“Hey, Parker,” Flash called, jogging to catch up with Peter. It was lunchtime, so everyone was headed to their lockers to put away their textbooks and work from the morning classes.
“Flash?” Peter asked hesitantly, glancing at Ned beside him.
“I just wanted to let you know before you hear it from somebody else,” Flash began gravely. “I got some kickass news!” His serious expression morphed into a cocky one.
“Oh yeah?” Peter offered. He rolled his eyes discreetly.
“Well, it’s time to apply for colleges, and all that. So I applied for some scholarships,” Flash shrugged. “No big deal.”
“That’s great. I assume you got one?” Peter shrugged, trying to be polite.
Flash barrelled on, “Yeah, Hammer Industries is great. They accepted my application within a week, dude. I’m getting $10,000 a year as soon as I enroll.”
Peter nodded. “Good job, man. That’s great.”
“Peter applied for the Stark scholarship,” Ned blurted. “That’s full ride. No limit.”
Peter looked at Ned in disbelief, “Big mouth,” he muttered under his breath.
Flash stopped in the middle of the hallway to bend over and clutch his chest in mocking laughter. “You. You applied for the Stark scholarship?”
Peter looked around nervously. Other students were starting to pay attention as they usually did when Flash got going.
“Yeah, right. Like you would ever qualify for anything from Stark Industries,” Flash argued. He eyed the small cluster of students listening to him before he continued. “They only take one applicant a year. You’re high to think they’d ever accept you.”
Peter frowned, “It doesn’t hurt to try.”
“You’re an idiot,” Flash cackled. “Why’d you even waste your time?”
Peter bit his lip, wondering if anyone would stand up for him.
The other students just watched, waiting for Flash to say something else.
Peter spoke again, “It’s not that big of a deal. I’m sure everyone applied.”
Flash nodded, “I can’t get over it, though. Imagine Penis Parker being in the same room as Tony freaking Stark?” He held up his hands in question. “What a joke.”
“I can imagine it,” Michelle added, creeping up beside Peter and Ned. “He’d be pretty dorky. Kind of embarrassing, but I could imagine it.”
Peter sighed. Michelle was a great help as usual.
“I’m kidding. I’m kidding,” Flash waved his hand. “I just, wow.”
Peter pushed past Flash with Ned in tow. He tried to get to his locker quickly, avoiding the judgemental eyes of his fellow students. He knew that he had nothing to be embarrassed about. Literally everyone applied for the Stark scholarship. Everyone knew it was a one-shot deal, and you had to be smarter than smart to receive it. Peter knew that Flash was just projecting his embarrassment onto him because he’d probably applied and been rejected. Everyone was rejected, though. It was like a rite of passage before going to college. Getting rejected by Stark Industries. Peter was just proud of himself for trying.
“Flash is a dick,” Ned consoled Peter. “He probably applied and didn’t get in. I know if anybody has a chance it’s you.”
“Thanks, Ned,” Peter said quietly.
“Sorry for even saying anything,” Ned added. “You know how I get when he messes with you.”
Peter nodded, “It’s cool. I just don’t get why he picks on me in the first place. He doesn’t even really have good reasons? Like, everyone applies for the scholarship and gets turned down. Why does he have to single me out about it, you know?”
Ned shrugged. “Screw him. I’m serious. Peter, you’re like a genius. Even if you don’t get it, I wouldn’t be surprised if your other applications work out. I know you’ll get something.”
Peter offered Ned a small smile. “Thanks, man.” He held out his hand for their special shake.
Another week went by with Peter reading and rereading his application to Stark Industries. The scholarship process was rigorous. They wanted high grades, volunteer work, extracurriculars, multiple essays, and a proposal for an engineering or technological project. They’d also wanted a video. That had been the hardest part for Peter to figure out because there had been no other details. The requirements for the video were that it had to be ten minutes in length minimum and it had to be of a scientific nature. That could’ve been anything.
Peter had considered submitting a compilation of science Vines or doing a mock experiment, but he’d ultimately decided to do a short stand-up comedy piece. 10 of the 20 minutes he’d ended up recording had been science puns.
After he’d submitted the application, he watched the video every night, and he’d even shown it to his aunt for inspection. She laughed her head off, but he wasn’t sure if that meant Tony Stark would. He wasn’t really sure if geniuses like that had a sense of humour, or if Tony himself would even have anything to do with the application process. It was probably an HR team. What if they hated it?
Peter agonized, picking apart his essays for semi-colons and paragraph breaks. Word choice. Citations. What if SI hated that resource? What if he could’ve made his intro more concise? What if he had opened with a different joke to win over the crowd? He knew it wouldn’t make a difference now since it was in Stark Industries’ hands, but he couldn’t help but obsess.
It was awful. Everyone in his classes already had their rejection letters back, and Peter was still waiting on his. He had been one of the last to submit his application because he’d spent so long working on it, but it was getting out of hand. He felt sick every morning when he checked the mailbox. Peter was dying to know. He just needed to see the rejection letter, so he could stop worrying about it.
“Hey, Penis!” Flash grinned, walking into homeroom. “Any word on the Stark scholarship, yet?”
Peter shook his head. It wasn’t even 9 AM yet, and Flash was already starting.
“What’d you do for your video, anyways?” Flash prodded. “Striptease.”
Peter frowned, “How’d you know there’s a video unless you applied too?”
Flash glared, “Video’s standard. Besides, if I didn’t get it, what makes you think you could? I at least had a chance when I applied.”
Peter nodded, “I’m sure my rejection letter is on its way. I don’t get why you’re making such a big deal out of it.”
Flash didn’t know what to say at that, “I’m just trying to help you out, bro. I want you to be prepared. Don’t want you to get your hopes up.”
“Noted,” Peter held up a pencil.
“Don’t beat yourself up,” Michelle commented. “Nobody gets in. You’re just like everybody else.”
Peter sighed, “Thank you. So much.”
Michelle nodded as if she didn’t catch the sarcasm, “Anytime, Peter.”
When another week went by and Peter still hadn’t gotten his letter of rejection, he was starting to think he’d been worse than rejected. Stark Industries always sent out letters. One for school. One for home. No exceptions. It basically guaranteed that a student would receive it regardless of academic or parental negligence. There had never been anybody who hadn’t received at least one letter. Peter was missing two. Had they thought his comedy video was so bad that they couldn’t even spare the postage for a rejection notice? What if it had been so laughable—and not in the good way—that they were contacting other companies and foundations to blacklist him. Oh God. What if they thought he didn’t take this seriously? Maybe Flash was right. How could he ever be in the same room as Tony Stark. What made him think he had a chance?
“Peter?” May knocked softly on his door.
“Hey,” Peter mumbled.
“You left your phone out here,” May explained. “I answered it for you…but you look sort of…blah. Do you want me to tell them to try again later?”
Peter frowned. “Is it Ned?”
May shook her head, “No. It sounds like a girl. Here.” She handed him the phone.
Peter nodded, holding out his hand to accept the cell. May closed the door to give Peter privacy.
“Hello?” Peter asked. He tried not to let his misery flavour his voice, but it was difficult.
“Mr. Parker?” A woman asked.
“Yep, that’s me.”
“My name is Maria Hill. I’m part of the human resources team at Stark Industries.”
Peter didn’t know how to respond to that. All he could manage was a light gasp into the phone.
“Is it correct that you applied for the Stark Industries scholarship?” Maria continued.
“Uh…yeah,” Peter sat up in his bed at full attention. Shit. Was this it? A call instead of a letter. That was cold. He had to be in trouble. Maybe something had happened, though. Maybe there was a mail mix up and he would be able to apply again.
“Can you please confirm your application number, social security, and your date of birth?”
Peter gave the woman the information. He’d read his entry so many times and double checked that all of his identification had been correct that he had everything memorized.
“Excellent. Hold please.”
Peter gulped. Holy bejeezus, what was happening, here?
Peter jumped when the hold tone gave way to a voice.
“Hey. Yeah. I’m Peter. Peter Parker.”
“Well, I certainly hope so,” the man on the other end offered.
“Uh…Sorry, but who. Uhm, with whom am I speaking?” Peter stammered. He tried to sound professional. “Are you like the head of HR or something because I am SO sorry. I know my application was a little unorthodox…I just. I wanted to do something different with the whole comedy video thing. It was a dumb idea. I’m so sorry, please don’t blacklist me…I—”
“Let me go ahead and stop you right there,” the man huffed. “This is not a reprimand phone call, Mr. Parker. I’m calling to tell you that we’ve accepted your application.”
“What?” Peter asked. What? Was this… Just. What?
“You’re getting the scholarship,” the man explained. “You’re not blacklisted.”
“I. Oh?” Peter wondered. That didn’t make any sense. He wouldn’t be accepted.
“Right,” the guy huffed. “You’ll have to forgive me. I don’t really do acceptance calls. Normally my team takes care of all this jazz, but I had to call you myself. Quite the opposite of what you thought, really, your little stand up routine was good. I’ve already watched it a few times. Never gets old.”
“Cool. Cool. Yeah,” Peter nodded. It took a second for his brain to process the words coming from the phone. This made absolutely zero sense. People didn’t qualify for the SI scholarship. This had to be a joke.
“No. Wait. I’m sorry. Who is this really? Is this Flash? Ned?” Peter demanded. He didn’t really think Ned would do that to him, but he wouldn’t rule it out.
“Kid, if you don’t know how to put two and two together are you really sure you’re going to college?”
“This is Tony. Tony Stark,” the voice said slowly.
Peter laughed into the phone. “Yeah, okay. Tony Stark would be calling me. Wow. You know, man. Might’ve been more believable if you just kept your fake secretary on the phone.”
Silence. Flash trying to cover up his laughter probably.
“Flash, dude. I don’t even know how you got my cell number, but this isn’t cool. You already gave me enough shit at school for not getting the scholarship. It’s not right for you to call me at home about it, too. Okay? You already told me that Stark would think I was a joke. I get it. Whatever. Just let it go, dude. Please don’t call me.”
Peter hung up the phone. What a fucking asshole. As if it wasn’t enough that Flash had to be a dick at school, now he was making house calls. Probably got his girlfriend to act like a secretary or something. Peter groaned at the thought of Flash now having his social security number. If Flash didn’t hate him so much, he’d be worried about identify theft. Flash probably wouldn’t do anything, though. Wouldn’t want to stoop to Peter’s level. It was all just for realism.
He put his head in his hands. Maybe he should just forget about school. If he wasn’t going to be able to get a scholarship, he wouldn’t be able to get into NYU let alone MIT.