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He Keeps Him Scared

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Chapter One

“And the butcher stops
and winds his watch and lays
their lives down on the block...

He raises up his hatchet
and the big hand strikes
a compromise...

Wait, we'll trade you, wait..
Please just one more day,
and then we'll go with
no complaining...”

—Trout Heart Replica - Amanda Palmer; The Grand Theft Orchestra

- - - -

Tony smirked as he watched the scrawny teenager swing the bright red paddle in his hand wildly, and missed as he stumbled and almost fell. “Darn!” Peter wheezed slightly, lifting an arm to wipe his brow of sweat. He hadn’t even been playing long, but even so, he looked done in. Tony knew it was the asthma, which troubled him constantly, especially when he over-exerted himself. Despite having to struggle with the chronic asthma, the fifteen year old was a bubbly, energetic kid. 

“Alright, that’s enough for today,” he said as he walked forward, seeing that they were about to start another game. He was sure Peter wouldn’t be able to keep up, and would likely have an asthma attack. Even then, the boy gave him a petulant pout. “Don’t give me that look, Pete. May will kill me if you collapse.”

Peter whined in complaint, but set the paddle down, the breath rattling in his chest. Tony handed him his inhaler from his backpack. The teenager smiled and took it, bringing it to his mouth as he pressed on it to get the medicine into his lungs. When he pulled it away, he was breathing a bit more easily. He then reached up to push his glasses back up his nose. 

“Say your farewells to the guys and head downstairs, Happy will be waiting to take you home,” Tony told him. The others groaned, spread out around the room where they had been watching the latest ping pong match. 

Steve came forward first, Peter’s ‘opponent’ in the sudden death match, which he might or might not have let the kid win. He looked massive next to the Peter, broad-shouldered and almost a foot taller. “It was a good match, son,” he said, patting him on the back as the boy was almost knocked off his feet.

Steve had been raised by his grandparents after his mother and father had died in a car accident, and since they had lived in the 40s, so he had picked up a lot of their olden mannerisms. At times, Tony called him an old man in a young man’s hulking shell.

“Yeah, right,” he snickered. Peter knew that it was likely that Steve had let him win, but even then he couldn’t help being smug about it. He squawked as Bucky came up behind him and aggressively ruffled his hair. “Gyah! Bucky!”

The long haired man grinned at his petulant expression. “It’ll be my turn next time, punk. And don’t expect me to be as nice at Stevie,” he warned. He stepped aside to make room for Peter’s other ‘tormentor’, Sam.

“Don’t be mean to the kid, Buck. We don’t want him to cry and run and complain to Tony,” Sam said as he guffawed. 

“Oh no, we don’t want dad to get on our case!” Clint shouted from where he was lounging on the couch with his partner, Natasha. He had his legs thrown over her lap as he played on his nintendo switch.

Peter flushed as he called Tony that, glancing at him shyly but the man had just flipped the idiot off without looking away from his phone. The red-headed woman knocked Clint’s legs off as he groaned when he got killed and he didn’t have anymore lives. “Damn it, Tasha!” 

The woman knocked her fist into his shoulder as he yelped. He knew better than to use that nickname. She walked over to Peter, shooing off Sam and Bucky from harrasing the kid. “Be safe, маленький,” she told him, caressing his cheek. “Don’t forget to take your medicine, hmm?” 

Peter flushed again and nodded. Last month he’d forgotten to take his medicine and had a really bad asthma attack, resulting in needing to have his breathing treatment doubled, instead of the single treatment he did every night. “I won’t, мать паук,” he mumbled. He brightened when she pressed a kiss to his forehead. 

The others were always so surprised to see the hardcore woman go soft when she was with Peter and Clint’s kids. She didn’t have children of her own, couldn’t due to a bad undercover mission that went sideways during her stint with the DEA. Clint and Natasha had been together since joining the police academy, had been together when they joined DEA and when she was hurt badly and left, he followed her. Now they were both on SWAT.

They all knew Tony Stark due to having saved him when Thor’s younger half brother Thomas (nicknamed Loki) had seized Stark Tower along with several accomplices to try and take the owner of SI hostage. It was only because of his then bodyguard, Edwin Jarvis’s efforts that he’d managed to stay safe enough for SWAT to come subdue Loki and his men.

Afterwards he’d invited them to eat Shawarma, of all things, as thanks. They’d been friends ever since.

Thor was actually named Donald, who they jokingly called ‘Thor’, since he resembled the god of thunder from Germanic mythology with his long blonde hair and beard. Also, the dude was built like a tank and was almost impossible to take down when he got in a rage.

Their team consisted of Thor, Nat and Clint, Steve and Bucky, Sam, Wanda and Vision  (whose parents were weird and had actually named him that). 

They’d all been part of different divisions, Nat and Clint from DEA, Steve and Bucky use to be army, but had been honorably discharged after three tours in Afghanistan and joined the NYPD. They’d quickly been assigned by commissioner Nicolas Fury to form SWAT. They had come a long way and each had their own unique abilities. 

Peter squeaked as the rest of the team came to send him off, Wanda hugging and kissing his cheek as he flushed. She was the youngest of the team at 25, who had joined after her twin brother Pietro had been killed in an undercover assignment. She and Vision had joined at the same time, who was an America citizen but had been raised in England until his teen years and never lost the accent. 

Vision was awkward with everyone, and only patted his shoulder as a farewell before moving off with Wanda at his side. Peter squawked as Thor lifted him cleanly off his feet and hugged him against his massive chest, the boy flushing in the same way as when Wanda had hugged him. “Alright, put him down before you traumatize the poor kid, Thor,” Rhodey chuckled, patting the white man’s muscled arm.  

While Rhodey wasn’t a SWAT member, he was Tony’s oldest friend and thus always came to hang out with them when the team were around the tower. When he was put down, breathing a bit heavily from the surprise of being manhandled by Thor, the Black man gave his back a pat. “See you soon, kid,” he said.

Tony came and wrapped an arm around his shoulders as Rhodey walked off, leading the flustered youth to the elevator. Friday pressed the button for the elevator, her black pantsuit stern but fashionable, and her red hair pulled back in a ponytail. She stood at five feet and five inches, and while she was a petit unassuming (but attractive) woman, she was trained in various martial arts, and could knock out an opponent twice her size. 

“Bye, Ms. Friday,” Peter said cheerfully, smile bright and contagious.

The woman turned to him, her usual stern expression softening in a slight smile. “Goodbye, Peter,” she said in her distinct Irish accent. Tony should have feel offended, since she never smiled like that at him, or anyone.

However, he couldn’t blame her. The kid was such a likable person that everyone he met fell in love with him. Even the SWAT team that was full of hard-asses, which was fondly named the Avengers.

They became fierce when a fellow officer was hurt or killed, and especially innocent children. They tended to avenge the victims, but within the law, of course.

“What do you have planned for tomorrow?” Tony asked him. It was Saturday tomorrow and was planning on asking him to come for some lab time. They usually did it Friday afternoon after school (and after Peter finished his homework), but their day had been crashed by the Asshole-vengers.

Honestly, with how many times they came over and crashed on his couch or one of the many many guest rooms at the tower, they may as well live there. After all, most of them had shitty apartments and Barton was the only one that owned a proper house. Well, it was outside the city and he only went on the his days off, and most of the time while working he crashed at one of their places. Usually at the tower. 

Well, no one would be there tomorrow, and Tony was designing a new prototype phone able to produce holograms, and needed Peter’s help. Well, not really. Tony just wanted to spend some time with Peter without these freeloaders messing up their science time.

“Oh, I’m going over to Liz Allan’s house tomorrow,” he said.

Tony’s eyebrows lifted in surprise. “Oh, yeah? Hot date?” he asked as he waggled his eyebrows. He almost giggled when Peter flushed hotly.

“N-No! We’re having extra decathlon practice there... the whole team,” he stressed the last part. “Her house is the largest, well, I guess Flash’s house is bigger but his parents are having some fancy dinner or something and don’t want a bunch of kids in the way.” He kicked his converse against the floor as he looked down. “We’re going to nationals in two weeks, remember?” he asked shyly, but could hear the pride in his voice. 

Tony smiled, since he always found it adorable how excited he got over his nerdy decathlon team. “I remember. Good job, kid,” he said just to see him beam happily at the praise. “And when you’re finished with your not-date,” he kept talking even as Peter grumbled in annoyance, “did you want to come work in the lab with me? Then maybe have a movie night?”

The teenager lit up happily, nodding so hard that all his curly hair fell into his forehead and his glasses, which almost fell off. “Sure, Mr. Stark! I’ll ask May!” Peter said enthusiastically.

Tony chuckled and reached out to push away the hair from his face gently, righting his glasses absentmindedly. “Geez, kiddie, you need a hair cut,” he chastised lightly. He didn’t see Friday’s smirk since she had turned to stop the elevator door from closing. It was a private elevator so no one was waiting for it, but if left open for too long, the door closed automatically. 

“Y-yeah, I’ll get one maybe Monday after school,” he said bashfully, leaning slightly into the hand in his hair. “There’s a barber shop along the way to school that gives discounts to students.” He bit his lip before he stepped forward, and Tony smiled and pulled him in for a hug as Peter sighed happily as he nuzzled into his shoulder.

“Go on then, Happy is waiting for you,” he said after a moment, pulling back reluctantly and nudging him gently toward the elevator.

Peter nodded, getting excited again when he remembered that he was coming again tomorrow. “Okay, see you tomorrow, da-“ he sputtered as he cut himself off, “M-Mr. Stark!” He turned and practically dived into the elevator, hiding in the corner so Tony wouldn’t see his red face. Friday let the door closed, leaving behind a stunned Tony Stark.

“Did he almost call me...?”

“Yup,” Friday stated, and grinned when a slightly goofy smile lifted his lips.

Tony couldn’t wait for tomorrow.

- - - - 

May sighed as she turned the key in the lock, using her hip to budge it open since it tended to get stuck in the doorframe. Peter had the most trouble with it, since he had almost no muscle mass. She closed the door and locked it, tossing her jacket over the back of the chair as she walked past the table, setting her handbag on top of it. “Peter?” she called, knowing he should have already gotten back from Tony’s already.

She sighed as she pulled off her glasses and set them in their case, rubbing her tired eyes and moved toward’s Peter’s bedroom. “Pete, sweety, are you here?” She thought she heard something, so walked up to his door and knocked. Then she heard it again, a groan from inside.

The woman turned the knob and peered inside, seeing that Peter was laying on his bed facedown. Oh, no, she knew that position. He was either sulking or embarrassed as hell. 

May tapped out ‘A Shave And A Haircut’ on the door. “Did something happened, Peter? You didn’t accidentally blow up the lab or something, right?” He always went to the lab on Friday and enjoyed watching him gush all about spending lab time with Tony when she came home from work.  

He shook his head without lifting his face from the mattress. “No, the Avengers crashed lab day, and we all wound up playing ping pong.” She hummed to show she was listening to him, and figured this wasn’t what he was upset about. Peter loved spending time with the Avengers, gushed about them almost about as much as he did about Tony; almost but not really. 

“And Clint made a... a comment, a joke, sorta,” he mumbled, lifting his head to look at her and she saw his face was red. So, embarrassed it was then. “It was a Dad jab at Mr. Stark.” She already knew where this was going. “A-And when I was leaving... I almost called Mr. Stark Dad... and I think he noticed,” he whispered the last part.

May gave a huff that was more of a laugh. Peter had told her a while ago that he saw Tony as more than a mentor; like a father-figure. He’d told her because he was worried she’d think he was replacing Ben with Tony. May certainly didn’t think that, and while she wasn’t Tony’s biggest fan, she was glad he had a male role model he could go to with things he couldn’t go to her for. While she knew that Peter knew that Tony cared about him, he had no idea about just how much. 

May knew how much, since he had come to her one day when she was on one of her rare days off and Peter was in school. They’d had a long conversation about Peter and how Tony wanted to help her out with him. She’d gotten angry, thinking that he pitied then and was trying to give them a handout.

He’d quickly backtracked and had been one of the first people to see him flustered and stutter almost as much as her nephew. May had quickly realized that he wasn’t throwing money at them. He just cared about Peter and worried about him, and wanted to show he cared about him the only way he knew how.

Well, she was still working on teaching him how he could show his affection besides throw money at Peter.

“Well, I guess you won’t be able to show your face there ever again,” she said mock-seriously, almost giggling a moment later at his horrified face.

She nudged him and he scooted over so his back was pressed against the wall, his front pressed against her side as he hugged her by throwing his arm over her waist, leg over her own and face pressed against her shoulder. It was a good thing he was such scrawny thing or else she’d have fallen off the bed.

“Baby, you’re a great kid. You’re smart and so good. He’d be lucky to have you think of him as a dad.” She ran a hand through his curls at the back of his head as he used her arm as a pillow. “You love him, don’t you?” He was quiet for a moment as he buried his face more against her shoulder more, and then he nodded shyly. “Then don’t be afraid to tell him. You might be surprised,” she hummed. 

He grunted as a response and they stayed like that until it was time for her to start dinner. Peter gave her a wretched expression when she tried to move, and she huffed but pulled out her phone and ordered a pizza to be delivered. “Clingy brat,” she chided as she pressed a kiss among his curls. 

“You love me,” he insisted. 

May snorted. “Yeah, I do, brat.”

- - - -

Peter shifted nervously as he stood in front of the door, looking up at the extravagant house. May had dropped him off on her way to work, so he was an hour early to the meeting. He hoped it wasn’t a problem, but he could always wait outside. Only, it was starting to get colder these days and he’d taken a shower before leaving and his hair was still slightly wet.

He was wearing his grey NASA shirt, backpack thrown over his shoulder. Peter knew he should have brought a jacket, but his aunt had been in a rush and he’d accidentally left it hanging from the back of one of the chairs at the dining table. 

Peter lifted his hand and knocked, waiting a few moments before he knocked again. He was about to knock a third time when it was yanked open, starling the youth as he stepped back wide eyed and he looked up at the man that he’d opened the door. Peter wasn’t short for his age, but he was also still growing, so he stood at 5’2, and this guy was almost a foot taller than him.

He had short white hair but was already balding, and a wrinkled face that had a blank expression. As he watched, a strangely intimidating smile crossed his face. “Hello, may I help you, young man?”

There’s was something in Peter that wanted to turn tail and run, but figured he was being ridiculous. “H-hi, I’m Peter... Parker, and I’m here for the decathlon practice?” he said, becoming embarrassed when his voice cracked, pushing up his glasses nervously. 

The man watched him a moment, eyes moving over his face and then the rest of him in a way that Peter didn’t like. “Ah yes, Liz told me about it. I’m afraid my memory is not that great these days. Please, come in,” he said as he pulled the door open and stepped aside. 

Peter gulped, glanced behind him apprehensively and was seriously thinking of fleeing when he heard Liz’s voice. “Peter, you’re here!” The dark skinned girl jogged up to the door, and Peter relaxed and realized he was being irrational. 

“Hey, Liz,” he said, trying not to blush since she was so pretty. He wondered how it was possible for someone to be so pretty and so smart at the same time, it almost wasn’t fair. 

“Ready to practice?” she asked, putting a hand on her dad’s arm and he moved easily, something Peter hadn’t thought was possible. He had seemed unmovable to him. 

Peter nodded, his glasses sliding down again and he huffed and pushed them back up. He needed new frames, probably a whole new set of glasses. The youth followed Liz past her father, forgetting about his unease with the man as he followed his crush further into her house.

She was talking about the awesome projector her dad had bought her due to their team making nationals. Peter was busy watching the way her hair bounced as she walked, and how her eyes lit up in genuine joy as she spoke of their team possibly winning nationals.

 

They were having a good time, surprisingly enough, answering questions at a rapid-fire rate and getting excited as they all realized that they had a real shot of winning. However, they had gone through all the real questions, and were now having fun with it as they started on pop culture and movie references. 

“What movie poses a serious threaten of having your chest burst open?”

Peter snapped his hand forward and pressed the buzzer before anyone could press theirs. “Alien!”

Liz pointed at him with a grin. “Correct! And the winner of this round is..... Mr. Parker!” 

They all cheered, even Flash, although his clapping was less enthusiastic than the rest of the team. Peter grinned as he tried not to preen at the praise, but it was hard not to. He was bad at sports and was clumsy and awkward as hell. But he could admit that he was smart, and he knew this stuff, it was as easy as breathing to him.

As they started to set up for another round, Peter asked to use the bathroom. “Sure, the guest bathroom is at the end of the hallway,” she told him. “I’d let you use mine, but it’s got some personal stuff... you know?” 

Peter cleared his throat and nodded, because he knew from his aunt’s own feminine ‘stuff’. “Yeah, no, it’s alright,” he reassured, moving toward the door. As he left, Ned and Flash competing in the next round, he grinned and knew Ned was sure to win.

He hummed to himself as he went, really stuck on Bernadette by IMAX at the moment, and thought it sounded like something that might come out on a Tim Burton movie. Like Nightmare Before Christmas, which was the best movie ever.

Peter found the bathroom easily, took care of his business and washed his hands when he was finished. As he dried them on his pant legs, he looked at himself in the mirror. His overgrown curly hair falling over the tops of his glasses, which were admittedly too large for his face. It’s that, at the time they were tight on money, since his uncle had just died. His aunt had been struggling as the sole provider, and these had been the cheapest frames. They weren’t the most attractive frames, but he couldn’t complain about them.

The fifteen-year-old opened the door, turning after leaning over to flip the light switch off, and felt his nose slam into something as he turned. He grunted as he stumbled back, reaching out to clutch at his sore nose and froze as a tight hand closed over his arm just above his elbow. His head snapped up and came face to face with Liz’s dad, instinctively flinching away, or trying to, but his hold was firm.

“Easy there, Pedro, don’t want you to fall and hurt yourself,” he said. He righted him, and then seemed to realize he was still holding his arm and released him easily. “How’s the training session going? Think you got a shot at winning, huh?”

Peter nodded, swallowing a bit nervously and wished he would move out of the way. He was blocking the doorway and Peter wished he didn’t feel as trapped as he did. “Y-Yeah, I think so. We... We’re looking pretty good. And.. I-I think I should get back,” he said, hoping he’d take a hint and move. 

He didn’t and Peter shifted nervously. “That’s good, Pedro... real good.” 

“It’s...” he started, looking down. “It’s Peter... n-not... not Pedro,” he stuttered. He wondered why this man made him so nervous.

Mr. Allan (he assumed that was his last name, since Allan was Liz’s last name) smiled that slightly deranged looking smile. “You’re a pretty smart kid, huh, Peter?” 

Peter didn’t know if that was a rhetorical question or not. He just wanted him to move. “C-can you... move, please?”

The man continued to smile as he stared at him several heart-pounding moments later. Then he stepped aside and Peter sighed in relief. “I’ll see you soon, Peter,” he called after him.

That relief died a quick death and all he could do was rush back to the safety of Liz’s room. When he was once more inside, he grabbed his crappy phone from his bag and texted Mr. Stark, who he had listed under Dad‘Can you send Happy for me, please?’

He never asked him to send Happy, and it was always Tony that insisted. However, he really wanted to leave right now. Maybe he was being ridiculous or irrational, but he didn’t feel safe in this house.

Dad: Sure kid, where are you? 

Peter sighed in relief and sent him the address and waited for Happy’s text to tell him he’d arrived. The man couldn’t get here fast enough.