First day of school.
He has seven new notebooks, his unneeded glasses for old time's sake...
...and a very strong need to toss his cookies.
"Uh, Pete...?" Harry raises an eyebrow at him. "You sure you're okay?"
May glances at the two boys in the rear-view. "What's wrong, Petey? First day jitters?"
Peter takes a deep breath. In. One, two, three. Out. One, two, three. He nods, unable to make himself speak. He always gets like this when he's nervous, unable to make himself talk no matter how much he wills his vocal chords to work. The stomach churning is a new one, though.
When he got the hero course acceptance letter from Xavier Academy (along with a side note saying he was zoned for the school anyway) he spent the entire night swinging through the city, screaming from pure joy at the top of his lungs.
He should be regretting staying up the whole night yelling to the world he got accepted. He should be happy right now. He's going to the very same school the X-Men and the Avengers graduated from. He should be geeking out and chatting up a storm with Harry.
Peter wants nothing more than to go back home and snooze the anxiety away (and maybe vomit sparkly rainbows).
"You'll be fine, sweetie." May flashes a comforting smile. "Just be glad it's not U.A. I heard the entrance exam that was required was absolutely crazy this year like usual."
"They fight giant robots, May. And someone managed to take out one that was fifty-something feet tall. At least, that's what I read on the forums." Harry chuckles, but Peter can hear the slightly nervous tone. "Japan's one of those countries with a hardcore education system. What were you expecting?"
Peter hums in thought. What Harry said is true. Compared to the orientals, the US and some other nations are pretty lax with accepting students. All Peter had to do to get into the hero course was display his Quirk in combat against one of the exam proctors. There was no pass or fail, and in fact he did, in the proctor's words, "pretty fucking awesome" for a newbie. (Although, he feels pretty bad about tossing the proctor into the few folks in the bleachers...Sorry, Mr. Lang.)
"Okay boys, here we are! Xavier Academy!" May swerves up to drop-off curve and ducks her head for a better view through the front window, and whistles at the large building. "Damn, it really is bigger than in the pictures!"
Peter sighs heavily, opening the door and climbing out as he slings his backpack over one shoulder. Unlike Harry, Peter didn't sign up for dorm life, so he's not worried about luggage.
What he is worried about is the ridiculously huge crowds of students already mingling.
May waves to them from the car. "Bye boys! Have fun with your first day!" She drives off, leaving Peter and Harry at the steps right in front of the gates.
Harry's phone starts ringing. He checks the caller ID before bringing it up to his ear. "Hello? Mr. Xavier?"
"Uh-huh..." Harry fidgets and shifts his foot in place, slowly turning this way and that out of habit when speaking on the phone. "Alright, I understand. Don't worry, I'll take care of it........No, no! It's not a big deal. I'm happy to help wherever I can.......Yes, I'll meet with the mechanics right away.....Thank you, you too, sir." A beep, and Harry pulls a folded slip of paper out of his pocket, handing it to Peter.
Peter unfolds the paper to show a map of the school. He glances up at Harry. "Got somewhere to go?"
"Professor X and the security staff need some help updating the systems around campus. It's just routine maintenance, but," he shrugs, "you can never be too careful, you know?"
Damn, I'm already missing out on all the fun... "Yeah." Peter nods. "I get what you mean." He watches as Harry walks away to the wherever he's been called to. But that means I'm... He glances around and swallows. I'm on my own.
So far, he hasn't seen anybody he's on decent speaking terms with. Sure, Flash and his gang's...antics with Peter have been nonexistent as of late, for whatever odd reason, but that doesn't mean Peter is willing to try and strike up conversations. He would rather avoid them as much as the possibility of being in the same classes will allow.
He turns around and has to remember to breathe at the sight of the familiar, beautifully bronze-skinned girl. "L—Liz? H—hey!"
Liz giggles. "Oh, come on Peter. We've been talking for a while, already. You don't need to be shy!"
Peter sweats. Yeah, but, those phone calls were like...two months ago. "Still getting the hang of mingling with new people, I guess...S—so, how've ya been?"
They stroll up across the front courtyard, catching up on what's been happening with each other at home.
"Another dumpling catastrophe?"
"Yeah. May's always been on a losing streak with the kitchen, but I still can't believe they actually evacuated the whole building."
"Yup. The neighbors were pretty happy when I pulled on the apron for good."
"You know, that reminds me of your butterscotch cinnamon pie last year."
"You liked it that much?"
"Are you kidding? It was so good! Hey, I never did ask for the recipe—"
Peter's hand shoots out and latches onto a chubby guy tripping on his own feet.
"W—whoa shit—!" The boy stumbles a bit, but doesn't fall any further thanks to Peter's hand naturally sticking to his jacket. "Whew, thanks man!"
Peter manages to un-stick his hand off. "Don't mention it. You good?"
"Shoot. We've got five minutes left." The boy waves to Peter and Liz before sprinting down the hall. "See ya!"
"We'd better hurry up." Liz takes Peter by the hand and pulls him along to the auditorium.
Bless the giant sign that reads "AUDITORIUM" in all caps.
"—and no one needs to be reminded of dress code, I believe."
Halfhearted chuckles echo through the whole auditorium, ironically lulling Peter further into a blissful nap; and whoever is draping something warm over his back and shoulders isn't making it easier for him. Good lord, if this vice principal keeps talking and talking they can hit old age and his skeleton might still keep talking.
"Thank you, Mr. Morita."
Is he done? Oh, bless!
"And thank you all, for your undivided attention."
Right as he says that, the headmaster Professor X turns and winks mischievously at the students either actually sleeping, pretending to listen with earbuds or headphones on, or are blatantly on their phones.
"I'm sure some of you have plans today, so the sooner you are briefly introduced to your teachers, the sooner you can continue getting to know your new friends. Have a wonderful afternoon everyone!"
Liz stands up from her seat and stretches, light cracks heard from all the kinks working out. "I was expecting something dramatic, like a rally and everyone shouting the school motto, but...that wasn't any different from a regular assembly."
Peter huffs in amusement. "Well, it is a school..."
His backside buzzes.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!
REPORT TO THE DANCE FLOOR!
He scrambles to get his phone out of his pocket. "Miles! What are you doing calling me right now? Aren't you supposed to be in class!?"
"Somebody's weird-ass Quirk went off and wrecked some parts of the main building. I get to have an extra few weeks of summer~!"
"...You lucky son of a—"
"Soooooo how's Marvel so far?"
"Appearance-wise, I can see why they call it Marvel Academy. School life? It's like any other high school, and the vice principal talks way more than your mom does..."
"Try sitting in one seat for five whole hours."
"Oh my god— Oh, Mom wants me back down in the kitchen again. I'll call you later!"
Peter sighs and stuffs his phone back into his pocket.
"That's a really good ringtone!" Liz tries to peek at his phone. "Is it new—?"
Go and show me what I gotta do.
Made up my mind, wanna be like you—
"Sorry, I really gotta take this!"
Peter dashes off into a random janitor closet, somewhere private where no one would overhear. "Mr. Stark?"
"Hey kid. How's school?"
He shrugs, not that Tony can see. "We didn't really do much today."
"Was Morita going on like he usually does?"
"We were in the auditorium for five hours."
"Really!?" For some reason, his mentor (in science and technology) sounds really happy. "Thank god, I thought he was going to keep you there until evening!"
Peter cringes at the idea of sitting in the auditorium for a whopping twelve hours. "Yeah, no, I would've just grabbed my backpack and left." And if Professor X's cut-in was anything to go by, Peter doubts the headmaster would blame him. "By the way, I should get going. I have to be in class right now."
"Gotcha. So, you still free after?"
"Yep. I'll see you in the lab."
The line closes with a soft beep, and Peter's about to leave the closet when the door swings open.
A middle-aged man with mousy brown hair and a lab coat blinks in surprise. "Oh, hello there. I, uh..." He adjusts his glasses. "I don't think you're supposed to be here..." He trails off as he stares at Peter a little longer. "...Peter Parker?"
"Yeah, I probably should have worded that better."
Ah, he said that out loud.
Peter shakes his head back to reality. "Y—you— Do I—" Words, work! "Do I know you?"
"Well, technically no." The man motions for Peter to walk alongside him down the hall, looking at a list of student names and their schedules on his tablet. He chuckles as he adds, "But I did get to poke fun at your old man while he was changing your diapers."
Heat flushes through Peter's cheeks and he prays that whatever baby pictures taken were hidden very, very well. More importantly, though, "You know my parents." It was more of a confirmation than a question.
"We were coworkers at Oscorp."
The name, for whatever reason, makes his stomach drop every time he hears it nowadays. Whenever it comes up on the news or in articles, it's always about something shady going down with them.
Every time he brought it up at dinner, May would fall silent and Ben's eyebrow would twitch in that way Peter knew something bugged him.
Whenever there was an expo, even the scientists presenting the topic of their projects would hesitate before going over certain facts.
Oscorp is the last company his parents worked for, researching genetics up until they disappeared.
Oscorp is also how Cindy, Peter and Miles got their Quirks.
"Ah, here we are." Peter almost bumps into the man when he stops in front of Homeroom 2012. "Wait a minute, where the heck are my manners?" He turns around with a rather fatherly smile and holds out his hand. "Curt Connors. It's good to see you again, Peter."
Peter pauses for a moment, before shaking Connors's hand with a small smile. "Nice to officially meet you."
As typical as quotes go, one can learn many things in one day.
Like that Steve is his homeroom and history teacher, Madame Web is his guidance counselor, and due to a small schedule mix-up, he'll be learning Russian from Natasha instead of Spanish from a normal teacher.
And, as it turns out, not only is Cindy his classmate in the hero course (yeaaaaaaah go spiders!) but—
"All right, all three of you in the back. Shotgun's for someone else I have to pick up."
—she and Liz are also interns for Stark Industries.
Harry waves goodbye with an encouraging smile. "Let me know how it goes!" He gives a thumbs-up, which Peter returns as he shuffles into the car after Cindy and closes the door.
"So." Liz leans forward around Cindy, a curious glint in her eyes. "Hero course."
Peter sighs as he nods. "...Hero course." He motions for Happy to pull up the divider, knowing it might get noisy and annoying for the man. Liz being Liz, she'll want to know starting from the top.
As far as Liz and everyone else knew, Peter was either gunning for the Support Course, or chilling out and tinkering with scraps in Gen Ed. Not only was he Quirkless, he didn't really have much of an interest in being a hero. All of that had been true up until seventh grade, when his class went to Oscorp for a field trip.
At some point, Harry convinced him to play hooky (Harry, of all people) with him on grounds that they just went to school only to go back home again (which wasn't wrong, since the tower was practically his home outside of the penthouse). They wandered around, Harry showing him the latest tech, saying hi to Mike the security guard and the scientists milling about, until they ran into Cindy.
Cindy lost her group when she left to find the bathroom, so Peter got to introduce her to Harry. Peter brought up how they ran into each other on the last school trip to General Techtronics Corporation. When they started talking about genetics (which was odd, since Gen Tech dealt with nuclear wastes) Harry led them to a lab that had tanks of genetically enhanced spiders.
Everything had been fine at first, staying outside in the entry room watching through the glass window; but as Peter's class was boarding the bus, he felt a sharp pinch on the back of his neck. When he got home, he found a genetically enhanced spider casually crawling around on his hoodie, and the next full week was spent praying to the god of toilets, vomiting and cramps.
Then he got a text from Miles.
The spider crawled next door and bit the poor guy too.
His first day back at school was met with massive confusion as his new Quirk manifested. One thing led to another: quickly scaling buildings to get away from Flash and his cronies, accidentally webbing Flash in the face, sensory overloads ending in very long stays at the nurse's office, and then the year finished with a Stark Expo.
As much as he loved visiting expos hosted by Stark Industries, his new Quirk made his enhanced senses difficult to tolerate. Eventually he excused himself and went back onto the bus and put on the noise-cancelling headphones he frantically managed to bullshit together.
When he got back to his and May's apartment, he noticed a fancy black car outside, Miles spazzing out like an epileptic rabbit before he bulldozed Peter inside, and Tony Stark and Pepper Potts having a rather friendly conversation with May.
They admitted that, at first, it was just about an internship at Stark Industries. Then they listened to May's stories about Ben and Peter, accounts of Peter standing up to bullies and street thugs more often, and as soon as the latter got home, Tony decided to change his tune towards Xavier's hero course.
"Cue ten months of training hell at the Avengers Tower..." By the time Peter's finished, they're right in front of what looks like a sci-fi warehouse, and a man in a suit is climbing into the passenger seat up front.
Cindy lets her head fall back with a groan. "Dude. At least you got to train with the Avengers. I got stuck in a giant basement with some old businessman with a weird religious obsession for spiders."
(In his meditation room, Ezekiel sneezes.)
Peter blinks hard. "Um... Run that by me again?"
Despite not being one for oral narratives, Cindy does her best to tell her side of the spider bite story. Before the spider bit Peter, it bit Cindy harshly, and she has the very faint and tiny scar on her ankle to prove it. Her Quirk, which was originally just sticky hands and superhuman strength and all, blended with the spider's genetics from its bite, and transformed into a spider Quirk like Peter's. Otherwise, there wasn't much of a difference. Even the aftermath of the bite was the same as Peter's.
"And this..." Liz tilts her head curiously with a frown. "This old guy just...shows up at your house without any warning, no arrangements, not even a phone call?"
"That's accurate," Cindy says.
"That's creepy," Peter says. "And you just went along with him?"
"Oh hell no!" Cindy laughs. "My parents flipped their shit when he showed up, thinking he was one of those crazy scientists or Quirk trafficking thugs. My dad even called someone he knew in S.H.I.E.L.D. to run a background check on him, and my brother and I were brought to one of their bases. Couldn't step outside for even a second."
"And the background check?" Liz asks as she opens the car door. "How did that go?
Cindy shrugs, unbuckling her seat belt. "He's...shady. They gave the o.k. for him to help me get a better handle on my Quirk, but he's got a lot of eyes on him now."
Peter cringes before swiping his ID card across the scanner. "Yeah, you should definitely join me and Steve on the training floor. Maybe get a restraining order in place. That old guy being shady at all is raising red flags for me."
"Who's raising red flags?"
Tony's sitting next to Bruce on a sofa in the lobby, typing on his laptop. "And is that restraining order something I oughta back up? I don't exactly like creepers being creepy to minors."
"Dr. Banner! Oh my gosh!" Peter can see Liz restraining herself with sheer willpower not to fangirl squeal as she eagerly shakes Bruce's hand. "I read your latest papers on genetics and Quirk enhancements—"
There she goes, launching into the familiar nerd ramblings Peter is all too guilty of doing himself.
And speaking of genetics and enhancements...
"Mr. Stark? Could I ask some things before we get started?" As Tony glances at him, Peter feels doubt about his upcoming questions. "It's...not about the internship. Nothing to do with it, actually." He vaguely gestures for some place quiet.
Thankfully, Tony seems to get it. "Hey, ladies? You go on up to the lab with Bruce. Peter and I need a few."
Cindy nods and eagerly pulls Liz along to the other elevator. "Sure thing, boss!"
Now it's just Peter and Tony in their own elevator. "So, what's eating ya, squirt?"
"...It's about...S.H.I.E.L.D. and Oscorp."
That grabs Tony's attention. From the way he frowns, Peter guesses he's not an Oscorp fan either. "S.H.I.E.L.D. I get, but...Oscorp...?"
Here is where Peter has to choose his words right. Where do I start... "Remember when we first met? You talked me into signing up for the hero course instead of Support. I said the hero course wouldn't have much for me. Other than helping people, I didn't have a goal there."
"And I said I saw a lot of potential in you anyway, yeah."
"...Have you..." Peter bites his lower lip. "Have you ever...worked with Oscorp once? Maybe only spoken to some of the scientists there...?"
"Peter, buddy, what are you getting at here?" Tony crosses his arms. "What does S.H.I.E.L.D. have to do with Oscorp?"
You know what, fuck it.
"My parents were working for Oscorp before they disappeared. If anyone has an idea of what happened to them, or maybe even a lead, it's gotta be someone in S.H.I.E.L.D."
The second he blurts it all out, Peter notices he's squeezed his eyes shut. He opens them to see the floor before looking up at Tony.
The man's eyes are almost wider than the eye lenses on Peter's hero mask. "...Well shit. I'm starting to get the picture now."
Peter follows him out of elevator into his office. "Everybody knows they got involved with Oscorp somehow— Something shady they wanted to investigate and—"
"I never said I wasn't gonna help you."
Peter exhales in relief. That was easier than I thought...
"It's just that this could be a little sticky for you. Excuse the pun."
Well. Never mind, then.
"You know how secretive S.H.I.E.L.D. agents can be, especially with a guy like Ol' Eye-Patch." Tony fingers through a few business cards in a drawer. "And the whole gang's still rebuilding from HYDRA's internal hijacking. Some of the records on Oscorp might have been mixed up. But..."
Strategic Homeland Intervention,
Enforcement and Logistics Division
"Coulson might be able to dig something up."
"I never thought you'd give me more credit than I deserve."
Tony's expression goes back to being childishly snarky. "Hey. We were just talking about you."
Next to Coulson, Pepper brightens up and waves at Peter. "Hey, Peter. How was school?"
Peter returns the smile. "It was alright. I have a few people I know from middle school in homeroom."
"And I get the feeling you and Coulson are here for a reason." Tony motions for Peter to head back to the elevator. "You go on." He glances up at the ceiling. "F.R.I.D.A.Y., tell Bruce and the girls I'll be a little longer and Peter's on his way."
"Actually," Coulson raises a finger. "Dr. Banner needs to know about this too, so—"
"Tell Bruce to get his green butt up here."
Pepper shoots Tony a Look.
Peter chuckles as he watches the three adults go back and forth, though his grin falls as the door closes.
He pulls up the faculty list on Xavier's school website and finds Connors's email and phone number.
Phone number: 616-703-1963
Miles stares blankly at the email on his laptop screen.
Great news! Due to a few heroes volunteering to use their Quirks for construction, Midtown Junior High of Science and Technology will be quickly rebuilt, and school will start tomorrow on Tuesday.
We hope to see you in class!
Guidance Counselor, John Flannigan
Assistant Principal, Jacob Pettit
...Miles can feel a few tears slip out of his eyes.
"Great news" his ass. So much for an extra few weeks of summer.
He gently thumps his head on his desk with a pitiful whine.