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A Hug is All I Need

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Peter left the apartment in tears.

The remainders of May’s harsh words echoed around his head as he walked down the street, tears steadily rolling down his cheeks as he headed towards the subway.

He had his earbuds on full blast as he made his way through the streams of people heading to work and to school, trying his hardest to repress the sobs that wanted to force themselves out. People sent him sympathetic glances as he rushed past them, but Peter would only look away and focus on getting to his destination.

Peter reached the subway without much hassle and stood on the platform with his arms wrapped tight around his chest. His stomach churned with anxiety; his throat tight as he tried his hardest to keep the tears at bay. Peter kept his head down and tried to stop the tears, his entire body feeling like it was about to explode the longer he stood there.

No one asked if he was alright, no one offered any kind of support as he sobbed quietly to himself in the middle of the subway. When his train arrived, he rushed inside and found a seat in the back corner and pulled his knees to his chest.

Peter was aware of the odd glances he was receiving, but he ignored it all and closed his eyes. His sensitive ears were beginning to pound from how loud he had turned his music up, along with the adding stress that made the ache move to his head. But he didn’t turn it down, because it offered a distraction from the hollow feeling he felt in his chest.

Just thinking about going to school had Peter sobbing into his hands. He was behind, he was so fucking stressed he just wanted to curl up in a hole somewhere and die. He had tests upon tests coming up, and he hadn’t been able to pay attention in class lately because of the problems rising between him and May. Along with that, he didn’t understand the content anymore and couldn’t focus in class.

This morning had been the breaking point. Peter had an attitude, and May had enough. She yelled at him until he stormed out the door, and in the midst of all the chaos, he’d forgotten to collect his homework off of his desk.

Mr. Harrington was going to kill him.

When Peter realised that he was getting close enough to school that he had to calm down, he forced the tears to stop. He consoled himself, arms still wrapped around himself in a hug he so desperately wanted to receive from someone else.

By the time he was off the subway, he was dry-eyed and emotionless. Peter held it all in and made his way through the school like nothing was wrong.

He briefly stopped by his locker then headed to homeroom. He was alone in homeroom, so no one paid attention to him as he slinked into the room and took his usual seat up the back. Peter was alone. Not even his homeroom teacher seemed to care about his entrance.

The tears burned in his eyes, but he forced them down.

Homeroom passed slowly as it always did. Alone, he made his way to Mr. Harrington’s class and sat down in his usual seat beside Ned. MJ sat on Ned’s other side, and the two were in such an in-depth conversation that they didn’t notice Peter walk in.

Peter knew that he was being stupid, and that they didn’t have to notice whenever he wasn’t in a good mood, but this was one of the times where he wanted someone to notice. Where he wanted someone to ask him if he was okay, if he wanted a hug. He hadn’t received a hug in so long.

But when Mr. Harrington asked if he was okay when he came by to collect homework, Peter lied. He smiled and said he was fine, and Mr. Harrington believed him. Then, the man asked for his homework, and fixed Peter with a disappointed look when there were no papers given to him.

It was so conflicting. Peter hated himself even more. He had wanted someone to ask him if he was okay, but someone finally did, he lied. Now, all he wanted was run away and cry. He was such a baby.

So, he held it in.

Ned and MJ never noticed, neither did the rest of the class. He spent the first hour hunched over his desk, eyes staring straight ahead at the whiteboard, but he wasn’t really listening. He completely zoned out.

Then, class was over, and Peter headed to his next class, English. He followed quietly behind Ned and MJ, who still didn’t seem to notice his sodden mood. That hurt Peter more and more as the minutes passed, but then he scolded himself. He was being selfish. His friends didn’t need to pay attention to him every second of the day.

In English, they had a test, and Peter wasn’t prepared. The building stress was eating him alive.

About halfway through the essay, Peter almost broke down. He rested his elbow on the desk and his head in his hand, tears desperately trying to get free. His nose was blocked, throat tight, heart pounding. He didn’t know what he was writing. It was all word vomit, and he was sure he was going to fail.

May was going to be so disappointed in him.

Peter didn’t finish. He handed the half-written essay in with his head bowed, once again following his friends out of the room. It felt like he was absent from his body as he weaved through the crowds, constantly on the verge of tears.

Gym was next. Peter lied and said he didn’t have his change of clothes, which he was rewarded with another look of disappointment. Coach Wilson had looked him up and down, before he ordered Peter to sit on the bleachers and watch.

So, he did.

Peter pulled out his phone and hid it behind his knees, craving a distraction from the pain he felt deep in his chest. Upon turning it on, he saw that he had a missed message from Tony.

From Mr. Stark, 11:15am

Hey kid. You left one of your textbooks over here. If you need it, I can bring it to your apartment after school.

For some reason, the simple text almost had Peter sobbing. He had noticed the missing textbook, which of course had only helped to stress him out even more. It had been for Calculus, and he’d just had a Calculus quiz a few days ago.

He didn’t have his textbook with him to study.

Peter began to type back.

To Mr. Stark, 12:23pm

can i come over tonight

To Mr. Stark, 12:24pm

please

The reply came quick.

From Mr. Stark, 12:25pm

It’s a school night.

Peter’s shoulders slumped.

To Mr. Stark, 12:25pm

please

Almost immediately the typing bubble appeared. Peter waited impatiently for the reply as his gym class yelled in excitement during a game of dodgeball. Flash’s voice was the most obvious, and not even a moment later, Peter’s senses tingled.

Peter didn’t move. Instead, he let the foam ball collide with his head. It didn’t hurt one bit.

“Mr. Thompson.” Coach Wilson sighed, exasperated. “Please aim for the other team. You alright over there, Parker?”

Peter nodded, then looked back down to his phone. At this point, he didn’t really care if he got caught looking at his phone. A new message had come through.

From Mr. Stark, 12:26pm

Is everything okay, Underoos? Aren’t you supposed to be listening in class right now?

From Mr. Stark, 12:26pm

Does May know you want to stay over?

At the mention of May, the tears returned at full force. Her words filtered through his mind, each hurtful sentence stabbing at his heart. Peter didn’t reply to the text for a long time, unsure how to respond. If he said something suspicious, Tony would go and tell May and he’d find out about how terrible of a nephew he’d been.

To Mr. Stark, 12:31pm

im sorry mr stark. forget i asked, its ok.

Over the next several minutes, the typing bubble appeared then disappeared, then reappeared again.

From Mr. Stark, 12:36pm

Happy will pick you up after school. Are you sure you’re alright, kiddo?

Tony was asking him if he was okay. The question Peter was dying to be asked. But, instead of telling the truth, he lied. Again.

To Mr. Stark, 12:37pm

thanks mr stark. im fine

Peter pocketed his phone and composed himself. He was seeing Tony after school, maybe the rest of his day wouldn’t be so bad.

Wrong.

Things got worse.

He failed his Calculus quiz. Flash embarrassed him in front of the class for it. May tried to text him with apologies.

By the time the school day was over, Peter was exhausted of trying to keep his emotions in. He said his goodbyes to Ned and MJ, who seemed concerned about him for the first time all day. Peter ignored their concern and headed towards Happy’s black Audi, which was already waiting for him on the sidewalk.

When he entered, Happy’s eyes were already looking at him through the review mirror. “Hey, kid.”

“Hi Happy.” Peter replied and buckled up; head already rested on the cool window. It soothed the pounding headache he’d gained during last class; however, it wasn’t enough for the emotions to go away. May’s angry face was seared into his mind.

Happy pulled away from the curb and continued to glance at him.

It looked like the man wanted to say something, but he never did.

Peter was glad he didn’t, because he was sure if he was asked any questions relating to his mental state, he would lose it. It hurt so much.

The ride to the Compound was quiet. Too quiet.

Yet, Peter didn’t talk. Usually, he would be telling Happy all about his day just to annoy him. But today, he couldn’t even smile.

In the blink of an eye, they arrived at the Compound.

“Tony’s at his floor.” Happy said to him once they stepped into the lift. “He said something about a movie night.”

“Okay.” Peter replied, arms once again wrapped around his torso. “Thanks for driving me.”

“You’re welcome, kid.” Happy was acting strange. “Tony’s really worried about you.”

“Oh.”

Silence.

Eventually, the lift stopped and Happy got off at his own floor, which left Peter alone in the lift for the rest of the ride up to Tony’s. He huddled into the corner, his backpack digging against his lower back as the lift ascended. The longer he stood here alone, the closer he came to letting it all go.

Thankfully, the doors opened before that could happen. Peter shuffled into Tony’s penthouse floor and towards the living room, where he saw Tony sat on the couch with his StarkPad on his lap. He must have heard Peter coming, or FRIDAY had told him, because the man was already looking at him.

“Hey Underoos.” Tony smiled at him, but it didn’t meet his eyes. Tony knew something was wrong already, and Peter could see the concern pouring out of the billionaire’s eyes. “I thought we’d have a movie night instead of lab time. We have Friday for that. How’s that sound?”

Peter nodded.

Tony frowned.

“Kid?” Tony questioned, and shifted a little to look at Peter more. “Are you… are you okay? Did something happen?”

Peter started to nod, but his eyes betrayed him. At the same time, a tear dripped down his cheek and his lower lip began to wobble. He tried to hide it, he tried to will the tears to go away by looking up at the ceiling, hoping they’d just go back into his eyes and stay there.

It didn’t work. When he looked back down, even more tears poured down his cheeks.

It felt like his chest was closing in.

“Kiddie?” Tony’s voice broke through, though this only triggered the tears even more. Peter heard the man get off the couch, one part of him mortified that he was about to break down in front of his idol, the other thankful that he was here and not at home with May. “Peter?”

Peter choked on a hiccup, his chest heaving desperately in an attempt to keep the sobs at bay. It ended up coming out as a broken whimper. He looked up just in time to see Tony’s worried expression, the man already across the room and placing both hands on Peter’s shoulders.

With every oncoming sob, Peter’s chest ached with pain.

Then, a hand came up to cup his cheek. Tony wiped away some of his tears, the other hand remaining gripped around Peter’s shoulder. When he met Tony’s eyes, he couldn’t hold it in anymore.

He broke down. A sob forced its way up his throat, and his body was collapsing forwards from the pang in his chest. Tony caught him, and before Peter knew it, he was sobbing into his mentor’s chest.

The man’s arms came around him in a tight embrace, one hand carded through his hair and the other rubbed up and down his back. Peter found that his own arms wrapped around Tony’s waist, hands latched around the fabric of the billionaire’s hoodie in a iron grip.

“It’s okay, buddy. Let it out. I’m here.” Tony mumbled in his ear and began to gently rock their bodies side to side. “Let it out. I’m right here.”

And Peter did. At first, the sobs had been silent, but eventually the sound found its way out. The entire days’ worth of pent-up emotion poured out of him as Tony manoeuvred them to the couch, which ended with Peter basically sitting in his father figure’s lap in a desperate attempt to stay close to the man. Tony let him, still rocking him as though he was an infant.

It was comforting.

After what felt like hours of sobbing, finally, he felt the tears recede just a little. He kept his head pressed into Tony’s shoulder as his gentle words echoed around him, a constant reminder that he was here, in someone’s arms. That he was finally getting the hug he’d been craving, the comfort he’d been wishing to have for months.

“Do you want to tell me what happened?” Tony asked after a while and gently pried Peter’s face from his shoulder. Peter didn’t even have the willpower to feel embarrassed when Tony used his sleeves to wipe the snot and tears from his face, and instead, he leaned into the touch with a wobbling lip. “Buddy, I’ve never seen you like this. What happened?”

Peter’s eyes found the large wet spot on Tony’s shoulder. It was covered in snot, too.

“S-sorry.” He whimpered. Peter hated how vulnerable he sounded.

“Don’t worry about that, Bambi.” Tony rubbed his back a few times. “What made you so upset?”

“I h-had a f-fight with May.” Peter whispered. “S-she said s-some mean stuff. B-but I guess I d-deserve it. I’m a t-terrible son.”

“You’re not a terrible son.” Tony replied instantly. “What did you guys argue about?”

“I d-don’t even k-know! I just- I just g-got mad. I d-didn’t mean to.” Peter’s teas returned in full force. “W-we’ve been f-fighting a lot.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Tony mumbled and wiped away the tears as they fell. “Do you want me to talk to her?”

Did he?

Peter nodded. Tony hummed in affirmation before he began to speak again.

“Is there anything else that’s been bothering you, kiddo?”

“I’m f-falling behind a-at school. I k-keep failing, and I d-don’t understand the work anymore!” Peter almost yelled the last part, but it came out as more of a sob than an angry shout like he had intended. “I’m stressed all t-the time and I c-can’t get my h-homework in on time and I j-just want it to stop!”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” His mentor asked, a crease forming between his eyebrows. “I could have helped you. I can still help you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologise, you don’t have anything to apologise for.”

Peter couldn’t help but rest his head back down on Tony’s shoulder, despite how uncomfortable the wet patch created by his tears felt on his cheek. Tony hugged him tight.

They fell into silence for a short while, Peter finally able to bring the tears to a stop for the time being.

“Still wanna watch a movie?” Tony asked, hand now rubbing Peter’s arm.

“Yeah. You pick.”

“Hm, okay. I can do that.”

With that, Tony picked Tangled. Peter knew that was because Tangled was his comfort movie, and secretly, he knew Tony would pick it.

About halfway through the movie, Peter began to doze. He was exhausted to the point where he couldn’t keep his eyes open, his head still resting against Tony’s shoulder. He was still in his father’s lap, though none of them seemed to care too much about it. Peter soaked in the comfort like a sponge, and he didn’t even have the capacity to feel ashamed.

A gentle kiss was pressed to his cheek a moment later. “It’ll be okay, Underoos. You know I love you, kiddo. You and May will get through this, and I’ll help you as much as I can with your schoolwork.”

Tears filled his eyes, but this time, they weren’t sad tears. Happy tears.

“I love you too, Dad.”