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Cast No Shadow

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It’s just past ten o’clock, Peter has had a slow night on patrol and is finishing early. He’s in the process of changing out of his suit behind a dumpster when he hears the explosion. He isn’t too far from his apartment and realises quickly that the blast came from his block. He pulls his hoodie over his head, deciding not to change out of the rest of the suit, before taking off in a sprint towards his home.

The sight that greets him when he reaches the apartment block knocks the air from his lungs.

There are two fire engines battling the raging fire, the flames seeming impossibly high, three or four ambulances, and numerous police cars. Peter can’t really make out the scene correctly as tears begin cloud his vision.

A deep and intense panic sets into his chest, the need to find Aunt May kicking in like instinct. Peter scans the crowd for his Aunt but can’t see her anywhere. His breathing is becoming erratic and it’s getting harder to focus when he finally spots the familiar faces of their upstairs neighbours and rushes over to them, tripping on the sidewalk in his haste. Mr. Palmer and his wife spot him approaching them, the looks they fix him with don’t fill Peter with confidence.

“Peter, sweetheart. Your Aunt May… She…” Mrs. Palmer breaks off looking to the ambulance closest to them. Mr. Palmer manages to catch Peter before he hits the ground, holding him up as the tears break free. At this point Peter has lost enough people in his short life to guess what Mrs. Palmer was planning to tell him.

His Aunt May is gone. The woman that has raised him for over ten years. His only family. The last person he had. Gone.

A police officer approaches them and Peter can hear him talking to Mr Palmer. “This is Peter? … And he knows that she didn’t make it? … Need him to come with us…” He can only make out parts of the conversation, but Peter figures that it isn’t good. The words ‘minor’ and ‘care-system’ are thrown around a few times and before long Mr. Palmer is trying to get his attention.

“Peter… Peter, I’m really sorry son. I can’t imagine what you must be going through right now. But you need to go with this Police Officer here.” Peter wipes at his face, looking up at the Officer who smiles sympathetically. “There isn’t much we can do for you, I’m so sorry. I wish there was something we could do.” Mr. Palmer tells Peter sincerely.

“Please, if you can, let us know where you end up. Just so we know that you’re okay.” Mrs. Palmer pulls Peter into a hug, rubbing comforting circles into his back before Peter turns his attention to the awaiting Policeman.

“Let’s go son.” The officer leads Peter towards a cop car, waiting with open doors. He ushers the quietly sobbing teen into the back seat before getting into the front and beginning the drive to the police station.

------

The next few hours pass by in a blur of strangers offering him coffee, tea, water, food etc. Peter is numb to most of it, he doubts that he has said more than three or four words in the past three hours, ever since his life got turned upside down for what felt like the hundredth time. At some point someone had wrapped him in a blanket and given him a cup of tea, but it’s gone cold in his hands. He doesn’t know when he stopped crying, he just knows that at some point he stopped, and that his eyes are sore and face sticky from the tears.

He’s staring blankly at the floor when the Police Officer from earlier approaches him with Mrs. Warren, a social worker. She explains that because May was his last known relative, and because he’s only fourteen making him a minor, he is now under the protection of the state. Mrs. Warren sits beside him, placing a hand on his shoulder as she explains what the next steps forward will be. Peter assumes that the hand is supposed to be comforting, but he’s barely registering that this conversation is happening so it’s not doing much to help.

Before long he’s being put into another car, the passenger seat this time, and Peter’s beginning to question whether or not any of this is actually happening. It all feels like some sort of fever dream and he doesn’t think he’s been fully tapped into reality since he first heard the explosion so many hours ago.

The car pulls to a stop in front of a house, in an attempt to check back into reality Peter decides to focus on the details of the house, something real and physical. The house is in a nice area where all of the houses look the same, it has at least three floors from what Peter can tell, there’s a minibus parked in the driveway, and the front lawn is tidy but there are a few toys scattered about. It helps a bit, he can feel the fog in his head clearing and actually manages to respond when Mrs. Warren asks if he’s ready to go in.

On the walk up towards the house Peter remembers something he heard Mrs Warren say back at the police station, this must be the foster home she had been talking about. The large oak door opens after two knocks to reveal a very put-together looking couple. The woman is tall and thin with blonde hair pulled back in a bun, the man is also tall and thin with dark hair and a very severe looking face. Mrs. Warren greets them and introduces Peter.

“Peter, this is Mr and Mrs Baker, they run the care home you are going to be staying at.” Peter feels unsure about the Bakers but feels encouraged by Mrs. Warren’s kind presence to try and say hello to the couple. “Peter dear, why don’t you go and take a seat in the family room while I discuss some things with Mr and Mrs Baker.” Peter nods and follows the instruction into a room that is much cleaner and tidier than Peter would have expected for a foster home. He expected at least some amount of mess, not this pristine room where the furniture all matches and there isn’t any sign of human life.

Despite the cleanliness of the room throwing Peter off slightly, he is actually thankful to be in such a quiet atmosphere. The police station was loud and chaotic, which did not help with the significant amount of stress that Peter was already experiencing. In the quiet of the room Peter is able to focus on his breathing and calm his senses that have been haywire all evening. Eventually he begins to feel like he is finally back in his body, back in touch with reality. As much as this pleases Peter, it also means that all of this has been real and not a terrible nightmare like the young boy had been hoping. Before he can start over thinking and panicking again Peter decides to focus his hearing to try and pick up on what Mrs. Warren and the Bakers are discussing.

“… this young boy has experienced several tragedies in his short life. He’s very much so still in shock, the poor dear…”

“… we will care for him, the best we can…”

“… doesn’t have much with him, it was all destroyed in the fire…”

Mrs. Warren takes her leave about twenty minutes later, after explaining to Peter that she will be back tomorrow to discuss more about the foster care system, adoption and everything else with him. The Bakers are nice enough, if not a bit too stern, they show Peter to his room where there is a clean pair of pyjamas and a toothbrush waiting for him. As the Bakers leave Peter gets acquainted with his new surroundings and sends a thanks to whatever God might be out there that he doesn’t have to share his room.

It’s only a few hours later, when he’s lying on his bed in the dark, that the events of the night truly catch up with Peter. The pain of losing Aunt May envelopes him, he can feel the grief in every bone of his body. He curls up into a ball, pulling the sheets tight around him and lets the tears flow.

Getting back on his feet after losing Uncle Ben had been hard enough, and in the last few months Peter had finally begun to feel as though his life was on an upward slope; he was doing well in school, he loved being Spider-Man, he had an amazing best friend, and he and Aunt May had never been closer. Now after one horrific night he’s right back at square one again.

Sometimes Peter wonders if he will ever catch a break.

------

He only manages to sleep for an hour or so, when Mrs. Baker comes to wake him up at eight o’clock that morning Peter is already dressed and waiting patiently on his bed.

“Oh good, you’re awake. Mrs. Warren will be here at ten, but Mr. Baker and I were wondering if we could speak to you before the other kids wake up.” Peter nods and rises from the bed to follow Mrs. Baker downstairs.

Mr. Baker is sitting at a large dining table waiting for them. He faces Peter with what the boy can only assume is an attempt at a smile, but the man’s face never seems anything other than harsh and severe.

“Good morning Peter.”

“Good morning Sir.”

Peter’s response appears to please the Bakers as they share a look with one another. “A young man with manners, always nice to see.” Mr. Baker praises. Peter nods, unsure of what he’s supposed to do in this situation, and nervous about what the pair wanted to discuss with him. “As you might have noticed Peter, my wife and I run a tight ship around here. We aren’t what you might have expected from a foster home.” Peter nods again in agreement, interested to see where this conversation is going.

“We understand that you have been through a great deal of hardship in your life Peter. However, we want to make it clear that no amount of recklessness or poor behaviour will be tolerated here.” Mrs. Baker becomes very serious, fixing Peter with an intense stare. “You seem like a very polite young man, and I’ve been informed that you perform well at school. Our hope is that this continues. We have several rules here Mr. Parker and we expect them to be followed at all times. Is that clear?”

Peter fears he is beginning to resemble a dashboard dog with the amount of nodding he has been doing in the past few minutes, but he’s unsure of how else to respond. The conversation switched from pleasantries to quite intimidating extremely quickly.

“The first rule is that you shall refer to us as Mr. and Mrs. Baker, respectively, at all times. Second rule states that you shall keep your room clean and tidy at all times, and that you will clean up any mess you create throughout the house. Third rule is that noise must be kept to a minimum at all times, we must be respectful of others. Fourth rule, possibly the most important, is that we have a very strict curfew. You will be home and in bed by ten o’clock every night. If you wish to go out, or stay at a friend’s you must ask permission before doing so.”

“Is all of that clear Mr. Parker?” Once again Peter nods. “Excellent, I believe that you will be very happy here Peter. Now, the other children should be waking soon, we will have breakfast and I shall introduce you to them all.”

------

To say that his first week in the Baker’s home was intimidating would be an understatement. Peter had been allowed a few weeks off from school given the circumstances, but a large part of him desperately wished he was back in school. Living with the Baker’s meant being on edge 24/7. The couple seemed nice enough, but something about them didn’t sit right with Peter. They were watching his every move, essentially monitoring him every time he took a step or even when he breathed. The crushing weight of losing his Aunt was already suffocating enough, the last thing Peter needed right now were two overbearing, overly strict, strangers breathing down his neck.

As time progressed nothing improved much. Turns out the other kids in the foster home aren’t exactly friendly, and did not take well to Peter thanks to his nightmares causing him to wake up screaming every time he actually manages to get some sleep, which is rare. Also, turns out that nightmares are a breach of rule number three, which makes absolutely no sense to Peter, it’s not as if he wants to wake up screaming. This however means that the Bakers have slowly but surely started to dislike Peter more and more.

The grief of losing Aunt May is still fresh, he doesn’t actually feel as though he’s been given time to grieve properly. Living in such a strict environment with no one to talk to doesn’t really allow for grieving the loss of your aunt. It’s all made ten times worse when Peter is asked to identify his aunt’s body after a few weeks in the foster home.

Mrs. Warren arrives to pick him up, her smile soft and sombre knowing where she is driving Peter to and what he’s about to do.

Peter had expected to cry, or to break down, or maybe even have a panic attack because those have been happening more frequently, which is just what Peter needs really, another issue that causes him to be a disturbance in his foster home. What Peter hadn’t expected was a total feeling of nothing.

He felt nothing when the covered-up body was wheeled out in front of him. Nothing when the sheet was pulled back to reveal his aunt’s face. Nothing when he confirmed for the coroner and Police Officer that yes, this was May Parker. And nothing when the body was covered up and taken away again.

Peter didn’t even get upset when the Police Officer informed him that they couldn’t release the body for a proper burial because the explosion in the building was part of a larger case, in which his Aunt’s body was considered evidence.

Nothing. Not even when he got back to his room that night, when he was alone in the dark and the silence. Nothing.

------

It’s on his fourth week in the foster home that Peter returns to school. At first, he’s desperate to get back to normality, back to classes, decathlon, getting to see Ned again, and when he arrives at school he’s actually kind of happy and excited for the first time in a month. This changes rapidly however when he walks into the main hall and all eyes turn to face him. Then the whispers start. No one approaches him, but Peter knows that they’re all talking about him. Some people shoot him sympathetic glances, or sad smiles, but most just talk about him as if he isn’t even there.

“That’s him.”

“Can you imagine losing your parents AND your aunt and uncle?”

“I can’t imagine what he must be going through.”

“… yeah, foster care. He’s, like, an orphan.”

Peter pulls up his hood, keeps his face down, and tries to make his way to his locker as quickly as possible. He breathes a sigh of relief when he spots Ned waiting for him in front of their lockers. He’s about to greet Ned when the other boy pulls him into a bone crushing hug. Peter’s tense at first, very aware that everyone is still staring at him, but he relaxes into the hug enjoying the first real comfort he has had in over a month.

It takes a few weeks, but eventually things at school start to feel like they’re back on track again. People still stare and whisper, and more often than not Peter struggles to stay awake in class thanks to the constant nightmares, but there’s finally a small piece of his life that feels familiar again.

------

Getting back into the swing of being Spider-Man takes Peter a bit longer. Not only does he still carry guilt about not being able to save Uncle Ben, there’s now the added crushing weight of thinking that if he had just decided to stay out a bit longer, to swing home and climb in through his window rather than changing and coming in through the front door, that maybe he could have saved his Aunt May.

Every time Peter looks at the suit, or goes to put it on, that guilt is there pressing and present at the front of his mind, demanding his attention, reminding him that he isn’t good enough. He couldn’t save Uncle Ben and he couldn’t save Aunt May.

Spider-Man is too unpredictable. Familiar, yes, but much more unpredictable than school. School has a routine; always starts at the same time, Peter knows which classes to go to and when, he knows the teachers and the students. It’s rare that anything changes at school, it’s a nice comfort. Being Spider-Man is unpredictable and dangerous in a way that school could never be.

The decision to put the mask back on again is taken almost completely out of Peter’s hands one afternoon. He’s walking to the bus after school when he hears gunshots and screaming from down the street. Acting on instinct he jumps into an alley near to him and retrieves the suit from his bag, putting it on without a second thought. His need to follow instinct kicking into high gear.

Peter crawls up the building beside him to get a better vantage point and notices three armed gunmen exiting a bank. After a brief chase Peter manages to get the three men webbed up pretty easily, and he returns the stolen money to the bank, before going back to the alley where he left his stuff to change and head home.

Later that night when he’s lying in bed Peter realises that this is the best he has felt in a long time. The high of managing to stop the criminals hadn’t left him even when Mr. and Mrs. Baker confronted him after dinner for waking up two of the other kids with his screaming last night.

The adrenaline rush he has felt all afternoon and evening is almost addicting and Peter didn’t want to lose it again. He decided that the next night he’ll sneak out of his room and go on patrol, to test how it feels after so long. He’s already breaking rule three, why should he quit while he’s ahead?

The next night Peter waits until he knows the Bakers are asleep, he can hear them through the wall, before dawning the suit and carefully unlatching his window to slide out. He spends the evening swinging about the city until the early hours of the morning. Spider-Man manages to stop a few robberies, a mugging and even helps a girl that is far too drunk to make it home safely. All-in-all Peter is extremely satisfied when he slides back through his window at four o’clock, he even manages to sleep soundly for a few hours before his alarm for school goes off.

Every night for the next two weeks Peter follows the same routine, sometimes staying out longer or coming back to his room earlier depending on what New York has to offer that evening.

He finds that being out as Spider-Man actually helps to numb the pain of losing Aunt May, it’s a good distraction to be able to help people. The nightmares continue but he also discovers that after being out on patrol he’s more likely to be able to sleep for longer than if he hasn’t been out. It’s as if his body is hard-wired with a need to be Spider-Man, and he actually functions better when he is fulfilling that need.

Things come crashing down after a few weeks of sneaking out and getting away with it. Peter’s been staying with the Baker’s for three months now. In that time, he’s gotten to know the couple well enough to know that his initial feelings about them were valid. He doesn’t like them, but it’s okay because the feeling is mutual and they make it extremely obvious.

“Peter, may we have a word?” Mr. Baker asks one night after dinner. Peter knows by now that when they ask to speak to him like this it’s usually to shout at him for something. Normally because he’s been loud when having nightmares, or because he sometimes shuts himself in the bathroom while having panic attacks, preventing others from using it. This time however the prickle on the back of Peter’s neck tells him that something is different.

Being faced with Mr. and Mrs. Baker can actually be quite intimidating, sitting at one end of the table while the couple sit at the other staring you down with their harsh looks.

“It has come to our attention that you have not been respecting the rules of our household.” Peter masks his face in a neutral expression, aiming to play dumb. “Peter, we know you’ve you been sneaking out of the house at night.” Mrs. Baker narrows her eyes at him, facing him with a scowl.

“You are already enough of a nuisance boy, what with all the screaming and crying, this could quite possibly be the last straw. If you continue to sneak out we will be putting in a request to have you sent to another foster home. Is that clear?” Peter is seething. He keeps his gaze trained at the table top, refusing to make eye contact with Mr. Baker. “I said, is that clear? You will answer me boy.”

Peter finally looks up, meeting Mr. Baker’s gaze. At this stage the teen had just about enough. His life has gone to complete ruin in the past few months and nobody, except his only friend, seems to care. And now the awful people he has been forced to live with are trying to take away the only thing that actually brings him any peace or happiness.

“Phone social work and tell them you don’t want me staying here anymore if you want. I don’t care anymore. Do what the fuck you like.” Peter pushes away from the table and storms upstairs, Mr. and Mrs. Baker shouting after him about his poor manners and lack of respect.

He slams the door to his room shut with a satisfying thud and grabs his backpack from under his bed before opening the window and slipping out. It’s just after seven o’clock as Peter changes into the suit and begins to swing. He stays out later than he usually would, considering that nothing eventful or significant has happened in the five hours that he’s been swinging about the streets of Queens.

Peter can hear a bell chiming midnight as he comes to land on the roof of particularly tall apartment block. Feeling safe enough to do so, Peter removes the mask from his face and sits on the edge of the building with his legs dangling off the edge. There’s a chill in the air that bites at Peter’s skin turning his nose and cheeks red. Heaving a deep breath the young boy stares up at the sky heavy with clouds. It’s eerily peaceful for a night in Queens and Peter welcomes the calm.

It takes him a while to realise that he’s been crying, only noticing when his breathing hitches. He would give anything to be able to rewind time, to go back to when his life was good and Aunt May was still alive. Tears flow freely down his face as Peter thinks about what he has lost and the sad reality of what his life has become.

Chapter Text

On the 12th of April, exactly five months since he has been living with the Bakers, Peter’s world is flipped upside down again. Things in the foster home have gone from bad to worse. The Bakers have yet to follow through on their promise to have Peter moved to a different home, but other promises (punishments) they are more than willing to see through. So, for the past four weeks Peter has been in charge of all cleaning duties in the house; something which all of the kids were previously on a rota for. Thanks to what has been dubbed as his “reckless behaviour” and “annoying antics”, by Mr. Baker, the punishment the couple deemed fit was the responsibility of cleaning for everyone.

Peter is in the bathroom, on his hands and knees scrubbing the tiles with bleach and a toothbrush, when he hears the commotion downstairs. He pauses the ministrations to focus his listening to what is going on.

“This is an honour, really sir.” Peter can hear Mrs. Baker laying the pleasantries on thick which must mean this is somebody hoping to adopt one of the kids in the house.

“That’s extremely kind of you to say.” An unknown male voice replies. “We are actually here about one child in particular.”

“And who might that be?” Mr. Baker enquires.

“Peter Parker.” Answers the voice of Mrs. Warren.

Peter jolts at the mention of his name. There have been several couples, families, and even single people through the house in the months that he has been here looking to adopt, but never have any of them shown any interest in him. Why would they? He’s fifteen, soon to be sixteen in August, nobody wants adopt an almost adult.

“Oh.” Mrs. Baker finally responds after a few seconds of silence. Peter moves quietly to the top of the stairs so that he can hear better. “Are you sure?”

“Why wouldn’t we be sure?” A second mystery male voice asks, this one sharper in tone than the other man.

“Oh, no sir, we’re terribly sorry. My wife did not mean to imply that you and your partner didn’t have the right child. Simply, well. Peter is a bit of a trouble maker. We have actually been having rather significant problems with him recently.”

“Hmm. Is that so?”

“Perhaps one of the other children we care for would be a better fit for you?” Peter’s blood boils listening to Mr and Mrs Baker trying to stop something potentially good happening for him. He isn’t even sure that he wants to be adopted, but Peter reasons that it has to be better than living here for any longer.

“Erm. No, I don’t think so. I believe that decision is one only my husband and I can make. So now, if you could do what you’re supposed to do and go and get Peter for us. Thanks.” Peter’s eyes widen at the way this man is able to put the Bakers in their place. These people must be serious about adopting him if they aren’t put off by the attempt to persuade them otherwise.

Mrs. Warren appears at the top of the stairs just as Peter dashes back into the bathroom to pretend to be cleaning, as the Bakers would expect him to be doing. “Peter?”

“In here!” He calls back, playing dumb.

“Peter, I need you to come- What on earth are you doing!?” Mrs Warren stops in her tracks, taken aback by the sight of the teen crouched on the floor scrubbing bleach into the tiles.

“Oh. My chores? I clean.” Peter has to stop a small smile of satisfaction from appearing on his face. He knew that the Bakers were not allowed to make the children in their care clean like this. Who in their right mind gives children bleach?

“Well, this is quite worrying. Anyway, that is a matter for another time. I need you to go and get changed for me, nice clean clothes please. There’s a couple downstairs that are interested in adopting you.” It’s difficult to not let Mrs. Warren’s infectious warmth get his hopes up. Even as he’s getting dressed Peter reminds himself that this might not go the way he is hoping it will. Given his track record chances were this couple would take one look at him and decide that the Bakers had been right all along.

He meets Mrs. Warren on the landing once he’s dressed, she greets him with a smile and guides him down the stairs. The Bakers are sitting in the family room discussing something in angry whispers, Peter assumes it’s about him but he pays them no mind, choosing to focus on following Mrs. Warren to the dining room instead.

He can hear the conversation the occupants of the room are having before he has even rounded the corner into the hallway where the room is situated.

“I don’t like those people Steve.”

“I don’t either. They give me a bad vibe.”

Peter smirks slightly pleased to hear that other people have the same reaction to the awful couple as he does.

Mrs. Warren chaps on the door lightly before entering the room. “Peter, this is Mr. Rogers and Mr. Stark. They wanted to meet with you and got in touch with me personally to do so.”

Peter doesn’t think he has heard his social worker correctly at first, until Captain America is walking forward to shake his hand. “It’s lovely to meet you Peter, we’ve been wanting to for a while now.” The boy stares dumbfounded at the tall blond man in front of him and can only manage to nod in recognition.

“He’s right. Would’ve been here sooner, but the child care system is messy, lots of paper work and things to sign.” Mr. Stark makes a disgusted face at the idea of having to sign forms which causes Peter’s lips to quirk into a small smile. “Shall we sit?”

Peter moves in a daze to sit down at the same dining room table he has sat at for months, across from other foster children who didn’t like him, and a couple who were supposed to care for him. Only this time it’s different. This time two of his childhood heroes are here in the flesh, apparently wanting to adopt him. The young boy didn’t think his life could have gotten any more bizarre after he was bitten by a radioactive spider, apparently, he was wrong.

The fact that Iron Man and Captain America are married doesn’t throw Peter as much as it probably should. There have always been rumours about the pair but he had never really paid them any attention; Peter’s logic had always been that at the end of the day it didn’t actually matter if the two were romantically involved or not.

“So, you like science?”

“Huh?” Mr. Stark points to Peter’s shirt, one of the only three that he owns, which just so happens to be his favourite. Aunt May got it for him on his birthday last year. It’s a plain black t-shirt with ‘the physics is theoretical but the fun is real’ written on it. “Oh, yeah I do. A lot actually.”

Mr. Stark smiles approvingly. “Midtown High. You’re a sophomore, right?”

Peter nods. “Yes sir, that’s correct.”

“GPA?”

“Um, 4.5? I think… That’s what it was the last I checked.” Mr. Stark looks as though he’s about to ask another question, but the Captain places a hand on his arm which Peter takes as him telling the other man to be quiet.

“We’re not here to quiz him about school Tony. Honestly,” The super-soldier rolls his eyes and turns to Peter with a kind smile. “he doesn’t know when to stop. Sorry about that.”

“It’s, um. It’s really no problem Mr. Rogers.” Peter says stuttering under the gaze of Captain America, still in complete shock that this is even happening.

“Please call me Steve. Peter, you’re probably wondering why we’re here.” The boy nods, his mind has been racing since the door opened to reveal the two Avengers, trying to figure out why they might be here; do they know that he is Spider-Man? Have they come to recruit him for the Avengers? Has he done something wrong so S.H.I.E.L.D has sent them to bring him in? The panic is rising in Peter’s chest as Steve opens his mouth again, about to tell him the reason why they had decided to visit him. “Tony and I have been married for two years now, and we’ve been feeling lately that there’s something missing… We would really like to start a family, and honestly Peter we think you might be a perfect fit.”

Peter is fairly certain his mouth is hanging open, but he isn’t really sure how else he is supposed to respond in this situation. “I, um-” His voice cracks much to his horror and embarrassment. After clearing his throat, he tries again. “That’s really nice of you to say Mr – um, Steve. But, why me?”

Mr. Stark looks at him with something akin to sympathy in his eyes. “You know who we are, correct?” Peter nods quickly. “So, then you’ll know that our jobs are dangerous, and sometimes the things we get involved in tragically result in other people, innocent people, getting hurt.” Peter’s a bit unsure where Mr. Stark is going with this, but nevertheless he listens intently. “Peter, five months ago we became aware that someone has been selling powerful weapons on the black market. Weapons created using alien tech from the battle in New York.”

There’s a sinking feeling in his chest as Peter begins to piece together where this is headed. “The blast that hit your apartment block was from one of those weapons.” Steve provides, confirming what Peter had suspected. “Do you understand?”

Peter takes a deep breath, steadying himself for a minute before he feels able to talk again. “So, you’re here to possibly adopt me because you feel guilty about what happened to my Aunt May?” There’s a feeling of anger settling deep inside Peter’s gut, not directed at Mr. Stark and Mr. Rogers, anger that he didn’t know the full story behind what happened that night. Anger knowing that all of these months he could have been looking for those people selling the weapons, trying to take them down, being able to do something that would actually avenge the death of his Aunt.

Mr. Stark walks around to Peter’s side of the table, perching on the surface beside Peter. He removes his glasses and places a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Peter, we’re here because when we heard about what happened Steve and I couldn’t stop thinking about you. Stark Industries is heavily involved in the clean-up of every Avengers-related tragedy, that’s how we learned about what had happened to you. So, we looked you up, spoke to your social worker and we think that you could be the perfect addition to our family.” Mr. Stark says all of this while looking Peter dead in the eye, not breaking eye contact once. When he’s finished speaking Peter feels a bit teary, he can feel that Mr. Stark is genuine in what he says, that he really means it, really wants to adopt Peter and make him a part of his family.

“We can’t always save everyone, but sometimes the universe gives you an opportunity to put something right.” Steve has appeared on Peter’s other side, taking a similar stance to his husband. “Peter it would mean the world to us if you considered letting us adopt you and becoming a part of our family.”

“Are you sure? I mean, you heard what Mr. and Mrs. Baker said. I’m a hassle and a trouble maker.”

Steve shares a look with Mr. Stark. “How did you know they said that to us?”

Peter tries not to let the shock show on his face, realising too late that they didn’t know he had been listening in from upstairs, and it’s not possible for a regular human being to have heard that conversation unless they were in the room.

“Oh, well I didn’t really. I just assumed that they had told you.” Peter tries to cover his tracks. “They certainly remind me that that’s what they think about me enough.” The pair still look a little suspicious but the final comment seems to have thrown them.

“Hang on, they tell you that you’re a hassle to them?” Mr. Stark questions in a tone that makes Peter realise he was the one putting the Baker’s in their place earlier. “From everything we have read about you, and trust me kid we’ve read a lot, I’ve never once seen the words ‘trouble maker’ appear. Would you agree Stevie?” He looks over to Steve who nods in agreement, his brow furrowed in confusion. “I’m definitely going to be having a word with that nice social worker of yours about that couple.” Mr. Stark trails off, muttering under his breath about how the pair are supposed to be care givers and what a rotten job they are doing, Peter could not agree more.

“All that aside. Everything is all set up and ready to go, all we need is the go ahead from you Peter. We’re one hundred percent sure about this, but at the end of the day it’s your decision and we don’t want to pressure you into anything. But we would really love it if you said yes. Based off of everything we’ve seen, we think you’re a great kid Peter.” Steve smiles sincerely at him and Peter allows himself to return it.

Mrs. Warren arrives back in the room a few minutes later, when Peter tells her that he would like to take Mr. Stark and Mr. Rogers up on their offer the couple beam at him, filling Peter with the confidence that he is making the right decision. He really feels like he can trust them, and given everything he has been through lately, trust is something Peter desperately needs more of in his life.

------

Peter expects it to take much longer for everything involved with the adoption to start moving than it does. But he supposes when Tony Stark is involved that this is how quickly most things happen when you’re a billionaire and a superhero. It only takes a day for all of the adoption paper work to be signed and confirmed by the relevant children’s boards and the like.

On the 14th of April Peter is being picked up by Steve and Tony (who insisted Peter stops calling him Mr. Stark) to be taken to his new home. They come to pick him up in a flashy car that Tony is driving himself. Both men look at him with sadness when they realise he only has his backpack and a few items of clothing to his name. Tony makes a comment about taking him shopping as soon as possible.

Driving away from the foster home Peter has lived at for the past five months has got to be one of the happiest moments of his life. The drive into Manhattan is nice, Steve and Tony chat to him about living in the tower and all of the other people who live there.

“Most of them are away on a mission right now, so you’ll have some time to get settled in and acquainted with the place before you get overloaded meeting all of the other weirdos that live there.” Tony smirks as Steve reprimands him for calling their friends weirdos. “Well, they are, what else do you call a group of mildly unstable superheroes?”

Peter realises quite quickly that he already feels very comfortable around Steve and Tony. His initial instincts were correct again, he was right to trust them. He has hope for the future again thanks to this bizarre change of fate.

The fact that Captain America and Iron Man have seen something in him, and feel so strongly about it that they want to make him a part of their family is still disorienting to Peter. He hasn’t fully wrapped his mind around it yet, so much so that he hasn’t even told Ned. He texted his best friend to say that things were changing for him again so he wouldn’t be in school for a few days but hadn’t given him any specifics. Being the amazing friend that he is, Ned had replied telling Peter that he was there if he needed anything and to keep him updated on what was happening. Peter really thanks his lucky stars every day that he has Ned Leeds.

The panic he felt thinking that Steve and Tony might have known that he is Spider-Man has essentially disappeared. Nothing has been said, aside from Peter’s one slip up a few days ago, that suggests either of the pair suspect anything and he is content to keep it that way. The thought that telling Tony and Steve could actually help him had crossed Peter’s mind a few times, but in the end, he had always reached the conclusion that the pair would probably try and get him to stop being Spider-Man, which could absolutely not happen.

Peter had stored away the small bit of information Tony had given him about the weapons that caused the explosion, planning to do some research of his own so that he can start trying to take down the guys making and selling the weapons. If Steve or Tony found out that he was Spider-Man and that this is what he was planning to do, there is no doubt in Peter’s mind that they would try and stop him.

“Hey, welcome to your new home kid.” Peter turns around at the sound of Tony’s voice, looking up to see the Avengers Tower in all its glory.

This is definitely an improvement on the foster home Peter thinks to himself. That feeling of hope settles itself nicely into his chest, replacing a small amount of the guilt and panic that usually resides there. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Chapter Text

Peter steps out of the car and follows his new adoptive family in a bit of a daze. There’s so much to look at and take in. There are at least twenty cars in the garage they’ve pulled into but Peter can’t see them all to count properly so there might be more. His eyes flicker about at a rapid pace and he can feel a headache coming from the sensory overload, just another perk of being bitten by a radioactive spider.

Part of Peter tries to remind him that this is his new home so he’ll have plenty of time to look around, but when you’ve led the life Peter has permanence isn’t really something you are familiar with.

He follows Steve and Tony into the elevator and they explain to him what all of the floors are, although Peter is fairly certain he’ll need a refresher because there are close to one hundred buttons on the panel.

“We’ll head up to the common area right now and show you around there to start.” Steve presses a button and the elevator shoots off going much quicker than Peter believed was possible.

Tony smiles fondly at him. “Quicker than most isn’t it?” The boy nods, clearly the expression on his face has given away his shock.

Steve chuckles. “Don’t worry, I was exactly the same when Tony brought me here for the first time. Took me a while to get used to it, but then again I had been frozen for 70 years, so I’m sure you’ll adapt a lot quicker than I did.” The blond lays a comforting hand on Peter’s shoulder just as the elevator comes to a stop.

The two superheroes show Peter various different levels in the tower including their own floor, Tony’s lab, they skip over the personal floors of the other tower occupants only pausing briefly to show Peter which floor each is on. Peter thinks they must be about finished when the elevator stops one last time, opening up onto the floor below Tony and Steve’s.

The design is much the same as the other living areas Peter has been to but there’s less furniture in this one suggesting that no one is currently living here. His face must give him away again because he turns around to find Steve and Tony watching him, smirks clear on their faces.

“What do you think Peter?”

“Um, yeah. It’s nice Tony. Just, it’s quite bare? Doesn’t feel like anyone lives on this floor.” He makes his way over to the large glass windows, looking out across all of New York.

“Yeah, I didn’t wanna just rush in and buy stuff without you getting a say first. We can start looking for more furniture tomorrow if you want?” Peter spins around so fast he swears that he could’ve gotten whiplash.

“You mean…? This is mine?” The smirks on Steve and Tony’s faces have only gotten bigger. “This is, wow. This is too much…”

Tony waves a hand dismissively. “Pfft. It was just sitting here anyway. Might as well put it to use.”

Steve rolls his eyes, clearly this is not what he had wanted Tony to say. “Peter, we want you to be comfortable here. I know how hard it can be to settle into a new environment, trust me on that one. It helps sometimes to have a space that is just yours. So that’s what we wanted to give you.”

“Or there’s a few spare rooms on Cap and I’s floor, which you’re more than welcome to. Whatever makes you feel comfortable kid.”

Peter is unsure of what to do with himself, the emotions he feels are overwhelming. Every time he opens his mouth to speak he doesn’t trust himself not to cry while doing it. Before he knows it, he’s being hugged tightly by Captain America. “We are truly so happy to have you here Peter.” He relaxes into the embrace and when they pull back Peter is fairly certain he can see unshed tears shining in Steve’s eyes. Tony walks over, wrapping an arm around Steve’s waist and pressing a kiss to his forehead. He lifts his other arm and tilts his head to the side which Peter takes as his signal to join the hug.

Everything is just a bit too much for Peter and he starts sobbing openly. Tony rubs his back comfortingly and Steve runs a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry… I just- I’ve felt so alone and it’s been so long since I’ve felt like anyone cared.” He mumbles into Tony’s chest, effectively sandwiched in between the two super-heroes.

Tony rests his head on top of Peter’s, pulling him into a tighter hug. “We’re here now. You don’t have to be alone anymore.”

------

Peter decides to stay in the guest room on Steve and Tony’s floor tonight, with Tony promising that first thing tomorrow they’ll start shopping for furniture and things that he can use to decorate the floor and make it his own.

At some point he’s introduced to JARVIS who didn’t make his presence known until Tony formally introduced Peter to him, which he greatly appreciated as Peter isn’t sure how he would have reacted if the ceiling had started speaking to him with no warning.

The remainder of the night is fairly uneventful, they order in dinner (Chinese, Peter’s choice) and eat at the dining table on Steve and Tony’s floor. They pass the night through small talk, mainly about Peter and school. They eventually migrate to the couch where Tony puts Netflix on a big screen, choosing something to go on in the background.

“So, em, I was wondering. Who else lives in the tower?” Peter asks, curiosity getting the better of him. He’s heard a few names mentioned but hasn’t had anything directly confirmed yet.

Steve explains that while most of the Avengers have floors in the tower they don’t all live there full-time. “The only people that live here constantly right now are Natasha, Bruce and Bucky. Is that right Tony?”

Tony flops down onto the couch on the other side of Peter from Steve and nods. “Makes sense for Bruce to be here because we work on projects together a lot, and because they finally got their acts together and became an official item Nat’s here much more often than she used to be. Which basically means hell for me because I now have two trained assassins creeping about my tower.”

“Tony.” Steve fixes his husband with an unimpressed look.

“What? It’s true. They’re a pain in my ass.” Cap’s stare doesn’t falter. “Aw geez. Okay I’m sorry Capsicle, I didn’t mean to offend you. You know I like your BFF really. It’s just that you can never hear them coming, and then all of a sudden ‘boo!’ there they are. You don’t know how many glasses I’ve broken because of them in the past year kid. Glass everywhere. Nightmare to clean up.” Peter chuckles and makes a mental note to stay alert once everyone returns to the tower. Living with two trained assassins with excellent stealth could prove to be detrimental to keeping Spider-Man a secret.

“Actually, on that note. Just a forewarning Peter.” He turns his attention to Steve now who shifts on the couch so that he can face Peter fully. “Bucky can be a bit…”

“Creepy?” Steve picks up the nearest couch cushion and throws it at Tony, hitting him square in the face.

“I was going to say sensitive.” Tony snorts causing Steve to narrow his eyes at him again. “You said back at the foster home that you knew who we were and what we do. How much do you know exactly?”

Peter ponders for a second, trying to decide whether to reveal just how much he actually knows about the Avengers. That he’s been mildly obsessed with them since he was a kid, and that Iron Man even saved him once at the Stark Expo. Tell Steve all about how he had every action figure, and the lunchbox and the bed sheets. About how his teachers used to have to ask him to draw something other than the group of super-heroes. He settles on explaining that he knows a lot, but not revealing the more embarrassing aspects of his Avengers-obsession.

“So, you know about Bucky?” Peter nods. Who doesn’t know about Bucky? Is how he really wants to respond but he bites his tongue on that one. “Well, adjustment wasn’t easy for him, and sometimes he can still be a bit sensitive to things. But don’t worry, he’s good at telling people to back off when he needs space, and I’ll talk you through topics to avoid and things like that.”

Rhodey, Sam and Clint split their time between the tower and elsewhere due to work and family commitments but Sam is apparently around a lot more often than the others. Steve and Tony share a knowing look while explaining this, peaking Peter’s curiosity, but he figures it isn’t his place to pry.

Peter decides to head to bed not much later, he bids Tony and Steve goodnight before heading to the guest room.

“There are clean pyjamas in the drawer beside your bed Master Parker.”

“Thanks JARVIS.” If a few days ago someone had told Peter that he would be living in the Avengers tower and talking to an A.I. in the ceiling as if it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary he would never have believed them.

------

The next morning Peter is awakened by a loud and persistent buzzing noise. He cracks his eyes open and blindly reaches his hand out, searching for his phone. The light from the device almost blinds him at first but he squints through the discomfort to see Ned’s name flashing on the screen. “Hello?” He answers, his voice cracking slightly from sleep.

“Peter!” Ned all but shouts through the phone causing Peter to flinch so violently he drops the phone and nearly rolls off the bed. He can faintly hear that Ned is still talking but keeps the phone at arm’s length while asking Ned to stop shouting. “Oh, sorry did you just wake up? I just was calling to see how you are, it’s been radio silence from you for a few days now, plus you said you had news.”

“God, yeah, sorry bro you’re right I did say that. Everything is a bit crazy at the minute. Why don’t we meet up tomorrow and I can explain everything to you?”

“Yeah sure, where do you want to meet?”

“Um, I’ll need to get back to you on that one. I’ll text you the address.” They end the call after a few goodbyes and Peter flops onto his back, staring at the ceiling.

The blinds on Peter’s windows slowly open to let sunshine stream into the room. “Good morning Master Parker. Mr Rogers and Mr Stark are having breakfast in the kitchen when you’re ready to join them, they insist that there is no rush.”

“Um, thanks… Hey JARVIS?”

“Yes sir?”

“Any chance you could just call me Peter?” He asks jumping out of bed and heading towards the bathroom attached to the guest room.

“If that is what you would prefer, then it would be my pleasure, Peter.”

------

After breakfast the trio head out into the city. Peter meets Happy Hogan, a man he has seen in the press numerous times and who is just as grumpy in person as he appears to be in pictures. Tony and Steve have put on disguises, poor ones Peter muses to himself, but they want to do everything they can to make Peter feel comfortable so he appreciates their efforts to not get stopped by crowds everywhere they go.

They’ve been shopping for a while, getting Peter basically a whole new wardrobe and even finding some stuff that he thinks would go great in his new room. Peter isn’t used to spending money so freely, Aunt May and Uncle Ben weren’t poor but they didn’t have disposable income to just spend however they wished. It takes several reassurances from both Steve and Tony before Peter becomes some-what comfortable with them spending ridiculous amounts of money on him, and even at that he feels guilty the entire time.

When they get back to the tower they are laden with bags filled with everything Peter could possibly need. Most of the furniture and bigger things the ordered to furnish Peter’s floor will be arriving later in the week.

Steve suggests that they should watch a movie together when they’ve finished tidying everything away so they head to the common floor which has the biggest screen for movie watching. They’re settled and about to start the film when Peter’s phone buzzes. It’s a text from Ned asking where he’s supposed to meet him tomorrow.

“Oh, em, I was wondering… Would it be okay if I told Ned that you’ve adopted me?”

Tony looks almost baffled by the question. “Of course kid. You can tell whoever you want to.”

“Thanks. I just wanted to check because I know we talked about not making it public.” They had discussed that over dinner the previous night. For how high profile their lives are, especially Tony, when they had gotten together and then engaged and finally married the pair had decided to keep all of it very private. Something peter found endlessly impressive due to just how famous the two are. When it came to Peter and their adoption of him they wanted to do the same, keep it very private and amongst just friends and family, which Peter had agreed with whole heartedly. He’s never been one for the spotlight and announcing to the world that he’s been adopted by Iron Man and Captain America, who by the way are married, would more than thrust him into a spotlight.

“Ned’s your best friend Peter, of course you can tell him. Invite him to come over if you want.” Steve suggests.

Peter’s slightly shocked, he wasn’t sure if he could go as far as to invite his friend over to the tower, he had planned on meeting Ned in a nearby park to tell him. “Would that be okay?”

“It’s more than okay Peter. This is your home now.” A warm feeling settles nicely in Peter’s chest at Tony’s words. He promptly texts Ned telling him to meet him at an ice cream parlour nearby that they’ve been to a few times figuring that will be easier than sending Ned directions to the Avengers tower and then having to explain that.

------

It’s just about to turn eleven o’clock when Peter rounds the corner and enters the ice cream shop. He immediately spots his best friend, sitting near the window with two ice creams in front of him; salted caramel, Ned’s favourite and Peter’s favourite, mint chocolate chip.

“Hey.” He greets sliding into the booth across from Ned and happily taking the ice cream from him. “How’s things?”

Ned stares at him incredulously. “How’s things? Peter. You’re not seriously asking me about my life right now?” Peter shrugs. “C’mon Pete I’ve been dying. You tell me that something’s happening but then don’t tell me what it is, and after everything that has happened to you recently you can’t just leave me hanging like that.”

With a sigh Peter realises that Ned is right, he hasn’t been very fair to his best friend recently, especially considering that he has been pretty much the only person who has been there for him. “You’re right. I’m sorry, I really am. There’s just been a really major change in my life, again, and I needed time to process it before I told you.” Ned inclines his head awaiting the rest of Peter’s explanation. “If I’m completely honest I still haven’t fully processed it. But you’re right, I owe you an explanation. There’s a lot for me to explain here, and I need you to promise me that you won’t freak-out.”

Ned’s eyebrows draw together as he pulls a face. “Oh please Peter, I’m sure your new life update isn’t that incredible.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Peter rolls his eyes. “So, first thing, I got adopted.” Ned’s eyes widen, he smiles and tells Peter how happy he is for him. “Thanks, I’m really glad to be away from those awful people.” His friend nods understandingly. “The second thing is the bit that I need you to not freak-out about.” Again, Ned doesn’t look convinced and Peter is fully prepared for the boy to do exactly what he has, now repeatedly, asked him not to do. “The people who adopted me are kind of famous, I guess you could say?” Peter finds himself at a loss for words, unsure of how to tell Ned. “Actually, it might make more sense if I just show you where I live now.”

If the confused looks on Ned’s face were wide and comical before, they are nothing compared to the way his eyes bug out of his head when Peter casually strolls into the Avengers tower.

“Dude! I don’t think we’re supposed to be in here.” Ned whispers, but he follows Peter further into the lobby nonetheless. “Um, what are you doing? Where did you get that?!” He exclaims as Peter pulls a security pass out of his pocket, tapping it to a pad on the wall beside an elevator.

They step into the elevator when the doors slide open and are greeted by JARVIS. “Hello Peter, how was the ice cream?”

“It was good, thank you for asking. Hey, um, JARVIS could you tell Tony and Steve that I’m on my way up?”

“I have already informed them of yours and Mr Leeds’ immanent arrival Peter.”

Throughout the duration of this conversation Ned’s head is whipping all over the place, trying to make sense of what is happening. “Hang on, did you just say Tony and Steve?”

Peter doesn’t have time to reply as the doors of the elevator open to the floor currently occupied by the two men in question. Steve spots them first jumping up off the couch to come and greet the pair.

“Peter! You’re back much sooner than I expected. And this must be the famous Ned. Peter’s told us all about you.” Peter sniggers as Steve shakes the hand of an all but frozen Ned. The boy’s mouth is hanging open and Peter can hear Aunt May’s voice in his head saying something about catching flies.

Tony appears beside his husband, swooping in to greet Ned in a similar fashion. Ned remains frozen, saying nothing as an entire conversation is had in his presence, until Peter announces that he is going to show his friend his own floor in the tower.

When they get down to Peter’s floor Ned finally snaps barraging his friend with question after question, and one-hundred percent freaking-out just as Peter suspected he would. Ned’s questions are answered to the best of Peter’s ability, however there’s still a lot he doesn’t know himself.

Tony walks out of the elevator a few hours after the questions have almost all but ceased and the pair are watching Star Wars. Ned is invited to stay for dinner but he had promised his mom he would be home to eat with his family. Peter walks Ned out and promises to call him that night so that he can attempt to answer even more of Ned’s questions which he is sure the boy will come up with in their time apart.

At dinner that night Tony decides to breach the subject of Mr and Mrs Baker, asking Peter wat exactly happened during his time at the foster home to cause the couple to speak of him in such a negative way. Peter explains that he had developed a bad habit of sneaking out, and that his loud nightmares and frequent panic attacks hadn’t exactly made him popular.

He had been nervous to reveal this to Steve and Tony, terrified they would react the say way as the Balers. But Peter is overwhelmingly happy to discover that the pair are nothing by sympathetic to his struggles, both of them struggling with similar issues.

They’re so understanding and loving towards Peter, offering him any kind of help he could ever have asked for. From personal experiences and coping mechanisms to Tony offering to send him to a therapist if Peter would want to visit one.

They’re parting ways for the night, Peter about to head back down to his own floor, when Tony and Steve both stop to give him tight hugs that last just a little bit longer than usual. They both insist that if Peter needs them for any reason, he is to ask JARVIS to waken them, no matter what time it is. The warm feeling returns to Peter’s chest as he remembers when May and Ben would tell him the same thing.

As he lies in his bed that night, his new bed in his new home where he feels safe and welcome, Peter thinks that maybe he is finally starting to catch a break in life.