Chapter 1: welcome to midtown
His hand tightened around the lead as the hall seemed to squeeze tighter and tighter. He hated the inherent attention he got, not that he wasn't used to it. 'Never seen a dog before? ,' He thought, bitterly. Friday, the golden retriever bounding calmly by his side, paid the lingering eyes and gasps no mind as she followed her handler to wherever it was he needed to go.
"Good girl," Peter praised, reaching down to pat the dog on her head as they continued to weave through the crowded hallway. It wasn’t like Peter was surprised, this is exactly what she had trained for and she was more than used to it after 6 or so years of working.
"Oh my god," Peter overhears from ahead, "There's a dog!" He has to force himself not to blatantly roll his eyes at the reaction as his mother’s words from earlier steadily reassured him.
Treat it like it’s not a big deal, and it won’t be, she had told him. Peter had struggled with the extra attention that bringing his dog with him everywhere brought since he first started working with Friday all those years ago. He couldn’t necessarily blame the people around him anyway as he himself was a huge dog lover and was guilty of paying more attention to animals than the people they usually accompanied.
However, this was different. Peter knew it was, and everyone around him should understand that… The least they could do was acknowledge that there wasn’t just a random dog on campus for everyone to gawk at. They could at least acknowledge that she’s there for a specific purpose, that purpose being Peter. But, of course, the students of Midtown ignored the brightly colored patches on the dog’s vest that clearly read ‘ WORKING DOG’ and ‘DO NOT DISTRACT’ and ‘MEDICAL ALERT DOG - DO NOT PET’ and just continued to coo and stare as the duo continued their way to Peter’s first class at his new school, and he hated it. His mom had even gone out of her way to customize the lead that Peter held to indicate that Friday wasn’t any dog that could be toyed with, but an active piece of Peter’s personal medical equipment; equipment that he needed to get him though everyday life.
It was bearable until stray hands began to inch closer to the pair, lightly stroking Friday’s back in a maneuver commonly known as a “drive-by.” It was the direct disregard for personal space that bothered him heavily as people seemed to purposefully squeeze themselves closer to Peter to get a better view of (or even stroke) the dog by his side. The closer they got, the clearer the patches adorning Friday’s vest should have become. But of course, the little space Peter did have to get through without absolutely losing his mind seemed to quickly get tighter and tighter. He felt the air in his lungs begin to thin and the skin on his palms begin to sweat. In a final attempt to keep himself from blowing up into a full meltdown in the sea of wandering students, Peter decided to do something about it. He tapped out three soft pats onto his right thigh to signal to Friday and guide her in closing the gap of space between dog and handler.
“Friday, middle,” He called, as he widened his stance, allowing the dog to move from his side to in-between his legs. He then continued to pick up the pace, although, surely, no one would reach for a dog that was between a stranger’s legs… right?
Not particularly willing to test out his theory, Peter quickly made his way to his first class, English. Friday, noticing the slight urgency in his gait, had no trouble in keeping pace, avoiding tripping him or anyone around them.
Peter sighed with relief as he saw no one was yet in the room, save for the teacher that was carding through documents piled on her desk.
The door closed behind Peter as he led himself and Friday deeper into the room, silently catching the attention of the teacher.
“Good morning,” She greeted with a kind smile on her face. She looked down at the dog that sat between the teen’s calves and then brought her attention back up to the boy.
“Is there something you need, sweetheart?” She asked, clearly surprised to see a student in her classroom a full 15 minutes before the first bell even rang.
“Um,” Peter began, his anxiety swelling in his gut as his eyes shot down to his shoes - well, what would’ve been a clear view of his shoes, was now the top of Fri’s vest adorned with her colorful patches. The dog sat still, comfortably situated on Peter’s feet that turned inward the moment he noticed the presence of another human.
“Everything alright?,” The woman asked, her voice laced with concern at the obvious distress in the boy’s posture.
Without missing a beat, he bent over and whipped through the pocket in Friday’s vest and pulled out a laminated card that was roughly the size of a standard index card. Once the zipper was zipped shut, Peter muttered, “Hop up,” and Friday immediately was up again, in a standing position. The two then walked over to the teacher at her desk, and Peter placed the card on top of the stack of papers directly in front of her.
The teacher looked up at the boy, confused. She noticed the boy avoiding any and all eye contact, so she turned her attention to the card, which read:
‘Hello, my name is Peter. I am a freshman at Midtown High, and this is my service dog Friday. She helps alert me for possible seizures, calms me down during stressful events, and helps me navigate as a teen with autism. She trained for a long time and loves her job and I need her to be able to work without any distractions, so please keep this in mind when interacting with us. Please do not make faces at, talk to, touch, pet, attempt to feed, or distract Friday. Without her full attention, I could easily become sick or hurt. Please be mindful of how you approach us, how you interact with us, and how you show others what is and isn’t appropriate when around a service dog and its handler. Please do not pester me, as a handler, about my dog or my disabilities. Things like speaking, eye and physical contact, amongst other things are incredibly stressful for me and need to be taken slow. Thank you for taking the time to read this.’
The teacher looked up from the card only to see the boy had plopped down onto the floor and was carding his fingers through the long fur behind the dog’s ears. She cleared her throat in an attempt to get the boy’s attention.
“Well,” she began, extending her arm to hand the card back to the boy, “It’s very nice to meet you both, Peter.”
Without looking up from Friday, Peter quietly mumbled, “You can keep it, my mom made a bunch.”
“Okay,” She replied softly, tucking the card into her drawer, “I’m Mrs. Holden, I’m your English teacher.”
Peter just nodded, not moving his attention from the dog as he continued to gently stroke her head. Friday was splayed across the boy’s legs, distributing her weight across his thighs and reveling in the sweet sensation of pets and scratches from her favorite person.
“Well, Peter,” Mrs. Holden continued, “Do you have a preference of where’d you like to sit? I want you to be comfortable in here, so you’re more than welcome to choose where’d you’d like to be seated.”
Without missing a beat, Peter’s arm flung upwards so he could point to the back corner, the seat furthest from the door.
“Okay, that’s perfectly fine,” Mrs. Holden nodded, “If anything ever makes you uncomfortable, feel free to let me know and we can work together to fix it, okay?”
Peter nodded, leaning down and pressing his forehead to Friday’s, “Yeah.”
“Okay,” Mrs. Holden nodded once more, “Welcome to Midtown, Peter.”
“Yeah,” Peter repeated, getting up to his feet. Friday was quick to do the same, standing at Peter’s side, waiting. The two then scurried to his chosen seat in the corner.
“Ball,” Peter said to Friday, pointing his foot to the space underneath the desk. Without hesitation, Friday happily situated herself on the floor, curled into a ball, underneath Peter’s desk with her head down and resting on her front legs.
“Good girl,” The boy praised as he gave a few scratches to the top of her head and tucked himself into his chair, sliding his backpack onto the back of it.
“The bell should ring soon,” Mrs. Holden said, standing from her desk, “Is it okay if I tell the class about your situation? I promise it’ll just be about how to treat Friday, I’ll leave out any medical or personal information.”
Peter just shrugged, his eyes glued to the top of his desk in front of him.
“Cards?” He asked, pointing down to Friday, well, her vest.
With a smile, Mrs. Holden replied, “That’s okay, you can save those for other students. I was thinking of making it a part of our icebreakers today, given that it’s our first day back.”
Peter just shrugged again, not bothering to lift his gaze, “Okay,” He mumbled.
“Perfect,” Mrs. Holden nodded as the first bell rang, “Oh, there we go. I’m going to stand at the door and greet your classmates as they come in. Are you okay to be in here without me?”
Once again, Peter could only bring himself to shrug. He wanted to find comfort in Mrs. Holden’s behavior towards him, but he couldn’t help but feel infantilized by a woman he didn’t even know. Sure, it was common knowledge to anyone that knew Peter personally that he sometimes slipped into the mental age of a much younger boy, especially with people he trusted, but Mrs. Holden didn’t know that. Why was she babying him? Did she not have any experience with children with disabilities? Could Peter even blame her? She definitely wasn’t the first teacher who didn’t have the first idea of what to do with Peter, and he didn’t expect her to be the last.
By the time Peter’s mind brought him back to the present, the late bell had rung and students were quickly filing into the classroom in which he was seated in. He tried to ignore the stares and whispers as he kept his eyes glued to his fingers that were sprawled out over his desk.
“Your dog is cute, what’s her name?” A blonde girl that took the liberty of sitting right in front of Peter asked after she turned around in her chair to face him.
“Friday,” Peter muttered, not looking up at the girl.
“She’s a service dog, right? For disabilities and stuff?” The girl continued, “Aren’t they usually for blind people? You don’t look blind.”
At that, Peter just shrunk down further into his chair, absentmindedly yanking on his own fingers to ease the anxiety.
It only took one question to spiral into a few dozen being thrown his way. A cacophony of voices and pairs of eyes finding their way to him and he did not like it. At. All.
Can I pet your dog?
What’s her name?
She’s so cute!
Is she a golden retriever?
What do those patches mean?
How old is she?
Why is she here?
Is she going to be here all day?
Do you bring her with you everywhere?
Does she know any tricks?
Can I pet her?
Can I pet your dog?
“Alright,” Mrs. Holden called from the front of the room, “That’s enough.”
‘Enough?’ Peter thought, the anxiety piercing through his skull and the heat from the angst boiling on his skin. He felt his diaphragm tighten as the air around him dissipated.
“Peter, are you okay?” Mrs. Holden asked, making her way over to the clearly distressed student.
“Just give him some space, everyone back up.” A voice came from the outskirts of the room.
Peter hated the way they all looked at him like a fragile thing as they immediately took a few steps away, but he was grateful for the personal space.
“He’s going to get overwhelmed if you crowd him like that,” The voice continued, the tone almost annoyed as if what it was saying was the most obvious thing in the world.
“How do you know?” an irritated voice countered.
“Would you like it if a bunch of strangers came up to you and harassed you about your medical equipment? He’s just here to go to school, not to tell you all his life story. Just leave him alone.” Peter finally looked up to see the source of the voice, and found a girl with her long and curly hair tied back and her nose buried in a book. Her posture was casual, but the scowl on her face made it clear that if the other students’ inappropriate behavior continued, she wouldn’t be so nonchalant.
Peter exhaled in the slightest relief as the remainder of the students finally turned their attention to the teacher at the front of the room, instead of him and Friday. He figured as long as no one talked to him for a while, he’d be okay and wouldn’t have to ask him mom to come and get him. He had hoped that was what would happen.
He bid the stranger who saved him a silent thank you, and turned his attention to the dog between his feet. Friday was pawing at his knee, asking for him to look at her.
Peter slid his chair back, so her little head could pop out from underneath the desk and rest lightly on top of his thigh. Peter couldn’t help but grin as he tapped his finger gently to the tip of her wet nose, a way of telling her he was okay. Friday kept her head rested on his thigh until his pulse seemed to steady back down to normal.
Treat it like it’s not a big deal and it won’t be, His mother’s voice comforting him again. Peter sucked in a deep breath and pat the top of Friday’s head, signaling her to return to her ball underneath his desk. After she did so, he left the gap between himself and the desk to allow her access if necessary.
Treat it like it’s not a big deal, and it won’t be.
He could do this. He could do this, and he was going to.
“As you can all see,” Mrs. Holden began, “We have a student with us that is accompanied by something called a service animal. Does anyone know what a service animal is?”
The blonde girl in front of Peter quickly shot her hand up and replied before being called on,
“It’s a dog that helps blind people cross the street and stuff,” She said.
“What’s your name, honey?” Mrs. Holden smiled.
“Betty,” The girl replied with a single nod of her head.
“Well, Betty. What you described is a seeing eye dog, which is a specific type of service dog. A service dog,” Mrs. Holden continued, now turning to address the entire class rather than just Betty, “Is a dog that went through vigorous training to help people perform certain tasks that we as able bodied people may find easy, but that disabled people may have difficulty with.”
“So then he’s disabled?” A different student from the front of the room asked, lazily gesturing to Peter that shrunk further into his seat, “What’s wrong with him?”
What’s wrong with him?
Peter would be lying if he said he wasn’t used to that response. However, hearing it each time didn’t make it any more pleasant. He struggled greatly coming to terms with his autism, especially in the earlier years of his diagnosis. The explosive meltdowns and the countless hours spent wailing and tearing his own hair out still made his throat ache and his scalp burn, even years and years later.
He knew he was different, that his brain just worked differently. It took a lot of therapy and proper monitoring for Peter to finally learn to not hate himself for what his mind and body put him through. It took his mother’s warm embrace, encouraging words, and loving kisses to remind him that he was still loved and capable of love, despite what he often felt.
What’s wrong with him?
It took a long time, but Peter no longer felt there was anything wrong with him. He was just different; nothing wrong with that.
“There’s nothing wrong with him,” Mrs. Holden replied tightly, “His body and his brain just respond to things differently than how most of you would to certain things. Which is why he needs his dog with him, and you guys do not. He requires assistance for things that you all might not. There’s nothing wrong with that, we should be glad that Peter, our classmate and friend, is getting that kind of accommodation.”
“So what does she help him with?” Betty asked.
“That’s really personal and you shouldn’t ask that,” The same girl that defended Peter before chimed in, “He doesn’t owe you any explanation for any disability or medical condition. That’s his business and his alone. If it does end up concerning you, I’m sure he’ll let you know, Betty.” She snapped.
“Why are you so angry about it?” Betty asked, turning to face the girl who had yet to look up from her book, seemingly unimpressed by the entire scene surrounding her.
“Peter’s here for the same reason we are, for education. He didn’t come here today hoping you all would harass him about his incredibly personal health situation. If he wanted you to know, I’m sure he’d let you know. If not, it’s smart to just leave him alone. He clearly has trouble communicating verbally so he can’t ask you to stop, but I don’t have that trouble so I’ll gladly do it for him, if he doesn’t mind.”
It was then that the girl finally looked up from the book and right at Peter, looking to him for permission to help him in a way that Friday couldn’t; to talk to other humans.
Peter straightened up in his seat and looked in her direction, just passed her shoulder.
The girl figured that was the closest she’d get to eye contact, so she took it.
“If you want me to shut up, just say the word. Otherwise, I’d be glad to help you with them.”
Peter hesitated for a second, uncomfortable at the feeling of the entire class staring at him and waiting for him to respond. It took a second before he slowly nodded his head and muttered a quiet, “Thanks.”
Peter usually hated being spoken for, he was almost 14 for goodness sake. But he knew that his first day at a new school would shock his progress with verbal communication back to how it usually was when he was under great distress. The girl clearly understood, to her best ability, how Peter was feeling. He also felt comfortable enough with the idea of correcting her if he needed to, as she didn’t at all seem perturbed or swayed by it, unlike most of the other students had.
“Yeah, don’t worry about it,” The girl nodded and turned back to her book.
“And what’s your name?” Mrs. Holden asked her.
“Michelle,” she replied.
“Alright, Michelle. Thank you.” Mrs. Holden nodded and sent an encouraging smile to Peter, “I’m sure Peter really appreciates your help today.”
Michelle just shrugged, “It’s just what anyone else should do, it’s not a big deal.”
Peter turned his gaze back to Friday, who had returned her head to rest on the top of his thigh.
Peter couldn’t help but smile at her and scratch the top of her head, silently thanking her for her comfort.
“Anyway,” Mrs. Holden began, “Peter’s dog is named Friday. She is here for one purpose, to help Peter. She is not here to be distracted. So please, do not pet her, do not talk to her, do not feed her, and especially do NOT try to separate her from Peter. Without Friday, something bad could happen to Peter and he’d be in potential danger. She has a very specific job to do here, and so do you. She won’t disrupt your work, so please do not disrupt hers. Any direct attempt to distract Friday or disturb her and Peter will not be taken lightly and will lead to disciplinary action. Is that understood?”
A chorus of “Yeah”s and “Yes, ma’am,”s came from the class and Mrs, Holden smiled wide, “great. Now, welcome to Freshman English. And most importantly, welcome to Midtown.”
The rest of the class time went without incident, the room of students seemingly just ignoring Peter and Friday, just how Peter liked it. Before he knew it, the bell rang, signalling the end of the period.
The students instantly shot up from their seats and bolted out of the room, seemingly hustling to find their respective classrooms on a new and large campus in time to not be late for their next classes. Peter took his time, shuffling the papers like the syllabus and something for his mom to sign into his backpack and pulls back his chair to give Friday more space.
“Hop up,” Peter called, Friday immediately coming out from under his desk to stand beside him and await further instruction.
“Michelle, Peter, could you two come here for a second?” Mrs. Holden called from her desk, smiling warmly at the only two students that remained, Michelle holding back to avoid the traffic jam that was inevitably blocking the door and hallway.
Michelle nodded and slung her bag over her shoulder, making her way to the desk.
Peter followed, comforted by the light pitter-patter of Friday’s paws on the linoleum beside him.
“Peter, are you comfortable with Michelle helping you the way she did today?” Mrs. Holden asked sweetly, almost too sweetly for Peter’s liking.
Peter’s hand reflexively reached up and tangled itself into his hair, his fingers twirling around some of the thicker curls that sat atop the crown of his head. He hesitated for a second, looking at the board behind the teacher, just passed her shoulder like he often does to closely simulate eye contact without having to make himself uncomfortable.
Peter opened his mouth to respond, but found himself having great difficulty. He tugged lightly on the strands of hair in his hand before closing his mouth and nodded minutely.
“Okay,” Mrs. Holden nodded, “Would you like for her to sit next to you?”
Peter felt Friday rubbing her wet nose onto his shin, seemingly attempting to get his attention or to just signal that she was still there. It still amazed Peter how Friday seemed to have a sense entirely for noticing when Peter was uncomfortable and needed her reassurance.
He quickly reached down to pat her head, I’m okay, he wanted to say and sorta did through the gesture.
Peter then shrugged in response to the teacher’s question.
“Would that be something you’d be opposed to, Michelle?” Mrs. Holden asked, turning to the girl.
“Whatever’s best for him,” Michelle shrugged, “I want to be there when he needs me, but I also want to give him space when he needs it.”
Mrs. Holden nodded understandingly, “Well how about you sit with him, so that you’re there when he needs you. And Peter, if you ever need space or want to be alone, just say so and we can move Michelle or you can step out with Friday if you need to. How’s that sound?”
Peter nodded again, his hand slipping from his hair and settled down by his side.
“Okay, great,” Mrs. Holden smiled again, “You are both dismissed. Feel free to come to me with any issues either of you may come across. I’m here to help you. And thanks again, Michelle. You really are being a great friend to Peter.”
Michelle shrugged again, seemingly still unimpressed, “I’m just doing what anyone else would.”
Peter could help but let the corners of his mouth twitch into a small smile.
Day one and I already have a friend? He thought to himself.
Michelle turned to Peter and asked, “Do you need help getting to your next class? I know people can be pretty pushy in the hallway.”
Peter nodded, his eyes glued to Friday’s vest.
“Alright, let’s go,” Michelle replied, making her way to the door.
A great friend indeed, Peter smiled to himself as he followed behind her.
a short little update. thank you for the kind words in the comments of the last one, comments really inspire me to continue
The rest of the day went by without an incident. It turned out, Michelle and Peter had three other classes together outside of English. Peter was heavily comforted by this, even more so when Michelle went up to the teachers’ respective desks and smoothly explained the arrangement they had with Mrs. Holden and suggested it being implemented in their other classes too. The teachers were super accommodating, none of them objecting to the pair sitting together and ignoring the whispers the two shared during class time.
In the two classes they didn’t have together, Michelle still went in with Peter and helped him find his seat. She even went as far as to help the teacher pass out the cards Peter had to explain the situation with Friday. Friday, as usual, was content to just be with Peter and look after him. She didn’t mind the extra human help either. Michelle didn’t pay Friday much mind, hardly smiling when the golden retriever brushed up against her leg as she walked in between the two teens down the hall.
Before Peter knew it, the day was over. He had gone through all of his classes and survived all the introductions and was ready to go home. With Friday bounding by his side, he tucked all of his new textbooks into his locker before making his way to the student pick-up area.
Immediately, the large black SUV caught his eye and he made his way over. Friday’s tail wagged as she recognized the sight and smell of the vehicle. Peter smiled at her excitement.
“Yeah! Momma’s here!” Peter said quietly to her before he opened the back door of the car for her. The pup sat and waited for Peter, who unbuckled her vest and patted the seat to signal for her to hop in. Friday instantly obliged, happily jumping onto the seat and excitedly sniffing around.
Peter giggled and shut her door for her before getting into his own seat in the passenger side. He closed his own door and turned to his mother in the driver's seat.
“Hey, momma,” Peter smiled.
“Hey, baby. How was your first day?” His step-mother, Pepper, smiled back at the boy before pulling out of the school’s parking lot.
Pepper has been in a majority of Peter’s life, having married his adoptive mother, Tony, when Peter was only 3 years old. Pepper loved Peter just as much as Tony did. She was ecstatic to have Peter accept her into his life so easily. Peter was enthralled by her, (mainly because his mother was) and would always be the sweet boy she knew he was around her. Pepper was already so emotional on the day of their wedding, that upon tiny little Peter asking if she was going to be his ‘Momma’ she fully lost her cool in front of their friends and family at the end of the aisle.
“It was,” Peter began as he toyed with a loose thread at the hem of his shirt, “okay.”
“That’s good,” Pepper nodded and kept her eyes on the road in front of them, “How about some ice cream?”
Peter’s head shot up to look at her, “Really?”
It was usually Tony that would offer things like ice cream and milkshakes and impromptu Disneyland trips, anything to make her boy smile. It was usually Pepper that would roll her eyes at her wife and shake her head in disbelief. Pepper was a great mother and Peter loved her dearly, she was often just as fun as his Mommy, too. She was just more… level-headed and had a greater impulse control than Tony.
“Today was a weird day for all of us,” Pepper shrugged, “Mommy and I missed you and Friday very much after having you home all summer.”
Peter nodded, “Can Mommy come?”
Pepper smiled at her son as they pulled to a stop at a red light, “Of course. How about we go home and get her?”
Peter nodded again and bounced excitedly in his seat. He liked ice cream, but he loved spending time with his moms.
“How was Friday?” Pepper asked, “Was she a good girl?”
“Friday’s the best girl, momma.” Peter said matter-of-factly, “She was great.”
“She is the best girl,” Pepper nodded, “Did anyone give you any trouble today? Did you use those cards Mommy made you?”
“Yeah, they worked,” Peter shrugged, “There wasn’t any trouble.”
“You would tell us if there was an issue. Right, baby?” Pepper turned to the boy for a second to look into his eyes. Peter wasn’t one for eye contact, it made his skin crawl. Eye contact and affection was something that he could handle with his moms, his Mommy more frequently than Pepper.
Peter had a long day, missed his moms, and was tired and hot. He just wanted ice cream. He began to squirm in his seat, silently willing the red light they were stopped at to turn green. Anything to get him home faster. He needed Tony.
“What’s wrong, Petey?” Pepper asked her son as the look of discomfort was clear on his face and mannerisms.
Peter just let out a whine as he tugged on the seatbelt that began to feel like it was constricting his chest.
“Hang on,” Pepper cooed, “We’re almost home.”
Peter whined again and continued to squirm in his seat. He didn’t like the feeling of the air conditioning of the car on his skin. He could feel the hairs on his arms stand up and goosebumps forming. Peter needed to get out of the car.
“M-mm” Peter whined again, reaching to unbuckle his seatbelt.
“Hey,” Pepper instantly put a gentle hand onto her son’s arm to keep him from doing anything drastic, “Just a few more seconds and we’ll be home.”
Peter’s whines got louder and guttural, almost reaching screaming levels.
“Peter, you’re okay,” Pepper urged as she pulled the car into their driveway, the large house standing tall and extravagantly before them.
Pepper leaned over and unbuckled the seat belt that was bothering her son. Peter quickly hopped out of the car and ran to the front door in nothing short of a sprint. Pepper sighed at the distress her son was in and took her time unloading Friday and Peter’s backpack.
Once he made it to the front door, he instantly flung it open. Peter didn’t bother to close it behind him before continuing into the house.
“Mommy!” Peter yelled, frantically looking for his mother’s comfort.
When he didn’t hear a response, he just plopped onto the floor on his butt and cried.
“Mommy!” He tried again, his hands flailing as he tried to shake out the dread he was feeling.
“Peter?” He heard and within a few seconds, he saw his mother turn the corner as she made her way into the foyer that Peter was currently sitting and crying in.
“Mommy!” Peter wailed as he flung his arms upwards towards her.
Even after 13 years, Tony couldn’t help but feel her heart break whenever her little boy was hurting. The tears and the wails were very taxing on her emotions. She always did her best to do anything to keep her baby happy. Unfortunately for the Starks, Peter’s happiness was sometimes out of everyone’s control. Peter’s included.
“Oh, baby,” Tony cooed as she crouched down in front of her son,” What happened, my love?”
Peter lunged forward and quickly wrapped his arms around his mother’s neck and smashed his face into her collarbone.
Tony just sat in slight discomfort as she rocked the crying boy in her arms, with a gentle hand running up and down her son’s spine.
Peter was the type to thrive off of physical comfort, but only from his moms. Even so, it had taken years for him to even accept that kind of comfort from Pepper. No matter how much he loved and trusted his Momma, he just didn’t like the feeling of her skin on his. He didn’t even like the certain way her body heat melded with his. Peter exclusively accepted physical affection from Tony for a concerning amount of time.
But he needed it. It often felt like if he didn’t get it right now , then he’d fall apart. It was like he was a balloon. Peter needed his mom to hold his string, or else he’d float away.
Before long, the two could hear the front door close and the distinct sound of Pepper’s heels and Friday’s paws against the hard floor echoing through the hallway.
Pepper’s eyes soften at the sight before her. Her son was curled tightly and latched to her wife. Tony sat there with a pained look on her face. Pepper guessed it could either be from the fact that their small yet grown teenager had his full weight rested on her chest and lap, or from the fact that said teenager was currently a sobbing mess and clearly yearning for comfort. It was honestly a mix of both.
“Oh, Petey.” Pepper frowned as she walked over to the two, “It’s okay, honey. You’re back with Mommy now. She’s got you.”
Peter continued to sniffle and hiccup as he tightened his hold on Tony. Peter’s feared, for his entire life, someone taking him away from his Mom. As irrational as the fear may be, Peter was terrified at the thought of ever being apart from her.
“Mommy’s here, bubba,” Tony said softly as she continued to rub her hand comfortingly up and down her son’s back, “You’re okay.”
“Missed you,” Peter finally spoke and his words were choked out in-between a whimper. Peter sniffled and pressed his face even further into the crook of her neck.
“Oh, I missed you too, baby,” Tony smiled sadly at her wife who was crouched beside them. Pepper gave her a warm smile back before pressing a light kiss to her temple.
“Peter,” Pepper began softly, “Did you still want to go get ice cream or did you want me to just go pick some up for you?”
Pepper gently ran her fingers along the curls on the back of Peter’s head, lightly enough to hopefully not disturb the distraught teen. Peter sighed contently while readjusting how his face rested on his mother’s chest.
“Can we still go?” Peter asked with a small voice.
Pepper smiled at the boy before nodding, “Whatever you want, honey.”
“I want to go get ice cream,” Peter replied while sitting up, still situated on Tony’s lap. Tony smiled at her boy before cupping his face with her hands and pressing a light kiss on his cheek near the corner of his mouth.
“Then let’s go get you ice cream, lovebug.” Tony said before turning to Pepper, “Could you bring me something to clean him up?”
Pepper nodded and stood, pressing a kiss to the top of Peter’s head before making her way to grab a lightly dampened face cloth.
“Don’t needa be cleaned up,” Peter grumbled as he rubbed his eyes harshly. Tony reached up and pried his hands gently from his eyes.
“I know. Just humor me,” Tony said, holding back a giggle, “It’ll be quick.”
Pepper handed her the cloth and Tony went ahead to gently wipe the tear tracks and snot from Peter’s face. He had worked himself up pretty badly and cried more than he realized. Peter’s face scrunched up in discomfort and he tried backing away from the touch.
“Please, baby,” Tony said gently and cupped the back of his head to keep him still, “Just one second and then we’ll go.”
Peter huffed and resisted the urge to squirm out of his mother’s grasp. He sat still and allowed her to finish cleaning his face.
“There’s my handsome boy,” Tony smiled before pressing another kiss on his cheek. Peter smiled back before sneaking a quick kiss on her cheek. Tony giggled and moved to get up, dislodging Peter from her lap in the process.
Peter was always a very affectionate kid, but just with his mother. Professionals often told Tony that Peter grew up mimicking behaviors he witnessed and that he felt were safe. He had a very difficult time interpreting emotions and gestures from most people. Peter often felt like there was a disconnect between himself and those around him. He remembered once describing it as walking through an airport in a foreign country. All the signs around you are in a different language, everyone around you only knows a different language. You may have a guide with you, or maybe even a dictionary with translations… But you still don’t get it. There’s always a missing piece that you just don’t understand.
One thing Peter understood was that Tony loved him and that he loved her. So it was easy for him to recognize the things she did to show him that she loved him. The tight hugs, the quick kisses, warm cuddles, the soft smiles, etc. That was love. Peter knew that. He felt that.
As Tony stood, she pulled Peter up with her. “You ready, kiddo?”
“Yeah!” Peter exclaimed before running through the foyer to the door, “Let’s go!”
“Did Friday go potty yet? Do you need to take her outside before we leave?” Pepper asked as Tony went to fetch her purse.
“Oh,” Peter said softly with wide eyes. Pepper smiled knowingly and said, “Take her real quick, Mommy and I will meet you in a second.”
Peter nodded before holding a hand out to Friday, who sat on the floor and chewing on a squeaky toy. “Friday, come.”
Friday instantly hopped up and bounded over to the boy, who wrestled her service vest onto her back. He wrapped the lead around his hand and gripped it tightly.
“Come on, potty time,” Peter said to her with his high-pitched, excited voice that was usually reserved for the pup.
Friday’s tail wagged quickly and she panted in excitement. Peter opened the front door and led her to the yard to relieve herself.
Peter was usually extremely good at making sure Friday was taken care of and looked after. He tried very hard for many years to prove that he was responsible enough to take care of the pup just as well as she’d taken care of him. Whether that be going out of his way to take her to the bathroom, giving her water during classes, laying a blanket on certain floors so she’d lie comfortably, or giving her a snack and a toy to occupy herself during boring lectures, Peter cared for Friday.
Today was just a hard day, and he wasn’t able to make sure she relieved herself before seeking the comfort he desperately needed from his Mommy. She had gone a couple of times today, Peter making sure to take her in between classes and again at lunch. He still couldn’t help but feel bad. She deserved to be the priority, after all she does for him.
Friday finished up and waited for Peter to lead her to wherever they were going. Peter smiled down at her before crouching to her level and pressing a small peck onto her wet nose. Friday’s tail wagged quickly as she attacked Peter’s face with a wet puppy kiss.
Peter sputtered at the slobber that now covered his cheek and giggled as he wiped at his face with the back of his hand.
“Didn’t I just wipe your face?” Tony remarked with jest, her designer purse slung over her shoulder. Pepper followed right behind with the house keys in her hand as she double-checked that the door was locked.
“It’s Friday,” Pepper giggled, “Let her kiss her human.”
Tony just blows a raspberry at her wife and opens the back door of the car. She stands there and holds the door open before turning to Peter.
“C’mon, baby. I want to hear about school.”
Peter excitedly ran to the car, Friday following closely. The pup hopped into the backseat and sat on the floor of the car, waiting for her human to follow. Peter did just that, sliding himself into the backseat and dropping Friday’s lead to land beside her. Tony smiled at the boy and fastened his seatbelt for him, being mindful that the strip going across his chest often irritated him. She pulled it out and led it to settle behind him against the back of his seat. Peter would be fine with just the lap belt securing him, Tony was sure.
“Ready?” She asked.
“Yep! Let’s go!” Peter cheered, his hands flailing with excitement.
Tony smiled warmly at the teen once more before shutting the back door of the car. She made her way to the driver’s seat and smiled at her wife through the window as Pepper looked at her fondly from her position in the passenger’s seat.
The Starks pulled out of their driveway and began the trip to Peter’s favorite ice cream parlor. He was content, ready to get ice cream and spend time with his favorite girls.
i love love love the sweet comments y'all leave. on this work, especially. i had no idea it'd be so well-received. it's literally like a therapy project for me, as an autistic guy myself. giving peter the comfort and support i always wanted (and desperately needed) is how i deal with my past and present hardships. so thank you, guys. the validation makes it that much more cathartic for me. i'm so glad you are enjoying this, considering i thought it was way too niche for anyone to even be interested in reading it in the first place, let alone enjoying it and wanting more.
thank you x
Chapter 4: support system
more character introductions.
“Here we are,” Tony said cheerfully as she turned the car off, “Time for ice cream for my little chipmunk.”
“I’m not a chipmunk!” Peter cried and unbuckled his seatbelt.
“You’re my little chipmunk,” Tony smiled at her boy before exiting the car, “Let’s go, loves of my life.”
Pepper giggled and exited the car, “He does look like a little chipmunk,”
“No, I don’t!” Peter exclaimed as he exited the car, Friday in tow.
Tony cooed as she walked up to Peter and cupped his face in her hands, squishing his cheeks.
Peter squirmed out of her grasp and blew a raspberry at her. Tony returned the gesture, blowing a raspberry right back.
“Okay, children,” Pepper chided as she began to make her way to the entrance of the ice cream shop, “Let’s go.”
“Hop up,” Peter called to Friday, who happily bounded beside the boy.
The Starks entered the ice cream parlor, a bell chiming to indicate the arrival of new patrons.
Peter excitedly ran to the counter and pressed his hands against the glass, marveling at all the ice cream options behind it.
“Hey, hey, hey,” Tony called after her son and his dog, as she followed closely behind, “Please don’t put your hands on the glass, someone is going to have to wipe your handprints off of that.”
Peter ripped his hands off the glass, like it personally offended him, “Sorry,”
Tony wrapped her arm around her son’s shoulder and pulled him close, “What kind of ice cream were you thinking of getting?”
Peter’s hand inched up to his face as his finger slipped into his mouth. The boy was obviously deep in thought, considering his options.
“What about you, Momma?” Tony asked as she turned to Pepper.
“Just a scoop of chocolate,” Pepper said, not looking up from her phone.
“Pffft,” Tony shook her head, “Boring.”
Pepper looked up at her wife with an arched brow, “Watch it.”
“Yes, dear,” Tony flashed a tight smile to Pepper before turning back to the ice cream.
“Have you decided yet, bubba?” Tony asked as she rested her cheek on the top of Peter’s head.
Peter’s hand dropped from his mouth to rest on top of Friday’s head. He absentmindedly scratched behind her ears as he continued to weigh his options.
“Cookie dough looks good,” Tony offered when Peter didn’t reply, “Or the—”
“Peter?” a familiar voice sounded from behind the Starks. A voice that was familiar to Peter, anyway.
Peter whipped around to see Michelle standing a few feet from him, seemingly with a much younger boy and two men.
“Peter, who is this?” Pepper asked as Tony seemed to be in a state of speechlessness, just as Peter was. Pepper wanted to laugh at how alike the two Starks were, Peter obviously picking up a lot of Tony’s mannerisms over the years.
“Um,” Peter hummed, his eyes dropping from Michelle’s face to his shoes.
Tony looked at her son, searching for any indication that he didn’t feel comfortable around this girl., or that he was scared of her. She couldn't find any.
“I’m Michelle, Peter’s classmate.” Michelle offered when Peter said nothing.
“Oh,” Pepper smiled at the girl, extending her hand, “I’m Pepper, Peter’s mom.”
Michelle gave Pepper a half-smile as she shook her hand, “Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise,” Pepper gestured to Tony, “This is my wife, Tony.”
‘Hi,” Tony nodded, offering her hand to Michelle.
Michelle promptly shook her hand too, before turning to Peter, “I didn’t know you had two moms,”
Peter shrugged as he looked up at her again, “It must’ve slipped my mind.”
Michelle nodded and gestured to the people with her, “These are my dads, Michael and Trevor and my younger brother, Leon.”
The larger, darker-skinned man with a kind smile stepped forward and shook Tony and Pepper’s hands, electing to skip Peter as he could tell the boy was uncomfortable around strangers. The shorter man beside him also took a turn shaking the elder Starks’ hands.
“It’s nice to meet you all,” The shorter offered. Trevor, if Michelle’s gestures served them right. Leon was a smaller light-skinned boy that hid behind Trevor’s leg, his head barely poking out for the Starks to see his face.
“Yeah,” Tony nodded, “How weird we all ended up here… right now.”
“Well, you know,” Michael shrugged, “It was the babies’ first day back to school, it’s still warm out…. Ice cream seemed appropriate.”
“Agreed,” Pepper nodded before turning to Michelle, “How many classes do you two have together?”
“Four. So, most of ‘em,” Michelle replied, “We sit together too.”
“Really?” Tony asked, turning to Peter with a smile. It sounded like her son had made a friend on his very first day.
“Michelle helps me,” Peter blurted out before turning back to the ice cream, “I want that one,”
Peter said, pointing to the rainbow sherbert behind the glass, “With sprinkles, please.”
Tony chuckled at her son’s behavior before turning back to the family, “Were you guys on your way out or…?”
“Nah,” Michelle began, “We just got here. Leon’s probably going to spend 15 minutes picking out what he wants, so we’re gonna wait to get in line.”
“Shut up,” the boy growled from behind Trevor, who put a hand on the center of the boy’s back to calm him.
“Play nice,” Trevor said, looking between Leon and Michelle.
Pepper smiled down at the boy, who shrunk back to hide further behind his dad.
“Well, if you all have the time,” Pepper began, “We’d love to chat while the babies get their ice cream fix. It’s not too common to see families like ours around.”
Michael nodded, “Yeah, definitely.”
“We’ll get a booth with room for all of us,” Pepper continued, “You guys can join us when you’re ready.”
Before anyone could agree, another voice came from behind the counter.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” A woman, roughly in her 20’s, piped up from her position behind the ice cream counter, “There are no pets allowed in here.”
Michelle’s family, as well as the Starks turned to the woman.
Tony was quick to return with, “She’s not a pet. She’s a service dog. She can be in here, as long as my son is with her.”
“Sorry,” The woman replied sheepishly, “Do you have any documentation to prove she’s an actual service dog? If not, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“There’s no such thing,” Michelle interrupted, “According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is considered federal law, service dogs don’t require any sort of documentation to prove their status as a service dog. In fact, you can only ask the handler two specific questions, neither of which have you asked.”
“I think I know the law,” The woman countered, a scowl forming on her face.
“Clearly, you don’t,” Pepper challenged, “My son and his dog have every right to be here. They’re protected by the ADA. You can’t harras us like this.”
“I’m going to get my manager,” The woman scoffed, before turning to the back of the shop.
Tony was fuming beside her son. This wasn’t the first time they’ve had to deal with something like this, far from it. Peter had been working with Friday for 5 years. They had 5 years' worth of experience in discrimination. Each time, Peter seemed to handle it worse and worse.
Speaking of, Peter was currently wringing his hands together and his head was down, curls falling in front of his eyes. As his legs started to wobble, Friday was quick to nudge his midsection with her head. That was a way of Friday signaling I’m here, you’re okay. I’m here I’m here I’m here.
“Mmmm—” Peter whimpered, not looking up.
“Does this happen a lot? Do people give y’all a lot of trouble over this?” Michael asked, his face clearly concerned for Peter’s distress.
“More than you’d ever guess,” Pepper huffed in annoyance before turning to Peter, “You’re okay, honey. Take a deep breath.”
“Nnnngh—” Peter shook his head, his nerves now causing him to bounce up and down quickly on his feet.
“Baby,” Tony said softly as she gently placed a hand on Peter’s shoulder, “It’s okay. I’m right here with you. Everything will be okay.”
“Maybe we should get him out of here,” Trevor suggested quietly, as the commotion started to gain the attention of all the other patrons in the shop, “We could take a breather and try another parlor.”
“I’m gonna—” Tony growled, looking towards the back where the lady disappeared to.
“Tony,” Pepper scolded, “Don’t. Peter doesn’t need that right now.”
Tony huffed out a breath before turning back to the boy, “Let’s go, Pete.”
“Daddy,” Leon whined, tugging on Trevor's pant leg,” Ice cream!”
“In a minute, buddy,” Trevor replied before picking the boy up and holding him on his hip.
“Is there anything I can help you with?” An older woman asked, the younger woman from before standing beside her.
“We were trying to get some ice cream but then this lady started harassing us over a service animal,” Michelle responded with a pointed look towards the woman from earlier.
“There aren’t any pets allowed,” The same lady repeated.
“She’s not a pet, she’s a service animal. She’s trained to help her handler mitigate tasks that he struggles with. The dog isn’t the problem, it’s the staff that doesn’t know what laws are in place to protect those with disabilities,” Michelle continued, crossing her arms over her chest.
Michael put an arm around his daughter, attempting to calm her.
“The whole situation brought upon a lot of distress for my son. I don’t appreciate him being targeted just for having medical equipment he needs to function daily.” Tony chimed in as she glared at both women.
“Clearly there’s been a misunderstanding,” The manager chuckled nervously.
“Clearly,” Michelle scoffed.
“The dog is fine,” The manager nodded, “She seems extremely well-behaved. I’m sorry for any stress this may have caused. Can I treat you to some ice cream?”
Tony turned to Peter to gauge his reaction. The boy gave no indication that he was even listening to the exchange, he just huffed and threw himself into Tony’s arms. He buried his face in her neck and gripped the back of her shirt tightly in both hands.
Pepper smiled sadly at Tony over Peter’s head. Tony and Pepper had mastered non-verbal communication a long time ago, especially when it came to Peter.
“I think we’re going to go,” Pepper said, “This was too much for him.”
Tony nodded, refusing to look the manager or employee in the eye. She just wanted to get her kid some ice cream to help him feel better after an already hard day. Instead of acknowledging the two women, she instead turned to Michelle and her family.
“Sorry about this,” Tony said as she placed a hand on Peter’s back as he started to shake slightly, “We’re gonna head home. I think he’s had enough for one day.”
“Please, don’t apologize,” Trevor smiled, “I’m sorry they treat you all like that. It must be awful seeing him hurt like that, as his mother.”
Tony huffed out a dry laugh as she nodded. Pepper stepped in and said, “It was wonderful meeting you all. I do, really, hope we could get together and get to know each other. I think the kids would benefit from being around other families like theirs.”
“Agreed,” Michael nodded as Leon whined and squirmed out of Trevor’s arms, “Maybe we could all have dinner sometime, or even go to a park.”
At the mention of a park, both Leon and Friday’s head perked up, causing the adults to chuckle.
“Is Peter going to be okay?” Michelle asked, looking up at Tony.
“Yeah, he’s just going to have some quiet time and relax once we get home. Friday’s also a big help in situations like these. You don’t have to worry, he’ll be fine.” Tony nodded.
“Can I come?” Michelle asked, taking a step forward, “I just… I wanna help. I want to be sure.”
“Baby, maybe Peter wants to be alone right now,” Michael said quietly to Michelle.
“What do you think, bubba?” Tony asked, looking down at Peter as he removed himself from her neck. He warily looked up to see Michelle eyeing him with concern all over her face. He liked Michelle, he really did. She was super helpful and made him feel comfortable. Peter tried to distract himself with the Stark Industries logo on his mother’s t-shirt as he traced the outline of it with his pointer finger.
Peter then suddenly nodded and looked up at Tony, “Yeah, she can come.”
Michelle smiled and turned back to look at her dads, “Can I?”
Michael and Trevor shared a look before Trevor just nodded, “We can pick her up on our way home from getting Miles.”
Michael nodded before turning back to Michelle, “Yes, you can go. Behave. We’ll let you know when we’re going to get your brother so we can know where to get you from.”
Michelle nodded and waved at her dads, “Bye. Love you!”
“Love you too,” Trevor smiled, “Are you sure it’s okay for her to come over?”
“Of course,” Pepper nodded, “We’d be happy to have her over.”
“Okay, Michelle’s brother gets off of practice at 8. If that’s too late for us to get her, we can come and get her beforehand.”
“No, that sounds perfect. We can do dinner and a movie,” Tony smiled.
“Okay, be good,” Michael sent a look to Michelle before turning to Tony and Peter, “Peter, I hope you feel better.”
Peter said nothing, electing to return to his game of tracing the shapes on his mother’s shirt.
“Thank you,” Pepper said for him, “It was really great meeting you all. You have a beautiful family.”
“Likewise,” Trevor nodded, “You can meet our oldest, Miles, when we pick up Michelle.”
“That’d be wonderful,” Pepper nodded before turning to the children, Tony included, “Alright, let’s go. We have ice cream at home and even stuff to make sundaes, I think. If Friday didn’t finish all the whipped cream.”
At the sound of her name, Friday wiggled her butt and looked up at Pepper with a puppy smile.
A chorus of ‘Bye’s was exchanged with the Starks and Joneses as Tony, Pepper, Peter, Friday, and Michelle exited the ice cream parlor.
Peter was still wrapped in Tony’s arms, Friday had been passed off to Pepper, who was removing her vest with one hand and gripping the lead in the other. Pepper was praising the dog for being such a good girl in the parlor, despite how tense the situation became.
“You okay to let go, pumpkin?” Tony asked, gently grabbing Peter’s hand and stopping his game of tracing on her shirt, “You wanna sit in the back with Fri and Michelle?”
Peter thought for a second, his eyes not moving from the logo on his mom’s shirt before nodding and letting go of Tony. He turned to Michelle and opened the back door for her, gesturing for her to get in the car. Michelle obliged, climbing in before halting, “Where does Friday sit?”
“On the floor,” Pepper replied as she opened the other back door and had Friday hop in and settle into her spot at the floor of the car, where Peter’s feet usually rested.
Peter closed the door for Michelle before rounding the car and sliding in to sit where Friday was, giving her a few scratches on her head before grabbing his seatbelt.
Michelle followed and buckled herself in. When she looked back up, Tony was at Peter’s side brushing his hair out of his face with a loving smile. Michelle smiled, as she’d seen that same look on her dads’ faces many times over the years. She was surprised upon finding out Peter came from same-sex parents, just like she and her brothers had. But, nonetheless, Michelle was glad Peter had a loving family that was there to support him whenever he needed it. Michelle was also glad to now be considered a part of that support system and wanted to help Peter in any way she could.
Tony buckled Peter’s seatbelt for him, placing the chest strap behind him once again, before patting Friday’s back and closing the door. Once everyone was in the car, Pepper turned to the kids in the backseat.
“Everyone buckled in and ready?” She asked.
“Ready,” Both teenagers replied in unison.
With that, the car took off in the direction of the Starks’ estate.
The car came to a stop in front of the Starks’ home. Peter was quick to exit the car and ran towards the house. Friday excitedly hopped out and ran to follow. Pepper sighed as she exited the car and shut Peter’s door for him, as he had a habit of leaving doors wide open.
Tony and Michelle exited the car and made their way to where Peter was sitting on his butt on the front doorstep, petting Friday who was laid across his lap.
“Get up, bubba,” Tony said, holding a hand out to her son, “You gotta clear the way.”
Peter grabbed her hand and allowed himself to be hoisted up, Friday backing up and sitting beside Tony. Pepper was quick to join them on the porch step, holding out the house key to Peter, “Wanna open it?”
Peter nodded, taking the key from his mother and opening the front door before running inside. Friday, of course, quickly followed. Tony chuckled and held the door open for Michelle and Pepper to enter.
“Welcome to our home,” Pepper smiled at Michelle.
“Thank you,” Michelle nodded, “Your house is beautiful.”
“Thank you,” Tony smiled at the girl.
“What do you guys do?” Michelle asked, scanning all the family photos in the foyer, “If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Tony inherited her father’s company, Stark Industries when he retired,” Pepper began as she set her purse on a nearby table, “and she designs and manufactures green energy sources as well as affordable medical equipment and prosthetics for people in need.”
“Wow,” Michelle nodded, actually impressed, “Is that what her father did?”
“No,” Tony shook her head, “Before you kids were born, Stark Industries was a weapons manufacturer. Once I inherited the company, I carried on that legacy. But, then I became a mother. I didn’t want my son to live in a world where his mom created death and destruction. I wanted the world to be better, for Peter. So I changed the direction that Stark Industries operated completely.”
“That’s really cool,” Michelle replied, “I’m glad you decided to go in that direction. We’ll all be better off.”
“I agree,” Tony smiled before quirking her head towards the common room, “Pete’s probably making sundaes. How about we join him.”
Michelle nodded and followed the sound of Friday’s assault on a squeaky toy. She entered the kitchen to see her lying on the floor, legs splayed out as she continuously chewed on a stuffed duck that squeaked.
“Hey, Peter,” She greeted as she saw the boy on his knees on top of the kitchen counter, scooping ice cream out of a large drum with no label.
“Hi,” Peter responded, not looking up from the ice cream, “We have lots of ice cream.”
“Okay,” Michelle nodded, “What are you having?”
“I couldn’t decide,” Peter sighed, sitting down with his feet tucked under his butt as he finally looked up at Michelle, “So I picked Neapolitan.”
Tony came up from behind and opened their large freezer, “We do have an embarrassingly large variety of ice cream, so you can pick whatever you want.”
“I think I’ll have some Neapolitan, too,” Michelle nodded.
Tony smiled and nodded as she closed the freezer, “Okay, I’ll get you guys some sundae toppings.”
“Mommy, can I have another bowl for Michelle?” Peter asked as he bent over the large drum of ice cream again and continued scooping ice cream into his bowl.
“Yes,” Tony replied, grabbing a bowl from the cabinet, “You may.”
Pepper’s voice came from behind Peter, “Easy on the ice cream, Pete. We don’t need you getting a tummy ache.”
“It’s okay,” Peter brushed off Pepper’s concern as he continued to scoop even more ice cream into his bowl.
“Peter,” Tony warned as she handed the boy another bowl, along with two spoons, “She wasn’t asking you. She’s telling you that that’s too much ice cream before dinner.”
Peter pouted and sat down on his feet again. “Don’t give me that face,” Tony shook her head as she took the ice cream scooper from the boy’s hand.
Pepper made her way to the fridge and retrieved the whipped cream bottle, maraschino cherries, and chocolate syrup.
“We also have fresh fruit, if you want some, Michelle,” Pepper said as she placed the sundae items on the counter.
“And sprinkles?” Peter asked with his pointer finger in his mouth.
“And sprinkles,” Tony stated as she placed a bottle of rainbow sprinkles on the counter.
Peter grabbed it and poured a generous amount onto his ice cream.
Once the kids finished making their sundaes, Tony and Pepper began to clean up after them.
“Come on,” Peter said to Michelle as he hopped off the counter and ran to the living room. Michelle kept up as best as she could, mindful to not spill any of her overflowing sundae.
The Starks had an insanely large couch, bigger than Michelle had ever seen. Wow, how great the naps must be on there , she thought to herself.
Peter plopped onto the center of it. If he laid out, splayed out, he wouldn’t come close to touching any edge.
“Jarvis,” Peter called out, “Give me Netflix.”
Michelle quirked a brow at the boy as she sat next to him on the couch, making herself comfortable.
“Of course, Young Master Peter,” A male voice came from nowhere. Michelle’s head whipped around the room to find the source of the voice, a look of concern spreading across her face when she saw no one.
Peter didn’t seem bothered as he just shoveled ice cream into his mouth, with chocolate syrup collecting on the corners of his lips. The boy just scrolled through his Netflix account as it appeared on the large TV screen.
“Um,” Michelle started slowly, “What the hell was that?”
“That’s Jarvis,” Peter replied with his focus on the screen in front of them, “Mommy coded him before I was born. He’s the house’s voice. He helps us do stuff.”
“He’s an AI,” Pepper said as she came into the living room, napkins in hand, “He has sensors in the walls. He has control over most of our appliances and security systems.”
“Whoa,” Michelle couldn’t help but be impressed. She’d never seen anything like that before, “That’s so cool.”
Pepper smiled as she handed the teens the napkins, “Peter, do you want Mommy and I to stay here or are you okay just watching TV?”
“I’m okay,” Peter said over a mouth full of whipped cream.
The boy’s head instantly whipped to face his mother, “Momma, did you give Friday any whipped cream?”
“I didn’t,” Pepper replied, “Did you want to feed her some?”
“Yeah,” Peter said before calling out, “Friday! Come!”
“I’ll bring you some fresh whipped cream. You don’t want to give her any of yours, it has chocolate on it.” Pepper said as she made her way back into the kitchen.
“Thank you, Momma,” Peter called out after her as Friday sprinted into the living room and jumped onto the couch.
Michelle smiled at the pup as she excitedly hopped around the couch.
“Calm,” Peter called, holding a hand up in a gesture that told Friday Stop , “Calm.”
At that, Friday sat on her butt and looked up at Peter. She licked her nose a few times before sitting obediently, awaiting further instructions.
“How long have you had Friday?” Michelle asked as she continued to eat her sundae.
“Since I was 8,” Peter replied as he booped Friday’s little wet nose. This caused Friday to huff a breath out of her nose and sniff Peter excitedly, “Do you have a dog?”
“No,” Michelle shook her head, “Miles and I have been asking for one for years but, my dads want to wait until Leon is a little bigger.”
“Does Miles go to Midtown?” Peter asked as he settled on Invader ZIM, one of his favorites.
“Oh, I love this,” Michelle smiled at the theme music started, “And, yeah. He’s in our grade. I think we have the same lunch period.”
“Cool,” Peter nodded.
Friday huffed out a breath, clearly wanting Peter’s attention… or his ice cream.
“No,” Peter said to the dog before gently shoving her snout away with his foot, “Mine.”
Perfectly timed, Pepper came in with a cup and handed it to Peter, “Are you bothering my baby for his whipped cream, Fri?” She said teasingly to the dog.
“Want some, Friday? Momma brought you some,” Peter said as he sat up straight and held the cup up over Friday’s head. Friday assaulted Peter with kisses all over his face, causing the boy to break into a fit of giggles. Pepper smiled and shook her head before disappearing down the hall.
“Stop,” Peter said between gasps for breath, but Friday continued to lick the boy all over his face and neck excitedly. Peter couldn’t seem to catch his breath and was getting overwhelmed by Friday’s affection. The boy yelled in distress, “I said STOP!”
At that, Friday immediately back up off the boy and sat on her butt in front of him, with an apologetic look in her eyes. It was very rare for Peter to snap at her like that, so she realized she must’ve been very bad. Peter saw her little puppy face and instantly felt bad. He shouldn’t shout at Friday. She’s done nothing but love and help him. He knows he shouldn’t shout at all, that’s what his Momma told him. Mommy said it’s okay to shout if he’s honest and is trying to express himself. And Yet, Peter couldn’t help but feel bad for snapping at her.
“You okay?” Michelle asked Peter, “Should I get one of your moms?”
“N-no,” Peter said, his voice cracking, “It’s okay. I’m sorry I shouted.”
“That’s alright. How’re you feeling?” Michelle asked, turning her torso so she could face Peter better.
“I’m fine,” Peter mumbled as he fixated on his spoon smashing his ice cream in the bowl, “Tired.”
“Do you want to take a nap before dinner?” Michelle asked as Friday crawled over and hesitantly laid her head on Peter’s knee. Peter pouted at the pup and pet her head before turning to Michelle.
“Will you stay?” Peter asked as he put his half-melted sundae onto the coffee table in front of the couch.
“Do you want me to stay?” Michelle asked, mirroring the action with her own sundae.
Peter looked down at Friday and began running his fingers through the longer patch of fur behind her ears. Peter opened his mouth to speak before shutting it quickly. The boy then sighed and started fluffing Friday’s head roughly.
“Yes, please,” Peter finally mumbled out quietly, “if you wanna.”
“Yeah, okay,” Michelle replied softly.
Peter then hopped up from his seat, causing Friday to startle and sit beside where Peter once sat. The boy reached for the throw pillows on the other side of the couch before tossing one to Michelle. He then walked over to the large wicker ottoman in the corner of the room and grabbed the fluffy blankets that were stored there. Peter walked over to Michelle and handed her a blanket.
“We can nap here,” Peter said before turning back to the TV, “Jarvis, nap time.”
“Very well,” Jarvis replied, his voice slightly quieter and softer, “Sleep well, Young Master Peter and guest.”
The lights dimmed in the room and the natural light from outside was blacked out. The hues on the TV softened and the volume decreased. The temperature of the room dropped a few degrees and the fireplace ignited. Michelle couldn’t help but smile at it happening around. She had to admit, that was freaking awesome.
“She’s Michelle, J,” Peter said as he snuggled up in his blanket, cuddling up with Friday, “She’s my friend.”
“Welcome to Stark Mansion, Ms. Michelle.” Jarvis delightfully, “I hope you enjoy your nap.”
“Thanks,” Michelle giggled and draped the blanket over herself and laid onto her side, melting into the incredibly soft couch.
The teens (and dog) allowed the soft sound of Invader ZIM draw them closer to sleep. Peter felt a chill run down his spine, so he pulled up the fluffy blanket up to his chin before pulling Friday’s hind legs closer to his chest and rested his head on her tummy.
“If you get cold, tell Jarvis,” Peter sleepily mumbled to Michelle before letting his eyes flutter shut.
“Okay, will do,” Michelle sighed and focused her attention on the TV, “Night, Pete.”
“Night,” Peter replied, eyes still closed as he snuggled deeper into Friday’s warm belly.
Michelle’s eyes flickered to the boy and his dog. The two snuggled up, facing each other with their eyes closed was adorable. The sight made Michelle smile. Her gaze lingered for a moment before her attention was grabbed by the TV. She really did like Invader ZIM, and having it play during this moment made it all that much more perfect.
Michelle sighed contently before shutting her eyes and falling asleep.
Tony was glaring at the projection in front of her. She sighed and rubbed a hand over her tired eyes. She had been thinking over what to do for a while now. She could, legally, and probably should report what happened in the ice cream parlor earlier that afternoon. It was a direct violation of the ADA and her son was targeted for being disabled. The sight of Peter being so distressed broke Tony’s heart. She hated whenever her baby was upset, it broke her. She tried, for a good portion of Peter’s life, to not blame herself over every single bad thing that happened to her son.
But what happened in the parlor hurt Peter badly. He just wanted to get ice cream with his family. Why was he being harrassed for just existing? That wasn’t fair to anyone, especially a child. That employee knew nothing about Peter and yet decided to humiliate him in front of friends and a whole ice cream shop full of people. What if it stressed him out so much he ended up having a meltdown? What if his body reacted poorly and triggered a seizure?
This stupid, ignorant, rude woman put Tony’s son in great danger. She put him at risk. Tony didn’t like that. Not one bit.
“J,” Tony said suddenly, “How’s my kid doing?”
“Young Master Peter is showing no signs of distress with a steady heart rate and average body temperature,” Jarvis chimed in response.
“Good,” Tony smiled, “What’s he doing?”
“May I take the liberty in suggesting you see for yourself,” Jarvis replied, “My data analysis tells me you may not want to miss it.”
Tony smirked up at the AI’s sensors, “When did you become so intuitive?”
“I was programmed that way, madame,” Jarvis replied cheekily, “Master Peter is in the common living area.
“Noted,” Tony nodded before shooing the hologram away and exiting her office.
Tony casually strolled downstairs and into the living room. Her heart melted in her chest at the sight on the couch. Peter was sandwiched between Michelle and Friday. Peter was practically hugging Friday with his cheek rested on her stomach. Michelle was curled up beside Peter’s back, facing the back of the couch. The two teens were bundled under separate blankets, but their backs were nearly touching. Tony couldn’t stop the smile spreading across her face. It was absolutely adorable.
“How long they’ve been like this, J?” Tony whispered.
“Young Master Peter and Ms. Michelle have been napping for approximately 52 minutes. Young Master Peter adjusted himself and Lady Friday into this position beside Ms. Michelle approximately 28 minutes ago.” Jarvis replied quietly.
Tony still smiled whenever Jarvis referred to the dog as “Lady Friday” as per Peter’s request. He claimed it was perfect for Jarvis’ inherent “Young Master” title for the boy. That boy. Her sweet, kind, little Peter. Tony quietly made her way to the boy and pulled the blanket up to his chin before pressing a light kiss on his forehead. Her heart swelled whenever she saw his face. Tony didn’t believe in love, not in soulmates, or fate. Not until Peter was born, anyway.
Tony adopted the boy when he was merely days old. His biological parents, Mary and Richard Parker, were dear friends of Tony’s. Mary was her sponsor when Tony got sober in her 20’s. After years of self-destruction in her teenage years, Tony found a home with Mary. She was her only friend beside Rhodey. Then, Tony met Mary’s boyfriend, Richard. He was handsome, intelligent, and kind. Tony approved of him.
Before Richard and Mary wed, the trio became inseparable. And, despite Tony’s fear, the marriage didn’t change that. They still were supportive of her and some of the only people Tony genuinely enjoyed being around. Then, Mary got pregnant and Tony feared for the worst, yet again. But, what ended up happening wasn’t what she was scared of happening. Instead of her best friends no longer having time for her with a new baby, they died in a car accident, two weeks before Mary was due to give birth to their son.
Miraculously, they were able to save the baby. Tony was beyond grateful for those first responders for saving that baby, her baby. She mourned Mary and Richard. Of course, she did, they were family. But she couldn’t help but feel the overwhelming joy of gaining a son. Tony didn’t want to just give Peter up for adoption, he deserved more than that. And Richard’s brother Ben was way too young to take care of a kid. He and his new wife, May, were on the verge of homelessness. Tony couldn’t thrust the responsibility of a baby onto them, especially considering how indifferent to the idea of having the baby they appeared to be.
So, then, Tony did what she felt like was the only thing to do. She adopted the boy. She named him Peter James. James, for her best friend, obviously. And Peter came from a long-running joke she had with Mary for the duration of her pregnancy. Tony jokingly called the unborn baby Peter Pan. Partly for Tony’s proclivity for calling Mary “Wendy,” and partly due to Mary telling her that the doctor reported the baby was growing at an alarmingly slow pace at the beginning of her second trimester.
“So Peter Pan here never wants to grow up, eh? Better buck up, kiddo… Unfortunately, it only gets worse from here,” The genius joked.
When she finally held the baby in her arms, the name wouldn’t leave her head.
Peter. Peter. Peter.
That was her Peter. Her boy.
Tony smiled at the memory and took in the sight of that same baby today. As small as he was for his age, due to his Peter Pan attitude during gestation and being born prematurely, he’d gotten so big. But he was still her baby. He’d always be her baby. She loved the boy so much. More than she ever thought capable of loving another person. But Peter brought that out in her. He brought that out in everyone. Peter taught Tony what real love was. He made her a better woman outside of being a mother. Before Peter, Tony never would’ve landed someone as amazing as Pepper. She was too emotionally withdrawn and unavailable. She was very much disturbed by physical affection and discussing feelings. But after becoming a mother, it became part of her character.
Tony grew up thinking she owed the universe for a lot. She grew up in a very privileged lifestyle. She was intelligent and beautiful. She was wealthy and in good health. It took a while, but she had great friends. But now, as an adult, many years later… Tony knows she owes everything good in her life to Peter. He’s brought her more joy than she could ever comprehend having when she was younger. She’ll forever be in his debt, for all the love and happiness he gave her.
Pressing another kiss to her son’s forehead, Tony let her lips linger. She inhaled slowly, relishing in the touch. She smiled and pulled away before brushing the curls out of his face. Maybe Tony was biased, but she was positive Peter was the cutest boy alive. No, she wasn’t biased. Sure, every mother probably thinks their kids are the cutest… But Tony just happened to be right.
“Well isn’t this just precious?” Pepper said quietly from behind the couch. Tony smiled and looked up at her.
“Look how big he’s gotten,” Tony said, looking back down at their son, “My baby’s all grown up.”
“Aw, come on,” Pepper chuckled, “Don’t say that. My heart can’t handle it.”
“I know,” Tony whispered, her eyes not leaving the boy, “I love him so much, Pep. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”
“I know, baby,” Pepper smiled, “I love him too.”
Tony said nothing, just watched her boy snore quietly. Friday’s snout was buried in Peter’s hair and the snuffling sound of her breathing was audible. Tony stifled a giggle before pressing another kiss onto Peter’s forehead, and one onto the side of Friday’s face.
“How about we order dinner so the kids can eat when they wake up?” Pepper suggested.
Tony nodded before ripping her eyes from her son and looking up at her wife.
“Yeah, let’s do that,” Tony replied, leading the way to the kitchen so the kids could continue to nap, uninterrupted.
the next few updates for my iron mom series might take a while. it's my birthday next week and my family is visiting from california, so the days off from work that I usually use to write, will be occupied. and I only have one chapter back-logged for lifeline, but not for any other series... and I want the next chapter for lifelong to be written before posting the one I have ready. I want to have a regular posting schedule, like a "real" writer. But then again, some of my favorite authors just update whenever the fuck they can so... I'm not too worried about it. anyway, hope y'all enjoyed it. your comments are EVERYTHING to me.
Chapter 6: lady talk
sorry this took so long. it's a little longer than usual so hopefully, that makes up for it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Michelle woke up to the sound of whimpering and the feeling of movement beside her. She turned towards the feeling and saw Peter lying beside her, with Friday asleep up against him. The other teen was moving irregular, almost convulsing. Her brain was trying to catch up to what her eyes were seeing. She sat up and began to rub at her eyes. Friday shot up and began to nudge Peter with her snout. The dog continued to prod the boy with her nose before deciding it wasn’t working. Michelle saw the pup look around the room before quickly coming over to her and nudging her leg.
“What is it, Fri?” Michelle asked tiredly.
A red light shone dully along with the lowlights within the trim of the room and a low alarm chimed throughout the mansion. Within moments, Pepper and Tony came rushing in. Tony was by Peter’s side in a second, falling to her knees and gently turning the boy from flat on his back to on his side.
Peter continued to convulse for a few long moments before Michelle recognized what was happening. Peter was having a seizure. His eyes were rolled back and his brow was creased in distress.
“It’s okay, baby,” Tony said gently, one hand on Peter’s back and the other combing through the curls on his head, “You’re okay, my love. Mommy’s here.”
“Is- is- is he—” Michelle stammered, fear flooding her body. Pepper came over and sat beside the girl, tugging Michelle away from Peter and into her side. The woman rubbed a comforting hand up and down her arm and said quietly, “He’ll be okay, sweetheart. This is just something we have to help him get through.”
In an instant, Peter’s convulsing halts entirely. The boy now lays still on his side, his frame only moving as he huffs air desperately into his diaphragm. A sigh of relief seems to leave every female in the room, Friday included. Then, suddenly, a loud sob escapes the boy. Tony’s heart breaks in her chest and she continues to run her fingers through her son’s hair.
“You’re okay, Peter,” Tony said softly to the crying boy, “You’re okay, baby. Mommy’s here. You’re okay, it wasn’t a bad one, I promise.”
“Mommy!” Peter wailed and reached out grabby hands to his mother, who dutifully scooped him up as she moved to sit on the couch. The boy sat on her lap, his legs dangling off of either side of his mother’s waist and his chest pressed up against hers. He buried his face in her neck and cried. This was common after a seizure, as they often scared Peter. It wasn’t necessarily the feeling of the seizure itself that made him so upset, just the fear that they brought onto him. He hated not being in control of his body, not being able to comfort his moms whenever his seizures scared even them.
“It’s okay, baby,” Tony rocked the boy back and forth, her hand gently cupping the back of his head as he continued to wail into her neck, “You’re okay, my love.”
Michelle quietly scooted over closer to the two Starks and hesitantly reached to put a comforting hand on Peter’s back. Before she could make contact, Pepper intercepted her hand and held it within her own,
“Not yet, sweetheart. Just give him a minute. He may not be ready for that yet,” Pepper offered gently. Tony continued to rock the boy in her arms and coo quiet and comforting affirmations. Peter’s loud cries began to quiet down to the point of whimpers and hiccups.
“Okay, sorry,” Michelle nodded.
“No, it’s okay, you’re being helpful,” Pepper insisted, “I’m sure Peter appreciates it very much.”
Peter rubbed his face onto his mother’s shirt, likely wiping his tears and snot off of his face. He then poked out his head from her neck and Michelle saw his face covered in tear tracks and completely red. Peter rested his cheek onto Tony’s shoulder, facing Michelle and looking at her sadly.
“‘M Sorry, M’chelle,” Peter said through a sob, “didn’ mean to ruin our nap.”
“You didn’t ruin anything, Peter,” Michelle said instantly, not wanting him to blame himself for something he couldn’t control, “How are you feeling?”
Michelle was melted into Pepper’s side, with her hand still encompassed in the older woman’s. Peter looked down at Michelle’s free hand and his grip on the back of Tony’s shirt loosened.
“‘M okay,” Peter sniffled, “I don’t think it was bad.”
“Yeah, Pete,” Tony affirmed, “You did very well. It wasn’t a bad one at all. You’re just fine.”
Peter sat up straight in his mother’s lap to look at her face. Tony’s bottom lip stuck out at the sight of the boy’s face. She reached a hand up to brush his curls out of his face and take in the state of him. His face was still flushed red and he had traces of snot and tears under his nose and eyes respectively. Peter melted into her touch and chased after the warmth of her hand as it continued to comb through his hair. She smiled and cupped the side of his cheek with her palm, her thumb swiping at the tear tracks under his eyes.
“You’re okay, my love,” Tony said softly. Peter nodded. He believed her. He had to. His mommy never lied to him, especially not about something as scary as this. Tony smiled and pressed a kiss to his cheek, causing him to smile right back.
“Love you, mommy,” Peter said quietly as he leaned over and rested his cheek on her shoulder once more, looking up at Michelle again. The other teen smiled at him.
“Do you need anything, baby boy?” Pepper asked, “Do you need water? Friday? A blanket?”
Peter shook his head and snuggled closer to his mother, finding over-encompassing comfort in her embrace.
“I’m okay, momma,” Peter said softly, his eyes dropping from Michelle’s face to the couch.
“Well,” Pepper sighed, “Mommy and I were thinking pizza for dinner, but you guys are awake now and can help us decide. What do you kids think?”
“Want tacos,” Peter mumbled, his fingers moving closer and closer to Michelle’s own hand resting on the couch.
“Well, that sounds yummy,” Tony nodded, her arms still wrapped securely around her son. She tried not freaking out every single time Peter had a seizure, but it was still hard seeing her baby in that kind of state, “You okay with tacos, Michelle? If not, we can order you something else.”
“No,” Michelle interjected, “Tacos are good. As long as they’re vegetarian.”
“The place that we order from actually has veggie and vegan options that I think are fantastic,” Pepper said.
“Momma eats vegetarian,” Peter interjected as Friday hopped back onto the couch and began sniffing the boy curiously.
“Really?” Michelle asked, turning to Pepper, who smiled.
“Yep,” Pepper nodded, “It’s good for you.”
“Okay,” Michelle agreed, “Veg tacos for me, then. Thank you.”
“Sure, thing,” Pepper said as she stood and faced her wife and son, “The usual for you two?”
“Yes, please,” Peter said softly, pushing back Friday’s invasive sniffing nose out of his face. He felt bad. He knew she was just making sure he was alright, that she must be on high alert since he just had a seizure. But Peter really needed his space, bar from his Mommy, of course. And the small part of him that really wanted to hold Michelle’s hand.
Pepper nodded and made her way to another room, to call in their order.
“Thank you, Momma,” Tony called after her. She was grateful for everything Pepper did. She was an amazing wife and a phenomenal mother to their child.
“How are you feeling, Michelle?” Tony asked after turning to the girl. Tony figured the teen may be spooked after waking up to her new friend having a seizure.
“I’m fine,” Michelle nodded, “I’m just really glad Peter’s okay.”
The corners of Peter’s lips turned into a small smile. He was so happy to have a friend like Michelle. It was very rare for Peter to make good friends like her. Most kids often tried getting close to him for other reasons, mainly Peter coming from wealthy and notable parents. The kids that didn’t care about that sort of thing, didn’t often stick around for long. Peter always thought he was defective; impossible to be friends with. He always said the wrong thing or didn’t say enough. Peter had issues with intimacy with people other than his mother. He had a lot of trouble expressing his feelings towards people he cared about. His moms told him there was nothing wrong with that; nothing to be ashamed of. But Peter felt shame. A lot of it.
“He’s okay,” Tony confirmed, “It scares him more than anything.”
“I can only imagine,” Michelle nodded. Peter’s heart fluttered. He knew himself to often be over-sensitive towards just about everything. He felt things with too much passion at times. Little things that would be minor, insignificant passings of thought brought Peter overwhelming emotions and sensations. He hated it. He just wanted to feel everything normally, like everyone else. But to have his feelings validated from allistic people often comforted him; people not patronizing him, anyway.
Friday came over and laid her head on Michelle’s knee, having calmed down since Peter’s seizure scare. Michelle smiled down at the pup and scratched the top of her head. Friday was such a good dog, with and without the vest. Michelle couldn’t wait to have one of her own. She’d be sure to bring it up again with her dads soon.
“Mommy,” Peter said, sitting upright to look Tony in the eye, “Can we finish watching ZIM?”
“Whatever you want, bubba,” Tony replied, reaching up to brush the curls out of Peter’s face, “But, you do have a guest over. Does Michelle want to watch Invader ZIM?”
Peter just shrugged and toyed with a loose thread on the sleeve of his mother’s shirt.
“Have you asked her?” Tony asked softly. Peter shook his head, his attention not leaving the single thread on her shirt.
“Well, I think that may be a good start. What do you think?”
Michelle sat quietly, pretending not to hear the conversation between mother and son. The teen just continued to comb her fingers through Friday’s golden fur.
Peter nodded and sat silently for a moment before turning to Michelle, “Do you want to finish watching ZIM?”
“Yeah, that sounds good,” Michelle nodded with a smile.
“Okay,” Peter replies softly.
“Good boy,” Tony smiled and stood, dislodging Peter so he sat on the couch. The boy whined at the loss of contact but quickly stopped as he felt the warmth of Friday between himself and Michelle.
“I do my best to raise a gentleman,” Tony said jokingly to Michelle, “But I also raised a prince. So, I take what I can get.”
“‘m not a price,” Peter pouted.
“Definitely the prince of my castle, Pete,” Tony replied. Peter whined in response and rubbed at his eyes harshly with his fists. Tony often had to keep her son from accidentally hurting himself as he often did things with too much vigor. She gently pried his hands away from his eyes and cupped the side of his face with her palm.
“What’s the matter, pumpkin?” Tony asked softly.
“You’re making fun of me,” Peter whined miserably.
“I’m not making fun of you, sweetheart,” Tony replied, “I’m sorry it came across that way. I never meant to hurt your feelings, I promise.”
“My feelings aren’t hurt!” Peter said indignantly.
“Okay,” Tony raised her hands in surrender. Peter was clearly cranky from his nap being rudely cut off by a seizure. Once the boy got his dinner, he’d be back to normal. He was just tired and probably light sensitive at the moment.
“I’m not a baby,” Peter continued with an adorable scowl on his face. With his curls sticking up in every which way, his flushed cheeks, and pouty lips, he very much looked like a baby. But, neither Michelle nor Tony dared to point that out.
“I know, Peter,” Tony sighed before turning to the TV, “J, put on Invader ZIM for the kids. Turn down the brightness in here, too.”
“Certainly,” Jarvis chimed in reply as the lights in the room dimmed and the cartoon resumed on the television.
Tony turned to the pouting teen expectantly, she did raise a gentleman. She knew that Peter knew his manners, she’d just have to get him to use them. But, the teen in question was just focused on (read: glaring at) the television with his ever-present pout still on display.
“Peter?” Tony said, “Are you forgetting something?”
“No,” Peter grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Peter James Stark,” Tony said in her ‘ I’m only warning you, but you’re pushing it’ voice.
“WHAT?” Peter yelled, turning to his mother with a fiery rage evident in his eyes and the volume of his voice.
If Tony was taken aback by Peter’s outburst, she didn’t show it.
“I’m sorry,” Tony began steadily, her voice still gentle, “Do you want to try that again?”
Peter deflated. He figured his mom would humor his little outburst and shout along with him, or scold him for shouting at her like that. Peter at least expected to receive a stern look for being so rude, to his mother and to Michelle.
At that moment, Pepper came in with a worried look on her face.
“What’s going on in here? Peter, why are you yelling?” She asked, concerned something bad had happened to set Peter off while she was in the kitchen, preparing for their dinner to arrive.
Uh oh. Now Peter’s really in trouble.
“I’m sorry, momma,” Peter mumbled the look on his face melting into one of remorse, “I didn’t mean to shout.”
“I think you did mean to shout,” Tony interjected, her voice indicating concern, “What’s got you all poopy, kiddo?”
“I’m not poopy,” Peter whined, his fists rubbing at his eyes to keep his tears from showing.
“Peter,” Tony said pleadingly, “Tell me what’s wrong, please. I want to fix it.”
“Nothing,” Peter said. His fists didn’t leave his eyes and his voice cracked. Friday turned to face the crying boy and nudged his leg with her wet nose. When Peter didn’t react, the dutiful pup began pawing at his thigh and licking his arm. Anything to get his attention.
“Stop! Leave me alone!” Peter cried and pushing the dog away from him.
Okay… That surprised everyone. No one had expected Peter to blow up at Friday like that. Sure, he had snapped at her earlier. But, that wasn’t like this. Peter sounded like a wounded animal. Clearly, he was overwhelmed with the conversation in the room, all of the eyes on him, and Friday’s incessant licking and scratching. All of that was just the rotten cherry on top of his melted sundae of a day.
Friday halted her movements and backed up. Her posture and facial expressions screamed high alert. She knew, clearly, something was wrong. But instead of panicking or risking disturbing her handler any further, she just laid down and rested her head on her folded front legs, her eyes never leaving Peter. That look, everyone (including Peter) supposed, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The boy threw his head back and wailed. He was being a real jerk, he knew that. But he didn’t want to be! He was just tired and hungry and cold without his mommy hugging him. No one was hugging him! He felt so lousy and no one was freaking hugging him!
“Oh, Peter,” Tony cooed and sat beside her son on the couch, “It’s okay, Peter.”
Peter continued to cry and scream. Michelle wasn’t too particularly bothered. She’d witnessed countless temper tantrums between Leon and her other younger siblings and cousins before. She knew Peter wasn’t acting this way because he was a spoiled brat. She understood that things just affected him differently. Just because none of it felt like a big deal to Michelle, didn’t mean a storm wasn’t brewing in Peter’s mind.
Tony wrapped her arms around her son as Pepper approached them. Pepper grabbed the discarded blanket that Peter had been napping with and draped it around his shoulders, avoiding making actual contact with the boy. Peter buried his face into his mother’s chest and cried, desperately wrapping his arms around her waist and taking back his place on her lap.
“It’s okay, my love,” Tony repeated. Her heart ached for her boy. She hated how much pain he had to go through. If you had told Tony that someone had the cure for Peter’s neurodivergence, she’d take it. Not because there was anything wrong with her son, because there wasn’t. He was a perfect angel that Tony would never deserve. He was an amazing boy and the perfect son, a son she’d change absolutely nothing about. But, she’d do anything to stop his pain.
Being his age was hard enough. Slap on his intermittent seizures, mental age regression, separation anxiety and gross codependency, chronic fatigue, and loneliness from not having any real friends, and you have a boy that’s at the end of his limit. Now, take that boy and amplify his obstacles by a thousand. Because that’s what it felt like to Peter. Like everything was amplified by a thousand.
Peter continued to sob into his mother’s chest, wrapping his arms painfully tight around her. Tony cradled the crying boy, pulling up the blanket to engulf him completely.
“I know, baby,” Tony sighed, “I know today’s just been a rotten day, hasn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Peter sobbed, his voice muffled from his mother’s shirt.
“But, you’re okay,” Tony said comfortingly, rocking her son back and forth, “We’re going to eat dinner, then you and Michelle are going to pick a movie while Momma and I pop us some popcorn, and we’re all going to sit and watch a movie together. All of us right there with you, okay?”
“O-okay,” Peter said, his voice breaking as he tried to stop himself from crying, “Okay. Okay.”
“You don’t have to talk if it’s going to overwhelm you, okay? It’s just us here. Your family and your friend. You’re safe. You’re somewhere that people love you. Okay?”
“Okay,” Peter repeated. Tony and Pepper figured that’d be the only word they’d be hearing from the boy for a bit.
“I love you, Peter,” Tony soothed, “I didn’t mean to work you up, lovebug. I just wanted to help. Okay?”
“Okay,” Peter mumbled, his tears began to calm down just as he did.
“No one’s upset with you. No one is angry. No one is disappointed. We all just want you to feel better. Okay?” Tony continued.
“Okay,” Peter mumbled again. His mother’s words and actions made him feel safe. He felt loved.
“Okay?” Tony said, pulling her son out of her chest to look at his face. His eyes were red and puffy and his cheeks were wet and rosy. His lips were slightly swollen and his brow was furrowed.
“Okay,” Peter squeaked.
“You okay, my love?” Tony asked, brushing her hand against Peter’s cheek. Peter nodded and leaned forward to press his cheek against Tony’s face, something he’s done since he was a baby. This was Peter’s way of asking for kisses. Tony giggled at the action and pressed a few kisses to the boy’s cheek and nose. Peter sighed contently and rested his head on his mommy’s shoulder.
“If I may interrupt,” Jarvis began, “A delivery person has arrived with your ordered dinner, Mrs. Stark.”
“Okay,” Pepper nodded, “I’m going to get the food and set the table. You can take some quiet time before you come to eat, Peter.”
“Okay,” Peter nodded, not raising his head from Tony’s shoulder.
“I’ll come help,” Michelle said, standing. She wanted to give Peter some space. He clearly was having a hard day and maybe just wanted his mom right now.
“Thank you, sweetheart,” Pepper smiled, leading her to the door. Pepper opened the door with a kind smile. Friday suddenly padded through the foyer and followed the sound of a new person at the door. The dog squeezed herself between Michelle and Pepper to get to the gap in the door to sniff curiously at the delivery guy.
“Hello,” Pepper greeted.
“Good evening, ma’am. How’s everyone tonight?” The delivery guy had a wide smile on his face as he handed over the large bags of food. He seemed enthralled by the dog as he smiled down at her and gave a gentle pat to the top of her head.
“We’re all good here, thank you.” Pepper nodded, handing the lighter of the bags to Michelle. The teen turned and walked to where she assumed the dining room was. Although, being in a house this large for the first time was a little difficult to navigate. So, without a word, Jarvis illuminated a trail of lights alongside the trim of the walkways, guiding Michelle to the dining room.
“That’s good, can I get your signature on the receipt?” The guy asked, pulling out a pen from his pocket and the receipt from his bag.
“Of course,” Pepper nodded, adjusting the bags so that her writing hand was free. She quickly signed the receipt and handed it back to the guy.
“Alright, thanks. You guys have a good one.”
“Thank you. You too.” Pepper replied.
“Cute dog!” The guy called from over his shoulder as he walked back to his car.
“Thanks,” Pepper chuckled and closed the door. She then made her way to the dining room, food in hand. Upon entering, Pepper saw Michelle setting the large platters of rice and beans towards the center of the table.
“Thanks again for your help, Michelle. I really appreciate it.” Pepper said. She really meant it. Peter usually helped her set the table, while Tony was either cooking or cleaning up after the boy elsewhere. The three of them had a good system. Peter was a good boy and extremely helpful, the opposite of the spoiled brat reputation his mother’s wealth and his meltdowns often gave him.
“Of course, it’s no problem.” Michelle smiled.
“Pete usually helps me,” Pepper began unpacking all the tacos from the bag she had in her hand, “But he needs a little bit of time to cool off right now.”
“Yeah, I figured,” Michelle nodded, “Today must’ve been super overwhelming for him.”
“Definitely,” Pepper sighed, “I’m sorry. I’m sure this was a lot more than you expected when you asked to come over. It’s just been such a long day for him.”
“Don’t apologize,” Michelle shook her head, “It’s all fine. I want to be there for him when he has hard days.”
“You’re a very nice girl, Michelle,” Pepper smiled, “Peter doesn’t make friends easily, and they’re usually not as helpful as you are.”
“I just,” Michelle shrugged nonchalantly, “If someone struggles with something that I don’t, and I can help them… Why wouldn’t I?”
“That’s a nice way of seeing things,” Pepper nodded, “Your dads must be beyond proud of the young woman you are becoming.”
“Thanks,” Michelle replied, a light blush creeping across her cheeks. Michelle wasn’t used to being treated so kindly from women like Tony and Pepper. Not that they were the type to be rude, Michelle just had a personality that tended to make moms turn their noses. But the Starks were such kind and loving people that welcomed Michelle immediately. That was definitely new to her. She was kind of a lone wolf, only really bonding with her twin brother, Miles. The two were inseparable from birth up until the pair started to near puberty. Her doctors and therapists told her it was normal for them to drift apart the way they did. Miles was becoming a man. Michelle was becoming a woman. A lot of adjustments had to be made and compromises had to be met.
“I think you and Tony are really good moms,” Michelle said honestly, not looking up from her task.
“Aww,” Pepper stopped and looked at the girl with a small smile on her face, “Thank you, sweetheart. That means a lot.”
“I know what bad moms are like. And you two are probably two of the best.” Michelle said quietly, fiddling with a napkin in her hands. Pepper’s heart stuttered. She didn’t know this girl, nor her background. Her dads seemed like nice men with adoring children. Pepper had experience with people who had issues with their parents, just with her wife alone. She figured if Michelle didn’t want to talk about it, she wouldn’t have brought it up. She also rationalized that if Michelle wanted to talk about it thoroughly, she’d say more. So, Pepper carefully proceeded.
“That’s very sweet,” Pepper nodded. “You’re a friend here, Michelle. Peter’s clearly comfortable enough around you that I’d even consider you family. If you ever need some Mom-time, Tony and I are always here for you. We know being a teenage girl is hard. And while I want to give your dads all the credit they deserve, there’s sometimes just some things that are strictly lady talk. You know?”
“Yeah,” Michelle responded immediately. She did know exactly what Pepper was saying. Being a girl, being the specific type of girl that she was… made it a little difficult to share everything with her dads. They both were very loving and extremely patient men, that never made Michelle feel like they were neglecting any sort of emotional need Michelle had. She had an extremely close relationship with both of her dads, especially since she and Miles started to drift apart.
“I’d like that,” Michelle nodded, not looking up from the napkin. She hoped that if (or when) Tony and Pepper found out what kind of girl she was, that they wouldn’t think any differently of her.
“Do you need a hug, sweetie?” Pepper asked quietly with a knowing smile. Michelle hesitated before looking up at Pepper and nodding. In an instant, Pepper came over and wrapped her arms around the girl.
“You have people here that care about you, honey,” Pepper said softly as Michelle burrowed herself into the woman’s grasp.
“You’ve got us, you’ve got Peter and Friday, you’ve got your dads and your brothers… You’re so incredibly loved and cared for. Okay?”
Michelle smiled. She’d heard that word more in the last half hour than she’s probably heard it in the last week. But the sentiment made her warm inside.
“Thanks,” The teen replied. At that moment, Tony and Peter walked into the dining room. They stood side by side, the elder Stark had her arm wrapped around her son tightly and Friday came padding behind them. The two stood behind Michelle’s back, with Pepper facing them and the aforementioned girl still in her arms. Tony’s heart warmed at the sight, but it also filled her with worry. What happened while Peter was cooling down?
Pepper made eye contact with her wife and gave her a patented Potts Look™️. Tony knew that look. They’d shared that look countless times over the last decade of their marriage. That was the ‘ this kid is breaking my heart and I need some assistance’ look. Without a word, Peter left Tony’s side and joined the embrace to make it into a group hug. Pepper chuckled and pat a gentle hand onto her son’s back.
“Everything okay in here?” Tony asked, walking over to the bundle of humans and wrapping her arms around her wife.
“Yeah, just some Momma talk,” Pepper shrugged. Michelle sheepishly pulled away from the hug.
“Sorry,” She muttered, a blush returning to her face.
“Don’t be sorry.” Pepper said gently, “If you ever need anything from us. Whether it’s to vent, some advice, or just a hug… You can always come to us. Okay?”
“Okay,” Michelle nodded. She was really glad she was able to meet the Starks today. She was beyond grateful that they were so kind. Peter pulled away from the group hug and turned to Tony, burrowing himself into her chest and hugging her tightly. He was in a hugging mood, apparently. Tony wrapped her arms around her son and held him securely.
“How about you two wash up and we can eat? Then Pete and Michelle can decide what movie we’re going to watch tonight.” Tony suggested.
“Okay, mommy,” Peter said, pulling back from the hug and turning to the other teen. One thing Pepper and Tony were sure to teach their son was to never touch another person without their permission. Sure, he joined the hug without permission but he figured Michelle really needed it.
“C’mon,” Peter said with an extended hand, “Let’s go!”
Michelle took Peter’s hand and allowed him to drag her up the stairs and down a few halls. The Starks estate seemed to grow the more rooms Michelle entered. They got to a long hallway with only three doors. Peter ran, dragging Michelle along, to the room at the very end of the hallway and threw the door open. It was a large bedroom with ceiling to floor windows and a bed bigger than Michelle even knew existed. The room was plainly decorated save for the countless amounts of photos that adorned practically every surface. Photos of Peter throughout his life were visible everywhere. One that made Michelle stop and smile was one with a little boy with a mess of brown curls and a sweet smile hugging a golden retriever puppy.
“That’s the day I met Friday,” Peter spoke quietly. Michelle was comforted by the fact that Peter was talking normally again and not stuck in his “Okay” safety net.
“Cute,” Michelle nodded. Peter blushed but didn’t want to flatter himself. To save himself the embarrassment, he replied, “Yeah, She’s the cutest.”
It was then that Peter realized he still had Michelle’s hand in his own and he let it go quickly, before gesturing to a closed-door within the bedroom.
“Bathroom’s this way,” He said, looking past her shoulder, “My moms’ bathroom has a double sink so that’s why I brought us here.”
“Okay,” Michelle nodded, following Peter to his mothers’ en suite bathroom. The two washed their hands in silence. They exited the bathroom and bedroom altogether and were walking down the hall when Peter finally spoke.
“Thanks for being so nice to me,” The boy mumbled, “And patient and stuff. I know I’m not a very good person to hang out with.”
“Don’t say that,” Michelle interjected, “You’re fine. I enjoyed today, even with all the hard stuff.”
“Really?” Peter stopped in his tracks and looked at her incredulously.
“Yeah,” Michelle shrugged.
“Well,” Peter began nervously. He didn’t want to lose a friend by being too forward, but he also didn’t want to lose one for holding back too much, “Maybe you could come over again some time. I’ll try not to have a seizure and meltdown next time, I promise.”
Michelle laughed, thankfully. He was joking.
“Yeah, that sounds cool,” Michelle nodded.
“Cool,” Peter repeated back to her.
The two made it back to the dining room smiling. They both sat at the table, Peter between Tony and Michelle and Pepper on the other side of the teen girl.
“Alright,” Tony began, “All are accounted for. Friday has been given her wet slop in her bowl… So, dig in!”
The Starks and Michelle tucked into their dinner, pleased with how the night started to finally ease.
kudos and comments are super appreciated! x
The Starks and Michelle ate quietly. Michelle looked over at Peter to see his cheeks stuffed with food, protruding like a chipmunk. His nose wriggled slightly as he chewed quickly, causing Michelle to stifle a giggle at the sight. Peter’s head whipped to her direction to see what was so funny.
“Slow down, Pete,” Tony warned, dabbing her mouth with a napkin, “You’re gonna either choke or make yourself sick. I’d prefer it if neither happened.”
Peter nodded and slowed down his chewing, allowing himself to safely swallow his mouthful of tacos.
“Peter, how was school? You never did tell us how it went.” Pepper said between bites.
Peter took another bite and continued to slowly chew his food, giving himself time to think of a response. The boy held the food in his mouth for a moment before swallowing and replying,
“It was okay, Momma,” Peter shrugged, “Nothing really happened. Other than meeting Michelle.”
“Yeah, how did that happen? Didn’t you say she helps you?” Tony asked, looking between both kids.
“There were kids in our English class that were asking me too many questions. They were bugging me about Friday, without caring enough to at least ask me what my name was,” Peter sighed, picking at the inside of his taco and leaving the soft tortilla, “So Michelle helped me tell them I just wanted space. That I didn’t even know them and didn’t want to tell them everything.”
“Oh,” Tony said in surprise. She figured Michelle helping Peter was more of a ’I couldn’t find my locker’ situation or even a ‘I dropped something on the way out of class.’ The genius then smiled. She was glad someone was looking out for her baby when she wasn’t there. Tony was grateful that Michelle helped Peter in a way Friday couldn’t, that she helped him communicate how he felt. That she stood up for him. “That’s very kind of you, Michelle. I really appreciate you doing that.”
“It’s no problem,” Michelle shrugged, “If I can help, I will help. They weren’t treating him fairly, and I couldn’t just sit there and let them.”
“It makes me happy to know someone’s looking out for him when we can’t be there. Your help means more than you know, sweetheart. No matter how small you think it is.” Pepper said honestly.
“Yeah, well…” Michelle dragged, dragging her spoon through her rice, “I got his back. You don’t have to worry about that.”
Peter smiled and took a drink of his water before leaning towards Michelle, their shoulders and arms bumping lightly for a moment.
Tony smiled at the kids and took another bite.
“Momma, did we get churros?” Peter asked, looking up at Pepper.
“You had ice cream, Peter,” Pepper replied, with a Mom ™ look.
Peter deflated in his seat, pushing his plate away from himself with an exaggerated frown.
“Peter,” Tony warned, “Eat your dinner.”
“Want churros,” Peter whined.
“Your body wants real food. Eat your tacos and maybe we can consider some dessert,” Tony said calmly.
Peter huffed and crossed his arms over his chest, turning away from the dinner table.
“Please don’t do this right now, Peter,” Pepper sighed, “Eat your dinner.”
“Sorry,” Peter muttered, pulling his plate back to himself and taking a scoop of refried beans into his mouth.
The dinner continued with normal conversation. Tony and Pepper tried getting to know Michelle more and asked her about her interests and things. Pepper smiled the entire time, loving how much of Tony she saw in Michelle. Both girls were too intelligent for the world around them, with an arrogant facade to cover up their huge hearts and almost aggressive selflessness.
Before they knew it, Peter was excusing himself from the table and clearing his dishes. He figured if he was a good boy for the rest of the evening, he could have a churro or two. Michelle, who was also done eating, also excused herself and made a move to also clear her dishes. Instead, Peter insisted he take them for her.
“I got it,” Peter said, taking Michelle’s plate and stacking it on top of his own before disappearing into the kitchen. Tony smiled at the behavior and gave a knowing look to her wife, who rolled her eyes in return. They knew what Peter was doing. Michelle must’ve picked up on it too, considering she said,
“Is that your prince or your gentleman?”
Tony and Pepper laughed in response. They knew he wasn’t doing it to be kind, but only to persuade his mothers in allowing him to have more dessert than he probably should have.
“Definitely my prince,” Tony sighed, standing and clearing her own dishes. She made her way into the kitchen to see Peter, sat on the kitchen counter with half a churro in his hand, the other half in his protruding cheeks and cinnamon sugar all around his mouth. Pepper must have ordered some for her and Tony since they hadn’t had any ice cream and definitely didn’t want to pump two kids with sugar before bed.
“Peter James Stark,” Tony called out, “What on Earth do you think you’re doing, young man?”
Peter jumped as the sudden entrance of his mother startled him. His head whipped to face her, his eyes wide in fear as his chewing halted.
“Didn’t I say we’d talk about you having dessert?” Tony scolded, just as Pepper walked in, her plates in hand. She took one look at her son and gave him a look that said Really?
“Peter,” Pepper began, her voice laced with exhaustion, “We talked about this. Do you want a tummy ache?”
Peter shook his head, his cheeks still full of chewed pastry.
“Use your words, please,” Tony said, her patience clearly being tested. Peter hesitated before swallowing the food in his mouth.
“Sorry,” He mumbled, looking at the rest of the churro in his hand.
“Give me that,” Pepper said, her hand reaching for the churro. Peter looked up at her with sad eyes, bringing the fried treat up to his chest and away from Pepper’s reach.
“Now,” Pepper said, her voice stern. Peter deflated and handed it to her.
“Why did you eat it before asking for permission?” Tony asked sternly, walking up to the boy and dusting the cinnamon sugar off of his face. Peter’s face scrunched in discomfort and tried pulling back from his mother’s touch, “Enough testing me, Peter. I know you’ve had a tough day but that doesn’t excuse directly disobeying me and Momma.”
“‘m sorry, mommy. I just wanted a churro,” Peter whined, his head dropping to hang from his shoulders as Tony continues to clean off his face.
“You already had too much ice cream, and I told you we would talk about it. And yet, you came in here and ate one anyway without asking.”
Peter sat silently, his legs lightly swinging as they hung off the counter.
“Maybe you’re just tired. Maybe today was too hard on you. Maybe you need to go to bed while Mommy takes Michelle home,” Pepper suggested with a tired sigh.
“No!” Peter’s head shot up to look at his moms, his eyes wide in fear, “I’m sorry, Momma! I won’t be bad anymore! I’m sorry, can we please still watch the movie with Michelle? Please?”
“Peter,” Tony sighed, taking a step closer to the boy who immediately latched onto her, wrapping his legs around her waist and his arms around her neck.
“I’m sorry, Mommy!” Peter cried, clutching onto her tightly, “I’ll be good! I’ll be good!”
Tony sighed once again, wrapping her arms around her boy, “You know I love you so much, right?”
“I love you more,” Peter mumbled, knowing if he tugged on his mommy’s heartstrings, she’d be more compliant. To really sell it, he pressed a smacking kiss to her cheek.
“Okay, you’re layin’ it on pretty thick there, bubba,” Tony chuckled knowingly. She could tell by her son’s sickly sweet smile and batting eyelashes that he was just trying to get his way. She didn’t want to be a pushover, Peter had to learn that he won’t always get what he wants by acting out. But, Tony also knew her baby had a really hard day and was probably just tired and possibly a little clingy at the moment, to her and to his new friend.
“When Momma and I tell you something,” Tony began, her voice sterner this time, “You have to listen, Pete. We don’t just ask things of you to hear ourselves talk, you know that.”
“I know, Mommy,” Peter nodded, “I’m sorry.”
“I know you are, baby,” Tony pressed a kiss to his forehead.
“Michelle can stay?” Peter asked hopefully with his wide baby brown eyes.
Tony looked over at Pepper, who had a loving smile on her face. Her wife sighed before nodding.
“Yay!” Peter smiled, holding his arms out to Pepper. Pepper giggled and made her way over to hug her boy, pressing a kiss to the top of his head.
“But you have to behave, Peter,” Pepper warned, “You’re such a good boy, that when you act out it worries us.”
“I know, momma,” Peter nodded against her shoulder, “Love you.”
“I love you too, baby boy,” Pepper smiled, hugging him tightly, “Mommy and I love you so so so much.”
Peter smiled before pressing a kiss to Pepper’s cheek as well.
“Okay,” Tony began, “Go in there and help Michelle pick a movie. Momma and I will meet you there soon.”
“Okay,” Peter nodded, “Thank you!”
Peter quickly pressed another kiss to Tony and Pepper’s cheeks before hopping off the counter and running into the living room. There, he found Michelle petting Friday, scratching the pup’s exposed belly.
“Michelle!” Peter exclaimed to get the girl’s attention, “What movie are we gonna watch?”
Michelle chuckled at the boy’s excitement, not looking up from the pup when she replied, “I don’t know. Whatcha got?”
“Jarvis can play any movie we want. What’s your favorite movie?”
“I don’t think I have a favorite movie,” Michelle replied honestly before taking a moment to ponder, “Miles and I used to watch Jurassic Park whenever we’d stay with our dad. It always made me feel better. Maybe that’s my favorite?”
“You didn’t always live with your dad?” Peter asked, a look of confusion clear on his face.
“No,” Michelle shook her head, “My mom had custody when we were growing up. We’d only visit my dad every other weekend.”
“You and Miles have the same dad?” Peter asked as he took a seat on the other side of Friday, also carding his fingers through her fur. He wasn’t trying to be rude, he was just curious. He also wasn’t fully understanding of social etiquette to begin with.
Either way, he knew that Michelle and her brothers obviously weren’t a part of a nuclear family, he wasn’t either. Peter knew from a very early age that he was adopted, his Mommy told him all about his biological parents. Peter loved them so much, mainly because his Mommy made them sound like the best people in the world. Plus, they gave him his life AND brought him to his Mommy, which is the best thing that could have ever happened to him, in his opinion.
He doesn’t know them, obviously. Tony and Pepper are the only parents he’s ever known. And they loved him immensely, so it was more than enough for him. Peter had seen photos of the Parkers, who Peter had affectionately dubbed his father and his ‘Blood Mommy,’ which Tony found to be hilarious and totally hardcore, something she knew Mary would have appreciated.
Thankfully, Michelle didn’t take the question the wrong way. She knew families like hers were tricky and never what you’d expect at first glance.
“Yeah,” she nodded, “I didn’t mention it but, Miles and I are twins.”
“Really?” Peter asked excitedly, “I always wanted a twin brother! Are you two identical?”
Michelle hesitated. She hated being compared to Miles. For good reason. Plus, the implication of being biologically identical to Miles made her blush in embarrassment and anger.
“We look nothing alike,” She replied angrily, turning away from Friday and crossing her arms over her chest.
“I’m sorry, Michelle,” Peter’s face fell as he noticed he had upset his friend, “I didn’t mean it in a bad way.”
“I know,” Michelle sighed. She did know that Peter’s question came from curiosity and excitement rather than malice. Plus, he doesn’t know any better. He doesn’t know too much about Michelle to be more careful in his interactions with her.
“I’m not mad,” She assured him as she uncrossed her arms.
“Okay,” Peter nodded, his gaze glued to Friday who laid on her back, demanding a belly rub. Peter obliged and ran his palm up and down her fluffy undercarriage, “We can watch Jurassic Park if you want to.”
“Yeah,” Michelle nodded, “I’d like that.”
Peter nodded again before looking up at the television, “Jarvis, queue up Jurassic Park.”
“Certainly, Young Master Peter,” Jarvis chimed delightfully as the first Jurassic Park movie was brought up to the screen, paused on the first frame.
“Thanks, J,” Peter replied kindly.
“Is your mom nice like your dads?” Peter asked. Again, maybe he didn’t know when to stop. Social cues have always been tricky for him. Situations like this often got him in trouble, often lost him his friends. Peter never noticed a pattern, he’d just run home to his moms and cry about it. Making friends was hard enough, and keeping friends seemed impossible to him. People never really said what they meant or really expressed how they felt in a way that Peter ever understood. Navigating through that was so difficult for him that after a few years in elementary school, he seemingly gave up on it entirely. He preferred spending time with his moms anyway.
This worried Tony and Pepper, seeing their boy so attached to them and distant from kids his age. While they tried their best to be there for the kid, they couldn't help but fear he was lonely. That’s when they looked into getting Peter a service dog. And soon enough, they found an organization that was training a new litter of golden retrievers, with one baby girl left not be reserved. That baby girl was, of course, their baby girl, Friday.
“No,” Michelle replied tightly, “That’s why we live with our dads. Our bio dad got custody when we were 8. He was already dating Trevor at the time. After we moved in with them they got married and soon enough they adopted Leon.”
“Oh,” Peter replied solemnly, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s cool,” Michelle shrugged, “We don't have to see her much anymore anyway. Only a few times a year.”
“If you,” Peter began hesitantly, “I have two moms so… if you ever need one, we can share mine. If you want.”
“Thanks, Pete,” Michelle smiled at him. Peter returned the smile and nodded.
As if summoned, Tony came in with a large bowl of popcorn.
“Alrighty,” She called out, “Have we decided on a movie?”
“Jurassic Park!” Peter exclaimed.
“Oh, I love that movie,” Tony shimmied in excitement, making her way to sit beside her son.
“It’s Michelle’s happy movie, Mommy,” Peter smiled sweetly. Tony returned the smile, putting her arm around her boy.
“That’s good to know,” Tony nodded.
Pepper then entered with another large bowl of popcorn, taking a seat on the other side of Michelle. Pepper knew the girl was aching for some sort of maternal comfort, and she didn’t want her to feel left out of the cuddle pile.
“Everyone ready?” Tony asked, tucking her legs up onto the couch and snuggling closer to Peter.
Peter, feeling ever so clingy, pushed Tony’s legs down before crawling to sit sideways in her lap. He wrapped his arms around her midsection and laid his head on her shoulder, his nose nuzzling the crook of her neck. Pepper chuckled and stood to retrieve the blankets that had since been returned to their space in the ottoman. She brought one over and draped it over her son and wife, then handed the other to Michelle. Michelle smiled and muttered a quiet thanks before snuggling into the blanket which led Friday to hop up and crawl to sit in Michelle’s lap. Michelle giggled at the sight of the large pup thinking she’s a lapdog.
“Friday,” Pepper chastised before turning to Michelle, “If she’s bugging you, you can tell her to get down, sweetheart. She’s not as tiny as she thinks she is.”
“Oh, it’s fine. She’s fine,” Michelle nodded and began to run her hands down Friday’s back.
Tony wrapped the blanket tightly around Peter and pressed a kiss to his temple.
“J, enable theater mode,” Tony announced. Much like the ‘nap time’ protocol, the lights in the room dimmed to dark and the temperature in the room dropped. The large television brightness adjusted and the surround sound calibrated audibly.
Peter sighed contently as he snuggled closer to his mommy.
Tony smiled and pressed another few light kisses to the top of his head. She knew it was unlikely for Peter to last long through the movie, as he almost certainly falls asleep before the end of any movie they watch. And the boy was overtired and full, so he was due to fall asleep fairly quickly. To help comfort him further, she wrapped her arms tightly around him.
“Love you, Mommy,” Peter mumbled.
“I love you too, baby,” Tony said softly, “I love you more than anything in this world.”
Michelle overheard the adorable interaction and felt her heart ache. She longed for what Peter had. Her dads were extremely soft and affectionate with her and her brothers, that wasn’t the issue. It was the maternal affection that was a gaping void in her life. Her mother was never loving in any capacity, just tolerant. Seeing Tony and Pepper with Peter made her selfishly jealous.
“I think we’re ready, Jarvis. Start the movie, please,” Pepper said.
“Certainly,” Jarvis replied and dutifully began playing the movie. Pepper then handed Michelle the bowl of popcorn, which she gratefully accepted and began to shovel small handfuls of the salty snack into her mouth.
Tony then pushed her bowl of popcorn to Peter. The boy looked at it hesitantly and then shook his head.
“What’s the matter, Petey?” Tony frowned, “You love popcorn.”
“Not hungry,” Peter shook his head again, burying his nose into the crook of his mother’s neck.
“It’s because you had too many sweets,” Tony sighed.
“Sorry,” Peter mumbled, sleepily rubbing his face against her.
“It’s okay, my love. Now you know why we have rules, right?” Tony said, rubbing her hands down her son’s back.
“Yeah,” Peter sighed.
The movie continued to play and as expected, Peter was asleep before they even landed on Isla Nublar. Tony chuckled quietly and squeezed her baby close to her chest before pressing another kiss to his head. She selfishly adored the fact that Peter was so clingy and that he ached from affection from his mommy even now, just days before his 14th birthday.
The idea of her son growing up scared her so much when Peter was a newborn but as he got older, he was still her baby. In every way. The boy always boasted about how big he was growing, how maybe he’d even outgrow his Momma. But, the Starks knew this would be unlikely. The Parkers were small people, Mary was shorter than Tony and Richard was just at the average height of an American adult male. That fact paired with Peter being born prematurely and having slower physical growth development throughout his toddler years, doctors told Tony that the boy would always be tiny.
That, of course, never mattered to the genius who was always one of the shortest people in the room. She herself had always been on the smaller side and she obviously would love her son no matter how big or small he was. No matter what he looked like.
Michelle herself was getting a little drowsy, melting into Pepper’s warmth and being lulled by Friday’s breathing. She caught herself opening her eyes widely just to keep them from fluttering shut.
“Did you have a good time, Michelle?” Pepper asked softy.
“Yeah,” Michelle nodded with a sleepy smile, “Thank you guys for today. I really appreciate how nice you all are.”
“Oh, of course.” Pepper smiled, “You’re a friend of Peter’s, so you’re a friend of ours. You’re always welcome here.”
“Thanks,” Michelle whispered, trying her best not to lean further into Pepper’s side.
It was then that Michelle received a text from Miles, asking her where she was. His football practice had ended a little early and their dads and Leon were already at Midtown to pick him up.
“My brother’s practice is over, so my dads are coming to get me. What’s your address?” Michelle asked Pepper, handing her the phone. Pepper took the phone into her hands and quickly typed out the address to the Stark estate as well as the code to the security gate before handing it back to Michelle.
Miles was quick to respond that they’d all be on their way soon, as their dad was talking to his coach.
“I should probably wake the prince, then.” Pepper said as she stood, “Jarvis, pause the movie. Disable theater mode.”
“Certainly,” Jarvis chimed as the movie stopped, and the lights returned. Tony shifted in her spot, trying hard not to roughly jostle the boy on her lap.
“Michelle’s dads are coming to get her. Time to wake the baby,” Pepper said to Tony. Peter’s head was heavily resting on Tony’s shoulder, his curls falling as his head rolled back. Pepper was quick to catch his head in her hands, gently pushing him back to rest back on Tony’s shoulder.
“It’s okay,” Michelle said, “He can keep sleeping.”
“He’ll never forgive us if he wakes up and you left without him saying goodbye.” Pepper chuckled.
“C’mon, Pete,” Tony said, “It’s time to wake up, bubba.”
“Mmm,” Peter groaned, snuggling closer to Tony.
“Just for a little bit, baby,” Pepper tried coaxing the boy, “Michelle’s going home soon. You’re gonna be sad if you don’t say goodbye.”
“Wha-” Peter sat up, rubbing at his eyes, “Why she leaving?”
“Because it’s night time, baby,” Tony said softly, rubbing his back, “It’s time for her to go home. You kids have school in the morning.”
“Okay,” Peter mumbled miserably. Tony pried the boy’s fists from his eyes.
“It’s okay, sweetheart,” Pepper began, “You’ll see her at school and if she ever wants to come over again, she can.”
“Yeah,” Michelle agreed, “We’re friends now, Pete. We’ll hang out all the time.”
“Promise?” Peter asked, looking up at Michelle.
“Of course,” Michelle nodded, “Can’t get rid of me now. Sorry.”
Peter giggled as he resituated himself on Tony’s lap.
“Okay, get up,” Tony said, gently pushing the boy off of her. He flopped onto the couch with a groan.
Pepper and Tony went ahead and began tidying the living room, Pepper folding and returning the blankets and Tony taking the popcorn bowls back to the kitchen.
“Sorry for falling asleep, ‘chelle,” Peter mumbled sleepily.
“It’s okay,” Michelle shrugged, “Long day today, I was pretty sleepy myself.”
“I have chronic fatigue,” Peter admitted, “I nap a lot. Always sleepy.”
“Oh, that must suck,” Michelle nodded understandingly.
“‘Sokay,” Peter shrugged, “That’s why Jarvis has a nap time protocol.”
“Yeah, that was pretty nice,” Michelle smiled.
“Friday,” Peter called his pup that was still asleep on Michelle’s lap, “Up!”
Friday loudly snuffled and rolled over onto her back and continued to sleep. Michelle giggled and rubbed the pup’s belly.
“Up, babygirl!” Peter called loudly, causing Friday to shoot up and walk over to the boy, leaving tentative and sloppy kisses onto his face. Peter giggled and turned away in an attempt to escape the slobbery wrath, “Friday, no!”
Friday continued to lick the boy’s hair, his ear, and his neck in an attempt to show him how much she missed him while they slept, as she did every morning.
“No more!” Peter laughed loudly, looping an arm to rest on the back of her neck before he pressed a kiss to the tip of her wet nose. Friday jumped excitedly, bouncing and landing onto the boy’s stomach. Peter groaned in pain and pushed the offending paws off of him.
“You okay?” Michelle asked, noticing the boy clutch his midsection and curling into a ball on his side.
“Yeah,” Peter replied, slightly winded, “She’s just bigger than she thinks she is.”
“So I’ve heard,” Michelle chuckled. Peter laughed along with her. He never wanted today to end.
Hi! yes, I know. it's like 7 chapters and it's still the same freaking day. I know! I promise, the day will be over soon and we can move the heck on. But I wanted the day Peter and Michelle meet to be memorable for everyone involved, so I made a lot happen.
Could I have done that with fewer interactions? Sure! But, as someone on the spectrum with memory difficulty, my days have to be very eventful for me to remember anything at all.
So yeah, the day is almost over. But, the story doesn't end with that day. Trust me, I still got stuff planned.
Please please please leave a comment if you enjoyed it, even if it's just a kudos in comment form. Fewer comments make me feel like fewer people are reading. The fewer people that read, means i'm less likely to block out time to even write this stuff.
Also, I have a one-off collection as a part of this (iron mom) series and am looking for some ideas for more. I have a couple of drafts started but they need a lot of work before they're anywhere near ready. So, if you have any prompts or requests for female tony stark and peter parker (platonic iron mom/spider-son only. no st*rker!) either leave a comment on any of my works or leave me an ask on tumblr (punyparkerr [don't forget the second r!]).
Anyway, hoped you liked it. Thank you for the prolonged support, on this work in particular. Y'all are the best.
Chapter 8: special girl
more lgbtq+ themes introduced. I may need to edit this chapter at some point, i'm not entirely thrilled with how it turned out. but here it is.
“Peter,” Tony called as she entered the living room, “Are you cold? Maybe you should change into your comfy clothes, sweetheart. I feel like it’s gonna be an early night tonight.”
“Wanna hoodie,” Was all Peter said in return.
“Okay,” Tony nodded towards the stairs, “Go get one.”
Peter hopped up and ran up the stairs to his room for a hoodie, Michelle assumed. Friday bolted after him.
“Honey, did you bring anything with you? Especially anything you don't want to forget?” Tony asked.
“Just my phone,” Michelle replied, standing and stretching her fatigued muscles, “And it’s already in my pocket.”
“Okay,” Tony nodded, “Did you have fun today?”
“Yeah, I did,” Michele smiled, “Thanks again for having me over. And for dinner, and the movie, and ice cream.”
“Of course,” Tony returned the smile, “You’re welcome over any time. Pete really likes being around you.”
“I like being around him,” Michelle replied.
Before long, there was a knock at the door.
“Madame, visitors have arrived at your front door,” Jarvis announced, sounding a bit surprised.
“Yeah, J,” Tony chuckled, “That should be Michelle’s family.”
Tony walked over to the front door and opened it to reveal Michelle’s dad, Michael beside a teenager. The teen was tall with light skin like Michelle, curly hair cut into a short fade. He was wearing basketball shorts and a Midtown High Football Team hoodie.
“Hello,” Tony greeted with a smile, “Good to see you both.”
“You as well,” Michael replied kindly, “Sorry, Trevor’s in the car with Leon. He’s tired and fussy so…”
“No, of course,” Tony nodded, “I totally get it. Please, come in.”
Tony stepped aside, holding the door open wide for the two males to enter.
“Jarvis, call Peter down here, please,” Pepper called as she entered the foyer. The blonde smiled at their guests, holding her hand out to who she presumed was Miles.
“Hello, I’m Pepper. I’m Peter’s mom,” She greeted kindly.
“Miles, Michelle’s brother,” Miles replied with a smile and a nod as he shook her hand.
“It’s nice to meet you, Miles. I’m Tony, Peter’s other mom,” Tony waved.
Just then, Friday came running. She dashed over to the new visitors, excitedly sniffing and licking their hands as they rested on their sides.
“Puppy!” Miles exclaimed, crouching down to pet her.
“Michelle’s in the living room. Peter should be coming down now,” Pepper said, leading them into the large lounge area that Michelle waited in.
As they entered the room and saw Michelle sat on the couch, waiting, Peter came quickly down the stairs. He was in black sweatpants and an old worn MIT hoodie. At the sight of new people, the boy froze with his hand flying up to stick his pointer and middle fingers into his mouth. He nervously bit at the tips of his fingers, looking at his moms.
“Come here, Peter,” Tony said with her arms out to her son, who obliged and walked over. She put her arm around his shoulder and turned him to face Michael and Miles, “This is Miles, Michelle’s brother.”
“Hey, man,” Miles greeted kindly, “I heard you go to Midtown too.”
Peter shrunk into Tony’s side, burying his face into her shoulder and wrapping his arms around her waist.
“Sorry,” Tony sighed, “He has trouble with new people.”
“It’s cool,” Miles shrugged, “I get it.”
“The three of us have the same lunch period,” Michelle stated as she stood and walked over.
“Cool,” Miles nodded, “Maybe we could hang out and get to know each other.”
“I think that sounds like a good idea. What do you say, Pete?” Tony asked, attempting to pry her boy from her side. Peter nodded glumly, a light blush spreading across his cheeks. He looked up at Miles and noticed he did look a lot like Michelle. He could tell they were twins. Michelle was clearly prettier and much more feminine appearing. But either way, The two were obviously siblings. Peter knew Michelle didn’t like to be compared to her twin, so he chose not to comment.
“Well, we better get going,” Michael said, “Leon’s due to go to bed soon.”
“Okay, well like we told Michelle,” Pepper began, “She’s more than welcome to come over anytime. Finding people that Peter’s comfortable around and likes spending time with doesn’t come easily, so our door is always open for her.”
“Is that so?” Michael asked with a smile, “I take it you two had fun today.”
“Yeah,” Peter nodded, his eyes glued to the sweater paws that his sweatshirt was giving him, “Can she come over again sometime?”
“Of course,” Michael nodded, “You two are friends and should be able to hang out now.”
Peter nodded and turned to Michelle, pulling her into a tight hug. Taken aback, Michelle giggled and wrapped her arms around him.
“Thanks for today, Pete,” Michelle smiled, “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay,” Peter smiled, pulling away from the hug, “See you.”
“Thanks again for having me over,” Michelle turned to the Starks, who pulled her in for another hug.
“It was a pleasure,” Pepper said, hugging the girl tightly, “Come back any time.”
“Will do,” Michelle nodded.
The Joneses said their goodbyes and made their way to the door before Miles turned to Peter.
“Goodnight, Peter,” Miles said, “It was nice to meet you.”
“You too,” Peter’s hands gravitated to curl his fingers into his hair, tugging lightly, avoiding Miles’ eyes, “Night.”
The Joneses left, closing the door behind them. Peter immediately buried his face into Tony’s chest, burrowing into her arms to hide his blushing face.
“What’s wrong, my love?” Tony chuckled, wrapping her arms around her son.
“Nuthin’” Peter pouted, squeezing his mother tighter.
“Oooh,” Pepper teased, pressing a kiss to the boy’s temple, “Was is Miles or Michelle, honey?”
“No!” Peter whined, clearly not in the mood to be teased about his obvious crush.
Miles, Michael, and Michelle all piled into the car to find Trevor with his hands over his eyes and a passed out Leon.
“Did he put up a fight, babe?” Michael chuckled lightly.
“God, you have no idea.” Trevor groaned.
“Alright, you two buckle up so we can get home.”
Miles and Michelle obliged, both tired from their respective days and aching to go home themselves.
“How was it, Michelle?” Trevor asked, turning to face her, “Did you have fun?”
“Yeah, it was great,” Michelle nodded.
“Did you eat?” Michael asked.
“Yeah, we had tacos,” Michelle confirmed.
“What movie did you guys watch?” Trevor smiled at his step-daughter lovingly. Michelle had loved Trevor from the moment they met. He was so kind and loving that she asked Michael that night if Trevor could be her other daddy because she loved him so much. The two were especially close, even more so in the last year or so.
“Jurassic Park,” She smiled at the sentiment. She saw her father’s face fall in the rearview mirror.
“That reminds me,” Michael began hesitantly, “Are you two packed for your mom’s this weekend?”
“Not yet, I need to do laundry first,” Miles replied, not looking up from his phone.
“I thought you said I didn’t have to go this time,” Michelle said quietly, not liking where the conversation was going.
“I know we did, baby. But your mother is insistent,” Trevor said sadly. He knew how much Michelle hated going to her mother’s house. How unloved and alone she felt, even though Miles was a very attentive brother who always put her first.
“I don’t care what she wants,” Michelle shook her head, “I’m not going.”
“I’m afraid you can’t get out of this one. She insisted that if you don’t come with Miles, she’ll call the police… again,” Trevor explained gently. Michelle had been trying to get out of the visits since Leon was born. At first, it worked. Michelle’s mother agreed that it was good for the twins to stay with the new baby, to get acclimated. But the very next visit, she wasn't as understanding. When Michelle attempted to get out of it again, her fathers obliged. They’d love a couple of extra hands with the new baby. Plus, they knew Miles had no problem visiting his mother, as he was sort of a Momma’s boy.
“No,” Michelle shook her head again, “I’m not going. None of you can make me.”
“Honey, I know it’s hard,” Trevor sighed, he really did feel her pain, “But I promise you it will be okay. Your brother will be there with you the whole time and you’ll be back home before you know it.”
“Yeah, Mich,” Miles shook his head, “It’ll be fine. The weekend always flies by at Mom’s.”
“My name is Michelle,” The teen bit out. She wasn’t a fan of most nicknames, but she especially hated the gender-neutral or masculine sounding ones. So what if she didn’t like pink or glitter? So what if she didn’t wear makeup or do her hair in fancy styles? So what if she wasn’t the epitome of stereotypical femininity? She was still a girl and demanded not to have her womanhood be compromised to please others.
“And just because it flies by for you doesn’t mean it does for me,” Michelle reminded her brother harshly, “She practically worships you while I get treated like trash!”
“She only does that because you seem to go out of your way to defy her,” Miles shrugged, still not looking up from his phone, “If you just tried to get on her good side, maybe she’d treat you the same.”
“No! She wants me to pretend to be something I’m not! I’m not going to do that just to make her happy. She doesn’t give a crap about how I feel so why should I care about her?”
“Sweetheart,” Trevor sighed again. He really didn’t want to have this conversation at all. But he had no choice. If Michelle didn’t go with Miles to their mom’s house this weekend, then they’d be accused of kidnapping and defying a court-ordered custody agreement...again. Even though she was THEIR kid. As he rubbed a hand over his tired face, he just hoped this wasn't something the Starks had to deal with. Although, by the looks of it, they seemed to have nothing to worry about.
“NO!” Michelle screamed, “I’m NOT going!”
“Dude, shut up. You’re going to wake Leon,” Miles shoved Michelle’s shoulder.
“Don’t call me dude!” Michelle retaliated by socking him in the arm harshly.
“You hit like a girl!” Miles teased, pushing Michelle again. If steam could billow from Michelle’s ears, it would. Her face was bright red and she was furious.
“I AM A GIRL!” Michelle screeched, turning to fully land blows on Mile’s arm and leg.
“Okay, that’s enough,” Trevor called out sternly. But the two weren’t listening, they were too busy hitting each other and screaming at the other.
“Miles, Michelle, I said that’s enough,” Trevor repeated, not liking how this whole situation turned out.
“If you two don’t stop it, I’m gonna have to pull over and separate you both myself,” Michael warned. Again, the two men’s words went unheard as the twins continued to fight harshly. The sound of fists hitting flesh was heavy on their ears.
Soon enough, Leon woke with a cry. He didn’t much enjoy being woken up so prematurely. He appreciated even less that he woke up to his older siblings attacking each other in the seats beside him. The boy threw his head back and wailed, wanting it all to stop.
“BOYS!” Michael called out loudly, causing Michelle to stop immediately. Boys?
“No!” She screeched, kicking the back of Michael’s seat repeatedly, “No! NO! NO! NO!”
“Michelle, I—” Michael sighed. He realized how badly he’d just messed up. Leon wailed louder as the commotion only seemed to escalate.
“Let me out!” Michelle continued to scream and kick as tears streamed down her face. She’d never felt so humiliated, so gaslit. No one cared about how she felt right now, that much was clear. She hated it. She hated them. “Let me out! LET ME OUT!”
“Baby,” Trevor sighed sadly, “He didn’t mean it. We’re almost home. It’s okay.”
“NO!” She screamed, tearing off her seatbelt and attempting to open the door while the car was still in motion.
“Michelle! Please don’t do that,” Trevor unbuckled his own seatbelt, leaning back to lightly guide the girl to sit back in her seat.
“No!” She cried, continuing to try and open the locked door. Once she realized it was locked, she continued to sob and pound on the window with her fist.
“Miles,” Trevor turned to the boy with a pleading look. Miles understood and nodded.
He turned to his sister and wrapped his arms around her, encircling her arms and holding them tightly to the sides of her torso. Miles was bigger than her, stronger too. He was an athlete and enjoyed doing anything physical. Because of this, and being the oldest (only by 23 minutes), he was the unspoken protector of his younger siblings.
Michelle yelled out and wriggled to escape her brother’s grip.
“Do not FUCKING TOUCH ME!” Michelle screeched, continuing to thrash in Miles’ grip. But he took a deep breath, reminding himself this was for her own safety. He doubled down and squeezed his arms around her.
“No,” She continued to sob, “No, no, no.”
“Michelle, I’m so sorry babygirl,” Michael said softly. He really did mean it. In the last year, a lot of adjustments had to be made in the Jones Household. New wardrobe, new name, new doctors, new new new. It was a lot to handle, but Michael and Trevor loved their children. So, what may seem like an overwhelming situation to others, was nothing compared to the scare they had just prior to the influx of changes they had to endure.
“I f-f-f-fucking hate you,” Michelle cried out, tears continuing to stream down her face.
“Oh baby,” Trevor said sadly, his eyes never leaving the girl.
“Wanna go home,” Michelle sobbed, “Let me out.”
“We’re here,” Michael sighed as they pulled up to the driveway.
Immediately, Michelle wriggled out of Miles’ grip and ran out of the car. Instead of running to the house, however, she bolted down the street.
“Michelle!” Trevor called after her, getting out of the car and chasing after his daughter.
Miles sighed and unbuckled himself from the car, also running after her. He was a running back after all, so catching up to her wasn’t an issue. Once he caught up to her, he grabbed her again, wrapping his arms around her to keep her still. Trevor wasn’t far behind, as he came to halt right as Michelle began to sob loudly. She sank to the ground, Miles let go of her as she seemed to have tired herself out.
“Oh sweetheart,” Trevor sighed, dropping to his knees beside her, pulling her into his arms. The girl was quick to throw herself at him, hugging him tightly and continuing to cry, “I'm so sorry, princess. I didn’t think tonight was going to go this way.”
“D-daddy,” Michelle cried, melting into her father’s embrace. As strong and hardened as she wanted to appear, she was still a young girl in immense pain, “Please don’t make me go.”
“I’ll call her in the morning, baby,” Trevor sighed, “I’ll talk to her. I’ll do everything I can. Okay?”
“O-okay,” Michelle sobbed.
“And you know your father made a mistake, right? He didn’t actually mean it. Right?” Trevor said gently while rubbing a hand down her back comfortingly.
Michelle just continued to hiccup and sniffle before whimpering, “Still hurt.”
“I know, baby,” Trevor cooed, rocking the girl in his arms, “No one’s telling you not feel your feelings. I’d just like it if we talked them out before you end up hurting yourself. Okay?”
“Okay,” Michelle replied miserably, burying her face into the crook of Trevor’s neck.
“Miles,” Michael called out from the car, with a snoozing Leon in his arms. The little boy had surprisingly fallen back asleep fairly quickly after the offending noise halted. Miles looked up at his father questioningly.
“Come here,” He nodded over, signaling his son to return to the house. Miles obliged, lightly jogging back over, “Get your stuff.”
Miles nodded and grabbed his backpack and duffle bag from the trunk of the car. He met up with his father on the front porch step, waiting for him to unlock the door to their home.
“You need to be more careful with your sister,” Michael began lowly. Miles opened his mouth to interject, but Michael tutted and shook his head, “This isn’t up for discussion, Miles. You have to be mindful of how you speak to her and how you treat her. You know she can be sensitive to certain things. You know she’s a special girl.”
“But you just—” Miles stated incredulously, gesturing back the car. Clearly, he was referring to Michael’s slip up in calling Michelle and Miles ‘Boys.’ Plural. Implying the worst thing to imply about Michelle: that she wasn’t a girl.
‘I know,” Michael said, looking at his son with hard eyes, “And I’m admitting to my mistakes. I’m owning up to it. I apologized, like a man. And, as a man, I’m going to right this with her. She deserves better than that, from all of us. Are you going to handle it like a man?”
“Yes, sir,” Miles nodded. As loving and nurturing as his parents were, he also highly respected his father. He was a good man, a kind man, who wanted his children to be the best versions of themselves that they could be. He saw the potential in each and every one of them. Michael tried his best, as a father, to guide his children down the right path. But, like any parent, he often made mistakes and slipped up much like he did back in the car.
“Good,” Michael nodded, satisfied with the boy’s answer, “Upstairs. Shower then homework. I’ll bring you up something to eat if you’re hungry. I want you to think about a meaningful apology to Michelle while Dad helps her calm down. Understood?”
“Understood,” Miles nodded. Easy enough. He really was sorry about how he treated Michelle back in the car, so thinking of an apology wasn’t hard. Miles made his way upstairs, Michael following behind to put Leon to bed. Thankfully, the boy had had a bath after dinner and was now able to sleep, uninterrupted, until having to get ready for preschool in the morning.
Slowly but surely, Trevor hoisted Michelle up and led her into the house with most of her weight leaning on him.
“How about a hot shower, babygirl?” Trevor suggested gently, “It’ll help you destress a bit.”
Michelle nodded minutely, hugging herself tightly.
“Okay,” Trevor smiled, “Daddy and I will come up and tuck you in when you’re ready. Okay?”
Michelle nodded silently again, her eyes red and puffy.
“Are you going to be okay? Do you need anything?” Trevor asked, cupping the side of Michelle’s face with his palm.
Michelle stood silently for a second before burrowing herself into Trevor’s arms once again. Trevor’s heart melted as he wrapped his arms around the teen.
“I love you so much, sweetheart,” Trevor said softly, “We’re going to make this right. I promise.”
“Love you, Dad,” Michelle replied glumly, squeezing the man tightly.
After a long moment, Trevor helped Michelle up the stairs and to her bedroom.
“You get some comfy clothes,” Trevor nodded towards the girl’s chest of drawers, “I’ll get you some fresh towels.”
Michelle nodded, filing through her clothes to get some fluffy sweatpants with blue cupcakes printed on them and a plain black shirt. She then walked over to her closet and ripped a hoodie off one of the hangers, not bothering to see which one it was. It was just a dark grey one, it didn’t really matter. Trevor then returned with two fluffy towels in his arms.
“Do you want your shot before or after your shower?” Trevor asked, setting the towels on her bed before reaching for the silver case on the shelf in her closet.
“Before,” Michelle nodded, “Can you help me?”
“Of course, sweetheart,” Trevor smiled, prepping the syringe filled with estrogen. He took a seat at the foot of her bed. Michelle stood before him, pulling down the side of her pants just to expose her hip and the outer muscle of her thigh. Her purple underwear poked out slightly, but neither paid that any mind.
“Okay,” Trevor said, holding up the syringe and rifling for an alcohol pad, “You wanna wipe?”
Michelle nodded, taking the alcohol pad and ripping open the packaging and wiping it to the outside of her thigh. Once finished, she handed the pad to her dad and looked up at him expectantly.
“Nice work,” Trevor praised, balling up the alcohol pad and setting it aside, “Okay, ready?”
Michelle nodded, bracing herself for the slight pinch. Trevor gently gripped the muscle on the outside of her leg and plunged the needle into her skin, slowing plunging the required dosage.
“Okay,” Trevor smiled, slowly removing the needle and capping the used syringe for disposal, “All done.”
“Band-aid?” Trevor offered, to which Michelle nodded. He stood and went to grab the first aid kit in the hallway. He forwent the Star Wars bandages they had in there for Leon and reached for the Disney Princess box.
“Any picks?” Trevor asked, rifling through the box of bandages.
“Ariel,” Michelle replied immediately.
“Good choice,” Trevor nodded, taking out an Ariel printed band-aid using it to cover the injection site.
“Okay,” Trevor smiled again, “All done, pretty girl.”
Michelle smiled, pulling up her pants, “Thanks, dad.”
Michelle gathered the towels and her pajamas before making her way to the bathroom, noticing Miles was already inside taking his own shower.
“C’mon, you can use ours,” Trevor said, leading the girl to the master bedroom.
“Can I take a bath, then?” Michelle smiled up at her father.
“Of course,” Trevor nodded.
The man helped his daughter draw a hot bath, complete with some of Leon’s bubbles but neither would dare tell the boy that. After it was ready, Trevor left the bathroom with the door closing behind him. Through the door, he said, “Let me know if you need anything, sweetheart.”
“Okay,” Michelle said, stripping her clothes and slipping into the warm bath. She tied her long curly hair into a messy bun atop her head, deciding she didn’t feel like washing it. She sighed as the warm water soothed her stressed muscles. Today was a long and crazy day filled with high highs and low lows. But right now, this warm bath is all that’s on her mind. And she can’t even mind that.
Chapter 9: my other half
it's been a while, hasn't it? idk, i've been super depressed and anxious and incredibly over-worked so time isn't real.
But either way, this chapter's a little longer than usual so hopefully that makes up for however long it's been since the last one.
also, there's some mental age regression in this chapter. like, little!peter more than you've seen him yet. If you're not really into that (sorry, but you're missing out) then, you really just have to read the parts with the Joneses. It's just about the only part that isn't fluffy filler in this chapter.
also, it's late and i'm tired. I've been working on this all day and I don't have a beta so this probably needs to be edited again, but I'm posting it anyway since it looks FINE to me.
anyway, hope you like it!
Peter pulled away from Tony to let out a loud, dramatic yawn. Pepper and Tony both giggled at their son. The yawn sent a chill down Peter’s spine, causing the boy to shiver and shake his head back and forth.
“How about we get you ready for bed, bambi?” Tony suggested, running her fingers through the boy’s baby brown curls.
“Okay,” Peter nodded, allowing his mother to drag him upstairs. Friday came following.
Tony pulled her son along the hallway and into his bedroom. She surveyed the room, tidying up a loose sock and crumpled shirt on the boy’s floor.
“Go brush your teeth, baby. I’m gonna make your bed for you,” Tony told the boy, lightly pushing him towards his en suite bathroom.
“I can do it!” Peter exclaimed, rushing over and straightening out his blankets and pillows to what would be up to Pepper’s standards of a well-made bed. Tony smiled at her boy. She knew Peter was insistent on showing his independence and while he was totally a Mommy’s Boy and often depended on Tony borderline babying him, he was still very much in his ‘I’ll do it myself’ phase. It’s gotten easier to let him do things to take care of himself, with Friday’s help and Peter almost being 14.
Tony was guilty of coddling her baby more than a typical teenage boy would want his mother to. But Peter relished in her affection and always said his Mommy was his best friend, so Tony couldn’t find it in herself to think she was doing a bad job.
“Okay, thank you, love,” Tony pressed a kiss to his hair, “Now go brush those teeth of yours and I’ll tuck you in.”
“Momma come kiss me goodnight?” Peter asked, his fingers slipping into his mouth. It was clear Peter was slipping into his little headspace. He’d been in between headspaces all day, most likely due to the stress of his first day back at school and everything that had followed. That’s what made the boy so clingy, whiny, and mildly disobedient throughout the evening.
“Of course she will, bambino,” Tony assured him, “I’ll let her know we’re waiting for her, okay?”
“Okay,” Peter nodded, “Can I sleep with you, mommy?”
“You don’t want to sleep in your bed with Friday?” Tony asked, running her fingers through his hair again.
Peter shook his head and threw his arms around her neck, looking up at her with wide eyes and a small pout. “Wanna sleep with you and momma. P’ease, mommy.”
“Okay, my love,” Tony nodded, “You still have to brush your teeth. Do you need help?”
Peter nodded, hugging his mother tightly. The genius smiled and hoisted the boy into her arms. Having a tiny kid meant she could still hold him and carry him during times like this. Although she tried avoiding it as much as she could, as Pepper constantly warned her about throwing out her back when she’d carry Peter up to bed until he was 12 years old.
Peter hooked his legs around her waist and allowed his mommy to carry him to her own en suite bathroom where she kept most of his little headspace things like his special toothbrush and toothpaste, his bubble bath and bath toys, and other things that little Peter used that big Peter didn’t like having in his room. His headspace embarrassed him greatly, but his mothers encouraged his regression whenever it came naturally, as they noticed how happy it made their son.
Tony entered her bathroom and saw Pepper brushing her teeth at their double sink. Pepper turned to her wife and quirked a brow when she saw Tony gently sit the boy on their counter, pressing a few light kisses to his forehead.
“What’s going on?” Pepper asked after she rinsed out her mouth.
“Our little baby boy wants to sleep in our bed tonight,” Tony said cheerfully, cupping Peter’s face in her hands and peppering kisses onto the boy’s cheeks. Peter giggled and moved his face to avoid his mother’s lips. Pepper smiled and grabbed the boy’s favorite space-themed toothbrush and cotton candy flavored toothpaste.
“Do you need help brushing your teeth, sweetheart?” Pepper asked as she wet the toothbrush and applied the toothpaste for him, offering the brush to him.
Peter nodded, “Mommy do it.”
“Okay,” Pepper said, handing the brush to Tony.
“Open up!” Tony said with her gentlest voice, identical to the tone she used to speak to Peter when he was an actual baby. Peter smiled for Tony widely, showing off his teeth, allowing Tony to brush at his teeth and gums lightly. She was mindful not to put too much pressure on his sensitive gums as the boy would often claim he was in pain when he actually wasn’t.
“Okay,” Tony said once she was satisfied with how clean his teeth were, “Spit it out now.”
Peter leaned over and spit out his toothpaste, taking a little paper cup that Pepper offered full of water to swish out any remaining paste.
“Let me see ‘em,” Tony said, causing the boy to flash a winning smile at her, his teeth practically sparkling clean, “Oh look at you, my handsome boy!”
Tony smiled, cupping the boy’s face into her hands and once again pressing a few kisses to his face. Peter reveled in the affection, loving the attention his mother gave him.
Friday then came padding in, sniffing curiously at Pepper. Pepper leaned over to pet the pup, “Oh it’s time for bed now, baby girl.”
“Mommy, can Friday sleep wif us too?” Peter asked in a small voice.
“I don’t wanna sleep with your stinky dog, Petey Pie,” Tony wrinkled her nose at the boy. She was just teasing, Friday was extremely well-groomed well beyond the standards of a typical service animal. Plus, Peter was a bit of a stickler for how clean his dog was. He would never let Friday be anything less than pristine for himself more than for public standards.
“She’s not stinky!” Peter cried, crossing his arms over his chest and pouting, “She’s a clean doggy, mommy! I promise!”
“I know, bambi,” Tony said softly, brushing his curls out of his eyes and pressing a kiss to his forehead, “I was just kidding, baby.”
“So can she?” Peter asked as he wrapped his arms around Tony and pulling her closer to himself. Tony sighed, wrapping her arms around him and hugging him close, “Whatever you want, my love.”
Friday wiggled her butt, sniffing at Tony’s legs excitedly.
“Friday! Mommy said you can sleep with us!” Peter cheered, reaching his hand out to pet the pup’s snout. Friday happily sniffed the boy’s hand and gave a few loving licks to his fingers, causing Peter to giggle and retract his hand and holds it to his chest.
“Okay, silly boy,” Tony smiled, picking him up and hoisting him onto her hip once more, “Let’s get you to bed.”
“Not tired, mommy,” Peter pouts right before a huge yawn rips through him. He lazily rests his head onto his mother’s shoulder as he persists, “Can we watch cartoons?”
“It’s bedtime, baby,” Tony reasoned, entering the bedroom and ripping back her comforter, “You have to wake up for school tomorrow.”
“Don’t wanna go,” Peter mumbled, “Wanna stay home with mommy.”
“I know, Pete,” Tony sighed, placing the boy down in the center of the large bed, “But you gotta go to school. It’ll be fun, bubba. You’ll get to see Michelle again.”
“But,” Peter whined, “I miss you when I’m at school, mommy.”
“I miss you too,” Tony smiled, pulling up the blankets to tuck the boy in snugly, “But you’re only there for a little bit, then you can come home and it’ll be fine.”
“Promise?” Peter yawned again.
“I promise,” Tony nodded, pressing another kiss to the boy’s forehead.
Pepper walks in wearing cozy pajamas. She smiles at the boy in her bed and leans over to press a kiss to his hair. Peter turns away from her, huffing and laying on his side facing Tony with his back to Pepper. Pepper sighs, rubbing a hand up and down his arm, “Goodnight, baby boy. I love you so much. Sweet dreams.”
“Be nice to your momma,” Tony warned the boy.
Peter just scrubbed at his eyes tiredly before yawning once more. Tony could see he was moments away from falling asleep for the rest of the night, as he was fighting to keep his eyes open.
“Goodnight, my love,” Tony said softly, “Sleep well.”
Peter sighed sleepily and allowed his eyes to flutter shut before he slipped his pointer and middle fingers into his mouth. He was warm and cozy, feeling protected by his mommy in front of him and hearing Friday pad over to the bed before hopping up and snuggling up right beside him. He sucked lazily on his fingers as he drifted to sleep.
“J, it’s baby’s bedtime,” Pepper said quietly. At that, the lights in the room dimmed and light blue stars illuminated across the ceiling. Quiet white noise played from the speakers above. Friday exhaled audibly, relaxing as she cuddled closer to her human.
Pepper made her way back downstairs to get to some emails, as it was barely around 8:30 PM and she’d most likely still be up for the next few hours.
Tony elected to sit on her bed, watching her baby with adoring eyes as he drifted off to sleep with her fingers gently combing through his curls. Tony loved watching Peter do anything and sleeping was no exception. When the boy was a newborn, the genius would just post up beside his custom-made crib and watch him snooze for hours. It was almost as if she feared her looking away or leaving him unattended would cause him to stop breathing or make his heart stop beating. She worried about every single ailment that any infant, especially premature infants, could succumb to possible.
“My baby,” Tony whispered with a smile on her face, “I love you so much.”
Once Peter’s breathing evened out and Jarvis alerted Tony quietly that the boy’s body indicated he was already deep in his REM cycle, Tony quietly got up from the bed and exited the room, leaving the door cracked to provide comfort.
“Watch my baby, J,” Tony said as she made her way to her workshop.
“Of course, madame,” Jarvis replied dutifully, “Young Master Peter’s safety and comfort is my highest concern.”
“Good boy,” Tony smiled as she entered her lab.
Michelle was drying herself with a fluffy towel as the tub drained. The hot water really did wonders on her aching muscles. The girl looked around for some lotion, but only found one advertised specifically as a type of men’s aftershave. She scrunched her nose in disgust before wrapping the towel around her body.
“Dad!” Michelle called out through the door.
“What do you need, baby? Everything okay?” Michael asked through the door. Michelle froze, she didn’t want to talk to him right now. She was still hurt by what he said in the car, no matter if it was a mistake or not.
“Where’s dad?” Was all Michelle said in response, she wanted Trevor.
“He’s helping Miles with his laundry.” Michael replied, “Are you okay in there?”
“I-I’m fine!” Michelle replied, “I just…”
“What do you need, Michelle?” Michael asked again.
“I need lotion,” Michelle muttered, just longing to get into her pj's and go to bed.
“I’ll bring you some from your room, okay?” Michael replied.
“Okay,” Michelle nodded even though her father couldn’t see her through the closed bathroom door.
Moments later, there was a knock on the door. Michelle cracked the door to see her father with a bottle of her favorite cocoa butter lotion in his hand.
“Thanks,” Michelle muttered before shutting the door again. Michael sighed when he heard the lock click. He decided he’d better just put together something for Miles to eat and give his only daughter some space.
Michelle was quick to apply lotion and slip on her pj's. She hung her towel to dry and gathered her used clothes from the day and exited the bathroom. She made her way to the laundry room and stuck them in the laundry basket.
“Hey, princess,” Trevor smiled as he continued folding some of Leon’s recently dried clothes, “How was your bath?”
“It was great, thank you, dad,” Michelle smiled. Trevor nodded, “Ready for bed?”
“Yeah,” Michelle nodded, “‘m tired.”
“I bet,” Trevor chuckled, “You’ve had a long day. A hard day.”
“Yeah,” Michelle sighed, looking down at her hoodie sleeves.
“But it’s okay,” Trevor replied, wrapping his arms around the girl as he led her back to her bedroom, “Tomorrow’s a new day and we’ll make it all better. Okay?”
“Okay,” Michelle mumbled.
“You’ll get to see Peter at school, and Friday! And that girl you were telling us abou—”
“Dad!” Michelle whined, a blush creeping across her face, “I don’t like her like that!”
“Nobody said you did,” Trevor grinned, pressing a kiss to the girl’s temple, “But that doesn’t matter. Tomorrow’s gonna be a better day. I swear it will.”
Trevor pulled back the comforter on Michelle’s bed before ushering her to lay down. He tucked her in before pressing a kiss to her forehead.
“But tomorrow’s Thursday,” Michelle pouted, “Then I’m just a day away from you guys sending me to mom’s house.”
Trevor sighed, brushing her hair out of her face, “I’ll see what I can do to get you out of that, sweetheart.”
“I just…” Michelle’s voice cracked, “She calls me the wrong name and tries to cut my hair and-and she’s just so mean, daddy. I don’t want to go.”
Michelle was now full-on crying. She pulled up her blanket to cover her face. Trevor pulled down the blanket and wiped some tears from her cheeks.
“I know, baby girl,” Trevor sighed, “If I could make all the pain go away, I would. I’m sorry she doesn’t understand you, that she’s not there for you the way you need her to be.”
“I thought everyone’s moms were like that,” Michelle sobbed, “But Peter has nice moms. They love him a lot and give him hugs and stuff. I wish my mommy did that.”
Trevor’s heart was breaking as he pulled the girl up and into his arms. He cradled her to his chest and rocked her shaking form back and forth.
“I know, baby,” Trevor sighed again, “I wish she did too. Maybe we can talk to the judge soon, let her know how seeing your mother makes you feel. Maybe we can get you out of the visits until your mother gets her act together. She has no right to make you feel the way she does. You don’t deserve that.”
“She thinks I do,” Michelle sniffled, “She thinks I’m some sort of monster.”
“She has no idea what she’s talking about,” Trevor says sternly with a shake of his head, “You’re a darling angel. And if she refuses to see that, then that’s her loss.”
Just then, a light knock sounded at Michelle’s bedroom door.
“Michelle?” Miles’ voice filtered through the door, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
Michelle said nothing, she just buried her red face into Trevor’s neck. Trevor rubbed a hand up and down Michelle’s back.
“I can tell him to let you go to bed, angel,” Trevor offered quietly, “You two can talk it out tomorrow if you’re not ready to now.”
“I won’t be able to sleep if we don’t do it now,” Michelle mumbled miserably before sitting up and rubbing her face with her sleeves.
“Okay,” Trevor nodded before pressing a kiss to her forehead, “I’ll give you guys some time then dad and I will come and tuck you in properly, okay?”
“Okay,” Michelle nodded, “Thanks, dad.”
“Of course,” Trevor smiled, “I love you, baby girl.”
“I love you too,” Michelle sniffled. Trevor walked to the door and opened it. He cupped Miles’ face with his hands and pressed a kiss to the top of his head before saying softly,
“Be gentle, be kind. She’s your sister and she loves you. Okay?”
“Yeah,” Miles nodded with a small smile, “I know. I love her too. And you too, dad.”
“I love you too, buddy,” Trevor smiled before ushering the boy in and leaving, shutting the door behind himself.
Miles stood by the door, looking over at his sister. Michelle said nothing, just continued to sniffle and wipe at her face.
“Michelle,” Miles sighed, “I’m really sorry.”
“For what?” Michelle asked quietly, not looking up at her twin. Instead, she fiddled with her sleeves.
“For what happened in the car,” Miles began, taking a seat beside her on the bed, “For saying the stuff I did, calling you names that I know make you uncomfortable. And while it doesn’t excuse it, I do want to say I didn’t mean to hurt you the way I did. But I did. And for that, I am sorry. I know seeing mom hurts you in a way that doesn’t hurt me, and I need to be more mindful of that when we have to go see her. I know that. I do. I really am sorry.”
Michelle sat quietly, contemplating. She didn’t want to hold a grudge, but she also didn’t want to just blindly forgive her brother. Michelle knew, logically, that she was lucky to have a brother as compassionate and loving as Miles. But, he sometimes made mistakes that hurt her greatly. But that’s really all they were... mistakes.
“I know,” Michelle sighed, “I just… don’t want to go. I don’t want to deal with that anymore.”
“I can only imagine,” Miles nodded understandingly, “And I swear to you, if dads can’t get you out of going, I’m not going to just sit there and let her do that to you. You deserve the same respect she gives me, and I’ll demand you get it from her. If she doesn’t know by now, that she needs to love you and me the same, then I don’t want to see her anymore either.”
“Really?” Michelle asked. She was shocked. Miles was a momma’s boy through and through. Well, at least he seemed like he was. He allowed their mother to baby him and never complained about having to visit her, even the times she cared more about her gross boyfriends with bad habits more than she did either of her children.
“Of course,” Miles shrugged, “You’re my sister. My twin sister. I’m on your side, always. I know that earlier, I didn’t act like it… But I was just—”
Miles sighed, “My mind was in about a million places and it was just bad timing. But you’re my best friend, Michelle. And I know lately we’ve kinda grown apart, but… I never meant for us to. You’re still my other half because you’re still you. Even after everything that’s changed.”
Michelle couldn’t help but let the tears forming in her eyes fall. She had no idea Miles still felt that way. She figured that he was mourning the loss of a twin brother, and begrudgingly trying to accept a new sister. But, now she knew that Michelle was still the same soul in his eyes. That he still loved her all the same. And for that, the tears couldn’t stop if she tried.
She just threw herself into her brother’s arms and cried, hugging him tightly. Miles smiled as he held onto her, feeling much better after getting all of that off of his chest. Michelle’s transition was hard on him, but he didn’t want to be selfish. He knew that it was her transition, her battle, her hardships, not his own. But now that his feelings were out in the open, he couldn’t help but hope that their relationship could go back to how it was before. Everything the same except now both twins would be happy in their own skin.
“I love you,” Michelle sniffled, “You’re my best friend and I’ve missed you so much.”
“Yeah, I know,” Miles sighed, “I missed you too. I’m sorry. I love you too.”
Michelle pulled back, rubbing at her teary eyes.
“Ugh,” She groaned, “I’m so fucking sick of crying like a baby.”
She scrubbed under her nose and wiped furiously across her face a few times before she let out a watery laugh, “But it just doesn’t seem to stop.”
“I get it,” Miles shrugged, “First day of school and so much shit’s already happening. It’s crazy.”
“Yeah,” Michelle agreed with a nod, “But I think this year is going to be better.”
“I think so too,” Miles replied with a small smile, “Peter seems cool.”
Michelle’s face immediately broke into a huge grin, “Cool, like… cool? Or Cool like… cool cool?”
“What the hell are you saying?” Miles laughed.
“You think he’s cute!” Michelle teased, knocking her brother on his shoulder playfully.
“What?!” Miles cried incredulously, “I- I don’t—”
“You totally have a crush on him!” Michelle laughed loudly, bouncing on her bed excitedly.
“I don’t even know him!” Miles replied, matching her loud volume from excitement.
“You don’t have to, you just like his face!” Michelle teased, “And his hair! And his smiiiiilleeee!”
“I do NOT!” Miles replied, an embarrassed grin unable to leave his face.
The twins continued to bicker playfully before Michael and Trevor came in, looks of amusement evident on their faces.
“What’s going on in here?” Trevor asked, his eyes soft at the sight of his oldest babies getting along better than they had in a while.
“Nothing!” Miles cried out defensively. Trevor and Michael looked over at Michelle for an explanation, but the girl just smiled and mimed herself zipping her mouth closed,
“Sorry, dads. But, this is confidential information. Real sensitive twin stuff.”
“Well,” Michael couldn’t help but smile, “Let’s keep the twin stuff to a minimal volume. It’s getting late and your brother is asleep. Do you two have any homework that needs to get done?”
“Dad, it’s the first day…” Miles replied, “All we have is syllabi for you to sign… So, really, you guys have homework, not us.”
“Alright, smartypants,” Trevor chuckled, “Do those need to be signed tonight or can we put you both to bed now?”
“Mine aren’t due until next week,” Michelle replied, to which Miles nodded, “Mine too.”
“Okay,” Trevor nodded, “Off to bed, then.”
“Night, Michelle,” Miles said, shoving her lightly as he got up.
“Night, loser,” Michelle replied, kicking his butt half-heartedly as he walked out of her room and to his own.
“Goodnight, sweetheart,” Trevor said after the boy, “Sleep well, I love you.”
“Love you too,” Miles called from the hallway.
“Goodnight, princess,” Trevor smiled as he leaned over to tuck Michelle in. He pressed a kiss to her forehead before he said, “I’ll make you pancakes in the morning. You’ve earned it.”
“Thanks, dad,” Michelle smiled, “Love you.”
“I love you too. So much,” Trevor said, “Sweet dreams.”
Michael came over and brushed stray curls out of his daughter’s face with a fond look on his face.
“Goodnight, baby girl,” He said softly, “I love you so much. Dad and I will talk to your mom, and if she’s not willing to listen… we’ll talk to the judge. I swear to you, I don’t like you going over there any more than you do. I hate seeing you hurt, baby.”
“I know, dad,” Michelle said with a sad smile, “I love you too.”
“Sleep tight.” With that, her dads left the room, turning off her light and closing the door behind them. After the absurdly long and emotional day that didn’t seem to ever end (and last like 9 chapters), it didn’t take long for sleep to claim her.
“J, pull up the baby monitor,” Tony said with a tired sigh. She had been working on blueprints for the last couple of hours without any interruption from Pepper or Jarvis in regards to Peter.
“Certainly,” Jarvis replied, pulling up a holographic feed of Peter snoozing in Tony’s large bed. Tony smiled as she watched the boy snore with an open mouth before he wriggled and whined.
“How did I know?” Tony chuckled.
Jarvis replied, “I believe they call it mother’s intuition, madame.”
“They do, don’t they,” Tony smiled, shooing away all of her work for the night, deciding it was time she actually gets a decent amount of sleep. While Peter was growing up, Tony became much better at sleeping at a normal time for a healthy amount of hours. She wanted to be healthy and set a good example at the same time. But in the last few months, since Peter’s gotten older and the slightest bit more self-sufficient, Tony’s stayed up later to handle the larger SI workload she’s taken on since Peter began his adolescence.
But now, she was beat. And her baby was in bed and needed comfort. So, here she was at about 10:30 PM, willingly ending her night.
“Shut down the shop for the night, J,” Tony said, “It’s bedtime.”
“Certainly,” Jarvis replied cheerily, “Sleep well, madame.”
Tony made her way to her bedroom to hear her boy cry out, “Mommy!”
“I’m here, angel,” Tony said comfortingly, quickly making her way over to the bed, “Mommy’s here, bambino.”
“You said I could sleep wif’ you and I woke up and you were gone!” Peter cried, rubbing at his tired eyes.
“Oh, baby boy,” Tony frowned, “I’m so sorry, my love. I just had to finish up some work before I went to bed. But I’m here now. It’s bedtime, for real this time. Okay?”
“Promise?” Peter bit back a sob.
“I promise,” Tony cooed, pressing a kiss to his forehead, “Let me get ready for bed and I’ll be right back. Okay?”
“I come wif’” Peter said, attempting to rip the blankets off of himself.
“I won’t be long, Pete,” Tony said, securing the blanket tucked around the boy, “Just lay here with Friday and I’ll be right back in. Okay?”
Peter whined, slipping his fingers back into his mouth. He sucked on them methodically while pouting and giving his mommy the best puppy dog eyes he could muster with still being half-asleep.
“Here, bubba,” Tony said, reaching into her bedside table.
She pulled out a blue pacifier with glow-in-the-dark planets and stars printed on the guard. Tony leaned over and gently tried prying the boy’s fingers from his mouth. Peter whined and whipped his head to the side, effectively avoiding his mother’s hands. He curled up on his side, his back facing Tony.
“Peter, this is much more sanitary,” Tony sighed, “You’ll like your paci better, baby. I promise.”
Tony gently rolled the boy onto his back. Peter cried out, his fingers slipping from his mouth to push Tony away from him. Tony took that moment as an opportunity to literally pacify her son. Peter, unsurprisingly, sighed and sucked on the rubber in his mouth. He really did like his pacis, he was just tired and cranky.
“M’mmy,” Peter sleepily whined, reaching his arms out towards Tony. His mother leaned over and pressed a kiss to the center of his bobbing pacifier. Peter wrapped his arms around her neck and hugged her tightly.
“Okay, sleepyhead,” Tony chuckled, “Let me get ready and then you can go back to sleep. Alright?”
“‘Kay, mommy,” Peter sighed, his eyes fluttering shut, “Hurry, p’ease.”
Tony smiled at the slurred voice around the pacifier. She pressed another kiss to the boy’s forehead before getting up and walking over to her wardrobe. She gathered pajamas before making her way to the ensuite bathroom.
Tony barely got through washing her face when she heard the sound of bare feet padding over to the bathroom. The genius was patting her face dry with a towel before she looked up to see her boy sat on the bathroom counter, his curls sticking up in a million different directions and a tired look on his face. Peter was still lazily sucking on his pacifier and he sluggishly kicked his legs from where they dangled off the edge of the counter.
“Silly boy,” Tony giggled before she began brushing her teeth. Peter was clearly nodding off, his head shooting up every minute or so to keep himself from falling over asleep.
“Okay,” Tony said after rinsing her mouth out, “I get it, I get it. Let’s go.”
Tony, once again, picked the boy up and carried him to her bed. She tucked him in tightly beside his still sleeping pup. Tony crawled into bed beside him, wrapping her arms around him as he burrowed into her side. She combed her fingers through his hair as the pacifier bobbed from between his lips and his breathing evened out.
About half an hour later, Pepper found her wife and son cuddling impossibly close with Friday asleep at the foot of the bed, snoring audibly. The woman smiled before pressing light kisses to each of their heads, the dog’s included.
“Goodnight, my loves,” Pepper said quietly before slipping into bed herself, double-checking with Jarvis that the house was locked and secure for the night before drifting off to sleep herself.
Chapter 10: shoulder-to-shoulder
hey. sorry for the wait. enjoy
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tony was awoken early the next morning to Jarvis’ quiet voice, “Madame.”
“What is it, J?” Tony said sleepily after a few moments, rubbing her eyes sluggishly, “Everything secure?”
“Of course, miss,” Jarvis replied, “Your home and family are safe. You have a call holding on your business line. Mr. Stane requires your attention.”
Tony sighed as Peter snuggled up closer to her, the pacifier still bobbing between his lips. Tony smiled, pressing a kiss to the boy’s forehead.
“Tell him I’m with my family,” Tony said, “Business can wait until Peter’s at school.”
After a few long moments Jarvis chimed, “Mr. Stane insists it’s an emergency.”
“God,” Tony sighed again. She just wanted to lay in bed with her family. It was far too early to worry about any sort of Stark Industries problem. Work was for when her baby wasn’t home, not while he was sleeping soundly in her arms.
“Tell him I’ll be just a minute,” Tony replied, annoyance clear in her tone. The genius looked down at her son and pressed another kiss to his face. Peter hummed in content and snuggled closer to his mother’s warmth. Tony sighed, trying to gently wriggle out of her son’s grasp. It was still about an hour before Peter had to wake up to get ready for school, and the poor boy had such a long day yesterday that Tony wanted him to get as much sleep as possible. She’d really give Obadiah some choice words about calling her so early, interrupting her sleep and family time.
Tony tried to escape Peter’s iron grip, causing the boy to stir.
“Hnngh—” Peter whined over his pacifier, his eyes scrunching tightly.
“Shhh,” Tony soothed, getting up slowly, “It’s okay, go back to sleep, bambino.”
“Mmm,” Peter whined even louder, sounding on the verge of crying out.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Pepper asked sluggishly. She sat up slowly, turning to her wife and son.
“I have to answer an SI call,” Tony sighed, looking down at her boy who was desperately clinging to her, “Just hold him for a little bit, Pep.”
Pepper sighed, laying back down. She turned to the boy and wrapped her arms around him, holding him securely from behind, “Shh, it’s okay, baby boy.”
“M’mma,” Peter cried, letting go of Tony and attempting to turn in Pepper’s grab. Pepper helped him turn over, allowing him to hug her tightly, hanging onto her much like a koala bear. Pepper sighed with a tired smile and hugged the boy tightly.
“Okay,” Tony smiled at them, “I’ll be in the office. I’ll be back in a bit.”
“Okay,” Pepper said tiredly, her eyes fluttering shut. The sound of Peter’s breathing and his warm hug quickly lulling her back to sleep.
Tony made her way to her office and called out to Jarvis, “Put him through, J.”
“No coffee first, madame?” Jarvis quipped.
“Nah, I want to get this over with and go back to bed.”
“Very well,” Jarvis replied, putting the call through.
“27 minutes, Tony,” Obadiah bit out angrily, “Your AI has had me on hold for 27 minutes.”
“I was asleep. I’m with my family, Obie. I have other priorities,” Tony rolled her eyes.
“You need to be in Malibu,” Obie replied sternly, “Immediately. You’re already late.”
“For what?” Tony asked incredulously, “I work from home.”
“I’m aware,” Obadiah replied, seemingly unimpressed, “You’ve been backseat managing this company for the last 14 years. I can hardly get you to show up to board meetings once a year.”
“My family comes first,” Tony replied casually, “No discussion is to be made there.”
“This is for your family,” Obie replied, “This is securing their future. There’s been a major security breach and we need your biometric scans and coding override to fix it and find the source.”
“Are you kidding me?” Tony scoffed, “What the hell are you guys even doing over there? I’m trusting you all to take care of my company and—”
“Tony,” Obie sighed, “Just get over here. Now.”
Tony also sighed, rubbing at her temples. She could feel a headache blooming.
“I go now,” Tony began, “But I’m home before my son gets out of school.”
“Tony,” Obie replied, clearly not convinced, “We need you here if you hurry and hustle… You could maybe get home before he goes to bed tonight.”
“Obie,” Tony shook her head, “Absolutely not. He needs me here. I’m going to be here.”
“He’s 14, Tony,” Obie grumbled, “He can take care of himself. Plus, you’ve got your wife there.”
“He has health problems, Obadiah. He needs both of us here. I’m coming home in time to pick him up from school, whether you like it or not.” Tony replied. Spending time with her family and being there for her son during a tough time was never up for debate. No matter what was on the table. Nothing was more important.
“You need to be here, Tony,” Obie said sternly, “You can leave when the problem is settled.”
“No!” Tony replied, standing her ground, “You get my biometric scan, my override, I point you in the right direction, and you get an expert on it. And then I’ll leave.”
“Just get here, Tony,” Obie replied, hanging up. Tony wanted to scream. She’s an adult with her own family, on the opposite side of the country. And yet, Obie still finds it appropriate to try and tell her what to do. She was a wife and a mother, more than capable of living her life without Obie pushing her around. The genius sighed and rubbed a hand over her face.
“Can I offer you that coffee again, madame?” Jarvis asked.
“Yeah,” Tony sighed again, “How are my loves?”
“Your wife and son appear to still be asleep,” Jarvis replied after a moment.
“Alright,” Tony nodded, making her way over to the kitchen where Jarvis already had a pot of coffee brewing, “Let me know if either of them starts to wake.”
“Of course, Mrs. Stark,” Jarvis chimed.
Tony grabbed her favorite mug from the cabinet, feeling she needed the comfort from her favorite dishware. It was a gift from her best friend (other than Pepper), James Rhodes. It was a light blue mug with a studio portrait of Peter from when he was just two months old, and his little handprints in white paint. Tony couldn’t help but smile every single time she laid eyes on the mug. Her baby’s little chipmunk cheeks and baby brown curls paired with his gorgeous wide eyes and toothless smile always warmed Tony’s heart.
She hugged the mug to her chest for a moment before the coffee machine beeped, indicating her pot was ready. Tony set the mug down on the counter, pouring a full mug and only waiting a moment before gulping it down. It was probably too hot to drink as quickly as she did, but she knew she was going to have to leave fairly soon and needed to wake up. Tony sighed again, not wanting to wake either Pepper nor Peter and let them know she had to leave.
She really hated having to go so far away from her family. But, she knew Peter had to stay in New York and go to school and Pepper had to go to her law firm for work and they couldn’t logically go with her. When Peter was younger and there were emergency SI business meetings, her little boy would always tag along. She’d carry him on her hip onto her private jet and even hold him tight as he sat on her lap, coloring quietly in the middle of a serious board meeting or whatever.
Peter loved being with his mommy, and borderline threw a fit whenever they had to be apart. After a few years, they tried it out so that Pepper would watch the boy while Tony would be in a meeting. But, it didn’t take long for them to realize that it was a rare occurrence for Peter to accept that.
God, this was gonna suck. Tony sighed once more before refilling her mug and trudging upstairs. She entered her bedroom quietly to see Peter still asleep, Pepper holding the boy in her arms and carding her fingers through his curls. Tony really hoped he’d be able to have a shower this morning before school as she doubted they had time to give him a bath if he was still regressed. Pepper looked up at her wife, giving her a tired smile before noticing the mug in Tony’s hand. Pepper’s brows furrowed, “What’s wrong? Why are you up?”
“Obie called,” Tony shook her head, she was still very much exhausted, “I have to go to Malibu to help with a security breach. I’ll try to come back before Pete gets out of school, but Obie’s being a real pain in the ass and says I might only make it back to tuck him in.”
Pepper sighs before looking down at their sleeping son and pressing a kiss to his forehead, “He’s not gonna like that. Not one bit.”
“I know,” Tony frowned, making her way over to them. She lightly ran her fingers through his hair and cooed, “My baby boy. I should probably tell him soon. Getting him ready for school is going to be a nightmare. We should try and start now so I can head out.”
“The faster you leave, the faster you can come back, right?” Pepper asked hopefully. Pepper was an amazing mother who tried her best for Peter. But, Peter was still very much a Mommy’s boy rather than a Momma’s boy. The two very much needed the other when it came to raising Peter. The way they handled parenthood was 100% teamwork and communication. Peter needed both of his mothers in order to feel secure, but if he was without Tony, he’d surely fall apart.
“Yes,” Tony confirmed with a nod.
“Alright,” Pepper sighed again. She gently began to stir the boy in her arms, “Time to wake up, Peter.”
Peter stirred in her arms, whining and turning away from her. Tony rounded the bed and brushed her fingers through his curls, “Rise and shine, baby boy.”
Peter stretched out like a cat with a wide yawn, causing his pacifier to fall out of his mouth. Tony smiled, plucking the pacifier up and storing it away.
“Sleepin’, mommy,” Peter mumbled, resting in the position his body was in after he stretched. He was seemingly ready to fall right back asleep.
“I know, bambino,” Tony cooed, rubbing his back comfortingly, “But it’s time to get up and get ready for school. You didn’t take a bath last night so you have to shower before you have breakfast.”
“Wanna take a bath,” Peter whined, flopping onto his back and rubbing his eyes with his fists.
“We don’t have time for a bath right now, my love,” Tony began as Pepper got up to gather Peter’s clothes for the day, “Maybe you can take one after dinner tonight.”
“Promise?” Peter asked after a few moments, looking up at Tony with his wide doe eyes.
“If we have time,” Tony nodded, effectively avoiding the question. She didn’t want to make a promise she couldn’t keep. If Tony knew that she’d be home to give Peter a bath, she’d agree. But she didn’t know when she’d be back in New York, and she didn’t want to promise that Pepper would bathe the boy. Especially knowing that that situation, in particular, could go either way. Peter would either be ecstatic to have a bath or hate that it was Pepper and not Tony bathing him.
Thankfully, Tony and Pepper had the sense to wait until Peter was mostly ready to tell him that Tony would have to leave soon. She was showered and in a nice form-fitting suit, her hair tied back and her makeup pristine. Peter was showered and dressed, his curls still damp as he munched on some toast while Tony finished making his eggs. Pepper then came down, briefcase in hand dressed in an expensive velvet blue suit. She poured some dog food in Friday’s bowl. The pup in question came racing over, sitting still and looking up at Pepper expectantly. Pepper smiled, petting the top of her head before pointing to the bowl, “Good girl.”
Friday went to town munching her dog food happily, her tail wagging quickly.
“Looking good, mama,” Tony smiled at her wife who returned the gesture with a kiss on her cheek, “Can I offer you some eggs in these trying times?”
“No,” Pepper shook her head, “Thank you, baby. I’m going to grab a smoothie on the way in.”
“Alright,” Tony nodded, plating some scrambled eggs and placing it in front of Peter, “Eat up.”
“Thank you, mommy,” Peter said over a mouthful of eggs. They were quickly running out of time. But, they knew if Peter didn’t eat before they told him, he’d likely not eat at all. Maybe even for the rest of the day. Tony had to leave within the next 15 minutes if she wanted to catch the private plane waiting to take her to Malibu while also avoiding another earful from Obie.
“Is it good, Pete?” Tony asked, picking at the remaining eggs in the pan.
“Mhm,” Peter nodded as he continued to shovel eggs into his mouth. Pepper poured herself some coffee in a tumbler before getting juice from the fridge. Peter had seemed to age up sometime during his shower, so Pepper was able to give him a normal glass rather than a sippy cup. She poured him half a glass of his favorite mango punch. Peter couldn’t stand the acidity of orange juice, it hurt his mouth and made his stomach turn so it was something the Starks avoided. Pepper placed the glass in front of his as he finished off the last of his eggs. Without a breath, Peter took the glass and gulped it down with a satisfying sigh. He grabbed a nearby dish towel and wiped his mouth, “Thank you, momma.”
Pepper hummed in acknowledgment, returning the juice to the fridge.
“Peter,” Tony began hesitantly, “Momma’s taking you to school soon, okay?”
“But,” Peter began as Friday trotted over to him, sniffing his leg, “I still have time to watch TV, right? It’s not time to go yet.”
“You have to go in early,” Pepper began, “Mommy’s gotta go to the airport and I have to go to work for a meeting.”
“What?” Peter asked, eyes wide with fear, “Where’s mommy going?”
“I have to go to SI, baby,” Tony said, making her way over to the boy, holding his hand in hers, “I’ll only be gone for a few hours.”
“I’ll come,” Peter nodded, turning to grab Friday’s leash. Tony stopped him with a hand on his shoulder, “No, pumpkin. You have to stay in New York. You have to go to school. Momma’s gonna pick you up and I’ll come home sometime after that. But, if I can make it back and time to come get you, I’ll try my best to make it happen, okay?”
“No,” Peter whined, tears already forming in his eyes, “Mommy, don’t go!”
“I have to, my love,” Tony frowned, “But I’ll be home so soon, you won’t even notice I was gone. Okay?”
“No!” Peter screeched, jumping forward to wrap his arms around his mother, “Mommy don’t go!”
Tony huffed and hugged the boy close, “It’s okay, baby. I’ll be home soon. Momma will be here with you when you get home. Maybe you can hang out with Michelle again.”
“NO!” Peter yelled, burying his face into the crook of her neck, “Mommy stay!”
“Peter,” Pepper said softly, making her way over. She gently tried prying her son from Tony, but Peter just screeched again and tightened his grip around his mother.
“Peter,” Pepper sighed, “You have to let her go. You have to go to school now.”
“NO!” Peter yelled, turning around to shove Pepper away from him.
“Peter,” Tony began, “You need to calm down. Momma’s going to take you to school and you’re going to be just fine.”
“No!” Peter cried. Friday began to run circles around the Starks, trying to find a spot to safely intervene and calm her handler down.
“Mommy!” Peter began to sob, tears streaming down his face. He turned back around and reached for Tony desperately, “Mommy, stay with me! Please!”
“I wish I could, tesoro,” Tony sighed, “But I have to go, just for the day. I’ll be back before you go to sleep, if not earlier. I promise.”
“No!!!” Peter sobbed loudly. Tony looked at Pepper with a pleading look, she really had to go if she wanted to make it back to tuck Peter in tonight.
“Peter,” Pepper tried again to pry Peter away from Tony, by wrapping her arms around his waist and pulling him backward.
“No!” Peter screeched once more, his elbows flying and harshly knocking into Pepper’s chest. The woman stumbled backward out of shock and pain. It wasn’t too rare for Peter’s meltdowns to get physical, but he never hurt either of his mothers like he just did Pepper.
“Peter James Stark,” Tony called sternly, holding Peter firmly by the shoulders, “You do not hit your mother like that. You need to take a breath and calm down. Right now.”
“MOMMY!” Peter sobbed, his legs wobbling before giving out underneath him. If not for Tony’s grip on him, he would have fallen right onto the floor. Tony gasped, nearly dropping the boy on his way down.
“Peter,” Tony sighed, sinking down to the ground with her son in her arms, “It’s okay, bambino. I’ll be home as soon as I can.”
“Mommy!” Peter wailed, “Mommy stay! Mommy stay with Peter!!!”
“I wish I could, baby boy,” Tony sighed sadly, “You know if I could, I would hang out with you over work, anyday.”
“Mommy,” Peter whined, as his tears began to die down.
“It’s okay, my love,” Tony said softly, cradling the boy in her arms, “You’ll be at school with Michelle and Friday, then Momma’s gonna pick you up and she’ll take good care of you. She’s a great momma, and she loves you very much.”
“Momma?” Peter repeated back to her, burying his face into her jacket.
“Yeah, Pete,” Pepper smiled as she crouched to be eye-level with the boy, “We can go out for shaved ice or milkshakes if you want. We can take Friday to the park or if Michelle wants to come over again, she can. Whatever you want, sweetheart.”
“Really?” Peter asked, looking up at Pepper with wet eyes.
“Of course, baby,” Pepper nodded.
“I’m,” Peter began as his lip wobbled, “I—”
Peter’s face crumbled before he broke into sobs again, “I’m sorry for hittin’ you, momma!”
“Oh,” Pepper frowned before taking the boy into her arms. Peter obliged and clung to her tightly, burying his face into her neck and wailing, “I didn’ mean to! I’m sorry!”
Tony sighed sadly again, rubbing her hand up and down the boy’s back.
“I know you’re sorry, baby,” Pepper soothed, “But you need to talk with Mommy and I about your emotions before you act irrationally. Okay?”
“I will,” Peter sobbed, “Promise.”
“That’s my good boy,” Pepper smiled as she gently rocked Peter back and forth in her arms, “Now we have to get you to school. Mommy has to go now.”
“But,” Peter whimpered, looking up at Pepper with a pleading look, “Wan’ mommy t’stay.”
“I know you do, bubba,” Pepper sighed knowingly, “But she has to go. I know you’re gonna miss her, I will too. But, I think I have an idea.”
Peter, putting all of his trust into Pepper, just leans back onto her chest and cuddles close without question.
Michelle nervously brushed her hair out of her face as she stood in front of her locker. She had elected to come to school early with her brother. Miles came to school early every day, for either a sport or club obligation. Today, he was meeting with a potential group of students to help him organize a new club of his own. On the way to school, he had asked Michelle if she was interested, almost certain the club he had in mind would be of interest to his sister. But, she shook her head and was silent for the entirety of the subway ride to school.
Michelle had decided to leave early after she overheard the phone conversation between her father and who she assumed was her mother. By the sounds of it, the conversation wasn’t going in her favor. Not wanting to talk to her parents about the situation at hand, and not particularly wanting to face the situation at all, she had made her way upstairs to tell her brother she’d be leaving with him. Then, she quickly got dressed before following him out.
Now, she was just standing around, hoping Peter would show up soon. With it only being the second day of school, she knew it was normal to hardly know anyone, let alone have any friends. But, she was really hurting for some company as last night and this morning had been really hard on her. While she didn’t expect Peter to bare any of her burdens, she just wanted to be around someone else that could distract her from her problems. She sighed and closed her locker, deciding to just wait on the front lawn for either Peter to show up, or classes to start. It was still warm out, being the first week of August. Michelle elected to sit on a bench in front of the student drop-off section, kicking her feet on the grass.
Thankfully, it wasn’t long before a familiar SUV pulled up to the front of Midtown. Michelle’s head perked up as the driver’s door opened to reveal a tired-looking Pepper. The woman straightened out her suit jacket and sighed before shutting her door. She rounded the vehicle before catching Michelle’s gaze. Pepper face brightened, sending a smile to the girl,
“Good morning, Michelle,” Pepper called out loud enough for her to hear. Michelle returned the smile and waved, “Good morning, Mrs. Stark.”
Pepper looked at the back door of the car, where Michelle assumed Peter was sitting, and sighed before turning to Michelle and quickly walking over to the teen.
“Hey, Michelle,” Pepper began, “Peter’s having a tough morning. Tony had to go to California for a business emergency and he’s not taking it very well. He really didn’t want to come to school today and it’s taken us a while to even get him into the car. Tony’s already at the airport so he’s pretty upset, now that she’s gone.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Michelle asked, standing up and tightening her grip on her messenger bag.
“I’m sure just spending time with you will make him feel much better,” Pepper nodded, “It’s just getting him out of the car that might be an issue.”
Michelle nodded, making her way over to the SUV. Pepper followed, opting to open the back door for her. The door opened to reveal a sobbing Peter. The boy had his arms wrapped around Friday, the dutiful pup sat beside him on the seat. He cried into her soft blonde fur, rubbing his wet face onto her coat. Friday appeared to be comforting him by resting her head on the boy’s shoulder, allowing him to cry out his sadness.
“Hey, Peter,” Michelle said softly with a small smile, “How are you this morning?”
Peter lifted his face from the dog and looked up at Michelle with red-rimmed eyes. He sniffled and wiped at his wet eyes, “Hi.”
“Are you ready for class? I heard we’re drawing roadmaps in English and Mrs. Holden is making it a whole arts and crafts thing. I’m sure that’ll be cathartic, we might actually enjoy it.”
“That sounds fun, doesn’t it, Pete?” Pepper asked with a smile. Peter sniffled again and nodded with a miserable pout. Pepper grabbed the boy’s backpack and water bottle for him, nodding towards the school to try and get Peter to exit the car.
“M-momma,” Peter whined.
“Baby, Michelle’s here. You two are going to have a great day today, then I’ll pick you up. It’s going to be fine.”
“Can Michelle come?” Peter asked, running his fingers through Friday’s fur. Pepper looked at Michelle with a small smile. The girl replied, “I’ll text my dad and ask him. But, I’m sure I can hang out today.”
“See, Pete? It’s going to be a good day.” Pepper said encouragingly. Peter sniffled again, the last of his tears dissipated. He grabbed Friday’s lead and gripped it tightly as he climbed out of the car, Friday hopping out behind him. Peter wiped at his eyes one last time with his long sweatshirt sleeve. Pepper helped the boy thread his arms through his backpack straps before handing him his water bottle. Peter took it and hugged Pepper tightly. Pepper pulled back after a moment, then rubbed her hands up and down the boy’s sweatshirt sleeves.
“Is mommy’s hoodie helping you, bug?” Pepper asked. Her idea this morning was lending Peter one of his mother’s Stark Industries hoodies. It had the company logo printed brightly on the front, with ‘STARK’ printed on the hem of the back of the sweatshirt. Peter always found comfort in his mother’s sweatshirts, loving how much they smelled just like her and felt like a warm hug from her.
Peter nodded, burrowing into Pepper’s arms for one last hug. It was a happy surprise that Peter was accepting and nearly demanding so much affection from Pepper. For all the hugs she’s missed out on over the years, Pepper cherished every moment she held him in her arms.
“Okay, you kids better go before the bell rings. If Michelle’s dad says she can come over, then I’ll pick you two up after school and we can get milkshakes or something. Okay?”
“Okay. Love you, momma.” Peter said sadly, patting Friday’s head.
“I love you too, Peter. Have a good day, baby.” Pepper smiled as she rounded the car to return to the driver’s seat.
“Bye, Michelle,” Pepper waved, “I’ll see you two later.”
“Bye, Mrs. Stark,” Michelle returned the wave before leading Peter and Friday into the school, to their English class.
Peter stood shoulder-to-shoulder to Michelle, tightly gripping Friday’s lead as she trotted happily on the other side of her handler. Michelle looked over to the teen beside her and offered him a small smile. Peter met her gaze but did not return the gesture, opting to just slyly bump her shoulder with his. Michelle bumped him back and the two made their way to class in comfortable silence.
that took forever, didn't it? sorry. I'm american and so i've had a week of traveling and family time jammed in-between my normal hectic work schedule. Plus, I feel like the interest in my works isn't what it used to be. the less y'all get excited about it, the less I do. Maybe this story isn't as good as it used to be? Maybe it's missing something it had in the beginning or maybe I'm adding stuff y'all don't like as much? I don't know, all I know is my motivation has been a little lacking.
anyway, if you did enjoy, let me know. if you didn't, let me know what I can do to make this story (and others) better. also, i'm still accepting prompts for my one-off series.
Chapter 11: invaluable insight
important A/N at the end that has to do with future updates... If you don't care and just want to read my works as they come, that's perfectly okay too, you can just ignore the note at the end.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Michelle took a deep breath as she continued to lead Peter and Friday towards Mrs. Holden’s classroom.
“Are you feeling any better, P?” She asked.
Peter shrugged, his gaze glued to the top of Friday’s vest.
“Miss my mom,” Peter mumbled sadly.
“I know,” Michelle nodded sadly, “But she’ll be home before you know it. Plus, I’ll try to be by your side as much as possible until she gets here. Okay? But if you want space, please have no qualms in telling me to fuck off. Alright?”
That got a small chuckle from the other teen, causing Michelle to smile at him brightly.
“Don’t want you to fuck off,” Peter said sincerely.
“Good,” Michelle replied as the trio made it to the classroom.
“Let me,” Peter said, grabbing the door and holding it open for Michelle. Michelle smiled and nodded as a thank you as she entered the room. Peter walked in after her with Friday happily trotting along. Mrs. Holden was sat at her desk much like the morning before, organizing stacks of papers and plastic cases of art supplies. At the sound of people entering the classroom, the teacher looked up and greeted her students with a smile.
“Good morning, Michelle, Peter, and Friday,” Mrs. Holden announced as she straightened out a stack of mixed colored construction paper.
“Good morning, Mrs. Holden,” Michelle replied on the trio’s behalf, guiding Peter and Friday to their seats in the back corner.
“How are you all this morning?” The teacher asked, her eyes going back to the supplies on her desk.
Michelle scooted her desk to sit flush beside Peter’s, unlike the rest of the desks that were dozens of separated islands and sat before answering, “We had a bit of a rough morning. But we’re going to make it a better day.”
Peter said nothing as he pulled his chair back and pointed his foot to the empty spot underneath his desk.
“Ball,” He commanded to Friday, who obediently returned to her spot under her handler's desk and curled up into a tight ball.
“Well, I must say,” Mrs. Holden began, “That is a wonderful attitude to have.”
It was still a few minutes before the bell was due to ring, so Peter and Michelle sat at their desks, silently playing a game of tic-tac-toe that the latter had began after she pulled out her sketchbook.
Bad morning too? Peter scribbled beside their designated game spot after he noticed Michelle had been characteristically quiet and hardened, but uncharacteristically blue. He couldn’t quite pick up what it was: sadness, anger, irritation, or fatigue. He was never too good at picking up those sorts of things. But, he did notice she said We when describing the rough morning. Maybe his friend was hurting, too.
Michelle sighed before nodding, doodling a swirl with her pen on the opposite side of the page.
Have to see my mom this weekend. She wrote underneath Peter’s note.
I’m sorry Peter wrote with a small doodle frowny face beside it. The bell rang and Mrs. Holden was audibly startled by the sound. The woman chuckled at her own silliness and excused herself to welcome the other students into the classroom.
Maybe you can spend the night at my house instead? Peter wrote quickly. Michelle smiled at the suggestion. Peter was adorably naive at times and it only fueled Michelle’s innate urge to protect the guy.
“Doesn’t work like that, unfortunately,” Michelle replied verbally as she slipped her sketchbook back into her book bag.
“Do your dads know how she makes you feel?” Peter asked in a whisper, not really wanting to air out Michelle’s personal life. He figured it was still okay to verbalize his worries as no one had entered the room yet.
“Yeah,” Michelle sighed, “They’re trying to talk to her and get me out of it. But she’s been…” Michelle sighed again, brushing a few stray curls out from in front of her eyes,”I don’t know. Can we talk about it later?”
“Yeah,” Peter replied quietly, “Sorry.”
“No, it’s okay,” Michelle assured him, “We can definitely talk about it, just not here.”
“Okay,” Peter nodded before folding his hands and looking towards the front of the class.
Betty was the first to enter the classroom. Upon seeing Michelle and Peter’s desk side-by-side, unlike the configuration the classroom had the day before, she asked, “Are we sitting in pairs?”
“No,” Michelle replied, “Just us.”
“Oh,” Betty replied, “You guys are actually… doing that?”
“Doing what?” Michelle asked.
“Like…” Betty trailed off as she took off her backpack and took her seat in front of Peter, “Speaking for him and stuff? Isn’t that a little degrading? Insulting?”
“He asked me to,” Michelle replied tightly, “If he was offended by it, I doubt he’d ask me to do it.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize you two had actually talked about it.” Betty replied.
“Of course we did,” Michelle nearly snapped.
“I just—” Betty shrugged, “Didn’t think he really talked much.”
“Peter talks just fine,” Michelle defended, “Everyone’s a little shy at the beginning of the year. He just has more trouble getting over stuff like that than we do. People have just been approaching him in a way that isn’t helpful nor effective.”
“Oh,” Betty said simply, “I don’t mean to be ignorant or like… offensive, you know? I’ve just never met someone like Peter before.”
“You could maybe start by not talking about him like he’s not right here with us,” Michelle suggested, actually finding pity in the other girl. She could tell Betty was trying, she just didn’t know how to approach the situation they were in.
“I’m sorry, Peter,” Betty said earnestly, turning to the boy in question, “I never meant to offend you or make you uncomfortable. I’ll try a little harder.”
“It’s okay, Betty,” Peter replied quietly, toying with the drawstring on his hoodie.
“Have you had Friday for a long time? Or did you just get her?” Betty asked, turning her attention to Peter.
“Long time,” Peter replied quietly again, not meeting her eyes. Betty nodded in response, her gaze lingering on the boy before more students began to filter in.
One boy, a boy neither Peter nor Michelle had bothered to remember the name of, entered the room and had his sight locked on Peter. He quickly made his way over to the two conjoined desks, which made Peter uncomfortable since he was certain the kid sat on the other side of the room the day before. Alas, he got to Peter’s desk and placed his palms down on it and leaned forward, well into the former’s personal space. Peter immediately leaned back into his seat, the feet of the chair scraping on the floor audibly as his weight pushed it back.
“Back up, dude,” Michelle snapped immediately, “What are you doing?”
She was about to stand up and push him back herself when he relented and stood up straight, holding his hands up in surrender.
“I just want to talk to him for a sec,” The kid said with a smirk.
“Mr. Stark isn’t currently available for any meetings. Can I take a message?” Michelle asked sarcastically, causing Peter to snicker.
“So he is a Stark,” The boy said triumphantly, “There was a rumor going around that you’re Tony Stark’s kid. Not a lot of people believe it, but it’s kind of hard to dispute when it’s literally your name.”
“Stark’s a more common last name than you might think,” Betty interjected, her eyes not leaving the book she had begun reading to pass the time, “Plus, there haven’t been any photos of Tony Stark’s son since we were little kids… How would you have any idea what he looks like now?”
Peter swallowed nervously. It wasn’t exactly a secret that he was his mother’s son, it just wasn’t something he brought up. He was a Stark in every legal document, but he hasn’t really gone around school saying ‘I’M PETER STARK!’
“He’s wearing a Stark Industries hoodie,” another kid pointed out, as he clearly had been listening, “He’s totally Tony Stark’s kid!”
Why do they care? Peter couldn’t help but wonder. His mother wasn’t famous by any means, not anymore. When he was little, they got followed by paparazzi and the press a bit. But once the transition from Stark Industries manufacturing weapons to clean energy and medical equipment smoothed out, the public sort of lost interest. She wasn’t a world-famous genius and billionaire anymore, just a typical New York philanthropist and family-woman. Sure, Peter’s mother was extremely wealthy, but the family still led a fairly normal life without much outside interference.
But, when kids found out he came from money, he had a proclivity for being harassed. People pretending or trying to be his friend for monetary or material gain wasn’t something Peter, himself, had to deal with yet. But, the parents of his “friends” often expected a lot from him and his parents. And while the Starks were always more than happy to foot the bill for dinner parties and buy the best gifts for birthday parties, it all became exhausting. For everyone involved. They gave in to whatever made Peter happy, but when he realized people were only nice to them when they figured they could get something out of it, he lost interest in “friends” almost entirely. It often made Peter wonder if anyone around him actually liked him, or if they just wanted money.
“Good for you,” Michelle began bitterly, “You know who his mom is. Can you leave him alone now?”
“Are you kidding me? This is the coolest thing to ever happen at Midtown! Do you live in a huge mansion?”
Much like the day before, Peter was quickly bombarded with questions. How the hell was everyone suddenly tuned into this stupid conversation?
Do you have servants?
Why do you dress normally?
Why are you going to school here?
Do you have a private jet?
How many cars do you have?
Peter, again, was at a loss for words. Why does this keep happening to him?
The late bell rang loudly, causing Peter to gasp and cover his ears with his hands. The bell on top of the symphony of voices quickly became too much for him. Michelle immediately used her own hands to cover Peter’s, attempting to help block out the sound.
Following the bell, Mrs. Holden entered the room with the remainder of the students coming to class. She walked in with a smile that immediately fell as she was welcomed with chaos.
“Excuse me!” She attempted to get some order in the classroom over the dozens of voices.
Peter stood quickly, the chair toppling down behind him as he sunk to the ground. Friday immediately crawled onto her handler’s lap, distributing her weight across his legs. During sensory overload, Friday was trained to attempt Deep Pressure Therapy. Applying her weight to certain pressure points on the teen to ground him, often helped him through many meltdowns or instances of sensory overload.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” Mrs. Holden called out once again, finally getting the attention of her class. Now, the only sound in the room was of Peter’s whimpering and Friday’s heavy panting. Michelle gently knelt down beside him before hesitantly reaching out to the boy.
“Why do you all insist on harassing that poor boy in my class?” Mrs. Holden asked exasperatedly, quickly making her way over to the shaking boy on the floor.
“Peter,” Michelle said softly, “It’s okay, Peter. I’m here with you.”
Peter shook his head between his hands and grunted.
“Peter,” Mrs. Holden said softly as she approached the back corner, shooing away a few of the students that had been bothering the teen just a few moments before, “Would you like to step out for a moment? Maybe see the nurse?”
“How’s that sound, Pete? How about the three of us step out for some fresh air? Just you, me, and Fri.” Michelle asked quietly. Peter just sat there with his eyes screwed shut, slightly rocking back and forth.
“Everyone clear a path for us,” Michelle said as she stood, pushing any chairs and desks away from the boy and his dog, “I’m gonna help him outside.”
“Are you sure, Michelle? Perhaps I should call his mother?” Mrs. Holden suggested, concern clear on her face.
“Let’s try this, if it doesn’t help, I’ll take him to the nurse and he'll call his mom from there.” Michelle replied, turning to Friday, “Friday, we’re gonna have to help him up and out. Okay?”
Friday, not being particularly fluent in English just stood and wiggled her butt in excitement from hearing her name. She poked her wet nose to Peter’s chin, attempting to get his attention. When her handler didn’t respond, she tried again. With Friday’s wet nose bumping his chin and cheek followed by her paw lightly swatting at his thigh, Peter slowly opened his eyes to look at her.
With that, he was greeted with a few happy licks to his face. He sputtered the pup slobber from his lips and moved his hands from his ears to her face, moving her head away from his.
“Okay, okay,” Peter giggled, “I hear ya, Fri.”
“Pete,” Michelle said to him, “Do you want to step out for a minute? Or do you think you’ll be okay?”
Peter didn’t respond for a long minute, just took in a deep breath. He focused on one thing, the feeling of Friday’s soft fur between his fingers. It helped him ignore all the eyes staring at him in the classroom.
“Yeah,” Peter said quietly, noticing Friday’s panting hadn’t let up since they’d entered the classroom, “Let’s go.”
“Okay,” Michelle nodded, holding out a hand for Peter. He took her hand and allowed himself to be hoisted upright, with Friday instantly up and by his side.
“I need to give Friday water,” Peter mumbled, grabbing his backpack and throwing it over his shoulder.
“Okay,” Michelle nodded again before turning to Mrs. Holden, “We’ll be back, possibly.”
“Take your time,” Mrs. Holden waved her off, “As long as Peter feels better.”
The teen in question said nothing, just followed Michelle as she led him and Friday outside of the classroom, one hand clutching to the strap on her bag in front of him, and the other having a death grip on Friday’s lead. Michelle opened the door wide open for Peter and Friday to exit. Peter nodded a silent thank you as he walked out into the hallway. The door shut behind them, and it was only a beat of silence before they could hear the muffled sound of Mrs. Holden yelling at their classmates. The pair turned to the closed door in shock, hearing their kind teacher screaming about Inappropriate behavior this and Absolutely shameful that. Michelle and Peter were silent for a few moments before Peter broke into a small chuckle, causing Michelle to turn to him before breaking into her own fit of giggles.
The two shook their heads and walked down the hall to the door that led to the outdoor courtyard. They walked a little further before coming across an unoccupied bench.
“She’s really giving it to them now,” Michelle chuckled. Peter nodded with a laugh, “She’s probably just making it much worse for me if I’m being honest.”
“Yeah,” Michelle sighed as she took a seat on the bench, “She doesn’t seem to have any training with students with disabilities.”
Peter shrugged as he took a seat beside Michelle and commanded Friday to sit in front of him, “She certainly isn’t the first and will absolutely not be the last.”
He dug through his backpack and grabbed a collapsable pink water bowl and his water bottle.
“It’s just not fair,” Michelle replied, “You deserve to be taken care of at school the same way the rest of us are. You have needs that we just don’t have, and they should accommodate that. In a way that isn’t so… infantilizing.”
Peter shrugged again, opening the bowl and pouring water into it before setting it on the floor beside Friday, “Drink up, baby girl.”
Friday happily obliged, loudly slurping down the water.
“I can manage fine,” Peter said honestly, “I have a good enough support system outside of school. Plus, I have Friday… and now I have you… I just feel bad because I doubt I’m the first autistic student she’s ever had. I wonder if the kids before me made it through okay. And the kids after me, if she doesn’t get any better, then…”
“Maybe, it’s like…” Michelle began before sighing, “It’s certainly not your burden to bear, but someone, now, should tell her and the other teachers how to better handle situations like this… with students like you. Then, maybe the disabled students after you will fair much better.”
“Maybe,” Peter shrugged once more, watching Friday finish her water.
“I could do it for you,” Michelle suggested with a casual shrug, “But I’d need to know exactly how you feel about it, about how she treats you and stuff. Like, I’d need to tell her how to be better, and I can’t do that without your invaluable insight.”
Peter nodded along with what his friend said beside him before he shook out the excess water from Friday’s bowl. He collapsed the bowl and shoved it back into his backpack before taking a swig of his water bottle.
“Maybe,” Peter sighed, “I’d want to talk to my moms about it, first. My mommy has always been helpful in helping me understand how I feel sometimes and like… articulating feelings and stuff.”
“Yeah, of course,” Michelle smiled.
“Can we take Friday to the grass to go potty before we go back to class?” Peter asked, sliding his water bottle into its holder on the side of his backpack.
“Sure,” Michelle agreed, “We can stay out here as long as you want, Pete.”
“I think I’m okay now,” Peter replied, “Just wanted some fresh air for a second. Focusing on taking care of Friday’s needs really helps me through stuff. Making sure she drank water helped me calm down a bunch. Plus, the arts and crafts have me intrigued.”
“Yeah,” Michelle nodded, “I even saw some glitter.”
“What?!” Peter exclaimed, “C’mon, Friday! You gotta pee super fast so we can go back!”
Peter shot up from the bench and excitedly led his pup to a patch of grass just a short jog away from the bench they were previously sat on. Michelle chuckled at her friend’s excitement and jogged to catch up. Friday excitedly sniffed the grass and ran in a small circle before looking up at Peter with a puppy smile.
“Go potty, baby girl,” Peter said with the voice Michelle noticed he had reserved specifically for the pup in question. That was all it took for Friday to squat and quickly do her business. Once finished, she did another quick sprint in a small circle before sitting and looking up at Peter expectantly.
“All done?” Peter asked, “Good job!”
“Better hope those low-lives saved us some glitter,” Michelle teased.
“If they didn’t, we’re walking out again,” Peter deadpanned, causing Michelle to laugh. Peter smiled at her as he led the way back to the classroom, his 2 best friends in tow.
that took a while. I know, works like lifeline and my one-offs are taking even longer. But, I just had to suddenly move across state lines from a place I was very happy in, to my toxic hometown. I'm now surrounded by people who don't know the first thing about supporting me and have been either emotionally abusive, neglectful, or both for most of my life. Moving is incredibly stressful, especially to another state (and in the less than 2-week time frame I was given)... but going back to a place I never wanted to live in again, in a house I absolutely dread... it's been extremely difficult. I want to write because it's something I truly enjoy, but I'm in such a bad place mentally and emotionally, I'm not sure how well updating will be. I hate having excuse after excuse, but my life seems to just be getting worse and worse. I really hope you enjoy this chapter of CA. I promise, a new chapter for lifeline is in the works, and I'm working on like 3 one-offs at the same time rn.