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A Parent Apparent

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As soon as he was done with lunch, Peter hopped off the stool and bounded into his room to change clothes so he could go see May. Meanwhile Tony, unwillingly trudged off towards his office to call Rhodes. They had a lot to talk about.


When he went barreling into May's apartment, the last thing he expected was for her to stand up off of the couch to greet him.  He took a few wide-eyed steps towards her while she took a few slow steps towards him.  They met in the middle with a gentle embrace, Peter not wanting to hurt her.  "Aunt May.", he whispered in awe.  "You're up.  You're walking.  This, this is amazing."


"It is", she agreed.  "Don't get too excited, though.  I can't go too far yet.  In fact, I should go sit back down now, Sweetie.  You can tell me all about your time in Washington."


Peter nodded and helped his aunt back to the chair where she had been sitting.  "I thought you said it would be at least three weeks.", Peter mused.


"It'll still take some time.  I'm not getting terribly far on my own.", she smiled.  "Now, tell me more about this trip.  I want to hear everything."


Peter smiled widely because there was one part he had been eagerly waiting to tell her about.  "He said he loves me.  Can you believe that?..."  May wanted to interject that she absolutely could but she didn't.  "I think he thought I was asleep but I wasn't really.  I heard him."


"Oh?", May questioned, not looking at all surprised.  "How did that make you feel?  You look happy about it"


"It was nice.  Like, really nice.", Peter sighed before going slightly tense.  "I, uh, I said it back.  I'm not sure if I should have..."


May looked at Peter with patience and affection because he was struggling again.  "Peter, we already talked about this.  It's okay.  You have more than enough love to go around.--"


"--I know!", Peter interrupted.  "It's just, what if something happens to him.  What if I love him and something happens..."  He had started talking and now it was all spilling out in one wild rush.  "...When he was at his meeting, he was late coming back, like really, really late.  I freaked out. I completely freaked out and cried.  I cried May.  I can't, what if...", he stuttered as he tried to place the right words.  


"Breathe, sweetie.  Take your time.", May soothed.


"Things keep happening May.", he finally got out.  "Things keep happening and I can't stop them.  Even when you got hurt, I couldn't do anything about it.  I already worry that something else will happen to you, just like things have happened to everyone else.  I don't know if I can handle worrying about anyone else, like, like that.  It hurts."  The tears had started and he tried his best to wipe them away but they kept coming.


May wanted nothing more than to hold him but she didn't think she could manage to get up again just yet. "Shh, Peter, listen.  You don't have to worry about me... or Tony.  Honey, we're the ones who are supposed to be worrying about you."


Peter had continued to sniffle and wipe away tears as May spoke.  As soon as he could speak clearly again, he did.  "I can't, not worry, May."


"Worrying about the people you care about is normal.  I worry about you all the time but you shouldn't be this worried."


"I'm not this worried all the time", he argued.  "Only sometimes but sometimes it's more than worry and I hate it."


May looked at Peter sadly as she thought about everything he had lost, they had lost.  "I think that's justified.", she finally gave in.  "Just, please don't stop loving people because you're scared."


"I won't.  I'm not. I never said that I would. ...I love you."  He tried to smile but he wasn't sure it looked genuine. "I love Tony too, like a lot.", he added quietly.  "...and maybe even Pepper", he nearly whispered because that for some reason felt like an awkward confession.


May was absolutely at ease with her nephew's addition of Pepper to the list.  Pepper had become a good friend.   If she was being honest, Tony had to and it was obvious that they both very much cared about Peter.  Knowing that had only brought them closer.  Peter was her life now and being surrounded by friends who loved his nearly as much as she did was comforting.  "Me too. We're really lucky to have them, huh?"  When Peter nodded and gave a genuine smile she urged him to tell her more about his time in Washington with Tony. 


Peter, instantly latched onto the idea of a change in subject and happily opened up.  He excitedly went over the highlights, pulling up pictures he hadn't sent her already.  She eagerly listened to him describe the hotel suite in detail and laughed as he told her about their evening walk the ended in Tony practically demanding a cab ride because it was so hot outside.  He showed her every picture he had taken at the museum and at the zoo.  He rambled on all about the expensive dinner at the steak house and the garden walk that followed it.  The entire exchange was so affable that when May asked him about how the road trip came about he froze.  He'd already avoided that explanation once today.  Then to make matters worse, Tony, who had been unable to connect with Rhodey, walked in at that exact moment.


"You know, I was wondering the same thing, Kid.", the man said as he wandered in the front door.


May greeted the man kindly and then turned her attention back to her nephew who looked as though he were on the verge of bolting out of the room.  "I just wondered because it seems like flying would have been infinitely easier.  It's not that serious Peter."


"Exactly.", the man stated as he sat down beside Peter on the couch.  "Relax will ya?", he added when the boy continued to remain tense.


Peter began to fidget his hands in his lap, prompting Tony to grab ahold of them.  "I... I didn't want to be sick again."


May looked at the boy with concern and affection.  "Peter, I thought we decided that you were only sick because of the turbulence.  It wasn't raining when you were leaving."


"I know.", Peter said, meeting eyes with May.  "I was still nervous about it, though."  He glanced at his mentor who was sitting beside him and pried his hands out from under his so that he could run them through his hair.


"I guess that's fair.  I'm sorry you had such a rough time.", May sighed.  


Letting go of Peter's hands when he's pulled away, Tony watched him closely.  It was obvious to him that the boy was leaving something out.  "Pete, that couldn't have been it.  I had already bought you some Dramamine and we had already talked about doubling or even tripling the dose if we needed to.  This wasn't about being sick, Kiddo."


May looked over at the man and raised her eyebrows.  Tony looked back at her with an expression that seemed to be conveying a message of 'There's something we don't know and I'm going to figure it out'.  She sighed as she moved her attention to Peter.  "What's going on Peter?"


"I don't know.", he whispered honestly.  Looking between both adults he sighed.  "I'm not even sure I was actually airsick.", he mumbled.


Tony nearly laughed but mostly held it together.  "Kid, I was right there.  I'm pretty sure I watched you throw up things you ate last year.  I think it's safe to say you were airsick."


"Okay, maybe I didn't say that right.", Peter surrendered. "I, I think it might have been, like, more than that. M-maybe I was panicking too.  I don't know.  Maybe, maybe I was sick from that."


Tony cocked his head to the side, contemplating the boy's words.  "That's something that's possible, I suppose but why would you have been so worked up that it would make you that sick?"  Peter stayed quiet for a moment too long and then it hit Tony like a ton of bricks.  The beach.  The Vulture.  The Plane.  "Shit, Kid.", said, running a hand down his face.  He sounding irritated but it was clear that it was with himself and not anyone else in the room.  "Why didn't you say something?"


Glancing at May who was looking at him with the same look of realization Peter shrunk down on the couch and shrugged his shoulders.  After doing so, he braced himself for the chastising that he knew would come from that but Tony didn't say anything.  Rather both adults continue to look at him with expressions he wasn't sure how to interpret.  "I'm sorry", he mumbled.


"No, I'm sorry.", Tony said firmly, surprising even himself with his choice in words.  "I should have thought of that.  I should have asked you.  I could have done something or said something--"


"--It's alright, Tony", Peter insisted.  "I, I didn't know either.  I'm still not sure.  I just know that I was, well, sort of scared and my stomach was hurting.  I remembered that night with the crash and after that, I couldn't stop thinking about it.  Especially when the plane was doing that thing where it felt like it was going to fall that's when I thought I might be panicking  Then, I asked you if that was normal and you said it was so and then, then I... threw up."


May was next to speak up.  "Honey, we need to know if you're panicking.", she said softly


Peter groaned as he went back to running his hands through his hair.  "I told you already.  I don't even know if I was."


Tony looked over at Peter with his mouth slightly agape.  The more the boy talked the more it sounded like he had been having a serious panic attack on the plane and the worst part was he hadn't even been paying close enough attention to notice.  His mind rapidly went back to the night that he had read through all of the books and articles on trauma and remembered that it had crossed his mind then that the kid was already displaying some of the red flags.  It seemed that the more he got to know the boy the more evident it was that he had been correct with his assessment and God did he hate being correct about that.  He needed to say something, to sort this out, to fix it.  At the very least help the kid figure out what had happened. 


"Pete", Tony said earning eye contact from the boy.  "Listen, do you want to know what I think happened?", he asked not really pausing for an answer.  "I think you were already nervous about flying in the rain and I didn't do a very good job of making you feel any better about it."  Peter tried to interrupt him but Tony shushed him quickly. "Nope.  The adult is talking.  This is where you listen.", he said not unkindly.  "You were already nervous and then when things got rough you got scared and started not feeling so hot.  Then the whole plane crash ordeal popped into your head, yeah?"


"Mm-hmm", Peter nodded, slightly turning his back to the man so that he could lean up against him.  They both ignored the affectionate looks that May was sending their way as Tony repositioned himself so that they could both be more comfortable. "Well, I think you were already scared and then, all of those memories sent you into a tailspin.  Triggering a panic attack of sorts.  Then panicking made you feel even more sick and then, well, we know what happened after that.", he smiled.  "I wasn't paying attention.  I could have helped you."


"It's not your fault, Tony.  I didn't say anything.", Peter said as he mindlessly started to fidget with the ring on his mentor's finger.  Tony glanced down at the kid's hand as it touched his and smiled.   He let it go on for a moment or two before quietly pulling his fingers away, leading the boy to begin fidgeting with his own hands instead. 


"It would have been nice if you had said something but I was the adult there. I should have been watching you."


"I don't need a babysitter", Peter smiled.


Tony hummed in acknowledgment as May laughed lightly in the background.  "Sure you don't."


Peter rolled his eyes and smiled. "I'm not a little kid. I'm almost sixteen."


Tony scoffed. "Adding the word 'almost' before your age is basically the universal sign that you are most definitely a kid, Kid."


"Whatever", Peter grumbled at the same time May spoke up and defended him by saying that he was actually almost sixteen.


"His birthday is in just about two weeks.", May mused. 


Tony was slightly taken aback. He knew the kid's birthday, only he hadn't realized how close it was. Trying to stay casual he asked, "Big sixteen, huh? What do you think you want to do? To celebrate I mean."


"Oh", Peter said just as casually. "Not much. I never really do much. I usually have Ned spend the night and we go to the movies or something."


"No Party?"


Peter blushed. "Um, no. I haven't had a party since I was, I don't know, seven? Eight? I, uh, I don't really have that many friends. Just Ned and MJ... and MJ isn't going to be back until school starts. Besides, We'll, probably still be here.", Peter added, looking up at the man with a small smile.


Tony nudged the kid to get him to let him up. Once standing he looked at May. "So, no party then, huh?"


"No party", she confirmed.


"You could come with me and Ned to the movies...and we could go out for ice cream", Peter grinned. "That would be kind of like a party."


"Nah, I think we can come up with something better than that. ", Tony said with a wink, already running scenarios in his head.


Peter swallowed. "N-nothing crazy, alright? No party and nothing crazy?", he said hands up in defense.  


"Fine.", Tony conceded. "Nothing Crazy. I won't plan anything without May's approval. Yeah?"


"What about my approval?", Peter asked, crossing his arms over his chest. "It's my birthday... are you at least going to tell Ned?"


"I like surprises.", Tony said with a shrug of his shoulders. "May can keep a secret. Ned? Not so much. Whatever it is can be a surprise for both of you."  Then he turned and towards the door.  "I'm going to the lab." 


As soon as he walked out the door, Peter dropped back down onto the couch and leaned onto his elbows, face in his hands.  "Oh my God, May.  Please, please, don't let him do anything crazy."


May looked at the boy with sympathy.  "No promises, you know how he is.  He'll work around whatever I say."  When Peter groaned she laughed.  "Oh stop it, I'm sure it will be great."


Unconvinced, Peter went ahead and said his good-byes and went back up to his room to call Ned.  He hadn't talked to him properly in days.  Just a few texts here and there.  As expected his friend was in complete awe over everything he had to say.  By the time Peter got around to asking him if he could spend the night on  Tuesday he was nearly speechless.  "...and Pepper Potts will be there?", Ned asked in breathy excitement.


"Well, yeah, Ned.  She kind of lives here and this whole thing was her idea.", Peter explained before smiling to himself because he couldn't believe it either sometimes.  


"When are you going to go you know...Spider-man, again?", Ned whispered.


Peter didn't hesitate, "I'm hoping tomorrow.  Hey!  Do you think I could stay at your's tomorrow night?"


"My mom says you can stay anytime.  She thinks you're a good influence on me."  They both laughed and went back to talking about all the random things they needed to catch up on from the last couple of days.  He would have to ask Tony... or May about spending the night with Ned later.    He was almost certain that neither of them would say no.  


What was left of the day was pretty ordinary.  He spent the majority of his time in the lab, where Tony started feeling out his coding skills by having him mess with a few old projects of his.  After an hour or so, Tony was hovering behind Peter go over his work.  "Kid, this is good work.  There seem to be a few gaps in your knowledge but the fact that you're able to work around those is sort of amazing."  The man said before highlighting a small section in the middle.  "Like, this here.", He pointed out.  "You could have accomplished the same result with far fewer commands.  We can simplify it, leaving less room for mistakes.  Let me show you..."  


Soon after, FRIDAY announced that they had been working for two hours without halt and Tony decided they may as well break for dinner.  At Peter's insistence, they ended up eating with May and when they were just about to start cleaning up, he asked about staying with Ned.  "So, Ned said I can spend the night at his, tomorrow.  That's okay right?"


Both adults looked at each other before May spoke up.  "I don't see why not...", she started before looking over at Tony.  "Do you have a problem with it?"


Tony shook his head.  "Nope.  You going to go do your Spider thing while you're there?", he asked the boy.


"Yes?", Peter wavered.  "That was part of the plan anyway. That's okay?"


Again both adults looked at each other and Peter suddenly realized that there was some sort of non-verbal communication going on between the two of them and it seemed strange because it was the same kind of thing he'd watched Ned's parents do when he was there visiting.  He didn't have terribly long to contemplate it before May was gesturing towards Tony and the man started talking again.  "No, that's fine.  I was only asking."


Peter smiled, "Awesome.  When we're done cleaning up I'm going to go call him."


Tony looked at him and swatted his hip with a hand towel causing the boy to yelp in surprise.  "Go ahead and go.  I've got this here."


"Okay!  Thank you!  Good-night May!", he shouted cheerfully as he ran out the door leaving the two adults alone in the apartment.