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What's in a name

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Peter stares vacantly at the ceiling of his bedroom, as if waiting for the white surface to magically start doing something worth watching.

He isn’t in trouble.

He isn’t having a bad day.

But yet he lays here on his bed like a lump of flesh, as if he’s no longer part of the world outside his room.

Peter’s tutors canceled their lessons today, which is expected with the snow storming currently hitting New York City, that has left him with a lot of time on his hands. Time he would’ve spent with his new parents: Tony and Pepper Stark if they hadn’t had to go to work.

But they both had to work.

Pepper had several meetings and Tony had to attend to a few of those followed by observing the R&D testing range. Things that eleven-year-old Peter wasn’t invited to.

So instead he has been hanging around the penthouse of the tower all day.

Most kids would’ve thought he was the luckiest, to have a huge place to himself with minimal supervision. Well Jarvis was still watching and Happy swung in to deliver Peter some lunch from a Korean shop nearby. But still Peter was mostly alone for the day and he didn’t think he’s very lucky.

He had tried to work on a lego set in his room, only completing the first little bit of the Hogwarts castle before losing interest. He had tried to play some video games but after a couple rounds he was no longer excited and turned it off. He even asked Jarvis to let him into Tony’s office and tried to read some of the science books he had, but even that wasn’t something very interesting like normal.

It’s as if the change in his routine has caused him to lose focus on anything else with the day. Can something so trivial make a day go weird? Peter hadn’t thought so at first, but now? Well according to Jarvis he’s been staring at his ceiling for—

“Hey Jarvis.”

“Yes Master Peter.”

“How long have I been staring at the ceiling?”

“two hours and seventeen minutes sir. Are you in any discomfort? Do you require something?”

Peter sighs, “not really. I’m just feeling odd today,”

“Shall I scan you for any illnesses Master Peter?” the AI cuts the boy off.

“No I don’t think so, I think that because the tutors didn’t come plus everyone is out working and the girls are at school I’m a little off.”

“My data indicates that a change in a schedule, especially children, can cause a discrepancy in the person’s mind for a period of time.”

“Yeah that,” Peter hums, “I’m just having trouble focusing on things today and finding interest in the usual stuff. Must be cuz of the schedule change.”

“I shall add this hypothesis to my report of your day.”

“What?” Peter squeaks and rolls over to face the camera in the corner of his room, “a report?”

“Boss and Mrs. Boss both have requested a full report on your day today involving your activities and physical state since no adults have been fully present through the day. I have been noting your listless and focus difficulties for them, I’ll add a note that the issues maybe because of the change in routine.”

“You better Jarvis,” the boy snaps, “last thing I need is for them to think something is wrong with me and drag me off to see the doctors or have extra sessions with Doctor Sarah.”

After the Christmas and New Years holiday Tony and Pepper had brought Peter to their pediatrician they use for Morgan, having the doctor go through a battery of tests on Peter to check the boy’s breathing, allergies, general health, and well everything. That was followed by an appointment with a pulmonologist which also took forever. By time the appointments were over he was short blood and tolerance for any other demands placed on him. He came back generally healthy with some prescriptions for his asthma and allergies that he had taken before, but he’d rather not do that again.

And Doctor Sarah. Well Peter enjoys the woman and having family therapy as well as one-to-one therapy with the woman at the Starks demands was actually pleasant.

But last time he had to talk about some hard topics with Doctor Sarah and he really doesn’t want to go back before Thursday, he isn’t feeling up for it.

“Understood Master Peter,” the AI responds, “but if you do show other symptoms or your difficulties last longer then a few days, I’ll have to draw the attention to Boss or Mrs. Boss to the situation.”

Peter sighs, he knows the AI means to keep him safe and healthy but sometimes the thing seems more like a tattle.

“Ok well if you need to tell someone then can you tell mo-Pepper? She doesn’t usually overreact like Tony does.”

“I shall make note of this Master Peter,” The AI responds but doesn’t mention Peters slip of almost calling Pepper ‘mom’.

It’s not that Peter doesn’t want to call her mom, he does.

But then he feels bad because he thinks of his birth mother when he says the word.

This is something he’s been struggling with lately: wanting to say mom but yet feeling guilty when he does say it.

Sometimes he’s called Tony ‘dad’. He doesn’t feel as guilty when he says the words since he grew up calling his birth father ‘daddy’ more often then not.

The thoughts make Peter moan and rub his head, he can feel a little ache in his neck as he flops over onto his back.

“Thanks Jarvis,” the boy mutters, resuming his gaze on the ceiling.

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“Mommy! Peter isn’t eating his vegetables,” Teresa whines loudly.

Peter’s attention shifts back to the moment, he had been pushing the broccoli and chicken around his plate, but he guesses he did it for too long.

“Teresa we talked about this,” Pepper replies calmly, “are you telling me to help your brother or get him in trouble?”

Peter glances up to see the little girl chew on her lip before looking down in her lap.

“That’s what I thought,” Pepper sighs, “now I’ll take care of Peter and you take care of yourself.”

“Yes mommy,” the little girl mumbles as she eats the last few bites of her food.

Peter can see the whole family has finished their meal while Peter’s remains mostly untouched.

“Peter?”

He glances over to Pepper, “yes?”

“You feeling alright?”

The boy shrugs and pokes at the food again, “yeah. I’m just not hungry, guess I ate to much with Happy earlier.”

“Alright sweetie,” Pepper nods, “just remember if you don’t eat then no snacks later. If you’re really hungry we can make you a sandwich or something, understood?”

The boy nods, “that’s fine mo-Pepper,” he corrects himself.

The woman doesn’t mention the slip.

Peter kicks himself internally.

“Can I watch Moana?” Morgan asks as she holds up her empty plate.

“Yeah Moana!” Teresa grins and bounces in her seat.

“Take care of your dishes first then you can watch Moana,” Pepper smiles.

The pair run over and put their dishes in the dishwasher, Tony following the excited girls to the living room with a laugh.

Pepper begins to clean up the table, but Peter sees her glancing at him every so often.

“Pepper, can I be done?”

“You sure Peter?” she leans down beside him, “did the food taste bad?”

“No, I’m just not feeling hungry today. I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright Peter, no reason to apologize. If you’re not hungry, then you’re not hungry.”

The boy nods and cleans up his area, but instead of joining the girls as they sing along to the first song of Moana, Peter wanders past and to his room.

Inside he takes the star globe off its shelf, turning it on and climbing up onto his bed.

“Lights off Jarvis.”

The AI turns off the lights, the patterns of stars filling the room as the globe slowly moves them around the room.

“Maybe I’ll feel more myself tomorrow,” he whispers to himself as he labels each constellation in his head.

“Peter? Are you in here?”

Peter twists and glances over at Pepper from the loft bed’s protective siding.

“I’m here,” he sighs.

“Hey baby,” she coos and climbs up the ladder, “are you feeling sick? Having a sad day?”

He shrugs, “I’m not feeling sick and I don’t think I’m feeling sad. Jarvis says that I’m having an off day because my routine got messed up.”

Pepper hums and rubs Peter’s leg, “that makes sense. You’ll tell me if you feel anything else?”

He nods.

“Do you want anything right now sweetie?”

He bites his lip and shrugs.

“Peter honey, remember what the doctor said, nothing you say is stupid.”

He nods, “c-can you lay next to me for a minute?”

“Of course sweetie,” the woman climbs further up and with some wiggling she manages to lay next to Peter on her side, her hand rubbing Peter’s hair and head gently.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers.

“Nothing to be sorry for Peter, nothing to be sorry for.”

Peter didn’t plan to fall asleep, he planned to get up after a little bit and watch the movie with the girls and then get ready for bed.

But his brain didn’t get the message as his eyes blinked slower and slower until he finally dozed off to Pepper rubbing his head and hair under the artificial stars.

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Peter’s eyes snap open, his breath coming short and rushed as he sits up in the dark, blurry shadows shifting around him.

There are no stars, there’s no Pepper, his glasses no longer on his face, and he doesn’t hear Tony or the girls commenting on the movie in the living room.

“J-jarvis?! Where is everyone?” Peter asks the ceiling, his voice croaking oddly as he reaches out to the nook on the bedside and finds his glasses.

“Boss and Mrs. Boss are asleep next door while Miss Morgan and Miss Teresa are also in bed sleeping.”

“W-what? What time is it,” he coughs and puts his glasses on.

“It is currently 1:27am Master Peter.”

“I fell asleep?!”

“You did, Mrs. Boss requested for your to be left to sleep since you might be needing it.”

Peter coughs again.

He can taste his bad breath.

His throat must be protesting from not brushing his teeth.

Peter climbs down in the dark, moving quietly to his bathroom.

Inside he changes into his pajamas, noticing the red marks from his pants with a frown, he hates sleeping with jeans on.

He brushes his teeth gently, gagging every few strokes as he tries to get the taste off his tongue.

He gags two more times after he finishes brushing his teeth which is odd but nothing he really is worried about.

“Mrs. Boss is asking if you need something to eat or drink Master Peter?”

Peter stumbles a step as he walks out of the bathroom at the AI’s statement.

“Mo—Pepper is awake?! Why?”

“Mrs. Boss requested I wake her if you woke up in the night to make sure you’re alright.”

“No, no I’m fine. Tell her I’m just cleaning up and going back to bed. She should go to sleep too, she’s got a meeting tomorrow. Or well today I guess.”

“Understood Master Peter.”

The AI doesn’t speak again to Peter, so the boy assumes it did what he asked. Pepper didn’t come into his room either so he assumes she went back to sleep.

He hopes she went back to sleep, no reason for her to up right now.

Taking off his glasses, his eyes blinking slowly, Peter drifts off back to sleep, as if he is plagued with exhaustion.

His mind fills with strange images, colors blurring, and occasional moments of black nothingness until a voice echoes into it all, drawing him to awareness.

“Peter. Peter, time to wake up. Peter.”

Rolling over with a moan, Peter pokes his head out of the blankets to find the familiar red head blur that’s Pepper looking over the edge of the loft bed.

“Mo-Pepper?” he groans.

“Hey sweetie, time to wake up for the day. You feeling ok?”

He nods into the pillow with a big yawn, “ ‘m ‘k. Why you tall?”

“You father decided to make a step stool for us so we can reach you,” she chuckles, “he brought it up for me to use since he had to leave to take the girls to school.”

“Am I late?”

“For what baby?”

“School.”

“No the snow is still bad so the tutors won’t be here today.”

“You late?”

“No my meeting starts in an hour. I wanted to get you up and get food into you before I leave.”

The boy moans again, rolling further into his pillow and blankets.

“Jarvis, what is Peter’s temperature?”

“98.9 ma’am,” the AI calls out.

“Hmmm, not a fever,” she runs her fingers through Peter’s hair.

“ ‘m not sick. ‘m fine,” Peter responds with another big yawn.

“Alright, I’ll stop hoovering. Come on down and get something to eat with me before I leave.”

“K”

Pepper leaves the room but it takes Peter another ten minutes to finally emerge after her with bed hair and his glasses perched at an angle on his face. He drags a blanket from his bed, the red fleece fabric draped around his shoulders as he perches in a kitchen chair with it.

“I made some toast and eggs,” Pepper places a small plate before Peter with the items, “do you want water or orange juice?”

“Water,” Peter sighs and begins to munch on the toast.

Pepper gets him his drink and proceeds to eat her own toast and eggs quietly. Its when Peter’s got only his eggs left that she finally breaks the silence between them.

“Peter,” Pepper gains the boy’s attention, “just because Teresa calls me mom doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to.”

“W-what?”

“I’ve heard you a few times try to call me that and I just want you to know,” she gently places her hand on his, “that you can always call me Pepper and I’ll be ok with
that.”

“N-no,” Peter gasps, “that’s not—no that isn’t it.”

“It isn’t?”

The boy pushes his eggs around on the plate, “its just….well….its…”

“Peter you can tell me, remember what Doctor Sarah and the family talked about? No matter what you want to say, even if you think its stupid, we want to hear it ok?”

He nods, “well, you see. I want to. You know.”

“Want to what?”

“Call you that.”

“Call me,” she pauses for a moment, “you mean you want to call me mom?”

Peter hangs his head and nods, “but every time I try…well…I see my mom…in my mind….and its just…well confusing I guess.”

“So you have this problem with calling Tony dad?”

Peter shakes his head, “no I called birth father ‘daddy’ because that’s what I called him since I was little and when I got old enough to call him ‘dad’, well by then I was with May and Ben. So I don’t have as much trouble with the word ‘dad’.“

“Oh.”

“But Mom, well she wanted me to call her mom from the start. There was no ‘mommy’ or ‘mother’ or ‘mama’ just ‘mom’. So…well….yeah.”

“You could call me ‘mom’ in a different language,” Pepper offers.

Peter only shrugs, “yeah, sure, but I don’t know…I just…” he waves his hand in the air as he fades off.

“Peter sweetie, Tony and I are here forever with you. No one is going anywhere so there is no rush with giving us different names or anything. Take your time. You may want to call us one thing now but maybe change your mind when you become a teen and that’s ok because whatever you call us, we know you do it with love. Ok?”

Peter nods.

“Good,” Pepper collects the plates, a little frown towards Peter’s half eaten food.

“When will you and Tony be done?”

“We both should be back by lunch, ok?”

Peter nods.

“Now Jarvis will be watching and Happy will be on call for you. I’ll be back in a few hours, think you’ll be ok?”

Peter smiles, “I’m a big kid Pepper, I can take care of myself for a few hours.”

“I know,” she hugs him, “but it’s a mom’s job to worry anyways.”

“Go before you’re late Pepper,” Peter smiles and squeezes her hand.

She returns the squeeze and wanders to the entryway.

“Since we’ll be back by lunch just remember to brush your teeth and avoid sugary snacks, its ok if you want to stay in your pajamas.”

“Ok.”

“And I’ll send a message if we are coming home earlier or later.”

“Ok.”

“And if you start feeling worse in anyway you contact us right away.”

“Ok.” Peter shakes his head, she’s going to be late if she keeps shouting worried thoughts to him, “hey Pepper?”

The woman comes back around to the room, adjusting her suit jacket, “yes Peter.”

“Have a good workday,” he grins and waves.

“Thanks baby, see you soon.”

And with that the woman who commands SI leaves the house, leaving Peter to stare after her.

“Master Peter,” Jarvis speaks up, “would you like to see a list of names for ‘mother’ in other languages I’ve compiled?”

“Sure, I’ve got nothing else to do,” the boy stands up and moves to the living room, flopping onto the couch as the AI starts reciting the list monotonously to Peter.

He stares off at the ceiling listening to the words.

He wants to call Tony ‘dad’ more often. He wants a special name for Pepper too. He sees the way the two light up when Teresa calls them ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’, he wants them to smile like that at him every time he calls out too.

So he’s just going to lay on the couch and listen, one of those names Jarvis rattles off might sound right.

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Peter’s eyes snap open swiftly, the world blurry and unfocused but bright.

His hands search his head and soon he finds glasses laying haphazardly beside him. With them on he can see he’s still on the couch from after breakfast but the clock above the TV says it’s actually lunch time now.

He’s been asleep for almost four hours.

A voice catches his attention and turning he finds Pepper in the kitchen on the phone but unaware Peter is awake.

“….I had Jarvis check and I rolled the thermometer across his forehead, both came back with 98.9. I don’t know Tony, he’s just not himself.”

Peter doesn’t hear the response but Pepper hums in understanding.

“I know Tony, I can’t help but worry, its part of being a mother.”

She pauses again, Tony must be responding.

“Alright, I’ll see you and girls later. Love you, bye.”

She hangs up and turns around, noticing Peter staring at her.

“Oh Peter, you’re up again!” She quickly moves to the boy’s side, hand running along his forehead and hair line, “how do you feel?”

“Ok,” he shrugs, “I’m sorry I fell asleep again.”

“It’s alright Peter, I’m sorry for hoovering I’m just worried you’re coming down with something.”

“Isn’t that part of your job?” he smiles slyly at her.

Chuckling lightly, Pepper pats Peter’s shoulder and stands, “ready for some food?”

Peter wants to say no but he doesn’t want to keep worrying Pepper.

“I can eat a sandwich I guess,” he relents.

She makes him a quick cheese and meat sandwich, offering him juice but he takes water instead. He continues to follow the motions of the day, talking to Pepper during lunch then moving to the couch to watch a movie with her. He only realizes he’s dozed off again when he jerks to the sounds of Teresa and Morgan talking loudly about their day and Tony calling out a greeting to Pepper and Peter. He sits and smiles as the three talk about their day, curling up on the couch by himself as the two adults focus on helping the little girls with their homework. He’s left alone until he’s summoned to the table for dinner. Peter’s stomach twinges painfully during dinner, choosing to take a few bites of the pasta before pushing the rest of the food around the plate. Tony talks on about taking a little vacation as a whole family out of town, this causes the girls to pay attention to coming up with destinations they can go while Pepper tries to keep everyone focused on reasonable choices.

Of course, Tony points out as a billionaire any option is reasonable.

Peter manages to interject the idea of a trip to Disneyland or Disney World followed by the idea of going to a cabin in the woods. Tony responds with it having to be a fancy cabin since he knows nothing about camping.

After dinner Tony begins to set up the pillows and blankets in the livingroom for family movie night when Jarvis suddenly speaks up.

“Boss, there is an emergency call for you in your office.”

The man sighs, “Jarvis, its after hours, how much of an emergency can it be?”

“It’s Mister Rogers, sir.”

With that Tony pauses and stands slowly. All three kids stare at the man along with Pepper. Pepper and Morgan with looks of worry while Teresa and Peter look with confusion.

“Who’s that daddy?” Teresa asks finally.

“Someone daddy used to work with,” Tony bends down and rubs Teresa’s hair, “remember we met him at the Christmas party, tall and blonde man?”

“I remember,” Peter pipes up.

“Well let me go see what Steve’s gone and done that he needs help with,” Tony sighs.

“Want us to wait for you?” Morgan asks.

“Nah, start the movie with mommy and your siblings, I’ll be back soon.”

Tony disappears upstairs, forgotten by the girls as the movie plays and popcorn is brought to them.

But Peter and Pepper glance at the stairs every so often. Peter wouldn’t be so focused on the steps, Tony’s taken work calls before, but he sees Pepper try to hide a worried look in her eyes. The press of her lips making Peter worry that something is wrong.

“Pepper,” Peter murmurs as he curls closer to the woman, “is everything ok?”

She turns to him and shifts her worry to a smile, “everything is ok sweetie.”

“Are you sure? You look worried,” he responds.

“Just worried Tony will have to run off to work tonight, that’s all,” she reassures him.

He leans into her side as he accepts the answer and tries to focus on the movie.

Half way through the movie Tony creeps downstairs quietly, moving behind the couch to lean over Pepper.

“I’ve got to head out for a little bit,” Peter hears the man whisper, “I’ll be back before morning.”

They kiss and that’s when Tony sees Peter staring at them.

“You hear that buddy?”

The boy nods, “you’ll come back soon?” he whispers.

“Of course,” he ruffles Peter’s hair, “take care of your mom and sisters tonight, I’ll be back soon.”

With that he kisses Peter and goes to talk to the girls but Pepper stops him, “after last time Morgan might have a tantrum and then set Teresa off. I’ll tell them you’re working upstairs when they ask.”

The man nods and slips from the home quietly.

Peter squeezes Pepper’s hand, “why didn’t you let him say goodbye,” he whispers.

“Last time Steve called Tony to come help, well, Tony got hurt and Morgan didn’t handle it well. Now she gets upset whenever Steve calls to talk to Tony.”

“Is he going to get hurt today?” Peter gasps quietly.

Pepper shakes his head, “he’s not allowed to do any big things anymore. Probably off to help with some data that needs checked like last time, but Morgan tends to be real dramatic so this is the easier way for us.”

Peter shifts uncomfortably.

“It’s alright Peter,” Pepper quietly comforts him, “everyone is alright.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

The movie continues, Peter curled into Pepper, the girls busy with the film. When bedtime rolls around for the girls, neither are happy that Tony is up on the phone in his study but they agree to go to bed. While Pepper puts them down, Peter goes and curls up on his bed.

His stomach hurts.

His head is starting to hurt.

“Peter,” Pepper comes into the room.

“Up here,” he calls.

He hears the woman climb up the ladder, “Tony’s on the phone for you.”

Peter quickly grabs the phone, “dad are you safe? Are you ok? Everything seemed weird earlier when you left. Are you in trouble—”

A laugh cuts Peter off, “easy Underoos. I’m fine. Steve needed me to fix some coding and check out his security cameras to make sure they’re all working perfectly. I’m sorry I left in a way that worried you kiddo, we just are trying to keep Morgan from melting down for no reason.”

“Pepper said she doesn’t like it when Steve calls you for help.”

“Yeah that’s an understatement. But I want you to know I’m safe, nothing bad is happening, and that I’ll be home in five hours. Ok kiddo?”

“Ok.”

“Good, now be good for Pepper and get some sleep. We’ve got to try making some decisions about our family vacation tomorrow.”

Peter can only laugh, “ok.”

“Love you kiddo.”

“um, yeah, ditto, dad,” Peter blushes into the phone and quickly hands it back to Pepper.

Pepper takes the phone and says her goodbyes to the man before turning it off and focusing on Peter.

“You can stay up for another hour if you want.”

Peter shakes his head, “I’m fine here.”

“Ok baby,” she runs her hand along his forehead again, “I’m sorry we made you worry.”

“Its ok.”

“No it’s not, Tony and I should have prepped you for when he gets called to help Steve. We don’t like sneaking around but right now we have to because we’re trying not to set Morgan off, but that just set you off didn’t it?”

“Not bad,” the boy shrugs, “I just didn’t understand.”

“Well, Tony and I will do better at explaining next time.”

“Ok.”

Pepper pulls back, “get cleaned up and if you want you can come to our room for another hour if you change your mind about staying up.”

“Ok.”

Peter doesn’t change his mind. Even after cleaning up, he still returns to his bed, curling up on himself as his stomach twists.

Sleep comes, but not peacefully.

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Peter jerks painfully to awareness, laying on his back and panting into the blurry darkness.

He’s cold.

He’s sweaty.

His head hurts.

His stomach is rolling.

Oh is it rolling.

Forgoing the glasses, Peter frees himself from the blankets as he knows that feeling.

As he crawls forward, a burning sensation begins to rise up his throat.

He feels the ladder and scrambles onto it just as a bile filled burps releases from his mouth.

Reaching up he covers his mouth to stop the fluid trying to come out.

He misses his footing.

He falls.

Peter slams into the floor painfully, the force startling him and knocking any control he had out the window.

He barely rolls onto his side as vomit shoots from his mouth.

His body shakes as he heaves and tries to change positions, dinner and lunch flying out of him faster then he can catch his breath.

“J-Jarvis,” Peter gasps and coughs, “mamma, Jarvis…mamma,” a sob rips out of Peter, “mamma!”

Peter vomits again as he manages to get to his hands and knees, coughing between spurts, the acid burning his throat.

He chokes on an inhale.

He coughs.

He tries to inhale.

He vomits.

The cycle continues for what feels like forever to Peter.

But in the back of his mind he knows that’s been mere minutes.

It still seems to take forever for his bedroom door to fly open and light flood the room.

“Mamma!” he coughs, “mamma,” he chokes.

“Peter!”

Pepper is at his side in an instant, her warm hands pulling him upward into her arms as she helps him up.

“Come on sweetie, lets go to the bathroom.”

“ ‘m sorry mamma,” Peter whines.

“It ok, Morgan’s been just as bad during flu season,” she responds as they get to the bathroom.

Peter dives from Pepper’s grasp to stuff his head in the toilet to dry heave into the ceramic bowl.

“Just let it out,” she rubs his back, “I’ll get some water.”

She rummages in the cupboard beside him as he chokes again on air, coughing painfully.

“Take a sip sweetie,” she pulls him from the toilet when he stops heaving for a little bit.

Warm water passes over his lips and into his mouth.

The water tastes of his own bile.

He leans forward to dry heave again into the toilet.

But this time the coughing is worse.

Every inhale is a struggle, he feels tears on his face.

He gasps for a big breath, but some bile catches on the air, his coughing come harder and air is thinner.

“Mamma,” he coughs, “ma-mamma, I can’t,” he coughs harder and pulls at his dirty shirt.

“Baby,” Pepper leans over him worriedly, “Peter, take a breath for me sweetie. Can you do that?”

Peter coughs harder and faster, a gag between ever few sets, he shakes his head.

“Oh god,” Pepper scrambles for a phone that’s on the sink counter. “Happy, wake up and get up here now! I need you to watch the girls. Peter’s sick and he can’t breathe!”

She grabs Peter under his arms as his breath comes loud and short.

His asthma.

He can’t catch is breath.

This has happened before.

“Peter,” Pepper draws his attention, “where’s your inhaler?”

Peter points to the work desk.

Pepper practically carries Peter to it, yanking open draws and finding the white and red plastic device. Shaking it, she shoves it into Peter’s mouth.

“Three, two, one,” she puffs the medicine into his mouth.

Peter tries to inhale but coughs, gags, and vomits bile onto Pepper.

“Sorry,” he coughs.

“It’s ok, try again Peter,” she coaxes him.

Again the medicine is puffed into his mouth.

Again he tries to inhale it.

Again a portion makes it while the rest comes out as he gags and vomits again, this time hitting his desk chair.

Peter’s down right sobbing at this sight.

He can smell the mess his room is.

He can see the mess he’s made of Pepper.

This is horrible.

“Pepper!”

Happy appears in the doorway with a shout.

He takes in the view of the room, the mess Pepper and Peter are, and his eyes widen in shock.

“I’m struggling to get his medicine into him,” Pepper snaps at Happy, “watch the girls while I take Peter to the hospital. Jarvis call Tony. If he doesn’t pick up then you keep calling him until he does pick up and you tell him what’s happening.”

Happy hangs up the phone.

Peter didn’t remember him making a call.

“Jason is night security today, he’s downstairs in the garage and will take you two.”

“Thanks Happy,” Pepper grabs a hoodie from beside Peter’s door, yanking the boy’s top off and putting the clean fabric on.

Pepper is still nearly carrying Peter as he gasps, chokes, and continually coughs. Occasionally she pauses as he gags, each time he leaves a trail of bile from his bedroom to the elevator where Pepper lays his coat on him and tugs her coat over her vomit covered clothes.

In the elevator Peter dry heaves at the motion more times then he can count between gasps and coughs.

The car ride is a blur as much as what happens afterward and not just because he isn’t wearing his glasses.

Pepper continues to comfort him as he’s pulled somewhere bright, he’s sitting, then he’s standing, then he’s sitting, and then hands push him to lay down on a funny feeling bed.

He finally stops dry heaving just as something is placed over his mouth, a hissing sound fills his ears.

“Inhale Peter, inhale for mamma,” Pepper’s voice filters past the many other voices and weird loud noises around him.

“Mamma,” he calls hoarsely.

“That’s right, just focus on mamma, don’t listen to anything else. Just inhale and listen to mamma.”

Peter continues to inhale but coughs frequently and regularly.

“Mamma, s’eepy,” Peter moans.

“I know baby, just keep breathing and if you fall asleep that’s ok. I’m not going anywhere.”

Peter isn’t sure but the bright world is beginning to fade, the sound of his mamma’s voice is further away.

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Peter slowly moved from the darkness towards voices and odd noises.

He can hear a beeping.

A hissing sound too.

He feels cold all over.

Something tight pinches his face.

He can hear warm but quiet voices.

He knows those voices.

“Mamma?” he croaks, “dad?”

Slowly he opens his eyes to bright florescent lights and blurs of colors, to blurry shapes hover over him.

“Peter!” his mamma’s form bends over him and a hand runs across his head.

“Hey Petey-pie,” his dad greets warmly.

“Where?” Peter croaks again.

“Hospital kiddo,” his dad replies, “you gave us a little scare there buddy.”

“ ‘m sorry dad,” Peter moans.

“It’s not your fault,” his mamma responds, “you’ve got a little fever and a stomach bug.”

“Flu?”

“Nope,” his dad sighs, “thankfully you tested negative for that. I know it will happen one day, but I dread when all three of you kids become contaminated.”

“Home?”

“Not yet sweetie,” Peter’s mamma sighs, “you aspirated when you threw up a few times. The doctors want to keep you to make sure you don’t get pneumonia from it.”

Peter hums, he understands, this happened once a few years ago.

“Go back to sleep Peter,” his mamma rubs his arms, “dad and mamma will be right here when you wake up.”

“ ‘m ‘k,” he sighs and closes his eyes to the colorful, bright but yet blurry world.

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Peter stays another day in the hospital, being released when his lungs remain clear and shows no symptoms of fluid in his lungs from the incident.

The boy finds himself quick to be out of breath, but the doctor says its because of the aspiration and with his medicine and rest he’ll be fine in a couple days.

Peter’s wrapped up in a pile of blankets on the couch thanks to his parents when Happy arrives with the girls.

The pair present page after page of artwork they made for him to help him get better, both shedding a few tears when retelling how they woke up to find Happy there but Peter gone with their mom. Peter felt bad but both girls told him it was ok and they aren’t mad, they were scared. They don’t leave his side and the family decides to have a special dinner in the living room at the coffee table since Peter wasn’t up for moving or eating much while the girls refused to leave his side.
It isn’t until the two are practically carried off to bed that they leave Peter’s side.

Peter just watches with a smile, waving at the pair as they whine down the hallway.

When the adults return, they sandwich the boy between them for a moment of private cuddling with their still sick son.

“Mamma?”

“Yes Peter?”

“You’re mamma,” Peter looks at her, “you’re my mamma.”

The woman looks at him for a moment then he sees the realization fill her eyes which is followed by tears, “yes Peter, I’ll be your mamma.”

Peter rolls his head around and looks at the man beside him, “you’re my dad.”

The man nods and kisses Peter’s head, “yeah kid I’m your dad. We’ll be your mamma and dad forever kid.”

Peter nods and relaxes into the couch cushions, exhaustion pulling at him.

He’s partially asleep when he hears his parents speak hushed above his head.

“the bed I ordered will be here tomorrow,” his dad whispers.

“good. I know he likes to be up high but I want him reachable if there’s emergency,” Pepper whispers back.

“That and after seeing the footage from Jarvis of Peter falling down the ladder, well I’d rather him be on a mattress on the floor now.”

Peter moans in his half-asleep state, “no floor, halfway.”

The adults chuckle, “the new bed is a little taller than a normal bed but low enough someone won’t be falling out during emergencies,” his father adds.

“ ‘m ‘k,” Peter sighs further into sleep.

“Sleep Peter,” his mamma whispers, “sleep sweetie and feel better.”

He does feel a little better.

Sure his throat hurts, sometimes breathing his hard, his stomach still aches, and his head throbs.

But inside his heart feels better.

It flip flops happily now that he calls out ‘dad’ and ‘mamma’ to the two adults who are his parents.

He might not see them smile, but he can hear it in the voices. They’re smiling when he calls them that. They’re smiling just like when Teresa calls out to them.

That makes everything a little bit better.

Just a little.