Being an Avenger was super cool, obviously. Being a superhero, working with other superheroes, getting to save people? It was a dream come true. Literally.
But being the youngest Avenger was not cool at all.
“Petey, come here. You have your sweater tucked into your pants again.” Pepper waved him over, leaving her own breakfast to fix his sweater and shirt. He’d been in a rush to get to school and evidently made a mess of himself.
“Oh, ha. Thanks.” Peter tried not to blush as Pepper’s gentle hands tucked his shirt in and smoothed out his sweater for him, smiling when she’d finished.
“There you go. Have a good day at school.”
Peter nodded and hurried off, slinging his backpack over his shoulder as he ran.
“Woah, hold up there buddy.” Steve stopped Peter as he was walking out, reaching over the kitchen island to grab a plastic container. “Here, I made you lunch.”
Peter almost groaned but held it in at the last minute. It was nice of him to make him lunch but having Captain America cut your sandwiches into triangles for you was humiliating. “I get lunch at school, Steve.”
The man smiled, nudging Peters arm with his elbow. “Yeah but you and I both know that your enhanced metabolism needs more fuel than other kids. I made your favourite and there’s some extra protein in there for you.”
He thrust the Tupperware container out and Peter forced a smile onto his face, taking the lunchbox and shoving it into his bag. “Thanks.”
It really was nice of Steve to make his lunch for him, especially because he was totally right about Peters metabolism. Peter got hungry at school so often that Ned had taken to hoarding food in his backpack in case his friend ever needed something. But that didn’t change how embarrassing it was to be babied by every member of the Avengers.
“Have a good day at kindergarten, Spidey.” Sam reached forward to ruffle Peters' hair and he ducked it just in time, waving goodbye as he made it out the door.
Peter was almost there, almost to the car for Happy to drive him to school when one last shout called out his name. “Pete! Wait up!”
Peter turned to see Mr Stark jogging towards him, face streaked with grease and hair stuck up in erratic tufts. “Hey, Mr Stark. Did you pull an all-nighter again?”
Tony panted, bending over to rest his hands on his knees. “Irrelevant. I need your help with the prototype. The lift broke and I need the car down.”
Peter pointed to where Happy was very impatiently waiting. “I have to get to school, can’t Steve do it?”
Tony shook his head, fingers tapping restlessly against his chest which meant he’d had way too much coffee already. “He can’t lift it the way I need. I need my Spider-boy. Come on, I’ll drive you to school after.”
Peter didn’t want to be late to class again but Tony treating him like an equal rather than a kid was well worth detention. “Yeah, sure. I’ll help.”
Tony clapped him on the shoulder and tugged him away. “Great! Hap, you go get lunch or something.”
Tony led Peter to the garage where his newest prototype car was waiting on a hydraulic lift, raised high above their heads.
“Why don’t you just fix the lift?”
Tony grabbed a coffee cup from his desk, about to raise it to his lips when Peter plucked it from his hand, sipping at it instead. “I don’t have the part I need for-hey, are you even allowed to drink coffee?”
Peter inspected the machinery, finding the problem instantly. “I’m fifteen, Mr Stark. I’m not a kid.”
The ‘not kid’ put the coffee down and rummaged through his backpack till he found his web shooters, snapping them on his wrists as Tony rolled his eyes at his comment.
“Whatever, just get up there and get my car down.”
Peter happily obliged, crawling up the wall to the ceiling where he stuck a web to the car and held on to the end of it, lifting the vehicle off the stand and lowering it safely to the ground.
“There. Now, can we go to school?”
Tony grabbed Peters bag for him, struggling under the weight of all his books as he nodded. “Yep and we’ll make up the time. Don’t get your spider suit into a bunch.”
Peter took his bag easily from Tony's hands and slid into the passenger seat, pulling the seatbelt across his chest, frowning when it wouldn't click.
“Mr Stark, how far through are you on this prototype?”
Tony looked over at Peters struggling fingers and quickly leaned over to do it for him. “Sorry, I had to design new seat belts that can withstand the speeds this car can go. If we’re going to use it for missions, it needs to be able to hold up under the stress. There.”
And just like that, the confidence from being treated as an equal disappeared as Mr Stark did his seat belt for him, tugging at the straps to make sure it was tight enough. Peter felt like a child and he slumped in his seat.
Peter felt so inferior compared to the other Avengers was it any wonder he wanted to prove himself? Captain America took hits hard enough to kill a normal person and he still got up and kept going. Peter just wanted to be able to prove he was a valuable member of the team and not some intern or kid they needed to babysit.
So, when he got knocked down during a mission, he may or may not have gotten up and kept going. Even though he thought he may have been hurt. No, scratch that, he knew he was hurt because Karen wouldn’t shut up about it.
“Peter, you’re knee is-” He didn’t let her finish, blinking through the scans she was putting up in the corner of his vision. “I’m fine, track the car and give me the quickest route to follow.”
He was fine, sort of. He definitely felt like his knee had slipped out of his socket for a hot second and he was sure he’d heard something pop but it seemed to be back in place and everything was fine. Apart from the fact that it felt like it was on fire. But surely if something was really wrong it would hurt more, right? Probably. And by that logic, Peter should just carry on like it hadn’t happened. Or at least that's what he was going with.
“Peter, you need medical attention or it’ll-” But Karen was not getting on board.
“Karen, just give me a route, please! They’re getting away! And in case you’ve forgotten, they’re my biggest lead on that string of mugging and robberies!”
His scans swept away, out of sight, replaced with a map of the city with Karens planned route laid out for him. “I have provided the optimum course for success.”
“Thank you.” Peter took a few hesitant steps, testing out his knee. It hurt but it wasn't anything he couldn’t handle, so, throwing caution and Karens warnings to the wind, he climbed up the side of a building, following Karen's directions.
The wind whipped past him as he swung from rooftop to rooftop, but he was distracted once again by Karen's scrawl in the corner of his eye.
“Karen, what's that? Why are you sending a message to Mr Stark?”
Her computerised voice was as pleasant as always but Peter still felt betrayed. “Protocol dictates that all injuries and incidents be reported to Mr Stark.”
Peter swung across another rooftop, stumbling a little on his bad knee. “Karen, we’ve talked about this!”
“I’m sorry, Peter but I cannot go against protocol.”
And that is exactly why he and Ned had tampered with it and added their own. Peter smiled, cheeky and smug as he swung to another rooftop, being careful to land primarily on his good leg. “Karen, activate protocol “snitches get stitches’, please.”
Karen paused then, and if she had a face Peter would have guessed she’d be wearing the same expression May wore when she knew Peter was lying but couldn’t prove it.
Finally, she answered. “I will not contact Mr Stark.”
“Thank you, Karen.”
“Yeah, so the rest of my night was kind of uneventful.” Peter sat in his desk chair, yanking his suit down to his waist with one hand while the other held his phone to his ear.
“Dude, you took down the guys that were mugging all those people! I can’t believe they stole from a homeless shelter. How evil do you have to be to do that?”
Peter let out a soft grunt as he pulled his suit off, being careful of his bad knee. “I know, right? May and I made some casseroles and lasagna and sent them down. Hopefully, that’ll help cover some of what they lost.”
Ned sighed through the phone, knowing his friend well enough to know what he was thinking without him having to say anything. “You know its not your fault, right? And don’t give me any of that ‘it was on my watch’ crap. You aren’t responsible for everyone.”
It was Peters turn to sigh, quiet and tired. “I know, Ned. Thanks.”
“Okay, now status report.” Ned did it every night after patrols, making Peter tell him if he was hurt.
Peter resumed peeling his suit off, hissing in pain when he moved his knee. “Something happened to my knee. I thought it was okay but its really starting to hurt and it's all stiff.”
Peter could almost see the way Ned would be leaning forward in his seat, ignoring everything else to focus on his friend. He always worried way too much.
“What did you do to it? What did Karen say?”
“Karen said I needed to get it checked out but the Avengers already baby me, I don’t want to go over there and tell them I got a boo boo.”
“There’s a difference between a boo boo and being hurt, dude. And anyway, I thought you said they all liked you. Wouldn’t they want to help?”
Of course, they would but Peter didn’t want them to. “They already help with too much, it’s embarrassing. Bucky even did the soccer mom arm thing when we were driving yesterday-”
Ned didn’t see any of it as negative. “You mean he put his arm across your chest? He was protecting you.”
Peter was tired and sore and his tone turned distinctly grumpy. “Oh, yeah from a sharp left-hand turn. Thank god he was there. And Mr Stark has all these rules about what I’m allowed to do and how I’m supposed to do them. He even set a bedtime, Ned. A bedtime!”
Ned was Peters best friend, he was supposed to be on his side but Peter had a tendency to be reckless and if rules and curfews kept him safe then so be it. “Well, when is it?”
Peter groaned, shifting in his chair when his knee throbbed. It was swollen and sensitive and he just wanted to get some ice on it and go to bed. “I have to be back in bed by midnight and that's the maximum.”
“That's not so bad. You have to balance school and Spider-Man. If you went out till three in the morning every night you’d never get anything done in class. Mr Stark knows what he's talking about.”
Peter pressed a hand over his eyes as he lent back in his chair, annoyed. “I know you’re right, man but it's still annoying! Being an Avenger is my dream but all they do is baby me. Its like I'm not even a real hero. I can handle more than they think!”
“I don’t think its that they don’t think you can look after yourself it’s that they know even heroes can get into trouble. Mr Stark is a genius and he still got kidnapped and stuck in that cave remember? And Bucky was a soldier with Captain America and look what happened to him! They don’t want you getting hurt.”
Ned sounded worried and Peter rubbed a hand over his face. “It’s not that big of a deal, I get knocked over sometimes. I’m fine.”
Ned hummed, unconvinced. “Is that what happened to your knee?”
Peter winced. “Well, yeah. The bad guys may have...sort of...bumped into me...with their car.”
“YOU GOT HIT BY A CAR!? Peter, you have to tell Mr Stark! You have to get checked out!”
Peter hated when Ned was right when he didn’t want him to be. What was he supposed to say to that? ‘I don’t wanna?’ maybe everyone treated him like a child because he acted like one.
“Fine. Alright, dude, I’ll go see Mr Stark.”
Ned, knowing Peter for most of his life and therefore knowing what Peter may be up to, checked just in case. “Do you promise?”
Peter held in a groan, a slight smile coming to his face as he remembered their pinky promises as children.
“Yes, I promise. Look, I don’t want to go tell him I got hit by a car because he’s going to freak out just like you have, but in the interest of not getting a lecture from you and every member of the Avengers, I will anyway. Happy?”
Peter could hear the smile in Ned's words, trying to cheer up his friend in any way he could. “No, dude, I’m not Happy, I’m Ned.”
Peter let out a small burst of laughter, feeling a little better despite the pain still throbbing in his knee. “You’re such an idiot.”
“Yeah but you love me anyway.”
Peter rolled his eyes, words softening. “Yeah, I do.” Ned was his best friend, more like a brother, and he was always there when Peter needed him, no matter what. Ned knew Peter so well that he often knew what Peter needed before Peter even knew himself.
“I love you too. Now, hang up and call Mr Stark.”
“Okay. I’ll call you later. Night, Ned.”
Peter hung up, finally smiling and feeling like he wasn’t so weighed down. And he was going to call Mr Stark, he totally was but he just really wanted a shower first. He was sticky and sweaty and gross and he just wanted to feel clean and cool before he went and saw Tony.
He really should have just called.
His knee was swollen and stiff, the whole leg refusing to take the weight as he stood so he hopped over to the bathroom instead, locking the door before sitting on the edge of the bathtub as he bent down to peel his socks and shorts off.
He started the water, leaning one hand against the wall as he stood under the water, feeling the rush of heat sweep over him. He sighed, the calm puff of air quickly becoming a hiss, pulled in between clenched teeth as the water ran over his knee. It was so sore, even the skin sensitive to the touch of the water and it felt so heavy.
He shifted on his good leg, foot shuffling on the floor so that he could reach for the shampoo, accidentally knocking Mays hair oil off the shelf as he did. “Dammit.”
It clattered against the bottom of the tub, spilling oil across the porcelain, splattering up across the sides. May wasn’t going to be happy. It had been her favourite.
Thankfully she was working a double which meant he’d get to wait till morning to see that disappointed look on her face. Peter shifted, trying to find a less painful way to stand when his foot slipped, the oil on the bath sending him down and Peter crashed against the hard porcelain.
He let out a cry as he went down, back and hip hitting the ground hard, pain washing over him as the water from the shower did the same, blinding him as it ran over his face.
The shock from the fall winded him a little and he braced his hands against the sides of the tub, fighting to pull air into his seizing lungs.
God he hurt just about everywhere, knee screaming and hip and back throbbing. He kept his eyes squeezed shut as the water ran over him, loud and pounding.
It took a moment for Peter to get his breath back but once he did he got right back to business, forming a plan in his head. All he had to do was get up, get out and grab his phone. Then he could call for help.
If only it were that easy. Even sitting up made everything ache and Peter but put a groan as he tipped his head forward, water cascading over his face and into his mouth. He opened his mouth gasping through the water as his instincts told him he couldn’t breathe and he tried to stay calm.
Water filled his mouth and ran into his eyes and nose. And it didn’t matter that he could get a few gasps in between mouthfuls of water because it felt like he was drowning.
He was losing his cool, patience disappearing with it and he grabbed at the edge of the bathtub, trying to pull himself up onto his feet. He almost got there, head out of the spray of water as he sucked in gulps of air, feet planted, but his knee couldn’t take the weight.
His band knee gave out and he dipped down, hands instinctively grabbing the shower curtain, which was not strong enough to hold his weight.
The curtain popped off the rings holding it up and Peter tipped back, feet slipping once more and he slammed back against the bath.
His tailbone struck first, pain rocketing up his spine before his back and shoulders stuck and then his head. The back of his skull cracked against the porcelain, his lights snapping off in an instant.
Peter laid there, unconscious, red slipping down behind his neck and shoulders to swirl down the drain with the shower water.