Dear Card Dealer of Life,
I feel like there is something sketchy happening within your system. You see, for whatever the reason, I keep getting handed the crappy cards. Maybe it’s just a bad hand this round. Maybe next time I play, I’ll be lucky.
The thing is, though, too many bad things have happened for it all to be a coincidence. Here’s just a basic list of things that have happened to me in my short 15 years of living:
- My parents are killed in a plane crash
- Uncle Ben is killed in the Battle of New York (in which literal aliens fly out of a giant wormhole in the sky).
- I got bit by a radioactive spider and gain super powers (this is not necessarily a bad thing)
- Aunt May is shot and killed in a mugging gone wrong.
I hope you can see how this all is just a little too much. So, if you could very kindly back the fuck off, I’d appreciate it.
Peter Benjamin Parker.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It’s public knowledge - for anyone who bothers to look it up - that Peter Parker has had a tragedy filled life. He has been orphaned twice now, and he’s barely 15. Like, his birthday was not even 10 days ago. He’s not sure what he did to piss off the universe so much, but he’s sorry, okay?
For a 15 year old, he can (and has) survived a lot. When May died, Peter went into the foster care system. The first family he went to was very kind, but two weeks into the arrangement, the mom’s job moved them across the country, and Peter wasn’t allowed to go with them. He just hoped the next foster home was good.
As the car pulled up to the small house, his spidey sense started buzzing. It was a soft hum at first, but the closer he got to the door, the louder it got. Peter nearly doubled over in pain when the door to the house opened. He felt like he was being electrocuted on the inside. His spidey sense was screaming, but not like an ‘ah, I’m scared’ scream, it felt more manic, like a patient in a psych ward who didn’t take their meds.
Mrs. Gunther, Peter’s social worker, introduced the teen to the man standing in the doorway. “Steven Westcott, but you can call me Skip.” The man had a large crooked smile plastered on his face - his yellow stained teeth on display. If Mrs. Gunther saw through the large man’s facade, she didn’t say anything. In fact, she didn’t say anything else to either of them before pulling Peter’s duffel bag out of the trunk of the car, placing it on the ground by Peter’s feet, and leaving.
Once the social workers car had turned the corner, Skip dropped his act. His eyes scanned over Peter’s body, up and down several times, before promptly turning on his heel and marching inside the house. When Peter didn’t follow, Skip grabbed his arm, and dragged him inside the house. The door hadn’t fully closed before the older man slapped the teenager across the face. He pinched Peter’s cheeks tightly between his thumb and forefinger, pulling his face closer to his. “You get in my way, and I will kill you.” The strong scent of alcohol, assaulted Peter’s sensitive nose, almost making him gag. “You are just my paycheck. I can always replace you with someone else.”
There is a lot that Peter Parker can handle, but in just two weeks, Skip had broken him. Between the daily (sometimes twice daily) beatings and restricted food (meaning he was only given one PB&J sandwich everyday) Peter was already close to his breaking point.
Then Skip had to come into his room one night.
After that, Peter left.
He packed a few items into his duffel bag (Including the blanket from his bed, because he’s not an idiot. He knows it gets cold at night.) and left.
Okay, he also may have stolen the cash from Skip’s wallet, but in his mind it was the least the man could do after he had stolen Peter’s childhood from him.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Peter Parker has been living on his own - as a homeless runaway - for a month. He is currently “living” in an abandoned apartment building. It’s only temporary. There’s a risk that comes from staying in one place too long, and it’s not one Peter is willing to take.
Since leaving, Peter’s had to stop going to school. He went to school the first day after he ran away, but was called to the principal's office during his second period class. Ned had given him a weird look, but Peter shrugged his shoulders, trying to hide his panic. He doesn’t know if it was his spidey sense that helped him out or just a gut feeling (would they be counted as the same thing?), but Peter knew something bad was going to happen.
When he walked into the office, Principal Morita was sitting behind his desk. In front of him was Mrs. Gunther and Skip. All of them wearing an expression filled with worry - although Skip’s worrying was for a different reason. One look at the adults in front of him, and Peter was sprinting out the door. He ignored their calls for him to stop. There was nothing - NOTHING - that was going to make him willingly go back to Skip’s house. Or foster care for that matter.
So he stopped going to school. No biggie. He is a genius after all.
Going out as Spider-Man - while still his favorite thing - was becoming harder to do. He just didn’t have the energy to fight criminals. His reflexes were slowing, his spidey sense had stopped working, and his healing wasn’t enhanced anymore. But, if anything, Peter is determined to do the right thing - even if it means possibly getting himself killed. Quitting on being Spider-Man isn’t an option.
As for food, he still wasn’t eating enough. He wasn’t even close to eating enough, but he was eating more than he had with Skip. You’d be surprised how many people want to buy Spider-Man food as a way of showing gratitude. An innocent comment here or there about figuring out what to eat for dinner, and BOOM! Someone buys you a hotdog. For the days people don’t feed Spider-Man, Peter resorts to...well, to less than legal ways of obtaining food. He doesn’t feel good about sneaking into the back of restaurants and taking a plateful of soon-to-be thrown away food. He only takes what other people didn’t finish, but still, he feels guilty.
Things aren’t perfect. It’s actually really far from perfect. But, Peter is managing it.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Peter once dreamt of meeting the Avengers. They’re literal superheroes - who wouldn’t want to meet them? As a kid, he would run around his room pretending to fight bad guys. He would imagine fighting alongside the Avengers. In his mind, he would save the day and his heroes would tell him how good he was or ask him to be an Avenger with them.
The Battle of New York changed that for Peter.
The Parker family - Uncle Ben, Aunt May, and Peter - went out to get ice cream to celebrate the end of school. Peter had finished his first year of middle school with straight A’s. (Well, actually, straight 100’s in all his classes - to be more specific. The course work really was too easy for him.)
In the middle of Manhattan, there is a small hole-in-the-wall ice cream parlor, that serves the best banana splits. It’s where Ben took May on their first date. “Parker family tradition states that any and all special occasions are to be celebrated here.”, according to Ben.
Thanks to a giant fucking wormhole in the sky, their nice afternoon was interrupted. There was so much screaming as people fought their way towards safety. Pieces of rubble and glass rained down on those running through the streets. Ben was holding Peter in his arms, protecting the boys head and face against his shoulder. They were almost to the large shopping mall - where police were ushering people inside - when May heard a baby crying from one of the half crushed cars. Ben handed Peter to May with the instruction to get inside while he helped the baby. Peter and May watched as Ben broke the window and pulled the baby out safely.
He was less than twenty feet from the door, a smile on his face as he held the baby. No one noticed the ground shaking and cracking until it was too late. The last thing Peter saw was his uncle’s bright eyes looking at him before the ground beneath him collapsed in on itself.
According to scientist, the energy that came from the device that created the wormhole, caused the sinkhole to open.
So, as was mentioned, Peter Parker used to want to meet the Avengers. But now? He really didn’t want to.
For a month following Ben’s death, Peter blamed the Avengers. If it weren’t for them, the aliens wouldn’t have attacked. Plain and simple, right? Right?
May, did not share the same sentiment as her nephew. The aliens would have attacked with or without the Avengers. It’s not like they purposefully waited for a group of superheroes to be formed before deciding to take over the world. Things would be much different if the heroes hadn’t jumped in to save the day.
Peter could accept that reasoning. So no, he didn’t blame the Avengers anymore, but that didn’t mean he was eager to meet them. They were a reminder of how his uncle died. The Avengers had saved millions of people that day, it just so happens uncle Ben was not one of those people.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Patrol that night was rough. It seemed every mugger had decided to bring a knife to the fist fight. Which meant Peter was covered in nicks and cuts, but one guy had succeeded in stabbing the young vigilante.
Peter climbed to the top of a tall building, not paying attention to what building it was. The wound on his side was tugging with every movement. When he reached the top, he laid down on the ledge, taking a minute to catch his breath. Peter knew he needed to take care of the bleeding hole in his side, but he was feeling kind of sleepy. His eyes kept slipping closed as his mind was fading in and out of consciousness.
“Give me one good reason I shouldn’t blast you off my roof right now.” Peter’s eyes shot open and he jolted upright. Hovering a few feet away from him was Iron Man, arms extended, looking ready to shoot. In his hurry to stand, Peter forgot about his stab wound and stumbled when a sharp pain reminded him, sending him to his knees. He couldn’t stop the anguished groan that sounded in his throat.
“Whoa, whoa. There’s no bleeding out on my roof.” Iron Man said, landing on the floor next to Peter. He reached a hand out to grab the boys arm, but Peter flinched, putting a few feet between them again.
“No.” Peter shook his head, making black spots appear in his vision. “No, stay back. I-I don’t need your h-help.”
“The blood stained suit says differently.” Peter kept shaking his head. The realization that Iron Man was talking to him was setting in. He could feel his breathing getting shallow as his panic increased. “Let me at least get you to the ground. Like I said, there’s no bleeding out on my roof.”
That’s what Peter did. He ran to the edge of the building and jumped off. His side was screaming at him, but he didn’t care. The only thing on his mind was to get as far away from the Avengers as possible.
Peter could hear the sound of Iron Man’s repulsors behind him, but he didn’t dare look back. If he looked back, he knew his panic attack would return and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to fight it off again. He felt himself slowing with each web he shot, exhaustion was taking over the adrenaline.
Factoring in the agonizing pain, blood loss, panic attack, malnutrition, and lack of sleep, Peter swung further than what should have been possible. He was only three blocks from his shelter when he blacked out.
Ahh! I'm so happy you all are enjoying this story! I've been having so much fun writing it!
Thank you for the comments and kudos! I seriously get so excited when I see I have a message in my inbox. I love your feedback so so much! As I've said before, hearing from the people reading my story and knowing that they are liking what i'm writing means the world to me and makes me want to keep going.
Seriously, any comments, questions, corrections to writing errors, ect. are appreciated!
I'm sorry about the slight cliffhanger from the first chapter. Actually, I'm not all that sorry, but you know..it seemed like the right thing to say.
Anyway.. here's chapter 2!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Peter woke up to the sound of beeping.
When he opened his eyes, the brightness of the lights above him burned, causing his eyelids to snap shut again.
“FRIDAY, dim the lights.” The memories of what happened came flooding back as Peter opened his eyes again at the familiar voice. The lights in the room had been dimmed, so Peter could see what was around him. He was in a bed, in what looked like a hospital room. Sitting on a hard plastic chair at the foot of his bed, was Tony Stark. The man was wearing tinted sunglasses and a slightly wrinkled suit. His dark brown hair looked a little more disheveled from what it did in pictures. His eyes were narrowed and his lips were pursed, but there was still a softness hidden in his features.
“Welcome back to the land of the living, Spider-Man.” He said, arms crossed firmly across his chest. “Or should I say, Peter Parker?”
Peter’s heart thudded in his chest, his eyes widening, and his hands lifting to his face to reveal his mask was missing. In fact, his entire Spider-Man suit was missing, seeing how he was only wearing a hospital gown.
“Don’t worry. I’m the only one who knows.” Tony was probably trying to calm the boys nerves, but this only made Peter panic more. “You passed out fifty feet in the air. I brought you to my Med bay at the tower. I had to cut your suit off to get to the source of all the blood and I wasn’t sure if you could breathe properly in the mask, so I took it off too. You wanna fill me in on how you got that nasty cut on your side? Oh, and while you’re at it, tell me why a 15 year old runaway is prancing around the city in a onesie acting like a superhero.”
The tone with which Tony asked him questions, caused Peter to curl in on himself. He felt so small at that moment.
He was so weak.
A waste of space.
Peter shook his head as the insults Skip used to throw at him echoed in his head. He looked up to see Mr. Stark looking at him expectantly. “I..uh..I- I was stabbed.” He winced as the words fell out of his mouth. Of course he would start with that.
Mr. Stark’s eyes widened at the revelation. “I’m sorry, did you say you were stabbed?” The billionaire shouted.
Tears pricked his eyes at the familiarity of being yelled at. His body cowering instinctively, preparing to be hurt. If this were Skip, he wouldn’t like to be left unanswered, so Peter forced out a reply. “Y-yes sir.”
The older man noticed the way the kid was physically closing himself off and the fact that he refused to look up from his lap. Tony had never even met the kid before, why was he feeling the need to protect him? “Shit. Sorry kid, I didn’t mean to yell. Keep going.” Did Tony Stark just apologize? He pushed aside his thoughts to listen as the kid opened his mouth to speak again.
“I g-got bit by a r-radioactive spider a-and got powers. I couldn’t just sit back while b-bad things were happening.”
Well shit. Tony wasn’t expecting that answer. He really just thought the guy in the suit was crazy - not unlike himself. “Okay. I have so many more questions about that, but there’s more to my question you didn’t answer. After FRIDAY, my A.I, scanned you, she found a missing persons report with your face and name on it. Why’d you run away from your family?”
Peter took a deep breath, trying to steady his voice so he didn’t stutter through his answer. He was starting to get annoyed that Mr. Stark thought he had the right to ask these questions. “I would have thought that someone as smart as you would have looked up my past. You see, Mr. Stark, I don’t have a family.”
“I did look into your past. I know about your family. What I should have said was why did you run away from your foster home?” Tony replied, not letting the boys harsh tone deter him from getting the information.
“That’s not really any of your business.”
“It may not be my business, but I can call the people whose business it is and let them deal with you if you’d prefer.”
The threat of having social services called, had Peter jumping out of the bed. He ripped the IV from the back of his hand and pulled the heart monitor wires from his chest. Tony just sat watching, looking a little bored (and maybe a little curious). When Peter made his way towards the door he finally spoke. “FRIDAY, lock down the Med bay.”
“Affirmative Boss. The Med bay is on lock down.” A smooth voice spoke.
It didn’t stop Peter from trying to open the doors. After a minute of trying, Peter turned his back toward the door, sliding down against it to sit on the floor. He cradled his head in his hands as he fought off a panic attack.
“Boss, it seems Mr. Parker is having a major panic attack.” The same voice as before spoke.
Tony was by Peter’s side in a few short strides. “Hey, kid. You need to breathe, okay? You’re safe. You are okay. Just take a couple deep breaths for me.” Tony repeated this mantra for several minutes while Peter calmed down and caught his breath.
“I’m so sorry.” The kid whispered, his head still in his hands.
“It’s no problem kid. You can’t control when you have a panic attack.” The man knew from personal experiences that panic attacks could sneak up on you when you least expect it. He wasn’t going to let the teenager apologize for having one.
They both sat on the floor for several minutes. Tony still had a million questions roaming through his mind, but he didn’t want to spook the kid any more than he already had. Surprisingly, Peter was the one who broke the silence. “I just couldn’t stay there anymore. I had to leave.”
Tony knew what the kid was talking about, but the way Peter was holding himself and how he flinched every time Tony got too close, had him wondering if Peter had been in an abusive foster home. “Did he hurt you?”
His heart dropped when Peter nodded his head. Someone had hurt this kid.
Again, Tony was slightly taken aback by how protective he was feeling over this kid he just met. He didn’t know anything about him, but something in him wanted to protect the teen from the world.
“He would beat me. Sometimes he would just hit me and other times he’d kick me until I passed out. He threw me down the stairs once.” Peter didn’t know why he was telling Tony Stark about the abusive things Skip would do to him, but he felt like he could trust the man. “And..and he t-the last n-night, h-he, he…” As much as he felt he could trust the man, Peter couldn’t bring himself to admit to another person the horrible thing Skip had done.
He might not have said it out loud, but Tony got the message loud and clear. The stupid fucker had raped his kid.
No. Not his kid. The kid.
As much as Tony wanted to get in a suit put the asshole who hurt Peter six feet under, he didn’t want to leave the kids side. In an action that was the complete opposite of what Tony was used to, he slowly reached his arm over the boys shoulders. When Peter relaxed and leaned into his touch, Tony pulled him closer into his chest. He had one hand running through the brown curls that flopped messily on the teenagers head.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Neither one of them is sure how long they sat there - both of them having dozed off a little. Peter was surprised that he was able to sleep with someone else in the same room as him. Even when he was just by himself, he could barely sleep for fear of something bad happening.
When Tony woke up, he instantly regretted staying on the floor for so long. He stood up, his joints popping and aching, and faced Peter, who had moved to the hospital bed. The kid looked so young with his big doe eyes and messy hair. It was then that Tony took in how skinny Peter was. Just his face alone, showed that this kid was starving.
Mentally kicking himself for not seeing it sooner - especially when he had taken the Spider-Man suit off and stitched up the stab wound - Tony knew what needed to happen next, before getting to the important things. “You need to eat kid.”
Peter looked up at him, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“What I mean, is that you are looking more like a skeleton than an actual person. When’s the last time you had a good meal? You know what, forget I asked that. You still need to eat.” Tony said with a finality to his voice. Peter wasn’t going to fight it, he was incredibly hungry. “What do you like? We can order in or we can try to find something in the kitchen for you to eat.”
“I’m not a picky eater, whatever you would like Mr. Stark.” Peter answered. His worries that he was burdening the man started to take over his thoughts. “Or, you don’t have to feed me. I shouldn’t ask you to do that for me. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude.”
“Whoa, Pete.” Tony stopped the kid before he could spiral too much. “First of all, you didn’t ask, I offered and I won’t take no for an answer. Second, how do you feel about Thai food?”
Peter smiled at the thought of aunt May. She really loved Thai food. “Thai is great.”
“Thai it is!” Tony turned on his heel towards the door, motioning Peter to follow him. They walked through the halls, Peter following Tony like a duckling following its mother. “Oh, I noticed that some of your smaller cuts had healed quickly, so I’m assuming, along with the enhanced healing factor, you also have an enhanced metabolism?”
“Yes, sir.” Peter answered, curious about how Mr. Stark came to that conclusion.
“Which means you need to eat more than most people, yeah?” After a nod from Peter, Mr. Stark continued - looking toward the ceiling, at nothing in particular. “FRIDAY, did you hear that? Will you add more to the Thai order? Go with a Steve sized order.”
“You don’t have to do that Mr. Stark. I don’t need much.” Peter tried to stop the man from spending money on him. He already felt guilty that he had taken up the billionaires time. Tony Stark is a busy man, he doesn’t have time for a hungry teenager.
Tony rolled his eyes and huffed a small laugh. “Yeah, sure. And I don’t need water to live.” He replied sarcastically. “Seriously though, you need to be eating enough. It’s obvious you haven’t been eating much. That’s not good for your health.”
“Why do you care? You don’t even know me.” Peter asked hesitantly. He wasn’t being rude or snappy. He was just curious. Outside of his family, no one had ever cared this much about him.
Running a hand through his hair, Tony tried to figure out the answer to the question. He didn’t know why he cared about the kid as much as he did. It was just part of the stupid protective feeling he was experiencing. He let out a long sigh, hoping to buy himself some time before answering truthfully. “Honestly kid? I don’t know. I keep asking myself that same question, but I just know that I want to help you.”
There was a moment where both of them stood quiet, neither looking at the other. It wasn’t until the elevator doors opened to reveal the large penthouse that Peter asked the next question that had been bugging him. “Are you going to call social services?”
This had Tony turning to face Peter. “Do you want me to?”
“No.” Peter answered quickly, the plea for Tony to accept his answer evident in the kids' eyes.
“I do have to call them.” When Peter’s eyes widened, Tony quickly finished his thought before the kid could try to run again. “It won’t be for them to take you back, though. God, I don’t know why I’m saying this - we barely know each other, but you can stay here kid. That is, if you want.”
“What? Wait, seriously?” Peter was shocked. Every scenario that his mind had run through about what would happen after Mr. Stark fed him, ended with the man never wanting to see him again.
“Well, yeah. Like I said earlier kid, I don’t know why, but I can’t let anything happen to you. And the only way I can ensure that is by keeping you close. It makes sense if you think about it. You need a place to live with someone to take care of you and make sure you’re eating and I have the space and means to do so.” Tony said, trying (and failing) to sound nonchalant about his offer.
“Okay.” The kid said, a big smile on his face. His eyes were shining brightly, and for the first time in two months, Peter felt hopeful.
Welcome to the end.....
of the chapter.
Not the story..
I just wanted to note that I know that some things progress unrealistically fast - like Tony and Peter's relationship - but that's just how this story goes...
So once again, Thank you for reading!
Thank you all for the positive feedback! I love it so so much!
I'm thinking I might post two chapters tomorrow, depending on how much writing time I get in. I really just want to get this all out there for you all as fast as possible, but I also have to make sure I'm delivering decent quality work.
I'll warn you all now, there are 100% legal inaccuracies in this chapter. I'm not a lawyer so I just made up things that allowed my story to progress smoothishly. Please don't hate me for the not so subtle coincidences.
I don't really edit before I post (I just let google docs tell me if I'm wrong), so if any of you see a typo, grammar error, or confusingly written sentence, let me know so I can fix it!
I am so happy that I'm able to share this story with you all and I'm glad you are enjoying it so far!
Thank you to those people who have commented or left a kudos for me. It really brightens my mood.
Any kudos, comments, feedback, suggestions, or ideas are always welcomed and greatly appreciated!
Here is chapter 3! Enjoy...
It had only been two days since Peter met Tony Stark. He doesn’t remember the first day - him being unconscious and all. But the previous night, after eating Thai, they had a long conversation where Peter answered all of Tony’s questions about his powers and how he obtained them. Around 2am - after FRIDAY had made them aware of the time - they put their conversation on hold in favor of going to sleep.
Peter was exhausted. He followed Mr. Stark through the penthouse, gawking at the fancy (and no doubt expensive) design. They walked down a hallway that had a large window acting as a wall. On the opposite side of the window was a wall made up of bookcases and shelves. There were thousands of books - along with all sorts of knick knacks - filling up the shelves.
He was so focused on the items lining the wall, Peter almost ran into Tony when the man stopped. “There are two guest rooms, you can pick either one; They both have a queen bed, desk, sitting area, walk-in closet, and en suite bathroom.” He said motioning to two of the three doors in the hallway. “And the last room is mine.”
There was a time when Peter would have wanted the room furthest from an adult, but this was not that time. “I’ll, uh, use this one. Thank you Mr. Stark.” Peter said, motioning towards the second door on the right.
“Kid, call me Tony. Mr. Stark makes me feel old.” The billionaire laughed a little as he opened the door to the room Peter chose.
The room was bigger than the teen expected. “Wow.” He whispered breathlessly. Everything looked so pristine and expensive; Peter was worried he might break something or mess it up.
Tony chuckled softly at the kids wide eyes. Peter really did look like a kid at that moment. His bright eyes, round face, and the small dimples on his cheeks reminding Tony of how young the vigilante really is. Another wave of protective feelings washed over the man, deepening his need to help the boy.
“Mr. Stark? I-I mean, Tony?” Peter winced at the name. Calling him Tony just didn’t feel right. “Are you alright?”
Peter was looking at him cautiously. How long had he zoned out? “Yeah, yeah. I’m going to get you a pair of pajamas for tonight.” Tony left the room, hoping that if he took a minute to himself he’s be able to figure out why he was feeling protective of some random kid he’d only known for a day.
Grabbing the first pair of pajamas he could find, Tony went back to the room Peter was in, only to find the boy sleeping on top of the blankets. “Kid. You should probably change first.” He said, shaking the boys shoulder a little.
The only sound that came from Peter was an unintelligible mumbling as he sat up, blinking his eyes slowly. When he reached out his hand, Tony passed the pajamas. “Alright, Pete. Change first. Then sleep. You can ask FRIDAY if you need anything. Good night bud.”
“Good night Mr. Stark.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The next morning, after a large breakfast, Tony sent Peter off to get dressed in the clothes he had FRIDAY order online the night before. FRIDAY had only ordered a few basic items to last the kid a couple days until he’d be able to pick out clothes for himself. Peter came back out in a plain dark blue t-shirt, some khaki pants, and a gray jacket. His hair looked like he had tried to tame it, but was still the same mess of curls.
It was shortly after that, that they hopped in one of Tony’s many cars, and headed downtown to the ‘Child Protective Services of New York’ office. Peter had never felt so nervous. He couldn’t stop his leg from bouncing and he could tell it was annoying Mr. Stark. All he could think of all was the things that could go wrong. ‘What if they didn’t let Mr.Stark foster him? What if they arrested Peter because he ran away? What if they send him back to Skip?’
“Kid, I think at this point everyone within a five mile radius can feel the nerves coming off of you.” Mr.Stark turned to face him, a hand resting on the boys shoulder. “You have nothing to be worried about. You’re with me, okay? I won’t let anything happen to you.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As soon as Mr. Stark told the receptionist that Peter was with him, the office erupted into complete chaos. Peter and Tony were separated, each being taken to a different room to answer questions. Mrs. Gunther was called in since she’s still Peter’s Social Worker. They asked him question after question; most of which were about where he had gone. When someone finally asked why he had left, Peter stopped answering.
He knew he needed to tell them about Skip and what the man had done to him, but it was hard to get the words out. The fear that they wouldn’t believe him was what kept his head down and mouth shut. It hadn’t been this hard to tell Mr. Stark. Then again, Mr. Stark wasn’t the one who sent him to live with Skip in the first place.
Okay, so maybe Peter partially blamed CPS for what Skip had done to him. They just dropped him off and left him to fend for himself. Wasn’t someone supposed to stop by for a wellness check during the first week or two to see how he was adjusting to his new living situation? He knew it wasn’t fair to be angry with them, but he was and he wasn’t eager to forgive them yet.
They gave up on getting answers out of the teen after he refused to speak for more than ten minutes. Instead, they moved their line of question to the man who brought the kid in.
“Mr. Stark, thank you for bringing Peter in. We just have a few questions for you before you’re free to go.” A short woman with large round glasses - Megan Freeman according to the name tag pinned to her shirt - took the seat across from where Tony was sitting. She had a stack of papers that she placed in front of herself, the top page covered in handwritten notes.
Tony was not one to be nervous, but he couldn’t stop the hammering of his heart. The kids' nerves must be contagious or something. He tried to keep his face neutral, not wanting to show just how much he cared about Peter. “Well, I figured it’s best to go about this legally.” He winced as his attempt at making light of the situation fell flat. “I, uh, I mean, I just want to make sure Peter is taken care of.”
The woman scribbled a couple notes, then looked up at Tony, pushing her glasses further up her nose. “Yes, we are all happy Peter is no longer missing. Speaking of, how did you and Peter meet?”
“Peter was asleep on a bench outside of my tower. He looked cold and hungry so I invited him to warm up. I had my A.I search public records of him since he looked so young. When I learned he was a runaway, I knew I had to bring him back.” Tony tried not to cower under the scrutinizing glare from the social worker. He and Peter had come up with a story for how they met. They didn’t want to stray too far from the truth, but for obvious reasons they had to tweak it a little.
“Hmm. Do you often invite strange children into your house?” The implications that came with that question were loud and clear.
“What? No!” Tony blanched. He had to take a few calming breaths before schooling his features, looking the woman straight in the eye so she couldn’t misinterpret his words. “I don’t usually invite anyone into my penthouse, but like I said, Peter looked so young. He looked lost and despite what the media would have you think, I’m not heartless. I just wanted to help, so I invited him in to get out of the cold and eat a meal.”
The woman wrote a few more notes as the minutes passed in silence. “I believe you.” She finally said, looking up to show Tony she meant it. “Did Peter happen to tell you why he left his foster home? He shut down when we asked him about it.”
“He did tell me.” Tony growled. His eyes darkened and his nose flared as the anger he felt towards Skip surfaced. “His foster parent, the one you all abandoned him with, had been abusing him. Peter said the man would beat him once - sometimes twice - daily. The man practically starved him, only giving him one PB&J sandwich everyday. But what made the kid finally decide to leave was after this Skip guy raped him.”
There was no note taking this time. The social worker stared at Tony, eyes wide and mouth slightly hanging open. Tony felt a little pleasure at the guilty look on her face. She didn’t say anything as she got out of her chair and opened the door. “Claudia, I need you to call in law enforcement. Tell them that they need to bring in Steven Westcott on charges of child molestation.”
A voice from someone - presumably Claudia - outside of Tony’s view gave a confirmation that she would do what was asked. Megan, the one who had been questioning Tony, looked back at him for a moment, looking as if she were having an internal debate about what to do next. “Mr. Stark, we will need you to stay here to answer more questions from the NYPD. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I am very sorry to hear that we failed to keep one of our kids safe.” She turned to leave, but Tony called out to her.
“Wait, I-I want to talk to someone about becoming Peter’s new f-foster parent.” He didn’t mean to stutter, but his nerves had come back at that moment.
“Y-you want to be Peter’s foster parent?” It was Megan's turn to stutter.
Tony huffed a little to himself. Was it so hard to believe that Tony Stark could care about someone? I mean, he’s engaged to Pepper, so you’d think people would get that he wasn’t heartless by now. “Yes. I want Peter to stay with me. I can call my lawyers to draw up the paperwork if necessary.”
“Let me talk to my superiors, but I don’t think it would hurt to call your lawyers.” She wore a small smile as she turned again to leave the room.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
By the time NYPD finished their line of questioning - ending with Skip confessing to the abuse and being led away in handcuffs - it was almost 4pm. They let Tony sit with Peter while the teen answered the officer’s questions. Peter had refused to speak unless Mr. Stark was in the same room as him. The older man just makes him feel safe.
Once Skip was gone, the air in the office felt breathable again. Tony, Peter, a couple social workers, a judge, and three of Tony’s lawyers all gathered in a conference room to talk about what would happen next.
“Mr. Stark, I understand you want to take in Peter. Is that correct?” The judge asked.
“Yes. I would like to be his new foster parent.”
The judge nodded his head, a regretful look on his face. “I understand. Unfortunately, with the proceedings that have just taken place, Mr. Parker’s social workers and myself are a little weary placing him in another foster home, no matter how well known the foster parent is. Since he is only 15, our plan is to keep him in the state orphanage until he is 16, where he can then move to a group home.”
“No! I want to go with Mr. Stark.” Peter started to argue, but the judge just shook his head.
“What about adoption?” Tony blurted. Everyone in the room slowly turned to face the billionaire. He hadn’t really thought about what he was saying before he suggested it, but he didn’t regret it. “What if I adopt Peter?”
“I don’t know if that really changes anything, Mr. Stark.”
“Actually,” One of Tony’s lawyers spoke, “So long as Mr. Stark passes all of the State adoption requirements, you have no authority to prohibit the adoption.”
The judge sighed, rubbing his temples as if to alleviate a headache. “Alright. Peter? What do you think? Would you like to be adopted by Mr. Stark?”
Adoption? Peter hadn’t thought that was even an option, but now - within a two minute period - he was being asked if Tony freaking Stark could adopt him? Yes! The answer is 100 percent yes! Why wasn’t he freaking out more? He should be freaking out, right? That’s what you do when you’re being adopted by someone you barely know. Right? “Yes. I-I, um, yeah, I’d be okay with that.”
“Are you sure Mr. Parker? This is your choice, you don’t have to say yes if you are uncomfortable with it. You can also think about it for a couple days if you need to.” Mrs. Gunther was searching for any sign of hesitation from the boy. It was obvious she felt bad about leaving him with Skip. She didn’t want something like that to happen again.
“Yes, I'm sure. I would like it if Mr. Stark adopted me.” Peter was smiling at Tony with a hopeful look in his eyes. The man made him feel safe, protected, and wanted. Well, at least Peter hoped that Mr. Stark really did want him. Not for Spider-Man (because that would make sense too if Mr. Stark was only adopting him for his alter ego.), but for Peter Parker.
Tony had to fight really hard to keep from crying out of pure happiness. The kid said yes. The kid wanted to be in his life, just as much as Tony wanted to be in his. He was going to adopt!
He was going to adopt.
He needs to talk to Pepper. She should probably know that Tony now has a kid. She is marrying him after all. He really should have talked to her sooner. With Pepper being in Hong Kong visiting the business offices there, they don’t really get much time to talk due to time zone differences.
Eh, he’ll talk to Pepper later. For now, he needs to focus on the fact that he is going to be a parent.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It didn’t take long for the paperwork to be filled out, background check to be run, and the judge to officially approve the adoption - thanks to his lawyers (and FRIDAY) for expediting the process. When they finally were able to leave the CPS office, it was almost 10pm. Neither of them had eaten since breakfast. Tony mentally kicked himself for not thinking about Peter's need to eat. Like, the kid can’t be skipping meals.
“Well, shit.” Tony laughed as they settled into the car. “I have a kid.”
Peter snorted at Tony’s statement. “Did you not realize that when you were adopting me it would end with you becoming a parent?”
Tony swatted at the kid’s arm lightly, then ruffling his hair when missed. Peter’s indignant squeak only made the older man want to keep doing it. “Alright, alright.” Tony put his hands up in surrender. “We need to celebrate. You hungry? Of course you’re hungry. That was a dumb question.”
“I could eat.” Peter shrugged his shoulders as he attempted to fix his messed up hair. It was a lost cause though. His hair just didn’t want to cooperate. He’d have to settle for it being messy. It’s not like anyone beside Mr. Stark was going to see him. Unless Mr. Stark planned on taking him to a sit down restaurant to celebrate. Would someone see them together? Would they take pictures? Peter really didn’t want people to take pictures of him.
“What’s going through that head of yours?” Tony could see the panicked look in Peter’s eyes and figured it was probably best to stop the kid before he sent himself spiraling. “I can see the smoke coming through your ears.”
“Oh, um, I was just curious about where we were going to go for dinner. I wasn’t sure if we were going to go out or not.” Peter didn’t want to cause any problems. He’d only been adopted for less than an hour and already felt like he was being a burden.
The connection clicked in Tony’s head as he read between the lines of what Peter was trying to say. So he offered him an easy out. “Well, I was thinking we could get some take out on our way back to the tower and then maybe watch a movie or something.”
Peter breathed a sigh of relief. “Yeah! Okay, that sounds great!” He was eternally grateful the man didn’t want to eat at a restaurant.
“Perfect! What are your thoughts on Italian food?”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Tony and Peter got back to the tower with five take out bags full of food. After some difficulty choosing what to eat, Tony compromised and bought one of everything on the menu. He laughed a little to himself as he remembered the distressed noise that came from Peter when the total bill came out to over 200 dollars. He understood where Peter was coming from - the kid didn’t have much growing up - but he was a billionaire; spending 200 dollars on a meal for two wasn’t that bad.
They settled the bags on the counter; Tony pulled out plates for the to use and Peter unloaded the food. “I was thinking that tomorrow we could do some online shopping for clothes and other things for your room.”
Peter chewed through the bite he just took, swallowing it faster than he probably should have. “You’ve already bought me clothes, Mr. Stark. And I have everything I need in my room. You really don’t have to spend money on me.”
“You still need more clothes. A handful of shirts and pants isn’t enough. As for your room, it’s bland and generic right now. You can personalize it however you want; posters, bedding, games, anything you want.” Tony shrugged as he took another bite of pasta. “Also, it’s weird when you call me Mr. Stark - especially now that I’ve adopted you. I don’t expect you to call me ‘dad’, but maybe you can just call me Tony?”
“Sure thing, To-” The sound of the elevator dinging interrupted Peter’s thought. They both turned to see a confused looking Pepper standing in the entry.
Everyone stayed silent for a moment. Pepper kept looking between Tony and Peter, a frown deepening the longer she watched them. Tony broke the silence first by getting up and walking towards Pepper. “Pep, honey. I thought you were going to be in Hong Kong for a few more days.”
“Tony, who is this?” She completely ignored greeting, her gaze narrowed as she watched Peter.
“This is Peter.” Taking a deep breath, Tony prepared himself to tell Pepper that he adopted a kid that he only met two days ago. “He’s going to be staying with us. I adopted him.”
Pepper stared at Tony for a minute, a range of emotions flickering across her face before settling on angry. A face Tony knew too well - having been on the receiving end of it more than he’d like to admit. Her mouth opened a shut a few times, as she figured out the right words to say.
Tony was prepared for yelling and screaming. He was ready to explain everything to her while she glared at him and made snarky comments. He was expecting tears and harsh words. What Tony didn’t count on, was the fact that after a few minutes of silence, Pepper walked out of the room towards their bedroom without a single word.
He stood in the same spot until he heard a little sniffle coming from Peter. Walking to the kid, Tony’s heart broke when he saw the puff red eyes. He sat down next to his kid and reached an arm around his shoulders. “What’s wrong bud? Is it Pepper? Don’t worry about her, she’ll come around. We just got to give her a little space.”
“I’m sorry.” Peter whispered. When Pepper’s back was turned away from Tony, she didn’t look angry anymore. She looked sad. The look she gave Peter wasn’t a mean look, but one of hurt. He felt the guilt eating away at him as he realized he is the reason she’s hurting. “I don’t want to cause any problems. You can still back out of the adoption. I won’t hold it against you.”
Hearing Peter offering him an out, made his stomach drop. That is the last thing Tony wants. “What? No! I’m not backing out of the adoption. Like it or not, you’re stuck with me.” His heart melted when he heard a wet chuckle from Peter. “Look, Pete. I probably could have handled the situation with Pepper better. Hell, I should have already told her. None of this is on you, got it?” Looking back on it, Tony realizes he should have talked to Pepper privately and not in front of Peter. He put her on the spot, which wasn’t fair to her.
Today has been a lazy day for me. I really have not wanted to do anything except lay in bed all day. It doesn't help that it's rainy and cold, which only makes me want to curl up in a blanket.
My goal is to have the rest of this story posted by the end of this week, but no promises. I have a busy weekend coming up, stupid jury duty on Monday, and then orientation for school Wednesday - Friday next week. And then I start school which will limit my writing time. Hence the goal to be done before everything gets crazy.
Right now I'm only posting chapter 4, but if I can get another chapter or two written before I go to bed tonight, I'll put up Chapter 5 for you all.
Thank you everyone for the positive responses!
Please leave a kudos or comment if you're liking this story! I'm so grateful for the ones I've already received!
Peter claimed that he was just tired - that’s why he didn’t stay up to watch a movie with Tony. In reality, he was a little worried about the situation with Ms. Potts. What if she didn’t like him? What if she made Tony choose between him or her? Would Tony hate him if Ms. Potts didn’t want to marry him anymore because of Peter? The worried questions went on and on, never seeming to be coming to an end.
Hiding behind his uneasiness though, was excitement. How the hell did Peter manage to get Tony Stark to adopt him? They had only known each other for two days! It was crazy!
The teen had to admit, Tony Stark wasn’t as bad as he had imagined him. He’d spent so long trying to envision the Avengers being mean heartless people, so that he wouldn’t be tempted to interact with them. There was still a small part of Peter that felt like he was betraying Ben by just talking to one of the heroes who couldn’t save his uncle.
May used to say that Peter had a guilt complex so high he could feel guilty over stepping on a fallen leaf. He smiled at the memory of his aunt. He missed her so much.
His thoughts were interrupted by the voices of Tony and Ms. Potts arguing in their bedroom. “Tony, what were you thinking? Adopting a child is not something you do on a whim. You can’t return him if you decide in a couple days that you don’t want him.”
“I’m not going to send him back Pep!” Exasperation clear in Tony’s voice. “And yes, maybe I adopted him on a whim, but I couldn’t let him go anywhere else. I didn’t have any other choice!”
Peter had to stop listening at that point. He clasped a hand over his ears in an attempt to mute the voices. ‘I didn’t have any other choice.’ That’s what Tony had said. Does he regret adopting Peter? Did he feel obligated to keep the boy because he’s Spider-Man?
Muted voices could still be heard, but Peter couldn’t make out the words, which he was grateful for. He sat in the corner of his room, furthest from the noise. His eyes welled with tears as thoughts of being a burden filled his mind. Skip had always said Peter was a nuance. ‘Nobody could ever want you. You’re a waste of space.’ It turns out Skip was right. Peter had been adopted for less than 12 hours and Tony was already done with him.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Please!” The shout is what woke Peter up. The first thing he noticed was that he was still curled up in the corner he’d been sitting in while Tony and Ms. Potts argued. He looked around the room, breathing heavily and drenched in sweat. Nightmares were a common occurrence, especially after May died. Usually he dreamt about May or Ben. In those dreams, he typically wasn’t able to save one or both of them. He’d been having those dreams for a while now, so he knew how to calm himself down whenever he inevitably startled awake.
The nightmare he’d just woken from was different. In his dream, Tony had realized how pathetic Peter is and started to treat him like Skip had. Peter tried begging the man to stop, but it was to no avail. Dream Tony decided to use his Iron Man suit to punish the teen; his arm raised as he aimed his repulsors at a Peter’s face. Just as it was about to fire, Peter woke up.
A logical part of Peter knew Tony wasn’t like Skip, but the anxiety filled part of him sent him spiraling. Maybe he should just leave. That way Tony doesn’t have to kick him out and Peter doesn’t have to face anymore rejection.
It was that thought that had Peter on his feet, pacing his room. To the kid, it wasn’t a crazy idea. Sure, it would suck having to leave the warm tower and he really would miss Tony. But he would rather leave than risk being a thorn in the man's side.
With that thought process, Peter changed into the warmest clothes he had at the tower. Hopefully his duffel bag - from before meeting Tony - was still at the building he’d been living in.
He walked into the kitchen so focused on grabbing a couple snacks and some water bottles, he didn’t notice Ms. Potts sitting at the counter. “Someone’s hungry.”
Peter startled so much he dropped all the snacks in favor of clinging to the ceiling. “Huh. That explains a little more as to how you and Tony met.” Ms. Potts mused as Peter lowered himself back to the ground.
“Ms. Potts, I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you there.” Peter slowly backed away from the woman. He didn’t know her, but he knew she didn’t want him there.
“Please, call me Pepper. I’m sorry I startled you. Are you alright?”
“I-I’m fine.” Peter lied. He really wished Tony would walk into the kitchen.
Ms. Potts rubbed a hand along her forehead, letting out a long sigh. She looked at the mug she had cradled in one hand. “You heard us talking, didn’t you? That’s why you’re backing away?”
There was no easy answer to that question. If he says no, then he’d have to come up with an excuse as to why he’s trying to leave. If he says yes, then she might think he was eavesdropping and get upset. Out of all the things May had drilled into him, it was to always be honest. So that’s what he went with. “Yes. I didn’t mean to listen, I just have enhanced senses - especially hearing - but I tried to block it out. I’m sorry.”
“Peter, you don’t have to apologize. I should be the one apologizing. I was shocked and I didn’t react well. I’m sorry.”
That’s not what Peter expected. “Ms. Potts, you don’t have to apologize. I didn’t mean to cause any problems between you and Mr. Stark. Please don’t be mad at him. He was trying to help me, b-but I can take care of myself. That’s why I was getting so many snacks because I don’t want to be in the way anymore. I shouldn’t have been so selfish. And---”
“You were planning on leaving?” Pepper cut him off. When Peter gave a small nod her frown deepened and her shoulders slumped. “Oh, Peter. I didn’t mean to make you feel unwelcome. Tony is happy that you’re here. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him this passionate about something. If you can worm your way into his iron heart, you must be pretty special and I’d like to get the chance to get to know you.”
Peter didn’t say anything as he re-ran what Ms. Potts said through his mind. She doesn’t seem angry that he’s there. And she sounds sincere about wanting to know him. He could give it a chance, maybe. “I’d l-like th-that too.” He finally stumbled out.
Ms. Potts smiled softly with a hopeful look in her eyes. “Would you like some tea? Or hot chocolate?”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The second time Peter woke up was much calmer. After he’d sat up and talked with Pepper (as she so adamantly requested he call her) for an hour, they both went to sleep with smiles on their faces. Tony hadn’t told her about Peter being Spider-Man, but the whole ceiling debacle took care of that. They talked about pretty much everything; both of them asking the other questions. Pepper asked a lot about Peter’s hobbies and interests, while he asked about running S.I and being a CEO. Tony had given Pepper the file he has on Peter, so she didn’t need to ask the teen about his past.
As he showered and dressed for the day, Peter kept thinking about their conversation. When the questions started to dwindle and it turned more into a conversation rather than a Q&A, he felt wanted. Just like Tony, Pepper made Peter feel safe and comfortable. The last time he’d felt that way was with May.
Leaving his room, Peter could smell a mix between bacon and coffee wafting from the kitchen. Turning the corner revealed Tony, wearing a ‘kiss the chef’ apron, while scrambling some eggs in a pan. “Morning Pete!” Wow, he was cheerful this morning.
“Good Morning.” Peter sat on one of the stools at the island, watching as Tony dished out a large serving of eggs, bacon, and toast on a plate for the kid, before sliding it over. “Thanks.”
“So, I was thinking. What if we go clothes shopping first, before getting everything else online? I think it’d be fun to have a little outing.” Tony asked around the sip of coffee. He was already on his fourth cup of the day, but he wasn’t willing to let up soon. Going shopping would drain every ounce of energy, so the more he had to give, the better the outcome.
Tony had woken up after Pepper crawled back into their bed. They had spent several hours talking about the adoption. It took a lot less effort to convince Pepper that it was a good thing than Tony had anticipated. She really is a great woman. God, he loves her.
When he asked about what she had been doing, Pepper told him about the conversation she had with Peter. His anxiety levels skyrocketed when she mentioned that Peter had planned on leaving, but she assured him that she handled the situation. He didn’t think he could be happier after when his fiance said she liked his kid. After that, he was too happy to sleep.
Looking at the kid sitting in front of him, he felt like he had just won the jackpot.
“That’d be fine.” Peter answered, his mouth full of food. “Is Ms. Potts going to be coming with us?”
He was wrong. He could be happier. The smile that spread across his face hurt. His heart felt like it was dancing. Peter likes Pepper. They are getting along. Yes!
“I would love to come.” Pepper said as she walked into the room, dressed in jeans and a nice blouse. Peter can’t remember a time he’d ever seen Pepper Potts, not in business attire. Then again, he’d only seen her before in magazines or on the TV during a press conference. It wasn’t illogical for her to have casual outfits. “But, only if you promise to never call me Ms. Potts again. We’ve been over this Peter, call me Pepper.”
Peter ducked his head as a small blush crept up his cheeks and he smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, Pepper.”
“Kid, you apologize too much. I’m tempted to banish you from saying ‘sorry’ ever again.” Tony teased, passing Pepper her own plate of food. “Anyway, back to shopping - I’d like to leave in the next twenty minutes or so. That way there aren’t too many people and there’s less chance that someone will notice us. Sound good?”
Both Peter and Pepper nodded their heads as they hurried to finish their food. Peter finished first, placing his plate in the dishwasher, then heading to his room to brush his teeth and attempt to tame his hair.
Eighteen minutes later, the three of them were in the elevator going down to the parking garage, where some guy named Happy would be waiting to drive them. When the elevator doors opened, Peter saw a gruff looking man standing by a nice car, staring at his watch impatiently. “Cutting it close Boss.”
“Ah, but I still made it before our time was up.” Tony quipped with a smirk on his face. He pulled Peter beside him, one arm wrapped around his shoulders and motioned towards the man. “Kid, this is my head of security, Happy Hogan. Happy, this is my kid, Peter.”
“It’s nice to meet you Mr. Hogan.” Peter extended his hand politely.
“Same to you kid. But please, call me Happy.” The man shook his hand firmly, before opening the car door.
Peter loaded in after Tony so he was sitting in the middle. The car ride to the mall wasn’t very long, but Peter still managed to drift off to sleep. He couldn’t help it - car rides (no matter the length) always make him sleepy. He woke up to Pepper gently shaking his shoulder. Opening his eyes, he saw that both Tony and Pepper had put on baseball hats and sunglasses. It didn’t really disguise who they are, but it made it did make them blend in a bit more.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The first three stores they went into were a total bust. It wasn’t that they didn’t have any good clothing, but more so the fact that they were expensive stores. Peter would take one look at the price tag before dropping it, like it had burned him. Both Tony and Pepper tried to tell him that price wasn’t an issue and that he shouldn’t even look at the price, but the kid had been raised to be mindful of how expensive things are.
“Okay, Pete. You’ve vetoed all the stores I’ve picked. How about you pick the next one. Pick something you’re more comfortable with.” Tony bargained after Peter tried to convince them to just go home.
Peter slumped his shoulders but consented anyway and looked at one of the mall maps to find a more familiar store. He perked up a little when he saw an Old Navy on the other side of the building. May always took him to Old Navy, all of his favorite clothes came from there.
Tony just looked between his kid and the store sign when Peter walked up to the doors. The billionaire had never been inside such a cheap clothing store, but his kid actually looked excited, so who was he to complain.
It took thirty minutes for Peter to pick out 8 t-shirts, 6 button downs, 4 sweaters, 3 jeans, 2 pairs of shoes and 2 jackets. When they went to check out, Tony had Pepper take Peter out of the store so he wouldn’t freak out about the price. She bribed him with a soft pretzel, so getting him to go with her was easy.
“Thank you Tony.” Peter said as he and Pepper walked back with their pretzels. “Is there anything else we need?”
“There is one more store.” Tony winced a little as he prepared himself for Peter’s reaction. The kid wouldn’t like it. “You need a suit.”
As expected, Peter paled. He knew suits were expensive. May had taken him suit shopping last year for homecoming, but they all cost too much, so Peter ended up renting one. The worst part though, is that he and May had been looking at the cheapest suits they could find, and he knew Tony wouldn’t let him get anything less than top quality. He groaned at the thought of spending that much money.
“You won’t have to do anything.” Pepper tried to ease his mind. “They’ll just take your measurements, have you try on a few suits, and figure out which areas need a little tailoring so the suit fits properly.”
They walked into a fancy looking shop and were instantly greeted at the door. “Good morning Mr. Stark. I’ve been wondering when you’d be back to visit me.” An older looking man said with a thick accent.
“Lorenzo!” Tony said with a big smile on his face before continuing in what Peter recognized as Italian. “Come stai amico mio? È passato troppo tempo.” (How are you my friend? It’s been too long.)
“Sto bene. Cosa ti porta qui oggi?” (I am doing well. What brings you here today?)
Tony wrapped an arm around Peter’s shoulders, pulling the teen close to him. “This is Peter. He needs a suit.”
Lorenzo nodded and motioned them all to follow him. He led them through the store to where the back wall was lined with mirrors. A few armchairs spread throughout the open area and there were a number of slightly raised platforms along the floor. All in all, it looked like a scene from a movie or one of those wedding dress shows aunt May loved to watch.
“Tell me what you are looking for.” Lorenzo said as the four of them sat in the armchairs.
Not surprising to anyone, Pepper answered. “We need something versatile. A suit that can be worn multiple times, without giving away that it has been worn before. I’m not opposed to color, but nothing too bold or dramatic.”
“I’d like to see a few different styles. We can play around a bit and find what looks best on Peter.” Tony added.
“Sounds like a challenge. I like it.” Lorenzo looked up from the pad he’d been writing notes on, an excited look on his face. “Come with me Peter, we’ll get you in the first suit.”
The first few suits Peter tried on were pretty standard. The only differences that Peter could see was in the color. There was black, navy blue, and light grey. They all fit well, none of them requiring too much tailoring - or at least, that’s what Pepper had said.
It was Tony who asked for a little more color variety in the suits, so the next colors Peter tried on were forest green, lilac, and dark red. The kid had to admit, the red one actually looked really good. Red had always been a good color on him. It was part of the reason his Spider-Man suit was red.
Once he was finally able to change back into his normal clothes, he sat with Tony and Pepper to discuss which suit they liked best.
“My favorite is the black one. It’s simple, but elegant.” Pepper voted.
“The black is good, but I like the little bit of color you get from the navy blue suit. It’s still subtle, but it gives it a little more personality.” Tony shrugged. Either way, his kid looked great in all the suits. “What do you think Pete?”
Peter hadn’t been expecting them to ask his opinion. “Oh, um, I think they all looked good. Except the purple one. I don’t like that one.” He thought a little more before adding, “I’ve always liked red, so…”
“Why not pick two? Or three? That way there’s options.” Tony suggested. His energy was starting to dwindle so he wasn’t too keen on the idea of debating on which suit to get.
“What? No. No way.” Peter argued. Just one suit was too much, he couldn’t bear to think about the money that would go into three suits. If he chose the black suit, then he’d be able to wear it multiple times - meaning Tony wouldn’t have to buy him another one. “Let’s do the black suit. I like that one. I agree with Pepper.”
Tony smirked a little as his kid tried to talk him out of buying more than one suit, but if anything, the rambling made him want to buy all of them. But, he wouldn’t freak his kid out too much while in public. So he conceded. “Alright, we’ll get the black suit.” And the blue suit. And the red suit. Tony thought to himself. He’d surprise the kid with the other two later.
This time while checking out, Pepper stayed with Tony while Peter went to wait outside. He sat on a bench for a few minutes waiting for his parents to finish paying.
Did he just say (think) parents?
Tony and Pepper aren’t his parents. Well, maybe Tony is, like in a legal sense. But they aren’t his parent-parents. Sure, he feels safe around them and they both just spent over an hour helping him shop, but that doesn’t mean he sees them as his parents.
A flare up of his spidey senses tore Peter from his thoughts. He immediately looked towards the store his parents - No. Tony and Pepper - were in. They didn’t seem to be in danger, so he looked around hoping to spot the source of danger.
Walking towards him, was a sneering face that made Peter groan. He wasn’t in any physical danger. No, this was much worse. Staring straight at him, was one Flash Thompson - aka, his bully. “Well, well. If it isn’t Puny Penis Parker. Last I heard you were running from the cops after they found your drug stash in your locker.”
Peter rolled his eyes. He really did not want to deal with Flash right now. Ignoring the bully, Peter turned his attention back to the new phone Tony had given him that morning. It apparently was the wrong move because Flash grabbed his phone. “Looks like someone forgot their manners, Penis.”
“Yes. It really does look that way doesn’t it?” A fierce voice spoke behind Flash. Peter poked his head around to see an angry looking Pepper. Her eyes were narrowed, her lips pursed, and the slight flare of her nose made Peter grateful he wasn’t on the receiving end of that look.
Flash seemed to be in a mixed state of shock and fear. “Y-you. You’re Pepper Potts.” He dumbly pointed out.
Pepper let out a single laugh at Flash’s comment. “Thanks for pointing out the obvious.” The sarcasm dripping from her words was venomous and Flash started to tremble. “You want to tell me why you stole Peter’s phone? Actually, no. Let’s start with the name you called him.”
A small whimper sounded from Flash. He looked at the phone in his hands, back at Pepper, and then at Peter. “H-how do you know Pen- I mean, Peter?”
“Well, I don’t see how that’s any of your business.” Tony said as he stepped up beside Pepper. In that moment Peter made a mental note to NEVER do something bad enough to land him under the angry gaze of both Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. Especially not at the same time.
Flash all but threw Peter’s phone at him as he hurried away from Tony and Pepper. It took a few seconds for everyone to grasp what happened, but it was Peter who started to laugh. He was laughing so hard his stomach started to hurt within a few seconds. The only sound he was making was wheezing as he tried to breathe. There were tears of laughter rolling down his face and he’s pretty sure he’s snorted a couple times. It didn’t take long for Tony and Pepper to join him in his laughing fit.
The trio sat on the bench for almost ten minutes before they finally had control over their emotions. All three of them were slightly out of breath and red in the face. Peter can’t remember a time when he’d laughed that hard.
As his giggling subsided, Peter looked between the two adults sitting next to him. It was hard for him to believe that he’s only known Tony for three days. He feels like he fits right in with them. All his doubts and worries about not being wanted, were forgotten at that moment. Peter was happy. He barely knows Tony and Pepper, but they make him feel safe. They make him feel wanted. And most importantly, they make him feel loved.
Humans who are reading my story, I proudly present, for your entertainment: Angst.
Thank you everyone who has left a comment or kudos! They make me so so happy! I love hearing your thoughts on what I've written and the ideas you have for future chapters. Keep em coming!
*also, side note: I legit have the hardest time when it comes to typing out Peter and Peppers names. Especially when they're kind of close together. I usually end up with a mixture between the two like Pepter or Peper. Sometimes I just forget to type all the vowels and end up with Ptpr. I'm a mess though so don't worry about me.*
*also also side note: I LOVE SASSY FRIDAY! the end.*
Who’s the idiot that came up with the idea of a press conference?
What kind of person would think ‘Hey, let’s put a bunch of nosy pushy people in a room while someone else makes an announcement. Then once the announcement is made, the nosy people get to shout random questions at the announcer. Sounds like a fun idea!’
Why can’t people just make their announcements via holiday cards like normal people? Or even, make a YouTube video? Maybe do an Instagram live and answer questions that people ask on there.
If you were to ask Peter Parker, he’d say he would prefer anything that doesn’t involve people yelling. With his senses being dialed to an eleven all the time, the extra loud noises don’t make for a pleasant time. So when Tony and Pepper told him that they’d have to do a press conference to announce the adoption, Peter didn’t even try to suppress his groan. “Why do we have to tell people? It’s not like I’m interesting or important. Besides, it’s none of their business who you do or don’t adopt.”
“True, it’s not their business. But the press doesn’t really care if it’s their business or not. I know it’s not ideal, but it’s better if we offer the information to the public before someone forces it out.” Peter just slumped further into the couch as Tony tried to convince him that the press conference is a good idea. “It’ll just be a quick introduction, you say ‘hi’, we’ll maybe answer a few questions, and then it’s over.”
“I have to be there?” He wasn’t even ashamed that he was whining. In all the press conferences he’d seen, it was just Tony and Pepper. They’d make the announcement and be done with it. Peter was just hoping he’d get to stay backstage or something. “I have to talk?”
Tony rolled his eyes at his son’s dramatics. “Of course you have to be there. It is about you. And we’ll talk about the speaking part.” Growing up, Tony’s father never would have let him get away without saying something at a press conference. Howard always said ‘You aren’t there to stand pretty in the background. You’re there to make our family look good.’
Again, Peter let out a long groan as he got off the couch and headed towards the kitchen. “When did Pepper the press conference was?”
“Tomorrow at 9am. She said she’d help you pick out what to wear when she gets home tonight.”
“She’s probably going to make me wear one of my three suits, isn’t she?” Peter was a little miffed when they got back from their shopping excursion the previous night and Tony surprised him with not one, but three new suits. He didn’t know why it was necessary to have three suits, but Tony just said it was for variety and hung them in Peter’s closet.
Peter returned from the kitchen with a bowl full of chips, three granola bars, and an apple. He settled into the couch, not paying attention to the exasperated look Tony was giving him. “Kid, we’re going to be eating in less than an hour.”
“I know.” Peter shoved half a granola bar in his mouth.
“You’re gonna spoil your dinner if you eat all of that.”
“No I won’t. I’m always hungry. I’ll be fine.”
“Come on, Pete. You don’t need that much food. Go put some of it back.” Tony was getting a little annoyed that Peter wasn’t listening. His tone was probably a little too harsh, but Pepper had begged for the three of them to go out to dinner that night and Tony wasn’t going to let a stubborn teenager ruin that.
“Why is it such a big deal?” Peter snapped, his anger rising quickly. He knows why Tony doesn’t want him eating now, but he was hungry. “I thought you were the one that said I needed to be eating more.”
Tony really did try to control his temper, but the kid was being difficult. “And you have been eating more. You’re always eating. I get that you need to eat a lot, but I’m pretty sure you don’t need to be eating as much as you have been. Hell, kid I swear you could even eat me out of my house.”
Once the words were out, Tony wished he could take them back. Peter’s face instantly fell. The angry, defensive, stubborn stance that he had changed to one of guilt and shame. There were tears welling in his eyes as he stood from his seat and walked out of the room. Tony cursed as he watched Peter put the remaining food away. “Shit. Peter…”
“I’m sorry Mr. Stark.” Peter cut him off with a soft whisper before going to his room. He felt stupid. Had he really been eating that much? Tony had given Peter so much, and Peter couldn’t even be mindful of his food consumption. Stupid. Selfish. Pathetic. The tears that Peter had fought while in sight of Tony, poured down his cheeks the second he closed his door. He sunk to the floor, covering his mouth with his hands, hoping to silence his sobs. Peter was already being a burden on the man, he doesn’t need Tony to feel like he has to comfort him now too.
Hearing Peter call him ‘Mr. Stark’ after the kid had gotten into the habit of calling him Tony, ripped the man apart. Of all the things in his life that he’d screwed up, this one takes the cake. The first night Peter stayed with him, they’d talked about the kid’s eating habits. Peter had mentioned that even when his Aunt was alive, they were always tight on money. They barely had enough food to satisfy the two of them, so Peter would say that he was full and let his Aunt eat more than him. The kid already has an eating disorder, so for Tony to come along and make him feel bad about eating was the worst thing he could have done.
“I screwed up big time, didn’t I FRI?” Tony dragged a hand down his face. He didn’t know what to do at this point. Does he go talk to the kid? Should he give him some space?
“Yes Boss. It seems you did as some people say and fucked up big time.” The A.I answered. If computers could scowl, FRIDAY would be doing just that.
“It was a rhetorical question!”
“I am aware. I just wanted to make sure you knew how bad it was.”
Tony would have to rework some of FRIDAY’s coding. She’s getting way too sassy. But that’s a problem for another day. Right now Tony has to figure out how to approach things with Peter.
It’s not often Tony Stark doesn’t have a solution to his problems. He’s a fixer. Fixing things is in his nature. But when those rare times roll around, there are only two people he turns to for help. The first is Pepper, because she knows everything. It’s a plain and simple truth of life and Tony is not going to question it. The second person is his best friend, Rhodey. The thing about Rhodey is that if he doesn’t know the solution, then he gives advice - and the man gives great advice. Maybe Tony should listen to him more often, instead of only in times of distress.
With Pepper in a meeting with some potential investors, Tony grabs his phone and calls Rhodey.
“Hey Tony what’s up?”
“Rhodey, I have a problem.” Patience has never been Tony’s forte and it sure wasn’t now. He’s on a mission and he doesn’t have time for pleasantries or jokes.
“I made a mistake with Peter and I said some things that I shouldn’t have said and I don’t know if I should go talk to him now or if I should wait until he calms down.”
“Tony. Breathe. Now start over. Who is Peter?”
Oh, that’s right. He hasn’t told Rhodey about his adopted son. “That’s a long story, Rhodes. I promise I will tell you everything later, but basically I adopted a teenager. His name is Peter.”
“You? Adopted? A teenager?”
“Yes. I said that. What should I do Rhodey?”
“Adopted?” Rhodey repeated.
“Oh, you’re useless.” Tony groaned before hanging up. Rhodey was out of commission while he wrapped his head around the fact that Tony has a kid. Back to square one for the billionaire.
He had read somewhere once that writing down a list of pro’s and con’s can help with decision making, so that’s what Tony did. Staring at the list in front of him, Tony reviewed each column, hoping that an answer would just appear. Thankfully, an answer did appear. Just not in the form he had expected.
“Tony, why is it that the first and only thing FRIDAY said to me as I stepped into the elevator was that you had screwed up?” Pepper walked into the office where Tony had been examining his list.
Times like this had Tony believing that there was a higher power helping him through life. “I have never been more happy to see you Pep.” Except, if Pepper was here, that meant the fight Tony and Peter had, had happened close to an hour ago. Crap. His list was useless now because the time to talk to Peter immediately had passed. “I said something I shouldn’t have said to him.”
“Oh honey.” Pepper sat next to Tony, placing a comforting hand on his knee. “What happened?”
“We were going to watch TV while we waited for you to get home. Peter got some snacks and I made a comment about him ruining his appetite. We both got a bit frustrated and then I basically told him that he was eating too much. Which isn’t true and I’m afraid he’s going to stop eating.” Pepper had scooted closer to Tony as he recounted the fight and started running a hand through his hair. Much like Peter, the motion calmed Tony.
“Where is Peter now?”
“After I said what I said, he put the snacks away and went into his room.”
“Have you talked to him yet?” Pepper asked gently.
“No. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do, but I guess I got so caught up in trying to do it right that I forgot to do anything at all.”
Pepper laughed a little, which surprised Tony. This isn’t funny - she shouldn’t be laughing. Her smile then softened and her eyes filled with sincerity. “He’s a kid, Tony. There’s no right or wrong way to raise them. This is all going to be a big adjustment for you and him. You both will have to be patient with one another, but the most important thing is that you communicate. Just like you and I have to talk through our feelings; you and Peter will have to do the same.”
Tony really is lucky to have someone like Pepper to look out for him. As much as he wished he could stay with her, soaking up the comfort she brings with her, he has a kid to talk to. Giving a quick kiss to his fiance, Tony walked towards Peter’s room.
After knocking a few times with no answer, Tony just walked in. Peter was asleep - curled up in a ball - in the corner of the ceiling. If he didn’t have a bad heart before, Tony was sure this would have done it. “Peter?” Tony asked cautiously. He didn’t want to scare the kid and risk him falling. “Pete.”
The kid stirred a little before popping his head up (down?). He looked at Tony with sleep glossed eyes and cocked his head to the side a little. “You wanna come down from there?” Tony hoped he sounded nonchalant.
“Mr. Stark, what are you doing here?” Peter rubbed at his eyes with one hand, while the other gently lowered him to the ground. When his feet touched the ground, Peter took a couple steps away from the man. Was Tony going to yell at him again? Was he going to tell Peter that it wasn’t working out and send him away?
“We need to talk kiddo.” Tony slowly walked over to Peter’s bed, sitting on the corner and motioning with his head that Peter should join him. Peter sat stiffly on the edge of the bed, his eyes trained on Tony, looking for any sign of movement. “Look, kid…”
“I’m sorry Mr. Stark. I didn’t realize I was eating too much. I promise I won’t do it again. You don’t even have to give me any more food if you don’t want to. Please don’t send me back.” Peter interrupted, a fresh set of tears trailing his face.
Just the fact that Peter thought Tony would send him back, broke the man’s heart. “Peter, I will never send you back. Ever. I need you to understand that even if we get upset with each other, you are still my kid.” He paused to wipe a few tears from the teens cheek, hoping that Peter could see the truthfulness in his eyes. “And I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I did earlier. You need to eat and I know that you need to eat a lot. It’s not something you have to be sorry for or feel guilty about. I know I made it sound like you were being a burden, but you’re not, Peter. I promise.”
Peter broke eye contact in favor of staring at his fingers as they intertwined with each other. “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
“No, Peter. It wasn’t okay, but I appreciate your forgiveness. I let my frustrations get the better of me. Hell, I don’t even know why I got frustrated in the first place. Whatever it was though apparently made me stupid, because I literally said you could eat me out of my house, which is the stupidest thing I’ve ever said. I’m pretty sure I could feed the entire world without going bankrupt.” Tony feared his attempt at bringing in humor to the conversation would fall flat, but when Peter cracked a smile, his worries faded.
An hour later, Tony, Pepper, and Peter were sitting at a private table in a fancy steakhouse the teenager had never heard of. You know when a restaurant doesn’t show the price on their menus that it is unnecessarily expensive. The two adults seemed perfectly at ease, but Peter was fidgeting nervously. Sure, he knows some of the basic steak terms, but what in the ever living fuck is a “Tommy Steak” or to have it “Pittsburgh Rare” or “Hammered”?
When their waiter came to take their order, Peter was clueless. He looked to Tony, hoping the man would sense his distress. He felt stupid and childish needing help ordering his food. Thankfully, Tony looked up when the waiter asked if they were ready, immediately noticing the uneasiness of his son. “Uh, give us a few more minutes.” He told the waiter.
“What’s up Pete?” Tony asked gently, lowering his voice so only those at their table could hear.
“I, um, I-I don’t know w-what any of this means.” Peter motioned to the menu, blushing slightly in embarrassment.
Tony understood immediately. Steakhouses have their own vocabulary. It’s something that took him years to finally understand. “I’m sorry Peter. I should have thought about that sooner. Deciphering the “steakhouse language” - that's what my mother called it - is tricky.” Tony casually switched sides of the table so he was sitting next to Peter where they could both see the menu. “Have you ever had steak before?”
Peter nodded his head. He’s never had steak from a restaurant before, but Ben and May had made it a few times at home. “I don’t really know anything about steak. Will you just order for me?”
“Sure, bud. I can do that.” Tony agreed. As much as he’d like to take a few minutes to just talk through the options with Peter, he still feels like he needs to walk on eggshells after their fight earlier.
Their waiter returned to take their orders and Tony ordered for all three of them. Sure Pepper could easily order for herself, but he was trying to stop Peter from feeling guilty about asking the man to order for him. Thankfully, she understood what he was doing. Or if she didn’t, she at least didn’t say anything.
From then on the conversation flowed easily, mostly consisting of Tony and Pepper asking Peter more questions about his interests and hobbies. “So, we need to talk about you going back to school.” Tony mentioned after Peter talked about how he used to be on the academic decathlon team.
It was something that Peter had completely forgotten about. Well, not really, but it wasn’t a concern in his mind at the moment. “Oh. Yeah, I guess that makes sense. I can’t sit around doing nothing for the rest of my life.” He tried to use humor as a disguise for his disappointment. Obviously, Peter knows he has to go back to school at some point. If he was going to get anywhere in life, that was a requirement. But he was hoping that he’d get to just enjoy his time with his new family.
“You don’t have to start right away, I just think it’s best we have a plan for the future. Take a week or two to adjust to your new life and then start back at school.” Pepper reassured quickly.
“What was the name of the school you were attending? Mid- something. Right?” Tony asked.
“Yes, Midtown. That’s right. Would you want to go back there? Or do you want to start somewhere fresh?” Tony didn’t care either way, he just wanted Peter to feel comfortable wherever he decided to go to school.
The food arrived before Peter got a chance to answer and he took the chance to stuff his face as a way out of that conversation. He needed time to think about it before he gave an official answer.
Going back to Midtown would mean seeing Ned and MJ again. But it also meant dealing with Flash’s bullying and after the mall incident, the bully would be even worse. Peter also wasn’t too keen on seeing Principal Morita again - the man had called social services on him. The school itself though was a good school and it felt like a safe environment for Peter. The classes - while not really providing a learning challenge - were at least engaging enough that his ADHD didn’t drive him crazy. Most of his classes were also science based, and Peter really likes science.
There were choices to be made, but he has time. The thing Peter has to worry about now is the Press Conference in the morning. It was these thoughts that occupied his mind for the rest of dinner and the drive back to the penthouse.
When the doors to the elevator opened on the 99th floor, sitting in all their glory, were the Avengers. Tony and Pepper seemed a little shocked to see the group of heroes, but shrugged it off easily. Peter on the other hand, couldn’t move. He couldn’t breathe, or feel, or hear anything. Just meeting Iron Man had been hard to cope with, but when he took the suit off it was just Tony Stark. The genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. Not Iron Man, who couldn’t save uncle Ben.
The other Avengers though, all still look like their hero persona. Even in jeans and a t-shirt, Steve Rogers looks like Captain America.
No, Peter does not blame the Avengers for not being able to save uncle Ben. But he still correlates Ben’s death with the Avengers.
There’s a reason Peter was okay with never meeting the heroes.
Because, Peter knew that if he had to face the Avengers, he then would have to deal with the fact that that he did, in all reality, blame them for Ben dying.
Y'all! I finally have an ending to this. I was writing chapter 7 and I figured out how I'm going to end it! I'm excited. Don't worry though, there are at least going to be 10 chapters, so i'm not done yet.
I'm really really going to try to have this done by Saturday.
I love you all so much! Thank you for reading and commenting and leaving kudos. I think I've had more fun writing this story and reading the comments than any other story I've done.
As always, If you have any comments, suggestions, ideas, or feedback, I'd love to hear it! Thanks again everyone!
“Peter?” Tony waved his hand in front of Peter’s face a couple times. The kid had tensed up the moment the doors opened. Tony thought he was maybe fan-girling over them, but the usually jittery kid (especially when nervous or excited) was standing deadly still. His eyes were unfocused and his jaw was clenched tight. Tony noticed Peter’s hands were in fists, the skin white as snow. “Pete?”
The kid’s eyes locked on with his. Peter seemed to snap back to the present. “Sorry, Tony. I zoned out.” Peter had an obviously forced smile and his voice was strained. Tony watched as Peter turned to the others in the room, gave a quick wave, and then excused himself to his room to change.
As soon as Peter had left the room, all eyes landed on Tony. “What happened to calling before showing up at someone’s house?” He looked over the group of people in his living room, running a hand through his hair. Tony really just wanted to go check on Peter. His kid was not okay, despite Peter wanting him to think otherwise. Right now, he was a little annoyed the others didn’t at least give him a warning before showing up. Peter had been fine until he saw them all there. “If you broke my kid, I’ll kill you.”
“Let’s talk about that.” Natasha stood from her spot on the couch. “Since when do you have a kid and when were you planning on telling us?”
The internal debate Tony was having with himself between answering questions or talking to Peter, was driving him crazy. There’s no debate. His kid comes first. Always. “I promise I will answer all of your questions, but I need to do something first.” Tony ignored the annoyed scoffs from his teammates as he walked out of the room.
He knocked on Peter’s door and it was instantly flung open. “Mr. Stark? Is everything okay?”
The kid still looked tense. It worried Tony because he had no idea how to handle this. He wanted answers but he didn’t want to push. Doing what he does best, Tony ignored the initial problem in favor of stalling. “What’s up with you calling me Mr. Stark? I thought we moved past that?”
Sighing deeply, Peter wrapped his arms around himself, preparing for the conversation that was about to come. The man always used other questions to start a conversation before diving into the real question he had. But Peter played along. Sure, the question Tony asked wasn’t one he was eager to answer either, but it was one that he’d been able to think up a lie for. “I don’t know. I guess it just slips out sometimes.” He said with a shrug.
“Nope, try again.” Tony had seen right through the kid. It’s only been a few days and the man can already spot his lies. May was right, Peter is a terrible liar.
“There’s no chance you’ll just drop it, is there? Let’s just go back out and do the whole introduction thing.” Peter offered, hoping Tony would take him up on it. The sooner he got it over with, the better.
Tipping his hands side to side like a scale, Tony acted like he was weighing the options. “Eh, I think I’d rather keep you to myself right now. You are my kid after all.” Peter let his shoulders drop. Distracting Tony was his last resort besides just refusing to answer, but he didn’t want to do anything else to make the man angry with him. Not after Tony yelled at him earlier. “Like I said, try again.”
After trying to decide just how much to say, Peter gave up and went with the truth. The whole truth and nothing but the truth - despite how vulnerable it made him feel. “I call you Mr. Stark when I’m feeling anxious or upset. It makes it easier to distance myself from you in case you decide that you don’t want me anymore. And I know you’ve said that I’m stuck with you, but you can’t promise that. What if one day you wake up and realize that I’m not worth your time or energy or money? You’ve known me for less than a week. You can’t promise that you won’t get tired of me.” Peter huffed as he finished his rant, forcefully wiping the tears on his cheeks. The volume in his voice had risen while he was talking, ending up with him shouting the last sentence. When he spoke again though, his voice was barely above a whisper. “May used to say that she would never leave me, but then she did. What if you leave me too?”
Shattered. That’s the word Tony would use to describe his heart after hearing Peter’s confession. Shattered that Peter still doesn’t trust that Tony won’t throw him away like garbage. Shattered that his kid has had to suffer more pain than anyone should ever have to. Shattered that he can’t guarantee that his kid will never be hurt again.
Tony closed the space between the two of them, pulling Peter in for a tight hug. Maybe part of it was to hide the fact that his tear ducts were betraying him, but mainly Tony needed the physical touch of knowing that Peter was safe. Thinking of all the horrible things that have happened to his kid, made Tony want to wrap him in bubble wrap and lock him in a zombie apocalypse approved bunker. It’s not often that Tony is speechless, but words have failed him. The only thought he had was to hold onto the kid and never let him go.
For five minutes, Peter and Tony hugged each other, neither wanting to let go. The comfort that Tony provides for the teen is something he hasn’t had in a long time. It’s the kind of comfort that only a father can have. Something Peter has missed since Ben died. Speaking of…
“Tony? Peter?” Pepper’s soft voice came from the doorway. She’d be lying if she said she hadn’t melted at the sight of her boys.
It effectively ripped them from their hug, as they turned to face her. “Hey Pep.” Tony cleared his throat. “Everything alright?”
Pepper smirked knowingly at Tony - his disdain for showing emotions was something else. “Shouldn’t I be the one asking that question?”
“Hey!” Tony playfully scowled at Pepper, an arm still holding Peter close to him. “But, uh, what do you think Pete? Is everything alright?”
He really did think about lying again, but Peter didn’t want to keep quiet about his feelings anymore. All he could hope for was that Tony and Pepper would be there to help him. So he shook his head, eyes glued to the floor. “I need to talk to you both.”
Smiling softly, Tony squeezed Peter’s shoulder and motioned for Pepper to shut the door. “Sure thing bud. You wanna sit on the bed?”
Nodding his head, Peter let Tony guide him across the room. Both adults sat on either side of him and Pepper grabbed Peter’s hand. It took him a few seconds to sort through his thoughts, but he eventually found the right words. “My uncle Ben died in 2012 when the aliens attacked. There was a baby stuck in a car and he saved it, but as he was walking back to us, a sinkhole opened underneath him. It was just a freak accident. It was nobody’s fault.” Peter paused as he wiped a few tears away. “Except I needed someone to blame, so I blamed the Avengers.”
Peter looked up at Tony with red rimmed guilt filled eyes. The man understood what Peter was trying to ask silently. ‘Do you hate me now?’ Tony pulled him in tight, letting Peter know he was still wanted. “Peter, I’m so sorry, I wish we could have saved him that day.”
“But, it’s not your fault.” Peter leaned impossibly closer to Tony. “I was angry and hurt and I didn’t understand why I was the one who had to lose someone again. It was easier to blame someone than to face the reality that Ben is dead. May was good at reminding me that there was nothing anybody could have done to save him. Seeing all of the Avengers tonight just reminded me of that pain and frustration I felt when Ben died. And I still feel it sometimes. But I know it’s not fair to you or the others for me to be angry over something you couldn’t control.”
Amazing. It seems like a strange word to think of after hearing about one of the most traumatic things a person has gone through, but Tony couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing Peter is. Through all the loss and anguish he’s faced, Peter has still turned out to be one of the most selfless, forgiving, kind, and gentle people Tony has ever met.
His kid deserves the fucking world. And Tony will make sure he gets it.
“Thank you, Peter for telling us that.” Tony placed a hand on his kids cheek. “I wish you never had to go through any of this. I know that it can be hard to keep moving sometimes, but Pepper and I will be with you every step of the way.”
Pepper squeezed the hand she was holding before pulling Peter into a tight hug. “How about we kick everyone else out, cozy up on the couch, pretend to watch a movie, and just spend the night together?”
As glorious as that sounded to Peter, he just wanted to get the initial ‘meet and greet’ over. With Tony and Pepper by his side, everything would be just fine. “That sounds like fun, but I want to meet them. They seem important to you guys and I want to get to know them.”
“Are you sure Pete?” Tony trusted his kid’s judgement, but it had been an emotionally rough day. He didn’t want Peter to push himself too much.
“Yeah. I want to do this.” Peter said, standing on his feet and walking to the door, a smirk on his face. “You know Tony, I would have expected you to be a better host than to leave your guests waiting.”
Tony just scoffed as he stood. “You hearing this Pep? He thinks they’re our guests.” Pepper rolled her eyes, following them down the hall. “Sorry, kid. I hate to break it to you, but ‘The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ are just a bunch of pesky leeches who break into my house.”
Peter giggled at Tony’s complaint as they walked into the living room. Only Captain America, Black Widow, and War Machine noticed the small family walk in; everyone else was busy playing Mario Kart. “Capsicle, Nat, Rhodey.” Tony acknowledged the three Avengers. “This is Peter. My son.”
Captain America stuck his hand out for Peter to shake. “It’s nice to meet you Peter. I’m Steve.”
Returning the gesture, Peter smiled a little. “I know who you are Mr. Captain America, sir. I’ve seen all your PSA’s.”
Steve turned red at the mention of the damned videos. He was told it would shape the future of America, and he couldn’t really turn that down.
“PSA’s?” Tony slowly turned towards Steve, a wicked grin on his face. “You made PSA’s?”
“Years ago. I didn’t know they still showed them.” Steve admitted. He made a face at Natasha that was supposed to be a plea for help.
Natasha shrugged as she turned her attention back to Peter. “Hi Peter. I’m Natasha, or Nat. Whichever you prefer.” Her voice was softer than Peter would have thought one of the deadliest assassins would have.
“I’m Rhodey. At least, that’s what everyone calls me.” War Machine said, drawing Peter’s attention. “I have to say, when Tony said he adopted a kid, I didn’t believe him.”
“Yeah, well, this is my kid.” Tony said, placing an arm protectively around Peter’s shoulder. Not that he thought any of them would try to hurt him, it was more so a way to remind Peter that he was there.
“You mind telling us the story on that one?” Hawkeye asked as he placed a remote control on the coffee table. “Oh, I’m Clint, by the way. And this is Sam.” He said pointing to Falcon.
Neither Peter nor Tony knew where to start explaining. They hadn’t really talked about telling anyone else about Peter being Spider-Man. Pepper finding out was a complete accident - not that either would complain. Tony just decided to go with the story they told CPS. “It all happened really fast. I only adopted him like, two days ago. Basically, I found him sleeping outside my tower and because he’s a kid, I didn’t want him freezing so I let him inside to get warm and eat something. We started talking and, I don’t know, we just connected.” Tony ended with a flourish of his hand.
“You let him inside?” Clint asked slowly. “Like a stray cat? Ow.”
Nat had punched him and everyone was giving Clint a dirty look. Peter though, thought it was funny. “You know, I think I’d be more like a dog than a cat. I’ve been told my puppy dog eyes are irresistible.”
Tony and Pepper both tried to hide their laughter, but the kid was right. The one time he used those big brown orbs of pureness on them, they broke instantly. “In my book, you’re all a bunch of strays.” Tony quipped, earning him an elbow to his ribs from Pepper. “Except you my darling fiance.”
Turns out, the Avengers are a lot of fun. Once Tony and Peter finished filling them in on the past 5 days - sans Spider-Man - they all settled into the living room for a movie night. Clint and Sam would quip back and forth with Peter and Tony. Pepper and Natasha would intervene when necessary. And Steve and Rhodey watched in awe at Tony acting like a full blown dad.
They watched two movies before Pepper deemed it too late and shoo-ed everyone out of the living room. She and Tony walked with a half asleep Peter to his room and helped him settle into his bed. It was then, that Tony remembered a question they needed answered before the press conference in the morning. “Hey, Peter?” He heard a little hum of acknowledgement before continuing. “I know we’ve never talked about it, but for the press conference tomorrow we need to know what you want to do about your last name.”
That pulled Peter from his sleepy state and he sat up in his bed. He’d never thought of that before. His whole life he’s been Peter Parker, but the idea of being Peter Stark or even Peter Parker-Stark was kind of exciting. He wanted to make sure that Tony was talking about that and not something else before he voiced his opinions. “What do you mean?”
“Well, people are going to want to know if you are going to take on my last name; if you’re going to become a Stark. There’s no pressure either way. I understand you wanting to keep your last name as Parker, but I would also be honored if you wanted to be a Stark. It’s up to you. Pepper and I support whichever choice you make.”
The worries that Tony would be ashamed to have Peter take his last name vanished. Peter was so excited he couldn’t hide the smile on his face. “I...I think I’d like to change it. I’d like to be Peter Benjamin Parker Stark. I don’t want to lose the Parker name, but I also don’t want to hyphenate. So I was thinking I could have two middle names.”
Somehow this kid kept melting Tony’s heart over and over again. His kid wanted to be a Stark. Yes! “I like the sound of that, kid.” Tony hugged Peter before pushing his back into the bed. “Now go to sleep. We don’t need you sporting any eye bags at our press conference tomorrow.” He said with a wink.
“Yeah, yeah. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, Peter. I love you.” Pepper placed a kiss on Peter’s temple.
“I love you both too.” Peter smiled. He really does love them. They’re his family. His parents.
“Love you, bud. Goodnight.” Tony turned off the lights and was shutting the door as he heard Peter’s next words.
“Goodnight mom and dad.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
They are running late.
Tony was in such a good mood after hearing Peter call them mom and dad. It normally wouldn’t be a bad thing, but in this case, it meant Tony had FRIDAY playing upbeat music all morning as he cooked breakfast and sung along. If it weren’t for the fact that they were running late, Pepper would have taken the moment to enjoy the domestic scene playing out in the kitchen. But alas, they had 30 minutes until they needed to be in the conference room and Peter was still eating a large pile of pancakes, not anywhere near ready to go. She had managed to physically push Tony out of the kitchen, promising to make sure Peter ate enough while Tony got ready.
It took another 5 minutes for Peter to finish his food, but he was soon rushed to his room by Pepper with the instructions to ‘shower and get dressed’.
15 minutes later, the three of them were standing in front of the large mirror in Tony and Pepper’s bathroom. Pepper was doing Peter’s hair - somehow working her magic to get his hair to cooperate - and Tony was fixing the kid’s tie. It wasn’t until the last minute, as they were walking onto the elevator, that Tony suddenly ran back into the bedroom yelling something about ‘a key element’. He returned as fast as he’d left with a watch in his hand. “Here Pete. It will tie the whole outfit together.”
Peter starred at the watched with wide eyes. It just looked expensive. It was navy blue - which would match with the navy blue suit Pepper has chosen - with a silver lining around the face of the watch. Peter held out his wrist, allowing Tony to secure the watch on him. He pulled his arm up so he could examine it. As Tony had said, it did seem to complete his outfit.
“Oh, I also have some ear plugs and sunglasses downstairs that I modified to help dull your senses. I remembered you talking about your senses being heightened all the time. Press conferences are bad enough with normal senses, I didn’t want you to be in pain or anything.”
Wow, his dad thought of everything.
Did he just refer to Tony as his dad? Wait. Did he call Pepper and Tony ‘mom and dad’ last night? Shit. He did, didn’t he?
Perfect timing to remember such a nerve wracking thing.
“You okay Peter?” Pepper asked kindly.
“I, uh, I just remembered something.” Peter tried to play it off cool. He really did, but it came out in more of a ‘we have a problem’ voice rather than the ‘I’m just thinking of normal, non anxiety riddle memories’.
“What’s wrong? Do we need to cancel?” Tony asked. The elevator doors just opened to a long hallway with double doors at the end.
“No, no. Sorry, it’s nothing bad. I just, uh, I remembered I called you mom and dad last night.” He definitely mumbled that last part, a blush creeping up his face, but Tony still understood.
A grin spread across his face at the reminder. “Yeah, you did. Are you okay with that?”
“What? Yeah, I just, I never really knew my actual parents so I don’t have anyone who has I associate as my mom and dad. Ben and May were always just my aunt and uncle, you know? I guess it just feels like it fits.” Peter rambled nervously, avoiding eye contact.
“I think I’d have to agree with you on that one Peter.” Pepper pulled him into a quick hug. “I’d love to be your mom if you’ll let me.”
“That’d be awesome.” Peter beamed.
The door at the end of the hall opened, an annoyed looking Happy poking his head through. “Are you all coming? The reporters are getting impatient.”
“The reporters can go to hell.” Tony scoffed. “I’m having a moment with my family.”
Despite Tony’s dismissal, He, Pepper, and Peter walked towards the room full of reporters. Peter could feel his stomach doing flips, he wasn’t a fan of being the center of attention. When he is Spider-Man, he’s wearing a mask, so nobody knows it’s him. But now he’s just Peter Parker.
Correction - Peter Stark.
They walked through the doors into a small backstage area. Peter could see the stage where they would make the announcement, surrounded by at least a hundred reporters. All of them had cameras and recorders. Some even had notepads and pens at the ready.
“Okay, Pete.” Tony put a hand on each of his shoulders, turning the boy to face him. “What’s going to happen is Pepper will go up, welcome everyone, thank them for coming, and set some of the ground rules for the press conference. Then I will go up and tell them about the adoption. Happy will be back here with you and when I give him the signal he’ll walk with you to the stage where you will join Pepper and I. We’ll let them ask a few questions and then it will be over. It shouldn’t last longer than 15 minutes.”
Nodding his head, Peter repeated everything Tony had told him in his head. It didn’t sound too hard, but he was still nervous about having to answer questions. “I think I can do that.” He tried to sound confident.
“Pep and I will be there the whole time with you. If it gets to be too much, let me know and we can stop. If someone asks you a question and you aren’t sure how to answer it, look at me or Pepper and we’ll answer for you. It’s nothing to worry about.” Tony reached out to Happy, who pulled something out of his pocket. “These are the ear plugs and sunglasses I told you about. FRIDAY is connected to both of them, so she will filter out any extra noise and only allow you to hear me, Pepper, Happy, or the reporters we call on.”
Peter took the items and put them on. The lights in the room dulled and the noise from the reporters stopped. His nerves calmed instantly without the extra feedback. “You ready kid?” Tony asked, pulling out his own pair of sunglasses.
“Yeah. I think so.”
As Tony said, Pepper walked onto the stage first with an air of professionalism that instantly called for attention. She looked back at Tony and Peter with a warm smile before addressing the room. “Good morning everyone. Thank you all for coming out today. We have some exciting news we would like to share with you all, but before we get to that I want to cover the rules for this press conference. First, we ask that you all please respect our privacy after the announcement is made. Harassment of any kind will not be tolerated. Second, at the end we will allow for a short Q&A, so please hold off on asking your questions. And lastly, this is something that is very important to both Tony and myself. We understand that everyone will have their own opinions, so all we ask is that everyone respects the choices we’ve made.”
With her part over, Tony took that as his cue to walk on stage. Cameras flashed and reporters yelled out questions, but Tony ignored them, giving Peter a quick kiss on the cheek as he stood next to her. “Well, I couldn’t have said that better myself, Pep. Isn’t she amazing?” Tony asked, earning a few chuckles from the now quiet group of people. “I guess there’s no use keeping you all in the dark for any longer. Let me tell you all about this kid that I met. His name is Peter. And before you ask - no, he is not my biological child. He is, however, my adopted son.”
At that, the room erupted into chaos. People were asking questions left and right, trying to get Tony to pay attention to them. It took a minute for him to quiet everyone again before he continued. “I’ll answer questions at the end. So yes, I adopted Peter. He is one of the most kind, brave, and selfless people I know. Peter is 15, so I shouldn’t need to remind any of you that harassment of a minor is illegal and I won’t hesitate to take legal action if needed. He’s my son - blood or not - and I will protect him at all costs. So, who’s ready to meet him?” Tony ended with his biggest press smile.
Peter felt Happy place a hand on his shoulder, nudging him forward. They walked to the stage, Happy blocking the view of Peter until they reached the edge. He looked at the man, who gave him an encouraging nod. The stage itself wasn’t very big, but it felt like it took ages for Peter to settle into his place between Tony and Pepper. The older man immediately placed his arm over Peter’s shoulder protectively. He looked up at Tony to see him smiling fondly back at him.
Looking out at the room of people, Peter was surprised to find that he wasn’t feeling as nervous as he thought he would. Not with his mom and dad by his side. The glasses Tony had given him blocked out the bright flashes from the cameras. Everyone was silent, watching the interaction between Tony and Peter, before Peter smiled at them all and shyly said, “Hi. I’m Peter.”
Every hand in the room shot up, people calling out to Tony, hoping to be called on. The billionaire pointed at a woman in the front row. “Mr. Stark, I’m Jennifer Fowler from New York Daily. How long have you known Peter and what made you decide to adopt?”
“The whole process happened rather quickly, but Peter and I both felt like the best option was to adopt. I felt protective and needed to keep him safe and he needed someone to look out for him. Welcoming him into my family was the easiest choice I’ve ever made.” Tony answered, giving Peter’s shoulder a quick squeeze. He then called on the next reporter.
“Darin Porter, Empire State News; How did the two of meet?”
Peter looked at Tony, unsure of how the man would answer. He didn’t really want the public to know that he had been living on the streets. It was embarrassing. As always, Tony seemed to sense the uneasiness from Peter. “I met Peter outside my tower. Something about him made me curious so we started talking, he told me about his background, and next thing I know I’ve adopted him.” He said with a shrug, acting like it was a normal thing to do. “We’ll answer one more question.”
A tall woman was called on next, this time addressing Peter. “Cindy Knox, Metro New York. Peter, what has it been like having Mr. Stark as your new parent?”
The smile that spread across Peter’s face answered the question in and of itself. He looked at his dad before turning back to the reporter. “Well, it’s only been a short amount of time, but already I feel like Tony and Pepper are my family. They’ve helped me a lot and always make sure I have what I need. I feel lucky that they are my parents.”
Okay, it's technically Thursday, because the clock says so. But I haven't gone to bed so in my mind it's still Wednesday. So..
Two double posting days in a row??? What kind of wonderful person must I be to bless you with a shorter waiting period.
I'm kidding...mostly. :)
Nah, I just finished this chapter and I am so happy with it. I really tried to draw from personal experiences with some of these things and it kind of hit me right in the feels. It's made me really take the time to look back on the past four years of my life and see the difference in who I have become.
You all are amazing and fantastic! Thank you for reading!
Please leave a kudos or comment if you enjoy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A week after the press conference, Peter found himself sitting in the back of a black Audi outside his school. Happy was driving and Tony was in the back with Peter, asking for the fifth time since they got in the car, if Peter was sure he was ready to go back to school. “Seriously, Pete. If you want to wait another week you can. You don’t have to go back today. I can call the school and let them know.”
“Dad.” Peter rolled his eyes. “I’ve already told you, I’ll be okay. And if I’m not then I will call you or Happy to come get me. I don’t want to miss anymore than I already have.”
Tony will never get tired of hearing Peter call him ‘dad’. The ecstatic feeling that followed the name never dimmed. “Alright, alright.” He placated. “Just be safe, have fun, and I’ll see you after school.”
Giving his dad one more hug, Peter pushed open the car door, only slightly nervous about being back at school. Ned, who was standing on the steps leading to the school, jumped excitedly at seeing his best friend. Peter had texted him a few days before with an apology and promise of an explanation for his sudden disappearance.
As if no time had passed at all the boys did their handshake, ending with Ned pulling Peter into a hug. “Dude! Don’t you ever drop off the face of the earth again. I was so worried.”
“I know Ned, I’m sorry. I promise I’ll explain everything.” Peter had already visited the school to talk with the principal and his counselor. Tony filled them in on the whole story - at least the one given to CPS - so that if Peter were to have a panic attack during school, they would know how to help. Principal Morita was very understanding, promising he would keep that information confidential. There was no reason the other teachers needed to know about the abuse.
Ned and Peter compared their schedules, seeing that they had 4 out of their 6 classes together. Peter was putting some books in his locker when a “Sup, loser.” came from behind him. He turned to see MJ - her hair down, eyes bright, and signature smirk on her face. Was it possible that in the last two months, MJ had gotten even prettier than she was before?
“Hey, MJ.” Peter blushing slightly. “Long time no see.”
“And that’s my fault?” She quirked an eyebrow. Much like Pepper did when Tony was, well, being Tony.
“What? No, I didn’t say that. I was, just, uh - “
“I’m messing with you Peter.” She interrupted. “It’s nice to see you too.”
Was Michelle Jones, being nice to him? Peter’s heart was leaping in his chest. It was at that moment Peter knew how screwed he was. Is this what people mean when they say they’ve fallen head over heels?
He was pulled from his thoughts by Ned elbowing his ribs. “Dude, you’re starring.” His friend failed to whisper.
MJ looked amused, while Peter’s blush deepened. “Later losers.” MJ said as she turned on her heel, disappearing into the crowded hallway.
“Peter? You okay?” Ned, the ever oblivious friend, asked.
Pushing down his newly resurfaced feelings, Peter swallowed thickly before shaking his head, giving Ned a not-so-reassuring smile. “Yeah, lets go to class.”
The morning passed by slowly for Peter. Ned was only in one of his morning classes. Those classes he didn’t have with his friend to distract him, Peter could hear every whisper about him. His teachers were talking too loud, the fluorescent lights were giving him a headache, and constantly hearing someone whisper about him was driving him crazy.
It didn’t help that his spider sense was constantly tingling despite there being no threat. It was something that had happened before, but he hadn’t had to deal with it for a while. All the people moving around him and bumping into him in the halls always put his spidey sense on edge.
By the time lunch rolled around, Peter was having a hard time focusing. His head was killing him and his skin felt like ants were crawling just beneath the surface. Maybe it was too soon to come back to school. Was his dad right? Should he have waited another week?
“Peter you okay?” Ned asked as he sat at their lunch table, placing a tray of spaghetti in front of himself. The smell had Peter clapping a hand over his mouth, his stomach twisting violently. Peter barely made it to the bathroom before he was hunched over a toilet, emptying his stomach contents into the porcelain bowl.
He knelt in front of the toilet for a few minutes, waiting to see if he’d be sick again, before getting up to wash his face and mouth in the sink. As he grabbed a paper towel to dry his face, the door to the bathroom slammed open, the noise causing him to wince. “Well, Penis. I heard a rumor you were back. Thought I’d see if the rumors were true.” The annoying sneering voice of Flash Thompson echoing through the bathroom.
Peter tried to move past Flash, wanting to get out of the bathroom. Two sets of hands grabbed onto Peter’s arms, pushing him against the wall. His head slammed into the wall, sending bolts of pain through his body. The unwelcome touch reminded Peter of Skip. He knew the man was locked in a cell somewhere far away, but it didn’t stop Peter from collapsing in a heap on the floor.
The last straw broke and the full effect of Peter’s sensory overload had taken over. Every noise, movement, smell, flicker of light - all of it was agony. He could feel every exhale of breath, hear every time someone blinked, smell the pastries from the french bakery four blocks away. His hands covered his ears and Peter squeezed his eyes shut, hoping to block out the extra input.
“What the hell, Flash?” Peter heard MJ yell. “What did you do to him?”
There was the distinct sound of flesh hitting flesh, and somewhere in Peter’s mind he registered it as MJ punching Flash.
A hand touched his knee, but he jerked it away. The touch felt like fire burning his skin. “Peter? What’s wrong?” Ned asked. It was probably a normal volume, but to Peter it sounded like a jet engine roaring in his ears.
“Too much.” Peter sputtered out. “It’s too much.”
Ned seemed to understand. He knew about the sensory overloads. “Shit. MJ, turn off the lights. Close the door.” Ned whispered his instructions.
“C-call my d-dad.” Peter sobbed. He just wanted his dad. He’d know what to do. His dad made everything better.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Tony was sitting in a boring board meeting Pepper had forced him to attend. One of the board members was talking about budget changes and Tony had completely zoned out. If he had it his way, he’d be on his phone working on something productive - no, if he had it his way he wouldn’t even be in the meeting - but the last time he pulled out his phone during a board meeting Pepper had...well, let’s just say Pepper was not happy. Tony shuddered at the thought. That was a scary moment.
His phone started buzzing in his suit jacket, earning him a glare from Pepper. He pulled his phone out with every intent to shut it off, but noticed it was Peter calling him. Showing the screen to Pepper, Tony excused himself from the room. In the hall he answered the call. “Hey Pete. What’s up?” He tried to sound casual, but he was worried something was wrong.
“Um, Mr. Stark?” an unknown voice said on the other side.
“Who are you? Where’s Peter?” His worry seeped into his tone.
“I think you should come get him. Ned said something about a sensory overload? I don’t know, but he’s on the floor of the bathroom and he looks like he’s in pain.”
Shit. Tony already had his suit forming around him and was flying out the window FRIDAY had somehow known to open. “Okay, I’m on my way. What’s your name?”
“Okay Michelle, I need you to meet me at the front of the school. I’ll be there in 2 minutes.” Tony’s heart was pounding. He was barely registering what he was saying. His kid was hurting and he wasn’t there. Tony asked FRIDAY to have Happy meet them at the school after the call ended.
Landing outside the school in his Iron Man suit caused a few heads to turn, but Tony didn’t notice. His focus was on the worried looking tall girl who was standing by the door. She didn’t say anything, just led him through the doors, down a couple halls, and to the outside of a boys bathroom.
Pushing open the door to the dark room, Tony saw Peter sitting on the floor, knees curled into his chest, and a steady stream of tears rolling down his cheeks. “D-dad?” His kid asked with his eyes still shut.
Tony pulled out a pair of his sunglasses and slid them over Peter’s eyes. Then he asked if the other boy - the same one Tony had seen greeting Peter outside the school that morning - had a pair of headphones he could use. The boy nodded rapidly, eyes wide at being addressed, and handed over his headphones. Tony put them in Peter’s ears, then sat in front of his kid, ignoring how dirty the floor was.
In a voice that was barely audible to even to himself, Tony spoke to Peter. “Hey kid. It’s me. I need you to try to block out every other noise and just focus on my voice.”
Peter shook his head slightly. “I c-can’t. T-there’s too m-much.” He stuttered.
“You can do it Pete. Only pay attention to me. I’m a narcissist so don’t deprive me of my much needed attention.” He joked, hoping to break Peter out of his head space. When his kid gave a harsh laugh, he kept going. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you planned this for my benefit. You saved me from a boring board meeting. The only source of entertainment I had in that room was counting how many times this one guy kept mispronouncing the word fill. I don’t think anyone else caught on, but he’d pronounce it like the word feel. So instead of saying “If we fill it up” he’d actually say “If we feel it up”. I don’t know if I want anyone to be ‘feeling up my company’.
Tony rambled on about random things - from the board meeting to how Steve once walked into the living room, half asleep, only wearing Captain America boxers - until Peter’s shoulders relaxed and he opened his eyes. “You feeling better bud?” Tony asked, his voice still soft.
“Yeah. I think the worst has passed.” He croaked. His voice felt a little raw from all the crying.
“How about we get out of here then?” Tony stood from the floor, dusting off his pants. He reached a hand to Peter, who gladly accepted. The racing of his heart was starting to die down now that Peter was responsive.
“Dad?” Peter asked confused. “I think, I think MJ punched Flash.”
Of course that would be one of the first things he said after a sensory overload. “Oh? Did he deserve it?” Tony had no idea where Peter was going with this thought process.
“Well, I don’t think anyone deserves to be punched. But yeah, he deserved it.” Peter leaned against Tony, the two of them just standing in the dark bathroom for a minute.
“He did sir.” Peter’s friend spoke up from behind Tony. He’d forgotten the kid was in here. “Peter ran out during lunch and by the time MJ and I got here, Peter was on the floor and Flash and his friends were standing above him.”
Red hot anger coursed through Tony. Who the hell did this Flash character think he was to touch his son? He’d be talking to the principal about it, but first Tony needed to get Peter home. Happy was waiting in a car outside the school, and soon the school was out of sight.
Peter went to his room to change into comfier clothes as soon as they got home. Tony waited for him on the couch, planning on spending the rest of the day watching movies with his son.
After a few minutes of waiting, Tony got up to make some lunch - seeing how neither of them had had any. He decided just to make some grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. By the time he finished, Peter still hadn’t returned from his room, so Tony went to check on him.
The kid didn’t answer when he knocked, so Tony let himself in. The room was empty. A retching noise from the bathroom got his attention and Tony walked in to find Peter leaning over the toilet, kneeling in a small puddle of vomit where he’d been too late in reaching the bowl. Tony just squatted next to Peter rubbing a hand on his back. The heat coming from his kid was a little concerning.
When the round of nausea was over, Peter leaned his pounding head against the bathtub. The coolness of it, feeling great against his warm skin. “Sorry, dad.”
“This isn’t something you apologize for bud.” Tony grabbed a hand towel off the counter, handing it to Peter. “Is this still left over from the sensory overload? You’re feeling a little warm to me.”
“I don’t know. I just feel tired.” Peter admitted, closing his eyes a little.
“FRI, what’s his temperature?” Tony was really hoping his kid wasn’t sick. Not that he didn’t want to take care of him, but because being sick wasn’t fun for anyone.
“Peter’s temperature has been rising since he entered the tower and is currently at 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit.” The A.I replied.
“Looks like you’ve caught a bug, kid.” Tony stood from his squat, his knees popping in the process. “Do you feel like you’re gonna be sick again or are you ready to get cleaned up?”
Groaning slightly, Peter looked around the room as if looking for an answer. “I think I’m okay right now.”
“Great. How about you change out of those jeans and I clean up the floor.” Tony suggested, helping Peter stand.
Peter looked back at the floor, noticing the vomit on the floor. “I’m sorry. I can clean that up.”
“Nope, no way. Like I said, you change, I clean.” Tony didn’t leave any room for argument. What kind of parent would he be if he let his kid clean up his own vomit? (Okay, his dad made him do it once while his mom was out of town and it sucked. He won’t apologize for not stooping to his father's level.)
Five minutes later, Peter and Tony were both in pajamas huddled on the couch with a plethora of blankets. There was a trash can near Peter’s feet in case he got sick again. Luckily, the trash can was unneeded, because for the rest of the night Peter didn’t throw up. They watched movie after movie. At some point Pepper joined them, cooing over the fact that Peter was sick. She laid his head in her lap and ran perfectly manicured fingers through his hair.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Come Tuesday, Peter was feeling much better and despite his dad’s wishes, he was back at school. It was a much better day. Flash avoided him - thanks to MJ - and his teachers didn’t require him to make-up the work he missed. When school ended Peter was in a great mood. Everything seemed to have gone in his favor. He even managed to make MJ laugh at lunch - which has never happened before.
With the day having gone so well, Peter couldn’t understand why he started to feel on edge. Normally Happy’s indifferent attitude didn’t bother him, but today Peter just thought it was rude. The traffic on the way home was frustrating, and Happy honking his horn and yelling at the other drivers wasn’t helping. By the time he got home, even the man's breathing was getting on Peter’s nerves. The teen hopped out of the car before it had even come to a complete stop, rushing to get to the elevator. “Hey!” Happy yelled after him. “What’s with the teenage attitude today?”
Not stopping to face the man, Peter rolled his eyes and angrily yelled back at him. “In case you forgot, I am a teenager!” When he stepped on the elevator, Peter groaned at FRIDAY for holding the door open. “Just take me up. Happy can get his own elevator.” He snapped at the A.I
As he rode up to the 99th floor, Peter tried to calm himself. There was no reason for him to be so angry. It had been a good day - that was the most frustrating part about his change in attitude. When the doors opened, Tony and Pepper were both standing in the entry, excited smiles on their faces. Which (like everything else) annoyed the hell out of him. Couldn’t they back off for just a second and let him at least put his things down?
“We have something exciting to tell you.” Tony was practically vibrating.
“What?” Peter asked sharply.
Both adult’s facial expressions morphed into frowns at their sons' tone. “Wow. Happy was right, you are in a mood.” Tony commented.
This only angered Peter more. They were talking about him behind his back? Why couldn’t Happy just mind his own business. “Yeah? Well Happy doesn’t know everything.” Peter crossed his arms defensively.
“Maybe not, but he sure hit this one on the head. Want to tell me what’s up?” What happened to his normal Peter? The one that was kind and polite.
“Can’t you just mind your own business?” Peter stepped around his parents. He didn’t want to deal with them right now.
“You are our business, sweetie. We just want to help.” Pepper asked sweetly. She reached a hand out to grab Peter’s arm, but he pulled it out of reach.
“I don’t need your help!” Peter yelled, turning to face them, his breath heavy. “What I need is for you to leave me alone!”
Tony was willing to put up with a lot, but his son disrespecting his fiance, was not one of them. “Peter go to your room.” he said tiredly.
“I said go to your room, Peter.” Tony didn’t want to raise his voice at his kid. He was trying to keep his calm, but Peter was pushing his patients. “You want us to leave you alone? Fine. Go to your room.”
Peter could feel his breath hitch and his eyes tickling with tears. He turned from his parents, walking to his room as fast as he could without running.
Emotions are a stupid thing. Just as quickly as his anger had come, it was replaced with guilt. The adrenaline that came from being angry was gone. Peter now felt himself crumbling as he walked through his door and closed it behind him.
What has he done?
They hadn’t done anything wrong, but Peter yelled at him. He yelled at the only people who cared about him. The two people who let Peter into their lives, gave him a place to live and food to eat. They gave him a family and Peter yelled at them. Tony and Pepper were sure to get rid of him now.
The panic that flooded through Peter made it hard to breathe. He sunk to the floor as tears overflowed from his eyes. “Stupid. I’m so stupid. I’m pathetic. Weak. Useless. A waste of space. No one could love me. I ruin everything.” Peter repeated this to himself over and over. He held his knees to his chest, rocking back and forth. He stared at the wood floor in his room, focusing on nothing except how much of a screw up he is.
He vaguely heard his door open, but Peter didn’t want to see the disappointed look of Tony’s face when he saw how pitiful his son is.
“Peter? Pete. Hey, It’s okay. It’s alright. I’ve got you.” Tony wrapped his arms around Peter’s trembling form.
FRIDAY had alerted them that Peter was in distress immediately after they heard his door shut. Tony wasn’t sure what he was expecting to see when he and Pepper opened the door, but he knew it would be heartbreaking. And he was right. He held Peter to his chest while Pepper ran her gentle fingers through his hair. “Peter, baby, it’s okay. We’re right here.” Pepper whispered, her own tears falling freely.
It took a few seconds, but Tony noticed Peter whispering to himself. When he made out the words he was saying, Tony wanted to hurt anybody who has ever made his kid feel like he was worthless. He knew at that moment that his son needed help that Tony and Pepper couldn’t offer by themselves. Peter needs someone he can talk to, a professional, who can help him work through his mental health problems. Tony was mentally kicking himself for not thinking of it earlier. His kid has been through so much, it should have been one of the first things he thought of.
The small family sat together as Tony and Pepper whispered reassuring words to their son, until Peter’s breathing evened out. He sat up slowly, shoulders slumped, a sad look still on his face. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be ungrateful.”
“Peter, what are you talking about?” Pepper asked, still carding through his curls.
“I was mean to you. Skip always said that being rude to the people who have given you everything is being ungrateful. I’m sorry.” Peter sniffed quietly.
“Oh, bud. I don’t think you were being ungrateful, I think you were just being a teenager.” Tony answered. “You’re allowed to get angry sometimes. That’s part of life, but when you're feeling that way we need you to talk to us. We can’t do anything if we don’t know how to help.”
Staring at his hands, Peter’s eyes started to water again. He doesn’t deserve his dad. “I’m sorry.” He said again.
“No worries Pete, we forgive you. Pepper and I will always be here for you, even if you are grumpy.” Tony pressed a kiss to the side of Peter’s head. “You want to tell us what upset you so much?”
“I don’t know.” Peter shrugged. “I was having a good day, but when I got in the car with Happy, everything started to get on my nerves.”
Tony chuckled lightly, nudging Peter with his shoulder. “Sounds like you hit one of your first puberty milestones; hormones.”
Scrunching his nose, Peter looked at Tony with furrowed eyebrows. “Puberty sucks.”
That got Pepper and Tony to both laugh. Their kid would be alright.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Pepper made lasagna for dinner, which is one of Peter’s favorites. Well, anything resembling pizza is his favorite; spaghetti, lasagna, ect. If it has sauce, cheese, meat, and some type of carb made from dough, it was a winner in his book.
They sat at the table, eating in silence for a few minutes.
“Hey, Pete? I wanted to talk to you about something.” Tony asked cautiously.
Peter looked up at him curious about what could make his dad seem nervous. “Yeah, dad?”
Tony and Pepper shared a look before he answered. “I heard what you were saying to yourself earlier in your room.” Peter’s eyes widened and filled with panic. “I’m not mad, but I am worried. Pepper and I both think it could be helpful if you were to talk with a therapist about some of those things. We think it would also help you to work through some of the trauma that you’ve been through.”
There was a pregnant pause as Peter thought through the offer. Being able to talk to someone, who wasn’t part of his everyday life sounded nice. But he didn’t want his parents to think he was weak for having to get extra help. So many other people in life are able to just get over things like this, why can’t he? “I don’t know.”
“We won’t force it sweetie, but I think it’s something you should consider.” Pepper squeezed his hand. “Either way, we just want you to know that we love you and we will support you the best that we can.”
“I think I’d like to talk to someone.” Peter finally admitted. He felt ashamed that he couldn’t do it by himself.
“That’s great, bud.” Tony smiled. “I’ll talk to Dr. Davidson as see if he has any adolescent therapists he recommends.”
“Dr. Davidson?” Peter had never heard that name before. He really didn’t want too many people knowing about his therapy sessions.
“He’s my therapist that I see. I’d say you could see him too, but I don’t think the two of you would be a good fit.”
His dad has a therapist? That was news to him. If his dad goes to therapy, then maybe it isn’t that bad of a thing. “I didn’t know you saw someone.”
Laughing a little, Tony nodded. “Yeah, I do. It’s really helped me a lot. I once called a suit to attack Pepper during a nightmare. It wasn’t on purpose, but I realized that I needed more help than I could do on my own.” He noticed Peter relaxing the more he spoke about his experiences, which just confirmed his suspicion that Peter was afraid of being judged or looked down upon. “I was kind of ashamed that I had to go to therapy for a while, but Dr. Davidson reminded me that there is nothing shameful about taking care of yourself. He said ‘If you were to break your arm, you won’t just ignore it. You’d go to the hospital, get a cast so it could set properly, and after a while, when everything is healed, they take the cast off.’”
“It’s the same with taking care of your mental health. A therapist is like wearing a metaphorical cast. Some people heal faster than others so they may not need it as long, but it doesn’t matter how long you need a cast or how many times you have to put the cast back on. The important part is that you are taking care of yourself and allowing yourself the time and means to heal.”
Peter was smiling as his dad explained that there was nothing wrong with needing extra professional help. “Thanks dad.”
“Any time kid.” Tony would always be there to help his kid. “Oh! I almost forgot. Pepper and I have something we wanted to tell you.”
Looking between his parents, Peter noticed them both perking up at the mention of the news. He’d never seen them look this giddy before. “We’re getting married!” Pepper squealed before Peter could ask.
But he was confused. “I thought you were already getting married?”
“Well, yes. I asked Pepper to marry me a couple years ago, but we both were so busy we never got around to it.” Tony was bouncing in his seat.
“We set a date though.” Pepper added.
Peter looked at them expectantly, thinking they would just tell him. Apparently they wanted him to actually ask, because they stared at him just as expectantly. “When is it-”
“In a few weeks.” Pepper answered before he could finish asking. “It’s just going to be a small service with close friends and family, so we thought we’d do it sooner rather than later.”
That got Peter excited. He could tell how happy his parents were and it only seemed right to have them officially be a family. “That’s awesome! I can’t wait!”
Hey, I just wanted to put some of my thoughts down here so as not to spoil anything before you read.
The taboo that people have placed on mental health is heartbreaking. So many people are suffering on their own because they think that asking for help makes them weak. But if you haven't heard it before, let me be the first to say that one of the strongest things a person can do is ask for help. It's not an easy thing to do and it really takes putting your pride aside and accepting that you can't do it alone.
I have my own personal experiences with mental health problems and I'm still working through some things. It takes time and patience, but it is completely worth it.
Some people will always have their negative opinions, but don't let that stop you from doing what is best for you. Those people and that negative energy isn't something you need in your life. Do what's best for you, despite what others may say. Love yourself. Take the time to find those things that make you want to move forward.
There are so many resources out there to help. Take advantage of them.
I know I'm just a stranger hiding on the other side of a screen, but know that I am rooting for each of you!
This chapter is shorter than the rest, but I needed it to be that way.
I am going to try really hard to have chapter 9 out tomorrow, but I’m babysitting an 8 month old for two days starting tomorrow, so I don’t know how much time I’ll really have to write.
Anyway, thank you all for reading, leaving kudos, and commenting!
“Break up with the past.”
That’s what Peter’s new therapist - Dr. Nemins - said. She told Peter that he needs to ‘break up with the past’. What does that even mean? He can’t just break off the trauma part of his life. Trust him, if he could have ghosted his trauma, Peter would have done so a long time ago. But that’s no how it works, so how the hell is he supposed to ‘break up with the past’?
First thing Wednesday morning, Tony called his therapist, asking for recommendations for an adolescent therapist. Dr. Davidson immediately suggested Dr. Nemins. So Tony had FRIDAY create a file with every bit of information about the doctor.
Dr. Kacie Nemins has 2 PHDs - one in child psychology, the other in clinical psychology - and has her M.A in trauma counseling. She spent 8 years working as a Child Advocate in foster care, 5 years as a Behavioral Health Advisor, 10 years as a Trauma Intervention Specialist, and has written 2 of the most advanced research articles on child and adolescent mental health. Just her qualifications alone had Tony sold on her being Peter’s therapist. He reached out to her the next day, scheduling an appointment for Peter the following Monday.
Walking into the reception area on Monday was relaxing. One wall was attached to a large aquarium. There was an aromatherapy diffuser filling the room with a comforting smell. The waiting chairs weren’t chairs, but instead a few sofas. There were books, coloring pages, legos, and all sorts of other activities to distract the kids while they waited. It felt welcoming and inviting. It was warm, comforting, peaceful. Peter felt himself relaxing the moment he stepped in the room. He felt detached from the rest of the world, like he was in his own little bubble of safety.
Dr. Nemins is a very nice lady. Peter would guess she was in her mid-late 30’s. Her kind blue eyes and bright smile was calming. She didn’t dress like Peter would have imagined. Instead of business attire like Pepper wore, she was much more casual in an oversized sweater and purple pants. Her hair was in a loose messy bun and she wore large rounded glasses that reminded Peter of May. Everything about her screamed friendly.
Tony was kicked out of the room after the first initial meet and greet. Dr. Nemins said something along the lines of “parents don’t need to know everything about their children.” Of course his dad grumbled on his way out, but it didn’t dissuade Dr. Nemins.
She started off the session by asking Peter different ‘get to know you’ questions. It was simple things like ‘what are your hobbies’ and ‘what’s your favorite subject in school’. Peter didn’t even realize when she started asking deeper questions. One second he was telling her all about MJ punching flash, the next he was fighting back tears after explaining how Skip raped him. The thing Peter really appreciated was the fact that she never once gave him a pity look. Her smile was soft, open, and understanding. There was no judgement or criticism.
Towards the end of the session, after two hours, she pulled out fudge pops with the excuse, “popsicles are the only solution after talking about your emotions.” It was as Peter licked the last little bit off the popsicle stick that Dr. Nemins gave out the “homework assignment”. All Peter had to do was write a breakup letter to his past.
So that’s where we’re at now. Peter sitting at the desk in his room - paper and pencil at the ready. He’s written countless papers and essays for school, so this should be easy.
That was a foolish thought.
Writing the letter was the hardest thing Peter has ever tried to do - and that’s coming from the kid who once had to lift an entire building off of himself. He’s been sitting at his desk since they got home 3 hours ago. The only thing he has written is, ‘Dear past,’. That’s it. 2 words. Maybe it would be easier if Peter knew what it meant to break up with the past. But he doesn’t.
Groaning, Peter dropped his head on the desk. ‘This is so frustrating’ he thought. The sound of his pencil snapping made him groan again, as he threw away the fifth pencil that he’s broken since starting his letter. It’s a good thing he chose to use a pencil instead of a pen, because a broken pen would definitely be messier.
“What have those pencils ever done to you?” Peter lifted his head at the unfamiliar voice. Leaning against his doorway was Natasha, an amused look on her face.
He flushed as he sat a little straighter in his chair. There hadn’t been many opportunities to hang out with the Avengers after the first movie night. They spent most of their time at the compound upstate. The only other time Peter had seen them was after the press conference when they joined them for a celebratory dinner. Peter still had some mixed feelings, but he tried to push the negative ones out of his mind.
Natasha quirked an eyebrow, still waiting for Peter to respond. “No-nothing. I didn’t mean to b-break them. It just kind of...happened?” He ended lamely. He felt like a mess at the moment, unable to think straight. “What...what are you doing here?”
The assassin shrugged her shoulders as she moved further into the room to sit on the bed. “Too much testosterone at the compound. All the guys are trying to prove that theirs is bigger.” She looked at the wide eyed teenager, realizing what she just implied. “Metaphorically speaking.”
Swallowing thickly, Peter nodded his head, wishing the rising blush to go away. “Yeah. yeah of course. I knew what you meant.” He chuckled awkwardly. Geez, could he be anymore embarrassing?
“Mhmm, sure.” Natasha smirked before changing the subject. Not that the new subject was any better. “What are you working on?”
Peter looked at the paper Natasha had nodded towards. His face dropped as he remembered the stupid letter. “Just something I have to write for...something.” While Peter didn’t feel as ashamed about going to therapy as he did before, he wasn’t eager to tell one of the most badass women ever to exist about it.
“For something?” She repeated, obviously curious about Peter’s lack of an answer. “Is there anything I need to be telling your dad about? Are you secretly a covert spy selling classified information about Stark Industries and that paper you’re writing is a mission report detailing all the data you’ve collected over the past few weeks?”
If there was ever a better reason for Peter to look so flabbergasted, he didn’t want to know about it. Did the Black Widow just ask Peter if he was a spy? “What the fuck?” He just stared at her as if she grew an extra couple of heads. What was even more confusing was the fact that she was now laughing.
“That was a better reaction than I could have hoped for!” Natasha said, pretending to wipe tears from her eyes. Peter just stared as she calmed her giggles, her face returning to her normal smirk. He is so confused. It was a joke? What? “Did I break you, kid?”
Shaking his head, Peter opened and closed his mouth like a fish out of water. He has so many questions he doesn’t even know where to start. Finally his vocal cords broke out of their shocked state, allowing words to escape. “I’m not a spy?” He winced as it came out like a question. “I’m supposed to write a breakup letter to my past and I don’t know where to start.”
Now it was Natasha’s turn to look confused. “A breakup letter to your past? What does that mean? Is it a school assignment?”
“No, it’s uh...it’s for therapy.” So much for not telling her about his therapy. “And, I don’t know what it means either. That’s why I’m stuck.”
Natasha looked understanding as she walked over to his desk. She looked at his paper, her eyebrows furrowed a little. “I think I know what it means. It’s like the saying ‘don’t let your past define your future’. While your past has led you to where you are today, what you do today is what determined where you end up 5 years from now. Does that make sense?”
“A little.” Peter admitted. “But I still don’t know what it means to ‘break up with my past’.”
“Well, it’s like a relationship break up. You’re basically saying goodbye to the things that have happened. You’re letting go of the hold that it has on you, freeing yourself from the toxic energy, and making space for the future. It doesn’t mean you’ll forget the past, but it won’t be weighing you down anymore.”
Peter just nodded his head. That actually made sense and it sounded promising. Hopeful. “Thanks. I get it now.”
Ruffling his hair, Natasha smiled at him. “Anytime Маленький паук.”
“What does that mean?” Peter asked. He doesn’t even know what language that was.
A knowing look on her face, Natasha walked out the door with a little wave. “It’s Russian for ‘little spider’.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Peter walked into his dad’s office, fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. “Uh, dad?”
Looking up from the stack of papers Pepper was making him look through, Tony immediately caught on to Peter’s nervousness. “Hey, bud.” He asked casually. Tony really wanted Peter to open up to him without any prodding.
“I think we might have a problem.” Peter started, then backtracked a little. “Well, maybe not a problem-problem, because I don’t know if it’s necessarily bad. It’s just not what we had planned…”
Cutting off his son before he got too far into his rambling, Tony tried to not let on that he was panicking a little. “Pete. You wanna cut to the chase?”
He started to chew on his bottom lip as he thought about the way he wanted to phrase his answer. “I think Natasha knows about my alter ego.”
Of course Natasha knew.
Natasha ALWAYS knows. And Tony has no idea how she does it.
You want to surprise her with an impromptu vacation after a mission that was especially hard on her - she already has a pamphlet detailing the ‘top ten things to do while in the Bahamas’ sitting on her lap when you tell her about the trip.
You host a team dinner to tell them about you and Pepper getting engaged - she congratulates you the second you open the door, despite the fact that you hadn’t told anyone.
You adopt a child, who just so happens to be Spider-Man and want to keep his identity a secret - she… Wait. “What makes you think she knows?” Tony asked, interrupting his own thoughts.
“Well, she was talking with me in my room - helping me understand something Dr. Nemins said - and when she left she said something in Russian. So I asked her what it meant and she said it means ‘little spider’.”
Ah. So that definitely means she knows.
Where was he? You adopt a child, who just so happens to be Spider-Man and want to keep his identity a secret - she drops a not-so-subtle hint that she knows about the kids alter ego.
Accepting the fact that the rest of the team is also aware that Peter is Spider-Man, Tony just sighs. “She knows. I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of the team knows too. It was bound to happen eventually.”
Peter slumped into the couch in the office dramatically. “I’m hungry.” The growling of his stomach, echoing his complaint.
“It is dinner time.” Tony teases. “Most people get hungry around this time.”
Throwing one of the decorative pillows at his dad, Peter groans loudly. “You’re my dad. You’re supposed to feed me.”
“I guess I can do that. Or at least pay for a restaurant to deliver the food to feed you.”
“Can we have burgers? I haven’t had a good burger in a long time.” Peter hopped from the couch, bouncing on the balls of his feet as he waited for his father's answer.
Rolling his eyes at his son’s sudden change burst of energy, Tony couldn’t help but chuckle. “You heard the kid FRI.”
“I’ve already placed the order boss.” FRIDAY responded, almost sound smug.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Peter jolted awake from his nightmare, gasping for breath.
He’d gone a couple nights without dreaming. It was too good to last, Peter knew that, but he couldn’t help but feel disappointed as his mind replayed his nightmare.
Ben and May were there. He had walked into his old apartment to find the two of them talking in hushed whispers. When they noticed him, their faces turned cold and angry. “You forgot about us.” They said in unison, taking a step closer to him with each sentence. “How could you just replace us? Didn’t we mean anything to you? We thought you loved us.” By the time they reached Peter, he was begging for them to forgive him. He woke up right as he was about to hold onto May’s hand.
‘It was just a dream.’ Peter told himself. ‘They don’t really think you forgot about them. You could never.’
No matter how many times he tried to reason with himself, Peter still felt the guilt bubbling in his chest. It was rising higher and higher. He climbed out of bed, kicking the tangled blankets off his legs.
Fresh Air. That’s all he needs.
Pulling on a hoodie and his sneakers, Peter stepped in the elevator, asking FRIDAY to take him to the roof. Before he got off he wanted to make sure he’d be alone for a bit. “Hey, FRIDAY? Please don’t tell my dad that I’m up here. I just want to be alone for a little bit.”
“If he asks, I am required to tell him, but I won’t tell him otherwise.”
That’s better than nothing.
Sitting on the edge, Peter hung his legs over. He thought about the first time he’d been up here - bleeding from a stab wound. To think that it was only a few weeks ago. His life has changed so much.
He’s gotten so lucky; between Tony and Pepper, going back to school, and getting off the streets. So much good has come from a short amount of time. How could he have already settled into a new life not 3 months after May died? What kind of nephew was he for moving on so quickly? He hasn’t even been to her grave since the funeral.
That’s it. Peter needs to go see Ben and May. Maybe he can talk to them, explain how happy he is. They always said they wanted him to be happy. Hopefully they will forgive him for moving on. He needs their comfort now.
Peter didn’t think about anything else, except for getting to the cemetery. He pulled the hood of his jack over his head as he crawled down the side of the building. His web shooters were inside, but Peter wanted to walk. It would give him time to figure out what to say to his aunt and uncle.
After Ben died, May and Peter would visit his grave every Sunday. She always believed in life after death. Said that there had to be more than just death being the end. Peter wanted to believe in that too. There were times when he felt like he was being hugged by an invisible being, and in those moments Peter liked to think it was Ben or his parents.
May would talk to Ben’s headstone as if he were there and Peter found comfort in it. That’s all he wanted to do right now; sit by Ben and May’s graves, talking to them until the sun came up.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Peter!” Tony called as he walked into his kids' room. “Rise and Shi-“
The room was empty. Peter’s blankets were thrown on the floor, his backpack by the door, and his phone on the bed side table. Tony checked the bathroom, but it was just as empty as the bedroom.
“FRIDAY, where’s Peter?”
“Peter left the tower at 3:27 this morning.”
Good news! I had a slight change of plans - resulting in me not having to babysit - which gave me more free time to write this chapter. I know it is a little late, so I apologize, but I hope you enjoy either way.
Bad news...This is the last official chapter. Chapter 10 will be an epilogue. Also, It's kind of short.
I've had more fun writing this story than any of the others I've done. It's also the best one I've done. Maybe in the future I will add more, but for now I am happy with the ending.
Thank you to everyone who has come along on this journey with me!
Tony’s heart stopped. The wind knocked out of him at the news. Where the hell is his kid? There is no reason why Peter should have left that early. Did something happen that Tony wasn’t aware of? “Why didn’t you wake me FRIDAY?”
“It is not one of my protocols to alert anyone when Peter leaves the house.”
“Well make it one!” Tony snapped. He took a couple deep breaths. Yelling at his A.I wasn’t going to find Peter. “Did he say where he was going?”
Tony walked into the kitchen, feeling frazzled and worried. What if his kid ran away from them? Pepper was sitting at the counter sipping her tea. “Peter’s gone, Pep.”
She looked at Tony slowly. “What do you mean Peter’s gone?”
“He left early this morning, didn’t tell FRIDAY where he was going, and left his phone here.” Tony pulled at his hair. His mind was trying to think of any reason why Peter would leave. Did they do something to make him feel unsafe? Had something happened in therapy that triggered his flight response? How was he even supposed to start looking for his son?
Pepper pulled Tony close to her. “We’ll find him, Tony.”
Her attempt at reassuring him didn’t go unnoticed, but Tony doesn’t want to be reassured; he wants to find Peter. “FRIDAY get Happy on the phone and wake up the team. Tell them all to meet me in our living room - even the ones who are at the compound. I need everyone in on this”
Is it irrational thinking? Yes. Does Tony care? No.
“Tony, I think you’re overreacting a little. Don’t get me wrong, I want to find Peter as much as you do, but I don’t think this warrants waking up a team of highly trained super soldiers and assassins.” Pepper tried to reason. She cupped his cheek with one hand, rubbing her thumb against the bone.
The tears that escaped his emotional eyes, were quickly wiped away. “I just want to find him Pep. I need to know that he’s safe.”
“Hey Boss.” Happy’s voice echoed through the room over the phone. “I’m about 5 minutes out. Tell Peter to be ready when I get-”
“Peter’s missing. He left this morning and didn’t tell anyone where he was going.” Tony cut him off, his voice quivering. “I need you to keep driving around. If you spot him you call me immediately.”
“I’m on it.” He said before FRIDAY hung up.
Tony pulled himself away from Pepper. As much as he loved being in her arms, he needed to be doing something. His thoughts kept going to worse case scenarios, which only increased the unsettling feeling in his chest. At any other time, Tony might worry that the tightness was a sign of a heart attack.
According to the clock on the wall, only five minutes had passed since Tony gave FRIDAY the order to wake the Avengers. It felt like an eternity. Tony had spent the time staring out the window, hoping - despite it being completely illogical - that he’d be able to see Peter walking among the hoard of tiny looking people, his messy curls bouncing atop his head.
It took another five minutes for Nat and Steve to arrive - them being the only one at the tower. Their plan was to split up, each person covering different parts of the city. Tony would be flying in his suit while the other two would be driving in separate cars. Pepper’s job was to stay at the tower, in case Peter came back. She would also relay the plan to the other members of the team when they arrived.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Tony has been flying around for 2 hours with absolutely no sign of Peter. He’s flown through all of Queens and Manhattan twice. With each passing minute, the pit in his stomach grew. The longer his son was missing, the more chance he could be hurt.
The school already called informing him that Peter didn’t show up to school. Much to Tony’s annoyance, Rhodey is stuck in a military meeting and Clint is in Bulgaria on a SHIELD operation. Sam met up with them 30 minutes into their search, joining Tony in the air.
“Boss, you have an incoming call.” FRIDAY notified him.
“Answer it FRI.” His hopes soared, had someone found Peter? He landed on the nearest rooftop, prepared to go in any direction to get to his kid faster.
Waiting for the line to connect felt longer than normal. “Tony,” Pepper spoke through the phone. “I just talked to one of Peter’s friends from school. He said that Peter had a spot he used to visit whenever he was feeling upset.” Her voice sounded sad, hesitant almost.
“Did he tell you where?” Tony worried what the answer would be. There was a small croak to Pepper’s voice that meant she had been crying.
“The cemetery. Where his aunt and uncle are buried.”
There was a time after his parents died when Tony spent every evening sitting by his mother's grave, wishing he could feel the warmth he only felt around her. For weeks he would plead with the universe to bring his mother back. All he wanted was her comfort, a hug, anything. That’s when his drinking rocketed. He needed something that would fill the void that came with his dead mother.
Every part of his well built composure broke as he remembered the pain he had once been in. The struggle to move, breathe, live. Sleepless nights spent crying in his dorm, hands pressed against his mouth to quiet his sobs. Tearing apart his lab. Breaking every picture that hung on the walls. Screaming until his voice was gone. Carelessly driving through the streets, uncaring if he wrapped his car around a tree. Sometimes even hoping that he would.
He couldn’t get caught up in his memories. Not when Peter was facing the same anguish. Not when his son needed him.
Following the directions FRIDAY gave him, Tony took off as fast as he could. As the cemetery came into view, he could see the small form of Peter curled up on the grass in front two headstones. He landed his suit outside the gates, confirming with Pepper he found Peter. She agreed to let everyone else know, then meet the two of them at the cemetery.
The suit retracted back into its holding compartment in the arc reactor. Tony immediately walked through the gate, making his way to where Peter was lying. He sat on the grass near the kid’s head taking in the way his eyes were closed, face relaxed, chest rising and falling with each breath. There were dried tear tracks noticeable on his cold flushed cheeks.
Tony placed a hand on Peter’s shoulder, shaking gently to wake him. “Pete? Hey bud, time to wake up.”
Sleep filled eyes blinked up at the man then at the environment around them. Peter sat up quickly, rubbing his eyes. “Dad, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to fall asleep.” The familiar guilty expression made its way onto his kid’s face. “What time is it?”
They would have time for lecturing later, for now Tony just pulled Peter into a hug.“Don’t worry about that right now. All I care about is that you’re safe.”
Peter hesitated before melting into his dad’s hug, sighing happily as he did.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
When Pepper arrived at the cemetery, it was to the sight of Tony and Peter holding onto each other, both completely relaxed in the comfort the other was providing. She felt the worry and stress from the past 2 hours wash away as she sat on Peter’s other side, kissing his temple tenderly. “I’m glad you’re okay.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you guys.” Peter ducked his head, his shoulders turning in on himself. His voice was small, his insecurities clear in the way it quivered at the end.
“We know. But let me give you a little insight; as your parents, we will always worry.” Tony nudged Peter’s shoulder softly. If nothing else, Tony just wants Peter to feel loved. He doesn’t want his kid worrying about getting in trouble or being judged. All Tony’s anger from earlier was gone. Peter doesn’t need to be told what he did was wrong, he already knows. What he needs now is a safe place to talk. “Will you tell us what happened?”
There was a pregnant pause while Peter tensed a few times; each time relaxing again when Tony or Pepper would squeeze his hand or run their fingers through his hair. It was their quiet way of comforting him. “I had a nightmare.” He finally admitted, tears welling in his eyes. “Ben and May were mad at me because I moved on without them. I just needed to see them, talk to them. I thought if I explained how happy I am, they’d forgive me.”
“I don’t think there is anything you have to apologize for.” Peter looked at Pepper disbelievingly. It was heartbreaking to see the doubt in his son. Peter truly felt that he had done something wrong. “I think your aunt and uncle would want you to be happy.”
At her words, Peter stood from his spot turning his back toward them. “How do you know what they would want? You didn’t even know them.” His tone was quiet. Not sharp or harsh, but distressed.
Tony pulled himself from the grass. He wrapped an arm around Peter’s trembling shoulders as a silent reassurance. “Anyone who can raise someone as well as your aunt and uncle raised you, would never want anything less than for you to be happy.” There was a finality to his voice that left no room for uncertainty.
A quiet sob left Peter as he turned to face Tony. He allowed his dad to pull him close, tucking his head into Tony’s chest. The tears had stopped, his breathing slowed, a sense of tranquility taking place of the guilt and torment he’d been feeling. There was a sliver of hope that filled Peter. One that he held onto, knowing if he let go it would only cause him misery and pain. And he’s had enough of that for a lifetime, so Peter grasped on tight, ready to follow wherever it took him. “You really think so?”
“I know so.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
He and his parents had a long conversation after Peter went to visit Ben and May. They refused to let Peter apologize anymore than he already had, even threatening to move his patrol curfew up an hour or two. Pepper had done some research, resulting in a mood/feelings chart being made. It sounded silly and childish to Peter, but it actually helped everyone - mostly Peter - express how they are doing, what their feeling, and on a level of 1-10, how prominent that feeling is.
Tony and Pepper agreed that there would be no grounding or punishment this time, but Peter did have to apologize to everyone who helped search for him. He didn’t have to explain why or where he went, but an apology nonetheless. It was awkward and embarrassing, but they all shrugged it off easily saying “It was no big deal”.
Peter also had to go see Dr. Nemins again. During the second appointment the Wednesday after, it was decided that he would start seeing her twice a week until they both felt it wasn’t necessary.
Dr. Nemins also suggested they have a weekly family evening. A night where there were no distractions, no other people. Just the three of them hanging out, watching movies, playing games, and most importantly, having fun.
It wasn’t until Friday night that Peter had another nightmare. This one wasn’t like his other nightmares, instead of May and Ben dying, it was Tony and Pepper. Peter has been sitting up in his bed for ten minutes. All he wants to do is make sure his parents are okay. Rationally he knows everything is fine, but he needs to see them. He needs to see as their chests rise and fall with each breath, hear the beating of their hearts, smell his dad’s cologne and his mom’s conditioner. Those are all things he’s come to find comfort in. Things he feels an urgency to witness.
Climbing out of bed, Peter changed into non-sweat-soaked pajamas before heading into the hallway. His parents bedroom door is less than 10 feet away from his, so it doesn’t take any time at all for Peter to be standing outside of it. Worry takes over him as he tries to decide if he should knock or just walk in.
If he knocks, then he will definitely wake one or both of them up. He doesn’t want to wake his parents, he just wants to see that they’re alive. Just walking in though, feels like an invasion of privacy. It could be considered creepy if he just watched them sleep for a minute or two, even though he’s only doing it as a way to calm his anxiety.
For five minutes Peter paces from his door to his parents and back. The internal debate fighting an all out war inside his mind. His eyes feel tired, begging him to fall back asleep, but if he does before knowing for certain that Tony and Pepper are okay, he’ll only have more nightmares.
Suddenly FRIDAY speaks quietly. “Boss would like me to ask why you are pacing the hallway.”
Well there goes the plan of not waking either of them. “I had a nightmare.” He goes with the simple answer. Explaining his need to see them would take too long. At least in his sleep riddled mind it would.
“He says you can go in his room if you want.”
Yes. He does want that. That’s all he wants. So Peter nods his head, this time stopping outside the door for just a second before turning the knob, letting the door swing open slowly.
“Hey kiddo.” Tony said with what was probably supposed to be a muffled yawn. “You said you had a nightmare?”
Peter stayed in the doorway, already feeling like he was imposing. He’s seen that his parents are breathing - hell he’s talking to his dad right now - so he should be fine to go back to his room. But there’s still a desire to be close to them. “Yeah.”
“Come here.” Tony slid closer to the middle of the bed, leaving an open space for Peter to climb in. It only took Peter a second to understand what the gesture meant, but as soon as he did he wasted no time in accepting the offer. He climbed under the blankets, laying his head on the pillow his dad had just been using, enjoying the lingering scent of motor oil and cologne. Once he was settled Tony propped himself on his elbow, already pulling his fingers through Peter’s hair. “Do you want to talk about it?”
With a shrug Peter looked up at Tony. “It was just about you and Pepper.” His dad stayed quiet, waiting for him to elaborate. “You both died.”
“And so you needed to make sure we were alright.” It wasn’t a question. Tony knew exactly what Peter was talking about. The number of times he had had to call Rhodey or Pepper - while she was out of town - in the middle of the night was a little embarrassing. Even in the few short weeks Peter had been part of his life, Tony had asked FRIDAY to check on him, once even going to look for himself.
Sighing, Peter leaned closer to his dad. There was no judgment in his voice. Only love and understanding. It’s funny how much of a difference it can make when you allow yourself to believe in a happy ending. For so long, Peter had expected the worst in life. He had convinced himself that he deserved it. Part of the reason he even became Spider-Man was to even out the scales. If he did good, saved people, then maybe the universe would stop punishing him.
When he’d been found by Tony, it felt too good to be true. Like a cruel joke from the universe, waiting for him to be happy before pulling the rug out from under him. It’s why he always felt like his parents would get rid of him. Dr. Nemins said it was a defense mechanism. A safeguard put into place to avoid falling over again. There are still days when he feels insecure, but his parents always find ways to show him that he is loved and wanted.
His journey is far from over, in fact, he’s still at the very beginning. But if the beginning is anything to go off of, Peter has no doubt the rest of his journey will only get better. He has two great parents supporting him every step of the way, never failing to catch him when he falls. Maybe his good hand in life has finally arrived.
Soon, Peter found his eyes drifting shut as the call of sleep won him over.
Tony leaned in as he felt Peter’s body relax completely, indicating he’d fallen asleep, placing a kiss on his temple. “Goodnight kiddo. I love you.”
Chapter 10: Epilogue
And here it is. The end.
Thank you again everyone for joining me on this adventure! I'm sad to see it over so soon.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Peter stands in front of a large full length mirror adjusting his crimson red tie as he looks over himself one last time. Everything needs to be perfect. His hair is gelled back taming his usually unruly curls. The navy blue suit jacket he’s wearing has one button buttoned. The watch his dad gave him before the press conference is strapped to his wrist.
He isn’t sure why he’s so nervous. It’s not his wedding. It’s his parents.
The small wedding was being held at a beautifully rustic vineyard in Tuscany Italy. Only close family and friends were invited - Pepper’s parents, the Avengers, and a few of Pepper’s close friends. The group flew to Italy in one of Tony’s jets the previous day, joining Peter, Tony, and Pepper who had gone up a day earlier to finalize the arrangements.
At the vineyard there was an old chapel where the ceremony would be held. A long white carpet led down the middle of the room between the few rows of chairs that had been set up. The backdrop was a simple white sheet draped from the ceiling, strings of fairy lights lit up behind it. Just outside of the chapel was a private patio with a wooden pergola, more lights swooping over the area. An endless view of perfectly mowed green grass fields surrounded the vineyard, gave off a more intimate feeling. Like nothing in the world could interrupt the magic of the moment.
There was a small knock on the door before Tony walked in, smiling brightly at his son’s appearance. “You know, it’s rude to out stage the groom on his wedding day.” He teased with a wink, causing Peter’s ears to turn pink.
Peter ran his hands down his jacket, flattening out the wrinkles. “Younger people tend to look better than old people. It’s not my fault you’re...”
“Don’t you dare finish that sentence.” Tony threatened with a finger pointed at Peter’s chest.
“..old” Peter ducked out of the way as his dad reached to mess up his hair. He crossed the room with a giggle, his hand instinctively checking that his hair was still in place.
Exasperated, Tony looked at his kid, pride filling his heart. How did he get so lucky? “You almost ready to go? We’ve got five minutes to show time.”
“I think so. Are you ready?”
“Kid, I’ve been ready for a long time.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The room was silent except for the soft piano music playing in the background as Peter followed the Rhodey, who was the officiant for the service, to the front of the room. On one side of the room was Pepper’s mom, along with ten other people Peter had never met. The opposite side had all of the Avengers - some of whom Tony said were from outer space, like the raccoon and tree guy. As Peter made it to the end of the aisle, he took his seat next to Nat, who gave him a quick side hug. Next to walk in was Tony, who stayed standing at the front next to Rhodey.
Then the music changed as everyone stood to watch as Pepper walked into the chapel, guided by her father. Her dress was a traditional white gown with a sweetheart neckline. The skirt was full, swaying effortlessly with each step. Her hair was pulled back into an intricate bun at the base of her neck, a few loose strands framing her face. Pepper was smiling wide, her blue eyes shining in the lights of the room.
The ceremony was beautiful. Tony and Pepper shared heartfelt vows, promising the world to each other. When Rhodey pronounced them husband and wife, the room erupted into cheers.
Everyone followed as the couple led them to the reception area. Peter sat back, happily watching as his parents laughed, danced, and celebrated their marriage. It was a happy time, but Peter still felt a small pit in his stomach. As his throat tightened in the familiar way that was always followed by tears he snuck to the front of the chapel, sitting on the steps as he looked up at the stars.
He let the tears flow freely as he thought of his family. It wasn’t in the same way he had done many times before. Instead of grief and guilt, Peter felt a bittersweet warmth. He felt happy, peaceful, content. His only wish was that his biological parents, aunt, and uncle could be here with him. That they could meet his new parents.
“Hey guys.” Peter whispered to the stars. “I wish you were here. You’d love Tony and Pepper, especially you May, you and Pepper would get along well.” A wet chuckle escaped his lips as he wiped away a few tears. “Thank you for getting me to where I am. You will always be a part of me.” Quietness enveloped Peter again as he smiled at the memories of those he’s lost.
Time must have moved faster than he realized because Tony and Pepper had both taken up a spot on either side of him. “What are you doing underoos?”
Leaning his head on Tony’s shoulder, Peter hummed softly. “I was just thinking.” Tony wrapped an arm around his son as he has done so many times before. “I wish you all could have met each other.”
“Me too.” Pepper said giving his hand a loving squeeze.
The three of them sat for a few seconds in a comfortable silence before Peter sat up with a jerk. “You guys are missing your party! It’s not a wedding reception without the bride and groom.”
Tony pulled Peter closer to him, Pepper scooting in as well. “I’d rather be here with you. Besides, we needed a little break.”
A smirk formed on Peter’s face, a devilish glint in his eyes. “Are you sure it isn’t because you’re getting old, dad?”
“Maybe.” Tony said with an eye roll. “But I can’t get too old now that we’re going to be having another troublemaker running around.”
It probably took longer than should have been necessary for Peter to fully understand what his dad had just said. He looked at the smirk on his dad’s face, then the excited smile on his mom’s. “You’re pregnant!”
One last note, the way I ended this chapter gives me the opportunity to add more later, if I have the time. I really didn't want to keep this going without a guarantee that I will finish it.