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All That's Cracked (It Isn't Broken)

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"Peter!" Tony called. "Get down here, kid!" He waited on the common floor, knowing Peter's super-senses helped him hear Tony. A few seconds later, he was rewarded with muffled thumps.

"Hey, Mr. Stark! What's up?" A slightly-out-of-breath Peter asked, popping out of the vents.

Tony made a face. "You know we have an elevator?"

Peter shrugged, "It's slower than the vents."

"Yeah, and not as dusty," Tony pointed out. "Anyways, I was out and saw something I thought you'd like." He grinned, grabbing something from his bag and unfolding it. It was a bright blue shirt with a graph on it with the words, I see you have graphing paper... You must be plotting something.

Peter gaped at him. "You got me a math pun shirt. This is the greatest day of my life."

Tony chuckled, "Go ahead, try it on!"

Peter took it and turned before stopping at Tony's aborted noise of confusion. "What?"

"I just... I mean, why not just try it on here?"

"I, uh, would prefer a bathroom?"

Tony shrugged. "Mind if I come?"

Peter honest-to-God winced. "Um, yes?"

Tony stopped mid-step, then crossed the room quickly to lay a hand on Peter's shoulder. "Hey, is everything okay?"

Peter let out a breath. "Fine."

"I know I might not be the best guy to talk to about father issues or stuff, but I can listen."

"I know," Peter said with another sigh, and raked a hand through his hair. "Sorry."

"Nothing to apologize for," Tony said confidently, pulling Peter closer.

He slipped away before Tony could hug him, and Tony stood there, confused, while Peter searched for an answer. "I, uh, I'm gonna go try on the shirt... real quick... um, yeah." With that, he slipped out of the room and down the hall.

Tony blinked up at the ceiling. What the hell? He mouthed, but Jarvis remained unhelpfully silent. Tony made a face and collapsed in the nearest chair, thinking.

Peter came back in a minute later, grinning. "It fits!" He threw his arms out to show Tony.

Tony grinned back. "I knew it would. Hey, what're you doing up there?"

Peter smiled. "Looking through colleges. Mostly trying to decide my major." He sat on the arm of the chair across from Tony's. "Like, I know I wanna do some kind of engineering, right? I'm just not sure which kind yet." He plopped down into the chair, head on the opposite arm and legs dangling over, with a soft oomph. "There's a lot to choose from. And a lot to do in general."

"Yup. I get that. Want some help?"

"That'd be great!" Peter beamed, and his stomach grumbled. He made a face. "Maybe after I eat?"

Tony sighed. "You know you've gotta keep on top of your metabolism, Pete. When's the last time you ate?"

Peter shrugged. "I dunno, breakfast?"

Tony blinked slowly. "It's three p.m."

"Oh," Peter said, and Tony sent him a highly sarcastic, highly unimpressed look. "Sorry! I got... absorbed. I didn't realize I was hungry."

Tony sighed. "Do you need to put alarms on your phone?"

"No, I swear, it doesn't usually happen!"

"Usually?"

"Fine. I'll put alarms." He slumped into the kitchen and stared sourly at the fridge before brightening at the sight of yogurt. "Hey, do we have fruit? Blueberries? Strawberries?"

Tony shrugged. "Frozen, maybe."

"Yes!" Peter cheered, pulling out the yogurt. "C'mon, let's make smoothies! Or shakes. Or whatever. Point is, it's gonna be delicious."

Tony chuckled as he pulled out the blender. "Sounds good, kid. What're we adding?"

Peter hummed. "Let's do, like, a really delicious healthy one. But with chocolate."

"Do we have chocolate?"

"We have Nutella." He grabbed the jar and placed it on the counter. "What else?"

Tony laughed. "You're the one making this, kid, not me."

"I am," he murmured, staring at the fridge. "Ooh, honey!" He dashed over to the pantry and grabbed it before moving back to the fridge.

Eventually he got everything in the blender, plugged it in, and turned it on. As he was reaching for the power button, Tony reached for something on the counter. "Pete, wait! The-" Peter turned it on, yelped, and turned it off. "-lid," Tony finished, holding the small piece of rubber.

"Um, whoops?" Peter said sheepishly.

Tony sighed as he looked around the kitchen. "Alright, let's clean up." He sighed again when he spotted some on the ceiling. "You're on ceiling duty." He pointed up at the mess and Peter chuckled before grabbing the sponge. He did a handstand on the island before pushing himself up, landing feet-first on the ceiling. He quickly cleaned it up and dropped back down, turning to see a shirtless Tony mopping up the worst of the mess with his shirt.

He shrugged at the noise Peter made. "I needed something bigger than a hand towel and didn't want to have to go find a big towel. My shirt was right here. We'll use soap and water after to get rid of the stickiness anyways."

"I, uh, I'll get on that," Peter said, turning to rinse the sponge out before wiping the island.

"Thanks," Tony said. "Actually, would you mind getting the mess on the cabinets?" He pointed to the yogurt-speckled doors, and Peter laughed again before moving over to wipe them down.

"It made a bigger mess than I thought it was capable of," Peter said as he rinsed the sponge again.

"Yeah? Kinda how I feel about you," Tony said, but he was teasing and Peter knew it. The billionaire suddenly snapped and pointed at the teen. "I forgot. Remember Cap's childhood best friend?"

"I think I learned about him in school, yeah. Barn? Barney?"

"Barnes," Tony nodded. "Bucky Barnes. Well, he's still alive. He and Cap are gonna move in. We're heading down to Wakanda tomorrow to pick them up."

"Wakanda?" Peter asked.

"Yup. Remember that new cat superhero? Black Panther?"

"I've heard of him," Peter nodded.

"Well, his name is T'challa, and he's the king of Wakanda. His little sister, Shuri, is around your age, but she's a princess and the leader of their R&D department. She's uber-smart."

"Smarter than you?" Peter teased, but Tony was serious.

"Definitely," he nodded. "Anyways, after they get here, the rest of the Avengers are gonna move in, too. I wanted to know how you wanted to play this." He leaned back against the now-clean island and crossed his arms. "Do you want them to know your identity? Or do you want to remain masked?"

Peter sighed and hopped backwards onto the counter across from Tony. He crossed his legs while he thought. "I want as few people to know as possible, but it'll get too difficult trying to hide it from all of them. If you trust them, I'm willing to trust them, too."

"Okay, then that brings us to the next question. Do you want them to know you're Spider-Man?"

Peter frowned. "How would they not? I'm not gonna stop just because they're here."

"And I'm not asking you to," Tony soothed. "But if you're the last one out of the Tower and the first one back, you could do both."

"Yeah, until the first time someone stays here because they're injured, and they can't find me when they're bored." He blinked, "Okay, that sounded really cocky. I'm not expecting them to seek me out. But if they do, you know?"

"I get it, Pete," Tony chuckled. "And hey, give yourself some credit. I seek you out when I'm bored."

"Yeah, but that's different," Peter said easily. "You're... you." He gestured at Tony.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Tony said, but it was more of a question, and Peter chuckled.

"So am I coming with you to Wakanda?"

"I did say we, didn't I?"

"Yes!" Peter exclaimed, pumping a fist in the air. "Did you know this'll be my first trip out of the States? And it'll be my first time in a plane!"

"Quinjet," Tony corrected. "It's faster than a normal plane."

"When are we leaving? And how long are we staying? Should I pack something?"

"An overnight bag wouldn't hurt," Tony agreed. "We're leaving as soon as we're ready tomorrow, but no later than ten o'clock, so set what alarms you have to in order to be ready by then."

"Cool!" Peter chirped, hopped off the counter and ran off to pack.

Tony looked at the kitchen, sighed, and began to clean up.


The next morning, they were on their way to Wakanda. "How long is it gonna take?"

Tony set the autopilot and checked the time. "About... four hours. Got anything you want to do?"

Peter thought about it, then shook his head. "I didn't think to bring anything, either. Although, I do have my earbuds? So I could just sit and listen to music."

"You just sitting for four hours is going to end well for no one," Tony said. "C'mon, there's something here somewhere, I bet. I think there's a chess board? Or a checkers board?"

"Anything can be a checkers board if you don't care enough," Peter said. "If there is a chess board, we can use the pieces as checker pieces."

"That we could," Tony agreed, rifling through the things in the back. "Oh, how about Sorry?"

"Sorry is nobody's friend." Peter grinned, "Let's do it."

Chapter Text

Five games and a snack break later, they were arriving in Wakanda. Peter gasped as they broke through the tree cover to see the city below. "That might be the coolest thing I've ever seen," he admitted. "Oh, I think I see them! Down there!"

Tony chuckled. "You might, yeah. Doesn't mean I can."

Peter looked at him, blinked, then nodded. "Right. Enhanced senses."

"Not something I have," Tony nodded. "You probably do see them, though. I wouldn't be surprised if they were waiting for us."

"Oh, there's goats, too!" He looked back at Tony. "I wanna pet a goat!"

The billionaire chuckled. "The goats here are really friendly. I'm sure one'll come up to you."

"Yes," Peter whispered, fist pumping again. "I'm so excited!"

Tony laughed. "Go sit down. I've gotta land the plane." He sat in the pilot's seat and toggled the controls, gaining control of the ship. He hovered, turned, and lowered until the back hatch was facing the people waiting for them.

"Remember, kid," Tony said as they waited for the hatch to open. "These people are literally royalty. They don't do bows, but that doesn't mean you can goof off with them."

"Okay," Peter said happily, bouncing on his toes.

"Mr. Stark," King T'challa said, striding forward to speak. "Welcome to Wakanda."

"Thank you," Tony said, shaking the proffered hand. "I appreciate your offer to come down here. I'm excited to see what Wakanda has to offer."

"I think you'll be pleased," T'challa said, and Peter slipped away.

"Hi," he said. "I'm Peter."

"Shuri," she nodded.

He grinned suddenly. "I like your accent. Where you from?"

She grinned back and lowered her voice without missing a beat. "I'm Liberian."

"Oh, sorry," Peter said, then whispered, "I like your accent, where you from?"

They both laughed and Shuri beamed at him. "I like you. Come on, I want to show you my lab."

"Mr. Stark said you're the head of the R&D department, is that true?"

Shuri nodded. "I made the Black Panther suit my brother wears. I also made sound-absorbent shoes." She grinned at him, "I call them sneakers."

He laughed. "That's the greatest thing I've ever heard. How long am I staying? I wanna stay forever."

"Do you have a phone?"

"Of course I do!"

"Send me your number!" She told him her phone number, which he entered into his phone before sending her a text. "My brother tells me you are also a superhero."

"I- yeah, kinda, I guess. I mean, I haven't done anything big yet, like the Avengers have, you know? It's mostly petty crimes."

Shuri shrugged. "Still, I'm sure it's more interesting than being in a lab all day."

"Are you kidding?" Peter turned wide eyes on her. "If I had a lab like this, I'd never want to leave!"

"You would, trust me," she laughed. "What can you do? What are your powers?"

"Well," he started, toeing his shoes off. "I was bitten by a radioactive spider." He laughed, "I saw that I had some spider-like powers and decided to die on that rock, so I'm Spider-Man. I made myself web shooters and web fluid, and I swing around Queens and stop muggings and things." He finished taking his socks off and sized up the distance before running for the nearest wall. He did a couple of cartwheels and flipped onto the wall, crawling up before flipping onto the ceiling. He waved to Shuri upside-down.

"That's so cool!"

He grinned. "Thanks. It's only my hands and feet that are sticky, though." He reversed his position so he was dangling from the fingertips of his left hand.

Just then, the door opened, and Tony, T'challa, Steve, and Bucky walked in. Tony stopped, stared, and let out a long sigh. "If I ever walk into a room you're in and you're not on the ceiling, it'll be a miracle."

"Uh, sorry?" Peter dropped down and landed on the floor in a crouch. "And to be fair, Shuri wanted to see what I could do."

Shuri gasped theatrically. "Peter, I thought you were bae!"

He shrugged at her. "Turns out I'm just fam. And that's an old one."

"But you knew it," she countered, and he shrugged again.

Tony sighed, again, and stepped to the side. "Peter, this is Steve, Bucky, and King T'challa."

"Hi," Peter said, and waved. Steve waved back. He looked back up at Tony and asked, "Are we leaving?"

"Not yet," Tony shook his head. "The king is showing me around. Would you like to join us?"

"I'd rather stay with Shuri. No offense," he added to T'challa. The king just nodded.

"Okay, just keep your phone on you. I'll let you know when we're leaving."

"Okay!" Peter grinned, and the adults walked out again.

"So you're sure he's not your dad?" Shuri asked.

Peter shrugged. "Father figure, maybe. I don't know. I don't think we've really tried to put labels on it, you know?" Shuri hummed. "Okay, so what's with Steve and Bucky?"

"You noticed it too?" Shuri exclaimed. "Thank God, I thought I was going crazy! They're so gay for each other. It's sickening."

"You don't get it. My gaydar is pretty spot-on. There's no way they're not."

"I agree! But who's what?"

Peter hummed. "I don't know them, but I'd say Steve's bi. Bucky's full-on gay."

Shuri hummed. "I think one of them might be pan."

Peter shook his head, "I'd know. Mr. Stark's pan."

"He told you?"

"He didn't have to." Peter grinned at her.

"Okay, so what about me?" Shuri asked.

"You?" Peter asked, surprised. "You're the strongest lesbian I've felt since my friend Michelle."

She pointed at him, "That's freaky."

Pete shrugged and grinned. "I guess it comes with being a spider-being in the community." He froze. "Uh, pretend I didn't say that last part?"

"Nope!" She said happily. "C'mon, what are you, gay? Bi? Ace?"

"No," Peter shook his head. "Drop it? Please? Mr. Stark doesn't know yet."

"Are you gonna tell him?"

"I dunno?" He sighed, "I mean, I'm not gonna lie if it comes up, but I've got no reason to tell him. He doesn't need to know."

She frowned sadly at him. "Who hurt you?"

"No one. I'm fine. Let's drop it."

She sighed, then grinned at him. "Have you ever lost a game of the floor is lava?"

Peter laughed, only slightly forced. "I used to all the time. Before I got bit I was just this little nerd. Now I'm a little nerd with superpowers." He grinned at her. "I have the proportionate strength of a spider, too! I stopped a bus." He tilted his head and made a face, "A building fell on me too, but I prefer not to think about that."

"Oh my god," she murmured. "Peter, you're a gay disaster."

"Trans disaster," he corrected without thinking, and paled. "Shit."

"Oh, is that it? Is that how you're in the community?"

"Yeah."

"Cool!"

He blinked at her, then flushed and looked down. "Thanks."

Her gaze was accusatory, but not towards him. "You were hurt."

"I don't like to talk about it, but yeah."

"Don't like to talk about which part? Because I have questions, but they're also the kind of questions Tumblr would love."

Peter chuckled, "I'm fine to answer any questions that aren't about the, uh, situation I was in. As long as nobody else hears." He looked around the lab, "Hey, do you mind if I make web fluid? And a web shooter? That way I could show you."

"Only if you agree to swing me around." They grinned at each other and set off.

A couple hours and a myriad of questions later, the web shooters and fluid were finished. "I'll need to test it first, but there should be enough to go around the lab at least three times. I'll go around once, then take you around. Sound good?"

"Can I record?"

"Can you blur my face out?"

She grinned, and he grinned back and waited for her to set it up. "Alright, this is... Spider-Man web fluid, test one. Ready?"

He nodded and lifted his hand, pressing the button and shooting a small stream of web fluid out to hit the wall. He pulled back against it, testing the give, stickiness, and strength, then pulled back more before lifting his feet, slingshotting himself across the lab. He landed on the wall opposite Shuri and grinned at her. "That was so cool!" She cheered. "Come on, come back, I want a turn!"

"I don't know if I can give you a turn, but I can carry you. I don't know if you'll be strong enough to handle it."

She raised a brow. "I didn't expect you to be sexist."

"What? No! No, that's not what I meant. Shuri, I'm literally enhanced. My metabolism is about as fast as Steve and Bucky's. I'm faster than Steve's fastest clocked speed, I'm stronger in some respects, and my cells have literally been mutated to support this. I don't know if your body will be able to handle the strain you're wanting to put it under."

"Oh," she said quietly, then grinned at him. "Let's test it."

"Okay. How?"

"Well, I'll monitor you while you swing again. I'll monitor the amount of stress being placed on each joint, and then I'll test myself and see how much I can handle."

"That's an idea," he nodded. He would've said more, but the door opened and footsteps echoed in the lab.

"Pete?" Tony asked. "We're about to leave, kid. Is your phone on?"

"It should be," he answered. "Sorry, I guess I just didn't hear it."

"Okay. Are you ready?"

"Yep! I'll be right there."

He grinned at Shuri as the door shut again. "Want me to give you a ride up front?"

"Obviously!" She said. "I bet we could beat Stark."

"No question," Peter said confidently. "Let's just get out into the hallway first to conserve as much fluid as we can. Don't worry, it dissolves within an hour."

"That's not dangerous?" She asked, leading the way into the hallway and clinging to him. "You've never stayed too long and fallen?"

Peter grinned. "You know non-Newtonian fluids? How when they're put under stress, they react more like a solid? I applied the same principle to the web fluid. As long as there's tension in the line, it'll remain solid. As soon as it's just hanging, though, it'll dissolve. Within an hour, like I said, of course."

"Of course," she mused. "That's actually genius."

"Don't look too surprised," he teased her. "I'm more than just a handsome face."

She laughed at that and hip-checked him. "Come on then, sweep me off my feet--quite literally--and show me how you move around Queens."

"Gladly." He grinned, pulled her closer, and extended his other arm to shoot a web. She shrieked as they swung past Tony.

She started laughing giddily as they neared T'challa. "Let's do a flip! Do a flip!"

He laughed too, caught up in the emotion, and let go later than he normally would have, twisting them so they flipped before they landed. "Legs up!" He told her, mid-air, and she wrapped her knees around his waist. He landed and gently lowered her.

She laughed as she stepped back, then quickly stepped back in for a hug. "Your binder slipped. I'll take you to a bathroom," she whispered, and grabbed his hand, turning him away from the adults. "Come on!"

"Be back in less than five minutes!" He called over his shoulder.

Once they were safely locked in the bathroom, Peter exhaled. "Thank you," he said. "Listen, I don't mind you being in here, but I'm going to have to completely rewrap."

She hopped backwards onto the counter and crossed her legs. "It's no problem. Why don't you tell Stark? It's not like he's going to disown you or anything."

Peter sighed, "I dunno. I mean, beyond my prior experiences, I've never had anyone be accepting. This is all really new for me." He started wrapping, wincing slightly. "Uh, don't tell anyone, but this isn't the way you're supposed to do it. You're not supposed to use anything like ACE bandages, but I'm not out and I don't really have the money to get a proper binder. Most of the money I make goes towards testosterone."

"Does it damage you?"

"It can," he sighed. "It can make it hard to breathe and it can put unintended pressure on my ribs. But I have an advanced healing factor, so it's relatively okay."

"Relatively?" She raised a brow. "You really should tell Stark."

"You don't understand," he said, shaking his head after he pulled his shirt on. "You kind of do, since you're a lesbian, but it's not the same."

"I know," she replied. "I don't understand. But you said it yourself, he's pan. There's no way he's going to see you differently."

"But how do you know?" He stressed. "Do you know what it's like, being told you're dramatic, being called a she when you know you're a he, and feeling wrong in your own skin?" He stared at her. "Do you?"

"No," she admitted. "And I'm not going to force you. I can't. I'm also not going to go behind your back and tell him. I'm simply saying you should trust your father figure a bit more."

"My last father figure beat me." With that, he opened the door and walked out.

"Damn it," she sighed, and walked out after him.

Chapter Text

Hey y'all, I really REALLY hate to do this, but as I'm sure many of you know, finals are coming up, and they are a BITCH. As such, I will (most likely) not be posting again until after finals. I'm just far too stressed right now. Of course, I could decide to not listen to myself, and post anyways, but if I do, there will be no sort of posting schedule whatsoever. Honestly, it's completely my fault for deciding to post a multi-fic chapter right before finals, and now y'all are paying the price, and I'm SORRY, OKAY??? I just... Y'all, I'm WAY too stressed out by school to do any sort of posting right now. I will, however, relieve stress by writing (usually at 1am), so when I do decide to post, hopefully the fic will actually be finished, and I can focus on revising or, possibly, writing a new one for y'all.

 

Aaaaaaannnndddd it just occurred to me that I'm out of town pretty much immediately after finals until the end of my "summer" (which is literally a month since I decided to kill myself with summer semesters) sooooo I'm not sure when I'll be able to next post. *cries forever* I PROMISE I HAVE FIC I just don't have the mental capacity to deal with posting it yet. However on my vacation I should have wifi!!! I'm just not sure I'll be alone long enough to be able to post. (Seriously, how do y'all have, like, supportive families? That entire concept is just... foreign to me.) Anyways...

 

tl;dr: I'm not sure when I'll next be able to post, but this fic is NOT being abandoned! It is my baby, my pride and joy, etc. and I am NOT planning on abandoning it at all. Just please be patient with me!! *hearts you all*

 

Chapter Text

"Hey, Pete," Tony said cheerfully when he came into view. "Everything alright?"

Peter arranged a smile on his face. "Great," he said. "We leaving?"

"We are. Starbucks are already on the quinjet."

"There's Starbucks here?"

"No," Tony laughed. "I meant the dynamic duo Buck Rogers."

"How many nicknames do you have for them?"

"Far too many," came from behind them. Peter turned to see Steve striding up to them with a grin. "Hey Tony, Nat's just outside of Moscow and is requesting a pick-up. I think Clint's with her too, the feed cut out for good before I could find out."

"The feed cut out? The hell kinda tech are they using?" He shook his head, "It'll be late but we'll be there. Tell her five hours at the earliest, if you can get ahold of her again."

Steve nodded and walked back into the quinjet, Peter and Tony following soon after.

A couple minutes after Peter boarded, he got a text from Shuri.

Shuri: Are we okay?

Peter sighed and gave his phone a half-smile.

Peter: Yeah, I'm just dramatic sometimes.

Shuri: Nah, you're totally founded, it's my fault, just wanted to make sure. 😊 hope to see you soon?

Peter: Definitely! I'll have to introduce you to Michelle. 😉 

Shuri: Your lesbian friend? Yes please!! 😍 

Peter smiled and tucked his phone back in his pocket. Steve walked over and sat beside him, giving him a small smile. "Who're you texting?"

"Shuri. She's really cool!"

"I agree," Steve chuckled, then shifted. "I wanted to say, actually..." he sighed, "Buck and I both have enhanced hearing. The bathroom you were in wasn't that far away, and you were talking loud enough for us to hear."

Peter blanched and shut his eyes. "Shit," he whispered.

"If it helps at all, we're completely fine with it?" Steve offered.

"Not really, but thanks," Peter replied. "I mean, you heard why I have trust issues. I know I'll be okay one day, but that day isn't today, and I've just kinda gotta live with it, y'know?"

"I know what you mean," Steve nodded. "Brooklyn was a queer haven, but that didn't make it any easier being bi." He offered Peter a small, crooked smile. "It takes faith in your friends and family. Yours was misplaced. It's not your fault, but it sucks while you're going through it."

Peter nodded. "That actually did kinda help a little, thanks." He sends Steve his own crooked smile.

"Glad I could help," he said, and stood, then quickly sat down again. "By the way, could you not mention anything about me being bi? I'm not scared, I just don't want it to leak to the press, you know?"

Peter looked at him, feigning confusion. "Who said anything about being bi?"

Steve laughed and clapped him on the shoulder before walking back to sit by Bucky. "I guess you heard that, huh?"

Bucky grinned and shook his head. "Only you would come out to a kid to make him feel better. At least he thanked you. He's a cute kid."

Peter laughed at that. "Sorry, Mr. Barnes," he said at a normal volume, knowing Bucky would be able to hear him across the plane while Tony remained blissfully unaware in the cockpit. "You're not really my type."

Steve blew a puff of air out through his mouth before collapsing against Bucky's side in laughter.

Bucky raised a brow at Steve, then Peter. "Who on the damn team isn't enhanced?"

"Mr. Stark," Peter said, at the same time Steve spoke.

"Tony." He cocked his head, "Although I don't think Clint is, either. Not in that respect, at least."

"And what about Thor?" Peter asked. "Is he actually enhanced, or just a god?"

Steve and Bucky looked at each other, then Peter, then shrugged. Peter blinked at them. "That was, like, scarily synchronized."

Bucky laughed. "Perks of knowing each other for ninety years, give or take."

Peter switched sides and went over to sit by the two supersoldiers. "You know what a better question is? Who on the team isn't LGBT in some way?"

Bucky shrugged. "Me?"

Peter scoffed. "Yeah, cause I'm gonna believe that. You're the loudest gay I've ever seen."

Bucky frowned. "What, cause I have a pink shirt on? That doesn't make me gay."

"No," Peter allowed. "You're right. But I'm not judging your sexuality on your outfit choice. I can just tell. I knew he was bi before he told me." He tilted his head in the blond's direction. "Don't tell anyone, but I know Mr. Stark's pan, Mr. Barton's demi, and Ms. Romanoff's aro. Shuri's a lesbian. Ms. Potts is straight, I guess. Dr. Banner and Thor are trying to believe they're straight, but Dr. Banner is bi and Thor is, like, the king of pans. Agent Hill's kinda in love with Ms. Romanoff. King T'challa is mostly straight."

"Have you met Sam?" Steve questioned, and Peter tilted his head.

"I did once, yeah. He's bi."

Steve leaned back and shook his head in wonder. "It took me forever to get him to admit it to me, and you just guessed? Just like that?"

"Uh, yeah?"

"Kid, I think that's your real superpower," Bucky said, and Peter laughed.

A few hours later, they were landing just outside of Moscow. Clint boarded, grinning and waving at them before tapping his ear and shrugging. Steve, Bucky, and Peter exchanged a look, and Steve raised his hands to sign. "What happened?"

"He was being a dumbass again," Natasha said as she clambered on. She got Clint's attention and signed something too fast for them to catch.

Clint understood, however, if the way he went white, then red, then sat down was any indication.

They all caught his muttered, "Asshole," and Natasha just laughed.

"Don't worry, he deserves it," she assured them. "Anyways, how've you all been?" She ruffled Peter's hair, then kissed Steve and Bucky's cheeks.

"Can't complain," Steve chuckled, bussing a kiss to her cheek in return. "It's good to see you, Nat. How're you?"

"Oh, same old," she deflected, meaning she probably spent the past week dismantling a corrupt government. "How 'bout you, kid?"

"I'm good, Ms. Romanoff. Thanks for asking."

"Ms. Romanoff." She wrinkled her nose. "That makes me feel old."

"What... what should I call you?"

She shrugged, "Natasha? Nat? Tasha? Like any of those?"

"I like Nat," he decided, and grinned. "But only if you call me Peter."

"Deal."

Chapter Text

The ride to the Tower was, thankfully, not too long. It was another three hours, meaning Peter was suitably tired by the time they got back. He said goodnight to everyone, waving to Clint since the archer still couldn't hear, and went up to his room. He got ready for bed, wincing slightly as he took his binder off and saw the bruising. Well, guess I'm wearing a hoodie tomorrow, he thought with a grimace. I hope nobody notices.

He lay down and plugged in his phone, checking his notifications and responding before his eyes became too heavy. He put his phone down, and with the vague idea to text Michelle in the morning, he fell asleep.


 

"Brian?" Someone laughed incredulously. "What's going on?"

"Megan," he smiled, and welcomed the little girl with open arms. "How are you, my sweet girl?"

"What're you doing?" She gladly went to him and giggled when he feigned weakness as he lifted her. "Can I talk to you?"

"Aren't you?" He grinned at her and pulled a quarter from behind her ear.

She knew it was fake--far too old to believe in magic anymore--but she squealed regardless.

He laughed, then his gaze was drawn to something behind her, and his grin grew wider, wilder. "Hank, come," he commanded, and the mutt obeyed. "Hey sweetheart, I wanna show you a trick Hank can do. Ready?"

"Yeah!" She laughed, and wiggled down from his grasp. "What's the trick?"

"Hank," he said, and grinned at her. "Attack."


Peter woke up gasping. "Mr. Parker," said the friendly British AI in the ceiling, "it appears you were dreaming. You are in distress. Is there anyone I can call for you?"

Peter took a couple deep breaths, trying to get his breathing under control, and shook his head. "I'm fine." He covered his face and repeated it. "I'm fine. I'm fine."

"Peter?" Someone asked, and he gasped, pulling the covers up to his chin. He was in a close-fitting tank top. "Whoa, hey, kid. It's just me." Natasha walked further into the room, hands up and open to reassure him.

"Wha- I- I told Jarvis I was fine?"

"My apologies, Mr. Parker. It has been my experience when one says they are fine, and continue to repeat it, they are in fact not fine and would appreciate someone with them. Ms. Romanoff was the only one awake."

Peter sighed and raked his hands through his hair. "Thanks, I guess, J."

"You are very welcome, Mr. Parker. I leave you in Ms. Romanoff's capable hands."

"Wanna talk about it?" She asked, and sat on the edge of the bed. "And let go of the covers. I promise they're not trying to strangle you." She sent him a lopsided smile, and he sighed before he let go and sat up.

"Sorry. Guess I'm a little more on edge than I thought," he shrugged, watching her reaction.

"That's alright. Wanna talk about it? Or we could talk about, like, clouds. Unless clouds were somehow involved in your dream."

He chuckled slightly at that and shook his head. "No, no clouds. It was, uh... well, there's a lot of backstory to go with the dream."

She spread her hands. "I have a lot of time."

He sighed and nodded, raking a hand through his hair again. "Okay. Well, first things first, my parents died when I was four. I don't remember them much. I went to live with my Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Three years later, Uncle Ben died. He was my best friend, y'know? And then he was gone." He shrugged and continued, "Eventually May started dating again. She had a couple boyfriends, but no one really serious until Brian. I was... I was probably nine? And he was great. We really bonded, you know? Well, time went on, and I felt less and less comfortable. It wasn't necessarily him, but everyone called me Megan, I wore dresses, I had long hair... I didn't realize, then, that I was trans. I just knew I didn't like it. More than that, actually, I hated it. I hated being a girl. So I asked them to take me to get my hair cut, to buy me more masculine clothing, to call me Peter." He laughed, "I chose Peter because of a TV show I used to watch." He shook his head, "Anyways, they did it all. But Brian was... less than amenable towards what I wanted. I think he did it just because May was okay with it, and it was mostly her money."

Natasha looked at him sadly. "Peter..."

"I'm getting to it," he promised. "Just... gimme a sec." he picked at the seam of his pants. "So, yeah, I could tell he wasn't happy, right? He didn't come over as much, he and May went out more, and he stopped bringing his dog over." He laughed breathlessly, "That's what I first noticed. He didn't bring Hank over anymore. Eventually it escalated. He'd call me Megan. If May was there he'd play it off as an accident, but if she wasn't, he'd tell me to quit being a baby about it." He took a breath and rolled his shirt up so Natasha could see his torso. "That was a straightener. May had just left for the night shift, it was still hot, and he threw it at me. When I pushed it away, he grabbed me and pushed it onto my stomach. The clothes I was wearing started melting onto my skin."

Natasha growled, but he shook his head. "And I couldn't tell May. He said he'd do worse. And I believed him, because if I even acted different, when May left, he'd get physical again. Never enough to scar me like that, but he'd laugh off all my bruises when May came back. 'Oh, he's so clumsy,' you know?" He put his shirt back down and twisted his hands in the fabric as he shrugged. "But it's over. I should be over it."

"Do you want a hug?"

"I- what?"

"A hug." She opened her arms, "I'm not the best at this, but I know some things can help."

He sighed and crawled across the bed to her, tucking himself against her side. "Thanks, Nat."

"None of what happened to you is okay. I need you to know that. That was really wrong and horrible, and if I didn't think it would get you to look at me wrong, I'd be halfway to finding him right now."

Peter chuckled and shook his head, "May found out. I found out what she was capable of and honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if it rivaled your abilities."

Natasha laughed lightly, "I believe it. C'mon," she said, and pulled him into her arms before standing up. "You're not going back to sleep, I can tell. Let's make French toast."

Chapter Text

Peter laughed and wiggled out of the redhead's grasp. "Let me grab a sweatshirt real quick. There's no telling how long we'll be there, and I'd rather not come out to everyone like this."

She nodded, and he grabbed the closest one, a grey one crumpled on the floor. He pulled it on and belatedly looked at the front. "Oh, I thought I lost this one."

She laughed and slung an arm over his shoulders. "So who knows? Just me?"

He shook his head, "Steve and Bucky do, too. And Shuri. And pretty much everyone at school. There's a kid there who knew me pre-transition and he thinks it's funny to dead-name me. It doesn't really bother me much anymore."

"You sure about that?" She asked lightly, but her expression assured him there would be hell to pay if he lied.

"Mostly?" He sighed, "I think I try to not let it affect me more than anything else. It does, but I know it shouldn't as much as it does, so I kinda just ignore it."

Natasha hummed. "Want me to make sure he doesn't bother you? I can."

"You don't even know me!" He protested, laughing, then grew sober. "No, it'll look suspicious. My cover at school is I'm an SI intern. No intern would know the Black Widow, no matter how good of an intern you might be."

"Fine," she huffed, and steered him towards the communal kitchen.

"Are we actually making French toast?"

"I have cravings, Peter. You don't mess with a woman and her cravings," she said seriously, but smiled.

He feigned horror. "I would never!"

She laughed and dropped her arm from his shoulders. "C'mon. Get the eggs, please? And the milk, while you're at it." She grabbed the bag of sliced bread and tossed it onto the island, then turned to the spice cabinet and grabbed the cinnamon and vanilla.

Natasha spoke as they work. "Mind if I ask you questions? Contrary to popular belief, I don't actually know everything, and I don't want to offend or trigger you."

"Sure! And don't worry, if you're still learning, there's basically no chance of offending me. I only get offended when people who know better purposely do the wrong thing. Like Fl- uh, like the kid at school."

She raised an eyebrow at his stutter, but nodded and moved on. "Okay. So my first question is maybe one you can't answer. How does testosterone work with your metabolism? I mean, you have a heightened metabolism, right? Kind of like Steve and Bucky. And I know regular meds don't work on them. How is testosterone different for you?"

He stopped and stared at the slice of bread in his hand. "I... I actually don't know. That's a really good question." He grinned at her, "I guess I know my next project!"

She laughed, "Maybe involve Bruce. I know he'd be willing to help, and with the patient confidentiality thing he signs with everyone who comes to him for things like that, there's no chance of him talking to anybody else about it."

"Maybe," Peter allowed. "I don't know. I guess I'm not fully ready to come out, you know?"

"Totally understandable," she nodded. "Just think about it, is all I'm saying. I understand coming out can be extremely stressful, even more so when your past experiences have been ones like you've had, where the person you're coming out to isn't very receptive." He nodded, and she continued, "But it's important to remember not everyone is gonna be like that." She flipped the slice of bread and frowned when it turned out browner than she wanted. "People can be cool with it. I'd like to think I'm one of those people." She paused to look at him for confirmation, and he quickly nodded.

"You are, definitely! And, if I can ask a question?" He waited for her nod. "Did you know I was trans? You didn't react at all when I let go of the comforter."

She hummed, "Well, I am a superspy. It's my job to notice things that no one else will, like the faint outline of the binder under your shirt." She traced his back where the binder would be. "So I had a definite idea. But another part of being a superspy is not letting anybody see what you're feeling. I definitely employed that a little bit earlier, but like I said, I already had an idea."

Peter nodded and gave her a small smile. "Is it too cliché if I say I'm glad you're the one to find out?"

She laughed, "Maybe, but I'm glad I am, too."

Steve walked in, then, and waved before moving over to the coffee machine. "Can I get either one of you anything?" He asked, grabbing a mug and looking back at them expectantly.

"I'd love some," Natasha smiled at him, and Peter shook his head.

"I'm good, thanks. Want some French toast?"

"Sounds great," Steve grinned. "You know, back in my day," Natasha laughed, and he grinned before continuing, no longer in the crotchety old man voice. "Ma would make a big bowl of fruit salad and a whole buncha French toast." He grabbed the strawberries and blueberries before continuing, "That was most of our birthdays growing up."

"I usually get waffles," Peter chuckled. "Waffles with strawberries and whipped cream. May calls me Curly-Locks because of that one nursery rhyme."

"Wilt though be mine?" Natasha asked, grinning, and bowed, holding a strawberry as an offering to Peter.

He laughed delightedly. "You know it!"

"Of course I do," she answered, flipping her hair back as she straightened. "It's a classic."

Steve chuckled and handed the redhead her coffee. "Just the way you like it. So, can I ask why you're up at barely five in the morning, making French toast?"

Peter hummed and stabbed a piece of French toast with his fork. "My brain decided it was time to wake me up in the scariest way possible." He shrugged and licked syrup off his finger, purposely not looking up.

"I get that," Steve said, and he sounds so serious that Peter immediately looked at him. He shrugged, "I only look perfect. Any man can have a fucked-up mind. And being asleep for seventy years will do that to you." He chuckled, "Like that. What, you thought I didn't curse?"

Peter blinked and shrugged. "I assumed you, like, weren't legally allowed to, or something. I guess it makes sense though, since you were in the army."

Steve took a sip and pointed at Peter. "Bingo. Not to mention I grew up in the '20s in Brooklyn. Wasn't exactly kind." He hopped backwards onto the counter and made a small noise of dismay when his coffee sloshed over and dripped on the floor. He stared at it for a couple seconds before shrugging at Peter. "Exactly what I'm talking about. Captain America may be perfect, but Steve Rogers sure as hell ain't."

"Mood," Peter nodded. "It's how I feel about being Spider-Man. As Peter, I get bullied and knocked around and I don't get things I want and I cry sometimes when things get too hard. As Spider-Man, well... he's this perfect image that never messes up. But I do sometimes, and it terrifies me, because what if people hate me?"

"They won't," Steve said with certainty, and looked to the side before smiling.

Peter looked in the same direction to see Bucky leaning against the wall, arms crossed, staring at Steve with a fond look. Seriously, he thought, how does nobody know they're gay?

Steve continued. "Captain America's messed up plenty of times, and people still love him."

Bucky chuckled and moved off the wall. "He ever tell you about that time in... where was it, Prague?"

"Close enough," Steve nodded. "Probably early '44? Dead of winter. I scoured around and didn't see anyone so I thought, y'know, let the guys have fun. So I lent them my shield, and they went sledding."

Bucky laughed and took Steve's coffee cup from his hands. "You say that like you weren't the first one down the hill." He took a sip and turned to Peter, "He said it was because he had to make sure it was safe." He made a face and shook his head. "It was fine. The hill wasn't even that steep. So he goes down first, right? Whoopin' and hollerin' and all that, and next thing we know, he's yelling and running back up because someone's takin' pot shots at 'im."

"I was being shot at!" Steve threw his hands up. "You're saying you wouldn't?" He grabbed for his mug, "And get your own damn coffee." He shook his head, "So yeah, I may have accidentally almost gotten shot because I didn't know somebody lived there. Sue me, I was looking for Hydra, not confused old farmers."

"You didn't almost get shot, pal," Bucky laughed, and shook his head. "Remember this one?" He asked, and traced a light finger over Steve's cheek.

Peter mouthed oh my god. He glanced at Natasha, who was smirking at the two men. "I know what you're thinking," Steve murmured. "I'm fine. Right here."

"Yeah." Bucky huffed out a laugh and stepped back slightly. "Yeah, I know. Good to remember sometimes."

Peter didn't need his over-glorified anxiety--aka his Spidey-sense--to tell him this was a private moment. He turned away and toward Natasha. "Y'know," he said, "There-"

Just then a light started flashing from the ceiling. A second later an alarm went off, and Peter clapped his hands over his ears, squeezing his eyes shut.

Chapter Text

He heard someone--Natasha, he assumed--yell, and suddenly it was too quiet. He peeked open an eye and saw the lights and alarm had cut off.

He sighed in relief and lowered his hands. "Thanks," he nodded to the redhead. "What was that all about?"

She shrugged, pulling out her phone, stopping when Tony's face lit up on the fridge. "Hey team. I'm guessing you heard that?" He waited for the smattering of confirmation, then continued. "Yeah. So. Not a false alarm, unfortunately. We've got these little tiny... Actually I don't know what they are. Jarvis?"

“These creatures do not appear to be in my preexisting database, sir."

"Okay, great, well, imagine Komodo dragons, but the size of, like, chameleons. Wait, how big are chameleons?"

“They vary in size from just over half an inch to twenty-seven inches long, sir. I believe you are referring to the panther chameleon, whose males range from roughly fifteen to twenty-one inches long."

“Panther chameleon," Tony repeated. "Okay. Well. Learn something new every day. Anyways, yeah, panther chameleon-sized somethings, possibly venomous. Terrorizing the good people of New York and the slightly less-good people of New Jersey."

"What is it with New Yorkers hating people from Jersey?" Natasha wondered before shaking her head and walking off. "I'm gonna get dressed. Stark, get a jet assembled for us."

“On it," the genius nodded, already looking away to focus on his task. "Kid, you coming with?"

Peter gaped. "Like... like on a mission? With the Avengers?"

"Yeah, that's what coming wth means," Tony answered, nonplussed.

“Absolutely!"

"Alright. See you on the jet, Spider-Man. Get suited up."

Peter grinned and began to run to his room, slowing down considerably when his ribs twinged. Shit, he thought. He'd completely forgotten about his still-healing ribs. He bit his lip and turned around, but the image of Tony had disappeared from the fridge. "Typical Parker luck," he muttered, and went to get changed, wrapping his binder just a bit looser than normal.

Less than ten minutes later, everyone was on the jet headed due east. "So what exactly are these things?" Steve asked, poking at a picture of one. "Are they some kind of mad scientist's experiment? Did someone dump chemicals in the sewers? Or are they alien?"

"We still don't know, but my money's on alien," Tony said, taking the hologram from Steve to examine it in detail. "See here, nothing on Earth has this thing."

“Nothing living, sure," Bucky agreed. "Didn't a dinosaur have something like that, once upon a time?"

"Holy crap," Tony whispered, eyes wide. "Rogers, kiss your boyfriend so I don't have to. That's exactly it."

Steve frowned. "We're not-" he started, but Tony ran away, calling for Jarvis, and Steve looked at Bucky and shrugged. The brunet mirrored his motion.

Peter sidled up to Tony and silently watched him work, at which point was just studying every scientific journal on the parasaurolophus. "Anything I can help with?" Peter asked. "I used to be obsessed with dinosaurs, so maybe you could just fact check me instead of trying to learn it all by yourself in-" he checked the time, "five minutes."

“That would be brilliant," Tony said, and turned to face him, putting his hands on his hips. "Whaddya know?"

"I guess let's start with the basics? It's honestly a lot like Jurassic Park. They're a lizard, which means they're cold-blooded. So if we can get them away from the sun or in direct sunlight for too long, they get too cold or overheated. Too cold means they start to shut down; they move sluggishly. Too hot, and they get what's essentially heatstroke. They're even more volatile, snapping at anything that comes near. I'd say our best bet is to get them down in the subways. Deep, deep down in the subways. If we can get them on the steps, even, they'll follow a light. They're nearsighted and can't see all the colors we can, which means if we stay still, quiet, and downwind, there's a good chance they'll completely pass us by."

"Okay, so that's where we'll evac civilians. Anything else we should know?"

Peter hummed, "They're probably faster than you think. They can get super aggressive when threatened, so we need to be gentle and move calmly. If even one feels threatened and raises the alarm, they're all gonna be on red alert." He studied the picture of the lizard, "Obviously stay away from the mouth. Those teeth look nasty. But I'd say priority is making sure all civilians are out of the way. Once we do that, we can get all the lizards down into the tunnels. If we can find a way to barricade the entrances and exits, we can set off a flare in the middle of them, and hopefully they'll do the work for us."

Tony nodded and motioned him back over to the group. "Alright, everyone, listen up. The kid knows more about these things than all of us combined, and he has a plan, so he's on point today."

Everyone looked at Peter, and he froze for a minute, mind racing. "Okay, just leave me with that, sure." He sighed as he looked at the team, then pointed to Steve, then Bucky. "You two can use your shield and your metal arm to prod the lizards away from civilians. Your reflexes should be faster than the lizards. Nat, Mr. Barton, Dr. Banner, civilian duty. Keep them calm and get them downwind." He focused on the archer, "If you need to, clean kill shots. Don't let them raise the alarm. Mr. Stark and I will work on creating a blockade and making sure there aren't any stragglers outside of the area we choose. After all the lizards are contained, we're going to gently push them all down the subway, to the deepest parts. We'll trap them there and set off a flare in their middle, and hopefully they'll do all the work for us. Any questions?"

Dr. Banner nodded at him. "What do we do if they turn hostile?"

"Pray, and keep them away from the civilians." He gave a half-smirk, "Not much we can do beyond that. They won't settle down again until they know there's no threat, but I'm guessing this world is different enough from wherever they came from that they're probably already on edge. If we stay calm and gentle, there shouldn't be a problem. Just keep your hands and feet away from their mouths." Everyone nodded, and he looked at them again. "Any other questions?"

Silence, and Tony spoke up. "And on that note, we're here." He powered up his suit and checked that everything was functioning. "Mask, kid," he said, even as his own faceplate lowered.

“Oops," Peter chuckled, and pulled the mask down over his head. "Thanks. Everybody ready?" A myriad of yeses, and they exited the jet.

There seemed to be around fifty of the little lizards, but Peter saw them zipping in and out of alleyways and trash cans, under cars and behind dumpsters. "Alright everyone, let's split up. Mr. Stark, can you scan the area and tell me how many of these guys there are?"

The billionaire paused for a second, sweeping his gaze across the field, and finally said, "I'm getting sixty-eight, but they're fast."

“They are, but they have tells." Peter surveyed the scene, "Nine o'clock, front of the bank. See him stamping his feet? And there he goes running off." He tracked it across the street with his finger. "See what I mean?"

"Nice one, Pete," Natasha said in his ear, and he almost jumped until he realized it was his comms.

"Thanks," he chuckled. "You working on the civilians?"

“Yup. Waiting on that blockade we were promised," she teased, and Peter nodded.

“Right. Got any ideas for that, Mr. Stark?"

He could hear the grin through the comms. "I have a couple of ideas."

Peter turned to face him as he extracted three small devices from his arm. "When placed opposite each other, these little guys create an electric field that basically tells your body it's a bad idea to cross it." He held them facing each other and turned them on. "Go ahead, try it."

Peter looked at him suspiciously, but held his hand out and started to push it between the two devices. All of a sudden, he jerked his hand back with a yelp, then laughed. "That's so weird!"

“Uh, guys?" Bucky interrupted over the comms, and he sounded nervous. "I don't think these little guys like me so much."

“What's going on, Barnes?" Tony asked, taking point, for which Peter was eternally grateful.

"The arm, I think. It's hitting 'em the wrong way."

“Disengage," Tony said, at the same time Bucky yelled.

"Not an option!" He replied, and cursed.

Chapter Text

Peter and Tony exchanged a terror-stricken heartbeat of a moment before setting off.

Peter's brain was working overtime, so much so he almost missed the building he was aiming for. "Whichever ones are on you, draw them away from the crowd. Get 'em fast, don't let them raise the alarm. We're on our way."

"I think I've got 'em," Bucky replied, and they heard something whistle. It sounded too much like one of the lizards.

They both froze before Steve let out a laugh. "Did you just throw a knife and actually hit one?"

Bucky chuckled, "Pal, I hit more than one."

Steve scoffed. "You watchin' your six?"

"And your six," Bucky countered.

"Innuendo!" Clint cut in, and Peter snorted.

"Back to the topic at hand," Tony said. "You're alright, Barnes? Don't need one of us down there?"

"Nah. I'll take care of these guys, then switch out with whoever's on civilian duty."

"Ooh, me!" Clint said, and Peter and Tony exchanged a look.

"Nat," Peter said. "Switch with Mr. Barnes."

"Gladly," she said, chuckling at Clint's distressed noise.

"Hey, kid," Bucky said, "this might be the wrong time to mention it, but you can call me Bucky."

Peter grinned. "Then you can call me Peter."

Bucky laughed, "Point taken. Ah, shit..."

"What happened?"

Bucky hummed. "One of the little guys got my pant leg. I'm too busy to check if he got me but I think I'm alright."

"I'll head down there just in case," Peter decided. "Mr. Stark, can you keep going with the barrier?"

"Sure thing, kid." With that, they split up, and Peter swung over to where Bucky was separate from the main group, trying not to rile up the aliens any more than they already were.

"How're you feeling?" Peter asked as he dropped in, temporarily forgetting about the skittishness of the reptiles, and what happened when they were surprised.

"Peter, look out!" Bucky yelled, and he side-stepped just in time as one of the larger lizards jumped for his chest.

"Okay, that was a close one," Peter admitted. "Which leg did it get?" He nodded toward the lower half of Bucky's body.

"Right," he answered, still focused on the alien reptiles in front of him. "Just near the outer edge of my ankle. If you wanna get around back and check real quick you can, but I think I'm fine."

"Better safe than sorry," Peter said, and did as he was told, moving carefully so as not to startle the aliens. After a couple seconds, he hummed. "There's a scratch, but it doesn't look like it's infected or anything. Doesn't even really look like the lizard touched you at all."

"Where?" Bucky asked, angling his leg so he could see. When Peter pointed it out to him, he laughed. "Nah, that's from the table today, just before we left. I caught it on the corner."

Over the comms, Steve started laughing. "Is that what had you cussing earlier?" Bucky sighed loudly, and Steve laughed again. "Barnes, you dumbass," he said fondly.

"Maybe back to, y'know, the actual aliens everywhere?" Tony suggested. "Pete, I set up the barriers. What's next?"

Peter hummed, "Nat, Mr. Barton, Dr. Banner, civilians out of the way?"

"They're all evac'd," Natasha confirmed. "Where do you need us?"

"You, I need to switch with Bucky," he said, barely catching the smile at using his preferred name. "If we can get these little guys back to the group, hopefully they'll calm back down again."

"I'm on my way," she said, and a few minutes later she dropped down next to them, albeit much more carefully than Peter had. "Hey, boys," she said, smiling, and turned to survey their opponents. She hummed. "They're kinda cute. You gettin' soft in your old age, James?"

"Not much older than you, Natalia," he returned, grinning, and pressed his lips to her cheek. "Thanks for the assist."

"Anytime. Now get your ass outta here, Barnes." She grinned at him as he quickly left, heading in the direction she'd come from.

"Okay," Peter said, and her attention snapped to him. "Next thing in line is somehow getting them all down the subway. Anybody got any ideas on how to do that?" He could practically hear the shrugs through the comms. "Okay." He blew out a breath and barely concealed the wince when it twinged his healing ribs. Adrenaline must be wearing off somewhat, he thought. "Okay," he said again, slower, and thought. "Bucky, I'm assuming you can't get too near these guys, right?"

"Unfortunately," Bucky confirmed, and Peter nodded.

"Okay. In that case, you head back to the jet. Grab anything you can find to help in pushing them without angering them. Dr. Banner, join him, please. The rest of us, let's keep moving them towards the station entrance."

"Problem," came Bucky's voice a little later. "I'm seeing nothing that can help me push them towards the subway."

Peter thought quickly, "Then you stay back. Keep the civilians away and jump in if we need you."

"On it," Bucky answered, and Peter and Natasha were finally able corral the rest of the little lizards over to the main group by the subway entrance.

"And me?" Dr. Banner asked, and Peter almost facepalmed. He forgot Dr. Banner.

"Give me just a sec," he said over the comms, and turned to Natasha. "You got these guys?"

"Course." She grinned at him and flipped her hair out of her face.

He smiled back, realized she couldn't see it, and webbed away, aiming higher to see where the doctor was needed. "Okay, Dr. Banner, I'm gonna put you right by the subway entrance. Get ready for a lift."

"You coming to get me?" He asked, and Peter could hear the smile.

"Yup! You're still at the jet, right?"

"That I am," he said, and this time Peter heard him chuckle.

"Okay. I'll be there soon. Can you see me yet?"

"No, not- oh! There you are!"

"Hi," he laughed, and Bruce chuckled too. He quickly grabbed the doctor and swung over to the entrance. "Do me a favor," Peter said after he set him down. "Go down there and make sure there are no civilians who didn't get out."

Bruce nodded and hurried down the stairs, and Peter turned around, again just barely hiding the wince from his pained ribs. He tried for a deep breath and cursed.

"What's going on, kid?" Tony asked warningly, and Peter winced for a whole different reason.

"Nothing?" He tried, and the silence told him he failed.

"Yeah, not gonna cut it," Tony said, confirming his thoughts. "What's happening?"

"It's nothing, I swear. I've got it," Peter promised, crossing his fingers.

"Is it...?" Natasha asked, and Peter almost cursed again.

"Yes," he answered sullenly, and she hummed.

"Are you okay to keep going, or do you need to sit this one out? No one would blame you if you did."

"I'm fine," he promised. "Please, Nat?"

"You're telling the truth?"

"Yes!"

A beat of silence, then she said, "You'll sit out if it gets worse." It wasn't a question and they both knew it.

"Yes, Mom," he snarked, and she laughed.

"Might as well be. Let me take a look after, 'kay?"

"Okay," he agreed, and Tony cut in.

"Do I want to know what happened?"

"Not particularly," Natasha answered lightly. "Work on your own stuff, Stark."

"My stuff's done, Romanoff," he returned. Peter tuned them out in favor of swinging up again, getting a birds-eye view of the situation.

"Okay," he decided. "Since the barriers are set up, let's keep them moving forward, and move the barriers along with them. Nat, Cap, Mr. Barton, grab the barrier closest to you and move it forward. Then grab the one to the left and keep going. Dr. Banner, anything?"

No answer.

"Dr. Banner?"

"Shit," Tony said, and that pretty much summed it up.

Chapter Text

“Okay,” Peter said slowly. “I guess I know what I’m doing.”

“Nope,” the billionaire said quickly. “You’re not. I am. You’re running point on this, kid, and no offense, if something happened to him, I’m probably the one who needs to go in, regardless. This armor can take a little beating from the Hulk. Yours? Not so much. You stay here and you stay on point. If we’re not out by the time you get here with the alien-lizards, then you come down to find us.”

Peter raised a brow at the tone of the billionaire’s voice, but nodded. “Like I said. I know what I’m doing.” Steve snorted. He smirked, then continued. “Okay. You get two minutes.”

“I’ll only need one,” Tony replied, already halfway down the tunnels.

“Hey, Spider-Kid,” Natasha said, walking up beside him. “Comms off for a second?”

He switched them off. “Hey, Spider-Mom,” he snarked, pulling the mask up and grinning at her. “What’s up?”

“You gonna let me see your ribs when we get home?”

Peter sighed, hiding the twinge of pain when he moved his heavily-bruised ribs. “If I have to.”

“It’s me or Bruce,” she shrugged. “If it’s bad enough, both.”

“You,” he answered immediately. “Please?”

“If I can take care of it, I will,” she promised. “If I can’t, I need your cooperation with Bruce.”

“If it’s that bad, I’ll go to him myself. But trust me when I say it’ll look worse than it is. You know how bruises are. Plus I have my healing factor.”

“I do know,” she agreed. “I know exactly how bruises are. I also know your healing factor can’t help you forever. So if I say I want you to see Bruce, you go and see him. Deal?”

Peter sighed again. “Deal.”

“Thank you,” she said happily, and went back to wherever she’d come from.

“Dammit,” he muttered, and turned his comms back on. “Mr. Stark? Everything okay down there?”

“Everything’s great,” the billionaire said with only a slight strain in his voice.

“Okay, so what part of everything isn’t great?” Peter asked, ready to swing down there.

“The part where I don’t see Bruce.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.” He blew a breath out and thought. “Bucky, can you get down there and help find him? Then as soon as you can, back up here to move the barricades. I’ll take your place in the meantime.”

“Deal,” Bucky said. “Can I hitch a ride?”

“Course you can,” Peter chuckled, and swung over to find him. He webbed him on the metal arm, just below the star, and hoisted him up, laughing when he cursed and grabbed for the web.

“Dammit, Parker!” Bucky yelped. “Warn a guy!”

“You said you wanted a ride!” Peter said, laughing.

“Serves ya right, Buck,” Steve said, also laughing.

“What’d I do? Why’re you on his side?”

“I dunno, but I’m sure you deserve it.”

“Punk,” Bucky grumbled. “Alright, I’ll see y’all later. I’m gonna go find someone who appreciates me.” He sniffed and disappeared into the tunnels, Steve laughing the whole time.

“In all seriousness,” Peter said, fighting his own grin, “There is still the matter of the alien dinosaurs.”

“This is true,” Natasha said, and Peter could hear her smile. “So what’s the plan?”

“At this point, mostly just don’t die.” He sighed and thought, “Let’s incrementally move the barriers forward. Two to a barrier, one on each side, if we can. Natasha, we’ll take the first. Cap, you take the second with Clint. There are five barriers, so we’ll leapfrog, too; we’ll pass you two, then you two pass us. Understand?”

“Nope,” Clint said, and Steve snorted.

“Don’t worry, I understand. Clint, just follow my lead.”

“Got it, Cap!” He said cheerfully, and Peter heard him zip down to Steve over the comms.

“Mr. Stark? You find him yet?”

“Yup. No catastrophe, he just went too far and his comms couldn’t reach. Remind me to fix that when we get back. Wait, I have an AI for that. Jarvis?”

Peter chuckled and swung over to where Natasha was standing by the barrier. “You ready?”

“Are you?” She grinned.

“Barrier one,” he said. “Mr. Stark, we need you to get Dr. Banner up here. It’s about to get a whole lot more alien down there.”

“Copy,” Tony said cheerfully, and a few seconds later Peter saw him shoot out of the subway entrance, the doctor in tow.

“Could you get on the third barrier and start moving it forward?” Peter asked, watching Tony’s trajectory change.

“On it! Let’s get this done.”

“By the way, Mr. Stark, did you happen to scan the integrity of the tunnels? Will it be strong enough for what we want it to do?”

“As long as we don’t go down too far, it should be, yeah. Most of it’s still being used.”

“Okay, good. In that case, let’s keep going. The goal is to eventually use less than five barriers as we get them in a tighter group towards the subway entrance.”

“Sounds good, kid,” Natasha smiled. “How about less talking and more moving?”

He nodded, grateful she couldn’t see his face under the mask, and they got to work. Eventually they were able to get all the alien-dinosaur-lizards down the tunnel.

“Can I just say,” Clint said, then paused and huffed out a breath. “Fuck all those little aliens. I hate ‘em.”

“I think we all do,” Steve chuckled, and turned to Peter. “Good job on the mission, kid.”

“Thanks,” he grinned, and turned to face Tony. “Ready for the flare?”

“Are you?” Tony grinned back, and  turned his attention to the tunnel where they had blockaded the aliens. A small panel popped out of place on his shoulder, and he fired the flare right in the middle of the mob.

It worked perfectly, Peter had to admit, and the sight was one to behold. He looked around and suddenly grinned. He shot a web toward the ceiling and swung up, walking around to find the best angle, and took his phone out. “Careful, Pete,” Tony said. “Don’t go too far.”

“Okay, Mr. Stark!” He chirped, barely hearing him. He crouched on the ceiling and crept closer, getting his phone out. “Oops,” he murmured when the flash went off. “That wasn’t supposed to happen.” Standing up, he looks over the pictures, barely hearing the billionaire yell his name.

He looked up and jumped back when there was an alien in front of his face. Except Parker Luck and, by extent, gravity happened, meaning he fell. “Whoa!” He quickly shot a web and swung back up to the ceiling, heart pounding. He pulled his mask up and grinned sheepishly at the other Avengers. “Uh, sorry.”

“You wanna get down now?” Natasha said, crossing her arms. “Y’know, maybe before you give us all heart attacks.”

“Sorry, Nat,” He said, and dropped down next to her, blushing. He barely held in the wince when it jostled his ribs.

She nudged his arm and looked at him. You okay? she seemed to be saying, and he sighed and nodded. She raised a brow, and he shrugged, knowing they’d talk about it later.

He was right, as it turned out, and she cornered him later on, on the Quinjet back home. “Nat,” he sighed, leaning his head back against the wall. “Can we please not do this now?”

“Nope!” She said cheerfully. “This is happening, now, and I’m not exactly giving you a choice. Sorry!”

He half-heartedly glared at her. “I don’t think you are sorry.”

“You’d be right,” she grinned, and plopped on the seat next to him. “How’re the ribs?”

“Ugh.”

She hummed sympathetically. “That bad? You gonna see Bruce on your own?”

“Nat,” he whined. “I really don’t want to. I don’t think I’m ready to come out yet.”

“I think you’d be surprised,” she smiled. “Do it for me? Please?”

He sighed and gave in. “Only because I know you’ll literally drag me there if I don’t.”

“Damn straight,” she said, grinning, and he groaned.

Chapter Text

“Dr. Banner?” He asked hesitantly, knocking on the open door of the lab. “Can I come in?”

“Of course, Peter,” he smiled warmly. He looked him over, then asked, “What can I do for you?”

“Well, you’re like, an actual doctor, right? Like you can patch people up and give them medicine and... whatever?”

He chuckled, “Yes and no. I am a doctor, but I have the title because I have a doctorate in biochemical engineering. I do know what medicines can and can’t mix, and what they do, and I suppose I can patch someone up, though I’ve heard that’s usually Sam’s area of expertise. Why?”

“I, um,” Peter started, then stopped, bit his lip, and glanced at the door. “Do you mind if I close the door?”

“Should we go somewhere else instead, Peter?” He asked cautiously. “I don’t have anything here to patch you up, if that’s what you need.”

“Not exactly,” he said carefully, and shut the door. He let out a breath and stepped forward, tugging his shirt off. “I wasn’t born Peter Parker,” he said quietly, looking at the ground.

“Oh, Peter,” the doctor murmured, and Peter flinched at what he thought was to come. “Of course I can help you. It’s your ribs, right? Not used to fighting in a binder?”

“Not exactly,” Peter admitted with a small self-deprecating smile, but he managed to meet Dr. Banner’s eyes as he did so.

“Bruised?”

“Maybe more than that.” He started unwrapping, “I don’t have a real binder, and I know bandages like these are the worst possible things to use, but it’s all I have, and for the most part I’m okay because of my accelerated healing.”

“But that doesn’t work in fights.” Bruce frowned, “Your body is more focused on keeping you alive than keeping you from hurting from what it considers a minor injury.”

“Exactly,” Peter nodded. “And really, the main reason I’m here is because Natasha made me come.” He shrugged and balled up the bandages, focusing on his hands so he wouldn’t have to look up.

“What you need is something to keep your ribs in place while they heal. Based on the amount of bruising, it’s more than just that. I think I have something in a different lab.” He glanced around and found a hoodie, and tossing it to Peter said, “Go ahead and put that on, then follow me. No binders for at least three weeks. I’ll check you again after that to see where we stand. Deal?”

“Deal,” Peter nodded, adjusting the hoodie. “I’m sorry to make you do this.”

Bruce stopped and turned towards Peter. “Wait, she didn’t tell you?” He asked, then shook his head. “No, she’d make me, of course she would. Peter, I wasn’t born Bruce.” He chuckled, “I was on testosterone when the accident with the gamma rays happened. That’s why I’m the Hulk; the added testosterone mixed with the gamma rays, and turns me hyper-masculine when I feel strong emotions associated with men, like anger.”

Peter blinked at him. “That’s actually, like, really cool.”

“Thanks,” he chuckled. “So because of that, I don’t have to take testosterone anymore.” He shrugged, “I turn into an enormous green rage monster, but I don’t have to take testosterone. So you tell me which is better.”

Peter laughed at that and stuck his hands into the front pocket of the hoodie. “Hey, whose hoodie is this, anyways?”

Bruce shrugged, “Either mine or Tony’s. We’re about the same size and we’re always losing our jackets and hoodies. If we get cold, we just grab the closest hoodie. There’s usually three or four circulating around in there.”

With that, they arrived at the other lab, and Bruce held the door open for Peter while he slipped in.

“Alright, let’s see if I can find what I’m looking for.” With that, he fell silent, looking under desks and in drawers and cabinets, letting out an aha! when he found what he was looking for. “Alright, Peter,” he said, turning to face the teen. “Sit on the gurney and take the hoodie off, please.”

“Sure,” Peter said, hopping backwards onto the low bed and tugging the hoodie off. “Isn’t there some sort of cream to reduce bruises? Or is it just a topical pain reliever?”

“The latter,” Bruce nodded. “I can grab it for you, if you’d like?”

“Please,” Peter nodded. “And, if you don’t mind, can I do it?”

Bruce hummed, “The front, sure. But the back I’d rather get, okay? I don’t want you straining anything.”

“Okay,” Peter agreed easily, reaching for the jar. “Thank you again.”

“There’s nothing to thank me for,” Bruce chuckled. “I’m just helping a friend.”

“Friend? Really?” Peter asked quietly, blinking at him, and Bruce grinned. “Of course! Pete, when we first met, you geeked out over my articles. All of them, not just the ones on gamma radiation, which is all anyone ever reads anymore. You just have this way about you that makes people want to love you.”

“Really?” Peter asked, unsure, and Bruce chuckled.

“Really.” He came back around to Peter’s front and grabbed the container, capping it and tossing it in the general direction of the sink.

“My friends!” Tony said as he came in, arms outstretched with his characteristic swagger. “C’mon, you know the rules, share! This is lab time! What’s going on?”

Sometime during that Peter had squeaked and grabbed for the hoodie, but he missed and in typical Parker Luck, succeeded in knocking it into the floor. He squeaked again and covered himself with his arms, sending a panicked look at Bruce, and God bless him, he moved between Tony and Peter.

“Tony, you also know the rules. No coming in unannounced.”

The billionaire waved him off, “We all know that rule doesn’t apply to me.”

Peter sighed, considering his options, and ultimately spoke. “Dr. Banner? Thank you, but it’s alright.” He slipped off the table and grabbed the hoodie, staying turned away from Tony while he put it on.

“What is?” Tony asked, still trying to look over Bruce’s shoulder.

“Tony,” Bruce warned, and Tony stopped. “Peter, are you sure? He doesn’t have to know.”

“It’s fine,” Peter promised. “I was gonna tell him eventually anyways.” He laid a hand on the doctor’s shoulder, and when he turned to look, gave him a smile. “It’s okay, really.” His smile widened, “Besides, I do still need that wrap, if you don’t mind.”

“We can make him leave, if you want.”

“Bruce,” Peter said softly, looking him in the eyes. “It’s fine. Thank you, but it’s fine.”

Bruce let out a breath and nodded. “You,” he said, and turned to point at Tony. “You sit over there.” He swung his hand over to a table a few feet away from the gurney. After Peter sat down, he laid his hands on the boy’s shoulders. “Last chance. We can tell him to leave.”

Peter shook his head. “If we do, he’ll just bug us about it once we’re out of the lab, and I’ve never been good at saying no. I want to do it while it’s my choice.”

Bruce nodded with a somewhat grim smile. “Arms up.”

The kid pulled in a steadying breath and raised his arms so Bruce could tug the hoodie over his head.

Tony gasped, and Peter bit his lip. “So, I wasn’t born Peter.” He chanced a glance at Tony, who waved him away.

“No, yeah, that part’s obvious, but what the hell are those bruises from?”

“I don’t have a binder,” Peter said. “I don’t have the money for one. So I make do with Ace bandages. It’s the worst possible thing to use, but I’m usually okay because of my accelerated healing. Lately, though, because I’ve been fighting in the makeshift binder, I’ve been getting more and more bruised. I’m not sure it’s just bruised anymore,” he admitted.

“I can assure you, it’s not,” the doctor told him wryly.

“J,” Tony asked, “Is it good to fight in a binder?”

“All reports say fighting in a binder is harmful.”

Tony hummed, looking at Peter, who pointedly looked away. “Alright then. How do we make a fight-safe binder that we can build into the suit?” Peter gaped at him, and he shrugged. “You’re basically my kid. I want to protect you, okay?” He ruffled his hair, “and from now on, no more secrets. Deal?”

“Deal,” Peter nodded. “Thank you.”

“Thank you,” Tony said quietly. “I know how much courage that took.” Peter just smiled at him, and Tony smiled back. And for the first time, Tony opened his arms for a hug.