shoulders slumping Peter managed to not sigh in disappointment. "Right. It was worth a try. Anyways, I gotta go now. Talk to you soon."

"Have a good day kid!"

The young man hanged up the phone and shoved it in his denim pocket. He glanced absent-mindedly around him as he slowly walked through the school gate. He was a bit surprised to see a tall and muscular looking man sitting outside of the small guard-room next to the gate. He peered through the ajar door as he passed by thinking Mr. Clover, the middle-aged chubby security guard that usually worked in that post would be inside. Spotting nobody else he turned his gaze back to the school and continued walking.

Passing through the main building's entrance he moved towards his locker. Peering at the dent he caused last night momentarily, he sighed and made quick work of unlocking the metal door and arranging the books he wouldn't need for the first two periods inside.

When he closed the locker's door he gasped audibly and shifted automatically to a defensive combat posture, at spotting suddenly a tall and slim figure that stood directly next to him.

The slim man smiled looking down at the young man, "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."

Peter lowered his hands and shifted his body and awkwardly replied, "No worries."

"Martial arts?" the man asked again, his smile broadening but never reaching his eyes.

Peter cleared his throat. "Yeah, martial arts." He couldn't place why exactly but this man creeped him out a bit. Nodding once he turned his back to him and headed hastily back to the yard, wondering who the guy was and why his Spider-Sense did not alert him to his presence.


"Have you spotted all the new personnel around here?" Quill asked with his eyes closed. He was laying on the grass, his head was resting on Wanda's lap and she was running her fingers through his thick blonde locks.

"New personnel?" she asked back glancing at the rest of their company.

"I spotted a janitor I hadn't seen before," came MJ's answer from her spot on the bench next to Peter.

"And there's this new guard. I hope they didn't fire Mr. Clover," added Ned.

Peter noted everyone's words and contemplating mentioning the creepy man he spotted that morning, but quickly changed his mind as he hadn't seen him again after that.

"Probably changed the personnel agency they used before?" Ned continued.

"Yeah, probably," commented Peter absentmindedly.

Wanda glanced around them in time to spot the guard Ned mentioned looking their way. When their eyes met he averted his eyes and scanned over the rest of the yard.

"Creepy day…" She said quietly.

"You think so too?" Peter asked.

"She's just in a bad mood. the substitute will be coming in today," MJ commented. "Don't worry, Wen. It's gonna be fine, I'm sure of it."

The brunette girl only smiled in response. Her mind raced through all what her friends had noticed though, thinking it was a bit of a weird coincidence that all of the school's helping personnel and her teacher changed in one day.

As the bell marked the end of their recess period, the small group got to their feet and headed slowly back to the building, each lost to their own thoughts.


Wanda was pacing about tiredly in the room where she'd meet her new teacher. The fact that he or she was 10 minutes late did little to impress the girl and she couldn't shake the feeling that she wouldn't enjoy this sudden change in her academic routine.

The sound of the door opening made the young girl turn. At the other end of the room, a tall thin man smiled at her. His hair was ashy blonde, his face pale and his cheeks flushed -probably from running. He wore a thin pair of glasses and had dark circles under his eyes. His shoulders were a bit hunched and he was dressed in a checkered blue shirt and grey pants. The girl could not make a guess on his age. He could pass anywhere between 35 and 50.

His voice sounded hoarse when he said, "You must be Miss Wendy Jones! I am Jared Shawl, we'll be doing Geography and Science together."

Forcing a smile Wanda approached the man and offered her hand. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Shawl."

As the man took the hand and shook it the small stack of books he held in his hands fell to the floor with a loud thud. "Oops! Sorry for that, Wendy!" he uttered hastily and lowered to grab the books from the floor. He then offered an awkward smile as he set them on the closest desk.

Wanda forced another fake smile and sat at the table waiting for the man to sit. She couldn't explain why but she didn't like him at all.

"How about showing me what you've covered so far?" Mr. Shawl said with his hoarse voice, as he came to stand above Wanda.

The girl opened her notes and books and started guiding the man through the various chapters.

"Wow! You sure have progressed very well for such a short time. You've been here for less than two months right?"

"Just about, yes."

"Now, I just received your file yesterday so please do remind me, where did you use to live?"

Eyeing the man uneasily Wanda again forced a smile "I used to live in California. I don't like getting into details if you don't mind. What's important is I lost a couple of years in school and now I am trying to cover the gaps. I am sure you know from my file that the goal is to join 11th grade next year."

Smiling a dull smile that showed yellowish teeth the man nodded and rubbed his hands, "Let's begin then!"


The group of five reclined lazily in the local park enjoying what should be one of the last warmish days of the season.

When Quill, MJ, and Ned briefly left to get ice creams for everyone, Wanda scooted closer to Peter.

"Not that I wanna be a jerk or anything, but shouldn't you be working on that essay thing instead of hanging out with us?"

Shaking his head tiredly Peter mumbled, "Between last night's patrol, the fight with Tony and the pop-quiz on history during the last period, I couldn't even stay awake, let alone study if I went home. I have already done half of the stupid paper and will finish up tonight. I'm not allowed out to patrol so I can exploit those hours to complete it."

Nodding in understanding Wanda only commented, "you know best I guess."

"Oh!", Peter exclaimed after a few silent seconds. "How was the new teacher, I completely forgot to ask you."

Wanda contemplated her answer for a few seconds, playing with her hair absentmindedly. "I really don't have the words. I can't say I liked him but I can't explain why. He was pretty decent in Science though. He said he has a great idea for something that could help me develop my knowledge much further but that he'd tell me more tomorrow 'cause he needed to research it a bit."

Nodding Peter commented, "Sounds nice." A thought playing in his head, he then asked, "Hey, Wanda, has Cap forbid you from using your powers at school?"

"Yeah. I mean we aim to keep my identity hidden and in school, we could risk that if anybody saw. Plus they're still a bit unstable and with nobody around to intervene if things go south they could potentially be risky and dangerous," the girl answered rising a bit from her lying down position to recline on her elbows. "Why do you ask?" she asked her friend suspiciously.

"Selfish reasons that I won't share unless it's absolutely necessary."

"You want me to manipulate Gerting, don't you?" the girl asked knowingly.

"Maybe… That way I could get some rest tonight and start revising for the exam," Peter answered truthfully looking the girl in the eyes.

Wanda shook her head unsure of what to answer. "I guess I could if we make sure nobody saw. Steve will go ballistic though if he finds out."

"I got my Spider-sense and everything so I'll know if anyone approaches," Peter reasoned.

Wanda thought that over for a bit before nodding. "Yeah, ok. I think he was unfair to you anyways. We won't be doing anything wrong, right?"

A huge smile started spreading on his face as Peter answered, "Thank you so much, Wanda."


"Mr. G, I got the essay," Peter yelled through the usual commotion that accompanied the end of the science period.

The middle-aged man smiled proudly at his student and turned his attention to gathering his things to place them back in his worn, brown, leather document bag, as he waited for Peter to approach.

The young man stalled successfully, pretending that he was gathering his things and checking if all the pages of the supposed paper were there. As soon as the last student left the class he walked to the teacher's desk coughing loudly as he passed in front of the classroom's ajar door.

Wanda who was patiently waiting outside, immediately stepped in upon hearing the agreed upon a cough.

Professor Gerting turned with a kind smile towards her, as Peter handed him a stack of papers, "If you could give us a minute please?" the man kindly said.

Wanda smiled widely answering, "That won't be necessary Mr. G.!"

Before the man had the chance to answer she moved behind him and raised both her hands on each side of his head. As the pupils in the man's eyes enlarged considerably and his gaze turned vacant, Peter jogged to the door to lock it from the inside.

His spider-sense not alerting him for anything he turned his back to the door and got captivated by the red swirling light that swirled from his friend's fingers and danced around the man. Wanda was whispering in his ear with her hair swaying from the flow of energy that coursed through her. After another second the girl lowered her hands and winked at Peter.

"So, Mr. Gerting, how was the assignment after all?" Peter asked anxiously.

"Exemplary as always, dear Peter. Now, if you two would excuse me, I need to proceed to the staff meeting!"

Smile becoming even bigger, Peter unlocked the door and held it open for the man to exit. Then he jogged to Wanda and the two of them bumped their fists triumphantly.

"I think I liked that trick," Wanda winked at her friend. And the two of them exited the classroom completely missing a figure hiding in the corridor's shadows just a few feet away and watching them.


Quill looked at his girlfriend longingly as she broke their kiss and smiled. "Please say yes! I can't stand the guy and you are pretty decent in science!"

Chuckling at her words the blonde answered, "Pretty decent is one thing, tutoring is another! I've never been asked to tutor anyone before!"

"Well, I am not anyone and this is not tutoring. It's paired studying. 'Mr. Slime' says it's a very effective method and he asked me to choose someone close to me who is decent in science. You'll be studying with me reviewing the material and helping me get things I haven't really understood so far." Wanda tried.

"Wouldn't Peter be a better candidate for this kind of thing?" Quill asked running a hand through her silky soft hair.

"In terms of academic performance yes. In terms of who I want to spend my time with even when I'm studying, nope!" An idea popping in her mind she smiled suggestively at him adding, "Plus, it's kinda hot don't you think? You teaching me?"

Groaning at her less than fair play, Quill answered, "It would be hot if we were alone with no adult supervision. And a uniform for you, actually…" At the playful slap on his shoulder, he chuckled and brought her in for another kiss.

"Fine, yeah, Ok. I'll give this a try. It might earn me some brownie points with your aunt too. You sure 'Slime' will be ok with this?"

"He already said yes. I told him 'my friend Peter would love to do it' and he happily agreed."

Snickering Quill answered, "I would bet he thought of Parker. He's the famous science Peter in the school after all."

"Well, who cares? He said I could choose, right? I chose you and that's the end of it."

Smiling and leaning in for another kiss Quill mumbled, "You are something else, Wen'."

As the bell rang notifying them that recess had ended, Wanda hopped to her feet first. "Remember, today after-school period! I need you in room 107 at four fifteen! Don't let me spend any more minutes alone with that guy."

"Four fifteen, room 107. See you then!"


As Quill moved through the corridors he gasped at the sudden abrupt collision with another moving body.

"Watch where you're g… Peter?"

Rubbing his nose that had slammed into the bulkier teen's shoulder Peter asked back, "Quill? Sorry man, I was not expecting anyone being around. What are you doing here?"

"I am staying late to help Wendy with something she asked," he answered and then noticed what resembled a robotic foot in the other boy's hand. "What's that?"

"Robotics," Peter answered awkwardly.

"I thought all clubs were finished by now."

"I had some issue with my programming and stayed back to solve it. I'll be done in an hour or so. Do you guys wanna meet when I finish?"

"Nah, we'll be here until five thirty and Wanda needs to get home afterward.

"Oh, ok. Well, I'll see you tomorrow then," Peter quipped waving the metal foot.

When Quill disappeared at the end of the corridor Peter worriedly wondered if something was indeed off with his powers. His Spider-sense the day before, his reflexes now. Something felt a bit off and he couldn't place it.

As he proceeded towards the computer lab, he glanced out of the window and noticed that the schoolyard was unusually quiet. Setting the robotic foot on the closest table he quietly moved back towards the room's door and peered through its glass window. His eyes catching the sudden movement he immediately dropped to the floor fractions of seconds before the glass shattered into a thousand pieces by something that crashed onto it. Looking behind him he saw a small dart with an attached vial rolling across the floor.

"Shit!" He cursed quietly. Using his hearing he detected two pairs of feet moving towards the room.

Moving silently he climbed from the wall on the right side of the door all the way to the ceiling and waited for the pair to enter the dimly lit room. As soon as the two men walked into the room, Peter immediately blasted two balls of web that successfully threw their weapons out of their hands. Before they had time to raise their heads towards him, he blasted webbing from both of his wrists covering the men's heads tightly. Their yells muffled, the teen jumped down and grabbing one of the guns used it to knock them both out with a solid hit on each of their heads. Taking out his phone with trembling hands he immediately called Wanda.

When she didn't answer he felt his gut clenching and he desperately tried Quill, who again did not answer. Fingers trembling he typed a quick message and sent it to both of them hoping they weren't picking up because their lesson had started.
'Armed men in school. I think they're after us. Hide!'


 

Chapter Text

 

 

Glancing out of the ajar door he spotted further movement down the corridor. Not having much of a choice he risked closing the door and dragging the two unconscious bodies away from the door's window. Hiding to one of the room's corners he dialed Tony's number hastily.

"Hey, Pete!"

"Tony, there's trouble. I'm at school. Wanda and her boyfriend are here as well along with at least one teacher. There are armed guys. I think they're after me… Possibly Wanda too."

Tony's voice erupted with worry on the other side of the line. Peter could hear him running probably towards his suit. "Stay calm! Where are you in the building? Are you together?"

Peter's voice was shaking a bit now. "No, I am in the computers lab, but I've no idea where Wanda and Quill are."

"Has anyone spotted you?"

"Two guys, they tried shooting me with some sort of dart-vial thing. I've knocked them out but I'm pretty sure there will be other's searching every room as we're speaking."

"I need you to remain hidden. Find a spot in the room you are and stay there. Don't attempt to find Wanda. I will contact the Avengers and we'll get to you. We'll get you out of there, but I need you to do as you're told and wait for instructions. Can you do that for me, Pete?"

"But Wanda and Quill…"

"Are probably safe. Even if they are a target as well the fact that they tried to knock you out means they want you alive. So please, buy me some time. I'll call you in just a bit with new directions. Acknowledge please."

"Yes, sir."

"Hang in there, Pete. I'm on my way. I won't let anything happen to you, I swear."

"I know… Please hurry…"

The click that signaled the end of their call made Peter jump. His ear rang loudly as if an alarm had gone off right next to him. Rubbing his temple to reduce the resulting throb he wondered what was going on with his sensory system all day long. His spider sense was off, his hearing was more sensitive than ever and he could swear that even if his web shot through it was not even close to the amount he intended to use on these guys.

Crawling to the back of the room quietly he found a large empty cardboard box. Pushing it further into the darkest corner of the room he promptly hopped inside and made sure his phone was on silent mode. His eyes glued to the screen waiting for an answer from Wanda or a call from Tony, he remained still, trying hard to hear any movement outside over the constant ringing in his ears.

 


 

Ironman and Captain America paced anxiously in the Avenger's base as they waited for Black Widow to finish her scanning in the school's network.

"It's been hacked guys," she declared, her fingers and eyes never leaving the keyboard and screen. "This is not a school server. I got in but this is set up by pros. They've made it pretty hard to get access."

"We need eyes in. Hawkeye is already close waiting confirmation," Steve said with his voice solemn.

Natasha cursed in Russian as she kept trying to infiltrate the seemingly inaccessible network. After a few silent seconds, she finally exclaimed, "I'm in! We got security camera feed."

The two men moved above her and their eyes scanned the multiple screens with the various school corridors and campus.

"No cams inside the classrooms. I count twenty men. Two guarding the gate, two in the front and back entrance of the main building, seven pairs roaming the corridors and two in the principal's office."

"Peter said he knocked out two of them, which means that there could be more in classrooms," Tony mentioned as he scanned the screens.

"What the hell do they want? Do we have any intel on this?" Steve asked.

"Nothing up to now. Sam is reaching out to some of his contacts but we got nothing so far."

Pressing a finger to the small device in his ear Steve turned sideways as he concentrated on what Clint was informing him. Nodding once after several seconds he uttered "Roger that Clint. Keep sharp."

"What?" Tony and Natasha asked at the same time.

"There are strong electromagnetic emissions coming from the building. We can't tell what it is but they got some sort of device or devices in there."

"Bomb?" Tony asked his face visibly paling.

"Possibly. We can't tell without somebody going in and finding it. Clint thinks it's more than one devices. His readings are very different. He believes they serve different purposes."

"How are we going to approach? We need as much time as possible undetected to spot and remove the kids," Tony said.

"Hawkeye will shoot at the gate guards and I'll enter the building in one of their uniforms. I'll spot the kids, get them out, and as soon as we got them to safety you get in and take care of the fuckers and the bomb or whatever." Natasha proposed.

"Sounds ok," Steve said glancing at Tony, who shook his head.

"It sounds easy. Too easy."

"Look, we're wasting time as it is. We need to intervene. If they wanted the kids dead and the school demolished they could have done it before we even knew about it…"

"Wait, wait, wait!" Tony exclaimed suddenly, making the other two Avengers glance at him questioningly. "Peter should be able to tell. His spider-sense should have warned him if there was a weapon of any sort placed in school and if armed men infiltrated…"

Realisation washing over them Natasha and Steve looked at each other and back to Tony. "One of the devices must be blocking his powers," Natasha said.

"And probably Wanda's too. Both hers and Peter's powers are infused into their nervous system. The electromagnetic emissions must have affected them somehow," Steve added.

"It's a trap. A hostage situation. They want something and the kids are leverage. So they want something from us."

The clapping sound and the creepy laughter that sounded next made all three of them jump on their feet bewildered and look towards the now pitch black screens.

"You catch up quickly, don't you?" echoed throughout the room.

 


 

"I don't understand your frustration, professor. You said I could bring my friend Peter and here he is!" Wanda's voice was barely composed. A slow but steadily growing headache had crept up on her making her patience running thin.

"Wen, It's ok. It's fine, I'll just go…" Quill tried to intervene.

"Yes, that would be the best, Mr. Quill. I am afraid we need someone with stronger skills for what I have in mind here."

The two teens glanced at the man rather annoyed but said nothing. Feeling her phone vibrating, Wanda took it out of her pocket discreetly and glanced at the message that had popped up. Her face paling she turned bewildered eyes to Quill.

"Hey, are you ok?"

Before she had the chance to answer a loud clicking noise made them turn their head to professor 'slime' who was now aiming a gun at them.

Quill quickly got in front of his girlfriend with a gasp as the man said in an annoyed tone, "Leave the heroisms, Mr. Quill. As long as you both cooperate we're not gonna have any problems. Cell phones on the desk."

Glancing back at Wanda, Quill reached in his pocket for his phone and placed it on the appointed desk. Wanda slowly followed suit. As she walked to the desk and gently placed it there she suddenly spun around right hand in the air. But nothing happened. The man across from her smiled a sickly pleased smile as he shook his head.

"It seems your little tricks just won't work appropriately today, doesn't it?"

"What do you want from us? What is this?" Quill questioned.

"I want nothing from you, boy. Rest assured. From our little witch over here though, that's another question," answered the man as he ran a finger across Wanda's face.

"You filthy piece of shit!" Quill growled as he moved towards him aggressively.

With an almost effortless move, the man slammed the gun's grip-handle on Quill's head, sending him to the floor with a loud thud. Wanda's scream shook the room as she fell to her knees over Quill's unconscious body. She turned eyes filled with rage towards the man as she whispered angrily, "You're gonna pay for this."

Snorting sarcastically the man only indicated the far wall of the classroom with the point of the gun. "Move to the back and sit on the floor, Miss Maximoff. Silently."

Wanda slowly dragged her boyfriend's body with her and sat as she was told, resting the blond head in her lap, and her mind racing to how she could handle this without her powers.

 


 

"What the hell are we going to do?" Tony asked pressing fingers to his throbbing temples. "Those fuckers have managed to hear every single word we're saying. They're watching us so we can't move to enter the school. We can't win this like this, they might be fucking listening in on us right now!"

"What is in those archives they asked about?" Natasha asked, trying desperately to gain more information that might help them.

Steve ran his hands through his hair before answering. "I don't know details, but I do know they were considered dangerous for a reason. Seriously heavy weaponry systems. The type that can end life as we know it on the planet. And the list of names of their developers and were they are held. This intel in the wrong hands can mean the end of this world."

"Right now our kids are in those wrong hands. We need to fix this," Tony said in an exasperated tone.

"You think I don't know that? Get your shit together, Stark!" Captain answered angrily.

"Before we go back to civil war and shit, listen to me, please." Natasha interrupted. When the two men turned from glaring at one another to looking at her she continued, "We fucked this up. Security around the school was apparently inadequate or things would never escalated to this point. Right now, the priority is the kids. We need to get them out safely and bring them to us. The way this has played out, the only thing we can do is give them what they want. When Wanda and Peter are secured we'll see how we'll handle those fuckers."

Tony nodded his head as Steve crossed his arms in front of his chest.

"I am afraid we don't have many other options."

 


 

Peter felt his sweat forming small knots on his forehead. He struggled with all of his might to remain glued on the corridors' ceilings and at the same time remain out of cameras range at all times. Tony hadn't made contact yet but he was out of his mind with worry about Wanda and Quill.

He turned left towards the newest wing of the school hoping he'd finally spot them. Seeing all three doors of the rooms closed he cursed through gritted teeth. Taking a deep breath he slowly lowered towards the side of the wall inching his head to the small window of the door to peek inside.

His heart skipped a beat when he noticed Wanda on the far end of the room holding the motionless body of Quill in her arms. He barely had a second to retreat his head, before the door swung open and the thin substitute teacher stood there answering a call on his phone.

"They will?", he asked not able to hide his surprise.

"Up the security around the building, I don't trust them. They might not want to risk the kids' lives but it's pretty damn sure they'll try to keep the files from us."

"Have you found Parker? - What the fuck do you mean not yet? We need both of them or we lose our leverage!" He spat. "Make sure that you do, or it's your head, do you hear me?", not allowing whoever was on the other side of the line time to answer he ended the call and glanced around him taking a deep breath.

Peter contemplated his next move only for a second. Praying that his body would cooperate he extended his wrist and web ball shot out.

When it met the man's head it managed to cover half his face and startle him but was barely enough to actually knock him down. Peter fell to his feet and landed a punch to the man eliciting a grunt.

"Wanda!" he yelled. "We need to get out, now!"

The girl ran to the door but as soon as she came there, Slime's foot kicked out knocking her off her feet.

Peter immediately kicked his own leg in time to send slime's mobile phone sliding inside the room and away from his grip. Realising it was a matter of time before someone heard the commotion he landed another hard kick to the man's head managing to finally knock him out.

Running to Wanda he whispered with a trembling voice as he helped her up, "Are you alright?"

"Yeah… Just, a bit out of it today…"

"Me too," Peter said frowning confused. "I think they have asked for some sort of exchange with the Avengers, and that they agreed. We need to get to them before they give out whatever it is."

Wanda shook her head, "I can't leave Quill!"

Before Peter could answer steps were heard within a small distance.

"Shit," Peter cursed quietly.

Wanda made quick work of tugging the unconscious man's gun out of his pants pocket and dragged Peter inside the room closing the door behind them.

As she peeked through the window, Peter glanced at a now moving Quill.

"Quill!" He exclaimed and ran to his side. "Man, are you alright? Can you walk?"

The blonde lifted his head and it took Peter a few seconds to realize what he was seeing. A light blue light was emitting from the older teen's irises. A strong energy was radiating off of him and he rose to his feet with a menacing look on his face.

"Um… Wanda?" Peter said in an uncertain voice. The girl turned her head around and remained as dumbfounded as her friend staring at the now practically glowing figure walking towards her.

"Peter?" she whispered.

Her boyfriend gently touched her arm and moved her behind him and Wanda gasped at the warmer than usual sensation his touch caused.

Right as she stepped behind him, the door burst open. Before the intruders had the chance to even consider pulling the trigger to their guns a strong blue blast of light slammed them to the opposite wall knocking them out instantly.

His voice sounded deeper than usual as he called to the pair behind him, "Follow me!"

Wanda and Peter followed numbly as his light grew brighter and brighter each passing second. They couldn't believe what they were experiencing as bodies were blasted out of their way as they slowly proceeded through the building.

"Peter… Peter!"

Snapping his head to look at his friend Peter answered a faint, "Yeah?"

"You have your cell phone?"

"Yeah…"

"Call Tony, now! Let him know!"

Jumping at the realization they could actually prevent whatever exchange was planned, Peter got the small device out and called his mentor.

"Pete?" Sounded the frantic voice of Tony.

"Abort! Don't give them anything! Quill has powers, he saved us. We're heading out of the school as we're speaking!" Peter frantically informed him.

"On our way!" Was Tony's only answer.

As the three of them exited the building and took the first slow steps in the schoolyard the distant sound of a roaring engine was heard. Peter felt himself melting with relief when the familiar red flying figure was seen in the distance. Before they even knew it a second flying figure with black and silver wings approached and promptly retrieved Wanda.

Although she recognized Sam immediately the girl screamed frantically, "No! I need to make sure Quill is ok! Get me down, Sam!"

"Calm down, Red! The rest are coming. Your friend will be fine."

Tony swept lower next taking hold of Peter. The teen clutched the metal armor for dear life and managed to breathe normally for the first time since he spotted those men a few hours back.

"You're safe, little spider. You're safe." Tony whispered almost to himself.

 


 

Wanda walked slowly on the grass-covered grounds of the Avengers base as she made her way towards the sitting male beneath a large oak tree.

Quill smiled at her when she sat beside him and the two remained silent for a couple of tense minutes.

"So, half a God huh? I had no idea this could even be a thing," Wanda said awkwardly.

"Yeah, well… I used to think witches mounted brooms and had green skin as well, but here we are," the boy answered in a relaxed tone.

Wanda bit her lower lip as she extended a hand to touch his own, "I don't even know where to start…"

"Wen', nothing's changed if you don't want it to…" the blonde said easily looking at her with honest eyes.

Smiling the girl answered, "You might as well start calling me Wanda now, don't you think?"

Smirking he leaned in and kissed her deeply, before parting their lips and resting his forehead on hers. "Maybe it would be safer if we refrained from kissing actions while the Black Widow is watching…"

Smirking again Wanda said, "Yeah, about that… It's Cap' you should be worried about…"

Quill looked at her surprised, "You mean…"

"I mean, Natasha only enrolled me and presented herself as my aunt because everybody would recognize Steve. He's my legal guardian."

Laughing out loud awkwardly Quill nodded his head, "That's promising, I guess…"

Chuckling the girl leaned in his arms, "It appears they had placed some sort of device that tampered with our powers, that's why I couldn't do my magic."

"And Peter couldn't do his spider thing…" Quill added. "I guess it's because of my DNA that it didn't have an effect on me."

"Yeah… Thanks Quill…" The girl answered bumping his shoulder playfully.

"Hmmm, I could get used to that, you know…" the boy said as he maneuvered himself slightly on top of her and lightly pushed her to lie on her back on the cool grass, "Maybe we could come up with some kind of offerings…"

Chuckling and tugging his jacket to bring him closer Wanda kissed him lightly on the lips, "Something like this?" she proposed sweetly.

"Mhm…" Peter murmured before gently pecking her jawline, "Or like this…"

The sudden sound of a throat clearing made them both jump back to a sitting position under the slightly amused gaze of Steve Rogers.

"I would appreciate it, if these offerings were strictly limited to what I just witnessed," the man said casually.

Flushing a bright red Wanda got to her feet and Quill followed suit.

"I guess I can now introduce you guys to each other…" she said but then paused abruptly looking at Steve with a suspicious gaze, "Wait! Did you know? About him?"

Quill glanced between the two awkwardly.

Steve only winked at Wanda and extended his massive hand to the boy, "Steve Rogers."

Offering his hand with a firm shake Quill promptly answered, "Peter Quill, sir. It's an honor."

"Honour her, and we'll be even," was Steve's only answer as his gaze bore into the kid's eyes.

Wanda's unimpressed growl of his name made him shake his head and raise his hand dismissively, "Fine, fine, I'll leave you two alone. Peter your father will be over in ten minutes or so to pick you up."

"My father?" The boy asked confused. "You've called Yondu?"

"Yes, the two of us go back a while. I called him as soon as we got you here to let him know you're safe."

Nodding the boy whispered, "Oh, Ok, Thank you, sir."

Steve smiled and nodded to him and then turned to Wanda, "Be back inside in ten ok?"

"Sure, Steve."

 


 

Tony pressed the button and the glass doors to the base's combat gym slid open immediately. He stepped inside but remained by the door silently watching Peter beating the shit out of a punching bag for a couple of minutes. When it was clear the kid was so completely focused on his task so as to not actually notice him, the man walked to his line of vision and held the bag for him.

Peter glanced at the man momentarily but never ceased his attack to the lifeless massive bag.

"Wanna let me in on what's troubling you, kid?" Tony asked in an even tone after another minute.

"Nothing…" Peter said as his sweaty hair clung to his face stubbornly.

"Pete, come on…"

Huffing loudly as he took a couple of steps away from the bag Peter answered stiffly, "I feel like a big fat loser. I couldn't protect myself, or Wanda or you guys…"

Tony walked around the bag and closer to his kid before resting both of his hands on his shoulders, "Peter, your powers as well as Wanda's were targeted by a device set up to affect them. It's not a matter of incompetence."

"I know… " Peter sighed, "And yet I still feel like shit…", the boy answered truthfully.

"Language," the man chided lightly. Then he proceeded to guide Peter towards the bench at the side of the room where he pushed him lightly until he sat down. Squatting in front of him he spoke again, "I am very proud of how you handled things today."

Peter raised his eyes at these words.

"You contacted us and asked for help, not trying to save the day on your own and then you assessed the situation and decided when you needed to change your course of action when you didn't receive contact from us. This shows not only skill and intelligence but maturity, Pete. You made us all very proud today. And thanks to your handling of the situation and the nature of your friend's powers you managed to save the world from some very dangerous people."

Peter glanced at the man with uncertainty, "You really think so?"

Tony smiled, "I really do. And I really think you should get out of here, shower and come to spend some time with the rest of us. We all need it, don't you think?"

Smiling slightly the kid nodded vigorously, "I think I'd like that."

As they both got to their feet, Tony dragged him in a strong hug.

"Gross, Tony, I'm all sweaty!"

"See if I care, kid. See if I care," Tony said only tightening his embrace.

 


 

As the base was slowly growing silent Peter and Wanda remained to stare at the ceiling of the room they shared whenever they spent the night there.

"So, this was an interesting day…" Wanda commented quietly.

"Understatement of the year…" Peter answered tiredly.

"Quill knows about us…" Wanda said in the same quiet tone.

"And he is a semi-God or whatever…" Peter continued.

"And some guys wanted to abduct us…" her voice added.

"And basically bombed our school and fucked with our powers," Peter concluded.

A few silent seconds passed.

"I have this terrible thought…" Wanda said after a while.

"That they'll come for us again?"

Turning her head to look at her best friend's eyes she asked, "No, are you worried about that?"

Peter shrugged before saying, "Kinda. I mean, I know that the Avengers will up the security measures and everything… But knowing that there is the technology capable of stopping our powers kinda shocked me."

"I know what you mean. But as you said, now we know and we'll make sure there are no repeats."

Peter nodded and turned to smile at her. "So what's your thought about?

"The machine was operating from the beginning of the school day... " Wanda trailed off.

"Yeah…" Peter prompted.

"Pete, what if we fucked professor Gerting's brain?" Wanda asked worriedly.

Peter turned to look at her with realization and dread written all over his face as that thought had not occurred to him up to now. "Fuck!"

 


 

PS: My science/chemistry knowledge is close to nothing so whatever has to do with the team spotting the bomb might be utter bs and sorry if that's the case! I tried googling it and see how one could tell if there is a bomb somewhere so that I could make the plotline stand but the first article that popped up was about a guy who got questioned by counterterrorism after researching something similar and decided to stop the research  right there and just improvise :P

Chapter Text

 

Wanda stared at the yellowish mixture in the bowl as she stirred it absentmindedly. She could hear Peter's foot nervously tapping and his fingers cracking every now and then. "Can you please grab the bag of berries from the freezer?" she asked him in an even tone.

Peter stared at the back of her head incredulously. "Can you please remind me why we are wasting our time cooking instead of looking for a damn solution for this?" he asked, trying hard to keep his temper in check.

"Firstly, Pete, we're baking. Or rather I am baking, while you're simply brooding on your stool," Wanda calmly answered. In any other case she would have for sure snapped at him something harsh and argue until both of their frustration had evaporated, but right now she felt calm and in control of her emotions. Baking and cooking did that to her. Turning to glance at him she added, "Secondly, I am baking because it helps me think. And honestly, that is all we have right now. The possibility of thinking of a way to fix this."

Peter huffed annoyed but couldn't deny that his friend did seem much calmer than usual. Getting to his feet he walked to the fridge of the Avenger's Base large kitchen area, opened the freezer's door and started rummaging on its first drawer for the bag of berries. When he spotted it, he took it out and went stand next to Wanda as he handed it to her.

"Can't Quill fix him?" Peter asked hopefully.

Wanda shook her head. She opened the bag and grabbed two fistfuls of fruit before throwing them in the resting mix. Watching them slowly sinking in the creamy substance she answered gloomily, "Since I did this with my magic it needs to be solved by my magic as well. I just don't know how to fix it. I am not that experienced nor do I have an older witch available, who could advise me on how to work through this."

Peter started cracking his fingers again as he watched the girl pouring the mix in the muffin tray that rested on the counter next to the bowl. "The poor man… I feel like crap."

Wanda glanced at him with a serious face, "Me too." Taking a deep breath she turned to lean on the counter and faced her friend before telling him her next words, "Pete, I think we need to tell Steve."

Peter's eyes enlarged at her words and he threw his hands in the air exasperatedly. "Are you serious? Cap' will kill us! You know how adamant they are about using powers at school! Especially when we're talking about trying to manipulate professors to get out of homework!"

Wanda felt her composed temper cracking at his words. When she spoke her voice held some of her usual fire and was slightly trembling. "Yeah, well, this is on me though! And I can't continue as if nothing happened with the poor man not being able to utter a single word or staring at his students like he doesn't recognize them! You saw him today! I can't have the man fired, Peter! And who knows what might have happened in his home with his family… No, this is too much!"

Peter glanced around them nervously. Wanda had told him all the Avengers were out on a mission but he still feared the possibility of someone popping in and hearing in on them. Lowering the volume of his voice he shot back, "But as you said, this is why we're here, to think of a solution!"

Wanda huffed as she grabbed the tray and moved to the preheated oven, opening it and putting the muffins in with a bit more force than needed. She slammed the oven's door shut and turned back to Peter, "I don't know how to fix this! Ok? I have no fucking idea!"

Peter could read her nervousness and fear and tried to calm his tone even more before answering, "I know you don't, but we'll figure this out together. You said it yourself. Since this was your magic, you need to fix it on your own. So what good would it make to tell Steve? It will only get us in serious trouble and won't change the situation Gertrings is in."

Wanda could see his reasoning but felt overwhelmingly guilty and helpless over what had happened. Remaining silent for another second she said, "Ok. We'll try to find a solution. But if we can't I'm telling Steve!"

Realizing there was little point to argue on this Peter nodded immediately. "Deal."

Wanda turned back to the oven and set its timer to the appropriate time. "Let's go to the library. There is a bunch of old grimoires there, maybe we'll manage to find something before the others get back."

 


 

The two teens were sitting on the floor at the far back of the base's library. The corridor they were in, offered them some privacy and even if someone came, Wanda would have the time to magically put all the books back to their spot before she and Peter would pretend to look at the other titles.

A plate with empty muffin paper cups rested between them and the two kept searching for their magic solution.

Wanda tilted her head on the side when she spotted a certain reversing incantation. Reversing spells was a far more complicated process than casting them, and this was obvious in the complexity of this spell. A large latin script was to be whispered while her mental energy was completely focused on reversing exactly what she had cast in the first place. Considering that her spell to make the man forget was also sloppy and demanding made things worse but the girl knew she stood little chance of finding anything else. They had already spent all their afternoon in there and Peter would have to leave for his home soon.

"Pete, I think I found something that could work," the girl said in a tired voice.

Peter glanced up his face splitting into a grin. "Really?"

Rubbing her eyes Wanda smiled beside herself, "Don't get so excited just yet. It's very complicated. And considering I managed to screw up the first one I don't stand much of a chance to actually succeeding in this one."

Peter shook his head. "No, you're gonna do it, I'm sure. You probably just need some time to practice it, right?"

Seeing the hope in his eyes and how tired he looked, Wanda managed to force a reassuring smile, "Yeah, I'm sure with some practice I'll make it work. But I need to start working on it ASAP, so you'd better leave."

Peter quickly got up and nodded his agreement. "Yeah, I'd better get home before May does anyway. I am supposed to be studying and resting this week."

"Well, technically you were studying and resting, while here, so…" Wanda answered smirking slightly as she also got up and used her magic to place all books except the one with the spell back to their original place.

The two teens walked together out of the library and to the large corridor outside of the room. Peter turned to look at his friend. "Thank you for doing this. And don't feel guilty. I am the one who asked your help in this. I am the one who is responsible for Gertring's situation. You just did what I asked you to do."

Wanda formed a small smile as she told him, "I could have said no, Pete." And that much was true she could have said no. But the fact that Pete was by now her closest friend she couldn't stop herself from feeling protective over him or trying to get him out of trouble. "Anyways," she added in a lighter tone, "get out of here before someone sees you and we raise suspicions. I'll work on this and hopefully, we'll fix the man first thing tomorrow morning."

Peter smiled at her and nodded. "'Night, Wanda."

"Night, Pete."

 


 

The young witch was sitting perfectly still in the lotus position, her eyes closed and her hair swaying slightly around her face. She repeated silently the incantation for what should be the hundredth time that evening and focused all of her power on a broken necklace that rested in front of her. She had broken the piece of jewelry with her magic a couple of times now and had managed to successfully repair it with the spell right after. This would be her fifth and last effort to repeat the process and she hoped with all her heart she could manage to work on the far more complicated damage in Gertring's head the next morning.

The sound of her door opening made her whip her head around startled. She watched Steve stepping in a confused expression on his face, "What are you doing?" the man asked.

Wanda felt her cheeks flush a bit but managed to get to her feet and answer in a steady voice, "I couldn't sleep so, I tried some meditation."

"Good idea," the man commented smiling.

"How was the mission?" the girl asked as she made her way to the bed practically collapsing on it.

Steve walked to her and proceeded to cover her with the folded comforter at the end of the bed, "It was hard but we made it," he answered and felt his smile growing bigger at Wanda's heavy eyes. "I think meditation worked," he commented.

"I think so, too…" The girl mumbled.

Running a gentle hand on her silky soft hair the man walked back towards the door clicking the lights off. "Goodnight, darling."

"Night, Steve."

Wanda waited until she couldn't hear his steps anymore and then quietly got back to her feet and walked to the spot where the necklace rested. Taking it into her hands she was glad to see it had been repaired. As she clutched it to her chest she couldn't help but wonder how much she could improve and strengthen her powers by studying old-school magic instead of relying on her impulsive energy manipulation and desire-based practice. Deciding she could think this over tomorrow with a clear head she crawled back into her bed and letting her eyes close almost immediately.

 


 

Professor Gertrings was staring at the desk in front of him not sure of where he was or why he had been there. His mind felt fogged. He remembered that when he got up that morning he knew he had to go to work and that the work was at a school but right now he couldn't for the life of him remember this classroom or any of his students or what he was supposed to be doing.

He all but jumped when two young people entered the room as well. He watched as a slim framed young man walked closer to him, while the girl who had followed him inside closed the door and its blinds, before locking it.

"W...What's going on?" the man answered gripping hard on his briefcase to steady his now trembling hands. "Who are you?" he asked again in a hoarse voice.

Wanda and Pete glanced at each other worriedly. 'Professor Gertrings? It's alright, it's me, Peter. Peter Parker. I am your student…"

The man's eyes darted from Peter to Wanda who had now sat on the floor of the class facing at him directly. He watched her even more confused as she proceeded to assume a weird position with her legs, that seemed vaguely familiar, and closing her eyes. "What's going on?" He asked again glancing back at Peter.

"Nothing's going on, I promise. I know you must be feeling a bit confused, but we're here to help you," Peter tried. He remained close to the man but not too close as to not intimidate him. He glanced at Wanda and was relieved to see the usual sway of hair around her face as the energy started to rise up inside her.

Wanda moved her lips whispering the familiar by now latin words. She brought to her mind what she had done to the man's head, how her energy had infiltrated his brain and toyed with his memories. She felt the surge of energy leaving her body with the last syllable and opened her eyes with a loud gasp. Her eyes flew to the older man who was now standing looking even more confused than before. 'Crap.' The young woman thought. 'I made it worse, I must have!'

Peter looked at the man too and hesitantly addressed him, "Professor?"

The man turned to him with his eyes narrowing, "Peter? What is this?" his now livid eyes turned back to Wanda and he loudly yelled, "What the hell have you done to me?"

Peter took a hesitant step back as Wanda stood up hastily moving to the door. The older man got their first and grabbed her arm raising a finger near her face. "You did something to me, I remember now!"

His eyes darted at Peter who stared wide-eyed at an equally shocked Wanda.

Turning his eyes back to Pete the man said in an angry voice, "You said you had the make-up paper I had assigned you and then she came up behind me and did something to me! She made me forget, didn't she?" He turned to Wanda and asked her curtly "Didn't you?"

Trying to force the words out of her mouth Wanda asked, "Sir, what are you talking about? How could I possibly make you forget anything?"

The man released her arm, unlocked, and opened the door, "Just like you made me remember right now! You two conspired to save Peter from his work and you made me forget. Just like you just made me remember," he repeated. "I remember now! I remember, how you stood behind me and all these red light started dancing around me…."

By now, a number of students who were at the corridor outside the class were staring at the scene bewildered. Everyone had noticed the man's weird behavior the previous day but now he sounded plain paranoid.

"To the principal, both of you! Right now!" The man barked as he kept the door open allowing

Peter and Wanda numbly walked ahead of him. The two of them glanced at each other frantically not knowing how they could possibly handle this,

When they finally arrived outside of the principal's office the man knocked emphatically before opening it and bursting in. The teens walked in behind him but instead of the principal came face to face with the vice principal who had raised his head from a file startled at the sudden ambush in the office.

"The principal is out for the day," the man said as he stood to his feet and glanced from the livid professor to the nervous looking kids. Motioning for all of them to sit he walked behind them and closed the door before returning to the desk and sitting in the large, brown, leather chair. "What seems to be the problem, Profesor Gertrings?"

The man jabbed a finger to the direction of the teens and answered in a heated tone, "They messed with my head!"

The vice-principal remained silent, looking at the man completely taken aback. "Excuse me?"

"Parker, here, was not happy over having to redo a paper. When it was due he came to me with this girl and she did something that made me forget. I am sure their aim was to make me forget just about the paper, but they messed it up and that's why I was the way I was yesterday… " Gertrings face flushed as his temper rose even more upon realizing the vice principal did not believe a word he said. "Don't just look at me like that! They did! And then today they came back and she did… She did something. Something unnatural. And I have my memory back! She… She has some sort of power. Like a w...witch!"

The vice-principal listened dumbfounded at the ranting man. His eyes turned to the silent kids. His heart started beating faster. Hopefully, all he had to deal with here was some sort of break down. Gertrings was old after all. Cursing his luck the principal was out of the school that day he cleared his throat uneasily.

"Profesor Gertrings, I want you to calm down. Whatever this is we'll get to the bottom of it," he said calmly. He then turned to the computer screen in front of him clicked with the mouse a couple of times and then looked at the kids before asking, "It's Parker and Jones, right?"

Peter gulped but nodded. He feared this would happen the moment Gertings started yelling. When the principal took hold of the phone and started dialing his worst fears were confirmed. He watched Wanda closing her eyes and bringing a hand to rub her forehead.

"Hello, Is this Mrs. Parker?... This is vice-Principal Weathers… No Peter is fine, no need to worry, but there's been a situation with one of his teachers and I will need you to come over as soon as possible...Oh, I see… Second number? Oh, yes, I see it. Ok, Great. Thank you, Mrs. Parker… Good day to you too."

As soon as the man closed the phone Peter dared to ask, "Is my aunt coming?"

The man glanced at Peter over his glasses before shaking his head, "She can't leave work unfortunately but she told me to call your allocated guardian, Mr. Stark."

Peter felt his stomach drop to the floor and glanced at Wanda who remained with closed eyes and holding her head. Hearing Weathers talking to Tony, Peter stole a glance to his professor anxiously. The man was now searching for something in his briefcase.

After the vice-principal ended with the third phone call to Natasha, Gertrings quickly handed to the man a stack of stapled papers.

Peter immediately recognized the cover page of the supposedly rewritten paper. The vice-principal turned the blank pages and furrowed his brow turning to Gertrings, "Yes, I can see Mr. Parker did not complete his assigned work, but I don't think this is a matter that needs my intervention, Leonard."

Gertrings looked at him incredulously, "If he simply had handed that in I would have contacted his guardian and that would be the end of it! I am showing this to you as a proof. How could I possibly have received this and changed Peter's grade back to an A?"

Weathers looked at Peter now. "Peter, how about you tell us your side of the story?"

Peter glanced at the two men nervously. "Um… I… I didn't do the assignment, obviously, as you can see. But I didn't… I mean we didn't do anything to Mr. Gertrings. I just handed that over and hoped he'd change the grade before he graded it," Peter attempted.

The vice-principal nodded. That was a stupid course of action but it was a very logical explanation. Bringing to his mind how lost and absent-minded Gertrings was the previous day along with his delirious claims of the kids magically making him lose his memory, the man quickly made up his mind about what was happening.

"Kids, please wait outside until your guardians are here, I need some privacy with Mr. Gertrings."

Wanda and Pete didn't need to be told twice. They walked out of the room and threw themselves in two chairs at the small waiting hall.

Wanda glanced at Peter and managed a small smile, "At least the spell worked…"

Peter chuckled beside himself before shaking his head. "God, we're so dead."

Wanda nodded immediately, "Deader than dead."

It was around twenty minutes later when the sound of two sets of feet were heard approaching. Both kids looked up as Tony and Natasha rushed in the hall and paused in front of them.

Tony spoke first, "Everything alright? Are you guys ok?"

"Yeah, no, we're fine!" Peter immediately said.

"Wendy?" Natasha asked her brow slightly frowning at seeing the girl rubbing her forehead.

"Fine." The girl said in an even tone.

"Is there something we need to know before we get in there?" The woman asked again scrutinizing the now squirming teens.

Tony watched as the two of them glanced at one another anxiously before prompting in a no-nonsense tone, "Peter?"

Peter gulped once before saying in a low voice, "We might have played a little with a teacher's head to get me out of some extra work he demanded…" Reluctantly he stole a glance at the man but regretted it when he saw his face twitching with anger.

Natasha shook her head before stepping in front of Tony and knocking twice on the door.

 


 

The vice-principal tried hard to school his features as his patience had started to evaporate. He heard Gertrings retelling his story in front of the kids' guardians who were standing stiffly and hearing what was being said with disbelief. When the small story reached his end the vice-principal rose to his feet and opened the door calling loudly the secretary's name. The middle-aged woman appeared after a couple of seconds smiling and approached the door. "Mrs. Lewis, please take Mr. Gertrings to the nurse for some fluids and painkillers. He had quite the day, the man said casually."

Gertrings stood up shooting a suspicious glare to the vice-principal before following the woman. When the two of them could not be seen anymore Weathers motioned for Wanda and Pete to follow him back inside. Taking a seat next to their respective guardians, Peter and Wanda waited patiently to follow the lead of the two adults.

Weathers cleared his throat uneasily, "As I am sure you might have guessed, professor Gertrings must have had a breakdown. It's rather common really in our profession. My sincere apologies for dragging into all of this but it's a school policy that parents and guardians are always informed when the intervention of the principal is requested by a teacher."

Tony spoke first, his tone nonchalant, "No need to apologize. We sincerely hope the man will get the help he needs."

"Oh, yes, rest assured. Our insurance covers a state-of-the-art clinic that has most teachers in need of its services as good as new within a couple of weeks. That along with some sick-leave will hopefully have professor Gertrings cleared to return to the school before Christmas break." Weathers immediately answered, relieved that Stark wouldn't pose a problem on the situation by making a scene or dragging lawyers in.

"That being said, I also want to apologize for Peter's neglecting his work and not complying with his teacher's demands. That is not going to happen again. Is it Pete?" Tony asked looking at the now squirming young man meaningfully.

"Nope. Won't happen again. I am sorry Mr. Weathers," he quickly quipped.

"If that is all, Mr. Weathers I think it would be best if we took the kids home now. I mean this has been a hard day on them as well, I am sure you understand," Natasha said in a sweet tone.

Wanda had to force herself not to vigorously shake her head behind the woman's back at these words. As she heard Weathers easily agreeing she closed her eyes again gathering up her courage to stand up and follow the woman.

Peter did the same and waited for Tony in the hall as the man exchanged some more pleasantries with the vice principal. When Tony finally came out he threw a hand around Peter's shoulder before instructing, "Go grab your things and meet me in the parking lot, Happy's waiting."

Natasha nodded looking at Wanda, "Same goes for you. My car is right outside the gate."

As the teens walked away, Natasha and Tony turned to walk to the opposite direction toward the nearest exit of the building.

"I can't believe they were so stupid," the woman said through gritted teeth.

Tony glanced at her surprised, "You can't? This was one of the things I was sure we'd have to address at one point or another."

Her turn to look at the man surprised, Natasha asked, "What are you talking about?"

"If I was in high school and had super powers or friends with superpowers I would definitely use them to manipulate teachers," the man shrugged. "I mean, I can understand the urge to do it. The temptation."

"So you're gonna let this slide?" Natasha demanded her tone annoyed.

Tony chuckled, "Hell no. I am just commenting on your surprise. They're practically hormones with feet and superpowers. They're bound to test the limits every now and then."

"Have you been reading mommy blogs as well?" Natasha asked now smirking.

Snorting at the memory the man shook his head, "I doubt you'd say that if Cap' was around."

Natasha's turn to snort she only quipped, "I'm not afraid of him like you ate, Tony."

Tony turned his back to the woman as they closed up to the parking lot and headed to the waiting car. As soon as his back was turned he started mimicking the woman and making grimaces.

As Natasha moved towards the gate she hesitated not to shout "I know what you're doing, Tony" as she flipped him off while he was not looking at her direction.

 


 

The car ride to the base was silent. Natasha, having not brought a driver sat behind the wheel and focused all of her attention to the road. After a couple of failed attempts to break the ice and start some small talk with Wanda, she decided to leave the girl to her sulking.

Wanda stared outside of her window but not at something in particular. The blurry colors as the car skidded the large roads helped her mind relax and she could finally feel her headache subsiding.

While she felt awful for having been caught, she couldn't help the sense of pride over the fact she had managed to perform that spell on her own. Using her rage and emotional anguish to manipulate huge energy blasts was one thing, but actually succeeding in using magic effectively in such a delicate procedure as fixing the alterations she had caused to a man's brain was another level entirely.

Her thoughts wandering to Steve and how he would react to all of this made her stomach churn uneasily. How the hell was she supposed to explain everything that happened? She hated the fact that Steve couldn't be the one that had been called in at school and Natasha had. She hated that she had to endure Natasha debriefing Steve and then him asking her to explain what had happened all over again.

The logical part of her mind told her that Natasha was cool for doing this. That she had better things to do in her life than turning up at school every time something came up. If it was not for her, Wanda would not have the chance to get this experience of a normal life, of school, of friends. She wouldn't have met Quill. She'd be cooped up all day in the base going from studying to training and from training to studying. That was her sane voice.

There was another voice though, a piercing one, that kept whispering nasty things. That tried to persuade Wanda that Steve couldn't really be bothered with shit like this. That Natasha only did any of this to get Steve to notice her and offer her more power in the Avengers team. That Natasha loathed her for the burden that she was and for the constant useless trouble she caused.

Shifting uneasily in her seat Wanda stole a glance to the rear-view mirror and caught Natasha's eyes glancing at her before they returned to the road ahead. The young girl got out her phone and headphones and plugged them in. Pulling up her favorite playlist she let the music flood her mind and kick all other thoughts and voices away.

 


 

Peter didn't wait for Tony to give the instruction, instead as soon as they exited the elevator of the Stark Tower he quickly headed to the man's office. He had little doubt of how Tony would punish him for this and no matter how much he hated the idea, he recognized he more than deserved it; Especially after everything Mr. Gertrings would have to go through because of him.

Tony followed the kid studying him thoughtfully. He knew Peter well enough to be able to tell he felt awful about this. He was the cause of injustice and that alone was tearing the kid up inside and he knew it. As he entered the office behind the teen and closed the door. He watched as Peter stood awkwardly in the middle of the room. Putting his hands in his pants pocket Tony simply looked at Peter waiting for him to get the first word out.

"Where?" The teen asked flushing a bright red.

"Where what?"

"Um… Where do you want me? Couch, desk?" Peter said again looking at the floor and bringing his hands together behind his back. The cracking sounds that followed made Tony shake his head and approach the kid. He gently tugged his hand at his sides and guided him to the sofa, pressing him at his shoulders to make him sit down. "Not so fast, Pete."

Peter looked at the man desperately, "But I already know what I did wrong, so please, Please Tony, let's just get it over with."

"No way. First of all, I can see you're very upset. And that is no state for anyone to be punished in," Tony said evenly. "Now, please, let's take things from the beginning so that I can get a grasp of what exactly led us here, ok kid?"

Peter took in a deep breath. He hated when Tony did this but he couldn't bring himself to be difficult on him today, not after what he had done. "It was that stupid paper. I turned it in and Gertrings told me it was not satisfactory. But it was just one damn paper. When all my work has been exemplary! It just felt so unfair. I had a bunch of exams at the same time, plus the patrols…"

"Is that the night I came to your home and you had that little tantrum? When I grounded you from spider-duty?" The man inquired.

Peter grimaced at the fact the man put two and two together but nodded anyway. "Yeah. It just felt so unfair, you know? 'Cause I've always produced top material especially in Gertrings class. He said so himself. And he couldn't let one paper slide. He asked me to redo it and turn it back in after a couple of days. But there was no way I could get everything done in time…"

Tony interrupted here, "Well, you could because you got your patrolling restricted that night. That left you with enough time to get everything done."

Hating that the man pointed that out, Peter countered, "Well, I had formed the plan already by the time you came home that night. So I asked Wanda if she could erase his memory and have him grade me well for my paper. It took some convincing but I persuaded her. And you know the rest…"

Tony remained silent for a few seconds. Then realizing something he tried to clarify it. "So the original paper, the one that was graded poorly. Why was it that you didn't manage to do a satisfactory job with it?"

Peter shifted in his seat uneasily. "Because I had a lot of work for all of my classes."

Tony looked at him knowingly, "Peter, if you had not patrolled for a couple of nights, do you think you could have made it with your school responsibilities?"

Peter hated the way he phrased that question. "But I didn't want to not patrol. I need to learn to cope…"

Tony shook his head immediately, "No. The only thing you NEED to do is make sure you get the most out of your education, out of your potential. Remind me please our third rule of conduct Peter."

Huffing annoyed by now the young man mumbled, "No slacking in school. School's top priority."

Unimpressed with his attitude Tony curtly asked, "And did you treat it as your top priority?"

"No," Peter answered his mouth coming dangerously close to forming a pout.

"And when it was arranged for Wanda to start attending your school, did we or did we not discuss how imperative it is for your own and the school's safety to not use your powers unless your safety was at risk?" Tony pressed on, his eyes boring into Peter's.

"You did."

"Ok, I am glad we cleared these two up. So should I guess that after the hostage situation you returned to school, saw him acting strange, and realized something did not work well? Is that right?" Tony asked then.

Peter considered how to answer that. He could attempt to lie and risk Tony catching him in the act. But even if he didn't catch him there was always the possibility he'd learn from cap parts of the story that might lead him to the whole truth. "Um… Well, we kind of suspected it before we saw him. Remember the device that made our powers not working? We realized it was quite possible that they hadn't worked well that morning either when we tampered with Gertrings' brain." Stealing a wary glance at the man, he didn't like what he saw.

"So, you mean to tell me, this whole situation could have been avoided altogether if the two of you had come to us that night with the truth?" Tony asked in a disbelieving tone.

Peter gulped before answering, "Well, we weren't sure that it hadn't worked. But even if we were, it's not like we could have changed the outcome! Gertrings would still have remembered everything!"

"Causing much less of a scene as we would arrange for this to happen somewhere else! At a place where we could keep him for a bit so that Wanda could safely create a false little memory that filled in the gaps and would have your teacher sane at school come next morning! It would also not jeopardize further the revealing of your identities, which is already compromised after the school infiltration!" Tony sternly explained.

"Well, when you put it that way... " Peter said feeling his heart sinking at the prospect of the trouble they could have saved his teacher from. "Can't we go do that now? To him? So that they won't keep him in the clinic?"

"No, because now it will raise suspicion and draw attention to the event. We'll allow some time to pass in the therapy center and see if we can arrange a visit and make it happen later on so that it looks like he is better due to his therapy."

A bit relieved at that prospect Peter nodded. Feeling ten times worse than when the conversation had started he quietly said, "I know it's too little too late, but I am sorry."

Tony sighed and brought his right hand to gently squeeze Peter's slim shoulder. "Between you and me, there will never be a too little too late. No matter what you find yourself into. I will always be here and I will always forgive you."

"Why?" Peter asked after a second of hesitation and raised his eyes to meet those of the man.

Tony appeared a bit taken aback by the question but managed to answer besides feeling a bit uneasy with the emotional confrontation, "Because I deeply care for you. Because… I've come to see you as my own kid. As my own… Son." He paused studying the kid carefully. "That being said, you're not obliged to see me as anything more than your mentor or your annoying supervisor or whatever else you choose; unless of course, you want to."

Peter looked at the man silently. It was not the first time he heard him telling him he genuinely cared, but somehow he still couldn't quite wrap his head around why he would. That did not stop the warm feeling Tony's words brought to spread from his chest to his whole body. Dissolving the tension. Managing a smile he managed to mumble, "Thank you for saying that."

"Thank you for being here with me, Pete," Tony answered. He scooted closer and enclosed the slim frame in his arms squeezing him reassuringly, before he let go and calmly instructed, "Alright, enough with the mushy stuff. I want your nose in a corner, while I'll be thinking about how to handle this. You broke quite a few rules and I need some time to figure this out, alright?"

Peter nodded and got to his feet, his shoulders dropping. As he walked to the closest corner he heard Tony's voice add, "I need you to think good and hard on the rules you broke and on their consequences to you and those around you while you're standing there."

"Yes, Tony."

 


 

Wanda was sitting with her legs gathered together to her chest in the big comfortable leather armchair in Steve's office. Steve was standing in front of the open door, his poise stiff, his arms crossed over his chest and his face serious. He was talking quietly to Natasha who was standing under the door frame ready to leave. Wanda couldn't help but glancing over to them every other second trying to hear what they were saying. When Natasha smiled at the man and brought her hand to squeeze his upper arm before saying goodbye, the young girl couldn't help but roll her eyes in annoyance.

As the door clicked shut she focused her gaze to her knees and she unconsciously started chewing her bottom lip nervously.

Steve grabbed one of the pair of wooden chairs that rested in front of the large desk and brought it in front of Wanda's armchair and took a seat quietly. He looked at the girl intently and couldn't help but feel part of his temper evaporate at seeing her so nervous and vulnerable.

"Are you feeling alright, Wanda?", he asked in an even tone.

The girl glanced at him surprised. She expected a full-blown scolding, not a question of how she felt. "Yeah. Fine…" She trailed off.

Steve shook his head, "You look kind of pale. And I know you are nervous over being punished but that seems a bit too much. Am I scaring you?" his voice was genuinely concerned now.

Wanda looked at him steadily in the eyes now, "No, of course not, Steve! It's not about that… I just… Well, the spell was hard and complicated and really different than what I've been doing with my powers up to now. It kind of drained me for a while. But I'm ok now, honestly."

"I think you should eat something…"

Before he could continue she answered, "I can't eat anything right now. Maybe later. After this."

Understanding she felt too nervous to eat right now the man nodded, "Alright. I'll bring you some lunch later on then."

Wanda only nodded before softly speaking, "Steve, I am really sorry…"

The man straightened his shoulders and leaned a bit back in his chair, before asking, "For?"

"For going behind your back and for doing that to Mr. Gertings. I only wanted to help out Peter, but I have really regretted it. I feel like crap for being the cause of so much trouble for the poor man."

Steve was relieved to read absolute honesty in her tone and body language. This would everything a bit easier for both of them. "I am glad you recognize what you did wrong. I know it must be tempting to manipulate people around you for things you or your loved ones want, but that is not ok, young lady. You have no right to play with innocent people minds. I know you wanted to help Peter, but that does not make any of this ok."

"I know…" Wanda said in a quiet voice. Then taking another second she stole a glance at the man and added, "I'm sorry for being such a pain all the time."

Steve's brow furrowed at that. "What on earth are you talking about? You are nothing of the short, Wanda!"

"But I am. I mean, you're an Avenger… You're the Avenger. You have a thousand things to do in your life and then you have me screwing up and having to fix my messes."

Steve extended a hand to affectionately cup the side of her face as he spoke the next words, "You are the most important person in my life. I love the team, and I love our work, but there is nothing I care for as much as I do for you. You are not a burden Wanda Maximoff."

The girl bit her lip once again. She had a seriously hard time believing that but she nodded anyway.

Steve saw traces of doubt but knew he had to earn her trust with actions, not words and that wasn't something that could happen in a single night. "Are you ready to get your spanking over with then?"

Wanda flushed a bright red at the way he phrased his question but nodded. The faster this would end the better for both of them.

Nodding the man rose to his feet. "I need to run to my room for a second and will be right back, alright?"

A bit perplexed as to why he needed his room Wanda only nodded and watched him leave the room. A minute later he reentered holding a wooden hairbrush. Wanda felt perplexed for all of a second before she realized what he had brought it here for, "Oh, come on, Steve! Your super-serum hand hurts enough!"

Raising his eyebrows at his usual manner the man only looked at her sternly."Do you remember what I said would happen next time you lied to me, young lady?"

"But I didn't lie!" Wanda said in what sounded almost like a whine.

Steve took his seat back to the chair as he sternly said, "You hid the truth making things ten times worse for everyone involved. For you, for Peter, for us and for your teacher. By not coming to us for help, you risked using your powers at school a second time, while we could make sure the whole thing would be settled discreetly and quietly. Am I wrong?"

Unable to think of a way to argue with that statement, Wanda only shook her head.

"Right. To me then, young lady." The man said as he placed the brush on the floor beside him for later use.

Wanda slowly walked to him and awkwardly bent over his legs. Even though it was the third time things came to this with Steve, she still found herself feeling stiff and not used to this type of discipline whatsoever. She didn't make any sound when the man bared her behind. She expected as much. The first smack as always took her by surprise. As the smarting pain started fading a second and a third landed and soon Steve fell into a rhythm that made it really difficult for her to stay still. Closing her eyes tightly Wanda tried to focus all of her energy into controlling her vocalizations. No matter how long she knew Steve, she still felt embarrassed to cry in front of the man.

After two full rounds of lighter smacks, Steve packed a bit more force behind each of his swats. This was serious and Wanda had crossed several lines by abusing her powers as she had. "So remind me again what is this punishment for, Wanda?"

Wanda despite her current predicament found it hard not to roll her eyes at the man's words. "You wanna chat right now, Steve?" she asked through tight lips but the next smack found her upper thigh and made her yelp in pain. "We discussed it already, please!" she tried in a pitiful tone. When the only answer was four more impressive smacks on her thighs she gave up and yelled, "Ok, ok! For using my powers in school for no good reason and for causing all this trouble to Mr. Gertings!"

"And?" The man simply asked as his hand kept descending smartingly.

"And for not hiding it from you!" Steve nodded satisfied and kept bringing his hand down with solid smacks. When the whole sitting area glowed a vivid pink he paused and rubbed her back allowing her to catch her breath.

Wanda found herself hoping against hope this would be it, even though she knew more than well that what she had received up to this point although painful was by no means the harder spanking Steve had doled out. Feeling him shift slightly she turned her head only to see him leaning to his side and grabbing the hairbrush. Unable to stop herself she immediately pleaded, "Steve, please, don't use that!"

The man looked at her with a serious expression as he shook his head. He transferred the brush to his left hand and used his right to rub her back some more, before saying, "Wanda, I know this is not pleasant, but it is a punishment. It's not supposed to be. You got yourself into some serious trouble and these are the consequences you knew to expect. Am I wrong?"

Wanda turned her gaze downwards but shook her head.

"Do you trust me?" Steve asked.

"More than anyone," the girl said quietly biting her lip as she felt her eyes moisten rapidly.

Nodding Steve took in a steadying breath and brought the brush down smartly. He felt Wanda jump slightly under his arm and heard her loud yelp. Reminding himself of the reasons they were there he brought the brush down on her bottom again and again.

Wanda felt her grip in her emotions slip away as the fire on her bottom intensified. As she had expected the brush in Steve's hand was a lethal weapon, at least for her ass. Her tears started spilling freely before the third swat and she was crying by the tenth.

When he heard her crying Steve had to apply all of his self-discipline to make himself continue the lesson. He would expect to become more desensitized to Wanda's crying with each spanking encounter, but to his horror, he found it harder and harder each and every time. Not wanting to drag this out for either of them he added some strength and speed to the spanks before he started speaking in a stern tone, "No more using of your powers at school unless it's for your own safety! What you did was irresponsible and selfish. You risked yours and Peter's safety not to mention your teacher's!"

Wanda managed to sob out an apology at his words feeling more than stupid for not following her instinct and going to Steve the day before.

"Our powers come with a responsibility, Wanda. We use them to protect and help other people, not to deceit others for our or our loved ones wims!"

"I know! Please, Steve, I'm sorry," mumbled the girl through her cries. Her bottom was burning something fierce by now and all she cared for was for the brush to stop falling.

Seeing the bottom a bright red by now, Steve slowed down the swats considerably but aimed them all to her sensitive undercurve as he brought the punishment to an end. "And lastly, you will never, EVER, lie to me again! Not a direct lie, not an omission of truth, nothing! Honesty is the number one ingredient of trust, Wanda. I am always honest with you and I expect exactly the same from you. Am I understood, young lady?"

"Yes! Yes, sir!" Wanda sobbed out pitifully.

The blonde man immediately stopped the spanking and let the brush fall to the carpeted floor with a soft thud. His hands made quick moves of replacing the teen girl's clothes before he gently helped her off his lap and into his arms.

Wanda couldn't stop crying no matter how hard she tried. Not so much from the pain as from the feelings of guilt over her actions and the fear that Steve would hate her if she kept screwing up. She buried her face in his shoulder taking in his comforting smell. She hadn't realized, to that very moment, just how safe this smell made her feel.

The man held her tightly stroking her hair as he lightly rocked her to help her calm down, "It's over, darling. You're forgiven."

The two of them remained like that for a good ten minutes before Wanda's sobs slowly stopped. Snaking her hands to rub her eyes and get rid of any residual moisture, Wanda then used to hide her face as she felt Steve breaking the embrace and attempting to look at her.

Steve frowned concernedly. Wanda hadn't been so embarrassed or defensive not even the first time he had spanked her. "Hey," he spoke in a hushed tone as he gently used his own hands to make her reveal her face, "What's going on? Why are you hiding from me?"

Wanda simply stared at the floor and shrugged. Honestly, she had no idea where these feelings came from.

Steve's voice grew serious as he asked, "Please tell me I wasn't too hard on you…"

Wanda glanced at him tentatively as she slowly shook her head, "It's not about that.."

"What's it about then?"

Taking in a shaky breath the girl shook her head, "Silly, angsty, girl stuff," she said managing to form a small smile. "Don't tell anyone I told you this but we don't really know why we're doing a bunch of stuff actually."

With a tiny smile of his own Steve only commented, "Nice try."

Wanda shook her head again, "No, really, it's silly…"

Remaining silent for a few seconds, the man gently clasped her hands in his, "Could this by any chance be about what you told me earlier? You feeling like too much trouble for me?"

Wanda's eyes slowly ascended to meet his own as she mumbled, "Maybe…"

Sighing Steve asked her, "Wanda, how can I prove to you just how important you are to me?"

'Way to go, Wanda! Make the man spend even more energy on you and your emotional issues!' she thought angrily to herself before she shook her head and managed a bigger smile, "You don't have to do that, Steve. I know you care. It's just my stupid insecurities. You have nothing to worry about."

Steve regarded her seriously. "Are you sure?"

Wanda nodded immediately. "Yes. Uhm… Can I go lie down for a bit?"

"Of course, love. Go rest and I'll see you when you wake up," the man answered. He watched as the young teen slowly walked out of the office and shut the door behind her.

Wanda took in a deep breath as soon as she found herself on the spacious corridor. She walked briskly towards her room doing her best to ignore the throbbing in her behind with each step she took. As she turned around a corner lost in her thought she all but jumped when she found herself face to face with Natasha.

The older woman's face was even but her eyes held concern, "Hey, there. You ok?" she asked in her characteristic deep, raspy voice.

Wanda felt defensive and annoyed all of a sudden. Throwing a glare to the older woman she did not utter a word as she simply walked past her to the opposite direction, leaving the slightly annoyed Black Widow watching her departing figure.

 


 

"Ah Tony, come on! Not so… Ow! Not so hard!" Peter all but yelled as a series of sharp smacks targeted his cheeks.

Tony held the struggling teen closer to him with his left arm that was circled around his waist as his right kept bringing the special paddle down briskly. "Funny how you think you have a say in how this is played, Pete. Seeing how quickly you forgot how sorry you claimed to be only minutes ago, why don't you remind me why you're getting your little spider-butt handed to you?"

"For having Wanda pick Gertrings brain to get me out of my paper!" Peter answered through pained yelps.

"And?" Tony prompted his hand never losing its steady spanking pace.

"Oh, come on, that's the only important thing!" Peter whined.

"I don't see why you make this harder than it has to be. We talked and established two more wrongdoings, and the sooner you mention them the faster your spanking will be over," Tony said in a stern tone.

His face flushing a bright red Peter gritted his teeth for the next spanks not really knowing why he tried to fight Tony over this especially when he truly felt guilty over Gertrings. When several spanks landed on his sit-spots he quickly changed his mind though. "And for not making school a priority and for not telling you about Gertrings or that I had trouble with finishing schoolwork," He blurted out as he felt the first tears sliding down his cheeks.

Letting out a relieved breath, Tony looked at his target which was already close to the well punished red he was aiming for. Raising his right knee to gain better access to Peter's sitting area he increased the speed of the swats as he started lecturing sternly, "Using your powers or someone else's for personal selfish gains is below you, Peter. You're much better than this. You behaved like a spoilt inconsiderate brat, which I know you aren't. This will never happen again!"

"No, it won't! Tony, please, I really get it!"

Ignoring the teen's pleas Tony continued, "Lying to me won't happen again either! IF it does, this spanking Peter Benjamin will seem like a swing in the city compared to what you're gonna get!"

"No more lying, promise!"

"And last but not least," Tony paused to punctuate each of his next words with an impressive swat, "No more slacking off at school! You'll ask for help when you need it!"

Peter only able to nod by now did just that.

Nodding to himself, Tony let the paddle rest next to him on the couch as he slowly brought Peter's back to place.

Peter remained still crying a bit more over the man's knee before attempting to get up. He felt Tony's hands helping him up and soon as he was uprighted he immediately turned to the open waiting arms for comfort. As Tony held him close he snaked both his hands and tentatively rubbed his burning backside.

"You broke my butt," he said in an accusatory tone to the older man, who couldn't help but chuckle at his words.

"I merely warmed it, drama queen," he answered as he ruffled the kid's hair tenderly.

"That's not merely warm, that's inferno lever warm," Peter shot back as he broke the embrace and cautiously put his jeans back on.

Tony shook his head as he answered, "Your inferno level warm butt is also grounded for a week. Don't look at me like that! You're lucky it's not more! During that week you're also grounded from spider-duty. I want you to catch up on schoolwork. If at the end of the week everything is back in order then you'll get to patrol again. If not we'll see how much more time you might need."

"Great," Peter mumbled unable to stop the pout that formed on his mouth.

Tony ruffled his hair once again, "You'll live to tell the story, kid. Now, I want you to lie down for a bit. Here or in your room, whatever you prefer. I'll call you for lunch. Since May will be staying late at the bank I thought you might want to stay here tonight? May's ok with it."

"Movie marathon?" Peter asked hopefully.

If you're done with homework we could catch a couple of movies sure. But it's a school night so don't get too excited."

Despite the man's words, Peter's face split into a grin as he turned his back and walked out of the office.

Tony shook his head amused. He was grateful that Peter's mood seemed to recover so quickly after punishments. He certainly preferred it to the moody or angry side of the kid. With this thought, he grabbed the spider-paddle and placed it back to its usual desk drawer and tidied up his desk, before making his way upstairs. As he expected Peter was laying stomach down on his bed fully clothed and lightly snoring. Smiling at the sight, Tony walked in and carefully took the sneakers off of the kids' feet before covering his slumbering frame with a light blanket.

 


 

As the movie's titles appeared on the screen Tony turned to look at Peter with concerned eyes, "Peter, if you need to talk to someone…"

Pepper who was lounging between them on the sofa immediately grabbed a throw pillow and smacked it to the man's head.

"Hey, Peps, this is serious, I mean, if he actually enjoys this type of cinema, we might need to seek the help of the professional!" Tony told her his tone and face dead serious.

"I can't believe you're trying to bash the time of the gypsies'!" Peter protested half-jokingly. He had watched enough movies with the man to know exactly what he'd enjoy and what not but he was determined to at least make him watch some of the classics.

"That movie was amazing!" Pepper added looking at him incredulously.

"That movie made no sense! The only cool part of the movie was the turkey! And they cooked it!"

Peter erupted in laughter at that and then turned to Pepper who was looking at the ceiling with a helpless expression. "Pepper, I'm afraid there is no hope…"

"Don't I know it, kid. Thank God I got you now," the strawberry-blonde woman said as she affectionately ran her fingers through Peter's hair.

"You two don't get to choose another movie for the next three movie nights! You're movie-grounded!" Tony informed them with an annoyed expression.

Peter's cell phone vibrated once and he made quick movies of taking out of his pocket and looking at the notification. Seeing it was an IM from MJ he opened it smiling. She had sent a photo of a poster in school. Peter opened it and quickly read the short text before jumping on the sofa's back excitedly, "Hey, guys, listen to this! My school organizes a Halloween Photography contest! That's so cool! Will you come if I take part?"

At their surprised expressions his face fell a bit, "You're right it's stupid, you don't have time for this stuff…"

"No, Pete, no! We just didn't know you were interested in photography, is all," Tony immediately placated. "Of course we'll come!"

"You mean it?" Peter asked, his eyes sparkling with excitement.

"Of course, Pete," Pepper confirmed smiling.

"I'm not that good or anything, I don't even have a decent camera, but I've been told I have quite an eye for themes. I might actually stand a chance in this!"

Tony smiled fondly at the excited youth. "I am sure you're gonna rock, kid. Now, I don't wanna be the party-pooper but it is past midnight and you have school tomorrow. So how but you crawl to bed like a good little spider?"

Snorting Peter hopped to his feet and all but hopped out of the room, "I'm neither good nor little, Tin-man!"

Tony glanced at Pepper smiling and the two of them snuggled close to the sofa.

"I like him better than you, you know," Pepper informed the bearded man closing her eyes and relaxing in his arms.

"He's not legal yet, Peps. You gotta wait a couple of years…." the resulting growl from the petite woman preceded her vicious pillow-bashing attack.

 


 

"You're really good at this! I had no idea," Steve marveled as he watched the young girl move briskly around the kitchen as two different pots bubbled happily on the stove.

Wanda glanced over her shoulder from where she was working on the Sheppard pie's crust. "We never really had a decent kitchen up to now…"

"Where did you learn to cook so well?"

"I used to watch my mother cook when I was little. And then just played around with recipes when I was cooking for me and Pietro. Whenever we had the chance and enough ingredients I would whip up the fanciest thing I could and we'd pretend we dined in some fancy restaurant. It was stupid, but it used to make us happy…." Wanda trailed off smiling fondly at the memory.

"You still miss him terribly, don't you?" Steve asked hesitantly from where he sat on the kitchen island.

Wanda turned around with a bright smile plastered on her face, "Can you stir the meet for me, while I put this in the oven please?"

Taking the hint the man stood and did as she asked, "I'll leave it alone, but you know you can talk to me about it if you ever want to, right?"

"I know. Not so fast, slowly and lightly," she instructed as she leaned on the counter beside him and followed his moves. "Great. Now turn off the heat and let it rest. When the Crust is baked we'll pour it in, cover it with the cream sauce and bake it for another half hour. And that's it!"

Shaking his head Steve commented, "You make it sound way easier than it actually is."

"Hey, Steve?" Wanda tried after a few silent seconds. When his blue eyes met hers she asked: "In order to reverse Gertrings situation, I had to learn a spell."

"A spell?" Steve asked a bit perplexed.

"Yes. Not the usual thing you've witnessed with my powers. Old school stuff. A latin script and focusing energy…"

Steve only nodded. "I have to admit I had never thought of that. But it makes sense…"

Wanda nodded. "The thing is, that it made me feel more powerful. It was not the impulsive burst of energy. It was architectured and controlled… The reason I mention this is because I'd like to start working with the Grimoires available here. See how much I could improve… Would that be ok with you?"

Before Steve had a chance to answer Clint and Natasha stepped into the room.

"Are we interrupting, Cap'?" Clint asked as he walked towards the stove, ruffled Wanda's hair and sniffed over the steaming pots. "Wo this smells too good!"

"Well, actually, I think your input could be valuable in this case," Steve said glancing to Wanda for confirmation.

The girl hesitated but nodded.

"So Wanda, practiced a spell from a grimoire -did I say it right?- and she believes that training further with this kind of magic will develop her abilities. What do you guys think?" The blonde man asked glancing from the red-head to the now beaming Clint.

"Way to go, Sabrina," Clint winked at her.

Chuckling beside herself, Wanda promptly answered in an annoyed tone, "Don't call me that!"

"Well, I think It would be great for Sabrina here, to work with this voodoo or whatever. If it's gonna make her stronger why the heck not?"

All eyes turned to Natasha who said in an even tone, "I think it sounds interesting, but since we don't have another more experienced witch to turn to, it might be dangerous for her."

Wanda full on glared at the woman now. "I did fine on my own this time," she said curtly.

"Hey," Steve's voice intervened, "Watch the tone, Natasha is only trying to help."

"No, Clint is trying to help, Natasha is trying to stop this from happening," Wanda said in a more composed tone not wanting to risk a scolding from the man in front of their teammates.

"Keep some of that aggression for tomorrow's hand to hand, yeah?" Natasha commented feeling her patience running thin.

"We don't have hand to hand tomorrow," Wanda answered coldly.

"Uh, yeah you do. Natasha and I discussed this and decided it would help with your impulsivity and strengthen your basic combat performance. After the hostage incident, we realized it's important that you become stronger in physical fighting. So from now on, you'll have hand to hand with Natasha every other day starting tomorrow."

Wanda looked at him dumbfounded. "Don't you think I should be consulted on this?" she asked fighting hard to keep her temper in check.

"No, since it's for your safety and for the good of the team, I made the call," Steve answered truthfully.

"I see." The girl said evenly. She remained still for a few seconds before taking off the apron she was wearing while cooking and throwing it on the counter. "I guess I'll leave you two to decide what will happen with my magic as well, then, it's not like I get a say," she said sarcastically as she started walking away.

Natasha and Clint exchanged a look, while Steve tried to coax the girl back, "Hey, Wanda, come on! Let's talk about this over dinner!"

"Not hungry anymore," the girl yelled over her shoulder as she briskly walked away.


 

Chapter Text

 

 

The sudden movement behind her startling her only for a moment, the ginger girl soon recognized the familiar scent of light cologne, freshly laundered clothes, and mint. As warm arms circled around her waist, MJ turned her head over her shoulder to smile to her boyfriend and lightly pecked his already protruding lips. "Good morning to you too, Pete!"

Peter pecked her neck once before letting go of her body and walking next to her inspecting the numerous fliers she was stacking and securing with rubber bands, "These look really cool, MJ," Peter commented as he grabbed one for further inspection.

"You think so? I thought It'd be nice to offer them to parents and visitors. It's supposedly a list of all the contestants and prize list, but it basically shows all the school's bank accounts and vacant volunteer positions that need to be covered for the rest of the year's events," The girl explained conversationally.

"That's smooth," Peter commented smirking, but at her resulting glare he raised his hands defensively, "Kidding, babe, kidding!"

As she finished with the last stack she said, "Grab a bunch of them and let's get them to my locker. I'll keep them there till we set up tonight." Peter moved quickly to help her and the two of them strolled along the slowly filling school corridors. "So, did you finally decide on the picture you're gonna put in?" The girl asked after a few silent seconds.

"Yep! One with a creepy cat in a creepy alley I took the other day, low key and all," Peter said decisively.

MJ quickly opened up the locker and the two of them stashed all the leaflets inside. As soon as she closed the locker's door, she turned to him smiling, "Well show me then!"

Peter smiled and got his phone out, pulling up the photo. He watched MJ's face breaking into a smile before a rather confused grimace took over her face.

"Wait, a minute…that's from last Friday?" she asked in a casual tone as her eyes scanned the date and time indication on top of the photograph.

Peter nodded wondering why was that question relevant, "Yeah, why?"

MJ's face grew more serious as she inclined her head a bit inspecting the image further. "Taken a quarter past midnight, right?"

"Uhm, yeah…" Peter answered not sure where this was going. When MJ tuned to look at him her expression screamed full-blown angry mode and he instinctively took a step back, "Wh.. What's up? What just happened?" he asked sincerely confused.

"What happened is, Peter, that last Friday I had bought us tickets for a play, remember?"

MJ watched his face pale slightly, but when he made no attempt to answer she went on. "You said you couldn't come because your aunt wouldn't let you leave the house. So how the fuck did you take a fucking midnight shot of the fucking cat?"

Peter remained looking at her dumbfounded. His brain raced to determine his best strategy, the most believable excuse and suppress his urge to kiss her, as she looked even hotter than usual when she was angry. 'Ugh! Not the time Peter!' he silently scolded himself for his trailing thoughts.

"Babe, relax…" he said and tried to lay his hands on her shoulders to calm her down.

Apparently, his intro was not what it was supposed to be, as the girl all but exploded in an angry yell of "Don't you dare call me babe, right now! I'm still waiting for a bloody answer!"

Peter brought his hands up in a placating manner, "I just wanted some air that night and when May went to sleep, I snuck out. That's all!"

"So, you could sneak out to get some air but not to meet me, right?" Was her irate response.

Peter feeling his own temper rising a bit, answered back in a sharper tone, "Well, sneaking out for a nine-thirty show isn't as easy as a midnight stroll, MJ!"

"Stop lying! You expect me me to believe that May, the workaholic, was asleep at 12:15?" the girl shot back running an angry hand through her hair.

"Yes, I expect you to believe that she did! She does get to the overworked stage after a series of all-nighters, you know, and then she sleeps!" Peter answered sarcastically, relieved that he could tell her even a tiny bit of truth along with all the lies.

"Do you think I am that stupid, Pete? That I don't realize when you lie to me? When you hide things from me?" MJ asked her voice lowering but her glare intensifying.

His uneasiness and desperate need to put an end to this made Peter snap angrily, "You know what MJ? Not everything in this fucking planet revolves around you! And right now you're being an egocentric, jealous…" at the shocked expression of her face, Peter managed to stop before uttering the next word that he knew he'd regret.

Mary-Jane pursed her thin lips together before silently turning her back to him and walking briskly away.

Peter groaned and brought both of his hands behind his neck in exasperation, "MJ!", he called after another second but the girl kept walking without looking back.

Groaning loudly, Peter took his frustration out by kicking angrily the locker standing closest to him. At the loud noise and resulting dent to the cheap metal material he looked around him frantically and jogged away before anyone noticed.

 


 

Soft breathy sounds escaping her lips, the young woman tugged at her light brown hair, moving them entirely to one side of her face and tilted her head to give her boyfriend's lips better access to her neck.

Quill kept brushing slow kisses all over her neck and jawline trying hard to tame himself as her fingers traveled beneath his t-shirt over his bare chest and back. Stifling a groan, he cupped her face with both of his hands before saying in a breathy whisper, "Although I'm enjoying our good morning routine a lot, I think we'd better stop, considering we need to be in class in less than 5 minutes."

Her blue eyes meeting his olive-green ones, Wanda only bit her lower lip smiling slightly.

Pressing his forehead against hers the young man chuckled, "You bite that lip on purpose, don't you?"

Wanda's smirk grew as she answered back, "Maybe!"

Quill shook his head before pressing a soft kiss on her lips. Taking a step back to put some distance between their bodies he took in a deep breath, before offering his hand for her to take.

Wanda quickly smoothed out her hair before linking her hand with his and the two started walking without much enthusiasm towards the building.

"So, will I see you tonight at the contest?" Wanda asked as she glanced at the gray. Cloudy sky above them.

"Yeah, I'll make it after all…" Quill answered, but before he had the time to utter another word, the couple abruptly stopped so that the redhead girl that all but ran out of the main entrance didn't bump into them.

"What's up with her?" Quill wondered, his eyes following the still moving MJ as she kept walking towards the edge of the schoolyard.

Wanda shrugged but tugged Quill along as she walked a bit more briskly to the opposite direction, guessing Pete would be somewhere inside, quite possibly in a similar state to his girlfriend.

"You think they had a fight?" He asked.

"I guess… I mean, she was super excited about tonight's contest, working on preparations like crazy. I'd expect her to be her hyperventilating, happy usual self today…"

Snorting at the mostly accurate description, Quill paused in front of his locker. "I can't be late for the first period, if I get another detention this week, my father will have a stroke right after killing me."

Nodding understandingly, Wanda pecked him quickly. "See you at lunch, then!"

Walking briskly along the corridor she turned left at the corner to get to the second locker area of the school. Spotting Peter half buried in his locker she casually walked near him and leaned on the closest locker. "Lost anything?" she asked trying not to sound too amused.

Peter got his head out of the small storing space and glared at her before slamming the metal door shut.

"Whoa, what did I do?" Wanda asked her face turning more serious.

"You nothing… Your species though…" Peter answered sourly.

"What's wrong with mutants?" Wanda quipped, but at his resulting glare only threw a hand around his shoulders. "Ok, getting serious. What's up? I saw your girlfriend all but running off just a minute ago."

Peter shook his head tiredly. "We fought. She realized I took the contest photo a night that I had told her I couldn't go out with her."

Wanda grimaced sympathetically at that, "You were patrolling?"

"Yeah… And I had told her May wouldn't let me go out."

"Ouch! How did you cover it up?" Wanda asked.

"Lamely. I told her that I managed to sneak out to take some air later when May was asleep, but she called my bullshit. And then I just attacked her, basic calling her egocentric and jealous." Peter asked as he brought both of his hands up to cover his face. "I'm so fucking stupid. She'll never forgive me."

Wanda patted his shoulder comfortingly, "Of course she will. After all, you didn't lie exactly…"

"Not helping, Wanda!" Peter groaned.

Kicking his ankle Wanda leaned in to whisper angrily, "Wendy! We're in school, damn it!"

"Sorry…" Peter mumbled, but before he managed to utter another word his face paled as his eyes focused on someone behind Wanda.

Looking behind her, Wanda immediately let go of Peter from their one-armed hug as she MJ's disbelieving scowl fell on them.

"And to think, that I came back to apologize!" The redhead said in a dry tone. For the second time that morning Peter watched her storm away.

"Fuck!" He whispered mostly to himself, "MJ, come on!" He called behind her, but the girl never looked back.

Throwing his hands in the air angrily he turned to his best friend, "Can you believe her?"

Wanda grimaced awkwardly, "Sorry if I made this worse…"

Peter simply shook his head. "You got nothing to apologize for. C'mon, we're already late for class. The last thing I need today is detention."

Wanda walked along with him until their paths separated. Moving to her designated classroom she smiled upon spotting her old teacher arranging the day's material.

 


 

Wanda walked briskly through the base's large living-room area and proceeded to the closest staircase that would lead her to the level where her room was located. Afternoons were the worst time of the day for her. She always felt drained and irritated wanting nothing more than curl up in her room alone. Relieved she didn't happen upon anyone she opened and then promptly closed the door of her room behind her after entering. She let her backpack fall from her shoulder on the carpeted floor and took the few steps to her bed, collapsing on it with a relieved sigh. Not bothering with taking off her shoes, she made quick work of opening her laptop and placing it on her lap as she got comfortable, back reclining on the bedpost and legs spreading on the mattress in front of her.

Pulling up her favorite playlist she quietly hummed along with the first song. Glancing at the time indication on the bottom right of her screen she groaned and deposited the laptop next to her on the bed as she moved her gaze to the ceiling thoughtfully. She was supposed to be ready for hand to hand training in less than half an hour. Considering the one-hour session, the time she'd need to shower and get ready afterward and the fact that she had to be back at school by seven for Peter's contest that would leave her with less than an hour for studying. A pleased smile spreading on her lips she only slid down, laying on her side and closing her eyes. A quick nap was just what she needed at the moment.

The not so gentle shaking of her shoulder made the girl sit up with a sharp inhale on her bed, only to be met with an unimpressed Black Widow standing above her. Scowl in place and arms crossed in front of her chest the woman only stated in a tight tone, "You're ten minutes late for training."

Wanda managed to resist her urge to roll her eyes. "Sorry, I meant to let you know, but I fell asleep. I got a thing to attend tonight for Peter and I wouldn't have enough time to study if I came to training," she said making an honest effort to retain a neutral tone of voice.

Natasha regarded her intently for a few seconds before nodding and turning to leave. Wanda watched her with surprised eyes approaching the door, but quickly averted her gaze when the woman changed her mind and abruptly turned around to face the young witch again.

Natasha spoke the next words in a curt tone. "I'm not gonna insult your intelligence, like you just did with mine, and pretend I don't know that you have some sort of beef with me. I don't know what's your problem, but I would very much like to learn." Pausing for a few seconds in case Wanda decided to grace her with an answer, she only shook her head when no sound came out of the girl and continued."Fine. Be a brat about it. Since you got Peter's thing tonight I'm not gonna keep you from going, as that would be entirely unfair to him. But, as of tomorrow, you're having training with me every single afternoon until further notice."

Wanda quickly jumped to her feet at that, "No fucking way!" she said, her voice gaining volume.

"Yes, fucking way! If you don't respect my time enough to notify me of not being able to make it to training, you don't get to enjoy any time of yours. And you'd better lose the attitude before I add more consequences on top of what you already earned!" Came the older woman's sharp answer.

"Oh, yeah? Like what, huh? Telling Steve? Trying to earn some more brownie points?" Wanda asked sarcastically. Before the redhead had any time to answer, the young witch dissolved in a swirl of red smoke.

"Damn it!" Came Natasha's exasperated yell as she turned around and stormed out of the now vacant room.

 


 

Wanda walked briskly on the suburban neighborhood's pavement. She brought her around herself in a vain attempt to stay warm against the crisp autumn air. She wished she had tried to teleport directly into Quill's room, but her raised temper didn't allow her to concentrate enough to make it there. Thankfully, the area that she ended up in was deserted at the moment she materialized out of thin air. She had to walk for less than five minutes to get to her boyfriend's house, so she gritted her teeth and kept walking.

She knew more than well that Steve would not be pleased with her if Natasha shared with him their not so decorous encounter, but she couldn't bring herself to care. It was upon that thought that she arrived at the large two-story house at the corner of the street. The gate was not locked and she quickly opened it and entered in the spacious front yard. She glanced around at the mostly neglected trees and flowers scattered around in what should at some point be a nice yard-arrangement.

Jogging up the stairs and onto the wooden porch she rang the bell, cursing herself for not grabbing her cell phone before leaving the base. A few seconds passed before a tall man with strong facial features, small eyes and no hair whatsoever opened the door. Wanda was intrigued by his appearance. He wasn't ugly, nor handsome. He didn't seem old but neither young. His gaze was intense and he had an aura of power around him.

"May I help you?"

The hoarse voice snapped her out of her thoughts and she awkwardly tugged a few strands of hair behind her ears.

"Uhm, yeah, I am here to see Quill… I mean Peter! Oh, I'm sorry, I'm Wendy," She said, talking a bit more quickly than usual and extending her hand to the man.

"Yondu," the man replied, a small smile forming as he offered his own hand, before opening the door widely, "Well, come on in then."

Wanda stepped inside and glanced around her. The house looked a lot like what she had always imagined it would. Dark furniture, little to none decorative items, clean, but just a tad untidy.

Yondu's bellow of Quill's name made the girl start a bit, but she couldn't help but snort quietly at the equally loud answer of "WHAT?" that traveled from upstairs.

"Get yer ass down here! Ya got company!" The man yelled again, before turning to Wanda shaking his head. "Do ya want something to drink, doll?" he promptly asked.

"No… No sir, thank you!" Wanda answered politely, tugging another strand of hair behind her left ear.

Quill's jogging steps were heard next, shortly before he appeared on the large staircase at the far right of the large living room. "Babe?" He asked surprised at seeing her. "I wasn't expecting you, everything ok?"

"Um, yeah, sorry. I forgot my cell and couldn't call you, so I just thought I'd drop by. If you're busy I can leave!" the girl answered awkwardly feeling her cheeks flushing at the older man's presence.

Quill shook his head immediately, "No, don't be silly, come on up!"

As Wanda moved to climb the stairs along with her boyfriend, Yondu winked at his step-son, who rolled his eyes amused.

Following her boyfriend, Wanda entered his room and couldn't help but smile. The walls were painted a dark blue color. Two large windows allowed plenty of natural light in. The large bed was unmade and books and magazines were scattered near it on the floor. A large metallic desk stood against one of the walls, which was covered with all kind of posters featuring rock bands, motorcycles, and abstract art.

The blond looked on as his girlfriend took everything in. Stepping closer, he circled his arms around her and asked, "So, what d'you think?"

Turning in his arms in order to face him, Wanda smiled up at him and bit her lip before answering in a hushed tone, "I think, it's as Quill-y as it gets."

Smirking he asked back, "And that's a good thing?"

Pretending to think about it she finally nodded. "The absolute best!" Moving towards the small library that rested next to the wardrobe she scanned the titles of the various books absentmindedly. "Your father seems nice," she commented throwing a glance at his direction.

Quill shrugged his shoulder with a hint of a smile, "He's ok. He has quite the temper but he is mostly cool."

"I can picture him angry," Wanda mused. "Swearing with his pirate-ish type of accent, all red in the face…"

"Uh, more like blue, but yeah," the young man quipped and watched Wanda walking back towards the bed and sitting on it.

The teenage boy joined her before tugging her along with him to lay on the bed, her head resting on his chest as he lightly caressed her hair.

In a quiet voice he asked, "Not that I'm complaining or that I don't enjoy your company, but how come you're here?"

"I fought with Nat," the girl answered in a composed tone.

"What for?"

"She was being a bitch because I didn't have time to train with her today and I forgot to let her know. She completely lost her shit over waiting for me for like ten minutes."

"That doesn't sound too much like her, from the little you've told me. I mean, you told me just the other night that it was Natasha that persuaded cap' to agree with the two of us dating." Quill replied. He could feel there was more to the story than what she was currently sharing.

Groaning Wanda quickly maneuvered her body and promptly straddled him placing both of her palms on his t-shirt covered chest, "I would really appreciate it, if we occupied our time in any other way than discussing Natasha, right now."

Barely stifling a gasp at the sight of her on top of him, he looked at her longingly. In a smooth motion, he grabbed her around the waist, easily hoisted her up a bit and all but dropped her on the bed positioning himself right over her.

Squealing happily, Wanda hugged his torso close and nipped at his ear. As the sounds of kissing filled the room, the young witch's mind started erasing any and all troubling thoughts.

Realizing this was the first time the two of them had some privacy, her hands traveled beneath his t-shirt caressing his soft skin. He felt goosebumps raising below her fingertips, which made her feel oddly satisfied.

"Is it ok if I take it off?" he asked her in a breathy voice indicating his white t-shirt.

"More than ok," Wanda whispered back. She admired his bare torso in front of her and marveled at his sculpted muscles.

As he leaned close again and started kissing her along her neck the door suddenly burst open.

Wanda didn't manage to drown an embarrassed screech as she quickly turned into a sitting position on the bed, bringing her hands over her mouth.

"Jesus, Yond! What the hell? Knock on the damn door," Quill said in a rather annoyed tone, although his own cheeks had already flushed in a vivid pink color.

Yondu who was still standing on the door managed to hide his amusement before pointing a finger at the door, "When yer girl is here, this stays open. I might not have issues with the two of ya messing around, but I won't have Rogers chasing my ass around for not keeping an eye on ya. Got it lovebirds?"

Wanda only nodded and quickly averted her eyes, while Quill nodded huffing exasperatedly.

"I mean it, Pete," repeated the man his voice a tad more serious now. He made a move to walk out of the room but paused only to turn back around now full on smirking, "Do I need to give ya 'the talk' again or ya rem…"

Before he had a chance to complete his words a large pillow flew his way and the man backed away chuckling.

When his steps faded down the stairs, Wanda turned disbelieving eyes to her boyfriend, "Ok, one, I'll never look him in the eye again, and two, how super cool is he? Steve would have skinned us both alive!"

Quill shook his head, "He is cool on some stuff but, trust me, super uncool on others." He turned apologetic eyes on her, "Sorry about that."

Wanda smiled suggestively, "We had a bit of fun while it lasted, I guess."

Smirk returning he only retorted, "I'm never getting to second base, am I?"

"Who cares? I did," came Wanda's answer. At his resulting groan, she only laughed and let him tug her in a strong embrace.

 


 

Peter regarded the large printed version of his photograph with a mixture of pride and dread. He glanced around him to the rest of the exhibited photos, most of which were taken with real cameras and badass equipment. Feeling stupid for putting his name in, he turned longing eyes to the first prize. The shiny new SLR camera that was placed on a clear stand right next to the currently vacant podium in the center of the room.

A hand clamping on his shoulder made him jump a little. Turning around he found Tony and Pepper in all their professional-looking glory smiling down at him. Tony in a crisp light gray suit and Pepper in a black pencil skirt and dark green silk blouse outfit. Many eyes turned to them in wonder and Peter felt himself flushing a bit at the attention.

"You made it!" the young man quipped smiling widely.

"Of course we did, kid," Tony answered immediately, before turning to Pepper, "We told him we would come, didn't we?"

Pepper ignored him as she extended a hand to smooth out Peter's hair. Turning her eyes at the photograph she said in an honest voice, "This looks amazing, Peter. Really beautiful photo!"

Peter beamed at her words and felt some of his worries dissipate. "Thanks, Pepper! And thank you for arranging the printing, they did an amazing job!"

"Anything for you, handsome," Pepper answered. "I'm gonna check out the rest of the photographs and make sure to find at least three flaws to each and every one, if you don't mind," she added as she gracefully started walking away.

"How are you feeling?" Tony asked smiling, as he regarded his young protege proudly.

"Nervous. Everyone is using much better equipment than me, and I'm afraid the judges will laugh right at my face…"

"Nonsense! Your theme is much better and more relevant than anything I spy with my extremely charming eye," Tony remarked matter of factly as he winked at the kid.

Smirking, Peter shook his head but he had no chance to retort as two arms enveloped him in a strong hug and a pair of lips smooched the air beside his cheek.

"May!" Peter groaned as he quickly moved out of her clutch, "People are around!" he almost scolded her his cheeks flaming up as he glanced around them frantically.

The brunette woman waved that off with, "Then they'll see how much I love my nephew!" Almost without taking a breath, the woman continued, "Oh, Peter, this looks gorgeous! So eery and Halloweeny!" Her eyes turning to Tony who was watching her amused she went on with, "Thank you so much for arranging the printing, he was so worried about finding someone that would do a professional enough job with it."

Not managing to hide his chuckle Tony shared a quick one-armed hug with the woman, "Nice seeing you again, May. You look stunning. More un-auntly than ever, might I add. How are you?"

"Overworked and busy, honestly. Things are crazy at the bank. I've been working late almost every day this week and I doubt things will be better for the rest of the month. Now, where's that gorgeous woman of yours?"

On cue with the question, Pepper joined the small company smiling widely at the woman, who she guessed should be May Parker.

"Um, May, this is Pepper. Pepper, Aunt May," Peter awkwardly introduced the two women.

Pepper managing to speak first offered her hand, "It's been about time! So nice to finally meet you!"

"Same, here! You are even prettier in person than on screen!" May said smiling.

Leaving them to their small talk, Peter glanced around him yet again, hoping to spot any of his friends. As if on cue with his thoughts, Quill's taller frame appeared, directly followed by Wanda.

Wanda smiled widely at the large black and white picture and gave her friend a quick hug, "This is so cool, Pete!"

Quill exchanged a fist pump with the younger teen and nodded, "Proper creepy."

"Where's Ned and MJ?" Wanda asked.

"Ned's on his way," the young man answered.

"Still fighting then?" Quill asked grimacing.

"Apparently," Peter answered gloomily.

Seeing both Quill's and Wanda's eyes travel to someone behind him, Peter glanced over to see Tony approaching.

"Hey, guys." He greeted casually.

"Hey, Tony." Wanda smiled, while Quill nodded a bit awkwardly.

"Natasha was looking for you, earlier, everything ok?" Tony asked in an easy tone.

"Yeah… I just needed some air and left the base. I've already texted Steve, he knows where I am." Wanda answered tightly, feeling her temper rising again. Before Tony had a chance to answer she turned to the blonde beside her, "Let's go accidentally spill coffee onto the other guys' photos, what d'you say?"

"Don't you dare!" Came Peter's hissed warning.

Snorting amused the tall teen draped an arm over her shoulders and the two of them walked away.

Tony turned to Peter again. "What's up, kid? Spill it."

"With Wanda? Whoever knows with her?" Peter answered shrugging.

"Though I won't argue with that, I mean with you, Pete. What's troubling you?" Tony asked, sincere concern lacing his voice.

Peter shrugged his shoulders again, eyes quickly scanning the room yet again.

"Could it be related with the fact that a certain ginger is absent?" Tony knowingly asked as he cupped the teen's shoulder with his hand and gently nudged him to walk along with him to a quieter part of the school's event-room.

Peter glanced at him, not particularly surprised that he caught up with the fact that MJ wasn't there or that this was the reason for his foul mood. "We had a fight today."

Tony grimaced sympathetically, "What about?"

"Me, pretty much," came the boy's mumbled answer.

"Yeah, sorry pal, but in my old age I'm gonna need a bit more detail than that," Tony quipped.

"I was showing her the photo for tonight on my cell when she noticed the time and day it was taken. She had bought us some tickets for a play that day but I told her I couldn't go 'cause May wouldn't let me out. In reality, it was patrol night. So she got mad I lied and started implying things, and then I got mad and yelled at her."

"Bad move," Tony commented.

"Yeah, especially when I called her jealous and selfish," Peter sighed.

Tony looked at him with his eyes wide in disbelief."For real, Pete? Haven't you learned anything from me?"

Smirking at the man's attempt to lighten his mood Peter continued. "Then she stormed off and when she came back he found me in Wanda's hug."

"This is getting better and better, isn't it?" Tony commented.

"Shitty timing. Wanda was just trying to make me feel better."

"Yeah, I don't doubt that, but I do doubt MJ saw it that way."

Peter remained silent for a few seconds. When he spoke again, his voice was quiet. "The thing is, even if we make up after this, it will be only a matter of time before the next fight comes. I'm lying to her. That's never working out."

Tony patted his back affectionately and weighed his words before speaking. "I hate that you have to go through this, I really do. But you chose this life, Pete. And the suit brings responsibilities. Secrecy is among them, at least for a while."

Peter nodded. "I know."

"If you think that this is getting too much, though, we can always halt and wait for you to be a little older. You don't have to spend your teen years with so much weight on your shoulders, I've told you that again and again. Nobody will blame you if you choose to stand down for a while," Tony went on, his tone serious, looking seriously at the dark brown orbs of the teen.

Peter immediately shook his head. "I've never been more sure about anything in my whole life. There is no hard choice there. I just hope I'll find a way to work things out with those around me who are not in the know."

"I wish I could tell you to go ahead and tell her, Pete. I really do. But there is too much risk in doing so, for you and for her as well."

"I know that too."

Before the man had time to add anything else the loud clearing of a throat made them turn eyes to the podium. As the headmaster started his welcoming speech, Tony smiled down at Peter and smoothed out his shirt and hair before nudging him to walk towards his photo stand, where May, Pepper and his friends were already standing.

"Try to forget everything for a while and enjoy this. It's your first exhibition, you should be proud and happy. You'll remember this day for years to come."

Smirking at him Peter asked back, "You remember yours?"

Tony smiled smugly, "Don't be silly, kid, I was too young to have memories of that."

 


 

Despite only making it to the third place, Peter couldn't help the wide grin that had split his face almost in half. He watched amused Tony and Wanda plotting on how they could get away with tearing the judges' car tires and Pepper and May proudly mumbling on his numerous talents and overall perfection, while Ned and Quill were standing rather awkwardly next to each other exchanging glances every now and then.

As most of the people started filling out of the room, Peter noticed the spot of a certain vibrant redhead making its way against the current of people. As Mary Jane finally made it out of the small crowd, she paused and looked at Peter a bit awkwardly. When she saw his smile she hesitantly approached.

"Hey," she awkwardly greeted. Glancing at the third-place banner secured on the frame's upper left corner she added, "Congrats, I knew you'd make it!"

Taking a step closer to her Peter took her hands in his and locked his eyes with hers. "I'm sorry for yelling at you. But, I really only snuck out for some air late at night."

MJ shook her head, "I totally overreacted. I trust you, Pete. It's just that sometimes… It feels like there is this part of you that I don't even know."

"I'm really not that complicated," Peter said.

MJ only smiled. As she leaned in and kissed him. Peter closed his eyes and allowed his senses to completely hone in the feeling of her soft lips against his, her taste, her smell, and her slightly elevated heartbeat. When they finally pulled apart the room was completely empty. Peter glanced at the door and spotted a smiling Tony winking at him.

"Hey, I want you to meet someone," he said smiling to the girl. MJ looked at him surprised but let him guide her towards the room's exit.

Tony who was slowly walking away with May and Pepper a few steps in front of him, paused at the sound of hasty steps behind him. When he turned around he was met with the teenage pair of Peter and Mary Jane.

Subtly winking to the man Peter spoke with, "Mr. Stark, I'd like you to meet Mary Jane Watson, my girlfriend. MJ, Mr. Stark, for whom I've been working with for my internship in Stark Industries."

Offering her hand and lightly flushing the young girl greeted the man politely, "It's nice meeting you, Mr. Stark."

"The pleasure's all mine," Tony said shaking the significantly smaller appendage offered to him before tucking on, "Pete over here has been talking about you, well basically all the time since forever."

Forming a tight smile at the man's words Peter managed to answer in a polite tone "Ok, That's all, Mr. Stark. Don't let us keep you!

Smirking the man nodded again to MJ before turning his back and walking away briskly.

"So, even though I'd love to take you out tonight, I have promised May we'll go for dinner and spend the night together. She's been really busy and stressed lately," Peter said to the redhead in an apologetic tone.

MJ smiled at him reassuringly, "It's ok, my sister made me promise I'd be home for dinner anyway and I have still a ton of homework to complete. Don't you worry."

"See you tomorrow then?" Peter asked after pecking her lips lightly.

"Mhm," MJ trailed off as she leaned in closer for a longer kiss.

 


 

May's loud laughter filled the cozy living room and made Peter smile widely. He honestly didn't remember when it was the last time he had heard her laugh so heartily or seem so relaxed and carefree.

The brunette woman glanced at him still snorting, before asking, "What?"

Petr shook his head, "Nothing. I just like seeing you like that. I hate you've been so stressed and tired lately."

May waved that off as she practically shoved the small platter with pizza bites to her nephew's face. When he grabbed two and popped them in his mouth at the same time she shook her head amused. "You know how things are in my job, love. If I wanna keep it and not be replaced by some young, perfect and much more technologically savvy infant who just graduated I need to put in long hours every now and then."

"I know, I just don't particularly like it. I'd never imagined an investment banker would demand so much work if I didn't know it first hand from you," Peter commented. When May smiled affectionately at him he added, "I just wish you'd work more at home and less over there, especially at nights."

May shook her head at that. "You know me, Pete. I hate working at home. No, not hate, can't even do it. When I'm in my office I am super productive. Here I keep getting distracted. Plus I need this place to be our sanctuary. I want to only associate it with quality time with you, naps, food and bubble baths. And other things I won't share with my nephew, or my dead husband's ghost who I'm pretty sure hovers somewhere above us right now. You know, Halloween and all."

A smile forming on his lips Peter commented, "You should start to consider dating you know. You'll end up as the cliche gray-haired lady with the army of cats if you keep this up for too long."

Face forming an aghast and shocked grimaced, May smacked his shoulder, "Never gray-haired, Peter Benjamin!"

Laughing at his incorrigible aunt Peter shook his head. "Just stay healthy, safe and sane. 'Kay?"

"Aw, sweet-bug, of course, I will!" May said as she rose from her chair and walked behind the young man hugging his shoulders tightly, as her lips smacked his cheek audibly. "I love you, Pete."

Taking in her comforting smell, Peter smiled warmly at her, "I love you too, May."

 


 

As Quill's shiny, red Chevy Camaro came to a slow stop in front of the avenger's base, Wanda glanced out of the window forlornly.

Quill turned his eyes at her and extended a hand to gently caress her face. "Just talk to them. I'm sure that you can work things out with Nat."

Nuzzling her cheek in his palm the young witch answered, "It's Steve that worries me right now."

The blonde smiled encouragingly to her, "Just tell him you felt crappy and had to get some air. Remind him how you acted all responsibly and texted him when you realized you didn't have your cell and all will be good, you'll see."

Hoping he was right the girl remained silent. "How come your dad speaks like a pirate but you don't?"

"Because he is a pirate and I am not," he answered her seriously as he leaned in and kissed her. "Yet," he tucked on when their lips broke apart for air.

Smiling at him Wanda finally unfastened her seatbelt and opened her door, "See you tomorrow, Q."

"See you tomorrow, Wen," Quill answered sending her a wink.

The girl walked the small distance from the car to the side entrance of the building. Knowing most of the Avengers and the personnel of the base used the main entrance, she often opted for the less busy side one. Approaching close enough to the eye scanner she looked directly at the small camera lens and waited for the few seconds it took for the door to buzz open.

Walking almost mechanically through the corridors, which she had mostly memorized by now, she quickly found herself to the library level of the base. She glanced inside spotting Bruce typing away on a computer. As she walked further along the corridor she arrived in front of Steve's office closed door. She stood there a minute before deciding to knock. The sooner she talked with him the better.

The "Come in!" that sounded from the inside of the room was spoken in a rather pleasant tone, Wanda noticed and feeling a bit more optimistic she grabbed the doorknob and opened the door stepping inside.

Steve was behind his office with a small laptop open in front of him. When his eyes traveled to the door he smiled, "Hello, Wanda, come on in."

Wanda offered a small smile and walked towards the large desk plopping herself in one of the comfortable chairs that rested in front of it.

"How did Peter do?" the man asked as he closed the laptop and put it aside.

Wanda noticed he seemed calmer than he'd expected him to be as she answered in a quiet tone, "Third place. He got a gift card and a banner for his photo."

Nodding in approval the man commented, "Not bad at all. You had a good time?"

Smirking now Wanda answered, "Yep. Even schemed with Tony one how we could bust some tires, but we never went through with it after all."

Shaking his head but still smiling the man remarked, "Wise choice!"

At the following silence, Wanda bit her lip and gazed at her hands. Steve regarded her evenly but refrained from directing their talk elsewhere, for now, giving her a chance to talk about this on her own and hopefully open up a little more to him.

"I'm sorry if I worried you today," Wanda said after several silent seconds, stealing a glance at the man.

Steve shook his head reassuringly, "You didn't worry me, love. You texted me a little after leaving here and I knew where you were and that you were safe. Natasha on the other hand..."

Rolling her eyes despite herself Wanda's answer came close to a whine, "Natasha was insufferable! She got mad because I was late for training and she got all mad. And then she said I have to train with her every single afternoon! She can't do that!"

Steve refrained from commenting on her tone, appreciating the fact that she was talking. "Look, I know that lately you and she have been bumping heads, even though I am not sure as of why, But you know better than to not being punctual to training, Wanda, don't you? And we live in a base with a state of the art AI system. All you had to do was ask it to transfer your message, never even leaving your bed."

"I know, that's what I planned to do, but I fell asleep…" Wanda answered looking back at her hands.

Steve rapped his fingers on the desk's wooden surface making the young girl's eyes fly to meet his own. "Love, I really want to hear you out and try to understand why you reacted the way you did today, but I won't have you lying into my face. You know better than that."

Flushing lightly Wanda realized that the Black Widow had probably told him exactly what took place between them in great detail. Steve had probably surmised that she had decided not to go for training before she even considered napping.

"Sorry,"she mumbled.

"Wanda, please talk to me." The concerned tone of the man made her sigh and she sat a bit straighter in her chair before opening her mouth again, choosing her words carefully. "I just, feel like she has too much of a say in my life, and I don't like that. I didn't plan to not show up for our training today. But by the time I came home, it was already too late. I wouldn't have time to train, shower study and get to Peter's thing. I was already in my room when I realized that. I've been annoyed with Natasha since the other night that I asked you to train in magic and she objected, so I decided to not let her know I wouldn't join her."

Steve nodded encouragingly, pleased that she was finally honest with him. "Go on, then."

Wanda looked in the man's eyes once again as she spoke, "You know the rest. She came to my room, we had a fight, she said I had to train with her every day, I got mad and teleported to Quill's."

Steve nodded yet again. "Natasha told me about something you said. Don't get me wrong, I'm not out to get you, I'm merely trying to understand," he said and paused to gauge her response to that. When she nodded he went on "Why would Natasha of all people want to earn brownie points with me? And why do you think she'd earn said brownie points by being hard on you?"

Taken aback, mostly from the second question Wanda took a few seconds before attempting to answer. "I don't want to talk about why I think she wants to score points with you. It's not my place and I doubt it's something she'd appreciate. I just think she wants you to feel like she really cares and tries with me."

Steve's eyes grew a bit surprised as he asked the next question, "She wants me to feel like… That sounds like you don't believe she really cares or tries…"

"That's right, I don't," Wanda answered honestly, looking at the man squarely in the eyes. "And as I said, I don't want her to have so much of a say in my life."

"She doesn't though. She only has a say as one of your instructors, your trainers. Just like Sam and Clint. She assigned consequences for something regarding your training sessions and expressed her opinion on another possibility of your training regimes when you asked to practice grimoire magic," Steve answered evenly.

"Did you think at all about that, by the way?" Wanda asked in an attempt to change the subject.

"Nice try!" Steve only answered. Sighing the blonde man rose from his chair and went to sit in the vacant one right next to Wanda's in front of the desk. Leaning forward he rested his elbows on his knees as he gently took the young girl's hands in his own. "Please tell me you see my point."

"I do. But that doesn't change how I feel," Wanda answered locking eyes with her mentor.

"And you're entitled to your feelings, but you're also responsible for regulating your behavior and emotions. I don't want to hear of another incident in which you are disrespectful or disobedient to one of our people. If I do, we won't have just a heartfelt discussion as we did just now. The discussion we will have will be more in the lines of my hand talking to your butt. Am I understood, Wanda Maximoff?"

Flushing at the light scolding the girl nodded before offering a quiet, "Yes, Steve."

Nodding the man added, "And I expect you to attend the daily training sessions with Natasha, as she assigned you."

"Ok."

Sitting back in his chair he nodded. "On a lighter note, did you meet old Yondu?"

Smirking a little Wanda's posture completely relaxed as she pleasantly started describing her impressions of the man, wisely leaving out the encounter in Quill's room and what he caught them doing, but stressing the existence of a 'no closed doors' rule.

As Steve started to recount some of his own encounters with the man, Wanda felt completely at ease and smiled contently. She didn't know yet how she'd manage that, but Natasha would not get in the way of this. She would not get to steal away the only family she had left.

 


 

 

Comments are more than welcome :) Please spend a minute to drop a line 

Chapter Text

A/N: Hello dear readers! I know the last chapters have been a little Wanda-centered , BUT the next few will be heavily Peter-focused and will be quite action-packed as well. You'll realize why after reading this one.

I'm sure many of you have already wondered when what you'll read today would eventually happen in the course of this story, but to those of you who didn't, apologies and a warning: Secondary Character Death. I wish there was another way, but nothing else I tried felt true to what I'm trying to create and what I plan for next chapters and certain characters' evolution.

Please note you can add me on the facebook page I created for my fanfiction writing (the name is Marion Meyer), where I will be gradually uploading some artwork (photo manipulations mainly) based on the story, if people reading the story actually start following me there. I already got a couple of them uploaded. So, feel free to add me, contact me, talk to me and get to see some scenes visualized :)

Comments don't only make me happy, they also help me address issues, and improve. I'd appreciate immensely the tiny bit of your time it takes to drop a line and share some of your thoughts :)

PS. Huge thanks to my amazing Betas Ullswater and Activelyweird


The first morning of November arrived chilly and humid. The young brunette woman exited the warm interior of her car, tugging her coat tightly around her. Walking briskly to the car's back door, she opened it and retrieved her black leather purse. After inspecting her reflection on the car's window, she promptly smoothed out her hair, before her eyes caught some movement behind her. Turning her head sharply, she realized it was just a street cleaner sweeping the pavement across the street. She offered an awkward smile to him and shaking her head over how much the lack of sleep was catching up with her, she locked the car and made her way to the large gray building of the bank.

The man paused his sweeping as he retrieved his phone and captured several frames of the woman walking and entering the building. Once she was out of sight, he did the same with the car. Once finished he glanced around him and walked along the pavement and around the closest corner. Spotting the small black van, he jogged to it and opened the back door. He threw in the cleaner's vest and broom, secured the door closed and entered the passenger's seat. Turning to the man that sat behind the wheel he immediately reported, "Got her. Seventh day in a row. She always arrives at the same time, never leaves before seven."

The middle-aged driver turned to him with a pleased countenance. His smile made the long scar that began right under his left eye and traveled down to just below his lips distort. He retrieved his phone and quickly dialed a number. "We proceed today," he simply stated after a few silent seconds. At the acknowledgment on the other side of the line, he ended the call and placed the phone back in his pocket. The creepy smile still playing on his lips, he started the van and began driving out of the small alley and towards the main street. He had done well.


The large screen in the otherwise dark conference room provided the sole source of illumination. The Avengers, slowly spread around the table sitting down, as Natasha leaned on the wall next to the screen.

Rhodey, Tony and Steve wore worried expressions, while Clint, Sam, and Bruce looked calmer yet pensive. Once all eyes were on her the woman pressed the small button on her presentation clicker causing some letters and numbers, written in a bold and large font, to appear on the screen.

"MTC484?" Clint asked tilting his head.

"Ever heard of them in your SHIELD days?" Natasha promptly asked back.

Clint shook his head after a few seconds, as Steve asked, "Them?"

"Them. We have managed to conclude we're talking about a team. They have some sort of hierarchy with a couple of people on on the top tier, a few more on a second and large numbers of mercenary power," Natasha informed.

"Considering this meeting is about the Midtown-High situation, I presume they are the culprits?" Tony asked immediately, a deep wrinkle forming between his eyebrows as his expression darkened.

"Exactly. There is no record, formal or otherwise, on their action or organisation. We managed to find out about them through the identification of one of the abductors, who was careless enough to let his face show. As with most mercenaries goes, he was eager to talk when presented with adequate motivation. He didn't know any names, but he provided me with his payment transactions data. I had an IT team follow the money and they found several trails of transactions between the MTC484 and a Mat(t)erCorp corporation," the woman stated, as all the data she mentioned made their appearance to the screen behind her.

"Anything on them?" Rhodey asked as he brought a hand to rub his chin thoughtfully.

"Supposedly a consultant-company, yet there is no way to reach them or check them out. Any prospective client needs to go through a very thorough screening process and a face to face meeting. Also, there is no info online, no record of clients, no mentions of the corporates' names. I still have people working on trying to dig up more intel, but for now, that's all we got," the woman answered.

"Can we trust the mercenary's information? He could have lied to mislead us," Sam raised in an even tone.

"No, I was with Natasha during the interrogation. We didn't even have to rough him up. Some intimidation, threats and enough money promised for his cooperation were all it took. Plus, he knows we know who he is, he'd never risk lying, trust me," Clint answered.

"Plus, the device that intervened with the kids' powers was taken apart by our technicians and examined piece by piece. Most of its materials led to weaponry companies that were directly or indirectly funded by Mat(t)erCorp. His story checks out," Natasha added.

Bruce's smooth voice was heard next, for the first time. "I think it's safe to assume, that if Mat(t)erCorp funded the construction of a weapon specialized to attack Peter's and Wanda's powers, then they could easily be the masterminds behind it all. MTC whatever being just their muscle."

"I'm with Bruce on that. And I want some answers fast," Tony said next. Turning to Rhodey he asked, "Can you check with your military contacts if they know anything or anyone?"

"Of course, Tony," the man said.

"I will also check with a few people from SHIELD," Clint tucked on.

At Steve's and Tony's nods of approval, Natasha promptly pressed her clicker again, "Next order of business, gentlemen," a picture of an old leather book and various extracts of its texts appeared on the screen. "Our lovely Sabrina and her book of shadows," the woman said dryly.


Their drenched hair and already wet coats did not seem to bother the young couple as they continued their slow kissing under the heavy rain. Parting their lips after several seconds to draw in a much-needed breath, they smiled warmly as their gazes met.

"There's just something about kissing in the rain," MJ said in a breathy voice.

Peter chuckled and used his hands to tug a strand of wet hair sticking on her cheek behind her ear, "There is, but you'd better hurry or you'll miss the bus and walking home in this weather won't be too much fun."

The girl looked at him surprised, "Won't you come with?"

The boy shook his head. "No. May will have one of her long days at the bank again, so she arranged for me to go at Wen's and she'll join us there later for dinner."

MJ formed a small pout, "How is that fair? You could come to my place for the day, you know," she said sweetly.

Smirking slightly he answered, "We'll definitely make that happen soon. But you know, May is friends with Wendy's aunt so…" He regarded his girlfriend carefully. He hated how natural lying to her was feeling.

The girl only nodded before a wide smile that never reached her eyes formed. "Right, yeah, sure. Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow then," she said in a slightly too pleasant tone. Then, landing a last peck on Peter's lips, she turned to leave.

Peter watched her walking away as he felt Wanda closing in from behind. His eyes lingering on the departing redhead for a few seconds he asked his friend, "Ready?"

"Yep," Wanda quipped, following his gaze. Noticing he was dripping wet, she moved closer to him so that the umbrella she was holding covered both of them and they began walking to the car waiting for them in its usual spot outside of the school.

Peter removed his coat before taking a seat in the warm interior of the car and shivered slightly.

Wanda watched him and his thoughtful expression silently for a few seconds before bumping him with her shoulder, "What's eating you?"

Peter turned to look at her, grimacing slightly, "I hate that I'm lying to her all the time. And that I can't spend so much time with her."

Wanda smiled sympathetically at that, "Yeah, I remember how awkward I felt before Quill went celestial on us and all."

"See? How's that fair?" Peter asked a hint of exasperation in his voice.

"It's not my fault MJ's mom didn't have sex with a God," Wanda shrugged defensively.

"Ok, that, is a disturbingly interesting image, that I really don't need my mind to create and replay every time I see MJ. Or Quill for that matter," the boy quipped.

Snorting with laughter Wanda then asked, "Not that I think it is the smartest move you could make, but, have you asked Tony?"

Looking at her a bit lost Peter asked, "About Quill's mom?"

Smacking his shoulder she answered, "About telling MJ, jerk!"

Slight disappointment evident on his face, he nodded. "Yeah, that's a no go. We couldn't risk it. Especially not after the attack at the school."

"I never thought I'd actually agree with Tony on anything, but, I kinda see his point here. I don't know if she could handle knowing and keeping a secret this big, to be honest," Wanda commented.

"I know. It's not an option, so no point in talking about this," the boy said trying to lighten the atmosphere, "So what are we gonna do today? Wanna try more magic from the books?"

Her expression turning sour, Wanda shook her head, "It's not decided if they'll let me do that yet."

"What? Why the hell not?"

"Because, Romanoff, that's why," Wanda replied irritated.

"Romanoff? Since when did Nat become Romanoff?" Peter asked raising both eyebrows.

"Since she decided to fuck with my life. She's been all over Steve lately, trying to manipulate him with a ton of stuff, myself included."

Peter's brow creasing slightly he tilted his head on the side, "Uh, you sure? Cause, that doesn't really sound like Natasha…"

"You don't know her as I do, Pete. Trust me, that's exactly like her. And anyways I have to spend ninety minutes doing hand on hand training with her today so we won't have much time for anything besides homework."

"I thought you had hand on hand yesterday… You were complaining about it all day."

"Yeah, but I never went. She assigned me daily sessions till further notice when I skipped it," Wanda mumbled gloomily.

Peter grimaced but refrained from commenting. The teens remained silent for the rest of the car ride. As the car came to a slow stop at the base's parking area, Wanda and Pete got out and walked briskly the to the main entrance. After their eyeballs were scanned and the large doors slid open they walked into the large foyer.

Sam was waiting there for them smiling. "Hey, guys! Pete, long time no see, kid," he said pleasantly, exchanging a fist bump with the grinning teen. "You're both expected in training room 2 in half an hour," he added. Turning to Peter he said, "Tony has told me you've been working on agility and speed, so you'll be doing some work with Clint on these today and spice up Natasha's and Wanda's training in the process. They'll explain everything in a bit."

"Awesome!" Peter all but exclaimed and rushed to the large elevator. Wanda followed him rolling her eyes at his enthusiasm, but small smile forming on her own face as well, at the prospect of the two of them training together. Small favors, but still.

Dressed in black leggings, purple tank top and her hair secured in a ponytail, Wanda exited her room to find Peter in his training suit waiting in the hallway.

Upon entrance to the designated training room, they spotted Natasha and Clint going over something on a tablet Clint was holding. The adults turned their heads and smiled at the approaching teens.

"Hey guys," Natasha welcomed them.

"Welcome twerps," Clint added. "So, here's how it goes," he said his eyes on the two teens, "Natasha is working with improving Wanda's hand on hand. While the two of them are fighting, I want you, Peter, swinging, jumping, and generally getting yourself in and out of their space trying to distract Natasha and indirectly help Wanda without being hit in the process. This will give both of you a more realistic experience of the field, where you need to always ensure that you won't hit your own people reflexively. You only use web to swing, other than that, as always with hand on hand, no powers. Your goal is to help Wanda, avoid Natasha's attacks and improve your technique," the man explained, his arms crossed in front of his chest. "Sam and Rhodey will also join me for observation in a bit."

"Are we clear?" Natasha asked her eyes meeting Peter's and Wanda's.

When they nodded, Natasha motioned with the head to the large open space of the room.

She watched as Peter promptly jumped to the center of it and then used his web to attach himself on one of the side walls.

Wanda cracked her neck as she promptly walked to the center of the room and assumed the fighting stance, her lips pursed together and her brow creased in concentration.

Natasha remained still for a few seconds, before speeding forward and trying a low kick to knock the girl off her balance. Pleased, she noticed Wanda jumping in time to avoid it and using her own leg to kick, aiming at Natasha's chest area.

The highly skillful spy grasped the onslaughting foot and maneuvered her body to the side before it made contact with her chest. Her leg aimed a light kick behind the knee of Wanda's steady leg causing her to fall on her back.

Groaning Wanda jumped back on her feet immediately, earning a "Good job" from Natasha for her perfectly executed kickup.

As the girl lunged forward she attempted to punch the woman's stomach but Natasha easily dodged her efforts.

Wanda managed to move fast enough to avoid the older woman's offensive moves as well. Her eyes suddenly catching movement somewhere behind her, she ducked in time for Peter to sweep between her and Natasha and knock the older woman off balance.

Her turn to execute a backflip, Natasha used it to try and get Peter, but he managed to swing out of the way just on time, letting an enthusiastic "Woo!" in the process.

The redhead woman charged to the girl with a specific sequence of offensive moves that she knew the girl had a hard time with.

Wanda managed to avoid the first couple of punches but soon found herself on her back with Natasha trapping her feet and good arm.

Spotting Peter swinging towards them, she used her free hand, to punch Natasha's ribcage, making the woman wince and ever slightly loosen the grip on her feet. Managing to pry away her right one, Wanda used it to kick the woman on the ribs again, right as Peter tried to land a punch on her chest area.

Natasha decided the kids had enough skills built up to up her game a bit, and easily blocked Peter's punch, by trapping his hand and using his own speed to her advantage, maneuvering him to collide with Wanda who had just managed to stand up.

She watched as the two teens fell to the floor with loud groans.

Wanda felt her temper rising. She hated how hard this was getting and how she couldn't seem to be able to consistently fight the older woman off. What made her even angrier was the fact that Clint along with Rhodey and Sam were watching them closely. She hated looking weak in front of them, and she particularly hated seeming weaker than Natasha.

Growling lowly she jumped up and lunged full speed towards the woman.

Natasha's eyes narrowed slightly at the girl's careless moves. She wasn't using an offensive move, she had completely lost her proper stance, and she was simply throwing herself at the woman, offering too many vulnerable spots for her to take advantage of. Easily dodging her, she used her elbow to hit the girl's uncovered right side abdomen, making sure not much force was applied. She wanted to train Wanda, not send her to the hospital.

"You're losing your focus," the woman said curtly. "Get it together!"

Wanda, rubbing her afflicted torso, grimaced angrily and promptly sped to Natasha again.

Natasha easily deduced she was going for her feet and jumped just in time to kick a swinging Peter on the chest, sending back to the wall where he had leaped from.

Peter promptly leaped back swinging close to Wanda, who having not spotted him, reflexively landed a punch to his face. Bringing her arms to her mouth she mouthed off an apologetic, "Sorry, Pete!"

It was then that Natasha easily swept a feet under her own kicking her off balance yet again, "Focus, Wanda," she said sternly, "We don't pause training to apologize, this is hand to hand, people get punched, that's how it works!"

Wanda's back connecting with the floor for the third time that day along with the reproaching words was the last straw. The young witch saw red. All of her tension, anger, and competitiveness over the woman erupted inside her and fogged her mind. She clenched her teeth, performed a kickup and as soon as her feet hit the ground, her hands shot forward sending a red blast of energy to the older woman. Natasha flew across the room and crashed onto one of the walls.

Peter's eyes enlarged under his mask, as he immediately ran towards the redhead woman.

"What the hell was that?" Came the furious bellow of Rhodey who took purposeful steps towards the young witch, with Sam close behind him.

Clint ran to where Peter was leaning over Natasha.

"I… I'm ok," Natasha said wincing as she tried to sit up.

Clint watched her pained expression, as well as her right arm coiled around her torso and shook his head, "You're not. Peter, help me get her to the infirmary, will you?" the green-eyed man instructed. The two of them helped the woman up and supported her as they slowly walked towards the room's exit.

Wanda watched in a shocked expression. Realization of what she had done hit her hard and guilt started simmering inside her. Turning enlarged eyes to Rhodey and Sam she brought her hands to cover her mouth as she took in several deep breaths, "I'm sorry, I don't know what got into me…"

She tried but Rhodey's glare did not lose any of its intensity. "You'd better figure it out, soon enough, little girl, 'cause that was so out of line, I'm gonna have a serious discussion with Steve about trusting you fighting for this team ever again!"

"Hey, Rhodey! There's no need for that and you know it. Wanda has proven herself more than once, a mistake won't make her any less of an Avenger," Sam intervened immediately.

Wanda turned tearful eyes to him. The man regarded her for a few seconds before turning to Rhodey, "I'll take her to her room. Check on Nat and find out when is Steve returning. We'll brief him together later," the younger man said. Not waiting for an answer, he clasped a hand on Wanda's shoulder and led her out of the room.


Once the door of her own room closed behind them, the girl sat on the floor, bringing her knees to her chest and supporting her back on the side of her bed.

Sam sat across from her and tapped her knee to make her look at him. When her timid gaze met his own he asked, "What the hell was that?"

Wanda gulped slightly at the man's tone but tried her best to answer, "I… I just got angry and didn't think…"

"I don't buy that," Sam answered sternly. "I've seen Steve challenge you ten times more and you've never even batted an annoyed eye at his direction. I've seen Clint work you up to a screaming point during training and you've never used your powers on him."

"That's different. Natasha hates me. She's out to get me, Sam, always trying to make me look weak and… Inferior," Wanda answered immediately.

Sam promptly scoffed. "What on earth are you talking about? Natasha has been busting her ass to find out who orchestrated the attack at your school. She has been searching all around the world for someone to help further train you in magic through those spell books you seem to like, ever since you asked to. She has been putting in hours and hours of work to planning your training to make sure you'll get as strong and powerful as you possibly can!"

Wanda looked at the man taken aback. Could that be true? How did she not know any of these things? "She has?"

"And what the hell was that about trying to make you look weak and inferior? Inferior to who?" Sam probed.

"Her," Wanda all but whispered.

"And why would she want to do that, Wanda?" Sam asked incredulously. At the girl's silence, he took a few seconds to gather his thoughts. "Natasha is one of the best spies in the world. She is an Avenger. She has accomplished more in her life than any woman I personally know. Do you really think there is any logic or sense behind the notion she has some kind of beef with a sixteen-year-old kid?" He reasoned.

Wanda had to admit to herself that what Sam was telling her did stand to reason. Yet he didn't know about Steve. Biting her lip she remained silent. "I don't want to talk about this anymore, Sam," she said quietly.

The man exhaled loudly through his nose. Getting to his feet he said, "Wanda, I can tell something's troubling you. I can also tell you need Steve right now and that's why I'll back off. But do remember that we are a team. We're here to empower, not bring each other down."

Wanda, feeling ten times worse than she did only moments ago, watched him opening the door and leaving. Seconds later her door opened slowly and Peter's head peaked inside, "Can I come in?" he asked.

Wanda turned to look at him and quickly got to her feet, "Wanna come for a walk?" she asked as she moved hastily to her closet, grabbed the first sweater she found and promptly put it on.

Peter looked at her uncomfortably, "You really think leaving after this is the best idea?"

"I'll text Steve and leave a note here for the rest of them," Wanda said in a tired tone. "Look, I'm gonna go whether you follow or not, just make up your mind," she added after a few seconds and looked at him expectantly.

Her sad expression and pale face were enough to make the boy nod, "Ok, yeah."


Thankful that the rain had finally ceased, Peter walked briskly next to Wanda. The loud noise of the busy streets somehow intensified the heavy silence lingering between them. "You wanna talk about it?" Peter finally tried glancing at the girl.

"No… Yes… I don't know, honestly. I feel so stupid right now…" Wanda trailed. At Peter's lack of answer, she shook her head and bit her lip nervously, "When Steve learns about this he's gonna kill me. But before killing me he'll make me talk to him and I just cringe over the mere thought…"

"Why?"

" 'Cause all this has been building up ever since I noticed that Natasha is…"

"Is what?" Peter asked confused.

"How come nobody else has even noticed?" Wanda asked incredulously. "She likes him! And not in the friendly-teamish-Avengy kind of way."

Peter paused his movements as he remained staring at her disbelievingly, "What are you talking about? No way!"

Wanda rolled her eyes, "Sorry for bursting your bubble," she said gloomily as they stood at the side of the pavement looking at each other.

Peter shook his head as if to clear it. "Ok, let's not even get into that right now, how does this have anything to do with you blowing Nat up?"

Smacking his shoulder she raised a finger to his face, "Shut up! I didn't blow her up! I just… Blew her away…. Kinda," she said huffing with the last sentence. "That's the thing, Peter, I got fucking jealous and I felt threatened, and don't you dare laugh or make fun of this 'cause I'm gonna blow you up for real."

Peter shook his head his face even, "Why would I make fun of you? I get it kinda, I guess. You were used to the two of you being mostly focused on each other while on the run. I guess you haven't gotten the chance to "share" him up to now," he commented.

Kicking a street sign that stood beside her, the girl answered angrily, "Yeah, well he's not mine to share, though is he? I'm so stupid. He's already been so amazing to me being there, caring about me and I had to go and ruin everything because of my stupid insecurities."

"You didn't ruin anything, Wanda. He'll be pissed, yeah, but you'll talk this through like you always do," Peter reasoned.

"I never blew up his girlfriend before, Pete."

Snorting he answered, "You didn't blow up his girlfriend now either. Firstly 'cause Nat is not his girlfriend and secondly cause you simply blew her away, right?"

"How do you know?" Wanda promptly asked.

"I was there," the young man answered smirking.

"Don't play dumb! How are you so sure they're not together?" Wanda asked anxiously.

"Are you kidding? If anything like this was even close to happening, Tony would be all over their case constantly. Sarcastic jokes, kissing sounds, taunting, you name it," Peter answered immediately.

"Was she ok?"

"Natasha? Yeah, just a bit banged up. She'll be bruised up and all but didn't even get a concussion, so that's something," Peter answered trying to sound optimistic.

Her turn to snort Wanda mumbled, "So dead…" as she turned her head to the small alley behind them. It was then that she heard a cat's aggressive growl and a barely audible high pitched sound. "Fuck," she said urgently as she spotted a large gray cat hissing to a much smaller and skinny kitten. Stomping quickly towards the larger animal, Wanda chased it away, before returning to where the much smaller creature had curled up.

The small orange kitten simply regarded her through its terrified eyes. It was too weak to run, and tremors ran through its small frame. Wanda could not resist the urge to gently pick it up and take a good look at it, "You poor fellow," she whispered.

Peter approached her his eyes squinting a bit. "Um, you do know that it's in your best interest to head back soon right?"

The girl never took her eyes away from the small creature in her hands, "Yeah, you're right, we'd better hurry, this little guy is too weak to stay in the cold anymore."

Peter looked at her startled. "You're gonna take a cat to the Avenger's base? Today?"

"Why not?" She asked as she quickly removed her scarf and used it to carefully wrap the frail body of the animal.

Peter turned his eyes upwards and sighed, "Um, I'm not gonna even go there… But, it definitely needs a vet's attention. Doesn't seem too healthy," he attempted to reason.

Realization hitting her she answered, "You're right… Come on! I spotted a vet's sign a few blocks away when we were walking!"

Peter's "Not what I meant!" made Wanda whip her head around, light brown hair flailing in the process.

She regarded him with a hard expression as she said, "Feel free to return to the base alone if you're so worried, but I am not going to abandon this little thing to die alone in the cold. It's weak, alone and needs help."

His eyes softening a bit as certain pieces of what was going through her mind fell into place, he raised two placating palms up, "Sorry. You're right. Lead the way."


Peter was wearing his hoodie and resting his head on the wall behind him. He was sitting in the vet's small waiting hall, while Wanda was inside with the doctor and the kitten.

His phone's vibration made him start a bit and he quickly retrieved it. Seeing Steve's name on the screen he grimaced but picked up immediately, "Hey Cap'," he said quietly.

"Hey, Peter. Are you with Wanda? I called her but she didn't pick up." Came the man's answer.

His worried and serious tone made Peter realize he already knew what had happened during training. "We're together. She can't talk cause she's in the doctor's office…"

"Doctor's office?" Came Steve's bewildered question.

"No, no! Not human doctor, animal doctor… Like a vet…" Realizing the man couldn't probably understand a thing he filled him in with, "Look, we just went out 'cause she needed some air like she texted you, and we found a stray cat and she got hellbent on saving it, so we brought it to the vet. Hopefully, she won't take too much longer."

A sigh of relief sounded on the other line. "Text me the address, will you? I'm downtown too, I'll come to get you," the man answered.

"Sure thing," Peter answered immediately, brown eyes traveling upwards yet another time. After ending the call, he quickly sent the address to the man and placed his phone back into his pocket.

Not too long later, Wanda exited the room she was in with a big smile plastered on her face. The small creature was secure in her hands, still wrapped with her scarf, "He seems healthy enough," Wanda informed Peter happily as she sat beside him.

"He?"

"Yeah, he's a he. He's six weeks old, probably strayed away from his mom. We're gonna give him meds for parasites, and I have a feeding schedule, and we'll be back in a week to make sure he's doing well," the girl said as she brought the small creature close to her eyes.

"Good. Well, think of a name, cause Steve's on his way to get us and you should definitely introduce him," Peter quipped.

Wanda turned to look at him and slowly sat down at that, "He is?"

"Yeah, he called me like ten minutes ago. He's on his way," Peter answered as he leaned in closer to inspect the kitten. "Is he orange?" he asked squinting his eyes.

"Mhm," Wanda mumbled small smile forming upon glancing back to the small animal, that offered a high pitched meow.

"So, name?" Peter asked again.

"No idea," she said thoughtfully.

"Hulk?" Peter asked smirking.

"I doubt, Bruce will find that cute, Peter," Wanda quipped.

"Ooh! I know, let's call him Cthulhu!" Peter said excitedly.

Looking at him with an aghast expression she said, "This beauty, is not going to be called Cthulhu!"

"Fury?" Peter tried.

"No!"

"Killer?"

"No!"

The teens failed to notice the door opening and a tall man sporting a hat and sunglasses entering and closing into where they sat.

"Ok, got ya. You're more into sweet, girly ones right? Um, Toulouse? That's a classic!"

"Nah, he's a proper fighter, I won't have him named after a fat cat wearing a bow tie," Wanda declined immediately.

Steve remained regarding them fondly. He couldn't pretend he wasn't angry with Wanda over her behavior, but seeing her and Peter fussing over a kitten helped him push that to the back of his mind for now.

The man moved to sit next to Peter. Leaning in conspiringly he proposed, "How about Chewbacca?" Wanda's eyes snapped up at the sound of the voice while Peter gasped. He lowered his glasses allowing his eyes to lock with Wanda's as he prompted, "Do you like it?" He asked.

Wanda took a couple of seconds, before softly nodding, "I love it."

Small smile forming on his face as well, the man stood and motioned with his head for them to follow.


As the group of three entered the lift, in the Avengers' base, Steve turned to the young witch, "How about you hand Chewbacca over to Peter and come to my study for a bit?" His tone was even but his eyes were stormy.

Wanda could easily read the order behind the question. Blushing and avoiding Peter's eyes she transferred the precious bundle to him and a few seconds later followed Steve out of the lift and to the direction of the man's study.

Wanda sat in one of the chairs in front of the man's office and watched him sitting on the one directly opposite of her instead of behind his desk; exactly like he had done almost 24 hours ago. The girl focused her gaze on her fidgeting hands.

Steve took in every single sign of nervousness. Her biting her lip every now and then, her restless hands and feet and her lowered gaze.

"Have you seen her?" Wanda asked quietly.

Not expecting her to be the one who'd begin the conversation Steve took a few silent seconds before answering laconically, "Yes I did."

"Is she ok? Did I hurt her badly?" The girl asked chancing a glance at the man.

Blue eyes boring into hers he lightly shook his head, "No. Thankfully she only has a few ugly bruises and will need some pain medication for a couple of days. Nothing she hasn't faced before. Though it is the first time that the cause of her pain lies in the hands of one of her very own people."

Wanda's eyes instantly filled with tears at his words, "I'm so sorry, Steve, I really am… If you want me out, I'll completely understand…"

The man's eyes squinted at her words, 'If I want you out?" He repeated, his tone and facial expression unreadable.

"Rhodey said…" Wanda attempted to explain but was cut off by Steve.

"Rhodey was completely out of line for saying that. He was livid with you for attacking Natasha like that and he spoke out of anger. He doesn't believe you should be out of the Avengers and he regrets saying that, you can ask him yourself if you'd like. But most importantly, as I've told you more than once, you're not a mere team-member to me. Nobody in the Avengers is just that. We're a family here. And you… You're almost like a daughter to me, Wanda," Steve said seriously.

The girl's head snapped up at the words and looked at the man with shocked, wide eyes, "What?" she asked not believing what she had just heard.

"I'm not sure why you look so shocked. I've told you numerous times that I see you as my family and that I care so deeply about you," the man said looking at her intently. "There is nothing you could do that could make me turn my back to you, young lady. Nothing. Do you understand me?"

The girl nodded silently biting her bottom lip to stop its trembling.

"What happened today, though, is completely unacceptable. We were sitting here yesterday having a conversation over respect and boundaries. Over improving your behavior to Natasha. Over treating the adults in this house with the respect they deserve. Didn't we?" The man asked, his tone developing a stern edge.

"Yes," Wanda said quietly.

"So, what made you use your powers on Natasha like that?" Steve asked.

Wanda tugged her hair nervously behind her ears and tugged the edge of her sleeves to cover her hands as she answered, "I just got mad I couldn't beat her."

"Wanda Maximoff!" came Steve's sharp tone, causing the girl to look at him startled, "Lie to my face even once more and I'm going to bring the hairbrush," the man warned.

Blushing furiously Wanda took in a shaky breath. "I have been feeling jealous and competitive over Natasha for a while now," she said averting her eyes from the man.

Steve managed to hide his surprise at her answer. Schooling his expression he prompted, "Why?"

"Because… Because I think she likes you. And I fear that if the two of you… You know.. You won't bother with me," the girl said quietly feeling her face flaming up with embarrassment.

Steve remained silent for a few seconds. He had never expected that. He had surmised Wanda felt competitive over Natasha but certainly not in terms of him. He was thinking she just wanted to prove herself in the team or get out her rebelliousness and aggression to someone she wasn't worried over upsetting. He never expected him being the reason behind it. "Wanda," he called his tone milder now, and waited for the girl to slowly raise her eyes to meet his, "Firstly, there is nothing romantic between me and Nat. Secondly even if there was, there is no one in this world that could make me 'not bother' with you. How on earth did you get that idea in your head and let it work you up to this extent?"

"Well, you're always together lately and you let her decide things about me without even asking my opinion. She just always seemed to be in the way," Wanda said quietly. Before Steve could retort she asked, "Is it true she's been looking into the attack to the school and to find someone to help me with my magic?"

Steve nodded emphatically, "Yes, it's true. The reason she's been so involved in everything about you is because she is very invested in helping you and bettering you. And because she is frightened of your safety considering your age and inexperience," the man explained.

Wanda lowered her eyes again. "I'm so stupid," she groaned quietly.

Steve leaned forward and took her hands in his, "You're far from that. You're a brilliant young lady, who needs to learn to regulate her emotions and behavior better and talk to people instead of keeping everything bottled up. We all have our insecurities, love, but if you don't start talking to us when they claw at you, we won't be able to help you."

At her small nod, Steve stood and motioned for her to do the same. He led her to the side of his desk and gently bent her over it. Wanda bit her lip but refrained from protesting. She had never felt so guilty in her life and was almost eager to set things right with the man.

Steve lowered her leggings but left her underwear on. Opening a drawer at his desk he took out a wooden ruler. Pressing his left hand on the small of her back he raised the ruler and brought it down smartly on the center of her bum.

Wanda was caught off guard as she expected to feel Steve's hand first. She yelped lowly at the resulting sting and braced herself for what was to come.

Steve Rogers brought the ruler down, again and again, covering with vibrant pink stripes his pale target. "Why are you getting this spanking, Wanda?" He asked after the twelfth swat.

The girl said in a trembling voice, "For using my powers against Nat."

"Completely unacceptable!" The man scolded as he brought the implement down again now venturing a bit lower covering mainly her sit spots and upper thighs.

Wanda started crying immediately after that. The intensifying pain and her raging guilty consciousness reduced her to a sobbing mess.

When the ruler met its target for the thirtieth time, Steve set it aside and used his own hand to continue peppering the quickly reddening bottom. "You will treat the members of this team with respect and obedience. You will never use your power against someone unless it's a specific part of your training regime and demanded by your instructors."

The girl nodded eagerly feeling her resolve to loosen as the burning pain intensified.

"And this burying of your thoughts, emotions, and troubles is going to stop. I expect you to be truthful and open with me from now on. Seek me out when things are feeling hard. Talk about your feelings instead of ignoring them," Steve said his onslaught to her butt never seizing. "Am I understood, Wanda?"

"Yes, sir!" The girl said through her crying.

Steve stopped the punishment immediately. He tugged her leggings back to their place as best as he could, before helping her up and enveloping her in a strong hug. He rested his chin on her head as she cried it out in his blue sweater. His hand ran soothing circles on her back, and he patiently waited for her to calm down.

Once her sobs slowed down considerably, he broke their embrace and allowed enough space between them to look into her eyes, "Can I trust we won't have a repeat of this?" He asked her seriously.

"Never again. I'm sorry, " came her immediate answer.

Steve smiled softly and ran a hand through the brown disheveled locks, "I know you are, and you are forgiven by me. But you owe an apology to someone else as well."

Wanda looked at Steve with genuine nervousness. "She hates me, doesn't she?" She asked in almost a whisper.

Steve shook his head, "She's just worried and wants to know what is going on. And although I know, this might be the hardest part for you, I think you owe her a sincere explanation of your behavior."

"Well this place is huge, it'll take a while to bump into her," she said hopefully but at the man's raised eyebrows, she shook her head, "I'll take care of it today."

Steve smiled and leaned close enough to land a kiss on her forehead, "For now, go and get some rest. I'll make sure Peter doesn't need any help with the cat."

Eyes turning to him with excitement she asked, "Does that mean you don't mind me keeping him?"

Steve nodded. "I don't mind at all. I think it was very sweet of you to take care of him when nobody else did."

A small smirk playing on her lips she promptly answered him, "I learned from the best, didn't I?"


The redhead woman was holding a steaming mug and looking out of her room's window when she heard the light knocking on her door. "Come in," she called in her signature husky. She turned around expecting to see Bruce ready to nag her over the fact she wasn't lying in bed like she was told to, but was surprised to see Wanda standing awkwardly at her doorframe.

"Well, come in," the woman repeated as she leaned on the edge of the window sill and watched the girl entering and coming a bit closer. Their green gazes locked and Natasha could instantly tell the girl felt awful about what had happened and wasn't here merely to appease Steve. Rising to her feet she walked to one of the two armchairs that rested in front of her lit fireplace on one side of the rather spacious room. "Have a seat," she told Wanda, indicating the comfortable looking chair across from her.

Wanda followed the instruction awkwardly and sat carefully managing to avoid wincing when her weight rested on her still aching backside. Intertwining her fingers she glanced at the dancing flames before looking at Natasha's even countenance. "I am so, so sorry," she finally said.

Natasha's lips twitched slightly upwards forming a hint of a smile, "Apology accepted and really appreciated," she said. "Now can you please explain to me what have I done to invoke your wrath?"

Wanda's cheeks blushed lightly. "Honestly, you have done nothing. My mind on the other hand…"

Taking a sip from her mug the older woman prompted, "Do elaborate."

Taking in a deep breath, Wanda looked Natasha in the eyes and was surprised to feel less embarrassed having this conversation with her compared to how she felt with Steve. "I got really jealous over you. I thought you liked Steve and was trying to get his full attention. Make him care just for you and not for me," she blurted out.

Natasha remained silent for a few seconds. Then she chuckled. And then laughed. And her laugh was warm and sincere and not taunting. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry I'm laughing, but… Oh God! Where to start?"

Wanda shook her head but couldn't help but smile and look at the woman apologetically. "I know it was stupid and childish. But I was so afraid you'd become the reason to lose Steve, that I completely lost it."

Laughter gone, the woman leaned a bit closer to the girl, "I'll never be the cause of you losing anything. Ever. Can you trust me on that?"

Wanda nodded. "I should have said something. You've always been there for me and you're the easiest person to talk to I know… Okay, that's a lie, Peter is that person, but you're like the second easiest. I just got this feeling you liked Steve and then all my insecurities and fears ran wild."

Natasha remained silent for a second and glanced at her door that was still open. "Mind closing that for me?" She asked the girl.

Wanda waved a finger and the door closed with a quiet thud as she turned intrigued eyes to the pensive woman.

"I think what you sensed had hints of truth," she said evenly studying the girl intently. "Not the crazy "steal Steve away" part, but even though it's pretty new to me too and thus I'm still not sure, you might be a little right over me liking Steve."

Wanda looked at her astonished. "I am?"

"You might," the woman answered truthfully. "I have never lied to you and never will. And I want you to trust me. That's why I'm telling you this. It's not something formed yet. Just a faint attraction and chemistry between us," Natasha said and paused again to gauge the girl's expression. "Tell me what you're thinking," she asked of the girl.

Wanda took a moment before answering. "I think it makes sense," she finally said.

"Do you also think that I'd ever try to turn Steve against you?" Natasha asked plainly.

Wanda looked at the woman's face thoughtfully, "No. I really don't. Not anymore at least."

"Good. 'Cause I'm one hundred percent on your side here. And so is Steve. To him, you're the most important thing in the world. And I'm not making that up, he told me so," the woman said.

Wanda smiled widely at that and then said, "Look, I have a lot of issues to work on. I mean, between losing my family, living in the streets of Sokovia, losing Pietro… I can't recall how it was to trust people around me. But I know I can trust Steve and Peter. And now you too. And I promise I'll try harder to ask for help and talk instead of just reacting."

Natasha nodded. "Trust me when I say, I know how you're feeling. And I am sorry for not realizing sooner what you're going through. I had to work with trust and a million other issues as well. I tend to forget that others around me have their own crap to deal."

"Sam told me you've been trying to find someone to help with my magic," Wanda said after a few silent seconds. At the woman's nod, she asked, "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I haven't found anyone yet. I didn't want to get your hopes up for nothing. Plus, you haven't really been approachable lately," Natasha said smirk playing on her lips.

"I know I haven't. But, you go and do a bunch of nice things for me, which I don't know anything about and you only ever tell me the things you decided I shouldn't do, or should do but rather not to… That makes me feel like you're…" Wanda trailed trying to find the words.

"A bitch," Natasha easily finished her sentence. Shaking her head she told the girl, "You're right. It's just that I grew up in a KGB training program. I'm used to orders and secrets. But that's not what we are doing here. And that's not what you need. And I promise to keep that in mind from now on."

Wanda's relieved smile made the woman hide her own in her cup.

Wanda stood up right after that and said, "I'll let you rest, now." She took a few steps to the door before turning back to the woman soft blush spreading on her cheeks, "What about training? When will we be able to continue?"

"Two weeks tops. You'll be training with Clint till then. He'll let you know of the specifics." At her nod, the woman suddenly remembered something.

"Wanda?"

"Yeah?"

"What I told you about Steve, that is a secret. You don't share it with anyone, understood?" Natasha said in a dead-serious voice.

Wanda nodded easily, "Understood."

When she turned the doorknob to exit the spy's room, she turned back with a lopsided grin, "If you ever need advice on how to approach him though…"

"Out!"


"Are you sure?' peter asked seriously.

"Of course I'm sure, love. I'm still working and I doubt I'll be done before nine. I'd much prefer to know you won't spend the night alone and you'll have a decent dinner," May said from the other side of the line, as her eyes scanned the numbers in her screen.

"Did you eat yet?" Peter asked concerned.

"That's a question you never need to ask me, Pete," the woman answered eliciting a small laugh from her nephew. "I know these past few weeks are a nightmare, but I promise I need two or three more days and then I'm done," May added.

"Yeah, for a month or so," Peter commented gloomily. "It's ok, May, I understand."

"I know you do, Petey. And I promise we'll do something really special for the weekend. How does that sound? We can fly somewhere spend a couple of lazy days, just the two of us, hm?"

A hopeful smile spreading on his face Peter nodded even if she couldn't see him, "That would rock, May."

"I need to hang up now, baby, I'll text you as soon as I get home, Ok?"

"Yeah, sure. G'night, May."

'Goodnight, Peter. I love you!"

"Love you too," Peter said and smiling ended the call. He remained still for a minute staring at the ceiling of his Avengers-Base room and wondering if Wanda would be up for any company tonight.

Hopping to his feet he walked to the small carton box, in which Chewbacca was curled up, on top of Wanda's scarf. The kitten was sleeping peacefully and Peter refrained from touching him not wanting to stir him awake.

At the soft knock on his door, he turned seeing his friend entering. She walked quickly next to him and peeked at the slumbering Chewbacca, "Did he eat?"

"Yes. And then promptly pooped and slept," Peter answered.

"Where did he poop?" Wanda asked worriedly. She didn't want to risk another scolding that day for not taking care of her pet.

"I cleaned it up, don't worry. You ok?"

Wanda waved that off, "I'm fine. I even talked to Nat and we're cool."

"Was Cap' super mad?"

Wanda grimaced a bit at that. "He was quite displeased," she answered. She opened her mouth to say something else but then promptly closed it again.

"What?" Peter asked immediately.

Wanda bit her inner lip thoughtfully before walking to his bed and laying down stomach down on it, hugging one of the pillows, "He said something that shocked me. In a good way though."

Peter plopped down beside her and asked excitedly, "What?"

"That I am like a daughter to him…" the girl answered her cheeks flushing lightly.

Peter smiled and bumped her shoulder, "Not that I am surprised, but I am really glad he told you so. You deserve this, you know. And you need to realize you're safe here, nobody will abandon you, nobody will be taken from you."

Wanda grimaced at that, "Don't say that Pete. Don't ever say that. Pietro and I had promised each other we'd always be together no matter what. You can never know when someone you love will get snatched away from you."

Peter inwardly kicked himself for his words. "Sorry. You're right. I didn't think this through."

Wanda shook her head dismissively, "No need to be sorry. I mean part of what you said is true. We never know who might be snatched away from us, but we do know those guys out there, will not willingly abandon us, right?"

Peter smirked at that thinking of Tony. "Right."

"Did I tell you I got to second base with Quill?" Wanda suddenly asked.

Eyes enlarging Peter asked in a whisper, "He touched your boobs?"

Snorting the girl shook her head as she turned to lay on her back, "Nope, I touched his!"

The lively discussion and laughing that could be heard through the closed door made Steve stop his hand before it actually connected with the wood. Smiling he decided to give the kids a few more minutes. Dinner could wait a bit longer.


May walked out of the bank building huffing tiredly. "Night, Ned!" She said pleasantly to the night-shift security guard who tilted his hat to her and smiled. The woman almost jogged to her car. She opened the door and threw her bag inside before promptly stepping in. Taking her phone out of her pocket she grimaced upon noticing it would be midnight in a few minutes. Shaking her head she quickly typed away a "Heading home, Peter! Love you!" before hitting the send button and locking the small device. Depositing the phone on the passenger's seat beside her she put the key into the ignition slot and turned it to start the car. A sudden burst of intense light was the last thing that met her eyes.

The security guard screamed, at the sound of the explosion that shook the ground beneath his feet. The building's windows shattered and the alarm went off piercing the mostly quiet night. The man didn't hear it for quite a while, as his ears were ringing loudly. He managed to stumble to his feet and move towards the flames engulfed vehicle, which he knew was May's Parker. As the alarm of the bank started to register in his ears, so did the fast approaching sirens.

 

 

Chapter Text

 


 

Several heads turned at the roaring sound and glanced upwards. Guns were drawn and directions were barked for everyone to get ready to shoot. The familiar red and golden figure zipping through the sky and slowing down just enough to land made everyone ease up a bit. The scene was nothing special for NYC. The smoke from the now extinguished fire was illuminated by the strong yellow police-car lights, and the rhythmic blue and red of their sirens, making the atmosphere heavy along with the smell of burned metal and plastic.

Iron Man landed on the street with his jaw set and his eyes, beneath the metal mask, red-rimmed. A scene so familiar yet this time so haunting. He turned his head towards an ambulance where he spotted the paramedics zipping up a black plastic body bag. He felt a large lump forming in his throat and fought hard to clear his fogged mind, upon realization of who was in the bag. May.

Once he had what felt like an ounce of control, his mask slid open revealing his forlorn face as he briskly approached the head of the police department who was speaking with a man covered in an emergency blanket. Both men raised their eyes at the sound of the metal armor approaching.

"Is it certain that it's her?" Tony asked in a voice so hoarse he barely recognized it as his own.

"I'm afraid so, Mr. Stark," The police officer replied in an even tone to the man that had helped and saved him in a large number of cases. "Mr. Brown here was the security guard on shift and witnessed the whole thing. He saw Mrs. Parker getting in the car and the explosion when she attempted to start the engine." After a short pause he cleared his throat and added in a hushed tone, "She was killed instantly. Her remains were gathered mostly intact but quite burned. We have already requested dental identification of course for a formal confirmation, but there is little to no doubt that Mrs. Parker is dead. "

Remains. Mostly intact. Quite burned. Tony's eyes closed for a few brief seconds before peeling open and turning to the other man, "Did you see anyone approaching the car? Anything suspicious at all throughout your shift?"

The man shook his head as his eyes welled with tears, "Nothing at all, Mr. Stark."

"We will have access to the security cameras' feed in a bit and see what we might spot there," the policeman supplied. When Tony only nodded the older man asked, "Mr. Stark, if I may ask? What have the Avengers to do with this case? It seems… A bit beneath your league…"

Tony's eyes glared at him so intensely that the man took an unconscious step back. "There's nothing about May Parker that is beneath the Avenger's league! You'll shut your mouth or so help me…"

The hand that coiled around his arm made him snap his head to spot Rhodey shaking his head lightly.

Pursing his lips together he turned his steely gaze back to the taken aback policeman, Who put up placating hands, "I didn't mean to offend you or the deceased in any way, Mr. Stark. I apologize…." he said and briefly paused before adding, "We saw in her records that she is the legal guardian of a minor, Peter Parker…"

"You stay away from the kid," came Tony's sharp answer. "Check your records and you'll see I'm named his second guardian. He won't hear about this from anyone but me. Keep the damn reporters away too."

Turning on his heels Tony walked away towards the still smoking vehicle with Rhodey following close behind him. Natasha, who had just arrived, slowly approached him. The three of them were together when they received the news from their NYPD liaison and followed Tony as the rest of the team remained at the base and had already begun gathering intel on the incident and ensuring that Peter and Wanda wouldn't hear the news.

Natasha's hand rested on the cold metal armor right where the man's shoulder should be. She contemplated talking to him but couldn't come up with anything to say.

"The guard see anything?" Rhodey asked after a few silent seconds.

"No."

"Camera feed?" Natasha tried her voice low.

"Any minute now," Tony answered in that voice that made him cringe. He should get it together and fast.

"You're not alone in this," Natasha tried.

"Hell no, you ain't," Rhodey confirmed as his eyes traveled to the face of the man that was the closest to a best friend he ever had.

"I'm not the one who just lost the only family he had left," Tony answered heatedly, feeling his temper rising at the words. Like any of this was about him.

"It ain't his only family," Rhodey said in a harsh, loud tone making Tony glance at his direction momentarily.

"He'll get through this, Tony. We all will," Natasha said quietly. Her gaze traveled to the heap of hot metal and melted plastic and she felt her stomach churn. Hoping her tone held more confidence than what she actually felt at the moment she turned her eyes upwards and crossed her hands tightly across her chest.

"Mr. Stark!"

The three Avengers turned at the call and briskly headed for a small black police van. The head of the police department nodded to the inside of the vehicle, where a technician was working fast to turn on a number of screens and sync the feed from the security cameras. The five pairs of observant eyes scanned the frames again and again.

"I am sorry, but it doesn't look like there was any unusual activity captured," the technician said in an apologetic tone.

Tony turned steely eyes at his direction, "This feed is more than 19 hours long. You can't decide if there was or not any unusual activity by watching it for merely an hour," he all but barked.

The young man smiled awkwardly before answering, "It's what I do, Mr. Stark. And I'm the best there is in this department in doing it. We will spend many more hours on the tapes to ensure there is not any minor detail we might have missed, but it is more than clear that not a single person lingered or even came to close proximity to Mrs. Parker's car. We can watch this for the whole night and it won't change a thing. Whoever did this did it at another place and another time."

Before Tony made it to answer, Rhodey intervened. "Listen to the man. He knows his stuff. There ain't no point staying here. We need to go to the base. Tell Peter. Give these men some time to check the car and see what more they can find."

"They need time, Tony. And Peter will need you sooner rather than later," Natasha added.

Tony remained silent. Before any of them had the slightest chance to respond his mask snapped shut and he shot off into the sky.


It was well past four in the morning when Tony landed to the base's roof. He stepped out of the shiny armor and robotically headed to the metal door that would lead him to the inside of the vast building. When he eyed the laser scanner and his entrance was granted he walked slowly along the corridor and turned to his right to access the lined bathrooms. Stepping to the first one he slowly got out of his clothes and turned the faucet of the shower to its coldest temperature before stepping under the chilling water. As his skin crawled under the harsh cold sensation his shoulders started shaking violently. Pressing both hands on the tiled wall he let the water run over his face and opened his mouth, allowing a silent scream to escape him. Lifting his hand from where it rested supporting him he punched it savagely on the tile wall repeatedly. Panting under the cold water he watched swirls of red blood from his gushed knuckles going down the drain. He allowed himself a few more minutes, the throbbing in his hand slowly offering him something close to a sense of composure. Taking in a last trembling breath, he turned off the water and grabbed a towel. He roughly dried himself up and made quick work of dressing in the standard grey sweat pants and hoody tops provided in the adjacent closet, while also wrapping a grey t-shirt around his still bleeding hand.

When he entered his lab his hair was still dripping and he felt shivers run him over, the shock of the cold water not having completely passed.

Behind the sliding doors, a pensive Steve Rogers was leaning against one of the window frames. He turned to look at Tony entering and he grimaced slightly, unable to imagine the state the man should be in at that moment. He couldn't fathom the burden he carried on his shoulders, having not only to tell the boy he saw as his very own son of his aunt's death, but also suffer his pain and help him heal.

Tony was not surprised to see the Captain waiting for his return. He slowly walked to one of the many white chairs and collapsed in it bringing both hands up to cover his face.

Steve moved to the small bar that rested at the back of the lab and poured two glasses of whiskey. "Tony," he called quietly and watched as the other Avenger slowly rubbed his hands down his face and turn his tired eyes to him. The blonde man offered him the glass and Tony accepted gratefully immediately taking in a long sip and letting the burning sensation travel down his throat.

"I'm not cut out for this…" He said quietly after a few silent seconds, his eyes locking with the Captain's blue gaze.

"You're not cut out for this?" The other man repeated his brows furrowing.

"I can barely stand to tell him, let alone stand by him, Steve! Let alone help him through it!" Tony all but yelled.

Steve's countenance turned grim as he informed the man in a harsh tone, "You should have thought of that before you decided to play the kid's mentor, then! He's not a damn dog that you get to play with whenever you feel like it, Tony! He's a kid. A kid you love and care for. A kid who has only you right about now, so don't you dare stand there and tell me you're not cut out for this! You don't get to back out on this one!"

"I never planned to be his parental-whatever figure, Steve! I was to be his mentor. To help train him! Of course, I care for him, I freaking love the kid! I'd give my life to protect him without a second thought, but I'm not parent material," the man said emphasizing the last three words of his short speech.

"What you just described is exactly what parent material is like," Steve yelled angrily.

"What the fuck happens if I screw up?"

"What the fuck happens if you don't even try?"

Remaining silent at the man's retort Tony shook his head, gulping down another sip of his drink.

Steve sighed and sat on a chair close to the man, willing himself to calm down. "You're not alone in this, Tony. You have Pepper, you have us. Peter does as well. But who he'll need most right now, is you. If you could step out of your comfort zone enough to discipline him when needed, to give him dating advise, to accept to become his guardian in case anything happened to May, then you can most certainly stand by him through this and honor your word to her."

"I know I can. But I doubt I can do it right," Tony replied in a hushed tone.

"I doubt any decent parent, biological or otherwise anywhere on this earth would claim he could. Hell, I don't know what I'd do if I were in your shoes. I can't imagine how hard this will be. But I sure as hell know you're more capable than you give yourself credit for. And you're sure as hell that kid's choice. He sought you out. He accepted your role in his life. You are the only one he has left. You and us. Don't make him go through losing you as well, Tony. Don't you dare to even think about it."

The Captain's words sunk in slowly. They offered a sense of logic and coherence to the turmoil that raged in his head. "You're right," Tony said evenly. Gulping the rest of his drink down he set the glass on the desk behind him decisively before getting to his feet. "I need to call Pepper," he told Steve.

The man nodded taking the hint. He got to his feet as well and strode towards the sliding doors, "I'll give you a minute," he called over his shoulders, "Join us downstairs afterward, Tony. Please?"

"Yeah. Will do," Tony answered curtly.


The sudden ring made the slumbering woman stir. A hand fumbled on the nightstand until she found her cell phone and a disheveled strawberry blonde head turned to check the caller id. Brow furrowing worriedly at the time she sat up on the bed and immediately answered.

"Tony?"

"Hey, babe…"

"What's wrong? Is everyone alright?" Pepper asked all traces of sleep leaving her at the sound of his tone. "Tony! Talk to me!" She snapped when only silence met her question.

"It's May…"

"What about May?" The woman asked confused.

"She's gone, Peps. Her car was bombed. It blew up a few hours ago when she started her engine. She's… She's gone."

The woman remained silent for many seconds. "No, this can't be," she whispered after her long pause, tears welling up in her eyes. "Does Peter know?" She asked as she jumped onto her feet and hurried to the wardrobe hastily retrieving fresh clothes.

"No. It happened earlier tonight. He's still sleeping," the man answered as evenly as he could.

"Oh, Tony… Look I'm getting ready real quick and will join you at the base in less than an hour, ok?"

"Peps…"

Pepper felt a couple of tears rolling down her cheeks at his desperate tone. "It will be alright, Tony. I promise. It will be alright. I'll organize everything, you'll see..."

"I can't leave him. He has no other family. I can't…"

"You won't have to. We'll get through this. He has a family. He has us. You're already named as his guardian. It can't be that hard. I'll call the lawyers on my way there to see what needs to be done. Leave that to me, you just hang in there until I get to you, ok? "

"Oh, babe..." Tony trailed relieved.

"You don't worry about a thing. I'm on my way. We'll fix this…"

Snorting lightly at her words he shook his head, "Not even you can fix this, Peps."

The woman bit her lip and nodded on the other line, "No, you're right. I can't fix it. But I can damn well try. Hang in there. Make sure you're with him when he wakes up. It's best if he hears it from you and not the news, his phone or his friends."

"Yeah… see you in a bit, then."

"I love you, Tony."

"Love you too," the man said quietly before ending the call. Walking slowly he got out of the lab and headed to the lower levels and towards Peter's room. He cracked his door open and watched him sleeping peacefully, snoring lightly. A small, sad smile played on his lips at the picture. He wished with all his heart that time could freeze and that Peter would never have to face what that morning would bring.


Wanda's eyes opened wide and she shot up from her bed with a loud gasp. Her hand pressed on her chest, where her heart felt beating angrily. She looked around her bewildered trying to steady her heartbeat with deep breaths. Glancing at the clock on her nightstand she groaned frustratedly. It was only five in the morning. She briefly contemplated trying to sleep again but her racing heart and crystal clear mind made her realize that would be a battle lost. She stood up and slipped her feet into her slippers before quietly walking to the box where Chewbacca was. Smiling softly at the small sleeping figure before she continued out of the room and towards the kitchen.

Her eyes squinted worriedly with every step she took. There were too many lights on for this hour of the day. Dialogue and movement could be heard from various rooms. Hastening her steps she brought her hands to hug her slim frame as she hesitantly walked into the kitchen area.

"Steve? Tony?" The girl asked upon spotting them there. "What's going on?"

The two men looked at her surprised from their stools on the kitchen's island. Their tired faces and Tony's red-rimmed eyes did not escape her and the intense sense of worry that woke her up multiplied. "What's wrong?" She repeated.

Steve glanced at Tony before turning at her solemnly, "There was an emergency downtown, darling. Why are you up so early?"

The girl only shrugged her face still worried.

"Wanda?" Tony's voice sounded next. She knew it was him because he was right there, but if she couldn't see him she'd not recognize that hoarse and quiet tone even if she tried. All traces of the man's signature confidence and humor were gone.

She instinctively walked close to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. "What's going on?" She almost whispered for the third time, part of him knowing she'd regret asking.

Tony took in a shaky breath. "It's May. She… She uh… Her car was bombed. She's gone."

The girl remained dumbfounded. "How can this be possible? Peter was talking to her just last night!"

Steve stood from his stool walked behind her and placed both hands on her shoulders massaging them soothingly. "It was a shock for all of us, love. But it's true," he told the young witch.

"As you can understand this will not be easy on Peter... " Tony said in the same disconcerting tone.

"What will not be easy on me?"

All three eyes shot up nervously at the words. Peter stood in the kitchen entrance disheveled from sleep and stifling in a yawn. At the looks, he received he felt a bit uneasily. "What? What's going on? Why are you all up at this hour? Some of us have enhanced hearing you know and we can't sleep if you're all roaming about and talking all night long…"

At the almost pained expressions, he received as an answer all humor was lost from him. "Guys, C'mon! What's up?"

Tony quickly got to his feet and walked to the young man placing an arm around his shoulders, "How about we head up to your room for a bit? I'll get you up to speed."

Looking at the man a bit confused Peter relaxed in his arms and the two of them took the short walk to his room. Once inside Tony closed the door and gestured for Peter to sit on his bed as he slowly joined him.

Peter watched his mentor's body language with increasing uneasiness. Something was seriously off. "Tony I'm beginning to freak out…"

Taking in a shaky breath the man's brown gaze met Peter's. "Pete, first of all, I need you to remember that you're not alone. You have me and Pepper and all of the team at your side…"

Peter's brow wrinkled even more confused at the seemingly irrelevant words. "Uh… Ok, sure… I mean, I know that, yeah…" he commented impatiently.

"It's about May…"

Peter felt a knot forming in his stomach. "What's wrong with May? She alright?" He immediately asked.

Tony cursed silently when he felt his own eyes welling up. He had rehearsed a hundred of different ways to break the news while waiting for the kid to wake up, but at the moment every single one of them felt useless and ridiculous. "Pete… She's… She's gone," He finally managed to say and watched closely at the kid as he felt his composure slowly cracking.

Peter shook his head, his face turning even more confused. A ghost of realization slowly emerged in his mind but he violently pushed it away. It couldn't be… "Gone where? Business trip?"

"Someone booby-trapped her car with explosives… It blew up when she started it last night, while she was leaving work," the man said in a trembling voice.

Peter let out a short snort of awkward disbelieving laughter. "Wh… What are you talking about? What…" His confused expression started giving its place to a pained shocked one. "What are you saying?" He all but yelled.

Clasping his shoulder soothingly the man said quietly, "I'm sorry, Peter. She's dead. May is dead."

Peter remained silent. His lips opened and moved but no sound came out. He felt his brain numbing for a few seconds before a loud buzzing started rumbling in his ears. "No…. No, no, no! This… This can't be true. There must be some sort of mistake… I… I'll call her and she'll pick up, you'll see," he mumbled as he grabbed his phone from his nightstand and quickly called May's number.

"Pete…" Tony tried scooting a bit closer. "She won't pick up, Peter… We were called after it happened, we went there… I'm sorry, I'm so sorry but…"

"No!" Peter yelled as he shot to his feet. He angrily called again and again. Each time he heard that the number he was reaching was disconnected he felt his knees weakening. "NO!" He finally screamed and tossed his phone with all the strength he had left on the opposite wall and watched it break into pieces, as he crumbled to his knees on the carpeted floor.

Tony kneeled right beside him hugging him tightly and trying desperately not to completely lose it himself. He thought of what he could say. He knew he should promise the kid that everything would finally get better, that he'd get through this… But he couldn't bring himself to do so. His mind traveled to the moment he was informed for his own parents' deaths. The empty promises of everyone around him that attempted to soothe but only served to anger him deeply. Pressing a kiss to the kid's hair he rocked him lightly as he felt the racking sobs that shook the thin frame. "I know… I know, Pete. I'm here," he whispered.

Peter brought both hands to press over his ears. The buzzing had turned to intense ringing. He felt so numb and at the same time so desperate that he would gladly rip his own brain out if it meant the intensity of it all would stop. He stood on shaking feet and angrily wiped at his eyes before turning to Tony, "Leave me alone."

Tony stood as well attempting to come close to him again, "Pete…"

"No! P… Please… Just… I need to be alone! Please, T...Tony! J...Just go," he managed through his sobs.

The man stood there at a complete loss of what he should do. The following scream of "GO!" that came out of Peter made him robotically move out of the room.

"I'll be right outside. Right outside your door," he told the teen who stalked behind him and slammed his door closed. Turning his back to lean on the doorframe he slowly let himself slide down and sit on the floor. He closed his eyes and tried his best to keep his calm at the violent screams and sobs that traveled through the wooden door after a few minutes.


Peter's eyes remained glued on his laptop's screen, while he replayed the video for what should be the hundredth time. As he expected the Avengers had already obtained a copy of the security cameras' feed and he had little difficulty hacking into the system and retrieving it to watch. His eyes were bloodshot red from the endless crying and dry from the hours he spent in front of his screen. His face illuminated by the colorful lights the screen emitted in the otherwise dark room. No matter how many times he watched it though, there was not a single detail that could convey what or how the incident happened.

His mind was racing but he felt completely numb by now. All he could think of and do was research. He needed to know who was behind this. Who's fault all of this was. Scrolling through every news site he could think of, he read, again and again, the details that were shared and the comments of the readers, in hopes that someone might have known or noticed something that escaped him. He watched the images of his aunt's last moments again and again, robotically, unable to comprehend or process the terminality of what had happened.

He didn't know what he expected to find, or how he'd find it, he only knew he wanted one single thing more than anything else in the world. Revenge. For the woman who raised him. For the aunt that sacrificed everything for him. For an innocent person who someone killed so purposefully.

What should've been the thirtieth knock on his door for that day made him dart his eyes away from the screen momentarily.

"Pete? It's me," came Wanda's voice. "Please let me in… You've been in there all day…"

Peter felt a bit surprised at her words. Glancing at his screen he noticed that it was almost nine in the evening. Hesitating for a second he shuffled to the door and opened it.

The girl all but gasped at the opening door. She didn't expect her friend to let her in. She, Tony even Steve and Natasha had made numerous attempts before to no avail. She looked at him with sincere concern and sorrow, managing to whisper "I'm so sorry…"

"You want something?" Peter answered a bit more curtly than he intended, noticing his voice sounded hoarse and alien in his own ears.

"Just to make sure you're ok… You should eat something…"

Peter shook his head and attempted to close the door again but Wanda was fast in sliding inside before he could make it.

"Look, I appreciate it, but I don't want company right now," the boy grunted out. He remained at his door holding it open making it quite clear he wanted her out. He wasn't even sure why he opened his door in the first place. Seeing the young witch simply sitting on his carpeted floor next to his bed made him sigh frustratedly. He slammed the door shut mumbling a "suit yourself" as he returned to his seat behind the computer.

Wanda's eyes followed him but she didn't risk asking him to join her just yet.

Biting her lip she asked hesitantly, "what are you watching?" At his stubborn silence, she got back to her feet and moved behind him. Hands shooting to cover her mouth she didn't even give it a second thought before slamming the laptop shut looking at her friend in a deeply shaken expression.

"What the hell?" Peter yelled angrily shooting up from his chair.

"Exactly! What the hell are you doing watching that? Why are you doing this to yourself?"

"I need to know who did this! You have no right... You have no fucking idea how it feels..."

Wanda's eyes filled with rage as she locked them with his. "Wanna run that through your fucked up brain one more time?" She retorted in an icy whisper.

Peter's expression turned from angry, to surprised, to shocked in a matter of seconds. "I... Sorry... I didn't mean…" Running out of words and energy he moved around the girl and threw himself on his bed, hiding his face with his sweaty palms.

Wanda sat beside him after a couple of seconds. When she spoke again her tone was soft. "Look, I know, that all you care about at the moment is to find out the who and the why... But I also know that in a few months all you'll care about is that you never spent these days and hours saying goodbye and getting some closure."

"How can I get closure when the fucker behind this is still out there? How can I say goodbye, when all I can think about is how I wish was in the car with her?" The last words came out as a whisper but made Wanda gulp uneasily.

"Hey! Don't talk like that! That's the last thing May would want for you. And stop pretending you've got nobody else left... Cause we might not be May, but we sure as hell are family. It was you that reminded me of that not that long ago... And we're all here for you, Pete. We all want to be here for you..."

Her friend remained silent for quite a few seconds. Her words made sense, but he simply couldn't process anything at the moment. Everything inside his mind and heart felt consumed by a huge black hole. "Is Tony still here?" He finally asked.

"He spent a good six hours on the floor outside your door before Pepper and Steve managed to persuade him to get some rest. He's in the kitchen now, fussing about with Pepper trying to prepare something you might consider touching..."

At his silence, she risked adding, "They really wanna see you, Pete. Come downstairs for just a bit, eat something... It will be good for you I promise..."

The young man contemplated that for a while. He didn't want to see anyone and exiting the room could mean bumping to any of the base's numerous habitats. On the other hand, he didn't want Tony and Pepper freaking out and spending their time waiting for him to decide if he's got enough balls to leave his room. Turning to Wanda he asked, "Are the others still around?"

"Only Steve at the moment. The rest are out, gathering intel and patrolling."

"Can you make sure Steve won't be downstairs? I really can't bear seeing anyone other Tony and Pepper right now."

"He's at his office. I'll join him there in a bit after feeding Chewbacca."

His mind finding a glimpse of a light at the mention of the tiny creature he asked, "How is he doing?"

"He's adjusting... He eats a bit more with every feeding..."

"Cool..." the boy said and slowly rose to his feet. He realized his knees felt weak and that just the thought of seeing Pepper and Tony led to a heavy lump forming in his throat. Knowing there were things that needed to be taken care of he gathered all of his courage and strength and made his way out of his room. His sock-adorned feet sounded quiet as he lightly stepped along the corridors and down the stairs. As he turned around a corner he spotted his reflection on a wall mirror and grimaced at how awful he looked. His hair disheveled and dull, his skin pale with dark black circles under his puffy, red eyes. The idea of freshening up just to avoid worrying Tony and Pepper crossed his mind, but he quickly decided he wouldn't, or rather didn't feel like he could, even if he wanted.

When his figure slowly appeared in the kitchen area, it was Pepper that saw him first. Dropping the knife she was using to slice a loaf of bread that rested on the kitchen island in front of her, she rushed to the teen and hugged him tightly.

Peter remained rigid in her arms. The feminine smell and tight embrace reminded him of May so hard that it felt like a punch in the gut. Trying his best to swallow the tears that threatened to fall he gently pushed her away and glanced at the woman biting his lip uneasily.

Pepper let him take his distance and spoke in a soft tone, "I am really sorry, Peter."

Peter only nodded lightly, his teeth sinking harder and deeper in his lower lip. When the rusty taste of blood assaulted his senses he eased the pressure up a bit and turned his head to glance at Tony.

The man looked older than he did yesterday. Peter could swear every wrinkle had deepened and every grey hair had gone greyer.

"I just wanted to let you know not to worry and that I'm ok," the kid offered lamely.

"Pete..." Tony tried but when he attempted to step closer to him, the teen took a step back.

"I... I hate to bother you with this, but, I think I need some help with the arrangements. I googled it, but I really don't know where to... Where to start..."

Pepper shook her head reassuringly, "We'll take care of everything, love".

"I need to get home too... Find her contact list, call her friends... She loves... Loved... Irises. So we should have irises..."

"I'll take you to the flat first thing tomorrow. And we'll arrange for irises and anything else you'd like. You're not alone in this, Pete. I'm here, Peps' here... Every single one of the Avengers is here..."

Peter ignored the words. He didn't know if he believed them but he couldn't bring himself to care. Not right now anyway. "Any news?"

Tony answered truthfully ignoring Pepper's whispered 'don't!'. "The police found the explosive mechanism. We have our technicians examining it already. You need to eat... How about I set the table for the three of us..."

"No, I... I couldn't eat even if I wanted... Maybe tomorrow. I'll head back to my room. Meet you here at eight in the morning?"

Sighing, the man nodded. Before the young man made it to turn his back Tony took the few steps between them and hugged the slim frame tightly. Peter rested his head on the man's chest for a couple of seconds before breaking the embrace and rushing out, angrily wiping away the fresh tears.


"How do you think he is? Devastated. He barely talks, hasn't eaten and I seriously doubt he'll get any sleep..." Wanda said quietly, glancing at Quill's face on her laptop screen.

"I tried calling him..."

"He broke his phone. I saw the pieces when I went into his room..."

"You think M-J knows?"

"Crap... I hadn't thought about her... But... I mean it's all over local news..." she said and paused briefly. "Fuck... She'll be freaked out not being able to reach him..."

"You realize you should call her, right?" The blonde quipped looking at the girl almost apologetically.

"Yeah... I guess it's the least I can do..."

"When's the funeral?"

"I guess the day after tomorrow. We'll know for sure when they arrange everything," she answered distantly. "Will you come?"

"Of course. I wanna be there for Peter and you," he answered and then added,

"How are you holding up?" Quill asked then, his eyes boring into hers intently.

Wanda scoffed a bit. "It's not me that lost my only living relative, Q..."

"No, but you're the one who lost her own only living relative a few years back. Now I'm not the best there is in catching on feelings and stuff, but, I'd bet this hasn't been easy on you..."

Wanda shifted her gaze to the keyboard in front of her and picked on one of the keys for a few seconds. "You're not wrong. It's been two years, yet, since this morning, It's like... Like it happened all over again... And I hate it, 'coz this is not about me. I shouldn't get to make this about me, you know? It's been years, I should have got used it..."

Grimacing slightly he retorted, "You never get used to it, babe. Ever. You learn to live with it but that's about it."

Eyes glossing over a bit she quipped, "We're some group, aren't we? Super Orphan Club New York," she said and the nervous laugh that escaped her lips almost immediately turned to a soft sob as a few tears trickled down her paler than usual face.

Quill's eyes squinted a bit and he sat up from his lounging position, "You want me to come over?"

"More than anything, but don't," she said sniffing once and wiping the moisture away hastily. "Pete is not up for company and the same goes for everyone else around here. We'll see about tomorrow, 'k?"

Nodding the older teen conceded. "Sure, babe," he said after another second. Wanting desperately to make her feel a bit better he brought up the only thing bound to make her smile a little. "So, How's Chew?"


Wearing the pair of loose, blue jeans he had with him and a dark blue hoodie, Peter jogged down the stairs towards the kitchen. He wished more than anything that his phone would be still working so that he could plug in his earphones and block everyone that might attempt to talk to him out. That ship had sailed through and the only thing he could do was pulling up his hood, thankful that it was large enough to cover him effectively. Taking in a deep breath hr gritted his teeth and wished with all his heart that nobody would be down at this hour other than Tony. The base that always felt to him like the best place to be with the coolest people to hang, was now suffocating him.

His mentor was just placing a plate with toast and scrambled eggs on the kitchen island as the teen stepped inside. Raising his eyes he offered a small smile at Peter as he motioned with his head to the breakfast plate and turned around to fetch a glass of orange juice as well, "Good morning, Pete."

"Morning," Peter mumbled. When Tony turned around to place the glass next to the plate he asked him, "Aren't we leaving immediately?"

"No, I want you to eat at least half of your breakfast. I know food's the last thing in your mind right now, but you'll need your energy," Tony said in what he hoped came out as a tone that didn't leave room for negotiation.

To his surprise, Peter sat on the stool and started eating in silence. "Did you manage to get any sleep?" The man asked after a few seconds.

The kid shook his head and glanced at the man before retorting, "Neither did you, right?"

Nodding the man answered evenly, "Right."

"Pepper? Isn't she coming?" The teen asked again his eyes never leaving his plate this time.

"She'll join us a bit later. She had to meet with our lawyers for a while and work out some things for the funeral. When she's done she'll come find us at your home and run things over with you, as well. If of course, you want to."

The man's tone, laced with worry, made Peter look up and nod reassuringly, "Yeah, thanks. I'd like that."

Seeing the kid gulping down the last of the juice and the plate in front of him mostly empty by now, Tony asked, "Ready to go then?"

Peter nodded relieved and followed the man out of the massive building hastily. The drive was mostly silent. Peter had to open the window more than once to let in some fresh cold air, as the images of his aunt's car exploding invaded his mind randomly, making him feel sick. Once Tony parked right below the building that had been his home for most of his life, Peter remained still in his seat.

The man turned to look at him worriedly. "If you don't feel ready to get in there yet, I can go fetch whatever you need. You don't have to…"

"No," Peter cut him off immediately. "I need to." With these words, he took in a shaking breath and slowly exited the car before walking towards the entrance.

Tony followed close behind, watching as Peter took out his keys with trembling hands and allowed them entrance to the tall building. After another minute the two of them stood in front of the large wooden door of Peter and May's apartment.

Peter slowly unlocked and opened the door. He walked inside tentatively. The place he used to call home felt strange, empty, and cold. Shivering slightly he slowly walked towards the living room and glanced at the coffee table, easily spotting his aunt's laptop. Taking it in his hands he turned to his left and headed for the woman's room. Once inside, the light tint of her perfume washed over him like a warm blanket. Fighting back tears he placed the device on the bed, plugging it in on the charger that was resting on the left nightstand and turned it on.

He then moved to the closet and opened it. He ran a hand over the various garments hanging there. The thought of choosing something for her had crossed his mind the night before, but he soon remembered there wasn't a whole body to dress left. That the funeral would be a closed-casket one. He didn't attempt to stop his tears now. Closing the closet's door he turned to walk to her nightstand. He grabbed her perfume without a second thought, along with a small plush koala that he had gifted her when he was nine on her birthday. Walking back to the bed he placed the two objects next to him before sitting on the soft mattress, opening her email, and clicking to compose a new email.

Tony chose that moment to step inside to make sure his young charge was alright. He leaned on the doorframe and watched the teen staring at the screen as tears rolled down his cheeks. Hoping he had different words to offer he softly asked, "Pepper called. She wanted to make sure you're ok with arranging the burial in Calvary Cemetery? There are is a funeral home she knows nearby and we could arrange everything for tomorrow morning."

Peter glanced up with an almost desperate look in his eyes. The absurdity of the situation felt too much to bear. He nodded without a second thought. All he wanted was for all this surreal nightmare to end.

Tony took out his phone and wrote a quick text to let Pepper know she could proceed with everything. He remained still watching Peter for another minute before a new short text made his phone vibrate.

'10 o' clock, November 4th, Clater's Funeral Home. Burial in Calvary Cemetery 11:30'.

Peter's trembling voice made him look away from the screen a second later. "What the hell do I write? Dear all, your friend is dead. Come see us putting her down a hole in the ground…" He said bitterly as he wiped away his tears angrily.

Tony felt his stomach churn as he slowly walked close to Peter and sat himself at the edge of the bed. Turning the laptop a bit towards him he rested his fingers on the keyboard for only a few seconds before quickly typing, 'Forever in our hearts. Please join us on November 4th at 10 a. Clater's Funeral Home, to offer our goodbyes to May Parker, beloved aunt, and friend."

"How does that sound?" the man asked quietly.

Peter's racking sobs filled the room next. Leaning onto the man, he let it all out not caring how weak or stupid he might look.

Tony's arms circled the thin frame, he rubbed the heaving back soothingly.

Peter heard through his intensely ringing ears the man offering comforting words but nothing could calm down the waves of raw pain that pulsed through him. "I c...can't. C...can't do this. J...just s...send it to anyone on h...her email list… I d...don't care…" he managed to get out through his cries

"It's ok… I will. I will take care of everything. You don't have to worry about a thing," Tony tried desperately to calm him down. "I'm here, Peter. I'm right here."


Never had a smell make him feel as sick as that of the freshly dug soil did at that very moment. Peter fought with all his might not to throw up. Not to run. Not to scream for everyone to get lost and leave him alone with the plot of dirt and marble plaque that hosted what remained of the only mother he had ever known. Despite the crisp cold, the sun was shining brightly. To Peter it felt wrong. The sun should not dare shine. Not on a day like this. People were softly murmuring behind him. He had politely nodded and offered half smiles to all the condolences he had received. Standing next to the marble cross he watched the black adorned figures scattering away. One by one, everyone left, except for a small bunch of people that hesitantly stood a few feet away watching him discreetly.

The Avengers stood together silently. Wanda was leaning in Quill's arms looking exhausted. MJ and Ned were standing side by side, unsure of who to talk to or to look at. Peter's eyes turned back to the spot of earth in front of him. Lowering himself to one knee he watched a couple of tears fall onto the dark soil. He took a last glance at the engraved letters on the light grey marble. He ran his hands over them shivering at its coldness.

'May Parker. Your love shall light the way.'


A/N: Please let me know what you thought of this chapter. I felt very nervous about writing it and I'd really like some feedback and insight!

Chapter Text

A/N: Hello dear readers! I'm in the middle of major life-mayhem, so I can't really promise when the next update gonna be, but good news are that on June 25th I'll have finished with my master and will only have work to worry about, so some more updates and some sort of schedule will hopefully form. Thank you to everyone who has commented and left kudos so far. I really hope to hear your thoughts on this one as well. Maybe some thoughts on Peter's reaction and choices once you read them! Writing these last couple of chapters wasn't easy, but I loved the process. I really hope you'll also enjoy it as much as I did! Enough of my babbling! Please enjoy & kudos/comment!

P.S. Big thanks to my amazing Beta! 


The head of light brown hair glanced around him in what could be described as mild indifference. He had felt a huge wave of relief when they arrived at the funeral home a couple of hours ago. The reception room that Pepper had booked was the best possible choice - if such a thing existed in this situation. There was nothing reminding him even vaguely of old people. The walls were painted a light beige color that contrasted beautifully with the white ceiling, in the center of which there was a large, clear-glass dome that allowed the beautiful day's natural light wash over the room. An impressive chandelier with colorful crystals hung in the center of the room, right below the dome. As the light poured in the hanging crystals sent flashes of orange, yellow, blue and purple all around the room. On the far wall of the large space, there was a buffet filled with an array of savory and sweet finger-food choices. Scattered tables with elegant chairs and small couches and armchairs gave the impression of a stylish bistro, where people should be enjoying their drinks and food and celebrating life. Yet, the prominently displayed large picture of May that stood next to a table with lit candles and beautiful arrangements of purple irises and light blue hydrangeas, was a painful reminder of what this gathering was really about.

Peter forced what should be the hundredth half-smile of that day, as yet another person he didn't know or remember offered her condolences and lamely attempted to explain to Peter from where she knew his aunt. Like that would somehow make some kind of a difference.

The boy sighed in relief as the female figure slowly walked away. Glancing around him he was grateful to see that Tony and the rest of the Avengers were currently gathered and talking quietly in one corner of the room. He had barely had a single second to himself since the sun rose that blasted day and there was nothing he wanted more than that. Walking briskly he pretended to be heading to the men's room just in case any worried set of eyes caught his movements. When he reached the door, though, he made a sharp left and all but ran to the grande hall that led out of the room he had just fled from. He walked hastily on the carpeted floor, exited the building, and didn't slow down until he was safely hidden behind a large oak tree.

Taking in a much-needed breath of fresh air he brought his hand to his neck and loosened the knot of his tie, that felt like it was strangling him. Closing his eyes he tried his best to keep his mind vacant. He couldn't deal with thoughts or memories of his aunt. He couldn't handle any more cute or funny stories starring May or even the odd one featuring both her and Ben, cordially provided by some of their oldest friends. He couldn't stand more of MJ's questions over how he was holding up and if she could do anything for him. No more of Quill's silent shoulder pats, no more of Tony's over-worried glances, or Pepper's attempts to get him to eat, or Steve's worried "are you alright"s. No more of Natasha stealthily watching and following his every move, and Clint's failed attempts of small-talk. No more Sam's 'it's gonna be ok's, and no more of Bruce's awkwardness around him, or Rhodey's "chin up, Spidey"s. No. He was done. Done!

Right on cue with that thought, a middle-aged man dressed in a long dark grey coat and sporting a black fedora leisurely strolled close to the boy. Peter braced himself for what was coming, but was surprised, when no words left the man's lips. The boy watched him retrieving a pack of cigarettes from his coat's pocket and taking one out. Once the pack was returned to its rightful place, he lit the cigarette he had already placed between his lips with a lighter he held in his left hand. Drawing in a good amount of smoke he held his breath for a few seconds. When he finally let the smoke out, Peter noticed his eyes briefly closing and his kind of tense posture relaxing.

When the man opened his eyes again he turned them to Peter. He regarded him through his glasses for a few seconds before offering a small smile, "Would you like one? I certainly wouldn't blame you after today," he said in a slightly nasal voice.

Peter did not answer immediately. Not out of any desire to try out smoking. It just startled him that a middle-aged man actually offered him a cigarette. "No… Uhm... No, thank you," he finally told the man, before turning his gaze away and letting it float around the premises of the funeral home.

He listened in as the man audibly exhaled another puff of smoke. Almost on their own accord, his eyes glanced back at him. "How did you know her?" He asked, surprising even himself. Minutes ago he couldn't stand another person talking to him about his aunt and now he was actually asking one to do exactly that.

The man shook his head lightly. "I barely did. You could say I had bumped onto her once or twice at the bank..." The man trailed. "I heard the news the other day, though, and I I just couldn't help but come and pay my respects," he continued.

Peter felt an odd sense of relief. The man didn't know May. He didn't know him. He didn't know his past. He turned to lock gazes with him as he simply stated, "She was my aunt."

"Oh, I see," the man said grimacing lightly. He took off his hat and the morning light poured over his face. He seemed a bit older than what Peter had initially thought. His balding hair was dark grey and his face was visibly wrinkled. What mainly caught his attention, though, was the large scar that spread from below his left eye to just below the left side of his thin lips. "My sincere condolences," the man said.

Peter felt relieved that there was no pity lacing the words. "Thank you," he answered evenly and watched the man throw the butt of the cigarette on the grass and stomping on it.

His expression now apologetic the man turned to Peter offering a hand, "Where are my manners? I am Christopher. Christopher Meyers."

"Peter Parker," the boy answered as he shook the offered appendage.

The man's face turned thoughtful and contemplating for a while. When he finally spoke he sounded resolved and somewhat colder. "Well, Peter, outside of paying my respects to your lovely aunt, there is a second reason I came here today."

"Yeah?" Peter asked awkwardly, unsure of what else the man could possibly want at a funeral.

"Yeah," the man smirked. He paused long enough to take out and light a second cigarette. He drew in a long puff of smoke and started speaking as he slowly let it out. "The thing is, Peter, I know what happened to her was not an accident."

Peter was left staring at the man in shocked silence for a few seconds. That was the last thing he expected to hear. "What the hell are you talking about?" He finally asked, his voice tight in his throat and his fists balling.

"I am talking about helping you. Helping you find her killers," the man said nonchalantly, as he stared at Peter with unwavering eyes through a dissolving could of tobacco smoke.

"Who the fuck are you?" Peter asked his tone low. He felt a wave of anger intense and raw starting simmering inside him. How dared this person lie to his face. Taunt him with something like that, today of all days. Because this couldn't be true, could it. He couldn't know. He simply couldn't.

"We covered that already, didn't we? I'm Christopher Meyers. The guy who has intel you want. And that's all you need for now," the man said unfazed. His eyes traveled from the teenager to a figure that was hastily approaching somewhere behind the kid. "We can't talk anymore right now. It seems daddy-wannabe is worried." As Peter's shocked expression deepened, he chuckled. "Yeah, kid. Let's just say I know a lot more about you than you do for me. You wanna learn who's behind this? Meet me tomorrow. Astoria Park, at noon. Come alone or don't come at all." With these words, the man turned his back to Peter and started walking briskly away.

"Hey!" Peter yelled after him angrily. When he received no answer he cursed under his breath and landed a hard kick to the closest tree trunk.

"Pete?"

Peter rolled his eyes but willed himself to calm down as he slowly turned to face a fast-approaching Tony. "Yeah, Tony… I just needed some air," he said stiffly.

The man stopped walking and stood a few feet away from the kid regarding him intently. "Yeah, that's fine. I get it," he commented. Glancing at the departing figure he asked, "Friend of May's?"

Peter said nothing for a while before finally nodding. "Yeah, he knew her from the bank."

Tony nodded and took a step closer to the kid. He looked pale and tired and Tony knew he'd rather be at any place except the one he was currently at. "Do you want me to take you home?" The man asked. "You don't have to stay here any longer if you don't want to…"

Peter thought that over. "You would?" He finally asked.

"Of course, Pete, what kind of question is that? We can go to my place or the base or the apartment… Anywhere you'd feel more comfortable at. To be honest I'd feel much better if you managed to get something inside of you and catch some sleep."

The teenager turned his brown orbs towards his mentor. Meyers' words were still dancing in his mind and even though he wasn't one hundred percent sure he believed him he wanted to meet him tomorrow and see what more he could get out of him. Feeling a pang of guilt for using Tony like this, he nodded his agreement. "I'd like to stay in the apartment today if that's ok with you. And I really, really want to get out of here…"

The man offered a small smile at his words. "Go wait by the car then. I'll go grab my keys and meet you there."


Peter stared at his room's ceiling for what felt like hours, when in fact, he had laid in his bed less than thirty minutes ago, leaving Tony fussing around in the kitchen.

When he turned to his side in a vain attempt to feel more comfortable he heard the quiet knock on his door.

"Yeah?"

Tony opened the door and peeked his head inside, "Still awake?" he simply asked.

Peter turned to lay on his back glaring at the man. "It's not like I'm doing it on purpose you know," he felt the need to claim.

Tony ignored the tone and simply stepped inside the teen's room closing the door behind him. Taking the few steps to the bed he promptly sat on it, kicking his shoes off and resting his back against the headboard.

"What are you doing?" Peter asked in an incredulous tone.

"Resting my feet for a bit. And since you're not asleep I wouldn't mind the company," the man answered evenly.

Peter chose not to call his bluff and simply huffed in a half-assed try to appear annoyed. "I thought you would make us lunch..."

"Yeah, about that… It appears I can't make anything beyond a sandwich. So that ain't gonna happen. We'll order something in later," the man said as he made himself comfortable next to the teen.

"Fine," Peter huffed.

"A lot of people showed up," the man commented after a couple of silent seconds.

"A lot of people loved her," Peter answered in a hushed tone.

"A lot of people love you as well," Tony tucked on.

Peter rolled his eyes before closing them and turning his back to the man, laying on his left side. He really wasn't in the mood for another heartfelt conversation filled with promises of a rosy-future-filled-with-love-and-imaginary-families. He was all alone and it was high time he came to terms with that.

"How are you feeling?" The man asked after a while.

"Not like talking," the teen got out through gritted teeth.

"Peter, all this is going to be so much easier on you if you manage to open up a bit," Tony said in a desperate attempt to get the kid talking. All the articles he had read over the last 24 hours about grief and loss stressed how important communication was between the grieving teen and their support system. None mentioned how the crap he was supposed to manage getting said teen to communicate, though. When his words were met yet again with silence he closed his eyes cursing the stupid shrink-articles and all their apparently good-for-nothing theories. When he opened his eyes again, his gaze traveled to the slim frame that laid curled up beside him. Without giving it much thought, he brought his hand to soothingly run through the brown messy locks of hair.

"Tony," Peter groaned. "Stop babying me and leave me alone."

"No," the man simply answered. He noticed that despite his words the kid made no attempt to get up or move away from his touch. With every gentle movement of his hand, Peter's posture seemed to relax more and more. Tony continued for quite a few minutes watching closely for the telltale signs of sleep. Soon enough Peter's legs and hands unclenched, while his breathing grew slower and deeper. The man felt a small weight lifting off his chest. At least he managed to get the kid to rest. Not risking moving and causing even the slightest disturbance to the sleeping young man beside him, he simply kept running his fingers through the soft hair. Soon enough his own eyes grew heavy until they fluttered closed.


Tony was lounging at the living room couch late that same evening. He and Peter had woken up well into the afternoon. He managed to get the kid to eat some of the soup he ordered in, but had no such luck in persuading him to spend some more time with him. As soon as Peter was done eating he had locked himself in his room. Tony knocked a couple of times in a vain attempt to get him to come out, but Peter simply ignored him each and every time.

When a light knock on the apartment's door sounded the man got to his feet and hurried to answer it, already knowing who it was.

"I come bearing gifts," Pepper declared, holding a bottle of wine prominently in her hands. She stepped inside offering the man a small smile and a light kiss on his lips.

"Have I told you how much I love you lately?" Tony asked looking at the woman gratefully.

"You might have mentioned it. Now go get us two glasses please," the woman answered as she immediately stepped out of her black high heels sighing in relief.

When Tony returned to the living room, glasses and opened bottle in hand, he found her curled up on the sofa. "Why don't you call Pete to join us?" She asked.

"Yeah, like that's gonna work… He came out to eat something when he woke up…"

"He slept?" Pepper interrupted surprised.

"Yes," Tony simply answered sitting close to the woman. "For about four hours. We had some soup and then he locked himself in there again and won't come out," he added as he filled the two tall glasses with the ruby colored liquid. Offering one to Pepper he asked, "Everything ok with the reception?"

The woman accepted the glass gratefully. "Yes, everything was great. Most guests left soon after you and Peter really."

"Then what took you so long?"

"May's lawyer. When everyone left he asked me where he could find you. Apparently, May has left a will and you are involved," she answered with a hint of a smile.

"Could that mean I am named as Peter's guardian?"

"Considering you are a multi-billionaire I doubt May deemed it appropriate to leave you her house or any of her possessions, so I'd say yes…"

Tony rolled his eyes at her sarcasm but a small smile played on his lips. "That would greatly improve our chances of adopting him, right?"

"Yes. That's the second reason I was late. I met up with our lawyers. They told me that should you be named as the kid's guardian in the will we won't have any issues. The court will have to approve of your fitness for the role, of course, but with your economic status and considering Peter is old enough to also have a say in this, they believe we have the best possible chances."

"Thank God," Tony sighed relieved.

"We need to be at the lawyer's office tomorrow morning at 10 sharp."

"Yeah ok, sure," Tony nodded.

Getting on her feet Pepper walked out of the living room and went to Peter's door. She rapped her fingers softly on the wooden surface, "Hey, Pete?"

When she got no answer she tried to open the door but found it locked. She turned and walked back into the living room glancing at Tony who wore his 'I-told-you-so' expression. Pepper's brow creased slightly in thought before she hesitantly said, "You don't think he's… You know… Gone, maybe?"

Tony looked at her confused. "Gone where?" As realization hit him his eyes enlarged slightly and he all but jumped from his seat and rushed to the teen's door. Knocking loudly he called loudly "Pete, if you're in there please just answer me!"

Silence.

"Pete, I'm gonna break the door down if I have to. If you're inside, just tell me and I'll leave you alone," he tried again.

When no answer came back, he exchanged a worried glance with Pepper. Taking a step back he used his foot to kick the door forcefully near it's knob. The old door unable to resist the force of the kick cracked right off its hinges, revealing a completely empty room and an open window.


Feet dangling and hair swaying with the cold night breeze, Peter, with his mask removed, watched the street below his feet intently. After an hour and a half on the edge of the bank's roof-top his hopes of spotting anyone or anything even remotely suspicious had evaporated. His gaze followed every car that sped down the street and every passer-by but his mind could only focus on the man he had met all those hours ago.

He felt tired and drained - unable to decide whether he should go meet him tomorrow or not. Unable to decide if he was more suspicious or curious over what this Christopher Meyers would supposedly share. His quick research of the man's name earlier that night had brought zero results and that alone greatly worried and intrigued him at the same time.

A sudden but familiar engine-like noise interrupted his thoughts and made him glance at the direction it was coming from bewildered. The red figure flying in the night sky and speeding towards him made him groan lightly and bow his head, staring at his knees.

It was only a couple of seconds later that Ironman landed on the roof with a soft metallic thud. The mask retracted revealing Tony's worried face. The man took in a deep breath and tried his best to calm his racked nerves before closing up to his ward and sitting down next to him.

"Damn it, Peter," he said after a few more silent seconds. His stern gaze landed on the kid's bowed head as he continued, "Don't you ever do that to me again!" When he received no acknowledgment from the teen he all but barked, "Hey! Do you hear me? Ever!"

Peter's eyes shot up to briefly meet the man's at the reprimanding tone. Eyes lowering again he softly mumbled, "Sorry… I… I just needed some air..."

Tony brought a metallic hand to gently clasp his shoulder, "And that's more than understandable. However sneaking out in the middle of the night without telling me is not the way to go about it, alright? All you had to do was ask. I wouldn't have said no."

"You're right, I… I'm sorry. I really am. I didn't mean to worry you or anything. I just needed to breathe. It feels… Suffocating. Especially in there."

Tony regarded Peter intently. "We can always go to the base or my place, if that would make you feel better," he timidly suggested, worried the kid might shut off again and stop talking at any second.

Peter thought that for a while. Then his mind flew to the man from the funeral. Turning his eyes to gaze at the dark night sky he shook his head. "No. Not yet at least. Maybe tomorrow…"

"Speaking of, we have to be at May's Lawyer's office tomorrow," the man answered as evenly as he could.

"What for?"

"Her will. You need to be there of course, but they also requested my presence," Tony explained.

When Peter only looked at him questioningly he cleared his throat and tacked on, "I am guessing that it concerns your situation. I have been named as your second guardian for a while now, as you very well know, so this most likely concerns what happens now, since you're a minor and all."

"Oh…" Was all that the teen said.

Tony cleared his throat awkwardly not at all sure how he could possibly approach this. "I believe and hope that May has named me as your legal guardian in her will," he said.

Peter glanced at him briefly but remained silent.

"Which would really make things fairly easy for us. You see, if I am your legal guardian by her will it's almost certain that the state court will approve of you living with me and Pepper." the man trailed, looking at the kid almost desperately. He hoped that Peter would give him any kind of sign that he was relieved or happy or at the very least ok with what he was suggesting.

When Peter offered nothing in response Tony almost groaned, "Pete, you're killing me here… Give me something. Is this something you'd like? Living with us I mean?"

Peter glanced at the man with expressionless eyes before averting his gaze. "I don't want to be a bother, Tony. It's extremely nice of you offering but you don't have to bust your life because of me…"

"Hey, look at me please," Tony immediately answered and waited for a couple of seconds until Peter's eyes locked with his. "The only thing I want more than taking you in as my… As my son, is for you to be happy. And if you tell me that you won't be happy living with us…"

"I don't think I'll ever be happy again, period, Tony…" Peter said quietly. The man's words were kind and sweet but he really doubted he meant them. Sure Tony cared for him to some extent. He had proved as much over the last weeks after all. But he never intended to be responsible for Peter. Peter was sure the only reasons behind the man's offer were feelings of pity for him and some sort of moral obligation to May. "You really don't have to do this. It's ok."

"I know I don't have to. But I want to. The question is, do you? You have a say in this, Peter," Tony insisted.

"Don't lie to me, ok? I am not some stupid kid. I told you, you don't have to. I am almost sixteen. I will find a job and use whatever May has left me to support myself. I'm almost an adult. I don't need you or anyone else to fuck up your lives over me…"

"Ok, now you're being childish," Tony said in a serious tone. "I don't want to hear any more of this nonsense. We've had this conversation in the past. You're not a mere obligation to me. You're not simply an Avengers team-member or some random kid I met. You're important to me, Peter. Too important. I want to be your guardian. I want to take care of you. The only thing you need to determine is if you think I'm good enough for you."

Peter turned to look at the man incredulously. "Are you kidding right now? You're the best thing that happened to me after Ben's death… I just…"

"No," Tony interrupted him in a no-nonsense tone. "No just's and no but's. That's all I needed to hear. We'll arrange everything tomorrow. And Pete? No matter how painful everything feels right now, I promise you, you will be happy again. I'll make damn sure of it."

Peter felt tears slowly forming in his eyes and he looked away in an attempt to hide them from Tony.

The man feeling rather emotional himself allowed a couple of silent minutes to pass before trusting his voice again. "We'd better head home, now, ok?"

Peter nodded lightly. "Yeah, ok."

Mask covering his face again, Tony got to his feet and turned his back to the teen. "Hop on," he instructed.


Large metallic doors quietly sliding open made the blonde man raise his head from the stack of papers that rested on the conference table in front of him. As the thoughtful expression gave its place to mild surprise, Steve Rogers rose to his feet, "Tony! I wasn't expecting to see you here today," the man said as he offered a brief one-arm hug to the other man. "How are you guys doing?"

Tony formed a small smile. "Managing, I guess," he answered truthfully. "Am I interrupting?"

"Not at all," Steve shook his head. Moving to sit back in the chair he had just vacated he promptly asked, "Where's Peter?"

"Out. He needed some breathing room," Tony answered as he took a seat opposite to the man.

A soft crease formed on Steve's brow as he asked, "Do you really think that's a good idea? Leaving him alone right now I mean…"

Tony only shrugged. "I think he has a lot to process. And considering he felt he had to sneak out to get some alone time last night…. I just want to be sure he won't hesitate to let me know when he needs to be left alone. I prefer to know when he's going out rather than having him doing so behind my back…"

"Tough day?" Steve asked.

"May's will was opened," Tony said in a slightly tired tone.

The blonde man grimaced slightly. "That couldn't be easy on him."

"It really wasn't. Good news is that I was named as his guardian," Tony said and looked at the other man thoughtfully.

Steve's face broke into a wide smile at that, "Tony, that's great!"

"Is it?" Tony asked with uncertainty.

"Are you seriously asking me that?" Steve asked back eyebrows rising.

"Don't get me wrong. I remember our discussion. I have no plans on bailing out or anything… I just… Can't shake this feeling I'm gonna screw the kid up," Tony said sincerely.

"I think we've established that's a fear not a single person that cares for a child doesn't have," Steve countered.

"How on earth are you doing this, man?" Tony asked turning questioning eyes to his fellow Avenger.

"How are you so effortlessly good at basically parenting a sixteen-year-old with a million issues, when you have zero previous experience?"

Steve scoffed loudly at the other man's words. "Effortlessly? Effortlessly, Tony? And good? It's not even half a week since Wanda sent Nat to the goddamn hospital… Not even a month since she got drunk… Heck, you were the one that made me take things seriously with her and do right by her when I was just standing by watching her lash out… You were giving advice to me, Tony! May's death was a tragic, no a devastating event, but you've been 'basically parenting' Peter long before this ever happened."

The bearded man licked his lips and brought both hands to rub his face. "Maybe you're right. Yet this is different. There is no backup here."

"There is always backup, Tony. As long as we're all alive, we're all gonna have your back. And Peter's too."

Nodding once Tony rapped his fingers on the table and sat up straighter in his chair. "Any new intel about the incident?" He asked changing the subject rather abruptly.

Steve's face grew serious at that. "Yes, actually. We're gonna have a debriefing meeting tomorrow when we'll have even more things to share, but what I can tell you now is that we are almost sure May's death is linked with Mat(t)erCorp."

Tony's face grew grim at the new information. "The people behind the school incident?"

"Yes. Remember the device that affected the kids' powers? All the materials used for the bombing device were trailed back to the same weaponry companies that are funded by Mat(t)erCorp."

"But… That means…" Tony trailed in a worried tone.

"That whoever targeted the kids to get their hands on the SHIELD archives, are not done trying," Captain finished his thought.


Black hood covering his head and eyes safely hidden behind his dark sunglasses, Peter scanned the area around him. The day was cloudy and cold, yet the park was buzzing with life. Families having picnics, joggers and runners, strolling couples and old people reading their newspapers or feeding the ducks in the small pond nearby.

Glancing at his watch Peter swore under his breath. It was a quarter past noon and Meyers was nowhere to be seen. Shoving his hands at his pockets the boy kicked the grass below his feet angrily before turning around and walking briskly towards the exit of the park. He was angry mostly to himself for letting a random person get into his head and fool him so effortlessly.

As he moved briskly across the park, a hand suddenly clasped around his arm and made him gasp startled. As he jerked his arm free and turned around sharply, he let an annoyed breath out upon recognizing the man from the funeral. "You're late," he said in an aggressive tone.

Ignoring the words the man only answered, "I'm a busy man, Peter. I'm glad you came."

Peter clenched his jaw as he used a hand to remove his sunglasses and shoved them in his pocket. "I don't give a shit if you're glad or not. You dragged me out here supposedly to give me information that nobody has managed to gather, not even…" catching himself at the last minute Peter blinked before speaking again, "Not even the police…"

The man's amused chuckle shocked Peter into silence. "You can say it, kid. Not even the Avengers," the man said evenly his eyes boring into the teen's. "Let's cut the theatrics, yes? I know exactly who you are, Spidey. I thought I made that clear at the funeral."

Peter felt his head pounding at the man's words. Eyes enlarging he took an instinctive step back, "You…"

Rolling his eyes the man cut him off, "I don't have time for games, Peter. I know some people have already tried to get their hands on certain archives. Archives better known as the 'Black List' that you and your pals have access to. My team and I are in dire need of that very same item. I am offering you an exchange. Give me the 'Black List' and I will give you your aunt's murderers."

Peter felt lightheaded. His temples started pounding and his breath grew faster. "You worthless piece of shit," he hissed angrily. "I am not giving you anything! I'm gonna find the trash who did this on my own. The Avengers have a whole team already looking into it. They might have already dug them out of their holes as we speak!" Peter said through gritted teeth. Clenching his fists to the point that his nails dug painfully into his skin, he then stepped close to the man invading his personal space. "I'm gonna find them and I'm gonna end them and then I'm gonna come for you!"

The man shook his head and brought a hand to cover his mouth. A silent second passed and then he burst into laughter. A burst of taunting laughter that made Peter's blood boil in his veins. "That was adorable, kid. Thinking the Avengers can really find the people behind this… Thinking you can end them… Not to mention me…. And thinking the Avengers are going to help a kid become a killer… You're far less intelligent than what I hoped. I wasn't planning on giving you any more info before at least a promise of cooperation, but I will in a gesture of goodwill. Remember your little school adventure? The same people who were behind it, the same people who want the list I'm asking you to get me, those are the very same people behind the bombing. Now correct me if I'm wrong but last time I checked, your super buddies haven't managed to dig any of them out of their holes…"

Peter almost panted as his anger turned to pulsing rage but couldn't bring himself to retort.

The man chuckled once more before shaking his head. Not bothering saying anything else he took out his phone and brought it to his ear for a second his eyes never leaving Peter's.

The teenager felt his phone vibrating in his pocket.

"Now you have my number," the man said in the same sarcastic tone. "If you grow a pair and decide you are actually willing and capable of avenging your aunt's death, contact me. Keep in mind that those after the list won't stop at anything to get it. And your aunt is not the only person you care about. If I know that, so do they. Think this through, kid. If I get the list those people become my problem. Anyways, you know what the price is and you know where to find it. I know you're a hell of a hacker. Call me when you change your mind."

With those words, the man turned his back and walked away.


The sound of the door unlocking and opening made Tony sigh in relief. He watched Peter walking into the living room. The man's pleasant countenance immediately turned to worried at the paleness on the teen's face.

"Are you alright? What's wrong?" He asked closing the laptop that rested on his knees and placing it on the coffee table.

Peter looked at the man with an unreadable expression. After some hesitation, he walked to the armchair nearest to the couch and collapsed in it. After kicking off his shoes he brought his legs up to the armchair and hugged his knees looking at the man and biting his lip.

"Pete, what's wrong?" The man asked again his tone laced with worry.

When he spoke, the teen's voice was quiet and hoarse. "Do we have any news about May?"

Tony looked at him with uncertainty. "Why do you ask?" He asked in an attempt to buy some time and gauge the reason behind the question.

"Because I want to know who did this. Please be honest, Tony. Please. I have a right to know, you can't keep this from me…" Peter said pleadingly.

Without losing eye contact with Peter the man answered, "We have some new clues about which companies manufactured certain parts of the bomb but that's about it. We also have some indications that the people behind the school incident might be linked with May's death as well."

At these words, Peter blanched. His eyes grew wide and he looked at the man dumbfounded. So, Meyers was telling the truth?

Tony scooted closer to the armchair as he noticed the color draining from the kid's face. "Peter, it's alright… We're on it. We're gonna find them and bring them to justice…"

"Will you?" Peter retorted with uncertainty.

Brows furrowing the man clasped a hand to Peter's raised knee. "Of course we will, Pete. It might take a while but we'll find them. We're already tracking down money transactions…"

"No, that's not what I meant," Peter shook his head. "Will you bring them to justice?" he asked, his eyes boring into Tony's.

Blinking surprised the man countered, "What sort of question is that? Of course, we will… when have we ever let a criminal walk away? They're gonna rot in a cell for the rest of their lives."

Peter brought a hand to rub his forehead tiredly. "But that is far from justice…"

A deep wrinkle forming between his brows Tony was left to stare at the kid confused. "What do you mean?"

Peter's eyes glossed over as he angrily yelled, "What do you think I mean? They killed her! They fucking killed her Tony, leaving barely enough of her behind to bury! They don't deserve to rot in a cell, they deserve to rot six feet under!"

Tony remained looking at Peter in shocked silence. "Pete, you can't possibly mean that…"

Scoffing, Peter averted his eyes and angrily wiped a single tear that had managed to escape and was trickling down his cheek. "I do, Tony. I do. And I want you to promise me that when you find them you'll let me deal with them. You'll let me bring them to justice?"

Tony swallowed with difficulty as his throat felt drier than ever. "Pete, listen to me… With everything you've been through and with how raw and fresh the wound from May's loss still is, I can understand your anger. I can see where these words and thoughts are coming from, but they're not what you really want. They can't be. You're a hero, Pete, not a killer."

"I'm exactly who they made me to be. Promise me, Tony!" Peter said exasperatedly.

The man's face grew grim and his voice hardened. "I won't promise you anything. You're not a killer. I won't let you go down that road. Ever."

Tony watched the teen's face tensing up. His jaw clenching and his nostrils flaring. At that moment he felt more helpless than he ever had in his life. He tried to persuade himself that it was just a phase of the process. Anger. That was a stage of grief, wasn't it? He had read that somewhere after all.

Peter looked away from the man. Meyers was proven right yet again. A resolved face overtaking his features he got up from his seat and turned his back to the man, slowly heading to his room. He ignored Tony when he called his name once, twice. He entered the small room and closed the mended door behind him softly. He needed to think and carefully plan his next moves. He'd avenge May's death. Whatever the price. Nothing else mattered right now.


"Thanks for doing this," the young man said and allowed his eyes to flatter to the man driving beside him for a second.

Tony glanced at him with pensive eyes which he promptly turned back to the street. "You're very welcome. I think spending some time with Wanda will make you feel a bit better."

"Right," Peter answered quietly, eyes drifting to gaze out of his window again. "And sorry about earlier. It's just that there are moments I feel so angry that I don't really think straight," he added in a hushed tone.

Tony nodded and took in a small breath of relief at the words. At least the kid was aware of his emotional reactions. That should be good. He knew it should. "I'm just glad you're sharing these thoughts, Peter. I'm here for you. Through thick and thin. You don't need to apologize for your feelings. You're entitled to them. As long as you don't allow them to blur your judgment and dictate your actions you can and should share them with me and the people that care about you," he answered after a brief second impressing himself with his eloquence and positive attitude.

"Right," Peter only quipped again. "Will you stay over at the base too?"

Glancing at the kid Tony asked back, "Do you want me to? 'Cause I can and I will if you do. Or I will give you some space and go back to the house if you don't want me there. Your call."

Peter spoke in a hesitant tone. "Would you be mad if I asked you to leave? Steve and everybody else will be all over me anyways, and I really just wanna be with Wanda right now. Not having you there…"

At his struggle to find the words Tony supplied, "I will if it gives you a sense of control. I get it. And sure. I'll drop you off and leave. I'll also speak to Steve. Make sure he won't 'be all over you'"

Peter ignored the nauseating guilt that the man's words invoked. The small device, hidden discreetly up his oversized sweater's sleeve, suddenly felt heavy. As if the small RFID cloner had gone from weighing a few grams to several pounds. When he spoke his voice was hushed and his eyes lowered. "You're being too cool with everything. I feel like crap for being so difficult…"

Tony smiled and shook his head, eyes never leaving the road. "You don't have to feel like crap about anything, Pete. All I care about is your wellbeing. Physical and mental. I am here for you no matter what."

"As long as I'm not a killer right?" The teen asked a bit bitterly beside himself.

Tony did not lose his calm at the words. He simply shook his head. "Even though you're not a killer, even if you were, I'd still be here for you. It's you that wouldn't be able to live with yourself, Peter. I will love you no matter what, kid. What I want is to make sure you won't do something stupid that will lead you to not loving yourself. You don't need to keep testing me. I'm here for the long run."

Peter swallowed with difficulty. He doubted Tony would care to repeat this particular speech after what he planned to do. After betraying his own people. After ending the lives of those that ended May's. His hand smoothed his right sleeve over the hidden device discreetly. The small object was no larger than a small wallet. Thanks to his robotics class he had all the parts he needed at home. After their earlier talk with Tony, he worked fast to put together the small cloner. His plan was not the greatest and in no way, shape or form false-proof, but it would do. It had to. All he had to do was get in close proximity to Steve. He knew the man had an RFID chip injected in his palm that allowed to the Avengers' Captain access to every device, system or database of the Base. Peter knew he'd have to dig deep to retrieve the 'Black List'. His only chance of actually getting it was getting his hands to Steve's "skeleton key". Considering cutting the man's hand off or asking him to kindly provide the document would not work in this particular case, all he could hope for was a successful cloning of the chip's transmission signal. If the device he had created worked appropriately it should copy the Captain's chip signal and then be able to transmit it when requested.

The rest of the ride was silent. Soon the lights of the Base appeared and the car gradually slowed down. They passed the front gate and continued to the main building's entrance where the vehicle came to a smooth stop.

Peter exited the car with Tony following closely behind. The two of them entered the impressive building and walked into the closest elevator.

"I'll drop by tomorrow morning to pick you up. Wanda will be at school anyways," Tony said as the elevator came to a slow halt.

"Yeah, sure," Peter nodded.

Hugging him briefly the man stepped outside and headed for Steve's office hoping to find the man inside. Peter remained still in the elevator and watched the man walking away. He bit his lip and rushed behind Tony seconds before the metallic doors began to slide closed.

"Tony, wait!"

The man halted and turned around to see what Peter wanted. "Forgot anything?"

Peter shook his head as he reached the man and shoved his hands in his sweater's front pockets. "Just thought I should thank Steve for having me and say hello," he mumbled hoping the man in front of him would not become suspicious.

Other than a puzzled glance though, Tony didn't comment on anything. He simply laid a hand on the kid's shoulder and the two of them walked along the corridor until they reached the Captain's office door. A quiet knock later Peter stepped inside the cozy room and had to remind himself how to breathe.

"Peter," the blonde man smiled warmly. "It's so nice seeing you."

"Hey, Cap'," Peter answered quietly. He hoped his voice didn't sound to the two men as foreign as it did in his own ears. "Thanks for having me," he added lamely. His nerves were already wrecked. For his plan to work he needed some close proximity with the man's hand.

Steve shook his head dismissively at that, "It's our pleasure, Peter, honestly. I'm sure things are not remotely easy right now but we're all here for you."

Peter felt the words hit him like a sharp slap on his face. His guilt sky-rocketed but he managed to force his lips to form a smile. The room froze and he watched as if in slow motion the Captain's hand rising, closing up to his shoulder and then gently clasping around it. Feeling droplets of sweat forming on his temples, Peter held his breath and brought his own hand, the one carrying the cloner, to awkwardly pat Steve's. "Thank you, Cap'," he whispered and lowered his gaze. The antenna of the cloner was close enough to the man's palm to copy the signal. He felt light-headed as he withdrew his hand and let it fall on his side. He stilled his breath when he felt the cloner slide slightly on his forearm. Cursing in his head, he realized the cold sweat he broke out in had probably caused the duct tape holding the device to loosen.

"Are you, ok, Peter?" Tony asked, brow furrowing with concern upon noticing the drops of sweat that slowly slid down the kid's forehead.

"Uh… Yeah, yeah… It's probably this sweater. Too heavy…" Peter mumbled. He felt relieved when Steve's hand freed his shoulder allowing him to take a step back. "I'm gonna get changed and find Wanda," he said and noticed with dread his voice was now slightly trembling.

He turned his back to the two men and walked stiffly out of the room. Once the door closed behind him, he promptly started running and didn't slow down until he reached his bedroom. Upon entrance, he noticed that it had been cleaned and tidied up while he was away. He closed the door behind him, walked to the desk, grabbed the laptop that rested there and then walked briskly to the private bathroom that was adjacent to the room.

He locked the door and sat on the small bamboo stool that stood at one side of the bathroom. Taking in a deep shaky breath he shrugged off his backpack and placed the laptop on his knees. He stared at the floor for what felt like hours but in reality wasn't more than a minute. He briefly considered aborting his plan and take Tony's advice. To try and forget what happened. To move on. But as soon as his brain formed May's image the raw anger immediately started bubbling inside of him.

With a trembling hand, he bared the forearm that the cloner was secured on, and promptly unlatched it and discarded the duct tape. He set the small device on the floor next to his feet and rummaged through his backpack for a small fabric case. When he grasped it he retrieved it and opened it. With careful fingers, he took out the nano USB drive that rested inside it. Turning on the small laptop he waited for the system to boot before plugging in the USB device. His hands started flying on the keyboard. He chose to use one of the base's laptops instead of his own, because it was already hooked up to the base's network. This alone would save him a considerable amount of work. After several minutes the first demand for licensed authentication was requested by the system. Holding his breath he reached for the cloner and brought it close to the laptop. He flipped the small switch from cloning to transmission and pointed the short makeshift antenna towards the laptop's keyboard. He had to blink several times for his brain to process the confirmation that appeared on the screen. Access to the restricted areas of the complex system had been granted. Now all he had to do was find the list. And that could take hours.


With a waterfall of silky hair spreading on the mattress below her, and eyes glued on the ceiling Wanda gently caressed the curled up kitten that laid purring on her stomach.

Peter was laying beside her, eyes closed and mind racing. The laptop was locked inside the bathroom running complicated research protocols to spot what he was after. When his friend knocked his door he knew he couldn't send her away. It could raise suspicion to Tony and Steve, since it was his own request to come to the base and hang out with her. And if he wanted to be honest with himself, her company was one of the very few things he really wanted at that particular moment. Through the last hour, they had spent together he realized this could very well be the last time he'd hang out with his best friend.

His head turning to stare at her he quietly asked, "How long did it take you?"

"Hm?" Wanda asked confused, gaze never leaving the ceiling.

"Getting over what happened to Pietro," Peter hesitantly explained. "How long did it take you?"

A sad smile forming the girl promptly answered, "I never did. I never will. I told you before, Pete. You just learn to live with it. Time kinda numbs the pain. But it's always there. I know it's the last thing you wanna hear but it's the truth."

"The truth is the only thing I wanna hear right now," Peter said softly mostly to himself. "I wanna ask you something and I need you to tell me the truth. Just like you did now. Will you?"

Eyes finally turning to lock with her friend's Wanda simply nodded. "Always."

"What would you think of me if I killed whoever did this to May?" Peter asked.

His friend did not appear shocked or angry or worried. Simply thoughtful. "I don't think I'd think of you in any different way than I do now," she answered after a couple of seconds. "I mean, I can totally get what could lead you to do something like that. But knowing you, I think that it would kill you. From the inside out, you know?"

"Tony thinks the same," Peter commented. "But I really think it wouldn't. I mean, I want nothing more than seeing those fuckers dead."

"Seeing someone dead and actually killing them are two very different things, though."

Peter mulled those words over. "And what would you think if someone from the team ever betrayed us? You know, go dark side or whatever…" He risked asking.

Wanda's brow furrowed at that. "Hard to say," she said turning to look at him again. "I mean I can't see that happening. I guess it would depend on why they did it to some extent. But I doubt I could find a reason good enough to forgive betrayal."

Peter felt his stomach clench at her words but remained silent.

"What about you?" Wanda asked.

"Yeah… Same here," he answered quietly. He remained still for a few seconds before sitting up and glancing at the digital clock on his nightstand. "Hey, it's close to midnight and you got school in the morning."

Wanda sat up carefully trying not to disturb her beloved furry purring ball, "I'm not really sleepy yet, though. I mean, we can hang out some more if you'd like. We don't even have to talk…"

Smiling appreciatively at the girl he simply shook his head, "Thanks, but I really think it would be best if you'd grab some sleep. I think I might be able to grab some myself if I lie down soon enough."

As he expected that did the trick. The girl immediately nodded and got to her feet, holding Chewbacca securely on her chest, "Sure thing, Pete." She walked briskly to the door and stepped out of his room. Before closing the door behind her she turned and added, "If you wake up early or whatever, come say hello. No matter how early it is, 'k?"

Forcing a smile, Peter nodded. When the door closed softly. He got to his feet and walked to the bathroom door. He retrieved the keys from his jeans' pocket and unlocked it, entering the room. He lowered into a kneeling position in front of the laptop that rested on the small stool and gathered the courage to look at the screen. Three results blinked rhythmically on it. He clicked at the first one to open with a trembling finger. His eyes scanned the document briefly. Slowly shifting from his knees to a sitting position he leaned back and rested his back on the cabinet behind him. Tears welled up in his eyes and he brought his fist to his mouth biting it forcefully to muffle his sudden sobs.

After a few seconds, he slammed the hand on the floor and bit down on his lip until the rusty taste of blood attacked his tongue. He drew in a single breath before getting close to the laptop again. He made quick work of transferring the files he had managed to find into his nano-drive. He authorized the transfer with his cloner and extracted the tiny flash disk. After securing it in his pants pocket, he took the small laptop and placed it in the sink. He turned on the faucet and watched as the stream of water run steadily over the keyboard. Soon the screen started flickering until it went completely black. Peter took the device out of the sink and dried it with a towel until it looked normal. He closed the screen and placed it at its usual place on the desk. The longer it took for anyone to think about checking it the more time it would buy him. He quickly put on his jacket and turned to the bedroom's window.

"Alarm termination for this room," he called in a clear voice.

"Authentication needed," a melodic AI voice answered.

Peter pressed the transmission button on the device and waited.

"Confirmed. Alarm terminated."

Shoving the small device in the backpack and securing it closed, Peter opened the window and climbed out of it. He crawled down the walls of the base strategically avoiding all windows and making sure he remained in the shadows. Once he was close to the ground he jumped down and ran as fast as he could towards the side of the wall that enclosed the base's grounds. He followed the same process with the cloner in order to turn off the invaders' sensors and made sure to reactivate them, as soon as he climbed off to the other side of the tall wall. After a last glance to the base's building, he broke into a fast sprint.

As the cold night air whipped harshly against his face and his heartbeat starting elevating, all he could think of was that he had made it. He was one step closer to getting his revenge. And one step closer to losing the last persons he had left in his life. And at that moment, more than ever, he felt completely alone. And completely free.

Chapter Text

A/N: Guys, I know it's been a long wait, BUT, I DID IT! I'm officially done with my master! My thesis is submitted and defended and didn't even receive suggestions/corrections, which is pretty rare in my college! I'm so relieved and happy! A week later, here's the new chapter! Enjoy and please drop a line to let me know of your thoughts. More to come soon!

Warnings: There is a bit of roughing up of a character in this chapter. I won't call it torture, 'cause it's in no way extreme and definitely not long, but it is heading in that direction so... I'm saying this just in case it triggers someone. I personally hate torture scenes -which is why this is so small and rather mild- but still thought someone might need a heads-up!

A big thank you to my Beta, UllsWater!


The blonde man's whole stance appeared rigid and tense. His jaw was clenched and his eyes downcast as he watched Tony pace in front of him and Rhodey after being briefed on Peter's situation. He didn't even attempt to explain, to argue, to try and make Tony understand. As far as he was concerned the other man was absolutely right. This was their screw-up. His screw-up.

"So you're telling me that a fifteen-year-old managed to evade six adult Avengers and hack his way out of the most secure, state-of-the-art facility of this fucking planet?" Tony bellowed, pausing his pacing to turn his livid glare at the two men in front of him.

"Wouldn't be the first time…" Rhodey mumbled.

Tony's enraged eyes focused entirely on him, but before he made it to a retort Steve swiftly intervened in a steady tone, "Tony, you can rake us across the coals over this whenever you want to, but right now we all need to focus on how to find Peter."

Eyes growing even darker and tone dropping to a dangerous tone the man replied, "Don't you fucking dare tell me what to focus on, Rogers! He doesn't have his suit on, his phone is left here… I have my A.I's scanning all the NYC security camera feeds their system can handle…He's nowhere to be found, mourning and wants the heads of whoever did this on spikes!"

"We have all hands on deck, Tony. We'll find him, I promise you that. Wanda has already talked to all of their friends asking them to immediately call, if he contacts them, Clint, Nat, and Sam are already out there searching…"

Tony shook his head angrily before turning his back to the two men and still livid stalked out of the room. He walked purposefully to Peter's room, entering and closing the door behind him. He glanced around him desperate for some sort of lead. The kid's new phone had already been checked out by the IT team but revealed nothing helpful or indicative of his plans and whereabouts. His eyes then fell on the small laptop that rested on the desk.

"Fuck," he mumbled angrily. How could he not have thought about it earlier? Striding to the desk he grabbed the device and turned to leave the room before suddenly pausing. Glancing back at the desk he noticed the small droplets on the surface right where the laptop was laying. With a confused expression, he turned to the laptop and opened it. A tiny amount of water trickled on his hands as he did so, and the faint yet telltale smell of fried circuits hit his nostrils. "What are you up to kid?" He mumbled to himself before he ran out of the room and towards the elevator.


Fingers nervously readjusting the oversized sunglasses that kept sliding down his nose, he kept walking, casually steering through the sidewalk-clogging crowd of the busy Queens neighborhood. His concealed eyes kept darting around every other second, while his hands, balled into tight fists, hid deeply inside his hoodie's pockets. Peter was positive he had taken any possible precaution to avoid being found. He had walked and walked through as many neighborhoods as his feet could take him. He had made sure to avoid security cameras, keep his head low and his hood up just in case. He had only used cash to buy a coffee that had somewhat helped in clearing up his mind. He had planned his next steps carefully trying to predict all possible outcomes and where they'd eventually lead, not only him but the Avengers as well. Not a single one of those outcomes had managed to persuade him he had made the right choice.

Sighing deeply he did his best to ignore the dull ache in his feet and willed himself to move faster. He had stalled much longer than he should have. He was sure everyone back at the Base had already realized he was gone and he doubted he could hide from them for too much longer. A couple of blocks away he found an old, run-down payphone. Grabbing the receiver and bringing it to his ear he breathed with relief. It was not out of order. Peter quickly threw a coin in the appropriate slot before dialing hastily Meyer's number, which he had memorized yesterday night.

"Got it already? I'm impressed!"

Peter's jaw clenched at the sound of the man's taunting tone. "I didn't get anything. I want proof," he replied curtly.

"Proof?"

"Yes, assface, proof. What you're asking me to do is fucking hard if not impossible to pull off and I'm not gonna betray my people for nothing. I want proof that you know for real who's behind her death," the teen answered heatedly.

There was no chance he'd admit to that scum he had already gotten the file. Deep inside him, he hoped Meyers wouldn't have anything to show him. He hoped that he'd be convinced the man knew nothing and that he would have no option but to return to the Base. He held his breath at the long pause that followed his words.

"Where are you?"

"Austin Street. Near Forest Hills station."

"Go to the station's entrance and wait."

His nerves even more racked than before, Peter slammed the receiver angrily against the payphone, before letting it fall out of his hand and dangle from its cord. He stood watching it for a couple of seconds, before turning his back and heading to the station's direction. He walked as slowly as possible this time, trying to buy himself an extra bit of time. What now? What if that piece of shit actually had the proof he was asking? Wasn't there any other way? How could he be so sure of what he wanted to do mere hours ago and felt so unsure and guilty now that he had almost made it?

As he reached the station a good ten minutes later, he glanced around him for any sign of the man, but couldn't spot him. Feeling the hair on his neck rising and the familiar warning of his spider-sense kicking in he turned sharply in time to face a man in his forties, casually dressed, approaching him. Before Peter could form any sort of word, the man took a cell phone out of his pants pocket and discreetly passed it to Peter. As soon as the boy took hold of the device, he turned around and walked away briskly, quickly vanishing among the crowd.

Peter glanced around him nervously, before jogging down the first few steps of the station's entrance. He moved close to the wall so that he wouldn't be in the way of the crowd that hastily exited or entered the station before he pressed at the smart phone's central button. As soon as the screen unlocked, without asking for a code, a file containing a single video appeared. Peter immediately tapped on it and watched silently at the feed. It was only ten seconds long, but it was enough. A man, who never faced the camera, could be clearly seen tampering with May's car, which was parked outside of their apartment. As soon as the video ended, Peter tapped on it again, watching it a second time, feeling his temples throb and his eyes welling up with angry tears. An incoming call caused the video to vanish. Peter looked at the number and recognized it as Meyer's.

Bringing the phone to his ear, he quietly answered, "I'm listening."

"You'd better. Game over, Parker."

Peter gulped slightly at the snarling tone but didn't reply.

"You got six hours. I don't give a shit how you're going to do it, but I want what I asked for by four this afternoon. Fail to do so and I'll make sure your team learns what you agreed to do for me. It'll be interesting to see how understanding they'll prove to be, won't it? We're watching you, so don't even think of doing anything stupid. Call from this phone to arrange delivery."

The call ended and Peter remained still, with the phone still pressed on his ear. His mind felt numb and his stomach started churning violently. Sliding against the wall till he found himself sitting on the cold floor he closed his eyes and tried hard to resist the urge to empty the contents of his stomach and to remind himself of how to breathe. As his heartbeat started accelerating, only one thought managed to pass through his numbed brain. What the hell had he gotten himself into?


"Are you alright?" a distorted voice sounded from far away.

"Son, are you alright? Do you need help?" the voice sounded again this time from somewhere closer.

Peter managed to peel his eyes open and found himself staring at the concerned face of a middle-aged lady who was leaning over him, clasping his shoulder. He glanced around him confused before looking back at the lady. "Where am I?" he managed to ask with a hoarse voice.

The woman offered a sad smile, "You're in Forest Hills station, darling. I think I'd best call an ambulance…"

"No!" Peter all but yelled as he stumbled to his feet, causing the woman to take a step backwards startled. "Uh, sorry! Sorry, ma'am. I'm really ok. Low blood sugar thing. I probably just fainted. I'll grab something to eat and be as good as new, thank you," he mumbled. And walked briskly away from her and up the stairs towards the street level.

As soon as he reached the street he glanced around him worriedly trying to spot Meyers' men. Realizing the futility of his attempt in such a crowded street, he willed his brain to exit its languid state and start working a way out of this. Any way.

Spotting a homeless woman sitting on the pavement a few feet away, behind the stone bridge that stood over the station's entrance, an idea quickly started forming. Welcoming the glimmer of hope and his brain's decision to actually assist him, Peter all but ran towards the unsuspecting woman.

"Hi! Uh… Hi, miss? Hello?" he tried to catch her attention in a tense voice forcing his lips to form a smile.

The small-framed woman looked at him suspiciously and grabbed the plastic cup that contained a few coins, bringing it close to her chest. "Beat it," she barked warningly, her voice sounding hoarse like she hadn't used it in a while.

"No, no, no! Wait! I, uh, I got money, for you," Peter said hastily. Glancing around him, he reached inside his pocket and took out a five dollar bill, which he promptly handed to her.

When her face turned from suspicious to surprised he added, "Look, I'm willing to give you 50 more bucks and my clothes, all nice warm and fresh, if you agree to give me yours!"

The woman's expression turned from surprised to confused and he eyed him incredulously. "What you're on, kid?"

"Look, I mean it! Come with me to the cafe across the street, I'll order us some coffee, we'll go to the bathroom, exchange clothes, I'll give you the money and you'll never see me again. Simple as that! You got nothing to worry about, I'm not a pervert or anything…"

"Yeah, like any pervert would ever admit he was one," the woman quipped still unconvinced.

Peter's brain raced to find a way to persuade her. What would she buy as a plausible reason for his request? "Look, two of my school's biggest assholes, huge rugby players, are after me and they'll sniff me out real soon unless I somehow stop looking like I do right now. I mean they're strong, but they're not too smart, ya know? If I manage to go back home in a different outfit I might, just might get past them," he said quickly, lowering his sunglasses hoping that he'd look younger and more vulnerable to the woman if she caught glimpse of his face.

"You skinny little thing," she mumbled her expression softening a bit.

"Exactly! I don't stand a chance! I'll end up in the hospital, lady. And there's 50 bucks, don't forget the 50 bucks! I'm begging you! I'll… Give you my phone too! See?" Peter continued showing her the smart-phone and bringing his best puppy-dog eyes to the game.

The woman contemplated the offer for a few more seconds. "Oh, what the hell," she finally said getting to her feet. "After all, if you try anything funny, I can totally beat you."

"Yes! You definitely can," Peter said thankfully, before motioning with his head to the small cafe across the street. "Come on, this way!"

Minutes later Peter and the woman exited the adjacent stalls they had entered in the small store's men's bathroom.

Peter ensured the nano-drive was safely secured in his pocket, before turning to face the woman. He was feeling very uncomfortable in the smelly and worn-out clothes but tried his hardest to school his expression to a pleasant one. "The money is in your right pocket! The phone in your left," he told the woman.

"Kid, are you sure? Maybe keep the phone? Call someone to come get you or something," the woman said sympathetically, after checking everything was where Peter claimed.

The young man shook his head immediately, "No, it's ok. They might use it to track me down. You'd be better off if you get rid of it too. Sell it, or throw it in a moving car, or bus, or something. In case they come looking, ya know?" He knew he risked her bailing out on him, but he couldn't bring himself to not somehow warn her about her safety. He doubted Meyers and his men would be kind or understanding to a homeless woman when they finally spotted her.

When the woman remained unphased he said, "Look, I really gotta go, just remember what we said, go get your coffee and walk out of here wearing the sunglasses, keeping your head low and change neighborhoods," Peter said as he moved quickly towards the exit.

"Wait, what? You never said anything about…" The woman asked suddenly bewildered.

"Thanks, bye," Peter cut her off and ran out of the store. As soon as he stepped out on the street he brought the red hood of his new sweater down to cover his hair and cringed at the intense odor. Keeping his head low, he moved quickly away from the neighborhood with his next destination clear on his mind.


Half-hidden behind a tree, the dark rain-coat adorned figure kept watching closely through narrowed blue eyes the young man who walked briskly among the series of gravestones under the light drizzle. Watched him halting before a freshly dug grave and slowly lowering till he was sitting cross-legged on the damp earth and hanging his head low.

Allowing him a couple of minutes of solitude before moving from her position, Wanda made sure to take her time before slowly walking towards her friend.

Peter rose his eyes slowly to meet hers when her figure entered his line of vision.

"Thought I'd find you here…" She said in a hushed tone.

"Have you called the others?" Peter asked immediately.

"Not yet," the girl answered evenly. Heavy silence lingered for a few seconds before Wanda asked in composed anger, "Is it true?"

Peter looked up questioningly, "What?"

"I heard Steve, Tony, and Nat talking. Saying you hacked into our system and stole some files. That you wanted to hand them in, to those people..."

Peter's confusion deepened. "How could they know what I wanted the files for? And what people? It's just Meyers…. How do they even know about him?"

Wanda looked at him dumbfounded, "So it's true?"

"No! I mean, yes… Some of it!"

Taking a steadying breath, Peter attempted to explain, "Look, this guy came at the funeral and told me he knows who's behind May's death. He thinks it's the same people who tried to get us at school… He told me he'll give me the names of the killers, as long as I'd give him the list those fuckers were after…"

Wanda looked at him incredulously, "Are you even listening to yourself? How can you possibly believe such a load of crap? You're supposed to be smart!"

"He has proof," Peter countered desperately, jumping to his feet. "Videos and stuff…"

Wanda's patience completely evaporated. "Peter, wake up," she yelled exasperatedly throwing her hands in the humid air. "Some random guy appears to the funeral, he happens to know who killed your aunt, happens to know it's the same fuckers from the school, happens to be after the same shit that they were after, asks you to hand said shit over, and there's nothing in this story that makes you suspicious? Nothing that bloody reeks you're being played?"

Peter opened his mouth to retort but as her words registered he closed it again. Realization slowly washing over him he remained looking at the young witch in shocked silence. A mere whisper, of "He… They… He's behind it. He had her killed..."

"Exactly!"

Peter felt his eyes welling up. "Oh God," he whispered, hands covering his mouth. He looked at his friend desperately, "I am so sorry… But, you need to know, I wouldn't have done it. I wouldn't… I wanted to, but I just couldn't. I have the files all day on me, but I just couldn't… That's why I came here... You have to believe me! You have to!" By the time he stopped talking stray tears were already streaming down his cheeks and his breath was hitching.

Wanda remained silent and eyed him intently for several seconds before finally nodding. "I believe you."

Using his hand to wipe off the mixed with rain tears Peter nodded. "Thank you," he said in a hushed tone.

Wanda took in a long shaky breath and tried hard not to blast him away with all of her might. Her frustration venting would have to wait. She took the phone out and was ready to unlock it, in order to call Steve, when Peter's palm clasped down on hers.

"What are you doing?" He asked urgently.

"Calling Steve. The whole team is out looking for you, we have to tell them you're safe," Wanda answered immediately, eyes squinting slightly.

"No, you can't," Peter said, his voice thick with emotion. "Now I know it's them. I know Meyers is one of them. I can take revenge. Tony, Steve, the rest of the team… They won't let me. You know they won't!"

Wanda regarded his almost pleading eyes and realized just how worked up and unstable her friend was at the moment. When the pressure he applied in her hand grew too uncomfortable she hissed, "Peter, my hand! You're hurting me!"

"Just drop the phone, Wanda! Please," the boy answered eyes never leaving hers and his hand not relaxing his grip in the slightest.

"Pete, I know you think this is the way, but it isn't. You're not in your right mind! You're not seeing things clearly, you proved it to yourself just now with how wrongly you handled this whole shitstorm," she tried to reason with him, through gritted teeth.

"This is different. I want this. I do. It's what's right for her. Drop the phone," he repeated, his tone lowering and his eyes darkening.

The sharp pain intensifying with his tightening his grasp of her wrist, even more, made very clear to the young witch, just how much her friend was losing it. Hating that he wouldn't listen to reason and that he left her little choice, she smiled at him sadly before clasping her left hand above his own and engulfing both of them in a puff of red smoke.


Peter blinked startled as he found himself standing in the middle of the Base's living area, his hand still clasped around Wanda's.

"No! NO! What the hell did you do?" he asked furiously, as he let go of her arm, and both hands flying to grab at his hair.

"Saved your ass! That's what I did," Wanda answered back annoyed.

"You don't get to decide for me! NONE OF YOU DOES!" Peter all but screamed.

"Fuck you, you stupid asshole!" Wanda yelled right back, all her anger returning full-force. "You don't get to yell, not after what you did! You almost betrayed us, so don't you even try the martyr shit!"

"I didn't! And I wouldn't! But that doesn't mean… You ruined everything! I could have found them! I could lure them in with the files and kill them!"

"Yeah, that would have worked out just great," the girl shot back, tone dripping with sarcasm. "Like they haven't found a way to fucking kill our powers before! And you thought you could take them alone?"

Peter never made it to retort as his line of vision fell on the figure that hastened into the room. He lost his words as he took in the image of the usually polished woman, looking disheveled, sleep-deprived and a good ten years older than he had last seen her.

Pepper brought a hand to her mouth as she walked briskly to the now silent teenager. Arms enveloping him in an almost desperate hug she could only whisper, "Thank God! Oh, Thank God!"

Peter remained rigid in her arms. Despite the discomfort and tension building up inside him he remained still and allowed the woman the time she needed. He knew more than well it wasn't Pepper's fault that he felt the way he did with their physical contact and the very least he could do after all the trouble he had undoubtedly caused was not being difficult.

A few seconds later the woman broke the hug and she took a step back to take in the young man's look. "Are you alright?" she asked worriedly.

"Yeah… I'm… I'm fine, Pepper," he managed to answer quietly averting his eyes and feeling his cheeks flushing.

"You're fine. Yes, you're fine," Pepper repeated in a strained whisper as if to reassure her own self of the truth of Peter's words. Clearing her throat she called in a louder tone, "Friday, please let Tony and the rest know Peter's here. Safe and sound."

"Of course, Mrs. Potts," came the AI's melodic response.

Pepper turned her attention back to Peter. "How about you go and take a shower, Pete? Change into something clean?"

Unable to bring himself to argue with the woman, the young man just nodded and walked hastily towards the stairs.

"You're sure he won't just run away again?" Wanda asked, trying to mask the worry in her tone as annoyance.

Pepper turned to the girl and shook her head offering a small reassuring smile, "No, after establishing the breach, they reinstalled new security protocols. The signal cannot be copied anymore, by anyone. Tony and the whole IT team made sure of it."

Wanda nodded and crossed her hands in front of her chest looking at the woman a bit awkwardly. "Don't take this the wrong way or anything, but you don't look so well. I can make some tea or something…"

Pepper offered a grateful smile to the girl. "Darling, you've done more than enough. How did you manage to find him?"

Wanda offered a sad smile back. "Lucky guess," she answered laconically. "Look, I'm gonna make a pot of tea anyways and then head down to the training room to blast away non-living things before I end up killing your future step-son."

Snorting with amusement the woman bobbed her head, "I would greatly appreciate it, if you managed to refrain from doing that, yes. Go ahead. And thank you. Thank you for bringing him back."

Blushing lightly, Wanda walked away to the direction of the kitchen, leaving Pepper alone in the now empty living room.

Hands running through her hair Pepper let them slide till they found the back of her neck. Attempting to rub away some of the tension that had nestled there she closed her eyes and slowly moved to sit to the closest couch.

Her eyes drifted to the ceiling and she wondered how long it would take Tony to get there. In what state would he be, and how could they possibly handle this? Her thoughts traveled to Peter and the people that targeted him. She felt like all they should be dealing with at the moment was helping the kid find some sort of emotional stability through this hell he was going through, but she knew more than well, that it was his safety they had to ensure first. And to do that the threat of the MTC484 should be neutralized. At all costs.


Peter stepped out of his bathroom dressed in fresh grey sweatpants and a black short-sleeved t-shirt. Feeling his hair still dripping he used the towel he was holding to absorb some more of the moisture as he walked to his bed. He glanced at the small clock on his bedside table and noticed it was close to noon. Four hours before Meyer's deadline.

Sitting on the edge of his bed his eyes drifted to the closed window. The thought of attempting another escaping act crossed his mind but he seriously doubted that he'd be able to pull it off. Not after his last escapade. He was sure the whole AI system was in the lookout for any possible attempt to even exit the building in order to get to the outdoor grounds.

His gaze remained trained at the piece of the garden he could see and he wondered if anyone from the team had already arrived. If Tony had already arrived. His stomach tightened at the prospect of facing the man and his heart-rate elevated uncomfortably. Had he fucked everything up? Would Tony forgive him? Would he listen to him? And what would happen to Meyers and his people? Had he lost the only chance he had to face them?

The light knock on his door made him jerk to his feet and turn bewildered eyes at the wooden surface. He tried to make his voice work but couldn't. A second knock.

"Pete?" Tony's voice sounded from the other side.

Peter's last ounce of self-control broke at the sound. He felt hot tears running down his cheeks in less than a second, while his heart pumped so hard he could practically hear its echo in his ears.

When the door opened and Tony stepped in, the teen felt his knees buckle.

Covering the distance between them in less than a second, Tony's arms shot to support the kid before he lost his balance. "Pete, calm down," he whispered urgently as he brought the pair of them to sit on the bed side by side. Offering soothing words he hugged Peter closely and felt his heart shuttering with every hitched breath and racked sob.

Peter buried his head in the man's shoulder and let everything out. His mind was screaming to his mouth to form words, to apologize to explain, but it was like his body was out of his control. The more he couldn't talk the more his heart was pounding and the harder it became to breathe.

"Peter! You need to calm down, kid. Come on! I'm not mad, nobody's mad. We're all just glad you're safe. Calm down, son, please," Tony said feeling his own composure faltering at the state the young man was in. "Come on, breathe for me," he said as he used his hand to run soothing circles on the heaving back.

Peter panted for breath but managed to force out a stammering apology. "S…Sorr...y."

Tony shook his head. Palm comfortingly clasping the back of Peter's neck, he pressed a kiss on the young man's hairline. "Ssh! We're fine, kid. We're fine. Just breathe… Just calm down… I'm here. I'm not going anywhere," he said soothingly, somehow managing to stop his own tears from shedding. "We're gonna get through this, Pete. I promise."

It was close to one in the afternoon when Peter felt he finally had regained some sort of control over his mind and body. Laying on the bed he stole a couple of glances at his mentor, who was lounging right beside him, propped up against the headboard. The man's hands were massaging the teen's back soothingly.

Tony, beyond relieved that Peter was no longer having a full-blown panic attack, was now contemplating if he should keep waiting for the kid to initiate any kind of interaction. Sensing the hesitation in the teenager he finally asked in a warm tone, "Do you want me to bring you some water, something to eat maybe?"

Peter bit his lip and shook his head, cheeks flushing lightly.

"Do you think you could maybe fill me in with everything I've lost, then?" the man asked keeping his tone even and neutral.

Peter lowered his eyes and remained silent for a few seconds. Tony didn't look angry or disappointed. Just concerned. Taking in a shaky breath he opened his mouth and, in a hoarse from all the crying tone, asked his guardian, "Remember the man at the funeral? The one you saw me talking to out in the garden?"

Tony took a couple of seconds to recall before nodding, the signature crease between his eyebrows slowly forming as he focused his attention to Peter's words.

"He told me he'd give me May's murderers if I gave him those files I stole from here… He told me that the killers were the same people that organized the school thing. That they've targeted me and that they'll keep killing off the people I love until they get what they want. That list. And he offered me a deal. The list for the murderers. He told me that it was for the best, as those people would become his own problem and that I'd have nothing to worry about. He showed me proof… Videos that showed some guy doing something to the car… You have to believe me, Tony, it all seemed so real. It never even crossed my mind…"

Tony's hand rubbed Peter's shoulder reassuringly, "I believe you, Peter. You are grieving. I know what that means. I know what it feels like. I know your mind's not in a position to think straight."

Peter nodded slightly reassured from the man's words, before continuing, "So I thought about it and I even tried to find a way around it, asking you to give me access to the killers. To let me kill them. When you said you'd never let me go down that road, I just felt like I had no other choice. Like, that man, Meyers, was my only hope for revenge. For justice. So I built a cloner, asked you to get me here, cloned Cap's chip signal, hacked Friday and took the archives."

"But you never gave them up," Tony commented evenly.

Peter shook his head. "I couldn't bring myself to do it. They don't know I have them, but they gave me an ultimatum. To get them the files by four this afternoon or they'd contact you and let you know of what our deal was. That's when I panicked. I managed to make them lose my tracks and went to the cemetery. Wanda was already there…"

Tony smiled at that, "Yes she was. I went by earlier today too but left when I didn't spot you there. Wanda has an incredible intuition. The two of you are so synced up. As if you were brother and sister."

Peter chose not to comment on the last part. Wanda's hurtful words were still echoing in his mind. Their talk the night he ran away…. Deciding he couldn't process any of that at the moment he turned to look at the man and asked, "What now, Tony?"

"Now, the ball is in our court and we'll play the round," Tony answered seriously. His eyes boring deeply into Peter's he added in a solemn tone, "But this time the game has rules and you're either gonna play by them, or you're not gonna play at all." Letting that sink in without breaking eye contact with the teen he let a few seconds pass before asking, "So what's it gonna be, Pete?"


Peter walked into the cemetery for the second time that day. He walked briskly among the numerous gravestones but this time he didn't head for the one belonging to his aunt. Instead, he kept his pace until he reached an old mausoleum on the west side of the resting grounds.

Shoving his hands into his leather jacket's pockets he leaned on the dark stone wall and shivered lightly at the crisp, humid atmosphere. The seconds ticked away slowly. Too slowly for his liking. He willed himself to keep his expression neutral and his body lax in case he was being watched. When a tall and slim figure appeared and started walking towards him, he glanced at the digital watch on his left hand. "Right on time," he mumbled to himself as he remained propped against the wall waiting eagerly to see who the person was.

When the man came close enough to see his features, Peter immediately realized it was not who he was hoping for. This complicated things somewhat. The guy was no older than thirty years old, tall and muscular. "Where's Meyers?" The teenager asked after a few silent seconds.

"The files, Parker," the man answered in a gruff voice.

"Meyers said nothing about someone else picking up the packet," Peter insisted.

"Mr. Meyers is an important, busy, man. You've cost him too much valuable time as it is. Hand me the packet," the man all but barked.

"No. I will only deliver the files to Meyers himself. That was the deal. He comes here or you take me to him," Peter countered. At the disbelieving glance he got as an answer he offered a sarcastic smile, "What's up, you're afraid of a fifteen-year-old or what?"

"Hand the files, you little piece of shit!"

"Can't and won't. I think you heard me. Take me to Meyers and I'll give them directly to him," Peter said unwaveringly.

The man's face turned grim as he raised a single hand. The two men that suddenly appeared from somewhere behind him, did not surprise Peter at all. His spider-sense had failed to inform him of their presence, but his logic and previous experience with these people and their technology were enough for him to suspect he and the muscle-man were not alone. When their hands grabbed him and the man closed up and began not-too-gently searching him, he kept his expression neutral.

"It's adorable that you think I'm that stupid. You can't have the files without having me, asshole! Ever heard of data implants? What, you thought I'd stroll around New York with the most-wanted list in a flash disk in my back pocket?" he challenged in a bored tone.

"Where is it?" The man snarled bringing his face inches from Peter's when his search proved indeed fruitless.

Peter's eyes didn't blink as he simply repeated, "Take me to Meyers. I am pretty sure he won't be too happy with you if you return from this particular mission empty-handed."

Peter's heartbeat quickened as the man rubbed a hand over his face and paced in front of him in quiet contemplation. Would he call Meyers? That could prove problematic, Peter thought.

Pausing and leveling the teen with a deadly glare before turning to the two guys still holding Peter he finally said, "Fine. Get him to the car. He can't cause problems, anyways. Meyers can decide what he'll do with him."

Peter managed to school his expression and hide his relief and inward triumph. As the men shoved him to walk behind their leader and towards a black SUV that was parked behind a cluster of evergreens, he glanced to his right in time to see an elegant woman dressed in black rising from her crouched position above a gravestone and walking away.


"They're on the move," Natasha said as she slid inside the silver vehicle that was waiting for her outside of the cemetery's central entrance.

Clint nodded and immediately scanned the screen of the small laptop that rested on his knees. As soon as the blinking dot appeared he transferred the laptop to his friend's clutch, before starting the car and grabbing the wheel.

Pressing a finger on her ear Natasha asked for confirmation "Got the feed?"

"We got the feed," Tony confirmed, as his eyes scanned his own screen, where the moving dot promptly appeared.

"Gear up and have the Quinjet at stand-by! We don't know where they'll head to," Steve ordered.

"I'm off," Tony informed the Captain as he got to his feet and started walking towards the rooftop of the base, where his suit was left waiting. "Sam, like we discussed, be ready to grab Peter and take him out of there as soon as we spot him!"

"Roger that, Tony," the other man confirmed.

"And good luck with that," Wanda mumbled as she walked past the man, offering him a sympathetic smile. Walking to Steve she looked at him hopefully, "What if I stay inside the jet? I'll never get out, won't get in the field or fight…"

"Wanda, for the sixth and last time, no. I can't risk it. Not with the effect their tech has on yours and Peter's powers," the man answered seriously.

"But Peter got to go," the young witch countered, only marginally keeping the whining out of her voice.

"Don't remind me," the captain said his voice revealing his palpable displeasure. "Unfortunately, him serving as the bait was the only possible course of action in order to get these bast… People."

Wanda stifled a chuckle at the close call of Steve's cursing. It was a rare occasion, indicative of his emotional state.

Offering half a smile the man continued, "But he'll be removed the moment we lock on their location, and he'll be brought back here immediately. This is not me worrying you can't handle the battle, darling. We know for a fact your powers won't work against them. I'm sorry, but you'll sit this one out."

Nodding her understanding Wanda refrained from arguing any further. "Be careful, ok?"

"Always."

As she walked out of the conference room and a good few feet away from Steve she added over her shoulder, "And beat the crap out of those bastards!"


"Not bad," Peter mumbled to himself as the SUV passed a security checkpoint and started moving towards what looked like a state-of-the-art military facility. He wondered how close his people were and just how much time he'd have in his hands if he found the resolve to do what he was planning to.

When the car came to a halt, the tall man from the cemetery got out of the car and opened the back door, grabbing Peter's arm and dragging him outside.

The moment he was out of the car, Peter felt a headache slowly developing.

Smirking at the pained expression the man tugged him to walk faster, "Not so cocky now, are we?"

"Are you kidding? If I scare you and your bosses enough to turn on your little toys, in fear of what I might do to you…" Peter started answering sarcastically, but he never managed to finish his phrase, as his eyes fell on a familiar figure, exiting the building and stalking towards them. His breath grew heavier and he felt his face contorting in rage as Meyers came closer.

"What have you done?" The older man screamed at Peter's captor. "You imbecile, do you realize what you might have done?"

"What's up Muscles, fearing the boss and his newspaper?" Peter ground out through gritted teeth when the man evidently tensed.

Meyers deadly glare turned to the teen for a second before his hand swung and backhanded Peter forcefully across his face, "You shut your mouth!"

Peter's headache multiplied with the hard hit, and his mouth filled with the taste of blood as his lower lip started bleeding from the impact.

"Take him inside and lock him in my office! Then get to your position. I want every single man at stand-by," he barked at the man before turning to his heel and rushing back inside the building.

"Chop chop, Muscles! You heard your boss," Peter managed to say in a chipper tone, as he spat some blood on the cement covered ground.

In a matter of minutes, Peter found himself inside Meyer's office, bound with tie-wraps on a chair. He tried with all of his strength to break his binds, but he only managed to cause small cuts on both of his wrists. With his strength and healing factor completely out of the game, he gulped uncomfortably, trying to ignore the pain and slowly building fear.

The door opening startled him and he turned to watch a grim-looking Meyers entering. The man moved slowly to his chair behind his desk and threw himself in it. His hands fished inside his pants pocket taking out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Once he lit it and drew in a generous amount of smoke he turned to look at Peter. "Where is it?" he asked in what could pass as a calm tone.

"Somewhere inside me," Peter answered smiling triumphantly.

"I will cut you up in tiny little pieces if I have to, boy, but I will get those files," the man said menacingly.

"And risk cutting the tiny little piece of tech, with me? Nah, I doubt that. Taking me somewhere, where they got X-rays could possibly work, but that would take eeeven more time," Peter mused, trying hard to keep his rage at bay. Seeing the man, sitting there, right across from him was evoking a side of him that wanted blood. Meyers' blood.

Meyers drew in another puff of smoke, before getting up and walking to the front side of his desk, casually leaning on it. "You know, when I see you, I can't help but remember her. Your aunt. Her smile, her cheerful attitude. I remember all those meetings I had with her while I was planning everything… I used to think it was a pity I had to end her. She was a woman one would rather fantasize about as being alive, rather than blown up in little tiny pieces, you know?"

"You fucking, piece of shit," Peter whispered enraged at the words. "I'm gonna end you," he added menacingly as he jolted in the chair causing it to screech against the floorboards.

The man chuckled looking sincerely amused. "And how are you gonna do that?" He asked. "See, your little spider-powers won't work here!"

"I don't need them to kill you, you sick bastard," Peter seethed, every ounce of his composure lost.

Chuckling again Meyers countered, "Yes because you're such a formidable opponent without your spider-tricks. At least you're amusing. Anyway, Parker, my time, contrary to yours, is important. So I'll make you an offer. Even though I have kept my side of the promise and you now know who killed your aunt, I will throw in this little bonus. You and your iron-daddy get out of this alive if you hand me the files now. Don't kid yourself into thinking that the Avengers can beat me and my people, especially not in our own court."

"Oh, yeah? Then why all the yelling to your guard-dogs, huh? You didn't seem so sure of your chances against the Avengers a few minutes ago," Peter answered through a forced smile.

Meyer's took in a second puff of smoke before speaking. "This won't end well for your little suited friends, Parker. If you don't hand me the files willingly, I'll simply have to extract the information of their whereabouts the fun way. Fun for me at least. It's a take it or leave it offer, mind you, so choose wisely."

Peter smiled challengingly at the man before spitting at him with all his might. "Fuck you!" He whispered angrily.

Meyer's gaze followed the trail of saliva that stained his shirt and part of his pants for a few seconds before nodding his head. "The fun way it is," the man said menacingly before standing to his full height. Without any more words, he pressed the still lit cigarette on Peter's exposed forearm, eliciting a scream of pain.

Peter watched as the cigarette bud fell to the ground, leaving a small red circle with a white center on his skin. Before the deep burning pain could even register, Meyer's fist connected with his jaw a second later, causing his head jerk to the side.

"Where is the chip, Parker?" Meyers asked evenly as he folded his shirt sleeves up and out of the way.

Peter rose his face to meet the man's stare but didn't have a chance to answer as the deafening sound of a nearby explosion sounded and the room shook violently, causing Peter's chair to fall over and Meyer's to stumble to the other side of the room.

Despite his ringing ears, Peter felt it. The surge of power, the feeling of complete control of his body and senses. Baring his teeth in a snarl, he snapped his hands and feet free from the now useless binds and hopped to his feet.

It was then that the door burst open and Sam stepped inside. "There you are! C'mon! We gotta hurry," he called to Peter urgently.

Peter turned to look at his teammate for a second and then his eyes turned back to Meyers who was already dashing to his desk.

"Sorry, Sam," he whispered, as his hand shot a web blast that sent the unsuspicious Avenger clear out of the room to slam on the corridor wall.

Just as Meyers was frantically looking in his drawers for his gun, Peter's wrists thrust forward producing a thick line of web that flew and circled the man's throat. Jumping behind him, and locking his feet around the man's waist, Peter grabbed each side of the glistening cord and tugged it violently. He felt Meyers struggle beneath him, desperately trying to loosen the web and get in air.

Peter looked at the reddening face that started to swell. At the bulging eyes and the drops of sweat that formed on the flustered skin before his very eyes. He felt the jolts of the body beneath him as it struggled desperately for air. And just as he felt his stomach churning violently, Tony appeared at the door.

It took the man a couple of seconds for the scene to actually register in his mind. "Peter, no!", he yelled and strode quickly to the struggling pair. "Peter, please, this won't bring you peace," the man pleaded as his hands clasped around the teen's hands.

Peter's eyes closed and his scream resonated in the small space as he let his hands fall limply at his sides. His face lowered and he sent his tears on the floor, as his body started shaking violently.

Meyers, out of the teen's hold, collapsed on the floor, coughing, wheezing and struggling to find his breath.

Tony let out a sigh of relief, as he brought the distraught teen close to him, "That's my boy. It's over. It's over, Pete. We got them. We got them all."


Brown eyes trained on the night sky the young man was lying still on the base's roof for the better half of an hour. Being away from the city and its lights offered a beautiful starscape that never failed to soothe and relax him. Almost never. The sound of feet approaching did not stir him in the slightest. Not even when his mentor sat next to him did Peter avert his eyes from above.

"I'm more than happy to report that MTC484 are officially neutralized," Tony mentioned casually. "Everyone accounted for and imprisoned. A few casualties from the battle," he added, his eyes focusing entirely on the teenager.

"Good," Peter answered lamely. Feeling the muscles around his stomach tensing.

"How are you holding up?" Tony asked quietly.

"I'm fine," came the distant answer.

"Bull."

"Well, what do you expect me to say?" Peter countered.

"The truth."

Silence rang loudly between them for the next minute. Tony was ready to retry to initiate conversation, but the teenager beat him to it.

"I wish I was gone," Peter whispered. "I wish I was in the car with her."

"Pete… Don't talk like that…"

"You wanted the truth, didn't you? Well, this is the truth. I wish I never had to go through all these. I wish I had never fucked everything up with you guys, I wish I had never get involved with those fuckers, I wish I hadn't ruined everything, I wish I didn't have to get up tomorrow morning and face reality," Peter continued. At the lack of response, he added more quietly, "I wish I had never made you hate me."

The last bit shocking him to the core the man looked at the teen incredulously, "What on earth are you talking about, kid? Hate you? You're one of the main reasons I am happy to be alive! You're one of the main reasons I get up every morning and step out of bed, Pete. I love you, kid."

Peter turned to look at the man with glistening eyes, "Why? I almost betrayed you. I ran away and did everything you told me not to do. Why do you love me?"

"Because. Because you're this incredible young man, this powerful fighter, this sweet and caring friend, this loving creature that would give his own life for anyone he loved without a second thought. And because, like it or not, life made you mine. My kid. And that's kind of more than enough."

Peter mulled the man's words over but opted not to further comment on anything. "I'm out of the Avengers aren't I?" he asked after a brief pause.

"You want to be out of the Avengers?" Tony asked evenly.

"Of course not," Peter answered immediately.

"Then you aren't. We all make mistakes, Peter. Nobody wants you out and nobody thinks less of you. Steve is not happy with your choices, but not because of the Avengers. Because of your lack of trust in us and because of your disregard for your personal safety."

"And you?"

"I am also disappointed, but not so much in you as in me. If I had handled things better you wouldn't feel like you had to do this alone, behind our back. I'm sorry about that, Peter. I'm sorry I let you down."

Peter stole a side glance at the man. That was it? "So, you're not, like, mad? For everything I did?"

"After all you've been through the last thing you need is me being mad, Pete. I know you've realized where you went wrong about this. There is no point in mulling over this anymore, is it?"

Biting his lip Peter answered, "Guess not."

Tony turned his eyes to the sky as he spoke the next words, "I don't want you to see this as punishment, 'cause it's not, but I want you to take a short break from spider-man. Till you're feeling a bit more like yourself. Your powers are not stable yet, and I'm afraid that they might act up, or not work reliably, while you're going through such an emotional period. Just give it a couple of weeks, maybe a month. And we'll see from there."

Peter was surprised that these news didn't bother him as much as he expected them to. In all honesty, the last thing he could think about at the moment was spider-man activity. "Yeah, sounds like a plan," he agreed.

"I was thinking we'd crush here tonight and get back home tomorrow. How does that sound?" Tony asked.

Home… Peter thought, and a tight knot formed in his throat. "Sure, Tony," he mumbled quietly.

Tony remained staring at the small-framed young man. He couldn't shake the feeling that no matter how well this talk had gone, so many things were left unsaid and unsolved. "How about we go get some sleep? It's been a long day, I'm sure you're exhausted."

Peter bit his lip before answering, "I'm gonna stay a bit longer. I'll head down soon, promise."

Trying to ignore the feeling of uneasiness that built up inside him, Tony nodded and stood up. "Good night, Peter."

"Yeah… Good night."


 

Chapter Text

A/N: One of the hardest parts of this story - till now - is finally written! It ended up being too big for a single chapter so I broke it up in two. That way you get two updates in one day. Not bad right?

A big thank you to my amazing beta who had everything ready for me in less than a day (way to go Ullswater!) and to all of you for following, reading and giving feedback to this story. Half my inspiration comes from you guys.

Enjoy and please drop a line with your thoughts!


Part 1.


"Peter, it's the fifth time in a seven-day-period. You don't turn in homework, you never pay attention during classes… You have to help me help you here!"

Eyes distant and expression completely neutral Peter looked right back at his English teacher. "Sorry, Mrs. H."

Sighing the woman laced her fingers together and leaned back in her chair, looking at him with evident concern. "I don't need an apology, dear. I understand things must be very hard for you right now. But you need to step up a little, Peter. You're such a bright young man. I know you feel like nothing really matters right now, but you need to make some effort… Your grades are slipping…"

"No offense, Mrs. H., but I don't give a crap about my grades," Peter cut her off. "I appreciate your concern. You don't have to feel bad for me though. If you think my grade should be lowered then go ahead and lower it. Thanks for the heads-up," he added and turned his back, exiting the classroom and ignoring the woman calling his name.

Walking to his locker he all but prayed he wouldn't be called again to the counselor's office. He couldn't handle another minute with the insufferable woman desperately trying to make him talk to her about his "suffering" and "grief".

"Hey, dude!"

Turning around at the familiar voice, while closing the metallic door, Peter offered a hint of a smile to Quill. "Hey, Q!" His gaze traveled behind the tall blonde, where Wanda stood at a distance. She kept her eyes fixed on her phone while waiting for her boyfriend somewhat impatiently.

Jaw clenching, Peter turned to Quill, who now looked rather uncomfortable.

"Dude, I'll talk to her. You know how she gets. I'm sure…"

"Don't sweat it, man. Really. see you around," Peter cut him off, and, clutching the strap of his backpack, turned his back to the couple and walked towards the building's exit.

Wanda slowly walked next to Quill eyeing Peter's departing figure. "Where the hell is he off to? We've still got three more periods left," she commented as indifferently as she could.

Turning to her with disapproval plastered all over his face the older teen retorted, "Maybe if you made an actual effort to talk to him and be there for him instead of giving him the silent treatment for two weeks now, we would know!"

Rolling her eyes the girl groaned, "We're not going over this again! He screwed up. He's the one that should apologize and make this right."

Sighing in frustration Quill shook his head before saying emphatically, "He's also the one who lost his last living relative!"

Running frustrated hands through her hair and tugging them behind her ears, Wanda simply turned her back and walked away. "I'm done talking about this," she threw over her shoulder.

"Right. Very mature, babe," the older teen commented loudly enough to cause a couple of passing students to stare at their direction. Huffing in annoyance, the blonde young man glanced at his watch. "Oh, what the hell," he mumbled and headed towards the direction Peter had gone, hoping to catch him before he disappeared.


The small park was rather quiet at this time of the day. Sat on a bench in the most secluded area, near the east entrance, with headphones firmly attached to his ears and the volume to the highest setting, Peter's eyes followed lazily the yellow leaves as they were snatched off their branches by the strong November wind. His head bobbing rhythmically along the music he struggled to keep his mind empty.

A short vibration from his phone made him glance at it. Another message. From Ned this time.

'Bio just started. Should I tell Jenkins you're on your way?'

The teen rolled his eyes not bothering to answer. His friend knew more than well the answer to his question. It was three days now that he rarely attended any classes after the fifth period. He ignored the small pang of guilt and worry over how distant he was towards both him and MJ. They both were making real efforts to be there for him without pressuring him. They were always available whenever he felt like talking or hanging out. A rare occasion these days. In all truth and for the most part, all he wanted was to be left alone. To not think, to not talk, to not listen.

The hand that suddenly clasped on his shoulder made him jump in surprise. Removing his headphones with one hand he turned sharply and sighed in relief upon recognizing Quill. "What are you doing here? Don't you have classes?" He asked, his tone revealing a mixture of surprise and slight annoyance.

Raising taunting eyebrows the older teen countered, "Don't you?"

Snorting, Peter shook his head. "You shouldn't be here, Quill. You might get in trouble with the school…"

Quill shrugged his shoulder and laced his fingers behind his neck as he sat next to Peter on the bench and stretched his legs lazily then he retorted indifferently "Couldn't care less."

"Wanda will be mad at you," Peter added with a hint of bitterness in his voice.

Snorting, Quill looked at him furrowing his eyebrows, "Dude, we might be together, but she doesn't get a say in who is my friend and who isn't. Plus, I'm sure that deep down she'd be relieved if she knew I was hanging out with you."

Smiling knowingly Peter nodded, "Keyword being IF she knew."

Winking the older boy simply retorted, "What they don't know can't hurt them, right?"

Shaking his head Peter nodded again in an amused expression, "I guess."

"Sooo…" Quill said as he glanced around them skeptically. "Wanna grab a coffee?"

"How about a beer?" Peter asked as his gaze focused on the small pond a few feet away.

Bringing a hand to cover his mouth in feigned shock, Quill asked in a hushed tone, "Before lunch?"

Snickering, Peter got to his feet, "Asshole!"

"Fuckhead," Quill retorted smiling as he got to his feet and walked beside him.

The two of them walked a couple of blocks away to a small pub, Quill and his senior friends frequented. He left Peter to find them a spot in the dimly lit interior, as he went to the bar to order them two beers.

Peter found a small table and sat, glancing around him. He found the place welcoming and pleasant. The walls were paneled with warm brown wood, as did the floor. The windows had dark green glass, which filtered the light from the outside, creating the perfect atmosphere for a drink even in the middle of the day. The music was not half bad either. What pleased him most though was how comfortable and at ease he felt around Quill.

When the older teen joined him with two bottles of beer and a bowl filled with chips, he smiled at him approvingly. "Cool place, Q."

Giving him his bottle, Quill raised his own "Cheers, P."

Clinking the bottle's neck to his friend's Peter promptly brought it to his lips and gulped down a long sip.

"So…" Quill said evenly after a few silent minutes. "If I ask how you've been holding up, will you break the bottle on my head or something?"

Peter contemplated the question but then simply shook his head. "No. I know I've been kind of an ass lately... To you, to Ned, to MJ… But it's not like you can't talk to me or, you know, like, ask me stuff."

"Yeah, well, it's kinda pointless when we never get any answers, though."

"I know," Peter said in an even tone. "It's not that I don't wanna give them. It's that I don't have them. I don't know how I'm holding up. Everything feels… Just… Fucked up."

Quill regarded his friend and remained silent for a few seconds. "You know, I was just eight years old when my mom died, but I remember feeling like things were pretty fucked up too."

"When did it get better?" Peter asked glancing at his friend hopefully.

"It… Kinda didn't… But it also did…"

"Oh, right. Yeah. Makes total sense," Peter said sarcastically as he sipped his beer again.

"What I mean is, I cannot tell you I ever got over it. At some point, it just, like, faded to the background, you know? But it was really gradual. It helped that I had Yondu too."

"It did?" Peter asked a bit surprised. "'Cause I can't say having Tony has felt particularly helpful to me."

"What do you mean?" Quill asked, his turn to look surprised.

"I mean… He's changed, you know? Like… Like he's so afraid around me all the time. He just acts so different. Like we're strangers again. Constantly hovering, asking questions, urging me to see a shrink, and yet never being really there. Not like he was before…"

Quill listened intently as he sipped his beer. "I… I don't know what to tell you on that man. I mean… I didn't know Yondu before. I met him when mom was already gone. They sent me to him. So I can't tell if he changed around me. But, maybe your man just needs some time to get used to everything. Maybe he's just giving you space."

"Yeah," Peter said sounding distant again. "Maybe he does."

His phone vibrating, made the teen glance at its screen. "Yeah?" He spoke as soon as he answered it.

"No, I left- Close- Tough! No, Happy- Ok, yeah- I said yes, God-," he snapped as he ended the call.

"Tony?" Quill guessed.

"No, his driver. I need to get back to school. They called Tony because I cut school again and he sent Happy to pick me up," Peter grumbled. Rising to his feet he got out a ten-dollar bill and placed it on the table. "Thanks for hanging out, Quill."

"Anytime, Pete. I mean it," the blonde replied.

Nodding Peter swallowed another generous gulp of his still half-full bottle, before shrugging on his jacket and backpack and walking out of the cozy pub.


"Third time this week! What's with you kid?" Happy asked demandingly.

Peter rolled his eyes and ignoring the man. He plugged his headphones in his phone, before pulling up his favorite playlist. Increasing the volume enough to completely drown out the still talking driver he leaned his head against the cold window, gazing outside to nothing in particular. Walking to school he had dared to hope that Tony would also be in the car. When he saw just Happy he almost laughed at his own foolishness. Tony was a busy man, he couldn't be bothered every single time he caused trouble at school. Trying to ignore the bitterness he felt he closed his eyes and focused all of his attention on the lyrics of the song that blared in his ears, drowning out any other thought, and sensation.

It was a good twenty minutes later when he felt the car slowing down. Opening his eyes just in time to see the car gliding inside the garage area, he grabbed his backpack and opened the door before Happy had fully stopped. Stepping outside he ignored the furious yelling man, shut the door and jogged to the elevator.

As soon as the doors of the lift closed, his music was interrupted by Friday's melodic voice. "Mr. Stark would like to see you in his office, young Mr. Parker."

Eyebrows raising slightly Peter asked, "He's home?"

"Yes, young Mr. Parker."

Surprised that the man wasn't at his company's office or on Avengers duty Peter mumbled a thank you to the AI. Feeling his stomach tightening slightly, he stepped out of the elevator a minute later and glanced around him. Pepper wasn't around, but that was more than expected. It was barely two in the afternoon. Stepping out of the parlor and following the long corridor that led to the man's office, Peter took off his headphones and knocked on the large door twice.

"Come in, Pete," Tony called from inside.

The young man took a small breath before opening the door. Leaning on the doorframe but not fully entering he asked, "What's up?"

Raising an eyebrow Tony looked at the teen a bit surprised. "That's what I wanted to know, actually. Come on in, kid. I don't bite."

Sighing lightly, Peter stepped inside and closed the door behind him. He walked to one of the chairs in front of the man's desk and collapsed in it.

Tony regarded him kindly, "Tough day?"

Eyes turning to his mentor a bit surprised Peter slowly shook his head, "Not really."

"You seem tired," Tony observed.

'You think?' The teen thought to himself. But instead of voicing his thoughts he simply shrugged.

"Your school called… Again," the man said casually. Leaning back in his chair, trying his hardest to not sound or look confrontational or angry.

"I just needed some air," Peter said quietly.

Nodding, the man remained silent for a few seconds before leaning forward in his desk. "I get that, Pete, I really do. But it's the third day in a row that you're cutting school. The principal also told me that several teachers have expressed their concern about your performance…"

"Yeah, well, sorry for not being able to focus on algebra and literature with my aunt freshly dead," he snapped.

"Hey, there's no need to get agitated. I'm not angry. I'm a bit concerned though. I know it's only been a couple of weeks, but you do need to start getting back to your routines at some point. And school's one of these routines, kid."

"I know," Peter answered tiredly.

The man regarded the young man with worry multiplying instead of dissipating. What the hell was he gonna do? "How about I write an email excusing you for today, and you trying to bear through the whole day tomorrow. And I could help you with some catching up during the weekend. Hand in a couple of papers on Monday, show them you're trying. How does that sound?"

Peter stared at the man disbelievingly for a couple of seconds. Averting his eyes he slowly stood up, "Sure, yeah. Anything else?"

Tony cleared his throat and managed to keep his expression pleasant. "No. Go ahead and get some rest. Let me know if you need anything."

Nodding, Peter turned his back to the man and walked hastily out of the room, leaving Tony staring at the wooden surface of his door. Sighing deeply, the man took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes tiredly. "He just needs a bit more time," he mumbled to himself. "Yeah. Just a bit more time."


"Captain Rogers?"

Eyes fluttering open, the blonde man glanced around him a bit startled. He glanced at the clock and sat up in his bed, "Yes?" he asked in a hoarse voice.

"There is someone requesting entrance to the premises," the AI of the Avenger's base immediately informed.

"At this hour?" Steve asked completely taken aback. "Who is it?"

"Mr. Yondu, sir. With young Mr. Parker."

"With Peter?" Steve mumbled even more surprised. "Access allowed. Have someone lead them to the main entrance, please," the man said, as all traces of sleep left him. Putting on his discarded jeans and a dark purple t-shirt he jogged out of the room and towards the large metallic elevator. Half a minute later, as soon as the doors slid open, Steve walked briskly across the large parlor of the base.

His eyes enlarged as he saw the man entering, holding a gleefully singing Peter by the collar. "Hey, Cap!"

"Yondu? Peter?" Steve asked lamely.

"Yeah… I think this belongs to ya?" the man answered in his gruff voice, motioning with his head to the teen.

Steve shook his head lightly in an effort to clear his mind and comprehend what exactly was going on, "What on… How…" he trailed, but Yondu cut him off.

"Caught him and my boy hitting the bottle at my place. Don't lose yer shit, I wasn't home. Wasn't supposed to come back till tomorrow, but the job ended earlier than expected. Singing Stringbean here insisted I bring him to his 'Captain Kirk'. Now, I'm no Trekky, but I imagined he meant you."

"Captain Kirk!" Peter gleefully exclaimed pointing a finger to the blonde man, before bursting into a fit of laughter.

Shaking his head unimpressed Steve turned back to the man, "Thanks for bringing him, Yondu." A hand clasping behind the teen's neck and gently tugging him closer to him, Steve turned his head slightly upwards and immediately called, "Please alert Bruce that I'm bringing him a very drunk Mr. Parker in a couple of minutes."

"Of course, sir," the AI echoed.

Turning back to the man Steve offered a small smile, "Come on up, the very least I can do is offer you some coffee."

The mostly bald man simply shook his head. "Thanks, Cap, but I'd better get moving. I got Quill's godfather to come over and keep an eye on him, while I delivered Parker. Don't wanna keep him too long. Ya'll call Stark for me?"

"Of course," the blonde man smiled kindly.

Yondu nodded and turned to leave before pausing and facing Steve again, "Just… Don't think bad of my boy for this. He's not a drunk or anything. From what he told me before I left, I think he just wanted to be there for Peter tonight."

Steve appeared thoughtful but eventually nodded. "I think you might be right. Peter has not been coping too well lately. It's still the second time, that young Peter is mixed with alcohol escapades. There better not be a third time if he wants to keep seeing Wanda."

"There won't," Yondu answered with certainty. "'Night Cap."

"Goodnight, Yondu."


.

Tony woke with a start at the sound of his phone ringing. Fumbling blindly on his bedside table he managed to grab it and answer the call. "Yeah?"

"Are you asleep?" Steve asked surprised.

"Considering it's almost two in the morning, yeah, I am," he quipped. "What's going on?"

"So you have no idea that Peter is not home?"

"What are you on about? Of course he's home! It's two in the morning!'

"Then who's the very drunk kid that is currently emptying the contents of his stomach all over Bruce's lab?"

All traces of sleepiness evaporating, Tony sat up in his bed abruptly, "What?"

Sighing Steve said, "Don't worry, we're on it. I just wanted to let you know. I thought your AI would have already informed you."

"No… He must have gone out before his curfew or Friday would have let me know he snuck out… Anyway... I'll be there in about an hour," Tony said and ended the call.

Pepper who had also sat up on the bed looked at him questioningly, "Peter?"

"Yeah. Apparently, he's a bit drunk. He's at the Base," the man answered as he put on his jeans and a black sweater.

"He's drunk?" Pepper asked, her voice filling with worry.

"Yeah, but Bruce and Steve are with him. Don't worry. Everything's under control…"

"Bullshit! Tony we both know nothing is under control," Pepper said exasperatedly.

"I know, ok? I know!" Tony snapped. Sighing at the hurt look on Pepper's face, he walked close to her and pressed a kiss on her lips. "I'm trying to figure it out. And I'm all ears if you manage to figure it out first. For now, I need to go to him. Don't wait up. If he's asleep by the time I get there I won't wake him up. He has a long day at school tomorrow and he needs as much sleep as he can get."

"Fine," the woman sighed and slumped back in her pillows.


"Hey, Tony," Bruce said kindly, as his fellow Avenger entered his lab.

"Is he alright?" Tony urgently asked, moving closer to the bed, where Peter was laying snoring quietly.

"He's fine. That kid can really not hold his liquor, though…"

At the unamused glance, he got from Tony he raised his hands placatingly, "Just trying to lighten the atmosphere. But, really, he is fine. He threw up twice, I gave him a mixture of electrolytes to replenish his liquids, some Advil to help with tomorrow's headache and he was fast asleep in no time at all."

"Thank you, Bruce. Do you mind if we spend the night here? I don't want to wake him up to take him back home so late."

"Of course, man. You didn't even have to ask. I'll go and try to grab a few more hours as well, but fetch me immediately if anything comes up."

Nodding gratefully at the man, Tony watched him leaving the room before he grabbed a chair and brought it close to his sleeping charge's side. Taking off his glasses, he used his fingers to pinch the bridge of his nose as he shut his eyes tightly. When he opened them again, he stared at Peter's sleeping face and mumbled, "What am I gonna do with you kid?"


Light shaking bringing him to gradual alertness, Peter slowly peeled his eyes open only to groan loudly as an intense headache apparently decided to wake up with him. Managing to focus on the figure above him he recognized Tony. Glancing around him with difficulty, the teen turned to the man, "Where are we?"

Helping him sit up straighter in the bed Tony simply answered, "At the base."

"Why?" Peter asked as he brought a hand to rub at his right temple.

"Because after sneaking out and getting wasted with Quill yesterday, you demanded to be brought here," Tony answered matter of factly.

Eyes widening with the clarity and memories the man's words invoked Peter glanced at him with slight bewilderment. "Oh... Right…"

Tony regarded him unamused before reaching at the bedside table and handing him a glass of water. "Drink it," he ordered.

Peter gulped it down without argument, partly because his mouth felt dry as a shoe. When he set the glass down, Tony handed him a mug of coffee next, before plopping himself on the chair next to the boy. He watched as Peter took a sip from the cup and had to work to not chuckle at the kid's disgusted grimace.

"Ew! I don't take my coffee, black, Tony," he all but whined.

"You are today. Sugar won't help with your stomach and the bitter taste will help you wake up and sober up faster. There's some toast on the desk, make sure you eat some of it so that we can get some painkillers in you. School will be insufferable without them."

Peter looked at the man incredulously, "You can't be serious! You'll make me go to school today?"

Tony looked back with a completely even expression, "Of course I will. We agreed yesterday it's gonna be your first full day of school and that come tomorrow we'll get you caught up with schoolwork."

"But I feel awful," Peter argued lamely.

"Which is entirely your own fault. It was your choice getting drunk yesterday, despite knowing full well you're not allowed to drink alcohol without permission and supervision, and so today you'll have to suffer through the consequences of your actions. Hangover and school."

"What is this? Some sort of intervention? New punishment method?" Peter asked annoyed.

Raising a single eyebrow Tony leaned a bit closer to the kid. "I think we both know perfectly well this is far from what a punishment for getting drunk would be, Peter. It's not that long ago that you received one after all," he said in a warning tone. Noting the blush his words brought to the kid he only continued, "this is not a punishment. You cannot afford to miss more days of school and you cannot expect everyone and everything around you constantly going out of their way to accommodate you. I understand what you're going through, which is why I'm not going to punish you for this, but you're not gonna get rewarded for it with a day off either."

Peter glanced at the man a bit dejectedly but remained silent. Managing to get another sip from the bitter coffee in his hands after a few silent seconds he turned to the man again, "But I don't have any clothes here!"

"Yes, you do. I brought you a change when I came here last night. I've put them in your room. Once you feel a bit better and eat your toast, you'll go shower and get ready. Take your time. We have more than an hour and a half ahead of us," Tony replied unphased.

"Will you take me to school?" Peter asked.

"Yeah, both you and Wanda. I need to see your principal as well and reassure him we're working on getting you back to your feet."

Sighing in frustration Peter shook his head as he got off the bed he was in and headed for the lab's exit.

"Your toast," Tony called a bit curtly.

"Not hungry," the teen snapped right back without turning to even glance at him.

As the glass doors slid open, Peter had to turn to the side to not collide with Steve who was approaching from outside.

Watching the kid stalking away, Steve turned to look at Tony sympathetically. "You punished him already?" asked the captain.

"Don't be ridiculous. I'm not gonna punish the kid for hurting," Tony retorted glaring at the man.

"I certainly hope not… But I was talking about the drinking," Steve answered as he walked closer to his friend, leaning against the bed Peter had just vacated.

"He wouldn't get drunk if he wasn't hurting. I'm not going to punish him for this. He has enough on his plate as it is."

"I see. And you're trying to add even more on his pile. Makes sense," the blonde man quipped in a dry tone.

Eyes narrowing Tony crossed his arms in front of his chest. "What is that supposed to mean, Rogers?"

Completely unphased Steve retorted, "That you keep excusing every single dysfunctional behavior by blaming it on his grieving, while not doing anything to ensure he won't repeat them!"

"You arrogant bastard! You don't know anything about what I have and haven't done for him over the last couple of weeks," Tony snapped angrily.

"No, but I know a lot about all the things he has and hasn't done over the last couple of weeks. And your response to his behavior today explains so much," Steve answered exasperatedly.

Getting to his feet the man said in an icy tone, "I won't sit here and listen to this crap. You don't know what he's going through nor what he needs!"

Captain's eyes narrowed slightly as he spoke his next words. "No, but I know for a fact that what you've been giving him is evidently not it, because that kid is screaming for something he isn't getting. I just hope you realize that before it's too late. Last week was no homework, this week was cutting school, last night it was sneaking out and getting drunk. I wonder, what's it gonna be tomorrow?"

Tony watched the blonde man getting to his feet and walking out with these last words. He found himself seething with anger. Not sure if that anger targeted Captain Righteous or his own self, he rubbed a hand over his face, before leaving the lab and heading to check on Peter.


"So, you see, Mr. Stark, I think I speak for all of us when I say Peter is seriously worrying us," the counselor said kindly as the headmaster and the two teachers present at the meeting nodded their agreement forlornly.

Tony scrunched his mouth up and nervously rubbed his chin trying to get a grip of his temper. In that moment he wished more than anything in the world that he'd have listened to Pepper's advice to have her attend this meeting instead of him. She'd manage to wrap them all around her little finger, instead of just sitting there and listening for hours to all the troubling things they observed and thought about Peter and their potential escalation.

The man leaned back in his chair steepling his hands and clearing his throat. "With all due respect counselor, and I'm asking you seeing that this is your area of expertise, would you say that two and a half weeks is an awfully long time for a teenager, or anyone for that matter, to get over his grief over a loss?"

The woman looked at the man raising both eyebrows in surprise, "Of course not, Mr. Stark! I never implied…"

"And would you expect of a teenager who lost his last living relative and the only mother he's ever known, so suddenly and traumatically might I add, to handle his emotions like a mature adult, thinking of the long-term consequences of his reactions, yada-yada?"

Keeping her calm exterior the woman answered evenly, "On the contrary, Mr. Stark. I'd expect said teenager fully unravel. And that's precisely why we're here today. To prevent that from happening. Peter is lucky enough to be in a school well equipped to notice troubling signs and act before it's too late. We're not here to accuse Peter or label him as dysfunctional, we're here to make sure he doesn't fall into patterns that will…"

"...Dramatically alter his life and will jeopardize his future…" Tony cut her off once again tiredly. "I assure you, Mrs. Duvall…"

"It's Dr. Duvall, Mr. Stark," the woman interrupted him a hint of annoyance penetrating her even tone.

"Yeah, well, I assure you, I've contacted and consulted a bunch of specialists already. I am doing my best to support Peter through this and sooner or later we're gonna get there. He just needs some time. And I need you to give him that time. Me and Mrs. Potts are doing everything in our power to help the kid in any way we can. He's already agreed to stop cutting classes and throughout this weekend we're gonna make a real effort to get him back on track with his schoolwork."

"That is great to hear, Mr. Stark," Duval nodded. "But I'll need a bit more than that. I need you to get him in my office. One hour, once a week, that's all I'm asking."

"No," Tony simply answered looking at the woman straight in the eye.

"Mr. Stark," the headmaster tried to intervene, but Tony simply shook his head again.

"I'm not making my kid see a shrink just because Mrs. Duvall is demanding it, principal, sorry!" The man said in an exasperated tone.

"It's Dr. Duvall, and I advise you to reconsider! Peter is in no mental state to realize he needs help or to accept that he can get it from a person completely unrelated to him and the current situation, but that's exactly what he needs. I'm only trying to help him, Mr. Stark!"

"I know you do. I appreciate it, but I'm not making him do this. Not a single day passes without me offering him the chance to see a professional. The moment he says yes, he's all yours! But I'm not making him. And that's the end of it. In fact, as his legal guardian, it's well within my rights to demand he's not made to come to your office even if the administration orders that he does. And I'm not going to back out on this one!" The man declared in a strong tone, eyes turning from the displeased counselor to the flustered principal.

At the silence that followed his words, Tony sat up a bit straighter and took a minute to calm his himself and put his thoughts into order. What would Pepper say? "I'm taking everything you told me here today into serious consideration. I am grateful you're paying attention to my kid and I promise I'm gonna get him back to his feet. All I'm asking is a bit of time and a bit of leniency on your part. Don't drop his grades yet, give us one more week to try and figure things out. Is that too much to ask? One more week?"

Exchanging pensive glances between them, the professors finally shook their heads.

It was the English teacher that spoke then. "No, Mr. Stark. Peter has always been a very dilligent student and a delight to be around. The least we can do is to offer both of you another week. But you need to understand, if he keeps missing classes and not turning in his work beyond that point…"

"You're more than welcome to take any action you deem necessary after that point. I'll more than understand. Thank you," Tony answered to the woman gratefully. Turning to Dr. Duvall he added, "And I promise the minute he agrees to see someone you'll be the first one I'll encourage him to talk to. This is nothing personal."

Shaking her head and offering a small knowing smirk the woman rose to her feet. "On the contrary Mr. Stark. I sense that this is very personal, and that is part of the problem." With nothing more to add she exited the room, leaving it in awkward silence.

Clearing his throat the principal slowly rose to his feet after a few seconds. "Well, Mr. Stark, I think we've had quite a productive meeting."

Resisting the very strong urge to roll his eyes, Tony managed to force a small smile, "We certainly did. Thank you all for your time and understanding."


Peter found himself looking behind his back more often than he'd like to admit. He wasn't sure why he felt so nervous about leaving the school after all the times he had already done it. It was almost lunchtime and Tony was bound to have left the school before the first period was even over. His fists clenched inside his jacket as he thought of the man speaking about him to his teachers. He was sure all he tried to do was sell him as a charity case to ensure his grades didn't slip and his chances to get into college wouldn't decrease… He had heard this poem so many times from so many people over the course of the last few days he'd happily rip his ears right off his head if anybody tried to repeat it to him.

Tapping on the sound button of his phone and making the volume of the music blaring from his headphones to significantly increase, he allowed his mind to focus on the song instead of his own thoughts. Hastening his pace he turned on the nearest corner and halted on the sidewalk, patiently waiting for the pedestrian traffic light to change into green.

When a car screeched at a halt in front of him, Peter looked up surprised. As angry honks began echoing from the cars that had to abruptly stop behind, Peter felt his stomach drop when he realized who was glaring at him from the driver's seat. He watched Tony leaning over and opening the passenger's door from the inside. His music still blaring he never really heard the words, but easily read the man's lips forming them. "Get in!"

With the angry honking only increasing and Tony not looking even remotely willing to continue driving the car if the teen didn't comply, Peter hurried inside, slamming the door closed. Using one hand to get his headphones off and another to put on his seatbelt he turned to look at the man annoyed.

"What are you doing here?"

"What am I doing here? What the hell are you doing here? You were supposed to stay in school today," the man said angrily as he began driving again.

"I guess I couldn't focus with my head pounding like crazy all morning," Peter shot back curtly. "I told you I didn't want to come!"

"And I told you that you would, despite not wanting too! It's your own fault you got a headache! You're not sick, you got drunk! That was your choice, Peter," Tony said barely keeping his voice below yelling level.

"Yeah well, so is not attending school," Peter snapped back.

"Oh no! No, young man! If you think that you get a free pass to drop out of school you've got another thing coming!"

"Free pass?" Peter yelled looking at the man incredulously. "Did you fucking seriously just say that?"

"You know more than well what I mean! You're not guilt-tripping me out of this discussion!"

"Fuck this," Peter mumbled as he angrily placed his headphones back over his ears and turned to look outside of the window in silent seething.

Tony glanced at the teen in disbelief before turning the wheel and entering the parking lot of a large market store that they were just passing. Once he found a spot and immobilized the vehicle he turned in his seat to better face the teen. "Peter!" He called trying hard to keep the volume of his voice even.

When the teen kept staring out of his window with his head bobbing rhythmically, the man reached out a hand and grabbed hold of the cell phone Peter held tightly in his left hand.

Head snapping towards the man, Peter looked at him straight in the eye challengingly as his fist clamped tighter around the small device.

Jaw setting and a deep line forming between his eyebrows, Tony used his other hand to land a hard swat to the side of Peter's thigh.

Even though there was little pain felt from the super-powered teen, the shock of the act made him momentarily ease his hold on the phone. Tony snatched it away, unplugged the headphones and promptly turned it off, before tucking it in his suit's inside pocket.

"Did it really have to come to that?" He asked a now slightly flushed and evidently displeased Peter.

"Give it back," Peter ground out as a response.

"No. You won't get it back till Monday. You won't be needing it, anyway. You're grounded," Tony answered in a stern tone.

"This is bullshit!" Peter exclaimed angrily.

Expression growing dark, and tone dropping at least an octave, Tony jabbed a finger at the teen warningly, "You listen to me well, young man! I'm tired of this behavior and this lashing out. I've been nothing but supportive and understanding, but if you think I'll allow you to continue flanking every damn aspect of your life, then you really don't know me as well as I thought you did."

"What is this? Did you decide to play the strict concerned card all of a sudden? Tough love and shit?" The teenager asked in a sarcastic tone as he glared at the man.

"I'm not playing anything, I'm trying to…"

"Don't! Just, don't! Don't say you're trying to help me! I swear if I hear those words one more time…" Peter cut off the man.

"You'll do what? Throw another tantrum? Go ahead. It won't change a bloody thing!"

"I'm sick of everyone being on my case constantly! Don't you fucking get it?" Peter all but screamed, his hands tugging angrily at his own hair, as his face flushed with anger.

Tone increasing in volume and fingers tapping impatiently on the steering wheel Tony shook his head. "Yeah, well, tough! Everyone is on your case because everyone cares. Whether you're in a position of appreciating this or not, we care. You can scream your lungs out and do one stupid thing after the other, it still won't change that fact."

With these words the man turned the key in the ignition and started driving slowly out of the parking lot, eyes trained on the road.

Peter felt his anger reaching a boiling point, but couldn't bring himself to retort to the man. Shaking his head he turned to stare out of the window once more. His jaw clenched tightly and he started bouncing his right leg as his only means of externalizing some of his tension and frustration in the confines of the vehicle.


Pepper was lounging on the large sofa in the living room, holding a cup of tea and absentmindedly leafing through several documents that were scattered around her, when she heard the elevator's doors opening. She looked up expecting Tony but was surprised to see Peter stepping in.

"Pete? What are you doing home so early? Are you alright?" She asked in a concerned tone, as she took off her glasses and rushed to her feet.

"Fucking, peachy, Pepper! Thanks for asking," he snapped as he turned and headed for the stairs that led to the second level.

"Peter, wait!" Pepper called out as she attempted to follow.

"Leave me the FUCK alone!" Peter yelled angrily as he turned sharply to look at the woman. He took in a couple of heaving breaths as he watched Pepper's face changing from shocked to hurt.

Pepper remained still, watching him jogging up the rest of the stairs. Easing herself slowly back in the sofa she felt her eyes welling up but willed herself not to cry. As the back of her hand swiped at her cheeks, where a couple of teardrops had managed to slide, the elevator opened for the second time and Tony walked in.

"Peps?" He asked immediately concerned when he saw her drying her tears. Closing the distance between them he sat next to her, took hold of her hands, and locked eyes with her. "What's up, baby?"

Shaking her head and managing a smile the woman answered in a mostly steady tone, "I'm fine. Just… Never mind. What's up with Peter? Why is he back so early?"

Eyes narrowing the man asked, "Did he say anything to you?"

"No, that's why I'm asking," Pepper answered casually taking her hands from his clasp and reaching for her mug.

"You know what I mean," Tony asked in a serious tone. "Did he make you cry?"

"Do I look like I'm crying?"

"You look like you're almost crying and making a hell of an effort to not answer my question," the man answered impatiently.

"Tony, what happened at school? Why was he so mad? Why isn't he at school?" Pepper asked evading his questioning once again.

"I caught him skipping school again, so I brought him home."

"You what?" Pepper asked in an unexpectedly curt tone. At the confused look the man sent her, she elaborated, "You said he'd be in school all day today. Why did you bring him back? You should have taken him back to school!"

"He'd just leave again, Peps!"

"Then you should stay out of the gate and make sure he couldn't!" The woman said exasperatedly. "Now it's like we encourage him to keep doing this! He took what he wanted by leaving school, don't you see?"

"He also caught quite the scolding and a grounding," Tony pointed out curtly.

"You grounded him?" Pepper asked a bit surprised.

"Yes. I had warned him not to skip class again, so when I caught him doing it I grounded him," the man confirmed impatiently.

"Did you two have a fight?" Pepper asked almost accusingly.

"Yeah, Pepper! We had a fight! In case you haven't noticed, he hasn't been exactly little Mr. Sunshine these last couple of weeks," Tony snapped.

"Tony, you're only aggravating him further this way! How many times do I have to tell you, we need to be consistent with consequences but not challenging or confrontational," the woman huffed exasperatedly.

"Funny thing using "we" in there, Dr. Pots. I don't see you dishing out any consequences or even interacting with him in any way lately," Tony shot back.

"He's barely staying in the same room as me for more than five minutes, how could I possibly do any of these things?" the woman said in a hurt tone.

"Then don't go accusing me of not handling this well!"

"This is not about accusing you! This is not about you! This is about Peter. Tony, we're not helping him. We need to make him see a psychologist before it's too late," Pepper snapped.

"I'm not making him see anyone if he doesn't want to. I told you a thousand times. Not gonna happen. I won't have the kid go through what I did when they made me face a bunch of shrinks who only managed to introduce me to the magic land of antidepressants!"

"You and you and you again! Your experience! Stop projecting everything you went through on Peter! He needs help and we're here to ensure they won't just pop pills in him! He's not alone like you were!"

Leaving a tired snort and shaking his head the man raised his hands in the air. "You know what? I'm done. DONE! I'm tired of everyone calling me out on how much I'm screwing up. If you're all so sure of what needs to be done you're very welcome to step in! Go ahead Pepper, you deal with him, you get him to therapy, you be consistent and not-confronting, you deal with the school, and with every other fucking thing, because it seems I'm not cut out for the job, am I?"

"Lower your voice, Peter might hear you!" Pepper hissed at his explosion.

"Yeah, like he doesn't already know," the man said bitterly as he strode out of the room and towards his office.


As the door at the lower level slammed loudly, Peter slumped against his pillows. He had heard every single word the couple had exchanged. Unsure of how he felt about any of it, he just found himself wishing the large lump in his throat and the heavy feeling in his stomach could go away.

He wiped angrily at a couple of tears that were trickling down his cheeks, as his eyes turned to his closet. Shooting to his feet he walked there decisively. He opened the doors and immediately spotted his suit hanging neatly from one of the hangers. Reaching a hand out and touching the state-of-the-art material he turned to glance at his room's door for only a moment.

The words Tony had yelled still echoed in his ears.

'I'm done! DONE!'.

He felt angry tears threatening to spill once again.

'You deal with him!'

Snatching the suit from the hanger he threw it on his bed as he started undressing hastily.

'I'm not cut out for the job, am I?'

Making quick moves of wearing his suit, the young man quietly walked out of his room and climbed on the ceiling. Not making a sound he moved towards the living area. Spotting Pepper having her back turned to him and preparing a pot of fresh tea in the kitchen, he moved quickly to the elevator and firmly attached himself on its ceiling. Throwing a tiny web ball on the garage level button he watched as the doors closed quietly and he started feeling the metallic chamber beginning its smooth descent.

"I'm done too," he whispered to himself bitterly.


TBC...

Chapter Text

Part 2.


It was well into the night when Tony finally emerged from his office. All anger and self-pity dissipated, now he was left feeling like a steaming pile of crap for all the things he had said earlier. He glanced around the empty living room before his eyes traveled to the slightly open balcony door at the far wall of the living space. As he stepped out on the spacious balcony the strawberry blonde head turned to glance at him from her spot on the rattan sofa.

"So, it appears I was an ass today," the man said in an apologetic tone as he walked closer to her.

Smirking slightly the woman quietly answered, "That makes two of us."

"I'm sorry I exploded on you," he said running a hand through her soft hair.

"I'm sorry I made you feel like you're not enough," the woman responded, looking at him with sincere regret. "Because you're more than enough, Tony. For all of us."

Snorting the man shook his head, "Bull, Peps. I'm losing him," he said and felt a tight lump forming in his throat.

"No. No, you're not. We're not. It's just a rough patch. It'll pass," Pepper told him reassuringly, as he brought her hand to clasp his own comfortingly.

"I thought that giving him his space would do the trick. That he'd feel safe and comfortable. That he'd come to me with everything that troubled him," Tony said regretfully.

"I know you did. But it doesn't seem to work."

"No. No, it doesn't." After a silent moment, he asked, "Did he have any dinner?"

"No. He's been locked in his room all day, refusing to even speak to me over his door."

An uneasy feeling settling in his stomach the man asked, "You had Friday check on him?"

"No…" Pepper trailed. "I've been down here all day. He couldn't possibly leave without…" At the man's uncertain gaze she swallowed with difficulty. "He's grounded… He wouldn't…"

"Friday, is Peter in his room?" Tony immediately asked.

"No, sir."

Pepper closed her eyes and sighed tiredly as she brought a hand to rub at her forehead. "I can't believe this," she whispered to herself.

"He probably left from the front door when you weren't looking," Tony said evenly. "That way Friday wouldn't have a reason to notify us."

"Yeah, well, I'm starting to think we should have her notify us even when he's visiting the bathroom," Pepper mumbled in an annoyed tone.

"Not a bad idea at all," Tony nodded.

"Locate his phone, Friday," Pepper called with a sigh.

"His phone is in his room, Mrs. Potts. I can locate him through his tracker, though, if you'd like," came the melodic response of the AI.

"His tracker?" Tony asked in a confused expression. "You mean he's in the suit?"

"Yes, Mr. Stark."

"How is he in the suit? I thought he wasn't allowed to patrol for a while," Pepper asked Tony equally confused.

"He wasn't…" Tony answered puzzled. Then closing his eyes he slapped a palm on his forehead in pure self-annoyance. "But I never actually got to take the suit away. Fuck!"

"Why on earth didn't you?" Pepper asked incredulously.

"Because it wasn't a punishment. I just didn't want him to go out on patrols until his emotional state was more stable. He didn't care so I never really thought I had to actually take the suit away," the man explained apologetically.

Shaking her head, Pepper lifted both her hands in the air. "It doesn't matter. What's done is done. Just, go get him before he does anything stupid."

"On that note, I must inform you he's currently engaging to a seemingly very challenging opponent. His chances are not good." the AI sounded next.

Shooting to his feet Tony ran to the elevator and slammed the button that led to his lab, where his suits were. Before the doors slid closed he called loudly to Pepper, "I'll keep you posted!".


"Guess someone ate all of his spinach," Spider-Man quipped as he struggled to his feet after a particularly hard kick to his chest that sent him flying against a nearby brick wall.

The tall man smiled challengingly as he strode to where Peter now stood on unstable feet. The web ball that struck him straight on his abdomen made him only slightly grimace but didn't even remotely slow him down.

Peter managed to leap away from him before he got too close. The young hero's eyes enlarged at how unaffected he seemed by the hit. "What the fuck are you?" He asked with a hint of worry in his tone.

He watched as the muscular man bent down and took hold of the large metallic crowbar that he had dropped when Peter had first ambushed him a couple of minutes ago.

"Oh, hell no!" The teen yelled as he shot his web and attempted to snatch the metallic tool away from the man's grasp.

But instead of the crowbar to flying in to his own grasp, he felt himself being tugged forward as the man used the crowbar to pull the suited figure towards him.

Peter's eyes enlarged below his mask. The amount of strength this guy possessed was in no way normal. His enhanced strength seemed like a joke, compared to what Frankenstein was presenting.

The teen used all of his strength to pull back in the opposite direction but felt his boots sliding inch by inch closer to the now threateningly chuckling man. His bald head was shining under the street lamps and Peter wasn't sure if the green glint he spotted in his eyes was real or some sort of weird reflection. Groaning loudly, he felt his muscles aching deeply and his forehead sweating as he was pulled closer and closer to the man. Realizing he was losing the battle, he expelled the web that was attached to his wrist and the crowbar.

The sudden release of the pulling, caused the large man to lose his footing. Leaping forward, Peter managed a kick to the man's jaw. As he landed on his feet a few feet away, he charged again, this time aiming a punch to his opponent's stomach. The triumphant scream he released when he felt the man's torso doubling over slightly, turned to one of distress, when he found himself suddenly snatched by the throat and lifted off the ground. Before he had the time to react, the man threw him with all of his strength onto the brick wall of the nearest building for the second time.

Peter yelled out at the intense pain of the impact. He watched with trepidation as the man stalked towards him, but only managed to get to his hands and knees, as his body refused to cooperate with his frantic mind.

The crowbar that slammed savagely against his back made him scream in pain and fall flat on the ground. Through bleary eyes, he saw the man rising the metallic tool again. Peter managed to bring both his arms around his head in a desperate attempt to protect it and braced himself for the impact.

A loud metallic sound registered to his ears but no new surge of pain followed it. Taking in a shaky breath he lowered his hands and glanced around him. He felt his heart kicking in his chest upon spotting Iron Man fighting with the man. Despite the opponent's surprising strength, the powerful armor and its weapons proved too much and soon the large body fell senseless on the ground with a loud thud.

Peter watched as the front part of Iron Man's metallic mask retracted revealing the frantic face of Tony Stark. The man rushed to the teen and gently removed his mask as he called loudly, "Vitals and injuries status!"

"I'm fine," Peter attempted to say, but the look he received from the man promptly silenced him.

"Heart rate at 120, high rate of blood pressure at 140. No signs of broken bones or internal bleeding. Further check-up deemed necessary," came Karen's report from the teen's suit.

"Did he hit your head?" The man asked Peter as he leaned closer to take a good look of his face.

"Just a couple of punches," Peter said and attempted to sit up, grimacing at the sharp jabs of pain in his back. Although he'd never admit it, he was impressed no bones were broken in his ribs from the hit with the crowbar. He was sure that if it wasn't for the suit, he would definitely be in a much worse state at this very moment.

Tony placed his hands below the teen carefully and gently lifted him off the ground. Securing him with his hands and instructing him to lock his legs around the suit he promptly took off from the dark alley.


"He's alright now, Peps… No. There is no need to get in here in the middle of the night. They'll keep him to make sure he didn't suffer a concussion and to check how fast his healing factor will kick in… Yeah… He'll be as good as new by morning. Yes, I promise… Ok, baby. Try to get some sleep. We'll see you tomorrow."

As he ended the call and shoved the phone in his pocket, the man turned around at the fast-approaching steps. Before he could stop her, he watched Wanda hastily entering the room where Peter was laying.

The man contemplated following her inside, but thought better of it and remained in his spot, watching them through the ajar blinds of the room's glass door.

The girl approached the bed more hesitantly once she was inside. She looked at her pale looking friend, and at the impressive bruise that had blossomed on the right side of his face and felt her heart skipping a beat.

Peter looked at her surprised. "You were the last person I expected to see," he told her quietly.

"And you're an insufferable ass," Wanda answered attempting to sound curt but failing miserably.

Peter looked at her for a few silent seconds before quietly saying, "I'm sorry. You have no idea how sorry I am…"

Wanda regarded him intently. "You have a really funny way of showing it," she commented drily.

"I would have never gone through with it… You said you believed me…"

"I did. That doesn't mean I wasn't mad at you for even considering it."

Peter nodded in understanding. "Will you ever be able to forgive me? Can I do anything?"

"Stop being utterly stupid, reckless and self-destructive would be a fine start, yeah," the girl answered as she took a step closer to the prone boy.

"I'm sorry," Peter repeated, his eyes burning but refusing to let his tears fall.

"Stop saying that. I know you are. And it doesn't really matter, 'cause, despite being angry I've long forgiven you. All of us have. I just couldn't bring my big fat ego down long enough to let you know," she answered evenly. "I've been the most horrible friend I could. You were a mess and I've been a self-righteous bitch. So, I am the one that should be apologizing."

"No! You had every right…"

Rolling her eyes impatiently the girl huffed, "Oh, stop with the drama already. We're good. For real. And I'll be here for you from now on. I promise."

Extending a hand for her to grasp Peter managed a small smile. "Thanks. I missed you. And I really, really need you."

Nodding the girl squeezed his hand and looked at him intently, "So do I. So, cut all the shit you've been pulling, will you?"

"Oh, he will. You can trust me on that, Wanda."

The new voice that rang through the room made both teens turn to look at Tony, who, leaning on the door frame, had silently watched the last part of their conversation. His expression was even but his eyes held so much resolve that it made both teenagers look at each other uncomfortably at the implications of those words.

"Uh, I'd better let you rest," Wanda said a bit awkwardly to Peter. "I'll come see you in the morning, 'k?"

"Thanks. 'Night," Peter nodded gratefully.

As the girl exited the room, the remaining teen felt his stomach clenching uncomfortably and focused all of his attention on the white sheet that covered him. He heard Tony moving around in the room, grabbing a chair from the other side and moving it close to his bedside, before sitting in it with a soft sigh.

Peter felt the lump in his throat growing and took in a couple of shaky breaths in an attempt to take control of his emotional reactions.

"Are you still in pain?" Tony asked in a concerned tone.

"Just a bit," Peter answered still avoiding eye contact with the man.

"Peter, do you even realize what almost happened tonight?" Tony asked after a few silent seconds.

The slight tremble in his voice made Peter glance at him surprised. "It was just a hard fight. I'd figure a way out eventually," the teen answered weakly.

"You'd be dead before you'd found a way out. If that bastard had managed that second hit, it'd be a matter of seconds before he managed a lethal one on your head or lower spine. Not even the suit would be able to protect you," the man said harshly.

Swallowing with difficulty Peter shrugged. " It would be a nice and easy way out for you," he mumbled.

Tony's eyes flashed with anger and disbelief. "What did you just say to me?"

Peter looked at him straight in the eye for the first time that evening. Instead of the anger, Tony was used to seeing in the brown orbs lately, what he now faced was raw pain. "I said, it would be the easy way out for you. It's not like you give a shit," Peter said not even trying to stop or hide the trembling of his voice.

"Oh, no! Hell no! We're not going back there! I've proven to you time and time again over the last several months that I do bloody care! So don't you dare throw that at my face," the man said his tone elevating slightly.

Peter regarded him through tearing eyes. "Oh, yeah? Then why didn't you even bat an eye over everything I've done over these last few weeks? Why haven't you even mentioned the Mattercorp fiasco? You didn't care I kept skipping school, that I missed curfew several times in a row, that I got drunk… You just talked and pretended to be understanding… You're just hoping I'll screw up badly enough to be taken away. Problem solved, right? You're not cut out for this, right? That's what you said to Pepper, isn't it? You're tired and you just want everybody else to step in and deal with me," Peter said as hot tears started streaming down his cheeks. At the man's dumbfounded silence the teen yelled through his hitched breath, " Admit it! You hate me after what I did! You hate me and you hate you're stuck with me!"

Tony's hands shot to gently take hold of either side of Peter's head as he kept him from looking away. "I love you! I fucking love you," he said in a loud and clear tone. "I love you so much it hurts! I love you so much that I can barely breathe knowing how much pain you are in! I love you so much that I don't know how to react any more now that you're going through all this shitstorm for the third time in your very young life!"

Peter's crying intensified at the man's words. He wanted to believe him. He wanted to believe him more than anything. But could he?

"I am not just your Tony now, Pete. I'm not just your friendly mentor, ready to step in and discipline you for Spider-Man mishaps or to cover for May every now and then. Now, this is real. And it's the most important, and scary and amazing thing that has come out of such a tragedy. You're my kid now, my responsibility one hundred percent. I am to make sure you heal from May's loss, and that you grow up to meet your potential, and that you're happy and healthy… And I just don't seem to know how to do that right when you're in so much pain. What you heard today was nothing but my self-loathing for failing you. My anger towards me. My fear of screwing up and not doing right by you."

Peter took a couple of steadying breaths at that. Trying to calm himself he managed to whisper, "Then stop treating me differently. Like I'm some random kid you just met."

Feeling his heart clenching at how much pain he had unintentionally caused to the kid the man nodded. "I am so sorry I made you feel this way. I honestly thought it was best to give you your space, not being as strict as before with you, allowing you the time and space to grieve and heal." the man said quietly. Then his eyes slightly wet turned to the brown orbs facing him, "But that's how you treat an adult. Not a kid in your care. And I see it now. I'm sorry I let you down, Pete. And if you give me another chance I promise, I won't disappoint you again. Will you give me a second chance?"

"Only if you give me one back," Peter said quietly, using his hand to wipe away his tears.

Tony immediately stood and carefully hugged the weak body. He felt his heart swelling with warmth when Peter circled an arm around his neck and hid his face at the crook of his neck. "We're gonna be ok, kid. We're gonna be ok," he whispered at him reassuringly. They remained like that for a few long seconds before the man broke the embrace. He pressed a kiss on the teen's forehead and then said, "You'd better catch some sleep. It will help you heal faster."

"Ok," the teen said compliantly.

"Do you want me to ask for a mild sedative?" Tony asked as he ran a soothing hand over the soft brown hair.

"No. I'm ok," Peter said quietly as he felt the exhaustion slowly taking over his body and mind. With all the tension leaving his system and a sense of safety he hadn't felt in a while, he let his eyes flutter closed.

Tony watched him drifting into sleep and brought both of his hands up to run over his face. As he slowly lowered himself back in his chair, he allowed his mind to race and run through all the possible scenarios for the new day that would soon shine upon them.


Tony walked briskly towards the Base's infirmary. When he reached the door he smiled faintly at the sight in front of him. Wanda was sitting on the edge of the bed talking and laughing with Peter. A smiling, relieved looking Peter.

When he lightly knocked and entered the room both teens turned to look at him expectantly.

"Doctor says you're good to go. Everything is completely healed and there's no indication of a concussion," the man said with relief evident in his tone.

Wanda grinned widely at the news and faced her friend. "Spend the day here, then! We can catch up, maybe go see a movie…"

"Sorry, Wanda, but he won't," Tony cut the girl off before she got too excited.

Peter turned to the man questioningly, "Couldn't I? Just for today?"

"No. We'll go back home. We've got a lot to discuss and settle. Plus, you're grounded. Remember?" Tony said evenly but keeping his tone firm.

Peter flushed at the words but didn't even consider arguing.

Wanda turned to offer him a sympathetic smile. "It's ok. I'll see you on Monday and we can have a full day together next weekend."

Peter glanced at Tony with a bit of uncertainty but nodded nonetheless.

The man reached inside a dark grey fabric bag that was hanging from his shoulder and took out a change of fresh clothes, which he promptly placed on the end of Peter's bed. "I brought you some fresh clothes that Pepper dug out for you."

The teen got out of the bed without being asked, grabbed them and headed to the adjacent bathroom to shower and change. When he got out Wanda was no longer in the room.

"Ready?" His guardian asked.

"Yeah," the teen said unable to hide the nervousness in his voice.

When he walked close enough to Tony, the man draped a comforting arm around his shoulders and the two of them walked out of the infirmary in companionable silence. To Peter's surprise, they didn't bump on anyone on their way out of the Base and before he knew it he found himself walking to a parked car that waited for them in front of the central entrance.

As they approached the vehicle, Happy stepped out of the driver's seat and offered them both a welcoming smile. "I'm glad to see you in one piece kid," the chubby driver told Peter, extending a hand to ruffle the teen's hair.

"Thanks, Happy," Peter said in a quiet tone before following Tony into the back of the car.

Five minutes into the drive, the young man turned to Tony, breaking the silence for the first time. "Is Pepper home?"

The man nodded smiling. "Yeah, she refused to leave before seeing you. She'll be off as soon as we arrive though."

"Oh. How come she'll be leaving?" The teen asked nervously glancing at the man with uncertainty.

"Well, for one she's needed at the company," Tony answered. Then eyeing the kid intently he added, "And we also discussed things quite a bit this morning and decided it would be best if you and I had some privacy today."

Peter gulped nervously at that. He looked into Tony's eyes and managed to gather his nerve and ask what had been eating him ever since their discussion the night before. "Are you going to… Punish me?"

"Yes, Pete. I am," came the man's laconic response. Watching the teenager dropping his eyes and fidgeting with his hands he added, "Hey, no need to be so nervous. It won't be the first time. And I doubt it's gonna be the last."

"It will be the first time like this," Peter mumbled quietly.

"Like what?" the man asked kindly.

"Like… With you being… The only one around," Peter mumbled.

"Like with me being your legal guardian?" The man elaborated. The teen nodded. "That's not gonna change much, kid. Not in terms of consequences. I am punishing you to teach you a lesson and to ensure you'll think twice before getting yourself in such a situation again, like all the times I punished you before."

"I know that. But… It's just…" Peter trailed. He paused racking his brain to find the right words but couldn't. "Never mind," he finally mumbled.

Tony turned on the side to better face him as he brought a gentle finger to tap at Peter's chin, making him look up at him. "Hey, none of that. Not telling me what's going on in that thick skull of yours played a big part in why we're here today. Talk to me, Pete."

Sighing Peter gathered his thoughts and opened his mouth again, "It's just that up to now you'd… You know… And then I'd go back to May and that was it. I always felt like crap when I screwed up and let you down, but now it feels ten times worse."

"Why do you think that is?" Tony prompted trying to understand where this was going.

Peter took another minute. "Because you've been so great and kind to me. Taking me in, taking care of me, trying to help me through everything. And I feel like a huge failure and disappointment. I almost betrayed you, I almost killed a guy, I've been nothing but a pain for you and Pepper all this time…"

Tony clasped his hand on the kid's shoulder and looked at him straight in the eye. "Peter, I've told you before and I'm telling you again. There's nothing you could possibly do that would make me turn my back on you or stop caring. Nothing! I wish I could bring May back and erase all of the torment you've been through, but I can't even imagine my life without you in it anymore. It may take you a while to accept it or feel the same way, but for me, you're my kid. Not someone I'm merely responsible for. You're mine. You're my… My son. Plain and simple."

Peter looked at him thoughtfully but remained silent.

"Feelings of guilt over your missteps and wrong decisions is more than expected. In fact they're welcomed. It's because you're a good kid. A loyal and smart young man with a great heart. In the end, you did the right thing. And I want to make it completely clear, your punishment today won't be for you almost betraying us or almost killing someone. You did neither of these things. You made the right decisions despite the pain you were in and that is all that matters. What you'll get punished for is endangering your health, your life, and breaking a bunch of rules over the course of the last few days."

Peter finally nodded, "Thanks for giving me a second chance."

"Right back at ya," the man said offering a small smile.

Peter leaned his head back and rested it on the man's closest shoulder. He closed his eyes and attempted to process everything his guardian had told him. He welcomed the feeling of knowing where he stood with the man again and simply hoped he's sooner or later feel the same way for the other aspects of his life as well.


"Honey we're home!"

Pepper almost strained her neck at the sound of Tony's sing-song voice. Hopping to her feet she all but ran down the stairs and towards the living room. "Oh, Peter! Thank God," she sighed with relief as she jogged to him. Managing to keep herself from hugging him, something she had realized he wasn't comfortable with, she settled for running a tender hand through his hair.

Peter looked at the woman with a guilty expression and not giving it a second thought threw himself against her, hugging her tightly. "I'm sorry. I've been so awful to you. I'm so sorry," he said as his voice started to tremble dangerously.

"Oh, Pete! Don't be silly. You couldn't be awful even if you tried," the woman said as she looked at Tony with surprised eyes and hugged the kid right back. When he finally broke the embrace she caressed his right cheek and smiled warmly at him. "I'm so happy you're home safe and sound." Expression turning serious she added, "Please never make us go through this agony again."

Shaking his head vigorously the teen mumbled, "I'm sorry. I won't. I'm so sorry."

Planting a kiss on his disheveled but freshly showered hair she brought him in for one more quick hug. "I need to get going but I'll see you two at dinner tonight, alright?"

The teen nodded offering a small smile at her words.

"Pete," Tony said making the teen turn to face him. "Go on to my office, please. Find a corner and wait for me there."

Peter's face flushed a vivid shade of red at the man's instruction and tone but didn't even entertain the idea of arguing or ignoring him. Instead, he walked briskly out of the living room and towards the man's office. As he walked inside and headed for the corner he hadn't visited in a while now, a swarm of butterflies started fluttering angrily in his stomach. It was merely a few weeks but he felt as if it had been years since he last found himself in such a situation. Staring at the blank wall in front of him he tried to focus his thoughts on anything but his impending punishment. As the minutes ticked by he grew fidgety and started wishing Tony would come already and get this over with.

When the door of the office opened and then immediately closed, the teen gulped uneasily and reconsidered his previous wish. Maybe waiting wasn't so bad after all. He remained still, facing the wall as his ears tried to guess what the sounds Tony made behind him were. An item being placed on the small coffee table, that stood in front of the comfortable black leather sofa of the office, the man pacing about, sounds of sipping and what was most likely a mug being placed on a surface. Then silence.

Tony glanced at his watch and noting that a good fifteen minutes had passed since he had sent the kid to wait for him, he finally called him out. "You can turn around now, Peter."

The teenager slowly followed the instruction and turned to face the man with a nervous expression. When Tony nodded towards the sofa the teen promptly followed the silent order and sat himself down. His eyes glanced at the coffee table in front of him and narrowed with confusion upon spotting a wide leather belt laying there.

Tony followed his gaze and when the teen turned to look at him he cleared his throat and joined him on the sofa. "This is what I'll use for your punishment today."

Peter looked at the man a bit confused. "But, Tony… You know that it won't like… work on me," he blurted out flushing. Of course, the man knew, he had a special paddle made to be able to punish him with, for that very reason.

"That's not a regular belt, Peter. That's an Asgardian piece, actually. Made from dragon's skin. It came to our possession when we managed to briefly capture Loki a few years ago. It was the belt he was wearing. I have personally analyzed it's consistency and properties and think it will do its job here today," the man said evenly.

Peter gulped uncomfortably at the very thought of a new spanking implement in the hands of his guardian. At least he didn't have it specially made for him, he thought. The irony of being spanked with the belt of the Norse God of mischief and chaos did not go past him, but he managed to keep any smart comments to himself.

"I would never use something to punish you unless I was entirely sure it's safe and won't harm you. Other than an uncomfortably hot butt, you have nothing to worry about," the man said reassuringly.

Peter refrained from quipping a sarcastic response at the man's words. But his expression spoke volumes of his opinion of an 'uncomfortably hot butt' being in any way shape or form just a small deal. His guilt and need to wipe the slate clean though was greater than his displeasure over the punishment and he simply nodded.

"It's very important that you realize exactly what this punishment is for, Peter. So, please, tell me what you'll get spanked for today," Tony said next, not wanting to prolong things for either Peter or himself.

Peter managed to raise his eyes to look at the man as he spoke quietly, "For endangering my safety."

"Your life would be a more accurate way of describing it, but yes. What else?" The man prompted in a stern tone.

"Uhm… Sneaking out while grounded?" Peter asked as he squirmed uncomfortably under the man's stern gaze.

"Correct. What else?"

"Skipping school, drinking..." The teen trailed and his gaze traveled to the ceiling as if in an effort to remember, before tacking on "and missing curfew a bunch of times."

The man nodded forlornly. "I think you do realize you've packed in quite the list of misdeeds," Tony commented.

"I know and I really am sorry, Tony. Honest to God, I'm sorry," Peter said earnestly.

"And I believe that you are. Still, you need to face the music for your actions. I'm sorry I didn't realize earlier how much you needed this consistency. But you can count on it from now on," Tony said in a composed tone.

When the teen nodded and bit his lip nervously the man simply patted his lap. "For now, I need to make sure you'll think twice before repeating these behaviors."

Feeling his stomach plummeting at the unspoken order, Peter moved reluctantly and spread himself over the man's lap. As soon as he did he felt Tony lowering his sweatpants and boxers in one movement and maneuvering his body to his liking over his knees. The man reached for the doubled belt that rested on the table. He circled its edge around his palm until it reached the length he needed to administer the over-the-knee spanking and was pleased that there was no metallic clasp on the piece of strong smooth leather. Circling his left arm around Peter's thin waist he lifted the belt and brought it down sharply on the unprotected target.

Peter heard it before he felt it. The loud slapping sound of leather against bare skin that echoed throughout the room. As soon as the sound started fading he felt it. A wide stripe of hot pain that rapidly blossomed across the center of his butt. He hissed loudly and his eyes enlarged at the intensity of the pain and the realization of how hard this was going to be to take. Before he could form any more thoughts two more licks followed one right after the other, branding his ass right below where the first had fallen. The teen couldn't manage, nor did he try, to keep in his loud yelps of pain.

"No more sneaking out," Tony said in a stern tone, as he raised the belt again and brought it down sharply two more times, now targeting the sit spots for the first time.

"No more skipping school," he continued, immediately landing the three next consecutive licks on the top of Peter's thighs.

As the next five swats of the belt spread all over his behind, Peter started openly crying. The scorching pain was steadily building and Tony had only mentioned two of the things they were here to deal with.

"No more drinking," the man said next and let the implement descend another five times with increased speed, aiming them all at the center of the kid's behind. "This is the second time, I have to punish you for this Peter. I sincerely hope this lesson will stick in longer than the previous one. Trust me when I say you will greatly regret it if we ever need to revisit getting drunk again," the man scolded as he spread another five swats, packing a bit more strength behind them, all over the quickly reddening bottom and thighs.

Pausing for a second he inspected the already dark pink hue of Peter's skin. He rubbed a few soothing circles on his heaving back allowing him a minute to catch his breath, before tugging the teen closer to his torso and raising the belt again. "No more skipping school," he said as he landed two sharp lashes on his upper thighs. "School is always top priority. I could more than understand a couple of slipping grades and not being focused for a while, but altogether skipping it so many days in a row and ignoring me when I tell you to start putting in some minimal effort is unacceptable!" Ending the scolding he brought three more strikes down.

Peter was crying his heart out by now. For one due to the impressive burning pain. Even though up to this point it wasn't worse than most of the punishments he had received by the man in the past, Peter knew that by the time Tony would end the chastisement he might have to reconsider. The pain of this belt was different than the paddle's. Deeper and sharper. More than the physical pain though, he cried due to an almost cathartic release of all of his pent up tension and buried emotions. Due to the relief of knowing his Tony, the one that made him feel safe and cared for, was finally back.

"No more missing curfew," the man continued, landing the next three sharp strikes. "No more bottling up emotions to the point you erupt and behave in a reckless and self-destructive manner! Had you come to me with those doubts, with your concerns over why I was so lenient with you, we wouldn't be here today. I know I handled a lot of things wrong, Peter, but one thing I did right was being there for you and reminding you every single day that I was ready to listen to everything you needed to say. You need to learn to trust me. You need to talk to me instead of trying to attract my attention through reckless and risky behavior!"

Peter nodded vigorously at the man's words and attempted to speak for the first time since the beginning of the spanking. "I w...Will… I… I p..Promise!" He managed to get through his intense sobbing as two more licks of the belt increased the burning pain on his throbbing cheeks.

Taking in a deep breath to strengthen his resolve for the last part of the punishment the man said in a loud enough voice to be heard over the teen's crying. "And lastly, you never, ever, put yourself in danger again!"

The next seven swats all landed on the teen's upper thighs making him howl in pain.

"But I didn't knooow," Peter attempted to lamely excuse himself.

Tony's eyebrows furrowed at the words. He had planned to end the punishment there but the teen's response made him reconsider. "You didn't know what, Peter?" He asked, bringing the belt down on his sit-spots in an impressive swat. "That I had no idea that you were in the field engaging with a criminal?" he thundered emphasizing his words with two more licks . "That you're not allowed on Spider-Man duty unless cleared by me or the Base?" Two more swats on the undercurve of his bottom that made Peter's cries reach a whole new level. "That I had ordered you to stop patrols for a while till you were more stable emotionally?" Three more swats on his upper thighs. "You might not have known how strong your opponent would end up being, but you weren't supposed to be in the field in the first place!"

Punctuating his last words with five strong licks all on the teen's sit-spots, the man then paused long enough to inspect the practically glowing red behind in front of him. Managing to keep his tone stern he demanded, "Do you think you've learned your lesson, Peter Benjamin? Or do I need to continue?"

"Yes! No moorree!." The teen immediately sobbed out. "I have. I p...promise. Please… No more!"

Feeling his heart clenching at how miserable Peter sounded and knowing he was the cause of his pain, the man placed the belt back on the coffee table, before carefully tugging the teen's clothes up and back over his well-spanked bottom. Tony then righted him to sit on his lap as he hugged him close and soothingly rubbed his back. "Deep breaths now. It's over, Pete. Clean slate, new beginning."

Peter cried even harder at the words and hid his face in Tony's neck.

The man started feeling his own stomach clenching and had to blink rapidly in order to not shed any tears himself. He had to be strong for his kid and that was the only thing that mattered now. He kept rubbing steadily at the heaving back and breathed in and out deeply. Soon he felt Peter's breathing synchronizing with his own until it slowed down to a normal rate. "Better now?"

"Mhm," the teen hummed quietly.

"Hate me?"

"No… Do you?"

"Never, kid. I love you, remember?" Tony told him affectionately, as his fingers combed through the disheveled brown locks.

"I love you too," Peter whispered.

Feeling a warmth spreading inside him at the quiet words the man pressed a kiss on his forehead. "We're gonna be ok, Pete. I promise."

"I know we will," the teen answered back through a sniffle. And he finally believed it.


A/N:
Thoughts? Did you like it? Not? Next chapter is already in the works!

Chapter Text

A/N: Hello people! I know, it's been ages. And there isn't a real-life excuse either. My program is rather easy compared to what it was till the end of June, but for some reason, inspiration for this story ran thin, despite having things planned out. It was like I couldn't bring myself to keep it going. Anyhow, this is the next chapter. The way I had planned it this story was supposed to go on for quite a while. At least another ten chapters. But right now it feels tight. Difficult to get there. I was torn between ending it in a couple of chapters and keep posting one-shots in the same universe (fluff one-shots, spanking one-shots, etc) or keep trying and see if inspiration and productivity spark again.

But you know all this, as many of you kindly offered your opinion in my Author Note update. Reviews, messages, and my own inclination to the subject made me decide to give this a chance and continue the story as originally planned. So those of you patient enough to stay with me despite the pauses in between updates stay tuned! And thank you for supporting and being understanding! Those who can't do it and hate the wait could opt to stop reading it and possibly giving it a try whenever it's marked complete. This story means a lot to me. So, I'll take my time with the next updates  and take it as slow as I need. Please hang in there with me! I don't know if you'll like this one - to be honest, I'm not sure if I like it either- but I needed it to get out there. To appease you and maybe invoke the Marvel Muse. Hopefully! Sometimes all it takes is a forced out chapter, some feedback and the productive juices start flowing anew. Here's to that!

I'll stop now! Please send feedback! It most needed than ever! As always I'm open to requests for scenes and events you'd like to see take place. It's not certain I'll include them all, but if it doesn't contradict the plot and I like it, I'll include it. Who knows, maybe some of your ideas could even unblock my mind!

Huge thanks to my beta, Ullswater

Warning: Implied consensual sexual action (not actual sex-intercourse) of underage character! If it bugs anyone, just skip the part indicated with stars (****). There's nothing graphic, but it's there.


 

Pensive and rigid Steve Rogers was in no way shape or form a rare sight. On the contrary, most of his team would admit that it was more or less his default mode of simply being. Yet at that particular moment, Wanda felt uneasy, seeing him standing tall with crossed arms and an expression lost in deep thought, complete with wrinkled forehead and furrowed eyebrows. The two of them stood on the small observation area right above the main open training room, where Sam was currently working with Peter.

Wanda couldn't read the Captain's thoughts, as his eyes vigilantly followed the movements and combat sequences taking place a few feet below them, and that alone drove her crazy. Her worry over her friend instead of decreasing was steadily growing. She knew that things between Peter and Tony had vastly improved. She knew Peter was slowly finding bits and pieces of his old self. But she also knew how guilty and uncomfortable he still was with the rest of the team. She was constantly pestering Steve and Sam about it, asking questions, testing the waters for her friend, despite the fact that he had never asked her to do any of these things. Having experienced what Peter was going through right now though, having felt what's like to lose family, to feel like a traitor… She had sworn to herself to make this easier for him. A deeply rooted protectiveness had sparked inside of her for Peter. It was there before, true, but the events of late had strengthened the bond between herself and Peter.

With Thanksgiving closing up on them focusing her efforts on smoothing things out as much as possible for Peter provided her not only with guilt-relief for the weeks she spent not talking to him, but also with some much-needed distraction. After losing Pietro, holidays were never easy. And these would be the first she'd be expected to spend with people she cared about. The conflicting feelings of joy, sorrow, and pain this thought elicited made her gulp with difficulty. Mirroring Steve's stance she took a step forward to get right beside him. "So?" She asked in an eager tone. "He's doing good right?"

Steve's eyes never lost their focus on Peter and Sam, but his lips twitched slightly upwards. Uncrossing his arms and draping one of them around Wanda's shoulders he tugged her close to him. When she leaned her head on his shoulder he answered, "He's doing great. And yet as I've told you time and time again, that shouldn't concern you. Not to this extent."

Sighing Wanda raised her eyes to look at his kind face. "It's just… It's been over a week now... You don't need to keep punishing him. Tony has him on a tight leash as it is…"

Solemn gaze turning to lock with hers for the first time, Steve chided, "Firstly, we're not punishing him. He needs this just as much as we do. This is team-building, Wanda. Re-establishing trust, connection, chain of command, limits. Secondly, whatever Tony has decided to do to keep his son safe and teach him a lesson, is his, Pepper's and Peter's business and theirs alone."

Wanda turned to look at Peter as she mulled Steve's words over. "I know. I just… Can't help it. I need to make sure you're all treating him okay and that you're actually giving him a chance here."

"We're giving him far more than he deserves, that's what we're giving him," a disapproving voice made both Wanda and Steve turn back sharply.

Wanda's eyes darkened as she watched Rhodey standing there glaring at Sam's and Peter's direction.

Rhodey eyed her raising a single eyebrow before speaking in a harsh tone, "Don't you look at me like that, Wanda. He might be your bestie, but to this team, he proved himself a traitor."

"And you've proven yourself to be an insufferable fucking assh…" Wanda immediately retorted, her voice rising significantly, but was cut off mid-sentence by a hard smack on her ass.

"Wanda Maximoff!" Steve thundered. "That is enough!" He eyed her warningly before continuing, "This is no way to speak to a member of this team!"

Her anger at the situation managed to prevail over the acute embarrassment the smack brought to the girl. Eyebrows rising and mouth dipping open Wanda extended a hand to the direction of Rhodey, "Oh, and that is?" She asked incredulously.

"No. That's not either. Which is why you're gonna give me and Rhodey some privacy. Now, please," Steve answered in a clipped tone, his displeased eyes now focusing entirely on the other man in the room.

Sighing frustrated but feeling some amount of satisfaction at the fact that Steve seemed as unhappy as she did towards Rhodey, she took off from the room shutting the door behind her.

Steve's arms crossed in front of his chest and he leveled the other man with a steely glare.

Rhodey scoffed and looked at him in disbelief. When he spoke his tone was annoyed and the volume of his voice rose slightly. "What? Now you expect me to apologize? To pretend I don't have a problem with the kid and what he did? To turn blind eyes to the fact that he's allowed back in the base from where he stole top-secret data? Is that what you expect of me, Steve?"

"Right now, It's Captain. Not Steve. Right now, it's your Captain talking to you as an Avenger," Steve said his eyes unwavering. "Is that clear enough, Rhodes?"

Jaw clenching and hands crossing over his chest the man leveled him with an angry glare but could do little but nod. "Clear as day, Captain."

"Good. 'Cause I tried to talk to you on a friendly level about this. Numerous times, really. But you don't seem to be able to comprehend much if it's not thrown in your face as an order, do you?" Steve's voice was hard. His eyes were narrowed and his lips drawn in a tight thin line. "You keep talking about betrayal and team-spirit, but it seems to me you're the one that has forgotten what a team is all about! It seems to me all these years in the army managed to cloud your vision to a ridiculous extent. This is not the bloody armed forces, Rhodes! This is the Avengers. We're here to help the world, to save lives. To better ourselves and to train those who will succeed us. That, down there, is a kid. A fifteen-year-old kid, who lost everything. Who made a few very poor decisions but despite his years, finally saw things clearly and came right back to us. That down there is not a traitor. It's a student. Our student. Our future. Along with Wanda and anybody else that might find their way to us at any point in the future. Mistakes are bound to occur. Our role is not to condemn. Our role is to teach and improve." Steve paused and read the other man's posture. After his words, Rhodey looked uncomfortable. Deciding he needed a bit more insight he added harshly, "But most important of all, Rhodes, that down there, is Tony's son. Your best friend's son! So you'd better find a way to work through your issues and start acting accordingly. Peter needs you. Tony needs you. The Avengers need you. It's high time you started stepping up to your role."

Those last words felt like a vicious slap in the face to Rhodey. He wasn't a man that easily admitted being in the wrong. And he wasn't the type of person to forgive easily. But right now, standing before Steve and facing the bitter realization of how he'd been feeling and acting towards the kid, Tony's kid, he felt like he should be the one fighting for forgiveness. Did he still believe Peter's misstep was monumental? Yes. Yes, he did. But Steve was right. His fucking self-righteousness had indeed distorted so much the way he saw the situation it had an actual impact on the team. And that was all on him. Gulping with difficulty, squaring his shoulders and nodding his understanding he finally managed to answer, "You are right, Cap'." After a short pause and a clear of his throat, he added, "I… Apologize."

Steve sighed, walked closer and clasped a hand on his shoulder. Locking his blue eyes on the man's hazel ones he said in a much calmer tone, "I don't need apologies. I need you to pull your weight around here. And that involves the younger members of the team as well. I don't need a repeat of the Wanda-Natasha situation between you and Peter."

"And you won't have it. Give me Parker for two hours twice a week. Physical training. Running, strength training… It'll help me work it out with him and it'll teach him some much-needed discipline."

Steve regarded the man thoughtfully. "This can't be a punishment," he warned.

"It won't. Have me observed. Hell, observe me yourself. Interfere if you think I'm overstepping. But if you want this worked out, you gotta give me the chance to work it out with the kid," Rhodey said in a somber tone.

Nodding his agreement Steve patted the man's shoulder once again. "You start on Monday."

 


 

"Amazing work today, Pete," Sam said after chugging half of his water bottle's contents.

Peter formed a small smile, resting his head against the wall behind him. He was sitting on the floor, next to Sam. His legs were half-drawn to his torso, forearms resting on top of his knees. "Thanks, Sam. I'm starting to feel up to my game again."

The man wiped his forehead with his sleeve before pumping his fist on the teen's shoulder with excitement. "That's the spirit. I was thinking, once you're cleared, it'd be fun to go out patrolling together a couple of nights. We make a good team."

Peter turned to look at the man in disbelief. He half-expected to see his expression taunting and sarcastic. Instead, he saw nothing but sincerity and excitement. "You wanna patrol with me? After…"

"Hey!" His tone lacing with a hint of sternness for the first time during their session the man leveled Peter with a disapproving gaze. "What did I tell you?"

Sighing Peter lowered his eyes as he mumbled, "It's behind us. We're moving on. We forget about it."

Nudging him with his elbow to bring his eyes back up, Sam nodded eagerly. "And I mean it. Stop guilt-tripping over it. These sessions are to help you get back to your feet, not some sort of sick way to get back at you."

"No, I know… I know, Sam. And it means a lot. I just still feel crappily about what I did to you that day," Peter said. A week ago he'd swallowed the thought. But Dr. Clay had persuaded him that actually speaking it out loud would help with his guilt, while it would also give other people the opportunity to retort and decide for themselves if they felt the way Peter believed they did. Peter felt awkward following his therapist's advice. He felt awkward even having a therapist. But the guy was decent. Easy to talk to… Funny even. And if he was being honest with himself, whenever he actually followed the man's advice it led to positive outcomes.

"And I don't. I honestly don't even think about it. Shit happens. You're fifteen. You're gonna pull a hell of a lot of stunts over the years, kid. You can't keep endlessly beating yourself up over each one of them. It's done, we talked about it, we're ok, we're moving on. Pace with me, here…"

Peter let out a quiet snicker. He liked Sam. He liked how easy-going and sweet he was. Somehow this made him feel even worse. Deciding to -at the very least- try and heed the man's words he pushed the thought away from his mind and got up from the floor. "I'd better go hose off."

"You're gonna stay for dinner?" Sam asked as he too stood up.

"Nah," Peter said with a light blush. "I'm not supposed to be here for anything but training for a while."

Nodding his understanding and extending a hand to pat his shoulder Sam simply said, "Good man. Do your time and I'll arrange a movie night the second night you're free."

"Why the second?" Peter asked confused.

"Dude… First night's for the girlfriend," Sam answered incredulously.

Schooling his expression Peter smiled, "Oh… Yeah… That… Of course, right. Uhm… Ok, see you, Sam!" In his haste to leave the room, he all but collided with Steve, who was just opening the door to enter the training room. "Hey, Cap'!"

"Hello, Peter. Good job today," the blonde man said with a soft smile.

"Thanks," the teen answered rubbing his neck a bit awkwardly. "Uhm… I'm going to grab a shower.."

"Do that. And then come to my office. I've already let Tony know. He'll come to pick you up himself."

His stomach churning uneasily, Peter couldn't shake the feeling that he was for some reason facing the equivalent of being called to the principal's office. His eyes squinted in an effort to read the situation and to remember if he did anything he shouldn't have.

Seeing him tensing Steve shook his head, "You're not in trouble, Peter, relax. I just want to talk for a bit, that's all."

"Oh," Peter answered with some relief. Nodding after another second he walked past the man heading to his room.

Steve's eyes turned to Sam. "You deserve a 'good job' too, pal," Steve said smiling.

Waving a dismissing hand Sam simply answered, "I want to patrol with him once he's cleared. We've got good pace. And I think it'll help him to work with someone aside from Tony on the field. Sharpen him up."

"Once he's allowed back on the field, sure." Steve agreed.

"When will that be?"

"That's what I'm gonna find out today."

"Hasn't Tony told you?" Sam asked surprised.

"No. He's been focusing most of his time on Peter, as he should be. We didn't have a chance to talk after they left here. I might catch him today."

"Everything alright with Rhodey and Wanda? I thought I caught a glimpse of the three of you. And I might've heard some yelling," Sam asked next, his face more solemn now.

"Everything's alright now," Steve answered. Letting out a soft chuckle he added, "Wanda wasn't very fond of Rhodey's attitude about Peter. She made it known."

Snorting amused Sam shook his head. "Did she hex him?" He asked in an almost hopeful tone.

Looking at him with raised eyebrows Steve answered, "She very wisely didn't."

"Too bad," came the disappointed response. "Don't look at me like that, man. He kinda has it coming!"

Small smirk forming Steve said quietly, "He did, but you never heard me say that out loud. Anyways, that's covered too."

Sam eyed man with an unreadable expression before finally nodding. "Very glad to hear that, Steve."

"You and I both, Sam. You and I both."

 


 

Hair still damp from the shower, dressed in a black sweater and a pair of jeans, Peter sat in front of Steve's desk, eyes scanning the space around him. Despite the large windows, there was little natural light in the room, due to the heavily clouded sky. The wall behind the man's desk was lined with shelves filled with numerous books. The teen wondered how many had actually been read by the man. The seconds were ticking and Peter had started feeling restless. Leaning forward he rested his elbows on his knees as he started fidgeting with a pen he had grabbed from the desk in front of him.

The sound of the door opening and closing made him jump slightly in his seat. His reflexes kicking in he caught the pen that slipped from his fingers before it even came close to the ground. Returning it to the pencil-case from where he had retrieved it a bit awkwardly, he lifted his eyes to meet Steve's as the man hurried to sit behind his desk. "I hope I didn't keep you waiting too long," he commented.

Peter simply shook his head and bit his lower lip. He liked the man. He liked him a lot. Yet he found himself feeling rather awkward being around him especially after the whole stealing of documents situation.

"So... " Steve said after clearing his throat. "How have you been doing?"

Surprised eyes turning to him Peter stared at the Captain for a few seconds. "Uh… No offense cap', but isn't that something you should be telling me?"

Smiling Steve shook his head, "We'll get to that too. Now, though, I want your thoughts. How do you think you're doing?"

Peter's mind flew to Dr. Clay. He loved making him say things like these too before he ever expressed an opinion. Annoying! Sorting through his thoughts the teen finally said, "I think I'm getting back to my feet. I feel stronger, training sessions are improving with every passing day, my reflexes are up to normal… Spider-sense kicks in each and every time… I think I'm doing… Ok."

Nodding the man offered an approving smile. "I couldn't agree more," the grin his words elicited made him chuckle. "I spoke with Natasha, Sam, Tony, and they're all confirming what I'm already seeing with my own eyes. You're working hard and diligently. And it shows. We're all very happy with you Peter."

Smile all but melting off his face Peter nodded and offered a quiet "Thanks."

Leaning forward and resting his hands on the desk, the man continued, "I know you're still feeling bad about everything that happened. I can see it. All of us can. But, the thing is, Peter, you really need to let this go. Unless you do, we won't be able to find a new balance among us. We won't be able to work effectively. And that's what's important, right? You have faced the consequences of your actions. It's time to put this all behind you."

The man's words weren't new to Peter. Tony would practically drill them in his head on an almost daily basis. "It's easier said than done, Cap'."

"I know it is. But I expect you to try. I expect you to try with the same diligence and dedication you've been showing in every other aspect of your training."

"Yes sir," Peter could only respond.

"Now that this part's out of the way… I'd like to know for how long you're grounded from your suit."

At the unexpected and rather embarrassing question, Peter's cheeks flushed a bright pink. "Another three weeks," he mumbled.

"So, it was about a month in total?" Steve asked in clarification.

"Yeah… Tony thinks it'll give me enough time to regulate my emotions a bit better with the whole therapy thing and the training sessions here," Peter said, his embarrassment obvious in his fidgeting hand and lowered eyes.

"Sounds more than reasonable, yes. Well, if Tony agrees, I'd like you to return to patrolling, once the grounding is over. I'm confident that returning to the field will help you a lot. I know some nights you're going with Tony, but I'd like you to always have someone with you for at least the first month. So that you ease into it and always have back-up in case of an emergency. Sam has already expressed interest and I think Natasha and Clint will be able to cover the rest of the nights. How does this sound?" Steve asked, his eyes boring into Peter's, reading his expression.

"I'd like that. I don't think I need someone every single day… I mean… It feels like a waste of resources kind of thing…" Peter said after some consideration, eyeing the man a bit hesitantly. In reality, he just felt they still weren't one hundred percent sure he wouldn't screw up again, but no matter what Dr. Clay said, he wouldn't say that to the Captain's face.

"It's not an issue," the man immediately answered. "It won't be forever. Think of it as a short adjustment period. Working with different Avengers will also help your skills. Adjusting to different styles of combat and cooperation. I think it'll be a very fruitful experience for everybody involved," Steve said confidently.

Sighing at the clear resolution in the man's tone, Peter simply nodded. "Your call, Cap'. Honestly, I'm relieved you're not benching me for even more than the one month Tony has imposed."

The knock on the door didn't allow Steve time to retort. A second later the door opened and Tony stepped in. "I was told to pick up a certain spider from here… You might've seen him, Steve. Cheeky, skinny, little thing… About yay high," the man said pleasantly, indicating with his palm the spot right below his shoulder.

Rolling his eyes Peter couldn't help the small smirk that formed on his lips. "M' not little… And I'm definitely taller than that…" He quipped as he got up from his seat.

Sending him a wink the man turned to Steve, "Everything alright?" He didn't have the time to speak over the phone, so he wasn't sure why he was called to pick the kid up from the man's office. He was a bit worried that Peter might have done something he shouldn't, but seeing both him and Captain in a positive mood he safely concluded that had been a false alarm.

"More than alright, actually. I was just telling Peter how happy and proud we've all been with his efforts and hard work. We discussed about adjusting back to patrolling once you clear him to do so, too. But I won't tire you with details now. We can talk more tomorrow during our debriefing session. That'll bring the rest of the team up to speed too."

"Fine with me," Tony said, draping an arm around Peter when he walked next to him.

"The reason I wanted to see you was that Rhodey asked for some training time with Peter. One-on-one. Twice a week for a couple of hours. Is that alright with the two of you?"

Peter turned enlarged eyes to Steve. "With Rhodey?" He asked in a near whisper.

Tony's eyes squinted a bit at the uneasiness in the kid's tone. "Why? What's wrong with Rhodey?" He asked looking at his kid seriously.

Peter turned to look at the man but refrained from answering. Rhodey was Tony's best friend. He wasn't about to risk harming their friendship by whining about how the man treated him. Where Peter was concerned, he did deserve it.

"Actually, Tony, I think this is something you need to discuss with Rhodey," turning to Peter he added, "And you can rest assured he's willing and eager to train with you. Positive attitude and all. Sam or I will be observing and even joining in too."

Feeling some relief at the man's words Peter nodded.

Tony's eyes, still serious turned to Steve then Peter, and back to Steve. Realizing he'd get nothing from either one of them he simply said, "If it's okay with you and Peter, it's okay with me."

"Mondays and Thursdays, then! For two hours. Peter, check your school schedule and let me know which hours work best for you. And that'll be all. Go ahead and enjoy the rest of your evening. Tell Pepper I said hi, Tony," Steve smiled rising to his feet.

"Will do, Steve. See you tomorrow."

 


 

*******************************************************************

"So… How was that for a distraction?" Quill quipped as Wanda rested on his chest, pleased smile on her flushed face. His fingers played with her slightly disheveled hair, while hers traced circles on his chest.

"I think we traumatized Chew. Scarred him for life," she said half-jokingly as she eyed the small kitten that was currently having an adorable fight with the edge of her carpet.

"Nah… That will happen when we actually finish what we started," Quill said winking at her.

"Oh, I'd say you finished quite alright," Wanda answered as she turned to look at him teasingly.

"And you didn't?" came the fake-shocked retort. " 'Cause I'd say there were quite a bit of muffled groans going on while I was working my magic," he said as he waved his fingers suggestively.

Snickering, Wanda simply smacked his hand away. "You did alright," she answered with a soft sigh. She loved how easy their communication was, even on awkward things like sex and pleasure. She knew that when they decided to move from dry-humping-play to having actual sex it would be right. For both of them.

**********************************************************

"Not to ruin the mood or anything," Quill said quietly after a second, hand still caressing her hair, "but do you think you could finally let me in on what it is you need to be distracted from?"

"I told you…"

"You told me a bunch of bullshit," Quill cut her off, his tone sweet despite his choice of words. "I know you're still worried about Peter. I also know things on that front have vastly improved. And I also know when you're keeping things inside. This whole thing can't just be worry over Pete. C'mon… Let me in…"

His words caught her off guard. Damn his perceptiveness. She struggled with herself for a while before saying, "You got every right to get mad at me, but I can't let you in. Not with what's going on right now, at least. I'm not saying I won't ever… But… It's really nothing. We all got our emotional baggage right?"

Sighing Quill shook his head. His eyes trained on the side of her face, the soft lines of her profile, her long eyelashes… "I'll forget it for now, but I'm telling you, if I keep seeing you struggling with this I won't back down again."

Turning to look at him with a grateful expression as she curled up closer to him, Wanda whispered a soft "Deal," before kissing him.

The knock on her door, preceding its opening caught them both completely off-guard. When Steve entered the room he felt the blood rushing to his head upon spotting the teen couple scurrying off from a lying and cuddling position on the bed to sitting up and putting some distance between themselves.

"Knocking serves the purpose of the other person actually inviting you in, Steve," Wanda said, her cheeks blushing a vibrant pink and her hands nervously running through her hair in a less than discrete attempt to smooth the tresses out.

Not missing a second, Steve's stern response was "And the rule of no-closed-doors-if-you-have-a-boy-over serves the purpose of protecting hormonal teens from making life-impacting mistakes, Wanda, but I don't see you caring much for it."

Eyes enlarging with embarrassment, Wanda threw the man a death glare, "Steve," she hissed.

Looking at her warningly the man turned his glare to Quill, "I think it's time for you to go home, Quill. Give Yondu my regards."

The teen's eyes met the captain's steely gaze squarely. Realizing how much challenging him in any way could risk the time he'd get to spend with Wanda, he simply nodded. "Will do, Captain Rogers." Turning to Wanda he gave her one last goodnight kiss that made Steve clear his throat emphatically before whispering a sweet "Goodnight" to her ear and heading out of the room.

Wanda waited for a few long seconds, till Quill's steps couldn't be heard anymore, before she turned furious eyes to the man. "What the hell was that? What's wrong with you? You totally embarrassed me! You've never asked for my door to remain open when Pete's over!"

"Lower your voice, young lady!" Steve rebuked. "Peter's not your boyfriend. This rule exists for boys you're dating and you know that perfectly well!"

Wanda's eyes flashed even angrier at his words, "We weren't doing anything, we were just cuddling! Talking!"

"Cuddling and talking can easily escalate to very different activities, Wanda," the man chided. "You don't have to like it, but a rule is a rule. You don't break it, or there will be consequences."

Wanda shot to her feet, startling Chewbacca, who scurried to hide below her desk. "You're being unreasonable! You lose your shit over me spending time with my boyfriend and yet you let Rhodey gallop around this place bullying Peter and don't even bat an eye!"

"This is far from the truth and a completely different matter," the man answered, his tone dropping to a dangerous level. Heading to the door he closed it before walking closer to Wanda, "Rhodey's behavior has been addressed. And now that you mention it, I expect you to apologize to him for the way you spoke to him earlier."

Arms crossing in front of her chest and glaring up at the man she answered, "As soon as he apologizes to Peter."

"Fair enough," Steve retorted. Eyes never wavering he repeated, "The door remains open when Quill's here. Is that clear?"

Wanda tried. She really did. She closed her eyes and counted backward from ten. She tried to think of a mature response. Of a way to work this out, but all her pent up emotions that had little to do with the current situation had other ideas. When she opened her mouth all that came out was, "You're such an insufferable prude dinosaur…"

Despite having some more colorful words to add, she never got to. Steve, losing the last bit of patience, grabbed her arm, turned her to the side and rained down five hard and fast smacks that echoed throughout the room.

Wanda drew in a sharp breath at the first smack and hissed loudly with each one that followed. After the fifth connected with her ass, an uncomfortable heat had already taken over her rear end and she shuffled from foot to foot in a vain attempt to alleviate the discomfort.

"Are you done with your tantrum?" Steve asked in a deadly serious bravado and pride smacked right out of her, Wanda simply nodded. "Good. Now sit," Steve said, nodding to the bed, in a tone that held no room for argument.

Head bowed and arms crossing over her chest, she followed the order silently. She ignored the unpleasant tingling in her ass as it made contact with her mattress and kept her gaze trained to the carpet.

Steve regarded her for a full minute before taking in a calming breath and sitting right beside her, causing the bed to creak under his weight. "Wanda, you need to understand that with dating Quill, or anybody else for that matter comes responsibility. If I can't trust you to follow the rules I set for you and your dates, how can you expect me to keep allowing you seeing him?"

Wanda turned incredulous eyes to the man, "Steve, no! You can't… "

"Oh, I most certainly can! I don't want to, but I can! Which is why I need you to start being more responsible with this! Quill is older than you… That means he's more experienced and quite possibly more eager to take things one step further before you're ready for it…"

Wanda shook her head, expression almost offended. "He'd never pressure me!"

"I didn't imply that he would. Or at least, that wasn't where I wanted to go with this. What I mean is, that in the heat of the moment you may rush into something you're not ready for."

"And just how you know better than me when I'll be ready for it?" She challenged right back. This was an awkward topic and she hated having this conversation, but she hated how Steve saw the whole thing even more.

"I don't. But I do know better than you on many other levels. And sixteen is too young to... Do… That."

"Just where's the logic in that?" Wanda asked exasperatedly.

"In the fact that getting pregnant, or catching an STD is a realistic possibility once you're sexually active. And I'm not gonna let you risk your future like that. Not yet. You're still too young for any of these responsibilities!"

Cheeks flushing Wanda could only shake her head in disbelief. "Steve I do know how to protect myself!"

"I'm glad to hear that. You're still too young. And so the rule remains. No closed doors," Steve said in a resolute tone. "And you don't wanna test me on this, young lady! Next time I catch you up here with Quill behind a closed door, it'll be the last time you see him, is that clear?"

Eyes narrowing and jaw setting Wanda looked at the man with disbelief. Realizing arguing was pointless she simply shook her head once again. Scooting further up on her bed and looking away she said quietly, "Fine. Now please leave me alone!"

"Wanda…"

"No, Steve. You were pretty clear. You don't care how I feel about this and you're not listening to a word I'm saying. Your precious rule remains! Now leave me alone," she said, putting as much emphasis as she could in her last few words.

Steve lingered for a few more seconds before sighing and getting to his feet. "We can discuss this a bit more when you're calmer," he said in an even tone.

"Whatever!" Wanda grumbled, keeping her gaze away from the man. When he attempted to run a hand through her hair, she simply leaned her head as far away from his hand as she could, clearly indicating she didn't want him anywhere near her at the moment. A few seconds later she watched the man leaving the room with a soft sigh and a quiet "Goodnight, Wanda."

 


 

Tony, brow furrowed in deep concentration, inched his face closer to the taken apart gauntlet of his Iron Man suit. His right hand held a tiny microprocessor with the help of a pair of tweezers. Holding his hand as stable as he could he moved it tentatively to place the small piece in its right place of the intricate electronic interior of the gauntlet. Seconds before he could ease the pressure at the tweezers, his caught movement from the corner of his eye. The same movement that had interrupted the last couple of attempts to do the very job he was currently struggling with. Sighing in defeat he dropped the tweezers and turned to watch Peter on top of a swivel chair, rolling himself from one side of the lab to the other.

"Pete you're gonna break your neck, my lab, or my sanity if you keep this up." Despite the feigned annoyance, it was more than clear that he wasn't the least bit irritated by Peter's antics.

Hopping off the chair and shoving his hands awkwardly in his sweatpants' pockets, Peter said quietly, "Sorry…"

"Everything alright? You need to talk?" Tony asked regarding his kid intently.

Peter eyed him thoughtfully before finally shaking his head.

Unconvinced, Tony tapped a finger against his knee. "Right… Well, I got something that bugs me a bit and I wanted to ask you about. What's going on with Rhodey? You seemed a bit jumpy when Steve told you about the one-to-one. Is he giving you a hard time?"

Peter's head turned to look at the man surprised that he had caught all this. He thought he had masked his uneasiness a lot better, but he was, apparently, wrong.

"He is, isn't he?" Tony surmised by the teen's uneasiness.

"It's fine, Tony… He's just a bit pissed with everything that happened. And who can blame him?" Peter immediately said in a dismissive tone.

"No. Nope. Nah uh. You're not doing this. We've talked about this. It's over and done with. It's been dealt with, and it's behind you. Nobody gets to give you crap about any of it! I'll talk to Rhodey, make sure he lays off of you."

Peter swallowed uneasily at the man's curt tone. Damn it. "Tony, no! Don't get mad at him. He's your best friend… Plus, Cap' already helped working it out. Hence the one-to-one. I'll be fine…"

Getting to his feet and moving close to the kid, Tony clasped both his palms on the thin shoulders. "I know you will. 'Cause I'll make sure of that. You're not alone, Pete. I won't beat Rhodey up. I'll just ride his ass a bit. I know how he can get. Believe it or not, he's been like that to me too in the past. He just needs a bit of a wake-up call. And in any case that's for me to figure out and for you to not worry about. What you should worry about, is figuring out what you want for Christmas."

Rolling his eyes but small smile forming nonetheless, Peter countered, "It's not even Thanksgiving yet!"

"Ah! Now that you mention it," Tony said pleasantly as he moved to stand next to Peter, then threw an arm around his shoulders and started walking slowly towards the large glass doors of the lab, "how would you like a small gather-up for Thanksgiving? Nothing too much… Nothing big… I can more than understand that the holidays won't be all easy, laughs, and giggles for you this year. But… Both I and Dr. Clay think it would do you a world of good to be surrounded by people that love you in a pleasant atmosphere and whatnot. So, I was thinking just us, Steve, Wanda, and Nat. What d'ya think?"

Peter kept his gaze straight ahead and remained silent for a few seconds as he and Tony slowly walked out of the lab and into the hallway. "Can we have Sam too?"

"Of course we can. So, is that a yes?"

"I guess… What about the rest of the team?"

"Clint is having them over at his place. I was thinking we break it up for Thanksgiving and if you're up for it do something all together for Christmas or New Year's. No pressure. We'll see how you feel and what you want. You're the top-priority, kid. And the team more than understands. They're all lame but they do have a life outside the Avengers too so don't go overstressing about everyone."

" 'Kay," Peter said quietly as the two of them rounded the corner of the hallway and walked into the living room, heading for the couch.

"And… Good news ain't over yet! I'm on a roll tonight, aren't I? Well, since I've received a bunch of emails from your school teachers about how much you're applying yourself and how much better you're doing… And despite your grounding isn't over… We discussed it with Pep and decided to give you a day off on Thanksgiving. You know.. To catch up with your friends, MJ… Go out, have some fun… How does that sound?"

Peter's eyes practically bulged out of his head at Tony's words. "For real?" He asked the man as he watched him sitting on the couch.

Tony nodded as he leaned back against the cushions. "For real."

"Thanks, Tony! I'd really, really, like that," Peter said eagerly, a sincere grin spreading on his face.

Tony's own lips split in a big smile. It had been a while since he last saw that grin on the kid. And he had missed it.

"Hey, Tony?"

"Shoot."

"About what Cap' said…" Peter trailed.

"Which of it all? He keeps yapping about a million things."

"About patrolling…." Peter trailed again.

"What about it?"

"Well… You know… You said it yourself… I've been trying… School says so, Cap', Nat, and Sam all say so… And I was thinking that maybe, you could lift the suit-grounding - just the suit! And that I could maybe start patrolling again." Peter had spoken his words hesitantly, hands nervously playing with the fabric inside his pockets and cheeks flushing lightly.

"You will patrol again. Once your restriction is over in three weeks… Well two weeks and 5 days to be exact," Tony answered in a casual tone.

"Well, yeah… That's what I'm getting at… Why not make this a bit shorter? I wouldn't even be alone, I'd be with you, or Sam, or Nat…"

"No," Tony immediately shot down.

"Tony, come ooon!" Peter answered unable to keep the whine out of his tone.

Signature crease forming between his furrowing eyebrows, Tony shook his head. "Not a single chance. I first asked you to not use the suit because I was afraid of how your emotional state would affect your powers. And very rightly so. But then, when you chose to sneak out and almost got yourself killed in that suit, that request was switched to a grounding, young man, and the month started counting again from that day. You know that perfectly well. I know you miss the action, but I can't trust you out there yet. We won't discuss this again until your restriction is over. Clear?"

Peter huffed annoyed but couldn't bring himself to argue anymore. He wasn't in the mood to test the man's patience. "Fine," he huffed, eyes darting away from the man and training purposefully on the opposite wall.

"Hey!" Tony's stern call made Peter turn slowly to look at him. "I can't believe these words are leaving my mouth, but this is for your own good, alright? I need to know you're safe out there. That you're in your right mind. That you're stable emotionally. Give yourself some time. The suit isn't going anywhere and neither are the scumbags that litter this city, alright?"

Expression softening a bit Peter nodded. "I guess…"

"Good. Now plaster on a smile before Pepper comes downstairs and busts my ass for making you all pouty. And don't tell Dr. Clay I said that!"