The thing about Stark tower, was that it was enormous. That may seem obvious, but it was hard to really get a sense for how many people there were in it until you started running around helping them all. Unless he took a special interest in something, Peter rarely interacted with the same sets of people. Instead, it was always new ones.
There were, of course, a few projects he was invested in to the point that he saw them often. Dr. Curtiss’ prosthetics team ended up in his company on a weekly basis, and the Hydrogel team led by Dr. Naresh was a common stop for him on the way to or from Mr. Stark’s lab. Other than them though… There were over a hundred-thousand Stark employees in New York City. Three quarters of them worked at least partially in Stark Tower or one of its annexes. Because of this, Peter rarely recognized someone, let alone knew them.
The major exceptions to this rule were the people who worked directly under or around Mr. Stark himself. There weren’t many. Happy, obviously topped the short list, which also contained department heads, leads for projects Mr. Stark was personally involved in, the review board of the Planning division, three cleaners who took care of the lab and living areas, and the illustrious Pepper Potts. Peter’s first meeting with her did not go well, which at this point he was resigned to. (The incident with the Biochemistry department head, characterized by a combination of jealousy and anger all wrapped up in patronization set the tone for most of Peter’s interactions with these people. According to Ned and Mr. Stark, they were just pissed to be ‘shown up’ by a fourteen year old) Pepper, of course, wasn’t so narrow minded, but the disaster with her went in the other direction entirely.
Mr. Stark had told Peter about Pepper in exhaustive detail. She was, in fact, the only serious long term relationship he’d ever had and as such Mr. Stark was still somewhat enamored with her even now with their relationship ended for several months. Peter rather thought that Mr. Stark was more in love with the idea of having someone stay with him forever than with Ms. Potts specifically, but he kept his thoughts to himself.
Upon meeting Ms. Potts, it quickly became clear that Mr. Stark was just as fond of oversharing about Peter as he was oversharing about Ms. Potts.
“Ms. Potts?” asked Peter knocking on the doorframe of her open office door on the ninety-seventh floor. The woman in question looked up, face instantly smoothing out into an expression of polite disinterest. Obviously Peter would be receiving no help making this conversation easy. Breathing became difficult under the force of her gaze.
“You must be Peter. Tony has told me all about you.” she said. Peter smiled awkwardly and wished briefly that Mr Stark talked less. Usually his constant babble was highly educational even when it was nearly incomprehensible, but in this case it would be nice if he didn’t have to live down whatever the man had said about him.
“That’s me.” said Peter awkwardly. “I have a bunch of paperwork.” he said, holding it out, “And, um, he said to complain about the fact that this could have been sent digitally.”
Ms. Potts laughed in an incredibly polite way that was somehow still not insulting, and took the file folder. “The people who want this have a different opinion, but the complaint has been noted. Now, sit down. I’d like to know more about you.”
Peter gulped, but sat anyway. “More about me?” he asked. “I’m really not that interesting.”
“I’ll be the one to decide that.” said Ms. Potts. Then they had a half hour discussion about Peter’s interests and experiences within the company. She seemed especially impressed by his anecdotes about the marketing team’s meme antics. Apparently the campaign was highly successful.
Despite Ms. Potts’ efforts to make him comfortable, Peter was still incredibly nervous and having trouble breathing. It was almost like his weird spider senses were going off in every direction and he couldn’t reconcile that with the calm and professional situation in front of him.
Eventually, she noticed. “Peter, are you okay?” she asked. Peter was mortified. Was it really that obvious? He’d thought he had his senses under control.
“I’m fine.” he wheezed.
Ms. Potts, like everyone else in the building, immediately turned to FRIDAY, also known as Traitor. She didn’t even do it verbally, instead simply raising an incredibly well groomed brow at a random point on the wall where there was, apparently, a camera installed.
“Mr. Parker appears to be medically distressed in some way. I hypothesize a mild allergic reaction.” said FRIDAY.
“Allergic? To what?” cried Ms. Potts.
Peter shrugged “I don’t know. The only thing I’m allergic to is peppermint.” he said, though it sounded a little funny coming from his throat.
“Peter, peppermint is one of the essential oils currently contained within Ms. Potts’ diffuser. I recommend leaving the area immediately,” said FRIDAY.
Peter nodded and left the room. It really wasn’t that bad--minorly itchy and unpleasant and he’d want to take a shower soon--but it was there, and for some reason Ms. Potts was freaking out a bit. Her professional mask had finally cracked.
“Oh my gosh Peter I’m so sorry.” she said, “Do you need to go to medbay or-”
Peter, who by this point just wanted to crawl into a hole and die interrupted her. “It’s not that bad, just unpleasant. I’ll be fine.”
“Still, you need to put things like this on the record. FRIDAY usually warns people if they’re going somewhere with possible allergens.”
Peter shook his head. “It’s really fine. Peppermint is the only thing--not even other kinds of mint. Honestly, I’m okay.”
Ms. Potts glared at him. “Tony said the same when he was dying of palladium poisoning so forgive me if I don’t believe you. Come on. We’re going to medbay. Now.”
Peter sighed--it sounded funny--and then followed her.
FRIDAY had obviously called ahead, because Dr. Cho was already there, incensed at having been called away from her important research, but also eager to get her claws into him. She’d been reluctant to let him go without testing last time, and now she finally had the opportunity.
“So. Allergic Reaction. FRIDAY get Tony in here.” she said. Then she glared at Ms. Potts. “Why are you still here?”
Peter frowned. “She’s okay.” he said. “It was her office. I think she kinda feels guilty.”
Cho sighed. “Better than a bomb I suppose but still too many times for you to end up here.” she mumbled, too low for anyone but Peter to hear “Sit.” she said, louder.
“A bomb?” asked Ms. Potts sounding alarmed. Apparently she had better hearing than anyone gave her credit for.
By then, Peter’s body had calmed down slightly, and while he still wanted that shower he could breathe mostly normally and the itching had gone down quite a bit. He sat reluctantly, and opened his mouth to spout some bullshit excuse about an experiment gone wrong, but Dr. Cho beat him to the chase.
“That’s a matter of patient confidentiality, though I have to say my personal opinion of Peter is that he’s the second most idiotic genius I’ve ever met.” As she spoke, Dr. Cho swiped his arm with an alcohol swab and took blood in such a businesslike manner that Peter hardly noticed it, too busy trying to look perfectly fine and also innocent while internally panicking.
Ms. Potts simply stood still for a few moments. She seemed… somewhat angry. Then, in an incredibly calm voice she said, “Peter? Would you tell me when you had occasion to come into contact with a bomb?”
“No?” asked Peter.
Ms. Potts let out a breath slowly through her nose that seemed to contain all the rage of a volcano. “FRIDAY get Tony down here.” she said. “Now.”
Peter gulped. “Um, am I in trouble?” he asked.
“That depends.” said Ms. Potts.
“On what?” asked Peter.
“On what Tony says.”
Peter was incredibly worried, but then Mr. Stark arrived and he relaxed. Mr. Stark would know what to do.
“Pete! Are you okay?” he asked. Pepper raised a pointed eyebrow at him and ducked out to wait in the hallway.
“Yeah.” said Peter. “I just had a minor peppermint incident. It’s fine now though.”
“Yeah.” said Peter. “Lots of people use it as a pest repellent against spiders actually, which is really freaking annoying. I mostly just ignore it and don’t eat candy canes.”
“Huh.” said Mr. Stark. “You get that FRI?”
“Yes boss” said FRIDAY “Peter’s medical file has been updated.”
“And it will be even bigger soon.” said Dr. Cho, doing something with the blood samples she’d just taken of which there were many, “Now that you’re here I can finally do some tests. I want to know what makes you tick.”
“Y’know you could also not do that. Like, I could just leave, and not come back.” said Peter. He was perfectly happy with his life right now, and didn’t need any interference from doctors, especially those who liked poking him with things.
“No, Peter,” said Mr. Stark. “I don’t want you to end up hurt because we don’t know about what’s going on with you. We also need to figure out more about you so that we can find out what works medically. I remember it took awhile to get decent pain meds for Ca-Rogers the first time he was seriously injured… I’m not doing that again. Really, I should have had all your medical stuff figured out before even Germany. Speaking of which,” he said “We need to figure out what to say to Pepper. She’s… she doesn’t really like that I have an intern in the first place. Apparently I’m irresponsible and not a good role model.”
Dr Cho moved on in her examination to taking a bunch of measurements. The scanners on and around the bed did most of them, so Peter was mostly just forced to sit awkwardly.
“Just… Tell her, I guess.” said Peter. “She’s probably under a lot of NDAs, and it would come out eventually. I… she seemed really mad, and I don’t want you guys to fight. Also I don’t want to be kicked out.” He knew that Pepper was one of the people that would eventually have to know about Spider-man, sort of like he knew that May would end up knowing at some point. He’d even talked about it with Mr. Stark, had given permission for it as soon as it became relevant. (Ms. Potts was discreet and couldn’t ground him, so there were no problems there)
Tony sighed, “Okay.” he said. “But you don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
“I think it’s kind of inevitable Mr. Stark. You are sort of my mentor, and she’s one of your best friends.”
Mr Stark nodded, and poked his head out to get Ms. Potts.
“You can come back in now.” he said.
Ms. Potts glared at them. “So, how the hell were you so irresponsible as to let your intern near a bomb.”
Peter protested quietly, but he was ignored.
“Honestly Tony, I okayed it because you put everything through the right way and on paper you’ve seemed fairly responsible but if you’re going let him near unsafe conditions then I don’t know if having a personal intern is the right thing for you. I’m sure he could be moved somewhere else in the company and…”
“I had nothing to do with it!” said Tony
Ms. Potts glared. “He’s under you, he’s your responsibility. I can’t believe the idiocy of-”
“Don’t be mad at him.” said Peter. “He wasn’t even there it was… I. I’m sort of Spider-man. A bit. Kind of. The point is I totally would have been there anyway and it would be a hell of a lot worse if Mr. Stark wasn’t trying his hardest to keep me safe.”
“SAFE?” cried Ms. Potts. “You’re fourteen, Peter. You have a bright future. How the hell is going anywhere near a bomb safe!”
Peter opened his mouth to respond, but she wasn’t done.
“And you!” she said, turning on Mr. Stark. “Encouraging him! Helping him do such stupid things. Taking him to goddamn Germany for a fight where he could have been KILLED.”
Mr. Stark winced like she’d struck a physical blow. “I was thinking that they were my friends. I was thinking that once they understood what was going on they’d stop fighting. I was thinking… I thought wrong. Germany’s on me.” he said. He was much quieter than her. Meanwhile Peter fidgeted. He did not want to be in the room for this conversation. Scratch that. He didn’t want this conversation to exist.
“And afterwards? I saw the news after the ferry incident. And the plane. And the building collapse. When does it end? Are you going to keep pushing him into things until he does get seriously hurt?”
Mr. Stark flinched again, which Peter was not okay with. He glanced at Dr. Cho, who was pointedly ignoring him in favor of her diagnostic screens. Then he took a breath. “He didn’t push me into anything.” he said. Ms. Potts was… awesome. And also terrifying, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him. “I was doing this… stuff before I ever met him, and I kept doing it even when he took my suit after the ferry thing. The only thing Mr. Stark has done is protect and help me.”
“Still. Why Peter? Why become a vigilante, put yourself in danger. You’re a smart kid, you should know better.” said Ms. Potts.
Peter sighed, and thought back to another conversation he’d had once. It had worked then. Maybe it would work again now. “I… When you can do the things I can do. And you don’t, and people get hurt. That’s on you. I… I can’t just stand back and watch people be in danger and not help them. If I didn’t help them I… I wouldn’t be me.” he sighed. Ms. Potts looked unimpressed, and Peter was reminded of the reasons Mr. Stark had said they broke up. She didn’t like that he was Iron Man, so with Peter... He didn’t have over a decade of friendship to fall back on, so he’d better just get used to avoiding her.
To his surprise though, that wasn’t at all what happened. Instead, she sighed heavily and then glared at Tony and Dr. Cho. “You’d better figure out exactly what is going on with him. He’d better not get hurt.” then she turned to Peter. “And you… I don’t have to like it. I hate it, actually, just like I hate the whole Iron Man thing. But I’ll have to live with it. Tony’s told me a lot--he thinks the world of you. I’ll try to keep an open mind. Be careful though. And for god's sake don’t announce your identity on national television without warning anyone first.” Then she turned to leave, heels clicking on the floor.
“That… could have gone better.” said Mr. Stark.
“So, when can we schedule some time in the gym with a bunch of scanners? I’d like to know exactly how your metabolism works. And some more about your enhancements. Seriously--you are dangerously underweight despite being in perfect health.” said Dr. Cho.
“I’m pretty sure it’s because I don’t have bones.”
“I mean I do? But they’re like, made of chitin, partially. Like… half bone half chitin. It’s pretty weird.”
“That's… Kiddo, warn me next time. And how did you find this out anyway?”
“You really don’t wanna know.”