The first thing Peter noticed after turning off his alarm was an incoming text.
Ned: you ready for today
Peter hesitated, confusion tugging his expression. Today? What was happening today? He sent back a ? and went to his dresser to find the cleanest shirt possible. His phone buzzed again in seconds.
Ned: you’re just messing with me right
Peter burrowed his brow in confusion. There wasn’t any assignment due today, as far as he knew, nor anything going on with Decathlon. He sent his reply with a huff of irritation; it was too early in the morning for surprise stress.
Peter: what are you talking about? there’s nothing happening today
The gray text bubbles appeared, then disappeared.
Ned: CHEM TEST WORTH 10% OF OUR FINAL SEMESTER GRADE
The red Polo shirt (with only one stain but you could barely see it!) slipped from Peter’s hands. His whole body felt like jelly and he could hear his heartbeat pulsing through his head. That was today? No, it wasn’t until the 14th, right? Maybe Ned was just ahead of the game and mixed up the dates. Peter checked the date on his phone.
Ned: don’t tell me you forgot...
Peter slumped down to his lower bunk and instinctively called Ned. Sure enough, his best friend answered immediately. “Ned! Shit! Oh my God, what am I gonna do?”
“How the hell did you forget?”
“I’ve just had a lot on my mind lately, okay? Patrol’s been crazy, Tony’s got me doing a lot, regionals are coming up. I just...I just forgot, okay?”
“But Cobbwell’s been reminding us every class period. How could you not hear him?” At this point, Ned sounded more confused than anything.
“Well, you see...I kind of haven’t been paying attention. Like at all,” Peter groaned as he recalled his recent mistakes. “I always get inspired in chemistry to design spider tech stuff. I’ve been working on trying to make a webbing that I’m immune to getting stuck in, so uh, yeah. That means I don’t have any of the notes either.”
“Oh that’s easy, just use mine. You’re smart, just cram all day before chem.” Ned may have sounded relaxed, but Peter was far from it.
“I can’t learn a month’s worth of chemistry in three and a half hours!”
“Why not? Just chug some coffee and study. It’s easy; college kids do it all the time.”
“Yeah, and look how happy they are,” Peter bit his nails. “I can’t wing a test this big, not this one.”
“So just...don’t take it?”
Peter lit up. “Ned, you’re a genius!”
“Ever seen Ferris Bueller?”
“Google his master tips and learn from the expert.”
“Expert at what?”
“I’m saying you should pretend to be sick, Peter,” Ned said simply. “Like every kid does at least once in their life.”
“I think an RN would figure that out.”
“So? Just put on your best acting skills and lie to your aunt’s face. How hard can it be?”
“Oh, sorry," Ned thought for a moment. "Just, okay - how about I text you on what to do?”
“This is so wrong.” Peter shook his head, but not to say the idea was off the table.
“It definitely is. But what’s worse: lying to your family or getting a bad grade?”
“You’re not the best at pep talks, you know.”
“Sorry. But you better get started because life moves pretty fast, and if you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Just do what I say and listen to your guy in the chair.”
Peter gulped. He could hear Ned smiling through the phone.
After reading Ned’s paragraph of instructions, Peter got to work. The red Polo along with sweatpants would make it look as if he had tried to get ready but gave up halfway because he felt too bad. He then went to the bathroom and patted his face with a warm wet washcloth to make him sweaty and warm. And for the finishing touch, Peter messed his hair up. Now to find May.
Putting on the most pained expression he could manage, Peter left the bathroom and nearly collided with May in the hall.
“Oh, there you are. I was just about to make sure you were up.” May said without seeming to notice anything, so Peter cleared his throat and spoke up.
“Uh, May? Can I stay home?” Shit. He hadn’t meant for his words to be so blunt, and he mentally kicked himself. Ned had told him to never actually suggest that, that reverse physcology was much more effective. But the damage was done, and Peter hoped his nerves would be perceived as being unwell.
“What’s going on? Are you not feeling good?”
Peter shook his head slowly as May felt his head with a frown. “Oh yeah, you feel a little warm. What’s going on? Did this just come on?”
Symptoms she can’t prove in case the fever doesn’t work. “My head hurts and I feel really achy. I guess it started when I woke up. At least I think, or maybe it started last night when - or - “
“I think it’d be a good idea to see how high your temperature is,” May said, gently cutting off his nervous rambling. “Go back to bed and I’ll see if I can find a thermometer.”
“Okay.” With that, Peter retreated to his room and buried himself in a mountain of blankets to keep his skin feeling warm.
“Of all the places it could be, it was next to the toaster. God, I need to clean this place,” May laughed, coming in and sticking the thermometer in Peter’s mouth. “Now let’s see what’s going on here.”
Hope this works, Ned. Peter removed the thermometer and mumbled, “Hey May, could you get me another blanket? It’s freezing.” Then it will look like you have the chills.
This better not be bullshit. Peter dipped the tip of the thermometer in a glass of hot water hidden under his bed - only he hadn’t exactly meant for the temperature to rise all the way to 102.7. This possibly wouldn't end well because if you get a nervous mother (or aunt), you could wind up in a doctor's office, at least according to Ned. But May was already coming back, so Peter stuck it back in his mouth and hoped for the best. She draped the blanket over him and checked the reading.
“Peter...that’s kinda high for the morning.” May said, looking too concerned beyond Peter’s comfort.
“Uh...maybe it’s because I’m under the blankets so it’s reading higher than it actually is.” Peter really wasn’t good at this faking sick thing. That had defeated the entire point...
Luckily, May paid it little attention. “Hopefully you’re right. I still want to get it down, but none of the medicine here would work.”
“Hey, I’m fine,” Peter said, and just to further ease May’s nerves, added, “I promise I’ll stay in bed all day and sleep.”
“I know you will, it’s just...I just really hate to leave you here alone.”
“May, it’s a fever. It’s not like I’m dying or anything.” Peter gave a small genuine smile, if not out of creeping guilt.
May squeezed Peter’s hand and smiled softly. “Okay. Just please, call me if you need me.”
Peter groaned as the sound of his phone ringing pulled him from his calorimetry problem. “Ned, this better be a life or death situation.”
“It’s not as drastic as that, but we could still use your help.”
Peter straightened up, expression growing worried. “What’s going on? Is everyone okay?”
“We’re fine,” Ned said. “We’re just on code yellow because there was a robbery near the school. It wouldn’t be so bad except Morita won’t let us leave until the guy’s caught, and we really don’t wanna have to be here after school’s supposed to be out. I know you’re technically supposed to be at home, but…”
“I’ll swing over real quick,” Peter said, closing his texthook and suiting up. “Something minor like that shouldn’t take long.”
As expected, Peter caught the robber and turned him in without issue, enjoying Midtown’s appreciation (of getting to leave on time) from beneath the mask. He kept his suit on until he was inside his apartment and took it off -
Only to see Mr. Stark sitting on the couch staring at him.
“Hi Spiderman. How’s the fever doing?” Tony said dryly, expression unreadable.
Peter did a quadruple take. “Uh, great? I mean, not great, but bad. Wait, not too bad for - what, what are you doing here?” He stuttered with a nervous laugh.
“Your Aunt called asking if I could drop off some medicine for you. Before you ask, she told me where you hide your key. So don’t go calling the police that I broke in. I’ve already had my fair share of law enforcement.”
Peter watched with critical eyes as Tony rose from the couch and walked over.
“But let’s address the real issue here. Guess May’s either a liar, you’re a liar, or you patrolled sick. Which is it?”
“I - “
“No, this is where you zip it! Do you have any idea how irresponsible it is to fight with a fever? It seriously messes up your balance, energy, and strength! What on earth were you thinking? You could’ve gotten seriously hurt without anyone knowing or even worse. You’ve got to start thinking about these things!”
“Mr. Stark,” Peter began. “I wasn’t actually sick, okay? I just said that I was to get out of a test. I was gonna study for it, I would’ve! I just kinda, you know, forgot. I know, I know it’s wrong, but please don’t tell May! I’m fine.”
“Oh,” Tony’s expression turned more serious. “But does May know you’re fine? She was really worried when she called, Peter. She was so scared your fever would get too high for her to help with your metabolism.”
Peter studied the hardwood floor. “...’m sorry.”
“Tell that to her when she gets home,” Tony sighed, looking almost apologetic. “Look kid, I try to be cool and all, but lying about your health after neglecting schoolwork isn’t a lie I can support. Especially when you had me worried too.”
“You’re gonna tell her, aren’t you.” Peter’s voice was low.
“Don’t think I’m trying to ruin your life or anything like that. I just want you to realize your actions have consequences - “
“I know that,” Peter grumbled. “I already know.”
“Do you, though? Because it sounds to me you neglected studying and thought you could get out of it by lying.”
“It’s not like I do this all the time! This was my first time - "
“And it better be your last.”
If Quizlet could cuss Peter out, it definitely would have by now. He’d given multiple incorrect answers in a row despite the software’s generic words of encouragement. Tomorrow’s Spanish quiz didn’t look so promising, even though Peter was actually trying to study in advance.
Perhaps it was because he wasn’t feeling all that great.
Peter’s throat had been unnervingly scratchy ever since lunch, not to mention he had hardly been able to stay awake in his last period. He’d then woken up from his after-school nap with a headache, which was only worsened by his constant sniffling. After humiliatingly wiping his nose on his sleeve, Peter decided to just give up and give in.
“Hey May, do we have any tissues?” Peter called from the table. He heard rustling through a kitchen drawer before a small pack was tossed in his direction. While Peter blew his nose for a good minute, May snuck up behind and peeked at his laptop screen.
“Ah, I see what you’re doing.”
“Pete, just take whatever you’re taking tomorrow. If you’re studying now, I’m sure you’ll be fine.” May said with a light laugh.
The events from the previous month washed over Peter. The faking sick, the uncomfortable lecture from Mr. Stark, the two week grounding from the internship (He'd ironically taken the time to watch Ferris Bueller. So that's what Ned had been quoting). Instant regret swarmed his heart. “No, I’m not - it’s not what you think - “
“You’re smarter than you give yourself credit for sometimes,” May said, then changed the subject. “Anyways, what kind of takeout do you want for dinner? Unless you like black casserole.”
Peter shrugged. He oddly hadn’t been hungry ever since lunch, even with his crazy metabolism. “I might just heat up some soup or something.”
“That’s a good idea. I can microwave some soup for us. That doesn’t require culinary skills, right?”
Peter sighed. That had clearly gone over May’s head...
The end is near, Peter thought when he pulled out the last of his tissue pack. To hell with dramatics. He made sure to get good use of his final tissue before tossing it aside with a groan. Not even going to bed early had helped how he felt. His throat had gone from scratchy to sore, nose runny to stuffy, and head hurting to pounding. Ironically, the worst part was that he wasn’t running a fever - that would make getting May to believe him even harder.
Regardless, it was still worth a try. Peter was still sick, fever or not, and he could easily make up the quiz another day. He found May in the kitchen in scrubs and spreading peanut butter on a piece of toast while trying to maintain a coherent phone call.
“There’s no way I can be there in fifteen. I told you, I just woke up,” May said before noticing Peter. “Okay, okay, hang on.”
“You wouldn’t mind if I stayed home, would you? I don’t feel very good.”
“I’ve heard that one before. Just go to school and take your test or quiz. How hard can it be?”
Peter’s eyes grew in raw panic. “For real this time! I really am sick!”
May lazily felt Peter’s head and gave an exasperated sigh. “You feel fine to me.”
“But - “
“Look, Peter, I’m already late. Now go get ready for school before you’re late too,” May said, then turned her attention back to the phone call. “If the subway’s on time, I can be there in…”
Peter was agape. He had known this wouldn’t be easy, but for May to flat out not believe him at all?
This would be a long day...
Throughout the day, Peter went from feeling bad to downright awful.
He’d gotten up at least a dozen times each period to get a tissue, which gave Flash the wonderful idea of calling him ‘Pervert Parker’ (because tissues = masturbation = just utterly hilarious). One class was even out of boxes, forcing Peter to use scratchy toilet paper from the bathroom that left his nose red and painful. Even worse, the cafeteria was freezing cold and putting on his jacket hadn’t helped. Peter was trying to listen to what Ned was saying, he really was, but the fluorescent lights spiking daggers into his eyes were making it difficult to focus.
Peter registered that Ned was awaiting a response and tried to snap out of it. “Sorry, what’d you say?”
“I asked if you were okay.” Ned said, tone more worried than annoyed at Peter’s lack of attention.
“Yeah, sorry,” Peter coughed over his shoulder, making his voice sound even more rough and congested. “What were you saying?”
“Just some Lego shenanigans,” Ned frowned. “Why do you sound sick?”
“Probably because I am? What kind of question is that?”
“Hey man, no need to be all snappy just because karma came back to you.”
“Yeah, and whose idea was that?” Peter grumbled, coughing into his elbow.
“In times of crisis, it’s best not to point fingers,” Ned paused for dramatic effect, then murmured, “Besides, I’m not the one that forgot about his chemistry test.”
“I know, I know,” Peter closed his eyes as an intense bout of chills racked down his spine. “Please tell me you’re cold too.”
“No? It’s actually kinda warm in here.”
“Great,” Peter said. “Guess I do have a fever.”
“Why’d you even come to school? You seem sick-sick, not just like, sick. You know?”
“I never know, Ned. May didn’t believe me.”
“Then go to the nurse. School policy says you need to be fever-free for 24 hours before returning to school so she’ll legally have to send you home. And if she doesn’t, you can sue the school for your college tuition. That is, if you don’t die first.” MJ said, eyes not leaving her book.
Ned lifted an eyebrow. “Are you eavesdropping again?”
MJ put the book down and looked up. “Is it eavesdropping if I’m in the conversation now?”
“I’m talking about before.”
“Who’s to say I wasn’t in it before?”
“The people who were actually in the conversation to start with?”
MJ squinted her eyes with a tilt of the head. “But is that really up to you?”
“Even if I did go to the nurse and she sends me home,” Peter started, becoming the center of attention again. “I can’t pull May away from work. It sounds like she’s in deep shit already.”
“So call Mr. Stark.” Ned suggested, but Peter shook his head.
“He wouldn’t believe me either,” Peter buried his hot face into his hands. “I’ll just suck it up. There’s only two more periods and then Happy’ll pick me up and take me home. I doubt he’ll really care honestly.”
Peter took the rest of the day one period at a time. From what he’d studied, his Spanish quiz had mostly went well, except for the problems four and seven (but he got everything else right, that would put him at an 80%). He could live with a B just this once.
After spending the last period dozing when the teacher wasn’t watching, Peter hurried to the pickup lane -
Only to see Mr. Stark’s car staring at him.
Where are the fucking cameras? Peter thought. This has to be some sort of joke.
Happy would’ve floored it the second he heard “can you take me home.” What a glorious day it would’ve been for Happy.
Tony on the other hand…
Tony rolled the window down. “Hey kid, I was in the area and figured I’d pick you up. Give Happy an extended lunch break because I’m just that generous of a person.”
Peter opened the back door and saw the seat full of boxes. He looked at Tony in confusion.
“Oh yeah. I picked up some orders so you’re sitting in the front. And would you look at that, not even with a booster seat. It’s truly your lucky day.”
Far from it. Peter slumped in the front seat and waited until Midtown was out of sight. “You’re not gonna believe me but can you take me back home?” He mumbled.
“Can you take me home?” Peter said, voice louder and clipped.
“Why? I thought working on suit upgrades with me was your dream come true.”
Peter sighed hoarsely. He was really hoping that Tony would somehow not question it. “Sick.”
Tony huffed out a light laugh. “First school, now this? Next thing I know, you’re gonna be trying to get out of your own life. Tell me, did you try to get out of your own birth too?”
“I know you don’t believe me, but - “
“Are you trying to become an actor instead of a hero?”
“Mr. Stark - “
“Because let me tell you, I think one path is much better for you. I’ll let you take a stab at which one it is.”
“Mr. Stark!” Peter snapped, finally getting Tony’s attention. “Please just take me home! May already made me go to school all day. I know it’s all my stupid fault, but…” He hadn’t meant for his voice to crack, but he guessed the fever was messing with his mind.
“Woah, kid,” Tony stopped smiling, putting on the turn signal to pull over. “What’s going on?”
“I just said it all. So can you just take me home?” Peter looked down, ashamed, but Tony nudged him to look up.
“Pete? Can you look at me?” Tony cupped a hand on Peter’s forehead. He didn’t even need FRIDAY to tell that Peter was running a fever. Even without FRIDAY, Tony could tell Peter was running a fever. “May made you go to school?”
“She thought I was faking to get out of a Spanish quiz, which, I mean, I don’t blame her,” Peter said, slipping his eyes shut. “I’m sorry for snapping at you.”
“Nah, I deserved it,” Peter could have sworn there was a hint of sympathy in Tony’s voice. “You’d think being grounded for two weeks would’ve been enough punishment. Guess the universe just hates you.”
Tony put the car in drive. “I’m gonna take you home, where you should be, and I won’t call you for any work this weekend so you can rest. Don’t worry about May, there’s no way she won’t believe you’re sick at this point.”
They fell silent for a moment, then Peter looked up. “Mr. Stark?”
“Ferris Bueller should’ve included a warning.”