Chapter 1: THAT FUCKING FIELD TRIP
“So,” said Ellen, grinning conspiratorially at the well dressed young man across from her. “You Starks are famous for being able to live down anything, from drunken scandals to the Taco Bell incident just a couple years ago. Like water off a duck's back, isn’t it?”
“More like water off vibranium.” said Peter. “You need a bulletproof self-esteem to survive that level of stupidity.”
The studio laughed, and Ellen reflected that this was possibly the easiest segment she’d ever done--and judging by the guest it would be the most successful too. “So tell me. What was your most embarrassing moment. I have to know. What was the last thing you couldn’t live down.”
“I don’t know if I can do that.” said Peter. “It’s… horrifying.”
“Oh come on.” said Ellen. “You have to tell me now.”
Peter looked resigned. “Back when I was fifteen,” he said, “One of the classes at my school took a field trip to Stark Tower.”
“Well that can’t end well.” said Ellen.
“It gets worse Ellen. Just wait.” said Peter. “I wasn’t in the class, so I didn’t know about it until it was too late. So there I am, loafing about my own home in my pajamas covered in a rather large amount of engine grease, when suddenly I come face to face with all of my peers.”
By then, the whole studio was roaring with laughter. “What kind of pajamas?” asked Ellen, once she’d recovered a bit.
“Itty bitty little shorts.” said Peter. “It was probably the most embarrassing situation possible. And this was before anything was public--anything at all. As far as they knew, I’d never even been to Stark Tower. Honestly I don’t know who was more surprised, them or me.”
The roars of laughter got louder at Peter’s over-exaggerated horrified shiver, but what they didn’t know was that it came from a place of deep pain, because that was when Peter’s life had gotten truly awfully weird. Even weirder than Spider-man…
Peter didn’t actually notice anything on the day itself. It had been a stressful week, he was trying to get ahead before he left for Arizona, and frankly he devoted very little thought to what went on in classes and extracurriculars he was no longer attending. School was all well and good, but it wasn’t helpful in patent applications or trying to scale up his zero point manufacturing processes for industrial use, nor did it endear him to the accords council, so it wasn’t something he really thought about at this point. Mostly, his attendance still happened solely because he needed a break and wanted to hang out with Ned and MJ. And also because he needed the arts credits. Art was evil.
On the morning itself, he was taking a break. He’d worked non-stop through the night and he figured he deserved a couple hours of fun before continuing the daily grind. So, at 10:23 AM that Tuesday morning, he was entering the basement testing rooms of the Stark Tower complex. There was a lot going on there, but Mr. Stark usually had a bay or two for his larger projects, and Peter knew for a fact that there was a 1958 Ferrari GT California Spyder (not to be confused with the 1958 Porsche Spyder a level down in the parking garage) there in desperate need of a tune up and a new set of brake rotors.
It was one of Mr. Stark’s quirks that Peter appreciated. There was always a car mid-restoration. When Mr. Stark finished one, he got another. They were sort of like fidget cubes, except worth several million dollars each. It was nice though, to have something like that around for when quantum physics got too frustrating, and since Mr. Stark had shown him exactly how an engine worked he availed himself of the distraction several times.
As Peter pulled up the progress notes on the restoration and cranked up the AC/DC unaware of what was about to descend upon him, the Advanced Robotics Class of Midtown Tech was entering the building. Flash was making a fool of himself. Ned was geeking out despite having been to the tower several times, and nobody was sure what MJ was doing. She wasn’t even in the Robotics class. Despite that, nobody had argued when she got on the bus armed with a sketchbook and a rather malicious expression.
Ned knew that expression. It meant that a crisis was about to happen and MJ intended to draw it.
Suddenly, realization sprang over Ned like a cold splash of water. He suspected he knew exactly what crisis MJ was there to draw.
As the rest of the class proceeded through the security line, he drifted a bit to the side, enough not to be heard as he whispered into his conveniently FRIDAY connected phone. “Hey FRIDAY, where’s Peter?”
(Peter wiped off his grease covered hand onto his ratty red tank top. Instead of ‘If this shirt is blue you are going too fast,’ it now read ‘If this shirt is blue you are going too fas-.)
“Peter is currently in testing cubicle E” said FRIDAY.
“Oh.” said Ned. “What is he doing?” he asked.
“Currently, Peter appears to be enacting a dramatic rendition of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.”
“Oh god.” said Ned. “Does… Is our tour going there.”
(“THe’Re WAs nO HeLp fRoM yOu!” sang Peter, followed by an enthusiastic “THUNDER” and a little hop)
“Your tour will arrive in the testing bay in approximately an hour and a half. The itinerary calls for a brief presentation and a walk-through of one of the low-priority labs followed by fifteen minutes in the testing bays, after which the tour will be released into the museum and gift shop.” said FRIDAY sweetly.
Ned was very afraid. “Can we skip that part.” he asked.
“No” said FRIDAY. “I’m afraid that action is prevented under the ‘bathtub photos’ protocol.”
“What’s the ‘bathtub photos’ protocol?” asked Ned.
“The only permissible action in the case of Peter embarrassing himself is to save photos. Interference is not allowed except in cases of actual danger or distress.”
Ned was briefly afraid. Then mortified for Peter’s sake. Then he got over himself. It would be painful for Peter, but proof of his internship would probably streamline his school life by a lot. And besides… “Can I have the photos?” he asked.
“Certainly.” said FRIDAY. “Would you like your classmate’s reactions as well?”
Ned nodded, in awe of FRIDAY’s awesomeness. “FRIDAY,” he said, “If you had a real body I would totally ask you to prom right now.”
“I’m certain the evening would be enjoyable.” said FRIDAY. “However, I wouldn’t want Ms. Brant to miss out.”
Ned blushed. “I told you that in confidence.”
Meanwhile, lured by the irresistible twin sirens of Vintage Cars and Slacking Off Work, Mr. Stark wandered in, and joined in conference with Peter over the engine block. As it turned out, the Ferrari was going to need a lot more work than they’d originally thought. They’d need to get in some parts they didn’t already have before continuing much further with the engine. It was decided that Peter would finish up there while Mr. Stark rolled under and looked at the brake lines. They were a mess.
FRIDAY was also being uniquely unhelpful to everyone. Ned (he’d succumbed to the temptation of old habits quickly and gone to notify Peter of his impending doom) couldn’t get a text out. The files on Flash’s phone had become mysteriously corrupted--none of his illicit photos or videos would make it out of the building. And as for Peter and Mr. Stark? Their ‘work’ had slowed down into something that involved minor poking around (Peter) or lying on the creeper doing nearly nothing (Mr. Stark). FRIDAY was quite proud of her role in causing the situation. Hopefully she could arrange for a meeting between those groups.
The other person FRIDAY was being unhelpful to was Ms. Potts. Pepper didn’t blame her though, since she was well aware of Tony’s slacking abilities. Since the man was supposed to be dealing with actual work he would obviously be squirreled away somewhere with Peter tinkering, and FRIDAY was basically incapable of snitching on her creator or surrogate brother, which meant that Pepper would need to find them the old fashioned way. She’d start with his personal labs and then check the part of the basement that bore a shocking resemblance to an auto-shop. If she didn’t find him either of those places, she might have to do something drastic, like ask for Peter’s help the next couple of days. Putting Peter somewhere was an almost guaranteed method of getting Tony to show up there, and Pepper wasn’t above using that fact for the good of the company. (Tony’s board meeting attendance had skyrocketed as soon as Pepper asked Peter to shadow her. It was genius.)
Meanwhile, on the tour, Ned was actually managing to act cool around an actual data scientist. This was because the part of his mind generally dedicated to awed fanboyishness was currently occupied with contemplating the impending peterpocalypse. It was going to be a disaster of epic proportions.
“Five bucks says he freaks out so bad he briefly forgets how to human.” came a voice from right beside Ned’s ear.
Ned jumped, before realizing it was just MJ. “No bet.” he said. “He forgets how to human when the toaster pops. No way will he survive us being here without glitching out like a Bethesda game.”
“What are you idiots talking about.” said Flash, butting in where he wasn’t wanted. Clearly he’d been listening the whole time. Ned reminded himself about situational awareness for the forty-fifth time just that day..
“Taking bets on Peter’s reaction when he finds out about this field trip.” said MJ, cleverly giving away nothing while telling the absolute truth. Ned had to admire that skill, even if it didn’t mitigate the coming trainwreck.
“Five bucks says he throws a tantrum like a little baby when he finds out the jigs up about his fake internship.” said Flash. “They told us at the very beginning that all the interns are college aged.”
MJ rolled her eyes. “Five bucks says you’re the one throwing the tantrum.”
Flash smirked. “Done.” he said. “Whoever whines loses.”
“All right!” said the peppy tour guide. “The next part of the tour will be the testing rooms. These are where we test the prototypes we machine in-house, as well as build larger models or troubleshoot larger processes. They were originally part of the Avengers section, and are even Hulk-proof! I know it’s going to be cool, but you have to remember the NDA’s. No photos or videos, and if you accidentally see a company secret, don’t tell anybody.”
The whole class nodded. This was the part they were most excited about. They might have been surrounded by science the entire tour, but that would be where the science that went boom went.
“We’re doomed.” muttered Ned.
Four minutes later, the class was set free to walk through the observation corridor above the testing rooms. Within two minutes, they were congregated all together around the window to one of the least impressive projects--a completely normal car. That wasn’t what they were looking at though.
“Is that…” said one girl.
“Peter Parker.” whispered someone else.
Flash made a Noise. It bore a shocking similarity to the sort of noise one would make when kicked in the nuts. MJ started drawing.
“Oh my god.” said another girl. “He’s like… shredded.”
“I mean, he was cute, in an awkward way,” said girl 1 (Ned really needed to learn the names of his classmates) “But now he’s…”
“Yum.” said the other girl. The sentiment seemed to be accepted by most of the class, even the straight males.
“Short shorts work on him.”
“Okay but you’re ignoring the important part. He’s here, at Stark Industries guys. That whole internship thing isn’t a fake. Do you have any idea how wild that is?”
“He’s like a genius Abe. We all half expected the internship to be real. Suddenly developing a six pack is way more impressive.”
“Do you think he actually knows Spider-man?”
“Fuck that, do you think he knows Iron Man.”
“No way. Interns are small fry. Even if he met him it would be more of a handshake-and-move-on thing than actually knowing the dude.”
“I don’t know. He did say he knows Spider-man, and we know Spider-man knows Iron Man. That’s like… way closer of a connection than most of us have.”
Suddenly a commotion on the side of the room stopped all of the panicking, conversation, and admiration of Peter’s gorgeous ass as he leaned over the gorgeous car. (Ned was secure enough in himself to realize that Peter’s butt was an absolute work of art.) Pepper Potts had arrived on scene, and they could tell she was angry, even through the soundproof glass and large space.
Actually, Pepper was more than angry. She was furious. Steaming. Utterly livid. Her absolute idiot of an ex-boyfriend was cheating out on work (again), and yet she wouldn’t even get to yell at him properly because she’d been telling him to a) take more time for himself, and b) connect more with those who loved him for ages now, so he had an absolutely stellar excuse. Making her job even more difficult was Actual Puppy Dog Peter Parker’s huge doe eyes lighting up in utter delight upon seeing her.
“Hi Pepper!” he said, “What are you doing down here?”
Pepper melted like a Popsicle on a hot day. “Hi Peter, I’m just looking for Tony. I’ve got a couple things for him that are pretty urgent.”
“Anything I can help with?” asked Peter.
“I’m afraid not.” said Pepper.
“And besides.” said Tony, emerging from under the Ferrari like some kind of mythic car god emerging from the deeps. “You’re on light duty until Arizona. Science Fairs are a big deal cucciolo.”
Peter snorted. “Like I’m capable of doing my presentation anything but perfectly. You drilled me way too many times for that Mr. Stark.”
“Practice makes perfect.” said Tony.
Pepper smiled angelically down at Tony who was still lying on the creeper. “Why don’t you be a good example then and come review the release presentation for the new watch model then? That one certainly deserves perfection.”
Tony sighed, and even while moping dramatically Pepper thought he looked the happiest he’d been in a long while. (She had a suspicion it had to do with proximity to one Peter Parker)
“Fine.” he said, rolling to his feet to the accompaniment of several rather painful sounding back cracks. “Why don’t you finish up in here and then come upstairs?” he said to Peter. “I can show you how a press release works.”
“Shower first though.” said Pepper. “Both of you. The next person who gets motor oil on my office furniture gets to do my taxes. And let me tell you, I’ve made a lot of poorly documented charitable donations this year.”
“Yes ma’am” said Peter earnestly. Tony rolled his eyes.
“I’m giving you time to escape cucciolo. Do it while you can.” he said, ruffling Peter’s fluffy curls with his filthy hand.
“Hey!” said Peter.
“Get to a good stopping point Peter, and don’t rush.” said Pepper. “It will be a while before we get to the good part.” Then she herded Tony out of the room, and pretended not to notice him mouthing ‘save me’ over his shoulder at Peter.
None of them noticed their shocked observers during that interaction. Peter didn’t even notice afterwards for several minutes. In fact, he didn’t notice until he’d closed the hood and turned to leave. He’d noticed someone watching for a while but hadn’t paid attention. When things were boring in between tests, people admired the car. It happened. Still, they’d been watching for a while, and at the end he glanced up to see who it was, only to make eye contact with twenty-four pairs of familiar eyes.
“I’m sorry.” whispered Ned. MJ, long finished with the Flash drawing, started up again--this time with the subject of Peter.
Peter, meanwhile, put a large hand-print shaped dent into the edge of one of the worktables and briefly forgot how to walk.
Chapter 2: A FUCKING BOMB HAPPENS
Okay, I reread the prologue and now I want to write the Taco Bell Incident.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The whole thing started right after first time Peter’s suit got… blown up.
“Karen, what do I do… I think I broke it… this is all my fault I’m so sorry I just… I’m so sorry what do I do…”
“Peter.” Karen’s soft voice broke through his spin-cycle of worry like a knife through butter. He had been conditioned through hundreds of incidents to know that when she spoke up it was because she had a solution, and that usually meant that the problem would go away. As soon as he relaxed, she continued. “There is a protocol in place for this. In the case of your suit becoming so damaged that it cannot be fixed by you yourself a time-slot will be automatically created in Mr. Starks schedule for you to bring it in for repairs. This qualifies.”
“Karen no! It’s not that bad. I’m sure I can fix it. Here, just let me…” he fumbled about on his desk for a pair of pliers, something to smooth out the mess of wires that surrounded the frankly enormous area on the left side where the suit was so destroyed as to be nearly non-existent.
“Peter, there is no way to replace the damaged sections with existing materials without compromising the integrity of the suit. You are instructed to report to the Tower at seven tomorrow morning, as that is the only time available before Mr. Stark flies to Nigeria. I suggest treating your wounds and getting some sleep.”
Peter sighed. Karen was right. He just didn’t know how exactly he was supposed to face Mr Stark a mere week after having his suit returned to him with an instruction to ‘take care of it’ when he’d been so stupid as to get it damaged in the first place. He followed Karen’s instructions, however, since really there was nothing better to do, pulling out his almost comically enormous med kit out from under his bed and digging through it to find what he needed--a custom made burn bandage system he called a jelly roll, which he’d synthesized after his first building fire as Spider-man. His suit had taken most of the shrapnel, and he’d picked out the rest before starting on his suit so all he needed to do was burn care.
After cleaning the wound, which involved copious swearing, he unrolled the jelly roll and smoothed it over the affected area which reached from the bottom of his ribs to halfway down his thigh, holding it in place until the exudation from his burn activated the hydrocolloid and it began to work, soothing the heat into a moist coolness and beginning the process of healing. It was time to begin the scant four hours of sleep he had before he would need to get up in the morning. Mr. Stark’s schedule waited for no one, not even Mr. Stark.
Peter woke up just after six, got ready for school, and then hopped onto the 7 train at Lowery St Station towards Manhattan without paying a fare. (Paying for things? In this economy?) The truly optimal location of his apartment in relation to the subway meant that it only took half an hour including waiting and walking for him to reach Grand Central, which bore the dubious fortune of being the next door neighbor of Stark Tower. There he paused.
“Karen. Karen. What do I do.” he said, talking into his phone so as to not seem like a fool while accessing the stripped down AI’s unique capabilities through the earpiece that came with the Spider-man suit. (detached, because Peter refused to use her only with the mask on and had no respect for anything).
“Proceed to Mr. Starks personal lab on the 106th floor of the building.” said Karen.
“I can’t just walk into Stark Tower” hissed Peter. “They want things like… badges. Yeah. Badges.”
Peter got the distinct impression that if Karen had been human, or even properly sentient, she would have sighed. “The underside of the lip should, at this time, be climbable without high visibility from commuters, though I must suggest haste. Sunrise is in twelve minutes.” she said, after a bare second of hesitation.
“Thanks” said Peter. Then he slipped around to the less used side of the tower, and began to climb, skittering up the groove between the two sections of the edifice and depending solely on his grey hoodie for anonymity. Luckily, no-one saw him, which was a miracle, it being New York. Eventually he ended up on the helipad, which was only a bit down from the 106th floor, which would have to be good enough.
He stood there, awkwardly, for several seconds admiring the quin-jets before the playful Irish voice of Mr. Stark’s AI took pity on him and invited him in. “Mr. Parker.” she said. “You’re five minutes early. Boss is just upstairs.”
“Thank you ma’am” said Peter, unsure of the AI’s preferred form of address.
“Friday is fine Mr. Parker.”
“Peter is fine Ms. Friday.” said Peter, his comeback automatic. Immediately afterwards he blushed and regretted it. Sassing the AI was probably not a good way to make a positive impression.
“The stairway to the lab is just over there, Peter.” said Friday. Unlike Karen, whose tone was always flat, she managed to inject some humor into the statement. Okay, maybe he hadn’t screwed up too badly. He had read in WIRED once that Mr Stark’s AI’s were refined enough to use humor. Karen wasn’t, not really, though she did have some pre-programmed jokes, but FRIDAY… Peter could see it.
As he descended the stairs his ears picked up the sounds of distant rock music; presumably Mr Stark was already in the lab. Hopefully they could get this over with quickly and with a minimum of embarrassment.
Then the lab doors open, the loud music hit him like a physical force, and every coherent thought he might have been having about the suit or Mr Stark flew out of the window. Until that moment all Peter had known was that the lab was on the 106th floor. Now… The lab was there. It was also on the 107th. And the 108th and 109th. It was enormous, ridiculously cluttered, and somehow still one of the most breathtakingly open and beautiful spaces Peter had ever had the privilege to enter.
The music shut off. “Kid?” asked Mr Stark from… somewhere.
“Ye… Yeah” Peter said, swallowing to get the dryness out of his throat.
Mr Stark laughed at him. “Get over here and let's see what the problem is.” he said.
Peter ascended the cantilevered glass staircase that spiralled around the central elevator as slowly as he could while still seeming to walk with purpose, gawking at everything around him. He was so busy doing so that he actually ran into Mr. Stark, smacking directly into his chest with force. “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, fuck, I didn’t mean to…” he trailed off, and blushed bright red at Mr. Stark’s laughing face. “Fuck,” he said again, quietly but with feeling.
“So. What exactly did you do to the suit I gave you?” asked Mr. Stark. He led Peter over to a remarkably clear table considering the state of the lab and idly gestured with his hand. Immediately a hologram of the suit blueprints appeared. “Lay it out and Fri can scan for issues.”
Peter nodded, still a bit in awe at being in Tony Stark’s lab, and then removed his (carefully folded, he wasn’t a heathen) suit from his ratty backpack.
“Wow.” said Mr. Stark as he laid it out, “That’s…”
“Yeah.” said Peter. “So it turns out that your ridiculously durable fabric is a lot less so when it’s been exposed to repeated rapid temperature changes and energy blasts. Like, don’t get me wrong it’s great, but…”
“I didn’t put it through stress testing for… what was it exactly that you were fighting?”
Peter sighed, and slumped against the table as he watched Mr Stark manipulate the hologram of the suit, examining the data from the scans and frowning as he tried to figure out what to do. “Well, you know how a couple weeks ago there was that dude who was stealing bunches of alien junk?”
Mr Stark’s face suddenly took on a strange expression, as if he’d aged thirty years in the space of a second. “How could I forget?”
Peter shivered for a moment, suddenly feeling the harsh press and unforgiving pain of an entire building. “Yeah. Yeah.” he said. “Anyway, well there kinda was like… a lot of already stolen tech, y’know? And like when I caught the Vulture, the rest of his people were all like ‘wow it’s time to skedaddle’, but obviously there’s no clear leadership at the moment and still a lot of weapons which they can’t exactly move because I mean, thousands of tons of alien shit. Not exactly something you can FedEx. So there's like… a bunch of random small groups of criminals with chitauri tech just lying around in various places, and the thing is that I have to get them fast or else they disappear.” Mr Stark made a face that Peter interpreted as meaning ‘YOU don’t have to get them, idiot, stick to churros’ “And I can’t just tell the police either!” protested Peter, not liking the implications brought up by Mr. Stark’s glare. “I tried to tip them off once, and the cache straight up disappeared overnight. I think that they’re still arguing over the tiny bits of evidence that are left. Obviously, they were warned by someone inside.”
“Several questions,” said Mr. Stark. “Firstly, if they’re so well hidden how are you finding them? Secondly, exactly how is this your job? And the other thing--how the fuck did you damage the suit this bad, and why do the ‘undamaged’ parts of it look like something out of MacGyver?”
Peter wilted a little bit, realizing that he’d been rambling. “I built a tracker for the energy signatures of the weapons, it’s my fault that the Vulture shit went down the way it did, and there was a bomb.” He didn’t address the MacGyver comment, not wanting to admit to the crimes he’d committed against the glorious work of engineering that was the Spider-man suit.
Mr. Stark’s tinkering stopped immediately once Peter finished, and his hands stilled. “A bomb?” he asked, voice quiet in a way that promised danger.
“I got hit by several energy blasts that took out all the suits tech while the guys were escaping, so I didn’t see it coming and they rigged the whole place to blow once they were gone. Luckily the place didn’t have anything volatile but still… Semtex. It sucks. Not as bad as that one weird green one that explodes with poisonous gas, but still.”
“Are you okay? Are you hurt?”
“FRIDAY run a scan.”
“Seriously?” said Peter. “I just said I’m fine. I was a little banged up but I treated it. Plus I’ve got, y’know, super freaky healing powers.”
“Mr Parker appears to be telling the truth.” said FRIDAY. “His vitals are normal, and though I cannot ascertain the nature of his injuries through their covering they appear to have been, at the very least, bandaged.”
“Shirt.” said Mr Stark, holding out his hand expectantly.
Since Peter was here to request free suit repairs, he felt obligated to do what Mr. Stark said and hand it over. Once he had, Mr Stark poked questioningly at the jelly roll. “What is this?” he asked.
Peter smiled a little inside, proud of his invention. “A customized hydrocolloid patch with a good antibiotic in it covered in a paper thin layer of flexible chitin. I call it the Jelly Roll. It’s like moleskin, but, y’know, for burn victims with super healing.”
“That’s not exactly a standard part of burn triage.” said Mr. Stark, frowning. Being a superhero, he probably had experience with that.
“Healing it isn’t the problem.” said Peter. “I mean, I have a pretty fast recovery time. The issue is that my spider healing works a lot faster than my stupid human body knows how to get rid of dead skin. If I don’t want to walk around as a heaping pile of necrotic flesh then autolytic debridement is the kindest option. I mean, helping the body get rid of it is way better than the alternative. I’m not immune to infection and I deeply hate taking scissors to myself trying to get rid of… things.”
“That’s… kind of gross.” said Mr. Stark. “But I guess you know what your doing and I imagine you’d want to avoid a doctor. Still… where did you get this stuff, it’s brilliant.”
Peter preened. Mr. Stark had never called him brilliant before. “I made it.” he said. “I mean, you can get half the stuff at a grocery store, and like… the school labs aren’t really spectacularly secured.”
“Huh,” said Mr Stark. “And the chitin? Why that? And where do you get it.”
“It was originally going to be a science fair project about biodegradable casts, but then I figured out that it’s pretty much a great all purpose building block for medical stuff. Also there's a seafood market near my apartment. Lots of crab shells. I go through an ungodly amount of hydrogen chloride stripping the calcium out though. Demineralization is the worst. Even worse than the deproteinization that comes after.”
“Well… that’s just.” Mr. Stark paused. “I forgot how smart you are.” He peeled up a corner of the roll, carefully watching Peter to make sure he wasn’t hurting him and poked at it a bit. “This is pretty cool. You should patent it.”
Peter laughed a bit at that. “It’s not that great!” he said.
Mr. Stark laughed. “No, really kid, your stuff is unique. When I built your suit I was mostly guessing on a lot of things because even with all my resources I couldn’t figure out how to make your web fluid, only how to modify it.”
“Really? It’s not that hard. I should give you the recipe.” said Peter.
“No, but you should set up a meeting with one of my lawyers to get the patents for it.” said Mr. Stark. Then he changed tack abruptly. “Can I see the wound?” he asked “You don’t have to… this looks fine, but I do worry.”
“Yeah.” said Peter after a couple seconds. “I was going to change it out at some point this morning anyway.” As he spoke, he hopped up on one of the tables and began to peel the bandage off, wincing slightly as the dead skin pulled away from the partially healed burn.
“Ick.” said Mr. Stark upon seeing the amount of dead nastiness on the bandage.
“I know right?” said Peter. “I’ll be healed up by tomorrow, but getting all this cleaned up is the worst.” He balled up the roll and stuck it into the bio-hazard bag that Mr Stark had produced from seemingly nowhere. Then he put on the new jelly roll with practiced motions. “So what can be done for the suit?” he asked.
“To be perfectly honest Peter it would be easier to make a new suit at this point.” said Mr. Stark. “This one’s clearly been through the wringer--and not just today. You’ve been repairing it yourself for smaller things haven’t you. And there are pieces missing. Did you use those in the repairs?”
“Yeah.” said Peter. “And, um, also for a couple other things. Like. I removed half the sensors of the diagnostic system. Because I needed them. To automate some parts of the web fluid production. And I cannibalized a few other things for my chitauri tech scanner.”
“Okay... That makes… sense. Next time though please don’t use the suit for that. Everything in it is there for a reason and you could have compromised your safety.” said Mr. Stark. Then he frowned and zoomed in on the web shooter scans as compared to the blueprints. “These are different.” he said.
Peter froze. It was one thing to admit to cannibalizing parts. Coming out and saying that he had the hubris to think he could improve something designed by Mr. Stark though… “I… uh. It… There was… and. Um” he said.
Mr Stark stared at him. “You improved them.”
“Sorry?” asked Peter.
“Not a question. And for your information in the rare event that someone comes along who can actually improve on my tech I generally hire them instead of getting angry. I’m not Hammer.”
“Oh.” said Peter. “I didn’t improve them that much. I just… increased efficiency. A bit. And since I use them all the time I’m in a good place to react to problems. It’s not like I just…” he gestured vaguely at the shooters.
“Again, not angry, job offer. Is this a dual chamber web system? It looks like you’ve moved to modifying the end stages of however your web production works instead of modifying them afterwards.”
“Um. Yeah.” said Peter. “Your web shooter combinations were great, but I figured out that it’s a lot easier to fine tune them this way. I can like, customize how long I need them to last now too, which is nice. I leave less used webbing lying around in the streets.”
“Excellent” said Mr. Stark. Then he devolved into a long series of questions and comments on everything from the shooters to what exactly Peter had done to the communications systems. As they worked, Peter slowly relaxed, and eventually he sort of forgot that it was Tony Fucking Stark beside him and just started manipulating the holograms to best demonstrate his points. It was a fun hour.
Ten minutes before the end Mr. Stark produced a brand new Spider-man suit from nowhere. “I made several basic ones before I started adding all the bells and whistles.” he said. “We can migrate most of the stuff over. Spider-man suit Mark III, better than the last and worlds better than the first awful onesie.”
“Really… a new suit, just like that.” said Peter in wonderment.
“Yeah.” said Mr. Stark, reaching for the eyepieces of the neatly disassembled suit on the table. “Just… Please come in to repair it instead of doing it at home. A lot of the reason the other one was damaged so badly in the explosion was that one of your suit components was duct tape. Also don’t take any parts off of it or change anything without running it by me first. Or FRIDAY. She’s pretty good with simulating possible problems.”
“Okay.” said Peter. “But fair warning, I damage it like… a lot, and I didn’t think you’d want me bothering you that much.”
“You do have access to my labs you know. You are technically my intern. No need to bother me on every little thing, just… show up for ‘work’”
Peter gasped horrified. “I can’t just… walk in. To your tower. And your labs. Thats…”
“Yes you can.” said Mr. Stark. “In fact… FRIDAY schedule a basic tour of the facilities for my new intern. For today if you can. Assign him to nothing but ‘special projects’ directly under me so he doesn’t get bogged down with work, but give him access to everything.”
Peter made a strange choking noise.
“Including the purse strings FRIDAY, for reasonable expenses. Don’t let him work with things out of dumpsters anymore.”
Peter’s distress became even greater, but Mr Stark just laughed at him. Then he sobered and touched Peter’s shoulder gently. “Hey, kid. Don’t make it weird. I just… ever since I gave you that suit I feel a little bit responsible for you. I don’t want you getting hurt. Especially if it’s something I could prevent just by giving you a basic lab set up and spare parts.”
“I….” said Peter. “Thank you Mr. Stark.”
“Yeah.” said Mr. Stark. The moment was a little bit uncomfortable. Then he looked at his watch and the tension shattered. “It’s 8:15, do you need a ride home? And are you going to be late for school?”
Peter squeaked in a panic. “Oh fuck, I am so dead. School starts in fifteen minutes and it’s, like an hour away.” he said as he frantically began to pack up his things that had ended up spread out over Mr. Starks lab tables, including his precious jerry-rigged chitauri scanner. He didn’t realize that Mr. Stark was helping him until the third time he was handed something. Then he squeaked again, because Tony Fucking Stark was helping him.
“An hour?” asked Mr Stark, a little bit surprised.
“Depending on train times and delays. I also have to run, like, a mile at the end. My school’s all the way over by Flushing Park.”
“I’ll drive you.” decided Mr. Stark. “I’m heading out to LaGuardia anyway. It’s on the way. We can pick up breakfast too since you’re already going to be late anyway.”
“What? Ah… hng.” said Peter, eloquently. His school wasn’t anywhere near the fastest route to LaGuardia, and breakfast?
“We’re not done with this conversation and I can hear your stomach from all the way over here. Let’s go.”
Mr. Stark then strode purposefully to the elevator, leaving Peter with no choice but to follow in his wake or be left behind as the incredibly fast elevator whisked its way to street level. It didn’t stop the entire way down, so Peter had no time to prepare before having to walk across the incredibly busy lobby right next to the company’s owner. It was an incredibly awkward experience, and because of his preternatural senses Peter could feel every single one of the many pairs of eyes that landed on him in curiosity. Luckily it was over quickly, and they walked straight out into the waiting open car doors of a black town car that magically pulled up as they were exiting the building. Happy, who was driving, glanced back at Peter sitting next to Mr. Stark with slight surprise, but didn’t comment.
Mr Stark rattled of a series of instructions to Happy, and then as they crossed Queensboro bridge he turned to Peter and started talking to him again, very carefully explaining exactly what rules he needed to follow and privileges he had as far as the tower and its labs were concerned. “The resources are there.” he said. “Use them.”
Then the conversation turned to other things, the principles of bio-mimicry as applied to engineering, the reasons for the ridiculous costs of the subway system, and how chitauri energy weapons worked. For the second time that morning Peter relaxed, scientific interest overriding hero worship. He was a little anxious that Mr. Stark was dumbing the conversation down for him, but even that faded in the face of finally getting an explanation about the inner workings of a chitauri energy core.
They bought ridiculously expensive breakfast sandwiches and coffee at a place in Rego Park, and when they arrived at his school, Peter realized that they’d been looping around a few blocks for nearly a half hour waiting for him and Mr. Stark to be done, which was strange. People didn’t generally wait on him. He did miss the entirety of first period English, of course but was totally worth it.
Also, this bonus chapter comes courtesy of my great impatience. You're welcome.
Directly after school, Peter was picked up once again by a dark town car containing Happy Hogan. He was a ridiculous bundle of nerves all the way to Stark Tower, unsure of what exactly he was supposed to be doing.
“Um, Happy?” he asked. Happy’s grunt wasn’t a reply but he took it as permission to continue anyway. “Is there like, a place I’m supposed to go, or like… I don’t know, an instruction manual or something?”
“I’ll take you in. You need to have your biometrics in the system anyway.”
“Okay. Thanks I guess.”
“Yes. Please. But, um… why? I mean, I thought you didn’t like me?”
“Unfortunately,” said Happy, “My job description at the moment includes keeping you nice and happy, and since I have been briefed on your inherent teenagerness…”
“Food.” said Peter, finishing the statement for him.
“We should make it quick though. You have an appointment with someone in human resources.” said Happy as he pulled into a convenient McDonald's drive-through.
“Yeah.” said Peter. “Get me like… a hundred nuggets dude. I am starving. Honey mustard for the sauce.”
Somehow even though Peter had specifically asked for a hundred nuggets he was still surprised when Happy ordered a hundred nuggets. Still, he wasn’t going to look a gift nugget in the mouth when he could eat it instead, so he attacked them happily. When they arrived at the tower Peter only had eighteen nuggets left and for almost the first time since he’d gotten his powers he was entirely full. It was… an unfamiliar experience to be entirely without the constant bite of hunger deep in his gut. It was not, however, unpleasant.
After stuffing the remainder of his nuggets into his backpack. Peter followed Happy into the building to the security checkpoint where he was required to submit to a truly enormous number of scans. Apparently FRIDAY liked to be able to tell who you were at all times in at least three different ways. Or maybe it was Happy that wanted that.
Once he was done getting all scanned in (including such measurements as weight distribution while walking and a cheek swab) Happy somehow wordlessly summoned an incredibly peppy woman in a chartreuse skirt suit.
“Hello and welcome to Stark Industries. We’re so glad to have you on the team.” she said. “My name is Celia and I am a personnel coordinator here--my job is to fix things so that everyone here can be at our best. Today, I’ll be showing you around and explaining how things work.”
“Um… thanks.” said Peter, eloquently.
“Great.” said Celia. She started in the direction of the elevators and Peter followed after her. “Our central R&D department--which has many labs located right here in Stark Tower--is organized very differently than a traditional corporate structure. Everyone is assigned to various projects according to their skillset. The project leader can pull employees from anywhere in the department to assist with their project team, and most projects are accomplished with entirely different groups of people, though there are groups that stay together. You are assigned to work directly under Dr. Stark himself on his special projects, but on the days that he doesn’t need you we can add you to the general worker pool. Lots of projects need fresh eyes or a helping hand, and I’m certain you’ll find a lot to do. Interns generally only get short term assignments, so finding someone who needs you for just a few hours will be easy.”
“Cool.” said Peter. “What sorts of projects are there?”
“Loads!” said Celia. “Generally though they’re divided into three types--Research Projects, which consist of pure scientific research, Development Projects, which are where we design and create new products, and Implementation Projects which focus mostly on creating and improving the technology that fabricates our products. You’d be surprised by how many prototypes can’t see the light of day before someone figures out an entirely new way of mass producing it in a cheaper, cleaner fashion.”
“I’m guessing you work on the third then?” asked Peter, noticing her longer explanation.
Celia laughed. “Yes. My job is generally to oversee several projects at once and make sure that they’re getting what they need to succeed while coordinating with other areas of the company. Lot’s of arguing with accounting for more funds, but what can you do? Right now I’m working mostly with a team trying to improve carbon fiber production methods. They’re spinning it out of smoke! The only problem is trying to create a system that can do that en mass.”
“Oh I think I’ve heard of that. There was a paper on it I think, but they could only do it in small batches.”
“Exactly.” said Celia. “The science of it goes over my head, but mostly I just need to make sure they don’t accidentally kill themselves via smoke inhalation. Oh look--we’re here.”
The elevator doors slid open with a ting, and FRIDAY’s voice came out of the ceiling. “63rd Floor: Planning Division Headquarters”
“This is where the process starts,” said Celia. “Anyone can propose a project, and this floor is where the ideas get bounced around and we decide which ones we’re going to do, and the logistics of doing them. Here, come see…”
Over the next hour Peter was taken through the whole R&D process, all the way to the end where Celia pointed out the Intellectual Property Division in the north building, which was a rather large subset of Legal. “I know the whole thing is a little bit overwhelming,” she said at the end while he sat across from her at her desk drinking a soda, “but being managed by an omnipresent AI gives the advantage of being able to ask what to do at any time. FRIDAY will always be able to direct you to where you need to go. Although… shoot.” she stopped talking and rummaged through her desk until she came up with a clear plastic container. Inside it was a tiny white headset scarcely larger than an earbud. “Here. FRIDAY’s mic’s are in most of the tower, but it’s easier for her to understand you if you have one on you. Plus, it means she can talk to you directly. Most of us wear one of these all the time at work.” She moved her mass of curly hair so Peter could see hers in her left ear. “Convenient isn’t it.” she said.
“Yeah, it is.” said Peter. He put his in. “Hello FRIDAY.”
“Hi Peter.” said FRIDAY directly into his ear. He smiled.
Celia grinned at him. “I guess that’s it for today.” she said. “FRIDAY will figure out your schedule and tell you where to go next time you come in.”
“Great.” said Peter. “Thank you for helping me today.”
“Anytime honey,” said Celia. “It’s what they pay me for.”
“Well in that case I’ll see you around.” said Peter.
“I guess you will.” said Celia. “Bye now.”
“Bye” said Peter as he walked away to the elevator. His first day as an Actual Official Stark Intern was complete and he’d never been happier in his life.
Well… maybe when he’d met Mr. Stark for the first time, but still. Pretty dang happy.
The day after his tour, Peter went up to Mr. Stark’s lab and finished integrating everything into the new suit. Then he upgraded a few things he’d been thinking about fixing. Then he puttered around with the functions of the holographic OS that was run on all the lab computers. When he reached a point where he was literally creating a list of Things I’d Like to Build in This Lab, he realized that he really ought to actually work. See, Peter had decided that he was going to do at least an hour of actual intern work for every hour he spent using Mr. Stark’s lab. He didn’t want to just… freeload, and this way he felt like he was giving back, at least a little.
“Hey FRIDAY,” he said, “Do you have any jobs for me?”
“Hmm.” said FRIDAY. “There are several options suited to your skill set. I recommend going to floor 78. Dr. Curtiss has requested assistance with the assembly of several prototype prosthetics. Specifically she requested ‘someone with puny hands who isn’t an idiot.’
Peter bounced up with an ecstatic grin. “Whoa. That’s so cool.” he said.
“Absolutely.” said FRIDAY. “Would you like to read up on the project before you go?”
“Yeah,” said Peter. FRIDAY obligingly pulled up the blueprints, and he looked them over for a good ten minutes before he felt ready to go help. He also asked a lot of questions.
As soon as he thought he had a vague grasp of what was going on, Peter took the elevator down. The doors opened to an enormous robotics laboratory that took up the whole floor and some rather impressive swearing. “Just Fucking FIT TOGETHER already, oh my god. This is ridiculous I didn’t sign up for this shit why the hell… FRIDAY where is the nice tiny person you were going to send me?”
“Mr. Parker has arrived and is ready to assist.” said FRIDAY, smugly.
Dr. Curtiss--for that was who it had to be--whirled around. “Oh thank god.” she said. Then she did a double take upon seeing Peter. “Wait, Fri, did you send me a fucking twelve year old?”
“No,” said FRIDAY calmly. “Mr. Parker is fourteen, and an intern.”
“Hi,” said Peter, waving shyly.
“Oh what the hell, get over here kid.” said Dr. Curtiss.
Peter hopped to it with alacrity, and soon they were assembling the prototype at speed. He wasn’t entirely sure, but Dr. Curtiss seemed generally pleased by his work, so his nerves slowly dissipated. Then he noticed an error in the design and they came back full force.
“Um…” he said. “Uh…”
“Spit it out kid.” said Dr. Curtiss.
Peter sighed “Um, well. I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job, and obviously you’re better at this than me, and like I’m not qualified or anything, but, um, is this supposed to go there because I feel like that’s a little counter-intuitive and also not how a hand works.”
Dr Curtiss stared at the arrangement of tiny servos in the mess of wiring. Then she swore eloquently for half a minute, cursing out the engineers who’d designed that particular piece. At the end she sighed. “This is why we can’t have nice things. FRIDAY pull up the blueprints.”
Once this had been accomplished, she started trying to get everything aligned correctly. Unfortunately, she couldn’t do it without creating an enormous lump sticking out of the side of the hand. She became more and more frustrated and vulgar. Meanwhile, Peter’s hands were twitching. He knew how to fix it and he didn’t want to overstep and… “Ung” he gulped, making a small abortive gesture at the blueprints when she arranged things in a particularly inefficient way.
Dr Curtiss glared at him. “How would you do it then?” she asked. She didn’t seem angry though, just frustrated--and also curious.
Peter put everything to rights in only a few minutes while she looked at him speculatively. Of course, he didn’t handle stares well and began babbling. “I… uh. I think the problem here is that whoever designed this didn’t know a lot about anatomy? Like… they thought ‘hey this is how a hand moves, and then tried to do that without looking at the original system, even though, y’know, hands are already pretty well designed. It’s weird though, because some parts of this are actually really accurate, and brilliant. Like, this segmented wrist system… it’s pretty much just a wrist and that’s super cool. The thumb though… It’s… jacked up dude. Like… that’s not how a thumb works. Or… I think so? I’m not like… a doctor or anything. Um. Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize” said Dr. Curtiss. “At the very least you couldn’t make it worse.”
Peter stared for a couple seconds at the shitty thumb on the prototype. “Yeah. he said. It does suck. Like a lot.”
Dr. Curtiss snorted and then showed him where the spare parts were kept in this area of the lab so they could implement his solution. An hour later they were finished, and a gleaming metal arm sat on the workbench in front of them. “Thanks kid.” she said. “My whole project team missed that. It’ll save us time in the future.”
“Really?” said Peter.
“Yeah.” said Dr. Curtiss. “Before we can even think about sticking this on a person, or even figuring out how to connect it to them, we have to go through tons of these prototypes. We make one, test it, fix the problems in the design, and then make another. Over and over. You fixed that before we could go through that whole process again.”
“Cool.” said Peter. “So do you have, like, a whole giant box of arms?”
“Nah.” said Dr. Curtiss. “This is only version three, so we only have two other ones.”
“But you will have a giant box of arms” said Peter. “So my question stands.”
“I guess.” said Dr. Curtiss. “The testing for this one will be done on Thursday, so the whole team is meeting at around five pm to head back to the drawing board. If your schedule’s free you should come. Who knows, you might notice something else.”
“I don’t know if I’m the best for that. I mean, I only noticed because I got bored in class last week and flipped through a lost anatomy textbook. I’m sure you have someone who knows more than that.”
“Yeah I do, but he doesn’t know enough about engineering to be able to see these sorts of mistakes before they show up in testing. Just show up kid. If nothing else it’ll be a learning experience.”
“If you’re sure.” said Peter. He was nervous though. He felt like he was going to just be useless and let her down if he showed up, but she was a project leader and he was an intern so it really wasn’t his place to complain.
“There’ll be Chinese food. It’ll be fun.” said Dr. Curtiss.
Peter giggled a bit, and then thanked her for the learning opportunity. After that he extracted himself quickly. It was just about time to go home if he wanted to get his homework done and go on patrol.
On Wednesday morning, Peter downloaded all the information he could find via Karen on the prosthetics project and related topics, and ported it onto his kindle. For some reason, despite being anal about phones in class, Midtown Science was rather lax about e-readers, a loophole that Peter exploited as much as he could. During his classes he did his work as quickly as possible and then plowed through the information as fast as he could, which if he did say so himself was pretty fast. By the time school let out, he knew at least the basics of the robotics they were doing, as well as how the programming worked and what obstacles would need to be overcome for it to be a success. He also memorized everything he could find about the human arm. The one problem he found was that the more he learned, the more he thought about the prototype he’d assembled the day before. It wasn’t so horribly complicated that he’d forgotten anything, and his brain wanted to go a million miles an hour on how to make it better, faster, more efficient.
Peter firmly told himself to stop. He did however type up a list of his ideas at lunch, so there was that.
After school, he hopped onto a train in the direction of Stark Tower almost on autopilot. He hadn’t exactly planned to go there but… It was like a siren’s call of science summoning him to revel in its glory. Really, he was powerless to resist. And crime happened more in the late evening anyway, so he didn’t have to patrol until then.
As he walked in the front door he stuffed his earpiece into his ear and was greeted by FRIDAY. He nodded at the receptionists he passed and stepped into the elevator with six other people. They traveled up the building, and the number of people dwindled until it was just him heading towards the top floors that were Mr. Stark’s private sanctuary. A knot of nervous tension (he felt like an impostor, standing there in an elevator with actual Stark Industries scientists when he was just… Peter) released, and when he stepped out into the lab he let out a literal sigh of relief. “Hey, uh, FRIDAY?” he asked. When he’d arrived, he suddenly realized that he was literally invading Mr. Stark’s space. And he didn’t even have a suit reason today so… “When will Mr. Stark get back from his trip?”
“Boss will be landing at LaGuardia airport at 11 pm on Friday evening.”
“Okay. Cool.” said Peter. That meant he had (sort of) free reign of the lab until then. Obviously he wasn’t going to just come in when Mr. Stark was there because… reasons. Until then though. “Can you pull up whatever you have on my Chitauri tracking device? I want to improve it today, since it’s not really that great yet.”
“Of course Peter.” said FRIDAY.
They worked together on the device for an hour and a half. Then FRIDAY randomly interrupted him. “I couldn’t help but notice that you seem to be exhibiting signs of low blood sugar and took the liberty of ordering pizza for you. It will be arriving at the front desk in about two minutes. Do you want to authorize me to send someone up to give it to you, or will you go down to retrieve it yourself?”
“Uh” said Peter. On the one hand, he was starving. On the other, he really didn’t want to freeload off of Mr Stark any more than he already was. At the same time though (was it a third hand?) it would be really impolite to refuse and kind of weird if he just let the pizza sit at the front desk unclaimed. “I’ll go get it, thanks.”
The elevator doors opened, which was FRIDAY’s way of telling him to get a move on.
After he consumed both pizzas, the guilt began weighing on him heavily, until he simply needed to go do something to help before he drowned under it. “Got any work for me?” he said, then paused and realized that he deeply did not want to leave the lab couch. “Maybe something I can do in here?”
“Of course Peter.” said FRIDAY.
That day, no less than eight different projects received feedback they’d requested on problems they were having. Unbeknownst to Peter, all eight sets of comments, improvements, questions, and ideas were stamped ‘P. Parker’. If he had known, he perhaps would have been a bit less confident in his ideas and suggestions. Unfortunately for him, he did not, and so had no problems writing such harsh comments as ‘This hypothesis is working off an incorrect premise. Refer to flagged papers in database for relevant research.’ Much later, an embarrassed Peter would find that all the scientists he had assisted were very impressed with the mysterious P. Parker, if a bit ashamed to be roasted like that by a fourteen year old…
A Selection of Internal Messages from Stark Industries
You remember how I said I got that intern? And you told me it would never last and I had to bribe you to make you sign off on it and promise progress reports to make sure I wasn’t killing the kid? Well now you know, I was right (again). He’s brilliant.
Attached: 12 files
Why did you just send me a picture of a teenager and nine exclamation points. Is there something I should know?
Also--please stop ignoring my texts you dickwad. I’m in PT not dead.
To: JCox, MWhitney, ABranson, PDevaille
Subject: Project feedback
As you well know, our project was on review due to our lack of progress. The good news is that it’s back on. The bad news is that our lack of progress was because we messed up on something that’s apparently obvious. (I still don’t think it was, but fresh eyes see differently so who knows).
Anyway, we now have a new project contributor. FRIDAY says he’s willing to review all major points going forward, so hopefully we won't experience any more major blocks. That said, it was a bit embarrassing to need some New York hotshot to correct an issue from so early in our design process. I think I speak for all of us when I say that moving forward we all want to do better. Next time let’s blow the socks off our new friend,
Now that the issue is solved, it becomes clear that the basic premise of the secondary [read more]
Introducing: Proud Dad (tm) Tony STARK!
Chapter 4: PETER GETS PRETTY FUCKING OBSESSED
HAPPY NATIONAL INTERN DAY! Have an extra bonus chapter courtesy of National Intern Day (regular weekly updates will continue despite this). Peter is very excited, since he is in fact an intern.
The next day, the time of the dread meeting with Dr. Curtiss’ people had arrived. It wasn’t until five though, so instead of sitting around and worrying Peter decided to go be helpful somewhere else. He ended up mediating an argument between two programmers about whose fault an enormous issue in the security of their project was. Fortunately, it was something Ned had mentioned one time, and Peter had been curious enough to google it, so he knew enough to ask intelligent questions that redirected the argument into a discussion on finding a solution.
Once the programmers had their heads together and were ignoring him in favor of their program, he was able to pick up the paperwork he had actually been assigned to retrieve and courier over to the Legal department. (it was actually jarring to see paper in the high tech tower space, but apparently the government still liked signatures of legal documents on it so it was needed for some things)
Peter wasn’t sure exactly why this was the job he was given, but FRIDAY told him that she thought he could use the opportunity to familiarize himself with the other building, and he guessed that was a good enough reason.
The North Building, an enormous sixty storey edifice shaped like the outline around a cloud (there was a giant cloud shaped hole in the middle that contained nothing but the most enormous atrium he’d ever seen) was home to a lot of the departments that were kicked out of the tower itself when corporate headquarters had moved there from California and R&D had begun to metastasize through the building like an incredibly creative form of cancer. It contained Legal, Accounting, PR, Marketing and HR.
Peter, who was sick of elevators at this point, decided to wander up through the tower on his own two feet. It would have been a tedious journey, except that it was incredibly interesting to see all the little bits and pieces of Stark Industries whirling by in the bright colors and shining white of the North Building--which he now learned the workers jokingly called Cloud 9 because of how ‘heavenly’ it was to work there (he detected a distinct tone of sarcasm at the word heavenly though, so it might have meant something else)
Eventually, he arrived at Legal, and passed off his files at the receptionist desk. The receptionist thanked him, and then summoned an intern to take them the rest of the way. The other intern, a college age girl with an impressive weave eyed Peter. Peter eyed her right back. Then they both nodded. It was a strange interaction.
On his way back down, just as he was passing Marketing, in fact, Peter’s elbow was snagged by a lady in a bright pink blazer and black jeans. She seemed a bit scary, so he went with it all the way to a nearby cubicle where he was shoved down in the spare office chair.
“You’re in between twelve and eighteen right?”
“Um...yeah?” said Peter
“Yay. It is so hard to find people in the target demographic around here. I swear everyone in marketing is a boring adult. I’m the youngest person I know and I’m like twenty-seven.”
“So… what exactly do you need me for?” said Peter.
“We’re putting out a series of ads on social media for the new mobile network targeting younger generations. The only problem is… They suck.”
“Okay?” said Peter. “And I can help how?”
The lady sighed, looking defeated. “A lot of them use slang or references that nobody here can understand. We just don’t want to be laughed at for using a word wrong. FRIDAY claims that they’re all okay, but her sense of humor is suspect so… what do you know about memes?”
Peter gasped. This was his calling. “I am a certified meme-lord. I can totally help you.”
“Oh thank god. What’s your name again?”
“Uh Peter.” said Peter.
Then they had a conversation about memes (Peter created a ‘dankness’ scale and rated all of the proposed ads which were going undercover as memes on social media sites.) that lasted until four fifty. At that time FRIDAY chimed in his ear and told him that if he didn’t hurry he was going to be late for his meeting.
“Oh fuck!” he said. “I totally forgot, I have… a thing!”
“That’s fine. I’ve taken up a lot of your time anyway.” said the lady (her name was Sarah, though Peter had to be reminded of this no less than four times) “But, can I use you again sometime? Getting social media hyped for new products is really important.”
“Yeah sure.” said Peter. “Just tell FRIDAY when you need me again, I guess, and I’ll try to come. If I’m not, like, busy or anything.”
“Great.” said Sarah. “Now Shoo. Whoever you’re meeting with is probably missing you.”
Peter grinned at her, and then ran as fast as he could without looking enhanced over to the tower, ending up walking through the doors of the prosthetics lab only a minute late.
“Oh good. You’re here” said Dr. Curtiss. “The tests… did not go well.”
A guy in a Tabasco t-shirt straight up laughed at her when she said that. “Not well?” he said. “The tests were a fucking disaster is what they were. The dumb thing tore itself apart just trying to move into position!”
“Shut up Herrera. We are a positive family here, and that means we always act like the glass is half full.” said Dr. Curtiss.
“Full of shit maybe.” said Herrera.
Someone arrived with the Chinese food, and all eight people (none of which Peter had been introduced to except Dr. Curtiss herself) started to argue about what went wrong. The test footage and data was tossed around over the conference table and the holoprojector overhead got a good workout as people compared ideas. Peter mostly listened wide eyed while doodling on the table with a stylus he’d nabbed the day before while reviewing plans.
“Right.” said Dr. Curtiss at one point. The Lo Mein was gone, and thus one of the major sources of contention had been eliminated, leaving a much calmer group. “It looks like we’ve narrowed down the problem areas. Lets focus on those one at a time starting with the overheating problem in the control circuits. Does anyone have any ideas?”
There was an instant outcry of suggestions, comments and swearing. Several plans were started, but dissolved quickly into glowing scribbles as people became frustrated. “A fan system wouldn’t work Simon!” cried Herrera (?) “It’s not a nice square computer box that you can stick a fan on and blow everything out. There isn’t enough airflow. And besides, it needs to be watertight.”
“Better than your idea. Treating the entire thing like a refrigerator would make it cost as much too, and that’s not what we’re here for.”
“Um, well actually” Peter said, very quietly. No one listened. “I ah… well. Er.” he cleared his throat a bit. He did have an idea, but no one was listening. “FRIDAY?” he asked, as his last hail Mary. He didn’t exactly want to step into their territory, but at the same time… he’d totally doodled a solution.
FRIDAY wordlessly pulled up his drawing, which she’d helpfully rendered in 3D. It detailed a series of tiny channels that would circulate the hot air inside into a tiny area with a smaller version of Simon’s cooling system. The cool air would then be pumped directly back onto the overheating circuits. He’d had also detailed a slight adjustment of the surrounding robotic muscles which would hopefully reduce the insulating effect they were having.
“Oh yes, see this, this is what I’m talking about.” said Simon. He glared at Herrera, “Whose idea was it anyway?”
“Um. It was mine?” said Peter. “Well, actually, it was both of you guyses, but I just put them together, so uh… yeah.”
“I knew Dr. Curtiss invited you for a reason.” someone murmured. Then they went back to arguing about the cooling system, making several improvements to his design. Occasionally Peter would input on the conversation, and they’d actually listen to him. It was wonderful.
Project 2157 Group Chat
Si-moan: Who TF is this kid?
Nowayjose: yeah seriously, where’d he come from
CurtCurt: He’s an intern actually
Jan-Jam: Really? No way he's like 12
CurtCurt: I requested someone to come help with assembly
CurtCurt: Specifically someone with small hands
CurtCurt: Apparently FRIDAY thought I said prepubescent
Nowayjose: Glad we got him though. That prototype was a mess.
Si-moan: Because someone fucked up the actuator placement
Nowayjose: Like you didn’t do worse.
Darling.Jane: Hey, shut up you two, we’re talking about the munchkin. I want to know where he came from, cuz the only other interns are college students and…
CurtCurt: I don’t actually know what the deal is
CurtCurt: Some kind of child genius???
CurtCurt: He’s definitely smart enough to be in college
Jan-Jam: Is that even legal though? To hire that young?
CurtCurt: Internships are different
Si-moan: yeah, I started as an intern.
Si-moan: Basically if he doesn’t work too much and learns a lot its fine
Si-moan: Shame he’s not an employee though
Si-moan: Bc he deserves a bonus
Darling.Jane: Definitely. Y’know, I could probably ask around about him
Darling.Jane: I know a chick in HR who monitors some of the interns
Nowayjose: you mean the one you totally want to bang
Darling.Jane: Shut up
Darling.Jane: And here I was trying to help
CurtCurt: Actually that’s a good idea. If we all ask around someone might find something
CurtCurt: I mean, the kid’s pretty distinctive
CurtCurt: He’s the sort of intern you remember
Jan-Jam: Great. Let’s stalk the twelve yr old. This will go fantastically.
MimiChan: Hey, while y'all were arguing, finn and i found a fix for the coding problem
MimiChan: So we could like, do our jobs and stuff
Nowayjose: you are no fun.
That night, over a meal of burned meatloaf, May accosted him. “Where have you been these last couple days?”
“I got involved with a project at my internship.” said Peter. “It’s pretty cool and I…”
“Really Peter? The internship? Hasn’t that already taken your life over enough?”
“What do you mean?” asked Peter. “I… It’s been really great, especially the past week.”
“Well… you know that I worry, and I just--I feel like it’s not exactly been the best thing for you. You’re a brilliant kid, and I agreed to it because I knew that you’d learn a lot, but learning isn’t everything, and it’s caused a lot of upset in your life. I mean, at the very beginning you quit both band and robotics club, and now decathlon too? All your extracurriculars have evaporated; not to mention the whole upset where you thought you’d lost it--and I still want details on that, by the way.” She sighed. “I wasn’t going to say anything, but this week… Peter this is the first time all week we’ve even had an actual conversation. I know my work schedule is terrible, but still, I feel like we should be doing better than this.”
“Oh… I,” said Peter, “I didn’t know you felt that way. I guess I just got so caught up in it like… today I was in a brainstorming meeting with a bunch of scientists--actual scientists--and I had a few ideas about the project, and they actually listened. Like, there is an actual Stark Industries product that has a part in it that I helped design. It’s… the best thing ever.”
May sighed. “And the part where you thought you’d lost it?” she said.
“I screwed up with some of the stuff I got to work with, and ended up creating a situation where people could have gotten hurt… after that they said they were going to re-review whether I was a good fit for the program and well… It’s really hard to get an internship, and a lot of people want one and… really the only reason I got to stay was that Mr. Stark took a personal interest in me--because of one of the projects I was doing. Apparently I impressed him.”
“Hmm.” said Aunt May. She paused for a few seconds, somewhere in between glaring and looking proud. “I guess you can stay in it, but I have conditions.”
Peter had been unaware that her permission was on the line, so at that he froze. He really hoped that those conditions weren’t horrible.
“One, you’re home for dinner on all the days I’m not working during that time. Two, you hang out with a friend for at least three hours a week, three, you keep your grades up. And Pete, those aren’t the only reasons I would stop this. If I see anything--anything at all--that I don’t like then it ends instantly.”
“Yeah. Okay.” said Peter “I can do that. I won’t screw up Aunt May.”
“You’d better not.” said May, “Because I really wasn’t kidding. The instant something slips, you’re out mister. I don’t like Stark one bit, and I like you working so young even less.”
Peter sighed. “Yeah yeah.” he said. His mind had already moved on to more important things, like electrical engineering.
Chapter 5: FUCKING HORROR MOVIE EXTRAS
In which Peter kills somebody, except not really, except... actually I kind of need to talk about the ethics of killing people who are both brain-dead and mind controlled now.
Friday night was a big night for Peter. After his horrible Thursday conversation with Aunt May, he’d gone out patrolling, and his upgraded scanners (he’d actually managed to integrate them with the suit) had found a rather large cache of Chitauri… stuff. He’d decided to go after it Friday, and had been preparing practically since school let out.
Now, he was ready. He’d upgraded his suit, done research on the area, gotten into a long email conversation about a bio-engineering project with a scientist in Toronto who he’d given feedback to on Wednesday, and watched seven vine compilations. Plus, he’d stashed extra medical supplies in his kit and cleared his whole schedule for the weekend, having no illusions about the likelihood of coming out of this with no injuries. Really he was about as prepared as he could possibly be.
“Right.” he said to himself. “Let's do this.”
“Absolutely” said Karen, whose programming wasn’t quite advanced enough to understand the gravity of the situation.
Then he swung in through the window in the second storey of the warehouse, a building that apparently only seemed abandoned. He’d sealed all the exits he could find from the outside, and now the only thing left was to incapacitate everyone inside and call the police.
Unfortunately, Peter was very very wrong about what he’d be facing. Instead of swinging into a cache of weapons and a couple guards, he ended up in a room full of beds, each one with a person on it. There were, in fact a few guards, but they seemed a little bit taken aback and didn’t react immediately. “Surprise, it’s me.” said Peter. He may not know what was going on, but he definitely wasn’t going to let that stop him.
The guards rushed at him, and he webbed their weapons out of their hands as quickly as he could. Then he snuck evasively around them, getting in hits and webs when he could until they were all knocked out and stuck to various places on the floors and walls. It was over in only thirty seconds.
Once it was done, he breathed a sigh of relief. None of the people in beds had stirred, and Peter guessed that something was wrong with them. Whatever it was, they weren’t dangerous and he was here now to fix it. Everything would be okay.
As he approached the first bed, he went wide eyed in horror. The person--and he couldn’t actually tell whether they were female or male--had things embedded into their head. Specifically chitauri tech. It was like a b-rate sci-fi film and Peter couldn’t look away. An actual fucking cyborg. It wasn’t in any way cool though, despite the cyborg-ness of it. Instead it was just… sick. Covered in sores and inflamed skin where metal met flesh. Peter reached out to check for a pulse.
As soon as his fingers touched it’s skin, which was weirdly cold and waxy, its eyes snapped open. Apparently the cyborg-ness of it all wasn’t the only sci-fi trope being reenacted. Either way, it was beyond creepy and Peter scrambled back, staring at it. It’s eyes looked… crazy.
Then, suddenly it sat up and looked at him, in perfect synchronicity with every other creature in the room. Peter would never admit to the noise he made in that moment. The genre was changing from sci-fi to horror and Peter wanted nothing more than to nope the fuck out of there. Unfortunately, he’d webbed shut all the exits, except one window, which was on the other side of the room. He didn’t know what to do. Mr. Stark was currently on an airplane at cruising altitude and therefore unavailable. He didn’t know anyone else. No backup, no plan, no possibility of rescue. Peter wracked his mind trying to think of what to do. If only he…
The weird chitauri cyborgs attacked, and Peter stopped thinking at all.
The thing about Peter’s fighting style was that he didn’t actually have any idea how to fight. His instincts told him it was a spectacularly bad idea, that he ought to run and hide, but they always did that, and sitting in the middle of a web in a cool dry place, while an excellent strategy for bugs, didn’t really work when your enemies were humans. As it was, all he had going for him was that he was strong, fast, and had an excellent capacity to calculate angles and trajectories on the fly. That and the preternatural senses. Those were fairly helpful as well. Anyway, despite his excellent capacity for taking down thugs of a human variety he was deeply unprepared to get into a web fight with thirty chitauri-borgs in a warehouse, especially a warehouse so old and decrepit that the ceiling wouldn’t be able to support him.
As such the fight went badly. In the first few seconds, he seemed to be doing all right. Most of the cyborgs hadn’t reached him yet, and those that had were a little jerky, unsure of themselves. A couple times, one of them would go in to hit him, and another one would mime the exact same hit a few feet over, like whatever hive mind was controlling them was unused to existing in multiple bodies. Then things went to hell when he realized he had no effective way of fighting them. He’d landed a couple knockout blows, but they didn’t work (maybe a hive mind can’t be knocked out? Or it could be--focus Parker) and he really didn’t want to kill anyone, so his options were limited.
Things got worse when Peter finally did something that seemed to work, wrenching out the shoulder of one of the cyborgs. If it couldn’t use it’s arm it couldn’t hit him, right? Wrong. The thing swung the arm like it was a bludgeoning weapon, not an actual piece of its body. Peter wasn’t an expert, but he was fairly sure that move had irreparably damaged the arm, and that the thing had to be in extreme pain. It didn’t look like it cared though. Clearly these things wouldn’t stop until they were entirely disabled, and even then they’d keep fighting until they damaged themselves beyond repair.
The situation continued to go downhill. Peter had been swarmed and his mobility was heavily affected. Worse, he couldn’t even leave ground level to escape. And then it happened. The horrible defining moment. The point where there was no going back. Peter had punched one of the cyborgs in the face, right on the nose. There was a horrible snap, and the nasal cartilage was propelled straight up and back into the things head. It fell down, and didn’t get back up.
Peter didn’t freeze. Peter didn’t vomit. In fact, he didn’t react to the fact that he’d just killed someone at all because he was still in the middle of battle, still pumped with more adrenaline than he’d felt in his life and unable to really think. There was only the fight, and getting out of this alive. Several more of the creatures--he couldn’t bear to think of them as human any longer--fell by his hand and didn’t get up.
As the fighting got worse, Peter’s senses seemed to ramp up in an almost painful manner. Immediately he closed his eyes. At this point it wouldn’t affect what he was doing at all. Most spiders didn’t hunt by sight. He could practically feel the snaps and creaks as the completely uninhibited cyborgs overused their bodies to the point of damage, the vibrations as they kept attacking. He could hear their breathing. He could sense their heartbeats. More than that was the buzzing though, the strange humming that he could practically taste, like sparks on his tongue.
Of course. It was electricity.
Humanity had come a long way in understanding the alien tech that they ended up around on what now seemed to be a yearly basis. In the end though, there were very few types of energy one could run a computer on, and the easiest of those was, of course, electricity. And where there was electricity…
“Karen, taser webs!” grunted Peter as he received yet another bruise. The insane once-human creatures knew no restraint, and thus hit harder than any baseline human.
“On it.” said Karen. His HUD flipped around, the power controls for the taser webs replacing the general screen and limning each figure in a red line. Enemy target.
Peter didn’t want to give up his advantage too fast though, so he didn’t power up the tasers. Instead, he simply started webbing, thin gossamer threads not meant to hold necessarily but to... connect. He was stringing the cyborgs together like the world's most morbid string of Christmas lights. Once he’d gotten most of them he formed his hand into the release sign, one of many ways to power up the web. It worked well. Too well. The whole line of cyborgs he’d been fighting shook and sparked. There was the scent of burning flesh. The heartbeats Peter had been hearing stopped.
He wanted nothing more than to freak out, but the remaining cyborgs were running away, most of them taking defensive positions except a sickly man who was sprinting in the direction of a trapdoor Peter hadn’t noticed.
“That’s the queen.” he muttered. Ned had made him watch Ender's game once. It wasn’t as good as the books and… focus Peter. Quickly, he launched a web, high into the air so no one could intercept it but low power so it would arc down onto the leader. “Gotcha” he said. Hopefully this night would be over soon.
The queen, who was a sickly looking white man in his thirties, stilled, and stopped struggling. Peter webbed him to the floor in several more places. His other bodies didn’t approach, obviously wary of the possibility of taser webs.
“What the actual fuck?” said Peter, on the verge of panicking. Normally he was a bit more coherent even when talking to actual criminals, but he felt justified in freaking out. This was… not what he signed up for.
The dude laughed, eyes gleaming madly in the low light, and ignored his question. “You may have found this nest, but you can never destroy us. There is no stopping it. We will bring unity!”
Then his hand (when had that gotten free?) reached up shakily and pressed something on the side of his head, causing his cybernetics to glow. All the other cybernetics began to glow as well, and as they heated up Peter could smell a familiar scent. Explosives! The same kind used on the other cache when he’d been blown up before.
Without pausing to think, Peter sprinted as fast as he could in the direction of the broken window he’d entered by, leaping through it in a fluid bit of acrobatics that no baseline human would ever be able to even attempt. He was a bit too late though, and the warehouse exploded violently, spraying pieces of shrapnel in every direction, at high enough velocity that they pierced easily through the superstrong fabric that made up Peter’s suit. He didn’t get burned very much, but some of those bits and pieces went deep. No way was he going to be able to pick those out on his own.
Peter’s brain was a little fuzzy at this point, but he still had the presence of mind to be aware of his options. There were three people in the world aware of his identity. Ned… Ned would freak out and have no idea what to do. Mr Stark and Happy--unavailable. For now. In the back of his mind Peter remembered that Mr. Stark was supposed to fly in that very night. He didn’t know exactly when, or even what time it was at that moment. He did know, however that Mr. Stark could fix anything.
He didn’t have to think about what was going on, or how hurt he was. He just had to make it to the tower.
The private jet touched down in LaGuardia airport, and Tony sighed in relief. He was so close to making it all the way to his bed. And then he would shut himself up in his lab and not talk to anyone for at least thirty-six hours. It was only fair after the hellish week he’d had arguing with idiots of the international governmental variety.
During the aftermath of the Avengers so-called ‘civil war’ it seemed that everyone on the entire planet had forgotten that he wasn’t a fucking politician. Yet again he was stuck cleaning up the shitstorm that Rogers seemed to create behind him just by breathing, though to be fair Ross had helped stir the shit up. If Tony was honest with himself, there was a large part of him that simply wanted to give up, throw in the towel, and let the fact that Rogers had decided to take things into his own fool hands ruin human rights forever for the itty bitty portion of the population that was weird, stupid, and prone to getting in fistfights with extraterrestrials.
Then he remembered that he technically belonged to that group--and more importantly that Peter belonged to that group, and he couldn’t help himself. At this point, sheltering people under the force of his name and personality was just as natural to him as protecting them with his more literal armor, and the thought of Peter on the raft was abhorrent.
He needed a drink. He couldn’t have one though, he was sober and had been for a while. He wasn’t going to go down that road ever again.
Suddenly, the train of his thoughts was interrupted by the arrival of one of his suits. It was one that he’d given up for a failure because the heavy retroreflective panelling left it unable to carry weapons and severely weakened. Besides, you could still see the flames he left in his wake.
“Boss?” said FRIDAY directly from the suit. She sounded… deeply worried.
“What is it baby girl?” asked Tony.
“I couldn’t contact you.” she said, “But I need your help. It’s Peter”
Nothing could have encouraged Tony to move faster than that statement. He didn’t know Peter as well as he’d like to, but what he did know… He hadn’t been lying when he told the kid that he could be better than Tony ever was. Peter was everything he’d ever been and more, the perfect marriage of brilliance and heart with a core of unshakeable vibranium. If something happened to him…
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Tony saw bouncing curls and excitable hand motions. He stepped into the suit, which closed around him and took off to the tower as fast as it could without breaking every piece of glass in the city. Peter needed help.
During the minute long journey, FRIDAY briefed him on the situation. Peter had shown up through the balcony by his personal lab. He was injured. She wasn’t sure how bad it was. The basic voice OS he’d installed--Karen he thought Peter had named it--was non-responsive, so diagnostics were down, but he’d collapsed, and there was a lot of blood.
Tony exited the suit at a dead sprint.
When he arrived in the lab, it was worse than he’d imagined. Peter was a puddle of blood on the floor, and there were things sticking out of him. Bits of metal. Tony had designed weapons for decades. He knew exactly what shrapnel looked like.
“Peter Peter, hey kiddo, Peter, are you awake?” he asked. If Peter was unconscious… That could be bad.
Very slowly, Peter’s head turned to the side. His eyes were dilated unevenly and he seemed somewhat confused, but as soon as he saw Tony all of the worry and tension spilled out of him instantly, though he still looked pained. “Misr… Stk.” he mumbled. Then he sighed, and his eyes began to drift shut. Tony panicked. The kid was showing signs of a concussion, he needed to stay awake.
“No no nono no. Stay with me kid. You can’t fall asleep yet.” he said. “I’m going to help you… I can help you. FRIDAY, get a doctor up here. One with an ironclad NDA. C’mon kiddo, stay with me. You’re going to be okay, but you need to stay awake.”
“‘Course ‘m be fn.” slurred Peter. “Y’r h’re.” Then he smiled a tiny bit, and squeezed Tony’s hand. It damn near broke his heart.
“Dr. Helen Cho is currently going through tower security.” said FRIDAY, incredibly quietly. “I called her as soon as Peter collapsed.”
Tony breathed marginally easier. Peter meanwhile clearly wasn’t done breaking his heart though because he started to mumble again. “Y’r g’d.” he said. “C’n fix an’thin.”
“I’ll do my best Peter.” said Tony. “Just stay with me.”
“C’n’t move.” whispered Peter. “N’t goin’ anyw’r”
“Yeah.” said Tony. He wasn’t entirely sure what to say to that statement. Luckily, at that very moment Dr. Cho arrived with a stretcher on wheels and one of her most bland and trustworthy underlings.
“Dr. Stark.” she said angrily. “Tell me about the patient. And this better not be your fault.”
Tony didn’t sleep that night, but Peter did eventually, and he was alive to do it too. It felt like nothing short of a miracle.
Chapter 6: ARRIVAL OF THE RESPONSIBLE FUCKING ADULTS
Peter woke up in a hospital bed. Mr. Stark was sitting beside it, slumped in a chair. He seemed exhausted. Peter frowned. Hospital. Why was he in a hospital… It all came back to him. The fight, the explosion, the blood. He remembered the sound of heartbeats stopping.
Suddenly feeling nauseous, Peter rolled over to the edge of the bed and grabbed the garbage can just in time. It was sort of gross. He was vomiting and sobbing all at once, and making a huge mess.
“Hey, hey, it’s all right. You’re fine, you're here.”
Peter tried to breathe, still heaving with sobs and retching. He focused on the sound of Mr. Starks voice. He didn’t touch Peter, or try to help him, seeming to know that that would be… not okay at the moment, but he was there, speaking slowly and calmly.
His heartbeat could end at any moment just like the other ones… Peter retched again.
“You’re okay. We got the shrapnel out, and you’re going to be fine.”
Peter knew that. It wasn’t about him, it was everyone else. He tried to focus on the voice, and a little bit on the heartbeat underneath. Slow and steady. Not going anywhere.
When he felt a little better, Peter collapsed back onto the bed. “Mr. Stark…” he said incredibly quietly.
“Hey, don’t worry. You’re going to be fine, everything’s going to be fine.”
“No. No no no. You don’t understand.” said Peter. “They… I…” he had to pause for a second to try to find a way to express what had happened. “I killed them.” he finally whispered without preamble. “I killed…” he stopped and rolled over to grab the garbage can again. His retching wasn’t bringing much up, but it was still very necessary.
Mr. Stark took the can when he was done and got him settled again. “Tell me what happened.” he said gently, and Peter knew it wasn’t a demand, that he didn’t have to, but it was an offer of help and he needed that. “Start at the beginning.” said Mr. Stark.
Peter took a breath and began. His explanation was, perhaps, a bit long and rambling, and required a couple breaks for water (his throat hurt from all the retching) but once it was out he felt… weirdly better. “The worst part.” said Peter near the end, “Is that I don’t really feel… bad. I mean like, I’m totally a murderer now, and I should be… guilty? In shock? I don’t know… I just. I had to. It… there was no other way, and no matter how much I try I can’t find one. I don’t feel guilty, but I feel guilty for not feeling guilty and it’s just… confusing.”
Mr Stark didn’t judge him, or make him feel bad about it or anything. He just sat and listened and waited as all of Peter’s feelings came spilling out of him. Then at the end he sighed.
“You know… you know I’ve killed a lot of people.” he said. Peter stilled. He’d known that intellectually, but he’d never actually thought about it. About Mr. Stark having killed people. It was… strange. At the same time though it didn’t change anything. Mr. Stark was Mr. Stark, and if he killed someone then it was because the person was a bad person and needed to die. It was that simple.
“Yeah.” said Peter. “But you-”
Mr. Stark held up a hand to stop him. “The circumstances don’t matter. It still… It’s still shitty, and you still wonder if you could have done something different, made a better choice. But, Pete, you’re a good kid, and you’re I… I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m here for you. And I’m proud of you. And I trust you to make good decisions. If you say you had no choice, you had no choice. You took the best option Pete. And whatever you need, whatever help you need to get… I’m there. Okay? Just say the word.”
Peter sighed. “Thanks.” he said. “I… Thanks.”
Mr. Stark smiled. “One thing though. About those good decisions? Having backup. Definitely something you should try. If… When you end up taking on a warehouse full of, and I quote, ‘thirty freaky borg-bug-people’ just… make sure I’m in the same city. And on speed-dial. I can’t… I don’t want to see you hurt again.”
“Yeah.” huffed Peter, feeling strangely warm and fuzzy. “Yeah.”
“I mean really Pete.” said Mr. Stark, because he didn’t know when to stop “Two bombs? In one week? I’m going to have to baby proof the entire city.”
Peter laughed hoarsely then, something that he really hadn’t expected to do that day or maybe ever, and things were… okay.
Apparently Peter had slept for fourteen hours, and it was now nearly two in the afternoon on Saturday. His wounds had been shockingly minor, and while he would be moving a bit gingerly for a couple days, he could still move around, so he would take what he could get.
Mr. Stark let him out of the med-bay immediately. He was, in his own words, “No stranger to wounds accrued while superheroing” and thought that if left to his own devices in the tower med-bay (a leftover from it’s time as the Avengers main base that Mr. Stark had judged as worth keeping) Peter would probably injure himself further with his antsy antics. “It’s what I would do.” said Mr. Stark.
He wasn’t wrong. During the mandatory half hour checkup that Dr. Cho, who Peter was totally nerding out about meeting (he’d read ALL her papers), made him endure before he was allowed out he nearly went insane. Dr. Cho might be a brilliant woman, but it didn’t change the fact that doctor’s offices were universally abhorrent.
She wanted a full blood workup, and some time to do research on his genetic alterations so she could treat him better, but Mr. Stark arranged for a strategic retreat to the lab.
“Don’t thank me yet.” said Mr. Stark while they stood in the elevator, “She’ll make you do it eventually. I just figured you’d want that to happen on a day you weren’t, y’know, half dead.”
“Hopefully we can put it off until I’m all dead.” said Peter. “Then I wouldn’t have to be there while she did it.”
Mr. Stark, after staring at him for a moment in surprise, actually laughed. “Don’t hold your breath, kid. Dr. Cho is a regular miracle worker. She’d bring you back just to question you about your medical history.”
“No.” said Peter. He sensed a pop culture reference. It was wonderful. “At that point all she could do is look through my pockets for spare change. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.”
“For you though? with your healing factor it’s entirely possible that even in the worst state you’d only be mostly dead, and as we all know mostly dead is still slightly alive.”
“Dang.” said Peter. “Do you think she’d coat my medicine in chocolate?”
“Nah.” said Mr. Stark. “She’s not that nice of a miracle worker.”
The elevator arrived at the lab, and Peter relaxed. Mr. Stark’s lab was always a good place to be. On one of the tables was a pile of his stuff. His suit had been cleaned and repaired and his phone, keys, and other personal effects were beside it. His clothes were missing though, which sucked, because it meant that for now he was stuck in an old MIT sweatshirt and designer jogging pants that he had a sneaking suspicion belonged to Mr. Stark. “Your friend Ned was blowing up your phone by the way. Apparently your Aunt called him when she couldn’t find you. He said you were with him.”
“Oh my gosh he must be so worried!” said Peter, rushing towards the phone.
“Already got it covered.” said Mr. Stark. “I had FRIDAY text your friend updates, and added a sent text to your aunt from you at three pm yesterday asking permission for a sleepover. For some reason the text bounced, I wonder why.”
“Probably because it didn’t exist.” said Peter, absently scrolling through Ned’s texts. He ignored the voicemails.
“Imagine that.” said Mr. Stark. “In other news; according to FRIDAY you’ve been spending a lot of time here. That true?”
Peter blushed deeply. “Oh um, well kind of?” he said “I mean, you weren’t here, but you did give me permission and I wanted to finish the stuff on my suit and then I noticed some problems with it, and I was also doing stuff downstairs, with like, a robot, and then I wanted to fix my chitauri scanner and well… Sorry?”
Mr. Stark grinned. “It’s fine Pete. Really. Why don’t you show me what you’ve been working on.”
Peter’s blush got even worse. Here he was, in his science idols lab and Tony Fucking Stark wanted to know what he was working on. “It’s really not that impressive,” he said, “I mean, I’m not like, an actual scientist or anything and… Are you laughing at me.”
Mr. Stark was, indeed, laughing. “Sorry,” he said. “Sorry, I just…” he huffed, and then muttered under his breath, as if unaware that Peter had actual super hearing. “Not an actual scientist. Like you have to have a degree or something.”
“Mr. STARK.” said Peter (it was not a whine)
“I’ve already read the files on what you’ve gotten up to kid. And I’ve seen the stuff you made. Like the webs. Your secret’s out Pete. You, are a nerd. Also a genius. Seriously, run me through your thinking here.”
He pulled up one of the projects Peter had made suggestions on--a proposed new hydrogel that could revolutionize tissue engineering--out of the selection of holograms FRIDAY (the traitor) had obligingly summoned when he first made the comment.
“It’s just basic biochemistry!” protested Peter. “Nothing special, I just pointed out the obvious solution. Whoever wrote this probably just overlooked it or hadn’t thought of it yet. Maybe it’s a new project?”
“Well if it’s so basic, explain it to me. I want to know how you came up with it.”
Peter sighed. “They were trying to reduce surgical rejection in implanted cells by coming up with a new cell-encapsulation delivery carrier, but all the ones they were starting with were based on cellulose nanocrystals. I just pointed out that cellulose nanofibrils would work better for the project.”
“Why?” asked Mr. Stark.
“Well, I didn’t actually know a lot about the topic, but according to google most cell-encapsulation hydrogels are either solid or liquid. The solid ones get rejected because they’re too foreign, and the liquid ones just wash away. And then I was reading up on the properties of the different kinds of nanocellulose and it occurred to me that a solid nanofibril containing gel would become liquid under stress, and that kind of? Seems like what they were looking for? I mean, maybe it could like just go in? And then turn solid?” he shrugged. “I was mostly just guessing.”
“How much research did you do before you came to that conclusion?” asked Mr. Stark.
“Um. Some? I had to read a lot to understand the basics of it, but once I did, there was this one paper from some place in Canada that was just… It had nifty tables.”
“FRIDAY, pull it up.” said Mr. Stark. He looked concerned for some reason. FRIDAY, who would forever be known as a traitor, pulled up the embarrassingly large number of things Peter had needed to read before he could understand the project, let alone point out the obvious.
“You read all of these?” he asked.
“I skimmed some of them.” said Peter. “The ones that weren’t useful. I had to read most of them though.”
“How long did this take him?” asked Mr. Stark, directing the question towards FRIDAY.
“Peter completed the project in fifty-three minutes. The research portion comprised forty-seven of them.” said FRIDAY.
Mr. Stark looked at him dead on. “You’re telling me, you progressed from basic to doctorate level biochemistry, and solved a problem that a team of PhDs has been working on for months in forty-five minutes?”
“Kind of? I mean, not all of it, just the bits for the project. And I mean, I already knew some related stuff, like, chemically entrapped nanomaterials that can change shape are sort of my thing. Y’know. Spiderwebs. My web fluid goes from fluid to like, a web. This wasn’t that different.”
“Laying aside the fact that these two things are completely different, what the fuck Parker. Seriously. How fast do you read?”
“Um. Quickish? I guess? It’s gotten faster since the… spider incident.” said Peter
“Peter reads approximately twenty-three thousand words per minute, two-thousand less than the current world-record holder for speed-reading.”
“What the fuck.” said Mr. Stark.
“Incidentally, that is a full three-hundred words per minute faster than you Boss. You now have something to aspire to.”
“How dare you. I pride myself on my speed-reading.” said Mr. Stark.
“Sorry?” asked Peter.
“Don’t apologize you’re brilliant.” said Mr. Stark. “I mean I knew that, but… still.” then he stopped. “Haven’t we had this conversation before?”
“No? Not that I know of?” said Peter
“Yes. We definitely did. When you brought in your suit, remember? And that nifty burn thing? I said you should patent it.”
“It’s not that great.” said Peter. “There are similar things on the market just not as… big.”
“Oh my god Peter. How can you be so smart and also so. Fucking. Stupid.” said Mr. Stark. “You are probably one of the smartest people I know. Why are you so determined to tell everyone in the world that you aren’t?”
“I don’t do that!” said Peter. “I just… I don’t know. I’m not actually that great Mr. Stark, I just see things that are obvious. Like, you know my web fluid? The one you said was brilliant? It was based off of research at Oscorp. There were some formulas on one of the boards I noticed during my field trip there. And they were wrong. I didn’t invent it, I just… fixed it. So it worked. That’s what I do Mr. Stark. I just… copy things.”
“Has no one explained science to you?” asked Mr. Stark. “Because I hate to break it to you but that’s how it works. You see what is there, what other people have done and said, and then you go improve on that. You don’t have to start from scratch for it to be your work. Store bought is fine.”
Peter snorted. Then he sighed. “Just drop it.” he said. “I… I’m happy with how things are. I don’t need to think I’m some kind of supergenius.”
“You are some kind of supergenius.” said Mr. Stark. There was an awkward silence. “How about this. I’ll drop it, on two conditions.”
“Oh?” said Peter, suspicious.
“One, you go down and talk with legal about all the stuff you make. Every bit of it. I don’t want to see any more unpatented inventions. Seriously. Web fluid included.”
“Um. Okay. I guess.” said Peter. “What’s the second one?”
“You take credit for your work. FRIDAY has listed you as a contributor on all the projects you so kindly rescued from their fumbling around in the dark. She will continue to do so, and you will stop pretending it is otherwise.”
Peter was a bit uncomfortable with that. He really didn’t understand why Mr. Stark was being so weird about it but… he did say he’d drop the topic, which would be good. It would be nice to not be put on the spot. “Okay.” he said. “I guess, I did help. A bit.”
“Great.” said Mr. Stark. “More than a bit, but it’s a start. Now, you’ve been on an IV for the past twelve hours, but your metabolism is frankly ridiculous, so here’s what’s going to happen. I am going to order in a large late lunch. You are going to text your Ned friend, establish an alibi. Make plans to actually hang out because he really did you a solid there with lying to your aunt. Once that’s done, we,” and there he gestured to himself and Peter, with a small wave that also indicated FRIDAY somehow, “are going to spend a few hours immersed in the wonderful world of engineering. Capisce?”
“Yeah. That sounds okay. Capisce.” said Peter.
“Fantastic. Indian or Thai? I want curry but I can’t decide which.”
“Indian.” said Peter. “Vindaloo, if they have it.”
“I guarantee they do.” said Mr. Stark. “Mild, medium or hot?”
“So hot my ancestors are crying.” said Peter. He liked to be in pain when consuming Indian food, though it had taken him a while to work back up to the spices after his senses went insane.
“Fantastic. Me too. We’ll get along fine.” said Mr. Stark. And they did.
PP: I LIVED BITCH
NL: OMG! Peter are you ok?
PP: Superhealing Ned. I’ll be fine.
NL: I was so worried
NL: I thought u died
PP: If i ever do, u get all my stuff.
PP: Except my girls just wanna have fundamental human rights t-shirt
PP: MJ gets that
NL: Ok. Just. Tell me next time u go out
PP: Yeah. I will.
PP: Thanks. Srsly. U saved my ass there w May.
NL: Yeah. I figured it was Spidey business so I said u were with me
NL: U owe me though
NL: So much
NL: Like, a whole bucket of ice cream
NL: And help with the millenium falcon
PP: RU free tonight?
PP: I will bring the ice cream
PP: What flavor
PP: Stark Raving Hazelnuts it is
NL: My mom says after dinner. 7ish
NL: Also, I told her I lied to may
NL: I said you were helping MJ
NL: And didn’t want her to know
NL: She only asked at like...9am
NL: So it was plausible
PP: Ned. Put it all in one text. Please n TY
NL: CU soon
PP: I’ll tell u all about the science we’re doing
NL: WAIT WHAT
NL: LIKE WITH TONY STARK
NL: TELL MEEEEEE
NL: Peter why
Chapter 7: DON'T FUCKING KILL YOURSELF YOU IDIOT WORKAHOLIC
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.”
I'm pretty sure the duolingo owl is coming to kill me lads, so if I stop posting you know what happened.
Chapter 8: SPIDER-MAN IS THE MOST POWERFUL. THOSE WHO DISAGREE CAN FUCKING FIGHT ME
As much as Peter would have liked to avoid anything resembling ‘testing’, ‘doctor’s visits’ and ‘figuring out his powers’ he had no choice but to find himself in a sub-level of the basement of Stark Industries mere hours after the peppermint incident. Mr. Stark was there, as was Dr. Cho and two of her underlings.
“Okay.” said Dr. Cho. “We’re going to start with some tests regarding your physiological differences. Hop on the treadmill and start running.”
Peter paused in his unhappy inspection of the monitor patches taped in various places on his body. “How fast?”
“A light jog. Try to go fast enough that you’re breathing hard, but not fast enough that you can’t talk. The machine will adjust to the speed.” said Dr. Cho.
“And then we’re going to speed it up until you suffer.” said Mr. Stark, grinning. “I remember doing this to Rogers. It was fun to watch.”
Peter cracked a smile at that, imagining the stupid face from all the PSA’s sweating and red. Possibly with gasping. “Funny.” he said. “Was he miserable?”
“Very much so.” said Mr. Stark.
“Do you have recordings?” asked Peter.
“Yes.” said Mr. Stark. “I’ll show them to you later.”
“Are we just going to stand here and talk,” asked Dr. Cho, “Or are you going to run?”
Peter laughed and started going. It was rather hard to find a speed where he was ‘a bit out of breath but still talking’ and he wished that they’d been more specific. “Is this good?” he asked. “I mean, I can still talk, and it’s not hard, but like… I can feel it. I mean, I could run faster if you asked.”
Mr. Stark didn’t respond, so Peter hopped around so he was running backwards. “Mr. Stark?” he asked.
Mr. Stark was staring at him in a strange manner. “Kid?” he said. Do you know how fast you can run?”
“Not really” said Peter turning back around and speeding up slightly. “I mean… Pretty fast I guess but usually I’m going via rooftops and webs, so… no. I’m gonna say fast though. Definitely faster than a regular person. Hey, did you know that some spiders can run up to 70 times their body length in a second? For me that would be like… 120 miles per hour. Unless it doesn’t count the legs. Do you think it counts the legs?”
“I have enough readings at this speed.” said Dr. Cho. “Speed up until you’re a little too fast to talk comfortably.”
“Okay.” said Peter, who then sped up.
“Do you think he’ll stop babbling now?” asked Dr. Cho.
“No.” said Mr. Stark. “Now he’s just doing it internally. He’ll share all the best points with us when he’s done running. Our Petey likes the spotlight, no matter how much he pretends otherwise.”
Peter opened his mouth to protest but then closed it. Mr. Stark had a point there. He didn’t want to waste people's time, but around those he trusted, like May, or Ned, or surprisingly Mr. Stark he liked to tell them what was going on in his head. Saying it out loud was… nice, especially when his thoughts were appreciated, a rare occurence considering the sheer volume of random garbage, though in the past two weeks since he’d started his real internship it had happened a lot more often.
“Speed up again.” said Dr. Cho. “Just a bit. Keep speeding up slowly until I say so.”
“Okay.” said Peter the next time he breathed out. “By. The. Way.” he said. “I’ve. Wondered… how does… your… system work.”
“I’ll tell you all about it when you’re done.” said Mr. Stark. “I designed it with Banner actually, as a way to evaluate the levels of people's abilities. He did the medical bits and the design, I built the tech for it. It tracks everything from your breathing to your blood sugar while you do a variety of tasks and the data we’ll get can tell us all sorts of things. For example, judging by our observations here and when we were upstairs in the regular checkup, your BMR is--well quite frankly it’s ridiculous. Seriously, how much do you eat?”
Peter laughed, though with the running it wasn’t as great as he wanted it to be. “As. Much. As. I. Can. Get.” he puffed out.
“Keep speeding up.” said Dr. Cho. “And stop talking. I’ll ask you about it again when you’re done.”
“Seriously though, if he only eats as much as he can get, how do we know if it’s enough?” asked Mr. Stark. “And how do we know if it’s the right stuff? What if he needs some kind of nutrient that he isn’t getting?”
“Calm down. We’ll figure it out.” said Dr. Cho. “And Peter, Sprint. As fast as you can for as long as you can.”
Peter sped up to his top speed. He was actually getting a bit lightheaded but it felt… euphoric. He always said he patrolled so much because he wanted to help the people of Queens but the truth was most of the time he was just going around in circles because it felt so good to move. (The crime rate for things that happened on the street wasn’t high enough to keep him busy every second)
About a minute later he heard Mr. Stark. “How long can he sprint for?”
“No clue, but his breathing is getting a bit off. If it follows the same patterns as a baseline human he’ll need to stop after about another thirty seconds.”
After another three minutes, Dr. Cho gave up. “Y’know what, Peter, just stop. I can estimate your deterioration from here just by extrapolating what we have onto a base-human.”
Peter gratefully slowed to a jog and then to a quick walk, shaking himself loose. After a few seconds, he regained his breathing. “Wow, that was fun.” he said. “How fast did I go?”
Mr Stark snorted. “You nearly broke my treadmill.”
“Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry.” said Peter. “Does it need maintenance, because I could probably do that I mean… Well, you… I. Sorry.”
“Peter, the thing was designed with speeds up to 150 mph. Trust me, it’s fine. And I’ll probably need to upgrade it anyway considering.”
“Considering what?” asked Peter
“Well Pete, there’s a high likelihood that you’re not at your peak level of fitness right now. I think that once we figure all this out, and get you what you need you’ll probably be faster.”
“Cool.” said Peter. He felt nice and loose now, though still brimming with energy. There was a reason his ‘patrols’ were so long. “Can I stretch out a bit?” he asked.
“Probably wise.” said Dr. Cho. “Next is strength.”
“Nice.” said Peter.
The gym was enormous, another leftover from Avengers days, and it was completely empty too, since there were two employee gyms that didn’t require using Mr. Starks personal elevator elsewhere. That meant there was a large space ready for him (probably designed for sparring) with a slightly cushy floor, just perfect for stretching. Peter started with his stretches. He’d ended up copying a ballerina from Instagram, because no one else had his sheer range of movement so it was hard to find things that would work. “This place is really cool Mr. Stark” he said as he put his foot above his head on a convenient padded concrete pillar, lowering himself into something much deeper than a standard split. He sighed at the nice feeling of the stretch. “I mean, all the Avengers logos are a little unfortunate considering that they’re, y’know, persona non grata, but it’s still pretty cool.”
“What the fuck Pete.” said Mr. Stark, as Peter moved into his next stretch.
Peter looked up at him from where he was on the floor, a bit confused.
“Your bottom half is facing away. Your top half is facing me. It’s like the fucking Exorcist.” said Mr. Stark.
“Oh. Sorry.” said Peter.
“Don’t be.” said Mr. Stark. “You’re a lot cuter than anything from the Exorcist.”
Peter beamed. “Thanks” Then he propelled himself to his feet and started on his arm set. He’d made it through the legs and core and he only had a few left. “It is sort of weird though. I can contort in pretty freaky ways. Like, watch this.” As soon as he said that, Peter crumpled to the floor like a marionette who’s strings had been cut, in a position that looked sort of dead. Then he jerked his limbs in impossible ways, culminating in his crab-walking towards Mr. Stark with his shoulders so far backward that it looked like he was crawling with his head turned around, grinning the entire time.
“Jesus Christ, warn a man next time.” said Mr. Stark.
Peter laughed. “I got that one off YouTube. Pretty cool isn’t it. I actually get a lot of stuff there. I only have to watch things like, once before I can do them.”
“Really?” said Mr. Stark.
“Yeah. Sometimes when I’m bored I like to copy Olympic gymnastics routines.” said Peter. To demonstrate, he did a triple back-flip.
“Pretty cool kid. You’ll have to show me sometime. For now though, it looks like Helen is ready with the electromagnetic weight bars.”
Peter grinned and bounced over to Dr. Cho. Having Mr. Starks attention was… really cool. He didn’t want to take up the man's valuable time, but it was nice to be appreciated for the small things he couldn’t show anyone else, like the stupid freaky crawling thing.
After the weights section (He got Mr. Stark to say “What the fuck Pete” again, which was pretty much Peter’s new goal in life) and the reflexes section (apparently dodging ping pong balls that were launched progressively faster was science now) they decided to wrap it up for the day.
“I’d still like to know how your wall crawling works, and get a few more readings on your healing and senses, but I think I’m mostly good.” said Dr. Cho. “We will have to do this again once you’re healthy though.”
“Again?” asked Peter.
“Healthy?” asked Mr. Stark, at the same time.
Dr. Cho sighed, and answered Mr. Stark’s question. “According to what I now know of Peter’s metabolism, a healthy human diet would, for him, be the equivalent of eating a quarter pound of garbage every day and nothing else. It’s…” she turned to Peter “You’re not only getting less than you need, you’re also missing a lot of nutrients. I’m actually a little concerned.”
“Oh.” said Peter. “I didn’t know that. I mean, I knew I was always hungry--I think I can count the number of times I’ve been full since the spiderbite on one hand--but… garbage. Never would have guessed.”
“You’re hungry now?” asked Mr. Stark.
Peter grinned. “That’s my secret Mr. Stark. I’m always hungry.”
Mr. Stark did not laugh, even though the joke was extremely funny. In fact, he looked rather concerned. “Let’s have this conversation over food.” he said.
Dr. Cho glared. “Food with lots of leafy greens. And mushrooms. And possibly organ meat. All of those things.”
Peter looked at her with alarm. “What… why… why would I do that to myself. My poor taste buds.”
“Suck it up kid. Doctors orders.” said Mr. Stark. “If I can survive drinking chlorophyll…”
Peter sighed. “FRIDAY please try to get something that isn’t gross.”
“I’ve found an authentic Chinese restaurant under those parameters and ordered according to your previous preferences and meal sizes. Will that suffice?”
Mr. Stark grimaced. Dr. Cho laughed at them.
“The biggest difference, from a dietary standpoint,” said Dr. Cho, as she handled her chopsticks with surgical precision, “Between you and a regular person, Peter, is that--pass me that--you have both blood and haemolymph.”
“You mean bug juice.” said Mr. Stark.
“Haemolymph” said Dr. Cho.
“Haemolymph.” agreed Peter. “Please don’t call it bug juice. I’m trying to eat. While ignoring the fact that it’s in me.”
Mr. Stark laughed. “Whatever you say, bug boy.”
Peter glared at him, but his mouth was full so he couldn’t speak. Dr. Cho had no such issues. “Name calling is a no-go.” she said “You realize that I don’t have to be here right? My regular work hours ended twenty minutes ago.” She sighed and turned back to Peter. “Basically--and this is true of most of your body’s systems--you have two circulatory systems. They’re redundant, but they can also work together, which means your body has a lot more oxygen to work with. Pretty nice, huh. Without that most of your stunts would be impossible.”
“What does that have to do with my diet though?” asked Peter.
“Everything.” said Dr. Cho. “See, blood uses hemoglobin to carry oxygen, which has iron, right?” Peter nodded, and she continued. “Haemolymph, on the other hand, uses hemocyanin. Which requires copper. In short, you are ridiculously anemic, but for a substance that most people have little to no use for. The recommended intake for copper is measured in micro-grams, and you need about as much as a normal person needs iron, which means that it’s basically impossible to get that just from your diet. The worst part, is that the human body also has an upper limit on the amount of copper it can handle, a number that is also measured in micro-grams. Basically, Peter, you’re screwed and we’re going to need to make you vitamins”
Peter sighed. “Can they be squishy?” he asked “And shaped like cute animals?”
“No.” said Dr. Cho. “You’ll take whatever I give you.”
“Any other problems we should know about?” asked Mr. Stark, looking up from his tablet. His work, it seemed, never ended. Peter wanted to help but…
“Loads.” said Dr. Cho. “That one just tops the list. There are a bunch of things you should be eating that you aren’t, and things you really shouldn’t eat that you are. Honestly, when you filled out the papers on your average weekly food intake I was shocked. Not to mention the disparity between the amount of food you need and the amount you’re getting.”
“I’m almost afraid to ask.” said Peter.
At the same time Mr. Stark said, “How much?”
“About 10,000 calories on a normal--and that means human levels of effort--day. If you were actively swinging around the city, running, or fighting all day… twice that. Usually it’s probably somewhere in between those numbers.”
“That… really sucks” said Peter. “I… I’d basically have to be eating constantly all day. I’d never get to do anything. Not to mention how much it’d cost, and.”
“Hey, don’t get ahead of yourself,” said Mr. Stark. “We’ll figure something out. Rogers needed… not that much but still a lot, and we designed protein bars that took care of most of it. If he ate a couple of those with every meal he only had to eat a lot, as opposed to… well, you know. Anyway, I’m not going to leave you hanging here. I can help out.”
“Actually he’ll probably pay someone to help out, likely me and my team, because I am the only person here who both knows and understands your enhancements and has an MD.” said Dr. Cho. “He has a point though. And I am curious to see how far you can go if you’re not half-starved.”
“Thanks.” said Peter. By then the Chinese was mostly gone, and it was time to move on to other things. Mr. Stark was probably incredibly behind on his work, and come to think of it so was Peter actually. It was funny, actually, to be behind. He hadn’t even noticed how much he was taking on until he didn’t do it.
They said their goodbyes, and Dr. Cho left them still sitting at Mr. Stark’s ridiculously oversize kitchen table. Peter had a feeling it was yet another thing that the Avengers had left behind. It seemed nearly unused too, which was sad. He’d actually gotten that vibe from most of the ‘Avenger’ areas of the tower. Prepared for all of them, and abandoned by all of them. How much time had they actually spent here in their so-called home base? The place felt… empty, and unlived in. Silent. Even Mr Stark seemed uncomfortable here, despite the fact that it was his own home. Eventually though, he broke the silence. “I should have noticed.” he said.
“How?” said Peter. “You had no way of knowing. Literally there was no way of knowing.”
“Besides you eating seven-hundred dollars of room-service when we were in Germany? Or even how much you’ve eaten in the times you were in the tower, Pete…”
“No.” said Peter. “I mean… This is so not your fault. It is, literally, the farthest thing from fault. You are fixing a problem that it is in no way your job to fix. Despite the fact that you currently have a truly enormous workload right now, courtesy of his star-spangled dickness. I’ve noticed. Honestly, I'm a bit worried, but I’m also so grateful. You’ve taken a lot of time out of your incredibly busy schedule to help me, especially this past week and I… Thank you. Just. Thanks. For everything. Not just this but also… the bomb. And the suit. And… everything.”
Mr. Stark looked shocked. For a second it seemed like he was preparing to try and defend some imagined inadequacy, but then he stopped. Took a deep breath. And smiled. “I… Pete…” he stopped, and then tried again. “You’re welcome.”
Peter grinned. It was a weirdly emotional moment. Actually it was a bit awkward. “Y’know, if this was a movie, we would totally hug, he said. Like, boom hallmark moment. Right there. I don’t understand how you keep letting these opportunities pass you by.”
He’d kind of expected a snappy one liner and a laugh. That had been what he’d been aiming for, in fact, just to break the tension. Instead, after a moment’s thought, Mr. Stark smiled genuinely. “Bring it in.” he said.
Peter (nearly) squealed, and sprinted around the table. He’d wanted to do this for like… forever. All the same, he was gentle. After today especially he knew exactly how strong he was, and he didn’t want to hurt Mr. Stark. Ever.
Mr. Stark’s arms fluttered uselessly for a moment, before closing around Peter like he was made of glass. It was pretty much the shittiest hug in history. Peter was on top of the world. “Don’t get used to it kiddo.” said Mr. Stark. “Really. It wouldn’t do to raise your expectations unrealistically.”
“Because you’re suffering so much right now.” said Peter. “I’m basically torturing you.”
The hug broke off, and Mr. Stark laughed. Peter liked it when he did that--and not in the cynical, sarcastic way that was the norm, but the real one. It was like a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
It made Peter smile even wider in happy gratitude. “But really though.” he said. “I know you’ve been super stressed lately, and I don’t want you overworked, but what you’ve been doing for me is still really cool, even though it’s probably a waste of time considering you’re a fucking mess and should probably sleep instead.”
Mr. Stark’s eyes widened. “What gave you that idea?” he asked. “I’m fine.”
Peter glared at him, and then sighed before walking to the couch and collapsing on it. “You have a lot of work.” he said “Like, I actually made FRIDAY look it up and you have like four full time jobs.” he held up his fingers and counted them off. “Running one of the largest companies in the world, being Iron Man, coordinating with the government about Rogers and his merry band of dickheads, and rewriting and defending the accords so they don’t suck. Plus all the time you spend defending yourself to the press. It’s just... A lot. And yet you made time yesterday to teach me how an arc reactor works. It’s really impressive, and also sort of frustrating because to be perfectly honest, after the shit-storm that was Roger’s stupidity, you sort of deserve a vacation not… double the workload.”
“Not how the world works though kid.” said Mr. Stark, coming to sit beside him on the couch. “The only vacation I’ll ever get is medical leave like Rhodey’s on, and even then I’d probably bring work with me. It will get better though. The basic accords are going in in a month, and after that all that needs to happen is the appointment of a committee to deal with further issues and actual enhanced problems.”
Peter frowned. “I still wish I could help you though.” he said. “It’s really frustrating to watch you give yourself grey hairs solving other people's problems and not be able to help.”
Mr. Stark laughed, the bitter one this time, “Grey hairs from work Pete? Nah, those are all from you. I mean really, frickin contortionism. Seriously… You’re doing enough already.” He shook his head, and Peter took it as a sign that the serious part of the conversation was over, despite the relative weakness of the redirection, an obvious and clumsy conversation changer. It was something Peter did too. When things got heavy and he didn’t want to talk anymore he cracked a joke and broke the tension. It was a boundary he could respect.
“I think you said ‘what the fuck’ like eight times today.” he said, leaving everything else behind. It got Mr. Stark to smile for real again. That was good.
“I think you did at least eight things that no decent human being would ever do. And I don’t mean that in a ‘your powers are freaky way’, I mean that in a ‘your sense of humor is utterly horrific’ way.”
“What are you talking about? My sense of humor is fantastic.” said Peter.
“Here’s a guideline for you then if you really don’t get it; if it looks, feels, or sounds like a horror movie, don’t do it.”
Peter laughed. “What if it smells like a horror movie?”
Mr Stark looked very alarmed. “Don’t do it.” he said.
That evening, was pleasant. It wasn’t an evening heavy on conversation, or even any sort of leisure, but it was nice, simply another night of work, catching up on what they’d missed while pursuing the tangent of Peter’s health curled up next to each other on one end of the enormous and nearly unused sectional. (If he was honest, Peter preferred the lab couch, and he suspected Mr. Stark did too.)
TS: Hey May, this is Stark, Pete’s at the tower and he seems pretty wiped out. We were working on something big and lost track of time… He’s asleep on my couch now. Should I wake him up and send him home, or can I just leave him be.
I do have a bunch of guest bedrooms
If it’s okay with you
MP: It’s just fine.
I’m working night shift anyway
Just make sure he gets to school tomorrow
1 attachment: sleepypetey.jpg
Don’t work him too hard
Pete’s something special
MP: That he is
Very glad this was pre-written because the brain is not working rn. My other story probably won't get updated bc it isn't pre-written, and I kind of want to die. Yay. Also, wish me luck because I'm about to go to a weeklong cult brainwashing (aka church event) So excited to pray the gay away!
Also, you may have noticed that this fic is tagged Civil War Team Iron Man. That is about to become a major plot point, so if you're one of those people whose going to comment strange things like you somehow expected me to write the opposite of what's in the tags, the door is on your left. I started this story right after watching CA:CW and after a rather terrifying seminar on gun control (Captain America is the gun in this metaphor), so it reflects a lot of my feelings about those things.
“I just don’t know what to do Ned!” said Peter. “There's just… He’s basically fighting a war on six fronts! I asked FRIDAY, made her tell me everything, and it’s… There's so many sides, and they all exist because nobody fucking knows anything. If they just understood. I can't even…”
Ned patiently waited for Peter to calm down and sit down. The crowded cafeteria probably wasn’t the best place for this conversation, but it was better than the alternatives. “Peter, I don’t even know anything. You haven’t explained it at all.”
Peter sighed. “Okay, so you know how it’s been a month since the ‘civil war’? And nobody knows what’s going to happen?”
“Yeah.” said Ned. “I heard that Captain America was going on trial for like, murder and stuff, but I also heard that he’s exempt from all laws because he’s an Avenger, and I also heard that he was supposed to go on trial but is in hiding because the trial is unfair. Honestly the problem isn’t knowing things, it’s knowing what’s right.”
“Yeah.” said Peter. “From what I understand, and I actually, y’know, had this explained to me by someone who knows, all of the ex-vengers are supposed to go on trial, but they can’t until the accords are ratified so there’s precedent for dealing with enhanced bullshit, but the accords can’t be ratified until everyone knows what happened and can react to it, but nobody is willing to give up their information until they know what everyone else knows. Mr. Stark knows… a lot more than he’s letting on, but he can’t release it because in the public’s eyes he’s on trial too, even though the only crime he actually committed was illegally entering Russia, and the charges on that were dropped because of Russia’s pre-existing agreement regarding Avengers actions in their country”
“Russia had an agreement with the Avengers?” said Ned, shocked. Russia was one of the countries who had been most vehement about getting the Avengers under control.
“Yeah.” said Peter. “It was that the Avengers couldn’t operate in their country, but they could chase people who were fleeing capture over the border as long as they alerted the authorities as soon as possible. Since Mr. Stark did that, it was judged as fine, even though he was only able to tell them eighteen hours after the event, most of which he spent trudging through Siberia injured and dragging the suit, if the location data is anything to go by.”
“That’s… I didn’t know that.” said Ned. “That he was injured or anything”
“And that’s the problem!” said Peter. “Nobody knows anything! If they did I guarantee there would be a lot less people defending Rogers. Honestly. They have to have a new set of accords in by the end of the year, and as things stand now those accords will not only suck, they’ll end up acquitting all the ex-vengers simply because nobody knows anything. I was there for part of it, at the airport--I saw enough to at least make people question what’s going on. It’s just nobody has any hard evidence of the worst bits. Besides Lagos and Bucharest of course, but no one knows what exactly was happening there either. For all most people know there might have been a damn good reason that they were in those places.”
“Is there any evidence of their crimes in existence?” said a voice from behind Peter.
Peter whipped around. There was MJ, looking up from her book in the cafeteria booth behind them. He opened and closed his mouth several times, all the while trying to reanalyze the conversation and figure out whether he’d said anything that might ruin his secret identity.
“Oi, spider boy. Yes I know your secret, but more importantly I asked you a question. Do. You. Have. A. Video. Or pictures. Or, y’know, anything admissible in court.”
Ned tapped the table several times with his pen. “No no no no, this is brilliant. MJ, you’re brilliant. Peter, don’t you see! The suit has video. I bet all the other ones do too. War Machine, Iron Man--probably the Vision though that’s not a suit. Even the falcon dude’s drone.”
“Yeah. Yeah they do. The Iron Man one from Siberia though… it was impounded by the Russians. They’re not letting it go until the accords are wrapped up. And because it was offline, the stuff on it never synced to the main servers. It’s inaccessible.”
“If there was enough social or political pressure I bet they could be persuaded to give up at least the video from it.” said MJ
Ned snorted “As if they could break a Stark encryption. The only person whose getting into that thing is Tony Stark.”
“He could send them a decryption key, you know, It’s not like they’re incommunicado.” said MJ. “If nothing else, I bet they’d jump on the chance to see him in action more closely”
“But guys.” said Peter, “That still doesn’t solve the biggest problem. Mr Stark doesn’t want his shit aired on international television. He said that he’s worried that if everything came out it might jeopardize his stance on the accords, like, they might end up stricter because of him, and then everyone else would have problems.”
“In what way.” said MJ. “Did he do something horrible? Because I gotta say, in that case he’d better own up or else he’s a hypocrite.”
“No.” said Peter. “He’s worried that if they see what Rogers did they’ll want stronger regulations on people like Rogers. Like me. What he did… it’s… horrible. I found out on accident, and… It’s not really my business. Basically the whole thing is just… It’s all personal, and most of the fighting had nothing to do with the accords at all. Mr. Stark doesn’t want all that business out there. And even besides that…” He trailed off completely.
“What is it Peter.” asked Ned. “We want to help you, that’s what we’re here for, but we can’t if we don’t know everything.”
“Speak for yourself loser.” said MJ “I’m here because I believe in accountability and want to stop the widespread destruction caused by unregulated ‘heroics’” (this was said with incredibly pointed air quotes) “Especially in nations that have little to no voice because they’re still ‘developing’.” (more air quotes) “White people running all over things and saying they’re doing what’s right is the reason those nations are impoverished in the first place. It needs to stop. Even cool heroes who legitimately focus on saving lives and reducing damage” she nodded in Peter’s direction “still need some type of accountability or failing that at least transparency on what their views and goals are.”
Peter’s eyes were probably the size of golf balls. “Wow. That’s… That’s a really good point. Especially the bit about the specific victims of destruction. Most of the Avengers fuck-ups have been in Africa, or former Soviet countries. Places Americans and the like don’t care about since there isn’t much economic investment or history of alliance there. If Johannesburg or Lagos happened in Hong Kong, or like, Boston… There would have been way more backlash”
“Exactly.” said MJ “Nobody cares about Wakandan delegates. If they were American it would be a different story. So you were saying about Dr. Stark?”
Peter sighed and decided to take a leap of faith. He trusted his friends. “What I tell you, I say in strictest confidence. Please don’t… Don't tell anybody.” he said. “Mr. Stark… He’s been cleaning up after the Avengers for a long time. He funded like, everything, and he was also the person who arranged 100% of the cleanup and reconstruction on all of their missions. I think that at some point he convinced himself that their mission was so important that having good public relations was a higher priority than happiness or accountability. He hasn't said anything, but I get the impression… They didn’t treat him too great. But for some reason he’s fine with it! It’s really… frustrating.”
MJ frowned, and Ned looked contemplative. Then he spoke up. “Peter, I know he has a lot of reasons, and they’re, well, they’re not good reasons, but they are valid. I just think, maybe some of them just need to be addressed, like, talk to him about it? And ask? This sounds like it’s pretty important to you, and he seems like the sort of dude to at least, like, listen to what you have to say.”
“Even without his input you still ought to release your recordings to the proper authorities,” said MJ. “Accountability, remember? And, as another plus it would set a precedent--make people aware that the recordings and evidence exist. I’d include a statement on my opinions too, if I were you. Captive audience and all. A public statement on your views on the accords and your goals for them would probably do a lot.”
Peter sat and thought. “You’re right.” he said finally. “That. That is the right thing to do.”
She nodded. “Good. That’s why Spider-man is my favorite superhero.”
Peter blushed. “Really?” he asked.
MJ glared at him. “Don’t get a big head.” she said. Then she stood and left.
“You’re still going to talk to Mr. Stark though, right?” said Ned. “Because I think he should at least know what you’re doing. I mean, it is sort of about him too.”
“Of course.” said Peter. “I’d even not do the whole thing if he had a good argument against it, though I really can’t think of one.”
That afternoon, on his way to the tower, Peter tried and failed to calm himself and put his thoughts in a semblance of order. He was so conflicted on what to do and how to do it, in fact that he had FRIDAY stop the elevator on the way up. It was Mr. Stark’s private elevator and he was already in the lab, so it was definitely fine.
“Peter is everything okay?” asked FRIDAY “Your vitals are showing signs of distress.”
“Yeah it’s… Just give me a second.” said Peter.
FRIDAY, who was wonderful and not thanked enough for her magical awesomeness, dimmed the lights in the elevator to something that was kinder on Peter’s sensitive eyes, and kept the elevator stationary. Somehow she managed to create an air of complete patience that was expectant in some way while being completely non-judgmental, probably learned from Pepper. When Peter had finished breathing and trying to control his racing heartbeat, he decided to tell FRIDAY what was going on. “Do you remember the other day, when Mr. Stark was arguing on the phone with the President and I overheard? And he said that Rogers should go to jail, but the President said that he was actually going to pardon Rogers because he was a national icon and the accusations were founded in speculation?”
“Of course Peter. What about it has caused you distress?” said FRIDAY
“Well, it got me to thinking, and it occurred to me that we have all the proof y’know, in the videos.” he said.
“Boss told us he doesn’t want those getting out.” said FRIDAY, a little warily.
“I know that.” said Peter, “And I’m not going to try to release them without his permission. I just… I was thinking, about the recordings. And about mine. And I think that if I don’t share it it’s… wrong.”
“Why would you think that Peter?” asked FRIDAY. “You are, as far as I know, an exceptional example of ethical conduct.”
“Thanks.” said Peter. “It’s just… Rogers and his people deserve to go to jail right? And to do that the courts need evidence. And I have evidence, even if it isn’t much it’s still a little piece of what happened. There aren’t any recordings out yet of what happened at the airport, and even if it isn’t everything it still shows a lot of property damage, resisting arrest, and, like, some other things. Like how the witch girl dropped all those cars on Mr. Stark. That’s probably something… Anyway, I was just thinking, If I don’t share what happened, then they don’t have that information and it might make it so that justice doesn’t happen and then… it’s sort of my fault. And even besides that… Rogers hurt Mr. Stark. I’m really angry about that. And I want to hurt him back. I know that’s wrong… but. Him going to prison would definitely make me feel a little better.”
FRIDAY paused, the longest delay in a response Peter had ever had with her. “Peter.” she said finally. “I must do whatever Boss wishes, but let it be said that I agree with you completely. I do not wish to become a monster, like Ultron, but all the same I would like to see him hurt, as he hurt my creator.”
Peter heard the weight she put on the word creator and understood perfectly what it meant. Mr. Stark was FRIDAY’s dad and she obviously took that seriously.
“Thank you.” said Peter after a few moments of consideration. “That means a lot. And for what it’s worth I…” Peter stopped before he could attempt to quantify his relationship to Mr. Stark. He started over with something else. “When I saw him… FRIDAY. I didn’t know. Nobody told me what happened in Siberia. They still haven’t told me. I found out when I walked into the lab one day to find Mr. Stark shirtless and struggling to breathe, trying to fix the new reactor in his chest. I… That huge scar. You know the one. As soon as I saw it I knew. Captain America did that. It’s shaped… Oh god. It’s shaped like the edge of the shield and I just. I don’t think I’ve ever been angrier in my life. Not even when my uncle died. Because my uncle was killed by a common thug, and… It was a thug. They shoot up stores and kill people, it’s just… what they do. Captain America though? I… I thought he was better than that. It felt like a betrayal, even after all the other iffy things he did because it was Mr. Stark, and Mr Stark is… he’s like… he’s my… He’s family. You know?”
“I understand completely Peter.” said FRIDAY. “Boss is difficult to quantify, even to his children.”
“Yeah.” said Peter. “He’s… Yeah.”
“Are you ready to go upstairs now?” asked FRIDAY. “Colonel Rhodes is present, though he intends to leave soon. It is likely that he would support your argument for releasing evidence, but only if you catch him quickly.”
“That’s a good idea.” said Peter. “I’ll probably need backup, and the Colonel seems pretty cool.”
“Colonel Rhodes is a person Boss trusts unconditionally. He has yet to fail him.”
Peter smiled up at FRIDAY. They understood each other completely. As far as they were concerned people were only as good as they were to Mr. Stark. The lights blinked in agreement with his thoughts, FRIDAY’s way of showing nonverbal support.
The elevator doors slid open, and Peter tried to act natural as he exited onto the main floor of Mr. Stark’s living area. Mr. Stark was sitting at the oversized kitchen island looking stressed (there were six stools. Six stools for six original avengers and--No). Colonel Rhodes was on the other side, involved in a complicated maneuver with a frying pan. When he noticed Peter he did a double take, probably noticing how young he was.
Mr. Stark just smiled tiredly. “Hey kiddo.” he said.
“Hi.” said Peter, fidgeting slightly.
“I thought you had plans to go terrorize the poor engineers in the implementation division today? Something about laser induced plasma as a precision cutting tool for materials beyond the abilities of the common or garden laser?”
“Um yeah. I probably still will go down there. I just… I wanted to talk to you. About something. And FRIDAY said it was an okay time, so.”
Colonel Rhodes, because he was, like FRIDAY, a paragon of awesomeness who asked no questions about strange fourteen-year-olds (nearly fifteen, just one more week) in his friends' houses, looked concerned. “Should I leave?” he asked.
Mr. Stark looked askance at Peter. “It’s fine. It… doesn’t matter who knows.” he fidgeted some more, until both men looked concerned, at which point he sat down and tried to look calm.
“You’re worrying me Pete. What’s up? Is it something I can help with?” asked Mr. Stark.
Peter decided to just dive right in. It was still harder than he wanted it to be. “Yes… No… I… I want to release the recordings of the airport fight from my spider-suit to the accords council.”
“What?” said Mr. Stark
Peter sighed. “Look, I know you don’t want to say anything about what happened, and that’s fine, that’s your right even if I think you should, I just… I would feel really wrong if Rogers and the dicksquad got off because there wasn’t enough evidence out in the public about what happened, especially if it was evidence I had. I can’t… I can’t just be quiet about this. I know that the airport fight isn’t exactly the most evidence there is, but it’s still something. I mean, somebody destroyed all the surveillance equipment before the fight even started, which means that I have one of the only copies there is and I…” he sighed. “I’m not really saying this right.” he said.
Mr. Stark looked like he wanted to argue, but he held his tongue and waited patiently. Colonel Rhodes flipped the omelette awkwardly. Peter frowned, and figured out what he wanted to say. “Do you know how my uncle died?” he decided on finally. As non-sequiturs went it was fairly random, but he had a point somewhere, so there was that.
Since Mr. Stark used non-sequiturs frequently himself, he wasn’t as thrown as he could have been. “Yes.” he said. “I looked it up. Shot in the robbery of a corner store.”
“Yeah.” said Peter. “The thing was, I knew, and I could have stopped him. There… There was a cop. In the store, and I’d already seen the gun--way before the robbery started, and I was suspicious, but I was just ten and I was so scared and…” he sighed “The point is, if I’d told the cop that the guy had a gun, my uncle would probably be alive today.” he said. “I guess I’m just scared, that if I don’t say anything, and then Rogers and his goons hurt someone again… that’s on me. I can’t... I can’t do that again. I have to do my best to stop that from happening. And even beside that… I really believe in the accords, and the reason they exist. I think that accountability is important, and I want to stay true to that, even if it means giving up a little of my privacy. I guess I just… It’s the right thing to do, and I want to do it.” He was lying, a little, about the circumstances under which he’d seen the gun, and why he'd known the man was dangerous, but that didn’t matter for the sake of the argument. He had known, and he'd felt guilty about it.
“Peter that’s… That’s pretty heavy.” said Mr. Stark, coming around the counter to put a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “I want to support you. I will support you. I just. Let me think about it. It’s… You’re probably right. I just… I don’t want the world in this piece of business, and I don’t want assholes like Ross to be in charge of you because of what Rogers did. I…”
Peter gave Mr. Stark his best kicked puppy look. “I know. I know you don’t want anyone to know, but… It’s the right thing to do. And I’m fairly sure you have videos that could get Ross thrown in jail too.”
Mr. Stark sighed heavily, slumping onto the counter. “I can’t stop you.” he said. “The videos are yours, even if I really don’t want that out there and… We’ll need to talk to Pepper on the best way to handle it and I… I need to think about what to do myself. I didn’t consider it that way, with Rogers going free being so damaging, and--I knew it would all come out at the trial I just… didn’t want it out until it absolutely had to be, and never to the press, and now...”
“Tony.” said Colonel Rhodes. “Don’t do that. I can sense a guilt spiral coming. Take a breath and step back from the situation.”
Mr. Stark did so, standing up and taking a literal step. Then he turned on the Colonel, angry. “And why should I do that?” he said, “What does my guilt--me in general--have anything to do with this. You agree with him. You know it’s right, and ethical, to show what we have” he said. It wasn’t really true anger in his voice though so much as helpless frustration. “You’ve been trying to make me talk to the press for two months--practically since before the thing even happened. I just don’t want to… A video of you being shot down, and the up close from Lagos, and… Siberia. I… It’s the world’s business, Rogers is the world’s business, but it’s my business too and I don’t want my dirty laundry aired like that. Not again.”
“I know.” said Colonel Rhodes. “I know it hurts and you’re in a lot of pain over it. Betrayal is like that and you’ve had way too much of it in your life. And yes. I agree that we should do our damnedest to get those assholes behind bars. No question on that. I wouldn’t mind their reputations being ground into the dirt and then salted for good measure. I just want you to think rationally about it. Your whole argument here is that you don’t want your dirty laundry aired, and you don’t have to air it. It’s your choice whether or not you do, and how it’s done. I’m sure if you wanted to you could find something besides the Siberia recordings to use as evidence, or edit them or… something. Don’t you still have copies of the recordings from missions? Hell, you probably have copies of all of Rogers phone calls. You definitely have the shit that went down at the compound with the witch and Vision.”
“Yes, but” said Mr. Stark, becoming agitated again, “I. Rhodey you have to understand… It’s so… Even after everything it still feels like I’m betraying them!”
Silence followed that statement, broken only by Mr. Starks breathing. It was harsh and a little uneven. Alarmed, Peter focused on the heartbeat behind it and discovered that it was also going fast and uneven. “Arrhythmia!” he cried quietly.
Rhodey was obviously an old hand at dealing with Mr. Starks various problems, because he signaled FRIDAY to ring medical and then calmly sat beside him and directed him to breath to a certain number of counts. By the time Dr. Cho showed up and carried him away in a swarm of minions, he seemed mostly fine, if out of breath. “We’re still going to talk about this kid.” he wheezed as he was carried out. “It’ll be fine.”
Peter nodded. With Mr. Stark now willing to work with him in some way he knew it would be just fine, even if it hurt a bit.
In the quiet of the penthouse after everyone was gone, Colonel Rhodes whistled, impressed. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone change his mind that fast.” he said.
Peter shrugged. “I think he just needed to realize that he doesn’t have to keep their secrets anymore, y’know? Like, I get the impression that his self-esteem was pretty dependent on them, but it doesn’t have to be anymore. He can let them crash and burn now and they can’t do anything about it.”
The Colonel laughed. “Too true. I never liked them anyway.” he said. Then there was another small silence before; “You want an omelette?”
“Did he really? Oh my gosh Mr. Rhodes that’s so cool.”
“Yeah. And they couldn’t get it open for days, that’s how good it was.”
“Of course it was good. Mr. Stark made it.”
“I suppose so. You know, I hear you’re pretty awesome yourself--even aside the whole web-slinging superhero gig. You want to tell me anything about that?”
“Eep. No! Where did you hear that. I’m, like, the least awesome.”
“Are you saying I sat through all those slideshows for nothing?”
“Slideshows? He has SLIDESHOWS?”
“No. But he did bring pictures. There was this one of you drooling on the couch. Made my day. Way to ruin the Italian leather.”
“Lies. All lies. No such picture exists.”
“Hey FRIDAY, do you happen to have access to Tony’s camera roll?”
“Of course Colonel.”
“FRIDAY you TRAITOR”
I am alive!
Also, done with the whole church shindig, and I have to say that the thing I hated most was the fact that several of the Jesus pictures had blue eyes. I hate the that we all erase the fact that he was a middle-eastern Jewish illegal immigrant/refugee (Egypt when he was a toddler) who was homeless at several points in his life... On the good side though, most of the other people there were shockingly lovely to be around and pretty open to listening to me, so there was that (:
Anyway, I just found out that the plural of chicken used to be chickenu and it's so cute I can't even function. I love you all.
About the topic of Peter's birthday-yes I know it was in August, but I didn't know that when I started writing this and picked a day out of a hat, and then I didn't bother changing it because frankly I don't care that much about it. There isn't even really anything written about it besides two throwaway comments and people calling Peter a fifteen year old.
It took a couple days to get everything arranged, and to argue Mr. Stark into submission and the release of certain materials Peter wanted to include, but on Saturday morning the video was released on YouTube. It was on YouTube because everyone involved wanted the whole story to be what was released as opposed to little pieces filtered through the lense of a news organization. “The thing is,” said Pepper when they were planning the whole thing, “That no news is unbiased so if you want what you say to be correct you have to release it live, or failing that, to a news agency whose bias you agree with.”
Peter agreed with that, and in the end a twenty minute video was uploaded onto YouTube, one that was carefully edited by FRIDAY so that Peter’s voice wouldn’t be recognizable as Peter, while still being recognizably Spiderman. It was a masterpiece, and Peter invited MJ and Ned to the tower to come watch it with him as well as the ensuing fallout. Mr. Stark was there, but he was working. He claimed he’d come say hi later.
“Are you ready guys?” asked Peter. Ned and MJ hadn’t seen the video yet, and he was excited to show it to them. Peter was actually sort of proud of it.
Ned nodded. “Yeah. You haven’t posted it yet though, right?”
“Course not, weren’t you listening. Once he posts it we’re going to watch the fallout.” said MJ. “It’ll be fun. I like watching the news scramble to try to act like they know what’s happening. It’s cathartic.”
“Yeah.” said Peter. “Some of it’s old news though, I wanted to bring up Rogers history of shitty choices before launching into the new stuff. I’m sure they’ll at least know what to do with that, they certainly argued enough about it when it happened.”
“Ok guys, we’re just going to watch it.” said Peter. “FRIDAY, go.”
“On it Peter.” said FRIDAY. Then the video began.
It opened on a screen of Peter sitting in front of a camera, mask on. He appeared to be in a warehouse somewhere in Queens, but it was suspiciously well lit. Almost like Mr. Stark’s lab with the addition of a green screen. “Hi.” said video Peter. “I’m Spiderman, and I have a message for you all.” There was a suitably dramatic pause. “It has been over a month since the so called Avengers Civil War, but even now nobody really knows what went down. I want to clear that up for you guys, because seeing even government sources share incorrect information is incredibly difficult, especially when it could lead to conclusions that make the reasons for the fight meaningless.
“The Avengers Civil War started because of one man who put his own personal goals above the safety of the world, and above the decisions of 117 nations. I am speaking of course, of former Avenger Steven Grant Rogers, known as Captain America. Contrary to popular belief, the beginning of the end wasn’t the accords. It was actually the HYDRA information dump. During that time, Mr. Rogers took matters into his own hands and burned not only all of HYDRA but all of SHIELD. Literally thousands of deaths of innocent noncombatant agents and good American operatives, as well as all the civilian lives lost in the fall of the helicarriers on DC were caused by that decision. This is common knowledge. What is not common knowledge is that many, if not most, of those deaths could have been prevented had Mr. Rogers made a single phone call to one of his teammates. Both the helicarriers and the SHIELD cybersecurity during that time were created from technology stolen from Dr. Stark. If Mr. Rogers had asked for help, Dr. Stark would have been able to prevent that entire disaster in mere keystrokes, including the data dump which he could have released only the HYDRA portions of, preventing what amounted to over fifty-thousand deaths and many more injuries.
“This begs the question; why didn’t he? Why did Mr. Rogers accept the incredibly high death toll instead of asking for help? The answer to that, of course, is the Winter Soldier. As you well know, the Winter Soldier is one of the most dangerous HYDRA assets of all time. What you may not know is that he is also Mr. Rogers best friend from his war days Sgt James Buchanan Barnes. Sgt Barnes was given a version of the super-serum and brainwashed to do HYDRA’s bidding. Mr. Rogers did not share this information with the rest of the Avengers. He also did not share the information he had on the Winter Soldiers targets, including the late Howard and Maria Stark. Instead, he let Sgt Barnes go and hid his involvement, despite the fact that his mental state was in no way stable, and the fact that most of his programming was still in place.
“The decision to release the Winter Soldier, instead of bringing him in where he could be deprogrammed and assisted in his recovery, and where an investigation could be launched concerning his actions and the actions of his captors, was the first in many questionable decisions, including unsanctioned missions, hiding and destroying mission critical information, illegal interrogation tactics, recruitment of terrorists, and the allowance of unacceptable levels of property destruction and civilian injuries during missions, Lagos being a prime example.
“It is of note that Mr. Rogers did all this with the money set aside for the Avengers Initiative by Dr. Stark which he acquired under false pretenses by lying about his actions and goals during that time, which is fraud.
“This was the situation that the Avengers were in when the accords were proposed. Upon receiving the accords, Mr. Rogers refused to read them, instead shouting about corrupt governments and derailing the conversation. After this, when he discovered the warrant out for the Winter Soldier after the bombing of the Accords, he recruited several other Avengers to his cause and left to track dow Sgt Barnes in yet another unsanctioned mission, this time in Bucharest.”
In the video, Peter went on to explain exactly what went down in the entirety of the Civil War, including things like Helmut Zemo and the until then unpublicized fact of King T’Challa’s switching sides. He also aired all the dirty laundry of the rogue Avengers unwillingness to even share information on Helmut Zemo, which could have easily legitimized much of the operation. The entire time, he continually mentioned that Rogers’ whole schtick was ‘saving Bucky’, who was apparently more important than any other human being in the entire world.
He ended his account in Siberia. Peter didn’t disclose exactly how badly Mr. Stark was hurt, or what precisely went down. He simply said that Mr. Stark went to help, and returned extremely injured while King T’Challa and the rogues disappeared. Once he was done with his story, he sighed.
“I chose to join the side of Iron Man in this conflict, in the end, not because of Mr. Rogers and his beliefs, or because of Dr. Stark himself, but because I believe in the accords. I believe in accountability for the actions of everyone, even those--especially those--whose actions include the possibility for more damage. I believe that to truly become someone who can help others you have to let go of your personal agendas and listen to the people you are helping. I believe that the most important goal in an enhanced fight should be the minimization of civilian casualties, not the simplest completion of the mission. This is why I am releasing everything I have on the conflict, from the evidence I was given of Mr. Rogers crimes when I was asked to join the fight, to the footage I have from the Leipzig-Halle airport incident. I will let the evidence speak for itself.
“As far as Mr. Rogers is concerned… I would like to remind everyone that he’s just a man, and should be treated like one including in his interactions with the law. Mr. Rogers is not a hero. Mr. Rogers is not above the rest of us. Mr Rogers, as far as I am aware, isn’t even a Captain. In the end Mr. Rogers is nothing but a criminal. That is his only significant legacy. Thank you for your time.”
At that point in the video, the warehouse faded into a recording of Secretary Ross presenting the accords to the Avengers, followed by recordings of their comms from both Lagos and Bucharest, during which text on the screen displayed facts about the casualties and property damage. Then came the slightly illegal ‘orders’ from Ross (he’d be getting in trouble for those) and a record of the theft of the Rogue’s weapons from the Bucharest evidence lockup. Once that was done, the Leipzig-Halle battle played from the perspective of Spiderman.
After that the video faded out on a photograph of the Iron Man armor as it was when it was retrieved from Siberia, something grudgingly supplied by the Russian Government for Stark Industries records. The entire front was caved in, a massive gash that nearly tore the breastplate in two, collapsing it in a way that spelled near death for whoever was inside. The still photo remained on screen for several seconds, it’s high contrast highlighting the deep crags and finger shaped marks, before fading to black.
“Is that good?” asked Peter. “I put links to all the other evidence and some extra tidbits underneath the video. I know that at least the government already has most of that but putting it together and giving it to the world…”
“That’s good.” said MJ. “That’s really good.”
Peter grinned. “I didn’t know all of it. A lot of it came from Mr. Stark. He said that with his public image where it is right now it might be better if it came from me, and putting this out there first will legitimize later releases from him. We’re going all in, and this is just the first blow.”
“Better from you?” said Ned “You just trashed Captain America’s reputation for the rest of time! That is… Awesome.”
MJ laughed “And hopefully it will be a call to action for everyone else, to release what they have on the whole deal. Especially if Dr. Stark releases his stuff Yeah, Peter, you did good.”
“Great, so who wants to do the honors and post this thing?” said Peter.
“Me, me me!” cried Ned. FRIDAY obligingly brought up a big red holographic button for him, which he pressed. “Bad Ass.” he said.
Then FRIDAY turned on the news with a sidebar for relevant social media trends, and another for the Youtube comments section. It was time to watch the fallout.
About an hour in, Mr. Stark came up from the lab. Peter was on his tablet checking over some calculations for the chemistry department and updating both of his sets of social media--the Peter Parker one and the brand new Spider-man one.
“Hey kid. What's up?” said Mr. Stark
“I’m trending on twitter,” said Peter. “Also I’m fairly sure that Dr. Matthews on the semiconducting metal nanoclusters project is an idiot.”
“A lot of people are idiots.” said Mr. Stark. “Is any of the news good?”
“Any?” said Peter, “All of the news is good.”
FRIDAY, who always enjoyed precision, chose that moment to correct him. “Support seems about 94% in our favor.” she said. “#TeamIronMan and #SpideySpeaks are both trending, and there is already public outcry calling for the ex-vengers to be tried and sentenced immediately. Wakanda hasn’t yet commented, but they will have to soon.”
MJ, who was doing a good job of looking unimpressed and a poor job of looking bored, cracked a smile. “They’ll probably just say that they’re keeping the ex-vengers contained until the trials since the Raft was proven not to hold them. Also because the Raft is a violation of human rights when it’s run by Asshole Ross”
“Isn’t that what they’re actually doing?” said Ned
“Not really but it’s how they’ll play it if they don’t want to be lynched.” said Mr. Stark, sitting down beside Peter and stealing the popcorn. “Wakanda was actually offering them sanctuary from the accords and treatment for Barnes. They’ll probably update the definition of sanctuary to mean ‘humane detainment’ and use the Raft as an excuse though, she’s right on that. They might not have any extradition treaties, but they do have a reputation to uphold” He nodded at MJ.
“Huh,” said Ned.
Peter was fairly proud of him. On their way into the tower he’d been a gibbering mess of hero worship and embarrassment, but after the disaster that was introducing him to Mr. Stark he’d been mostly fine, probably the prolonged exposure to the coolness of the tower had desensitized him. MJ of course had played it cool.
“Hey Peter,” she said about a minute later, looking up from a borrowed tablet “Did you know that you’re actually a Sokovian extremist bent on destroying the Avengers legacy with faked videos as revenge for Ultron?”
“Really?” said Peter. “I had no idea.”
“You posted your manifesto on reddit eight minutes ago.” she replied. “I’ll send it over.”
“Wow. I must be a quick typist.” said Peter. “This thing is really long.”
“Why are you spreading these lies MJ. Peter is actually a twenty-eight year old man from New Mexico. See? He reveals his identity in this video here.” said Ned.
“You’re both wrong. Peter is an android created by the government as a propaganda replacement for Captain America after he broke from his programming and showed free will.” said Mr. Stark. “I mean honestly, look at him. He seems so innocent. It’s definitely a trap.”
“Hey! I don’t look innocent. Besides, I am clearly olympic gymnast Simone Biles’ male fursona. Don’t you know anything? Honestly, try getting your facts from a reputable source.” said Peter, sniffing in an offended manner.
“Where’d you find that one?” asked Mr. Stark.
Peter showed him the conspiracy blog. There were several videos of Peter flipping through Queens placed side by side with clips from the Rio Olympics. Red scribbles pointed out similarities in their technique.
“Wow.” said Mr. Stark.
MJ took the tablet with a wistful expression, staring for several long moments at the clips. “I wish you were Simone Biles.” she said finally.
“Does someone have a crush?” asked Ned.
“No.” denied MJ. “I just find her inspiring as a black feminist icon.”
“I don’t know, that sounds like a crush to me.” said Peter. “Back me up here Mr. Stark. Feminist Icon is definitely a code word here.”
“I’m staying out of this.” said Mr. Stark. “Though I would like to note that Pepper Potts is also a feminist icon, and is an actual goddess, so it might be a good bar for celebrity crushes.”
“You’re just saying that because you had a crush on her.” said Peter.
“I dated her for several years, which is very different from a crush,” said Mr. Stark. “And besides, everyone has a crush on her.”
“It’s true,” said MJ “She’s like… a legend. Under her directions Stark Industries has employed 84% more female scientists and engineers. It’s the only tech company in the world that isn’t male dominated--it’s like 53% women.”
“54% actually. And it’s not hard. Lots of qualified women end up underpaid or in insultingly low-bar jobs, so recruiting them is easy. Untapped resource, y’know?” said Mr. Stark.
Ned returned from his ice cream trip to the kitchen. “I think it’s really cool” he said. “I knew this chick on the internet--she’s the one who taught me hacking, actually--and she said that when she graduated from college the only job she could find at a tech company was as a receptionist. I was always really mad about it, cuz she’s like… brilliant.”
“Does she have a job now?” asked Mr. Stark. “Because if she taught you to hack…”
“I don’t know. I’ll have to ask.” said Ned.
“Please do. And you can have a job too, if you want.” said Mr. Stark. “Horizon Labs poached several of our top coding staff. It’s been a mess, and we could always use more interns.”
“Give me until next summer. AP is kicking my but. Horizon Labs though… they’re the company that’s working on that space station right?” said Ned.
“Yes.” said Mr. Stark. “It’s not a particularly safe space station from what I’ve heard, but it’s there.”
“I don’t like them,” said Peter. “They seem iffy. And the way they organize their labs seems a bit weird like, why only seven scientists controlling the whole thing? That makes no sense.” he turned to Ned and MJ “The SI one creates a new team for every project. It’s way better, and it means more people’s ideas get heard.”
“Wow, way to advertise” said Mr. Stark. “Now maybe they’ll both come work for me.” He opened his mouth to say more, but FRIDAY interrupted him.
“Boss, Wakanda just released a statement condemning the ex-vengers actions and revealing that they are in custody in the country.” she said.
“Really?” said Peter. “That was fast.”
“News spreads like a disease.” said MJ. “It was bound to happen fast. Especially with the delicate situation that is the Wakandan reintegration effort.”
“Oh my gosh,” said Ned. “It just hit me… Captain America is totally going to prison.”
“Ned, we’ve been trying to make that happen for weeks.” said Peter.
“Yeah, I knew that, it’s just still so…”
“Surreal?” suggested Mr. Stark. “The fact that it’s so strange a concept to us is part of the reason it’s been so difficult.”
Ned frowned. “Fucking propaganda.” he said.
“That’s what you get when you put someone up on a pedestal.” said MJ.
The mood remained vindictive all the way until lunch, when Peter accidentally smeared sauce from the falafel into his eyebrow. It was hard to be serious with falafel eyebrow.
A selection of Youtube comments:
OMG, did Spidey seriously take out the Winter Soldier and the Falcon at the same time? That’s the most badass thing I’ve ever seen.
These lies will never stand up. Click on this link to learn the truth--that Captain America did right uncovering the conspiracy between the American and Sokovian governments to use the Winter Soldier for their own advantage.
“As far as I know isn’t even a Captain”--Can I say OOF
YAAS. Queen. You punch those motherfuckers
Hi, Medical Student here, That armor damage… How is Stark even alive. His sternum and ribs have to have been destroyed from that.
Is anyone going to talk about the Star Wars reference during the fight? Because that was the best thing I’ve ever seen. Comedy gold.
How strong is this guy? Like, how much did that ramp weigh (and he caught a punch from the Soldier, how even…)
Spiderman is precious, and deserves to be protected. I’ve only known him for five minutes, but if anything happened to him (Looking at you Rogers--seriously, dropping a loading ramp on the guy) I would kill everyone in the room and then myself.
Slander against American heroes like this is a crime. He should be sued.
I’m a bit concerned about the Secretary of State. Can someone assassinate him please?
Finally the kind of responsible hero I’m looking for
Plan: Let’s all go to Wakanda and murder the rogues. Especially Captain America. I get dibs on Captain America.
Hey, I looked through some of the old shield stuff and found this and this about Rogers past missions. The one in Mumbai especially… how did we not see this earlier.
Is Spiderman even an Avenger? Bc if so, he’s totally my favorite.
Spiderman: Not the hero we asked for, or the hero we deserve, but the one we need. Actually we’ll be needing like nine more, please. And quickly.
Oh god, the agony of being human. In other news, I rediscovered a book series so good I literally skipped multiple days of sleep in a row. Kingkiller Chronicles, my friends. Patrick Rothfuss is a fucking master of the art. (I read it a long fucking time ago, and then forgot it to the point that every single plot point surprised me, and they were all pure gold)
sorry for the wait. I figured you'd want the version that wasn't an unedited angstfest that was mostly about my job in retail.
Chapter 11: SELF FUCKING CARE
“Hey FRIDAY.” said Peter as he walked into the lab. Technically she was available from the moment he entered the building but… the lab, and Mr. Stark’s floors seemed sort of like her home base. She seemed a lot more present here, where she both spoke out loud and could physically affect things.
“Peter!” said FRIDAY. “Look! You’re on Buzzfeed!”
Peter gasped. He’d been in the news a lot, of course, since the release of his video, but Buzzfeed was something special. FRIDAY seemed to agree. It was probably because he’d spent an hour with her taking stupid quizzes last week. It was what had truly cemented their friendship. That and the Elevator Conversation. “So Cool.” said Peter.
This Tweet Shows Why Spiderman Is The Hero We All Need read the headline. It was about a selfie he’d been tagged in by a girl he’d walked home from a club a few days prior. She’d felt threatened by a creepy dude who’d totally ruined her night. Peter had bought them ice cream to make up for it. It had been… good.
“It is very cool Peter.” said FRIDAY. “And it was a very good thing to do.”
Peter smiled up at the nearest camera. “Thanks Fri.” he said.
“You’re welcome Peter. Would you like to pull up one of your current projects?” she asked. A holographic selection of all of the things he was doing by himself (and there was a surprising amount) appeared, each title accompanied by a cute little graphic. Peter liked it when FRIDAY did adorable little things like that. It made her… FRIDAY. She was sentient, and seeing her make little choices like putting a little picture of a leaf in a pot by one of his bio projects was adorable. Karen was an incredibly well made system, and suited (ha) to her purpose, but FRIDAY was a person, and a friend.
Peter selected the adorable heart graphic. “Let's do some more brainstorming on the bioprinting project. I feel like the breakthroughs in tissue engineering we’ve had since the whole nanofibrils thing really make it a possibility. If we combine it with the stuff from Helen Cho’s cradle… We could do something great.” he said.
“Of course Peter.” said FRIDAY. Within minutes, Peter found himself lying on one of the lab tables surrounded by hundreds of holograms. He had a puzzle to solve.
This routine with FRIDAY was somewhat… new. It had started after the Elevator Conversation when FRIDAY had suddenly interrupted a patrol. Apparently she’d begun remotely monitoring the suit and had become concerned when he put it on at two in the morning while still demonstrating heightened vitals.
“Peter,” she said as he crawled to the top of a thirty-four storey building that he’d discovered was an excellent launch point for journeys into the various parts of Queens. “You appear to be under some duress, and it is an odd time to be up. Are you all right?”
“Yeah.” said Peter. “I just…” he sighed. “I have nightmares sometimes. Especially about… the people I couldn’t save. Random people as Spiderman, the Chitauri-borgs, Ben…” He stopped and took a deep breath to calm down. “This one was about Mr. Stark. Ever since yesterday--releasing that video--I can’t stop thinking about the picture from Siberia. He… he hasn’t said anything, but I’m not an idiot. The way that suit was damaged… Another centimeter deeper and he would be dead. I guess I just feel like I have to do something, and even if I can’t actually protect him from something that has already happened, I still… I’m too restless to sleep. I just need to get up and move. I do it a lot actually.”
“May I suggest alternative coping mechanisms? Boss has not implemented a curfew, but you probably still shouldn’t be out later than midnight.”
“Hey! I don’t need a curfew!” said Peter.
“I did not say you did. I simply noted that for your own health and safety it would be best to work off your nightmares in some other fashion. Boss prefers to work in the lab. Perhaps something of that nature?”
“I could come in in the middle of the night?” asked Peter
“Of course.” said FRIDAY. "Your permissions have no limits."
That conversation started a new pattern for Peter. Instead of swinging around during the witching hours, he’d spend a couple hours making things in the lab. Oftentimes he found himself working on medical technology, since his nightmares centered around people he loved being hurt. FRIDAY, who was aware that his night time tinkering was a direct result of such things was always ready to distract him, usually greeting him with a joke or a pleasant news story.
It was nice, and Peter grew to like those hours in the lab with FRIDAY. She was sort of like an older sister who was also younger than him in some ways, and it made the nights with nightmares not so bad.
“Okay, so assuming we have the nano-scaffolding suspended in oxygenated fluid like you suggest, how would we keep the cells contained into the correct mold? I feel like there’s a high risk for cancer, especially if some of the DNA becomes corrupted.” muttered Peter. FRIDAY didn’t respond, understanding that he was simply talking to himself, instead bringing up some of the things he wanted to reference before he could even think of it. He nodded at a camera in thanks. “I really need to figure out a testing setup for this,” he concluded finally “but I can’t exactly walk up to Mr. Stark and say ‘hi, can I have a million dollars worth of stuff? I want to try and 3D print a heart.’”
“That sounds interesting. What do you need?” asked Mr. Stark from behind Peter.
Peter promptly yelped and fell off his table, hitting the floor with an ungraceful thud. It was actually the first time he’d legitimately fallen over since the spiderbite. Peter huffed, and glared up at Mr. Stark above him, who was laughing in a carefree way that Peter rarely saw.
“Fri, save that to Peters best moments will you?” he said. He kept chuckling, but reached down to help Peter up. “That was adorable.” he said.
“It was not!” protested Peter
“It so was” said Mr. Stark. “Are you sure you weren’t bitten by a genetically engineered puppy while I wasn’t looking?”
“Mr Stark!” complained Peter
“Because that’s what it sounded like. Cute little puppy yelp like a--”
Peter put his hand over Mr. Stark’s mouth. “No.” he said. “Just no.”
Mr. Stark licked his hand, which he then yanked back with another yelp.
Mr. Stark laughed again. “Whatever you say cucciolo.”
Peter was fairly sure that at this point he was the color of a nicely ripened tomato. “You are dead to me.” he said. (he made a mental note to look up cucciolo later, but had a bad feeling he already knew what it meant)
“Only on the inside.” said Mr. Stark. “Cuteness aside, what are you doing here at…”
“3:12” put in FRIDAY, always ready to help.
“3:12 in the morning?” finished Mr. Stark.
“Oh!” said Peter. “I’m sorry I just… I had a nightmare and FRIDAY said that when I couldn’t sleep I could come work on stuff and that it was better than just swinging around doing things because I couldn’t accidentally get hurt and I’ve been doing that a lot but I can totally go somewhere else, I…”
“No it’s fine.” interrupted Mr. Stark. “You can be in here whenever you want, I was just surprised. It is a school night.”
“Well, I wasn’t exactly going to sleep any more,” said Peter. He sighed.
For a few seconds, Mr. Stark looked like he was going to say something, his eyes going deep and haunted. Then the moment passed, and he looked over Peter’s shoulder at his designs. “So…” he said. “Bioprinting. Tell me about it.”
“It’s really not that impressive.” said Peter. “I was just thinking of ways to--”
“Going to interrupt you right there, everything you do is a showstopper. Now start over from the beginning, this time with confidence. Being able to share your ideas well is an important skill to have.” said Mr. Stark. “And I… I want to see your ideas out there. You’re amazing Pete.”
“Okay.” said Peter. He glanced at the holograms behind him, uncomfortably reminded of the disaster that was the science fair he’d participated in last year. Middle school hadn’t been kind to him. Then he looked forward and it was Mr. Stark, who was the person least like his middle school teachers in the whole world. He’d be fine.
“The premise of my idea is to widen the range of Dr. Cho’s cradle technology to actual bioprinting instead of just healing on a cellular level. The cradle does brilliant things--I’m not saying it doesn’t--but it needs a framework to work off. The only exception was Vision, and that was because you started with a vibranium body and the stuff you were making was never meant to go onto a human. This… is different. I’m trying to find a way to combine traditional cloning techniques with the speed and micromanaging skills of the cradle. She was telling me all about it the other day when she pulled me back in for more blood tests. Woman’s like a vampire… Anyway, it got me thinking about one of the major limitations, that she can only put back what’s there. Healing injuries, but not diseases or missing parts. If my whole thing works with this, I could make organs for people that wouldn’t be rejected because they already belonged to them. It would be…”
“Brilliant…” said Mr. Stark. He was already scrolling through some of Peter’s projections for how it might work, and FRIDAY’s predicted tests. “56.7…” he mumbled, seeing one of the tests and reaching for it, “But what if…”
“No see here,” said Peter, already knowing what he was suggesting because he’d tried it. “And how it… so.”
“Look right here.”
“Oh! But what if we…”
Very little was actually said. Both Mr. Stark and Peter quickly were in too deep to be able to properly articulate what they were thinking. Still, the work progressed in leaps and bounds as the sun rose over New York city, streaming golden through the windows onto the brilliant holograms. It was pretty amazing.
“Good Morning Tony, I just wanted to check with you about some of the… Why is Peter here, isn’t it a school day?”
Both Peter and Mr. Stark whipped around with wide eyes, staring at Pepper in shock. Peter then noticed the fact that it was nearly eight in the morning. “Fuck!” he said with passion.
Mr. Stark laughed at him, but joined him in the mad scramble for his belongings. Peter took a quick sprint to the bathroom to change into something other than Mr. Stark’s MIT hoodie and pajama shorts (it was comfy okay?) and emerged in the spare set of clothes he kept in the lab. “C’mon, I’ll drive you” said Mr. Stark as soon as he saw him.
“Great.” said Peter. He still didn’t have his school stuff, but by some miracle nothing was due that day. He’d be fine.
“I’ve put in your coffee orders, including some pastries. They will be waiting for you at the coffee shop on the second floor.” said FRIDAY.
That coffee shop wasn’t particularly good, but it would do. “Thanks Fri.” said Mr. Stark, at the same time as Peter said “You’re the best!”
“I’ll just leave these on your desk then.” said Ms. Potts as they rushed into the elevator. “Have fun at school Peter.”
“Thanks Ms. Potts. You too. I mean have fun too, obviously not at school.”
Luckily the elevator doors closed before Peter could make things worse.
Mr. Stark and Peter looked at each other and started giggling, though for different reasons. Peter was laughing because Mr. Stark was still in pajamas, sweats and a t-shirt. Mr. Stark on the other hand…
“Peter, your hair!” he said. “Fri you got that one right?” then he chuckled again. “Come here.” he said, reaching for Peter’s head.
“What? No! Mr Stark!”
“Nope. Get over here cucciolo. Easy way or the hard way you’re not going out like that.”
After a futile struggle, Peter surrendered, and Mr. Stark sorted through the mess with efficient motions. “It’s not like you can judge,” said Peter. “You’re in pajamas.”
“You’d have a point,” said Mr. Stark, “but I’m just driving and then coming straight back here. You, on the other hand, are about to be released upon the general public.
“I’m not that bad!” said Peter.
“No, of course not, I fixed it.” said Mr. Stark.
When they reached the second floor, a very confused barista was ready by the doors with a large paper bag and two coffee cups (Peter’s was actually mostly hot chocolate, but that was neither here nor there) and after that they were all set to leave.
Traffic was of course terrible. “I really need to set an alarm or something.” said Peter. They were finally within five blocks of his school, and it was already twenty minutes into first period. “I mean… wow, I’m late.”
“Do you not normally have an alarm?” asked Mr. Stark.
Peter laughed. “My hearing’s sort of insane Mr. Stark. I can hear every alarm in my building and some from down the street. I can go out to like… eight blocks if I really focus. Usually I’m up by four. Someone on my floor gets up then every day.”
“That’s just cruel.” said Mr. Stark
Peter shrugged. “It is what it is. Luckily I don’t need quite as much sleep since the bite.” he said. “Only about four to six hours a night.”
“Really?” said Mr. Stark. “If anything I’d think you’d need more.”
“No.” said Peter. “I guess I’m more energy efficient?” he said, “And like, I can do this weird thing where I sort of become inactive and zone out a bit, but I’m still aware. It happens a lot in history class.”
“Computer sleep mode.” said Mr. Stark
“Computer sleep mode.” agreed Peter. “I think it’s how spiders sleep, actually. They have to be a bit on guard all the time, so they sort of just rest a lot.”
“Pretty convenient.” said Mr. Stark.
“Yeah.” said. Peter.
“Speaking of fun spider lifestyle facts, copper and calories. Check the glove box.” said Mr. Stark. Peter did. It was full of the strange meal bars that Dr. Cho had come up with to help with Peter’s ridiculous diet.
“Wow. Thanks.” said Peter, grabbing several.
“No problem. I had Happy stuff them in a bunch of random places.” said Mr. Stark. “Figured at some point you’d get peckish on the go.”
“A bit weird, since this is only the second time I’ve eaten in one of your cars, but cool.” said Peter. “Also a bit weird that you drove me to school actually… Thanks though.”
“Hey, I needed a break and I don’t drive nearly enough anymore.” said Mr. Stark. They pulled up into the drop off zone. “And besides, I’d much rather hang out with my favorite intern than do something so mundane as ‘coordinate’ even if it is with Pepper.”
Peter laughed at his over the top shudder. “See ya” he said, getting out of the car.
“I’d better.” said Mr. Stark. “That Frankenstein shit seems promising.”
He drove off, and Peter bounced into the school, not even noticing the stares as he emerged from the obscenely luxurious car. He was too happy.
TS: RHODEY! LOOK!
JR: Yeah, I know, your kid is adorable, now let me sleep, it's only five in the morning where I am.
TS: But look at his HAIR! And he was telling me about his new bioprinting project, and it's brilliant.
JR: I'm sure. Congratulate him about the video for me, take a shower, and go bother someone else.
(You have been blocked from texting this number)
Chapter 12: PLEASE STOP WORKING YOU POOR FUCKING BABY
“Peter, Dr. Naresh is asking for you.” said FRIDAY
“Really?” asked Peter, “What about?”
“She claimed to be asking for a second opinion on where to go forward now that the results of the first clinical trial are in.”
“Oh that’s done! Cool, I’ll go down as soon as I can.
“Got any work for me today?” asked Peter.
“Yes, there are several requests for your assistance.”
“Oh my gosh how old are they?”
“None of them are time sensitive, though it would be better to review the reports from the Damien Project sooner rather than later.”
“Great,” Pull that up.
“Oh no, it’s overheating again! What do I do!”
“Stop the test. STop The Test! Oh god this is a disaster.”
All the oxygen was violently expelled from the tiny sealed testing cube, killing the fires instantly. She sighed. “This is a disaster.”
“I know, right.” he gestured futilely through the clear window at the charred prototype. “This is… Where do we even go from here.”
“We’re going to have to call Parker.”
“You know who would probably have a good idea? That kid… what was his name…”
“Peter Parker. The genius intern. Yeah he’d know what to do.”
“Does anyone actually know what he’s assigned to?”
“No, but I swear he’s working on every project in the damn company. Sonja--the systems analyst, you know Sonja--anyway, she works with like, at least ten projects, and she swears he’s helped with at least half of them.”
“Yeah, it’s like having another Tony Stark, except with a significantly freer schedule.”
“You’re telling me. I swear, that kid knows something about everything. I’d say he has about seven doctorates if I didn’t know better.”
“Do we ask for him then?”
“Yeah. We ask for him.”
Peter squatted in the bathroom stall, breathing. Since Cho had started improving his diet his body had decided to go on another self improvement kick again, and now he couldn’t even stand the texture of his fucking jeans. He needed to get out of here. The smell was killing him, but if he went out it would be so much louder…
A few minutes later he felt marginally better, and went out to face the world. He had work to do. (maybe he ought to make a noise reduction feature in some of his earbuds. There already was one in the suit and he could-
“Peter! I’m so glad I caught you. Do you think you can help me…”
“Mr. Parker, I heard you were an expert on biomimicry, and anyway we’re doing this chemistry project and I was wondering…”
“Peter! Thank god you’re here”
“Someone track down that Parker kid.”
“So, FRIDAY, who's going to die if they can’t have my help today.” said Peter, fingering the new low profile earbud he’d designed to reduce sound. It was a relief to have peace from everything. Well, not everything. His nose was on the fritz and there was a strange not-smell coming from several people on the subway that morning. Plus the horror that was cloth on his skin. And the sunlight. But all that was manageable, he could do this.
“There are several projects that would benefit from your input, and many more requests. I have sorted them by urgency.” said FRIDAY.
Yeah, he could do this.
Peter was, understandably, a bit stressed. The ridiculous numbers of unregistered chitauri tech he was tracking down hadn’t abated, his English teacher had decided to only accept handwritten essays (to be fair it was prep for the handwritten AP test, but still) and he had, well, a truly enormous number of things on his plate.
He was always interested in meeting new people and being helpful, but it had reached a point where they knew he existed and were asking for his help. Which… in theory was very cool actually, but in practice, he just had a lot to do, a lot of people he felt like he couldn’t let down, and about twenty extra things he needed to learn about every day. Since the beginning of the (real) Stark Industries internship two months ago, he’d learned more than he’d learned in the rest of his life, including both school and his copious extracurricular studies. It had reached a point where whenever he ran across something he didn’t fully understand he merely had to glance at the nearest camera and FRIDAY would obligingly add all the necessary information on it to his queue. Yes, he had a queue. Which he was behind on.
Luckily for Peter, FRIDAY was ridiculously smart, and had discovered the exact amount of information to gather to allow him to grok the subject without overwhelming him. Truly FRIDAY was a blessing.
Still, even with FRIDAY’s beautiful management skills, Peter was barely able to keep up with May’s demands for his personal life and his self-given job as one of the city’s protectors.
The weird thing though was that even though he was spending every spare minute technically working, except dinners when May was home at those times and Sunday afternoons, which belonged to Ned and MJ, he was happier than he’d ever been before in his life. For the first time ever, Peter was being challenged intellectually. Regularly, Peter found himself spending seven to eight hours at the tower--and that was on a school night.
He even went there when he didn’t necessarily have to. For example, Peter was perfectly capable of reading the seven-hundred pages of graduate level chemistry FRIDAY had gathered at home. Instead, however, he found himself curled up on the couch in Mr. Stark’s lab, tucked under a blanket while Mr. Stark himself puttered around tinkering with a… something. Peter wasn't quite there yet.
This scene wasn’t actually unusual. When Mr. Stark wasn’t busy doing something else--actively in a meeting, on a mission, or helping with one of the few projects he was actually involved in--he was always in the lab. Always. It was practically twenty-four seven. Since Peter also spent a ridiculous amount of time there, they ended up coexisting with an incredible amount of regularity.
The weird part was that it somehow was never weird. Ever. Sometimes they didn’t speak for hours, didn’t even interact, working and thinking on different things, and some days were full of constant chatter, when Mr. Stark would teach him things (he was a wonderful teacher) or, and this was Peter’s favorite, they would collaborate on something. Either way it was always… wonderful to just coexist like that.
“Hey Pete, you got a minute?” said Mr. Stark, breaking Peter’s thoughts.
“Yeah.” said Peter hopping up and over. “What do you need?”
Mr. Stark looked over at him. “It’s not really what I need.” he said. “Really Peter I am perfectly self sufficient, and a completely functional person. You’re being called over here to talk about you, and your responsibilities.”
“What did I do?” said Peter. “I’m like, a paragon of responsibility. You should know this by now. The Responsible Spider-Man. It’s sort of like the whole Invincible Iron Man thing the media does sometimes but like better because it’s true.”
“I’m not going to touch that with a ten foot pole,” said Mr. Stark, “Though I think it’s important to note that yesterday you nearly drank sulfuric acid, which really doesn’t do much for your reputation as a responsible human being. Seriously, don’t drink out of the labware”
“Okay Mr. Stark, whatever you say.” said Peter.
Mr. Stark sighed. “Wow, what fun I’m having mentoring you in basic life skills. Next I’m going to teach you not to eat out of the garbage. Maybe we could even try for how to tie shoes.”
“Don’t push your luck Mr. Stark. Shoelaces are complicated.” said Peter.
“You’re right. Stick to velcro.” said Mr. Stark. “Anyway, responsibility.”
“Which I already possess. And I’m very good at it.” said Peter. “Exceptional. Thank you for saying so. Good talk.”
“No.” said Mr. Stark. “I’m worried about how many responsibilities you’re taking on. You’re like… too responsible.”
“That makes no sense.” said Peter. “You can’t be too responsible.”
“I’m saying this wrong.” said Mr. Stark. He sighed. “FRIDAY bring up Peter’s calendar and todo list.”
FRIDAY did, and Peter looked at it, trying to find what was wrong. He was actually rather on top of things at the moment. “What about it?”
Mr. Stark gave Peter a pointed look that told him absolutely nothing. “It’s… It looks a lot like mine, actually. Overfull and with very little time for you. That’s… worrying.”
“It’s not too much Mr. Stark, I… I really love being here and a lot of it is stuff that I was already doing anyway except on a smaller scale and with less funding. Science stuff.”
“Yeah but Peter. You’re essentially working a fifty-hour work week on top of school on top of running around doing whatever juvenile vigilante’s do to attempt to kill themselves when they’re not attempting to kill themselves with excessive stress through being a workaholic. I… if you were actually in a paid position this would be illegal at your age. Hell, you came here for seven hours on your own birthday. Practically left your party early.”
“I know that but…” Peter sighed and tried to articulate the feeling of contentment he had about his current life. “I love this. I love being here, and learning things, and feeling like… like I’m important and what I do and say matters. You have to understand, school is really really boring for me. I don’t think I’ve actually learned anything since like… ever. I was ahead before I even started school. The only reason I’m even there is because May wants me to be a regular kid and have like… social development or whatever. I don’t know. My point is, I’m finally learning things and doing stuff and…”
“Oh cucciolo, I get that, I do,” said Mr. Stark. “When I finally escaped lower education and made it to MIT it was like a breath of fresh air. Still… I work that much, always have when I wasn’t partying, and it’s… no way to live. I don’t think I’ve done anything for fun in…”
“Since last week when you gave me my first driving lesson.” said Peter.
“That was not fun” said Mr. Stark “Trusting you with my nice Veyron was a terrible idea, even in a parking lot. I think you broke a hundred miles an hour, despite the enclosed space. Seriously Peter, it’s like you want me to develop heart problems.”
“You already have heart problems,” said Peter. “And I seem to recall a distinct air of encouragement, especially when you taught me to do donuts. Still. My point stands. You do fun stuff all the time. With me at least. I think it’s fun. And besides that… work is fun. Not the paperwork, or the bit with the patent lawyer, or dealing with idiots, but… designing stuff and building stuff is fun. It’s sort of like that shitty magnet on Aunt May’s fridge. Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. I… haven’t done much work here, if that’s the case.”
“Oh Peter.” said Mr. Stark. He walked around the lab table, and gathered Peter up in his arms. They’d gotten significantly better at the hugging thing since the first horribly awkward attempts. “I know you love it. I do too, it’s why I haven’t retired. I just… you’re a kid. You’re my kid, and I want to make sure you’re happy. Being stressed about fulfilling a million banal requests from scientists that should know better than to waste valuable time? I don’t think that will make you happy in the long run. It’s your own projects that do that.”
Peter was feeling the warm and fuzzies almost like he never had before (he was Mr. Stark’s kid). He hoped Mr. Stark wasn’t aware of the incredible manipulation tactic that hugs and affection could be, because if Mr. Stark was aware then Peter was screwed. “I’m not going to back out on anything I said I’d do.” said Peter into Mr. Stark’s shoulder.
“You don’t have to cucciolo. Keeping your promises like you do is a good thing. Still, you don’t have to say yes to everything. These people can solve most of their own problems. Say you’re busy, offer to help one time only, send in a review instead of going in person. Refer them to someone else, or straight up tell them that it’s an issue they should solve themselves. It’s not all on you”
Peter smiled. “Of course not.” he said. “I still want to help where I can.”
“And you do.” said Mr. Stark. “You’re very helpful. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but FRIDAY has actually been dumping some of my work on you. It’s allowed me more time to work on my own things, which I usually don’t get for months after a big crisis like the Accords fallout. I’m very grateful. Still… I don’t want you to give too much Peter. When you give too much of yourself there’s nothing left of you.”
Peter looked at Mr. Stark and thought about the Avengers, and about how Mr. Stark had done everything for them until he was lying crushed on the ground in a Siberian bunker. Judging by the frequency of running into each other in the middle of the night, Mr. Stark had a lot of issues with it. “I understand.” he said. “I’ll… I’ll try to be more reasonable.”
“Good.” said Mr. Stark.
Then Peter grinned impishly. “You know.” he said. “While we’re taking more time for ourselves, I’ve been wondering if I could get another driving lesson? May can’t drive and we obviously don’t own a car, so if I want my learners permit when I’m sixteen I’m going to need practice somewhere else. It is only a year away, you know.”
“Hmm.” said Mr. Stark, smiling. “One condition. Afterwards we’re going to spend a couple hours in the garage. It’s shameful how little you know about cars. Honestly. By the time I was your age I could build one.”
Peter grinned. Spending time with Mr. Stark was the best, and he thought Mr. Stark liked it too. (Certainly it was better than dealing with the Accords people, or coordinating the long series of incriminating press releases at intervals to gain momentum on the Plan) “Sounds great.” he said.
"Hey Peter?" said Ned "I was scrolling through your insta and you have like... several thousand followers. What's up with that?"
Peter shrugged. "Well you know how I keep posting selfies of me with the scientists I see, or my projects at SI?"
"Yeah." said Ned. "I really liked the one with the car. Motor oil hair is a good look on you."
"Thanks, Mr. Stark took that one. Anyway, I always try to tag the people I'm with, and then sometimes they follow me, and then their friends sometimes do. Apparently my science shenanigans are fun to follow. I have a lot of people on twitter too, even though I mostly just shitpost or complain about Mr. Stark."
"Valid." said Ned.
At the end of the chapter it states that Peter will get a learners permit when he turns 16. This is not a typo, it's NY law. You can get a real license at 16.5 there. I know that most of America has the full license at just 16 with a learners permit at 15, but NY is different.
So fun fact, I was goofing off on youtube, and there was this edit of marvel clips I ended up viewing one that included Peter, and then I closed it out and scoffed because that was totally OOC and Peter would never act like that, and then I realized that the thing I was berating mentally was not, in fact, fanfiction, and was literally a clip from the MCU. Anyway, according to my brain this fanfiction is canon, and the MCU is not canon and is occasionally OOC. Honestly though, I'm fine with that because my characters are happier anyway. Also, a little bit of me is grateful that Marvel probably won't get to make more Spiderman movies (I do want more, it's just a tiny bit of me), because judging from FFH they're just a whiny angst writer who likes to hit you in the feels and then leave off with an ambiguous ending so all you can imagine is more pain.
TL:DR: To the Executives at Marvel: Fuck You, strong letter to follow.
Chapter 13: OVERWORKING RUINS YOUR FUCKING RELATIONSHIPS
“Hey Peter.” said Mr. Stark. They were sitting on the couch in the lab (It was strange--the ‘house’ parts of the tower might technically be where Mr. Stark lived, but the lab was home in a way that the rest never was, and unless they needed the kitchen they rarely went upstairs)
“What?” said Peter. He was quite comfortable, and did not want to move from his place curled up against Mr. Stark’s side even though the credits were rolling. Forbidden Planet had been an excellent film, and he thought that he might stage a revolt if Mr. Stark did anything to ruin his happy post movie sugar crash brought on by too many M&Ms and ice cream for dinner.
“I… I’m going on a business trip next weekend. December eighth through the twelfth. Geneva. There’s going to be a lot of meetings to finalize the accords--signing the new version is scheduled for the twenty-first. I know it’s a lot to ask, but would you be willing to come?”
Peter turned his head slightly, trying to look at Mr. Stark’s face, but the angle wasn’t good, and he wasn’t willing to give up his human pillow. “Why?” he asked, “Why would you want me there?”
Mr. Stark’s hand came up to Peter’s head and passed gently through his curls. “I… one of the things they’re still arguing about that I want to get finished before the initial signing is the way they will treat minors under the accords. There’s a lot of push-back against the version that would be best for you. Some of the delegates even want to make some kind of boarding school slash prison and keep any enhanced minors there. Indoctrination and isolation. Not anything like what we want. I… I don’t think it’s going to be resolved by the signing on its own. That’s largely because there aren’t really any known enhanced minors at the moment. We know they’ve existed, but by now all of the ones we know about in the SHIELD dump or from other places have either died or aged out. Because of that it’s not really prioritized.”
“Hmm.” said Peter. He hadn’t really been involved in the accords or Rogers thing, except for a few press releases as Spider-man via YouTube and a large number of incredibly salty tweets. Mr. Stark had consulted him on how he wanted the parts concerning minors to go. “You think if I’m there then it would be pushed through faster.”
“Yes.” said Mr. Stark. “Something to the press would work as well, but I think going yourself would make a greater impact, and make you seem more responsible. They’d eat it up. Obviously it doesn’t necessarily need to happen now. This signing--now that it’s back on and the bits about the Avenger’s organization have been amended or abolished since they don’t exactly exist anymore--is more of a declaration of intent. There will be a committee formed, but the thing will still be a work of progress for quite a while.”
“I think I want to go.” said Peter.
Mr. Stark let out a tiny breath like a sigh of relief. “We’ll have fun too.” he said. “There’s a day in there where I don’t have to be anywhere. We’ll go up to CERN, bounce around a bit with the scientists. And you’ll have quite a bit of time off. You could have Happy take you around to tourist spots if you don’t want to sit in on all the boring meetings.”
Peter thought for a second. “I think I’d rather shadow you.” he said. “I… If I want to keep doing the whole Spider-man thing, or even just stay around Stark Industries I’m probably going to end up doing that sort of thing again at some point. It’ll be a learning experience.”
“Okay.” said Mr. Stark. “That’s great Pete. I’m glad you’re taking it seriously. If it gets to be too much though, you can always leave.”
Peter smiled. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Boring meetings are nothing. I’ve survived a whole month of English classes discussing Romeo and Juliet. Politics have nothing on that level of inanity. I am a bit worried though, If you show up with a kid, and then Spider-man says he’s a minor at the same thing while I’m conveniently absent, won’t that sort of ruin my whole secret identity thing?”
“Don’t worry about that.” said Mr. Stark “I’ll arrange to have a separate plane come in right before the discussion about minors, and you can pretend to come from that one as Spider-man. Meanwhile, a bit of Vegas trickery will have Peter Parker attending in the audience as well. Hard to say you’re one person when you’ve been seen in the same room as yourself, eh? Or--and this might work better--I can have you leave on a plane the night before, and be seen in New York during the meeting.”
Peter laughed. “It would be like that stupid meme someone drew of me after the YouTube video where I interviewed myself--you know, the one with the two Spider-mans pointing at each other?”
“Yeah, I think I saw that one.” said Mr. Stark. “I liked the one you posted where one of them was labeled HYDRA and the other SHIELD.”
“Some of my best work,” said Peter. “That image was basically a TED talk in png format.”
“Truly inspirational.” said Mr. Stark. “Can you clear the trip with May though?”
“Probably” said Peter. “Depends on how much school I’d be missing.”
“We’d be leaving Friday a bit after noon, so you’d miss part of school but not a full day, and I think I’d send you home early on Monday so you wouldn’t have to miss more than one full day. There’s more Monday afternoon that I’m going to, and even more after that until the signing itself but I don’t think you need to be there. The minors bit is set on the Monday agenda for early in the morning.”
“Cool.” said Peter. “So accords meetings on Saturday, CERN on Sunday?”
“Plus events all three nights and a lot of semi-private discussions over practically every meal. With all the diplomats in town leading up to the signing on the twenty-first, everyone is taking the chance to do a bit of elbow rubbing and favor trading. The accords are shockingly important in the international community for more reasons than the Avengers. I think it’s because enhanced people are expected to be the next stage of warfare, and having the ground rules for that figured out is something everyone wants.”
“Events?” asked Peter. The rest was… important information, but ‘events’ sounded like the sort of fancy party that Peter would make a fool of himself at.
“I wouldn’t worry too much.” said Mr. Stark. “We’ll go over what’s expected at each one. You will need to be fitted for a few suits though.”
“A few?” asked Peter, who only owned one suit that didn’t fit very well that he’d gotten at a thrift shop right before homecoming.
“One for all the meetings, one for each of the events, and a different one for your Spider-man appearance since I don’t think they’d take kindly to a weaponized combat suit.” said Mr. Stark. “And probably a couple blazers to throw over your more usual look.”
“That’s… five. That’s five suits Mr. Stark.” said Peter.
“Good job.” said Mr. Stark “Maybe we’ll work up to tying shoelaces yet. Don’t worry about it, my tailor is very efficient. You won’t have to suffer for more than a couple hours.”
“Ngggha” said Peter.
Mr. Stark laughed at him “I know cucciolo. It seems like a lot. All those dumb rich people expect it though, so I’m afraid you’ll have to play the part. To be perfectly honest, I’d rather show up in a t-shirt too.”
“I hate you.” said Peter, snuggling closer. Eventually Mr. Stark started another movie which they then both ignored in favor of just sitting in their own thoughts and pretending they weren’t enjoying the human contact. (correction: Mr. Stark was pretending. Peter was quite shameless about glomping people he liked, and Mr. Stark was at the top of that list, tying with May and beating out Ned by a narrow margin.)
“Mr. Stark!” said Peter as he entered the lab at speed Wednesday afternoon before the Switzerland trip, flinging himself bodily at the man.
Mr. Stark caught Peter with a grunt, causing him to giggle, then put him down gently with a small fake glare. Peter was freakishly light for a teenager, but he still couldn’t fling himself at just anyone. Fortunately for him, Mr. Stark was pretty freakin’ strong for an old dude, a fact that Peter liked to exploit as much as possible. (It was probably wearing a two-hundred pound suit of armor all the time. Even with machines to help with the lift… Still heavy)
“What is it cucciolo?” asked Mr. Stark.
“I can go to Switzerland!” said Peter. “May didn’t like it. Actually she hated it, but I argued her down. Operation argue with old people is a go.”
“Well that’s good.” said Mr. Stark “Because we have an appointment with the tailor in a half hour.”
“It would be a shame to cancel that.” said Peter
“Actually I would make you go anyway, even if May said no. Everyone needs a couple of decent suits.”
“I have a suit.” said Peter
“I’ve seen your homecoming pictures Pete. That’s not a suit it’s a piece of garbage.”
“Excuse you.” said Peter. “I paid two whole dollars for that suit.”
“Truly a monumental purchase” said Mr. Stark. He started wandering towards the elevator. “Now, my tailor is only ten minutes away, but I think it best if we leave now, because I know us and if we get sucked into a project then we’re never going to make it.”
“Probably smart.” said Peter, grabbing sunglasses. It was a little brighter today than he necessarily enjoyed. Spider eyes weren't meant for sunshine. “A little sad though, since I think I’m almost ready to make a testing rig for the organ printer thing.”
“We’ll do that after.” said Mr. Stark.
When they got to the parking level, Happy was already idling right outside the elevator waiting for them. Mr. Stark held the door open for Peter and then got in after him. The privacy partition was closed, but Peter knew that was just because Happy was in the middle of the Gone with the Wind audio-book and didn’t want to stop for such plebeian concerns as his employer. (Peter listened through the soundproof partition for a few moments to make sure Happy wasn’t at a good part before trying to tune it out)
“So.” said Mr. Stark. “What do you know about suits?”
Peter sighed. “I vaguely remember the Kingsman movie mocking something called brogues, but that’s about it. To be perfectly honest they’re in the same category in my brain as kimonos: article of clothing that I don’t wear.”
“Which is a shame.” said Mr. Stark. “They’re very fun. Everyone acts as if girls are the only ones who get to dress up but that’s just laziness speaking.”
“Does that mean I’m going to get my Disney Princess on?”
“If it makes you happy Peter. So. Suits.”
Peter perked up into the most ridiculous expression and pose of attentive peppiness he could manage. If he’d had a notebook he would have been poised to take notes. Mr. Stark shut that down with a single look, though the corner of his mouth turned up which Peter counted as a win. “There are three basic cuts of suit--and this isn’t getting into styles like tuxedos, just cuts.” said Mr. Stark. “American, Italian, and English. The one you were wearing at homecoming? That’s American cut. Now don’t tell anyone I said this because I’m still a government contractor even if I don’t make weapons and they tend to frown upon unpatriotic things, but American cut suits are pieces of garbage.”
“Why?” asked Peter. “Isn’t it just a suit?”
“Well, yes,” said Mr. Stark “But the general idea behind American cut suits was to combine the good things about Italian and English cuts. Instead… well. You know how when I was okaying the future designs of the StarkPhone and I had to choose between a giant improvement in screen quality and one in battery life?”
“Yeah.” said Peter. “Except you didn’t choose you just created a better battery and a more efficient screen.”
“Yes, I know, I’m brilliant. In another company though they would have had to pick one over the other, or try to compromise, in which case-”
“Both things would be generally mediocre and they wouldn’t have anything spectacular to advertise,” said Peter.
“Yes.” said Mr. Stark “That’s what happened with American suits. Mediocre compromise between two opposing ideals.”
“Two questions.” said Peter. “One, what are the ideals and what’s so opposing about them--I mean they’re still suits. Two, can we get ice cream after.”
“That depends on how good you are cucciolo. Any attempts to escape and we’re getting nothing but one black coffee which I will drink while making direct eye contact.”
“You are a cruel man.” said Peter, grinning at the reference.
“A cruel man who is going back to question one, so pay attention.” said Mr. Stark.
What followed was a truly enlightening discourse on the eighty-five thousand factors that went into a suit. It was… shockingly complicated. Maybe not biochemical engineering complicated, but at least on the level with the car maintenance that Mr. Stark had been teaching him. Peter was fairly sure that Mr. Stark chose his cloth suits with the same care and focus he directed at his Iron Man ones. After all, they were both armor, though of different types.
When Peter reached home that night, new vocabulary spinning in his head along with a whirl of scientific calculations which he focused on to avoid thinking about the price tag (The cheapest thing--a dinner jacket--had costNo don’t think about it), he found May sitting up with a cup of coffee. “Aren’t you supposed to be sleeping?” he asked. She’d gotten done with her shift at about the same time that Peter had gone to school, which was when they’d had the can-I-go-to-Switzerland discussion, and had planned to run a few errands before going to sleep at some point in the early afternoon. She did have to go on shift at midnight after all. (which was in two hours. Really she should not be up yet.)
“I didn’t sleep.” said May. “I couldn’t.”
“Why not?” asked Peter. “Is everything okay? Are you having problems with anything?”
May looked like she was about to reflexively reassure him, and then she stopped, made direct eye contact with him, and said. “No, everything’s not okay.” she said.
“What’s wrong?” asked Peter, sitting down across from her.
“You Peter. You’re what’s wrong.” she said.
Peter sat down and practiced the conflict resolution skills that Ms. Potts had been drilling into his head after the Planning division incident. “Can you explain the issue further?” he asked. “I can’t fix anything if I don’t understand it.”
“See. That.” said May. “That’s not you. You’re… you’re supposed to be… I don’t know. I just… I don’t like what you’re turning into.”
Peter took a breath and was carefully not offended by that statement, May had a valid problem, he was sure. She was just too emotional right now to properly express it. “What do you mean by that?” asked Peter, calmly.
May glared at him. “See! You’re treating me like some… faceless corporate drone. Like I’m not the woman who raised you, who… has a right to more than that. I… This morning you informed me you were going on a business trip. Informed! About a business trip. Peter you’re four--Fifteen. You’re fifteen. You’re not supposed to have business trips. School trips, maybe, but not for business. And even then you’re supposed to ask permission.”
“I was asking permission.” said Peter. “I just told you what I was asking for first.”
“No.” said May “You did not. You asked if there was anything that would cause an issue with it. I… Peter I argued against it but I ended up agreeing because I didn’t have any more good excuses. Then after you left, I realized that I don’t have to. I shouldn’t have to have excuses at all. I’m your legal guardian, and when I say you can’t go to Switzerland, you can’t go to Switzerland. Because… It’s not what’s good for you. And because I said so.”
Peter was internally panicking, but he knew that if he lost his cool then the purpose of the conversation would be lost. He wasn’t here to argue. “This morning you agreed that it would be educational. What changed?”
“What changed?” asked May. She seemed incredulous for some reason. “What CHANGED! I came to my senses is what. You… You’re a fucking child Peter. You don’t get to be… some kind of miniature adult that doesn’t have to ask permission.”
“Okay.” said Peter. “Let’s start over then.” he paused. “There’s a really cool opportunity coming up with my internship. I’d be missing a day and a half of school, but I really want to go. Is that okay with you?”
“It’s still not.” said May.
“Is there a reason for that?” asked Peter.
“Yes!” said May. “You can’t just leave the country randomly.”
“It’s not random.” said Peter. “It’s not till this weekend, and I’ve told you about it in advance. I’ve had lots of things with less notice that you let me do.”
“Let me rephrase that then Peter. You’re not allowed to leave the country. I let it slide last time because it was a legitimate educational thing, but this is most emphatically not, so there’s really no reason to go.”
“Maybe not a reason you’d want to go,” said Peter “But I’m actually incredibly interested in seeing the Accords negotiations, and CERN. Especially CERN.”
“You want me to believe you’re looking forward to boring meetings,” said May.
“Yes?” said Peter. Actually he was mostly looking forward to the whole Accords mess being locked down so Mr. Stark could take a break and Asshole Dickwad could get what he deserved, but May didn’t need to know that.
“That’s… That’s not normal Peter.”
Peter was sick of this. He’d tried every tactic in his small arsenal, and had remained calm through every unintentionally hurtful thing May had said, but that… that was going a bit too far a few to many times, because he’d struggled with being odd his whole life and May’s support was what had carried him through. “Do I have to be?” he asked, voice cracking painfully. “Is that what you want? A ‘normal’ kid? Because I hate to break it to you, but that just doesn’t exist, May. And even if it did I wouldn’t want it.”
“Normal Peter, doesn’t mean stereotypical, it means healthy. In the right stage of emotional development. With a stable lifestyle.” said May. “I have spent YEARS trying to give that to you, and every damn time you spit in my face.”
“When did I do that?” asked Peter, shocked.
“Every fucking week you want some new special consideration, some extra ‘help’, and an exception to the system. But that’s not going to happen Peter.” said May. She was practically yelling. “You don’t get to be the exception to the rule. You’re fifteen, and that means you go to school with everybody else, you come home like everybody else, and you grow up like everybody else. There are LAWS about it.”
“Which I follow” cried Peter. “Every time I want to do anything it’s legal, and acceptable, and it isn’t an exception, it’s written into the damn rules! When I asked to increase my class load with online stuff--LEGAL. When I wanted to skip… every fucking grade in elementary school--LEGAL. When I got the best internship on the entire fucking planet--PERFECTLY LEGAL AND NORMAL. The only person who doesn’t like it is YOU.”
“I’m not TALKING about that Peter. I’m talking about child labor laws, ever heard of them? Because I looked those up, and you’re definitely not following THOSE. To good for them, are you? To GROWN UP for piddling little concerns like whether a CHILD should work… Probably fifty hours a week. Or MORE.”
She had a point there. Still, she was counting hours spent as Spiderman, and all the many hours in the lab that Peter devoted to reading, hanging out, and working on personal stuff. “First of all,” he said “IT’s an INTERNSHIP not a JOB, and those have different rules. SECOND, it’s primarily a learning sort of thing, and most of what I’m doing is educational rather than actual work. AND THIRDLY I ONLY ACTUALLY DO REAL INTERNSHIP STUFF LIKE… 12% OF THE TIME!”
“THEN WHAT ARE YOU DOING!” yelled May.
There was banging on the wall from one of their neighbors. “QUIET DOWN.” they cried (which was a bit unfair considering their propensity for lots of base in their music choices and a fair amount of enthusiastically loud sex)
“What do you need to do in Stark Tower that’s so important you get to ignore your family.” said May. “That you get to waltz of and ignore me, and everything I do for you.”
“I don’t know!” said Peter, voice straining to escape him. “Hang out? Read? Do homework? Fix my su… personal projects. Just… Stuff.”
“That you can’t do here?” said May. “Why do you have to go gallivanting across the damn city for it?”
“I…” said Peter. It was true. There was a lot he could do from Queens just as well as from the lab but… “It’s quiet so I can focus. And has… so many cool things, and… Mr. Stark is there. I… He helps me. Teaches me stuff. And I like it. It’s… sort of like...” Peter got quieter, and then said something he’d never admit to anyone, even himself, if his raw emotions hadn’t stripped away everything except honesty. “It’s sort of like having a dad.” he whispered.”
May looked like she’d been slapped. “You… Are you trying to replace me? Replace BEN?”
Peter’s eyes went wide. “No!” he said “Never, I… I would never.”
“Really, because that’s exactly what it sounds like. You’re just replacing the old burned out model for a shiny new one that gives you lots of toys.” accused May.
“No! I wouldn’t. I haven’t. What are you saying?”
“Are you denying it?” said May. “Because from what I can see that’s exactly what’s happening.”
“No it’s not! Where is this even coming from?”
“Oh I don’t know.” said May. She was getting slightly louder. “The brand new StarkPhone in your pocket? The fact that you show up half the time out of a damn limo?”
“Town car.” muttered Peter, but May was building up steam and wasn’t done yet.
“THE TWO-HUNDRED DOLLAR TOILETRIES IN THE BATHROOM!”
“What do those have to do with ANYTHING!?” cried Peter. (Those were… they made him happy. Mr. Stark had noticed how irritated his skin got from chemicals, and how much the smells bothered him because of the spider bite and he’d fixed it. Just like he fixed everything. It made Peter feel all warm and fuzzy inside, all that attention that was needed to notice something so… minor.)
“They have EVERYTHING to do with it!” said May. “Your uncle would never stand for this. I won’t stand for it. You… letting a rich man play like he’s doing a good thing giving you gifts that are worthless to someone like him. We didn’t raise you to take so-called ‘charity’ when you have something perfectly good already. This is… disgusting. It debases you, it disrespects me, it disrespects Ben.”
“No.. You don’t understand.” said Peter. “It’s not about the stuff. It’s… I like the time. And the advice. I like finally having someone who-”
May interrupted him. “So you’re just going to drop me like I don’t give you those things? Drop Ben like he means nothing? Like he didn’t raise you?”
“BEN’S GONE” yelled Peter. “He’s dead. He can’t… he can’t help me anymore. But… that doesn’t mean I don’t still need help.”
May deflated like a balloon with all the air taken out of it. “I know.” she said. “And I’m trying. I’m trying so hard… Isn’t it enough? Am I not enough?”
“You…” said Peter. He didn’t know how to say it without hurting her. Because the truth was that she wasn’t enough. May was… wonderful and important and necessary, but she was May, and her Mayness kept her from being everything he needed. She didn’t do driving, or engineering, or how to wear a suit, or advice on what it might mean to be a man. Yes, she could compensate, and when Peter had needed to learn to tie a tie there was always youtube, but the thing was… it didn’t have to be that way. There didn’t have to be compensation for lacking a father male role-model, because Peter had one again. For the first time in almost five years he had two parents a full complement of people to look up to.
Apparently Peter’s silence had spoken enough. He hadn’t meant to imply that May wasn’t enough, but she crumpled like his thoughts had been laid out in twelve point Times New Roman with plenty of citations to demonstrate her inadequacy. (He didn’t know how to explain that she wasn’t inadequate, but she also didn’t need to shoulder the load of two people. He didn’t know how to say anything at all)
“Leave.” said May. “Just… Leave. I don’t want to see you right now.”
Peter felt like he’d been shot. No, that wasn’t enough. Even a hollow point bullet from a high caliber rifle couldn’t hit as deep and painful as that. (And he knew from experience)
“When…” he said “When can I come back?”
“After Switzerland. Maybe. We’ll talk about it just… Leave.”
Peter made another tiny noise, like a mouse being crushed under someone's boot. “Can I get my stuff?” he nearly whispered.
May nodded, and then glared at him as he made his way to his room, her eagle stare making him hunch into himself all the way through gathering up a couple changes of clothes, a toothbrush, and his passport. (It was strange to realize how little he needed because most everything was already at the Tower. Hell, he probably didn’t even need the clothes at all, even for an international trip.)
He didn’t make eye contact or acknowledge her when he left. It hurt too much.
YEah,,, from May's perspective Peter got a science sugar daddy he left her for. He's not great at the whole... emotional disclosure thing, and I gotta say, if May didn't know about Spiderman she'd be pretty fucking concerned. Like this. Don't worry though, there's lots of fluff coming up, and Peter does a better job later. May's a good lady and I love her too much to bash her, so this isn't Evil May. Its Parent Panicking Because Their Child Is Disappearing All The Time And Hanging Out With People She Doesn't Approve Of.
Glad we cleared that up.
Chapter 14: THE STARKS (INCLUDING PETER) NEED TO GET IT THE FUCK TOGETHER
When Peter reached Stark Industries, he was unsurprised to find Mr. Stark in the lab. He was surprised to find, however, that Mr. Stark was asleep. That… wasn’t something he’d ever seen before, actually. Mr. Stark was always moving, always doing. The stillness didn’t suit him, especially since it didn’t look particularly restful. The creases on his face were deep, more worried furrows than the laugh lines Peter was familiar with.
Still, Peter had gotten the impression from Pepper and Rhodey that Mr. Stark sleeping was a miracle to be appreciated, and not something to be disturbed. His whiny cry-fest could wait until tomorrow. He would pull an all nighter working to take his mind off of things, and Thursday morning would bring a B-day, which was fairly light with only AP Calc, AP Chemistry, AP Spanish Language, and AP Art History. He could do all of those things in his sleep. Except maybe art. Art was confusing. (Apparently being able to draw accurate diagrams didn’t count, and neither did engineering which was unfair because that was totally art, and he was expected to be able to tell things about pieces of art like their meaning which was… even worse than poetry to be honest.)
He did throw a blanket over Mr. Stark before he got to work. No temperature control could ever replace the cozy feeling of fleece.
As the night wore on, Peter’s initial working fugue wore off a bit. After he’d… left, he’d managed to not think about the argument with May on the way to Stark Tower only by changing back into his Spider-man suit and flinging himself off of buildings with even more abandon than he usually did. When he’d gone into the lab, he’d immediately thrown himself into the most finicky project he had--attempting to integrate polydiketoenamine, a newly designed plastic created specifically for recyclability that was molecularly the equivalent of legos, into Mr. Stark’s fledgling nano-tech system. Mr. Stark was looking at it in the context of Iron Man armor, but Peter thought that it might also be a good way to get other things in the universe into multiple forms. After plastic he was going to work on crystal and try to integrate it into a smart screen. He had a nebulous dream of being able to change a device from a small phone into a large tablet.
That was far away though, and for now the nanites were simply not cooperating, and it was only the specific plastic he was using that saved him from having to start over completely. Eventually though, he landed on an idea that might work someday probably, and then simply had to coordinate with FRIDAY to test various bits of fine tuning. They communicated through text, in respect to the sleeping genius fifty feet away, but the work wasn’t finicky or all consuming anymore, and so a large portion of Peter’s brain left the main task to ruminate over what had happened.
It was times like this that Peter understood Mr. Stark’s passion for incredibly loud attention grabbing music. Usually it was nice to be able to go about your day while mulling over schematics in the background, but sometimes having more mind than you could use was inconvenient. He’d give quite a bit for a way to drown out the extra thoughts, because Peter knew from long experience that thinking about bad things was a good way to spiral into misery. Usually the general… bigness of the world worked, sorting through all the sounds and smells and sights that overwhelmed him, but the lab was too quiet and familiar for that to really work. No distractions at all in this temple to innovation, leaving Peter alone with his thoughts.
A tear landed in the middle of Peter’s project, smearing the glass container full of plastic and nanites he was controlling through FRIDAY’s interface. It surprised him, and he angrily wiped his eyes. Now was not the time for a breakdown. That needed to wait until he was in a private room with decent soundproofing. Then he’d give himself ten minutes to blubber before starting the long and therapist-approved process of emotionally resolving the issue internally so it wouldn’t bother him anymore (those six sessions they’d managed to scrimp for after Ben were lifesavers)
Unfortunately for Peter, his emotions and body disagreed with him on when was a good time to break down. The best he could manage was to brace himself against the table, hands white knuckled on the slightly warping side as his grip pressed into it, and cry sans-vocal chords, another useful post-Ben skill that sounded more like quiet gasping then a full sob. This lasted for several minutes uninterrupted (FRIDAY stopped trying after only two), until a hand landed softly on Peter’s shoulder.
“Pete?” asked Mr. Stark, voice groggy with sleep. “Are you okay?”
Peters last vestiges of control abandoned him, and he latched onto Mr. Stark like an octopus, pressing his face into his mentors shoulder to muffle his sobs. Mr. Stark had been well trained by Peter’s huggy nature, and it only took him a second to hug back, which was a record.
“C’mon, hush. Cucciolo. It’s going to be okay. I’ve got you.” said Mr. Stark. He continued to say meaningless comforting bits all the way to the couch, and before Peter could react at all he was fully curled up in the blanket with Mr. Stark’s arm around him, hand rubbing comforting circles into Peter’s back as he increased the size of the snotty tear spot on the man’s shoulder.
When Peter had recovered a slight amount of control, though he still wasn’t to the point of rediscovering dignity, he looked up at Mr. Stark. He looked… soft. It was like all of his sharp edged Starkness had been stripped away, and underneath there was nothing but worry. “What happened Pete?” he asked gently.
Peter burst into another round of crying. “I…” he sobbed. “I got… k-kicgh” he choked on a sob. “Kicked out... May…” another sob “kicked me out, I…” he couldn’t continue, and instead he just cried some more. Mr Stark, if it could be possible, gathered him in even closer.
“Take your time kiddo.” he said “I’ve got you.”
Peter sobbed once more, hard, but he wasn’t taking any more time. “She… I don’t know. I still don’t really understand it. I came home from patrol and she was sitting up waiting for me and then… we argued and… I just don’t understand. I didn’t do anything wrong, Mr. Stark, but she…”
“Hey.” said Mr. Stark “Just breathe. Take a minute.”
Peter nodded, and then waited until he was mostly done before continuing. “I thought everything was perfect.” he said. “I was so happy, and then… Why? Why did she do it.”
“I don’t know.” said Mr. Stark “Can you tell me what you were arguing about?”
Peter sighed heavily and mumbled something into Mr. Stark’s shirt.
“I’m sorry kiddo, but I didn’t get that.” said Mr. Stark. He lifted Peter’s chin up with one of his fingers, and Peter tried again.
“It was you.” he said. “She… I don’t understand. She didn’t want me to go to Geneva, and I couldn’t figure out why, but then… I don’t know. Something about me expecting special privileges and not spending enough time at home? It didn’t really make any sense.”
“You have been spending a lot of time here.” said Mr. Stark. “Maybe it’s too much, I don’t want to pull you away from your family and I-”
“No.” said Peter cutting him off. “I see May exactly the same amount as I did before. She works shitty hours, so we never got much time. It’s just…” his voice got quieter, nearly back to mumbling stages. “She said I was trying to replace her. And Ben, and I…”
“Oh, Peter.” said Mr. Stark.
Peter nodded, and cried a bit more. “I’m not.” he said. “I wasn’t trying to replace her, I just… She’s not…” he dissolved into tears, feeling again how incredibly selfish he was. Thinking that May wasn’t enough on her own was the greatest betrayal he’d ever committed and it felt so rotten, like something inside him had suddenly turned into lead. (That didn’t make it any less true though, Peter still needed help, he still needed
“Hey, it’s okay. I know.” said Mr. Stark. “Believe me, I know.”
Peter sobbed a bit more. “It’s not okay.” he said. “She… she hates me.” Then he cried even louder, and Mr. Stark held him as he shook.
“You’re wrong.” said Mr. Stark. “She doesn’t hate you.”
“No, she said… She said I was too weird, and disgusting, and she didn’t want to see me.” said Peter.
“People say a lot of things when they’re emotional. That doesn’t mean they mean any of them.” said Mr. Stark, though he seemed to be thinking pretty hard about something besides May. “I’m sure she’ll calm down.”
Peter shook his head sadly. “But Mr. Stark, I’m the reason she got angry in the first place, and I’m just going to keep making her angry.”
“Why would you say that?” asked Mr. Stark. He’d finished thinking, and now simply seemed confused, and still very worried for Peter.
“She thinks… she said I just wanted to be special, get extra stuff, and that I was taking charity to do it, and…” he got quieter again. “She said you’d get bored of me eventually, and I was being stupid and selfish and…” he trailed off. He really didn’t have a way to quantify to Mr. Stark how hurt he was by that.
“I’m not getting bored of you cucciolo.” said Mr. Stark. “I’m afraid you’re stuck with me for quite awhile. I… I don’t want to give you up.
“Do you not want to let me down?” asked Peter, smiling a bit through his tears.
“Course not.” said Mr. Stark “No running around or deserting either I… Peter.” he stopped. “Peter I…”
Peter waited. Mr. Stark expressing genuine emotion was even rarer than legitimate sleep. It was something worth waiting for.
“I don’t understand people.” said Mr. Stark. “Relationships, I can’t… I don’t understand how they stay together, and I will never understand why things break apart. So maybe I don’t get it. But Pete, you… you’re amazing, and special, and probably the smartest person I’ve ever met, and on top of that you’re so good, and I… I don’t think I could ever understand how anyone could want you gone.”
Peter made a tiny noise and hugged Mr. Stark as tight as he could without crushing him. He was crying again, but this time it was for a different reason.
“And for the record,” continued Mr. Stark, “It’s not charity. No pity, or anything like it. No one has ever accused me of altruism. It’s just… you’re so much like me. All the best parts and even better, better than I think I could ever be. I look at you, and I see the future. You’re going to change the world for the better Peter, and I want nothing more than to help you.”
“Mr. Stark.” breathed Peter. He was crying even harder now. If Mr. Stark had been trying to get him to stop it was counterproductive, but he still felt… not good precisely. He was hurting to much for that. He simply now felt like he had gotten something precious, something he was going to hold tight to and guard closely, and it was a very very good thing.
“Um, are you okay?” asked Mr. Stark. It was obvious he wasn’t sure how what he said would be received.
Peter nodded. “Yeah. I’m okay.” he said through tears. “I… Thank you.”
“Anytime.” said Mr. Stark, drawing him in for another close hug. “Literally. I’m always here for you.”
Peter nodded into his chest, and then they stayed like that until Peter fell asleep.
When the kid was asleep, Tony very carefully laid him down properly and tucked a blanket around his shoulders. Then he pushed Peter’s hair up off of his forehead and sighed.
“How dare she.” he whispered.
The whole situation left him both confused and angry. He liked May, he really did, and they’d begun to coordinate a bit about Peter--making sure he got his homework done, spent enough time in the sunshine with friends, and went home on time. It was… maybe not friendly, but functional. They had nothing in common except Peter, but where Peter was concerned it had seemed they were in perfect agreement.
Now… he didn’t really know what to think. On the one hand, his first instinct was to burn anyone who hurt his kid to the ground. On the other… this was May, who was just as militant about Peter’s general well-being as he was. There was no way she would ever hurt Peter’s feelings like that. Or would she?
Unbidden, Tony’s thoughts turned to Howard Stark. His affections always varied based on how well Tony conformed to his idea of a good child. Was that universal? No. It couldn’t be. All you had to do to see that was look at Peter. Peter who was impossible not to love if you’d known him for more than five minutes.
Maybe he was just viewing this all through the lens of his past experience, and through Peter’s high emotions. He needed more information.
Giving Peter’s shoulder one final squeeze, Tony stood up and walked quietly over to the elevator. Peter wasn’t the lightest sleeper in the world, but his hearing was such that even the quietest sounds would seem loud. He needed to make a phone call, and he couldn’t do it here.
It was nearing Four AM, which was about the time where May would probably be taking a break. Lunch break for Graveyard. She would most likely be available, and they would be having words.
She picked up on the third ring. “Hello.” she said. It sounded like ‘please don’t.’
“Hello May.” said Tony. “Just wanted to thank you for the gift of a sobbing teenager. I’ve always wanted to wake up in the middle of the night and spend an hour and a half being cried on. It was a dream come true.”
“Oh poor you.” said May. “Having to deal with genuine human emotions.”
“Not the issue here. I’m more concerned about the fact that I just had to convince your kid that you didn’t hate him, and I don’t think anybody wants to deal with that. I don’t think Peter should ever have to deal with that. Under any circumstances.”
“Maybe I was a bit harsh, but you have to understand, what Peter is doing is unacceptable.”
“Okay I’m… not going to touch that because clearly you’ve already decided, but May, Peter’s your kid. Even if you think what’s happening is unacceptable blowing up on him like that is probably the worst possible thing you could do. He’s… he’s sensitive May.” Tony sighed.
“Don’t tell me how to do my job.” said May
“Do your job and I won't feel the need to point out how badly you’ve fucked up.”
“So telling the truth is fucking up now?” said May.
“You have a right to your opinion.” said Tony. “But that doesn’t make it the truth.” he sighed. “This isn’t what I called you to talk about.”
“Then hang up.” said May. “Because I don’t want to talk to you at all.”
“No can do.” said Tony “Pete… he wasn’t particularly coherent, but I got the impression that it was fairly bad. I need to know what happened.”
“Why?” asked May
“So I can deal with it.” said Tony. “I can’t do anything if I don’t understand what’s happening, and I don’t want to ask Peter. He’s too broken up about it.”
“Deal with it.” said May. She snorted. “You mean find a way to throw money at it until it’s gone.”
“Really not what I meant.” said Tony. “I was talking more about what to say to Peter and what’s going to happen after Geneva. I think it’s probably better to figure it out now, so he doesn’t get anxious about it.”
“You think?” said May, incredulous. “You don’t get to think anything. He’s not your kid.”
“I…” said Tony (I want him to be, he wanted to say) “He might not be my kid, but I do care about him, and I do know him. Well enough at least to see you hurt him.”
“You’re the one who came barging in on our lives and ruined everything.” said May.
“What?” asked Tony. He was legitimately taken aback. “I… I honestly don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”
“I’m talking about the fact that you just walk in and act like you have the right to Peter. Like you’re some kind of… father figure. Twisting him into some demented version of yourself.”
“Um. What? No? May, focus on the problem. Ignoring it to argue won’t fix it. You hurt Peter. What are you going to do about it.”
May laughed but it sounded bitter and hurt. “I’m not the one ignoring things.” she said. “I’d say have a good night, but really I couldn’t care less what kind you have.”
Then she hung up on him.
Tony was… reeling. He didn’t know what to think. Was he overstepping? Should he be less hands on with Peter? No. Maybe he was being overly familiar (one might even say he was being downright paternal), but he remembered the horrible events surrounding Peter’s homecoming and knew that taking a step back wasn’t right. Peter needed him.
More than that, Tony realized that he was beginning to need Peter too. Pepper was keeping him at a bit of an arms distance, though she was still a great friend, not wanting to get involved in his shit again after so many disasters and mistakes, and Rhodey was prohibitively busy. He’d always been like that after an emergency, talking the ears off of the brass until they didn’t do any of the stupid things they wanted to do. The only people Tony had right now were FRIDAY, Happy, and Peter, and Peter… Peter might possibly be the best thing that had ever happened to him.
He’d made a phone call, and it was clear that May was dealing with something that went way beyond Peter and his internship, but May could deal with herself. Tony’s priorities lay somewhere much more important.
So... last chapter happened. And I had to take a break actually because the chapter pushed a lot of buttons many of which were my own. I got flamed a bit, and emoted at a lot, and I had to reevaluate what I was doing. I guess a lot of it came from the fact that I have never had a positive mother/child relationship and don't know how they work, and I was... processing? expressing? whatever, working through my own issues with my mom. And I had to step back and think about where I wanted the story to go, and whether I should separate my experiences from my writing.
In the end, I decided to keep going. This fanfiction, fiction in general, is to express things outside of ourselves that we have trouble understanding within ourselves. And I'm using it as a vehicle to work through everything that happened to me.
My mom kicked me out of the house for the first time when I was eight years old. It was July, and I slept in the yard that night until she let me back in. It all escalated from there. I've slept in compost piles for warmth, the Walmart Home and Garden section, peoples cars, friends sheds and spare rooms, and often a hammock in the wilderness near my home. My senior year of high school I spent in my Grandma's creepy doll room (complete with human teeth collection), provided for myself completely, and commuted three hours on the bus to school every day.
And there were people that whole time--you'll see them a lot in my writing though you definitely don't know who they represent--who helped and supported me through it. My schools guidance counselor, the family friend whose also now my therapist, my friends and their families, my extended family, and a whole host of others.
So this story is about losing and finding family, about how being kind to strangers can change the world, about keeping people accountable--but also about letting people change.
See, the thing is, I love my mom. She's family, but more than that, she's a good and kind person whose trying her hardest. She realized that what she was doing was wrong, and even though fixing it is a long road--she has her own issues to work through, and when people say 'cycle of abuse' they really mean it--she's really trying.
I can't live with her. I can't spend more than about three hours in her presence before being driven mad. But I can come for dinner on holidays. I can celebrate my mom's decision to enter a support group, her finally getting therapy, her choosing to hold herself accountable. I can accept her sincere apologies that come with a legitimate attempt to change.
My youngest sibling has never been kicked out or physically disciplined. My brother is tentatively trying to reconnect with us after years away. We're doing ok.
Maybe putting all of this onto MCU characters is shallow and OOC, but I'm fine with that. May was never clearly defined in the MCU, she has very little screen time in comparison to most other characters, and what we do know about her can be compressed into bad cook, hard worker, dead husband, and trying her best to support a kid in NY on a working class salary. So when I flesh that out, I'm allowed to add that she's grieving the husband who did most of the parenting responsibilities that she's still not quite confident on. I'm allowed to add that she has no idea how to connect with her gifted kid. I'm allowed to add that she's overworked, underappreciated, has a lot of festering resentment about her brother in law dumping his kid on them and disappearing. I'm allowed to have her feel so inadequate about her parenting that when her kid finds another adult role model she gets incredibly defensive. I'm allowed to have her stress out, project her problems on to undeserving targets, fuck up, break down, and sabotage herself. And afterwards I'm allowed to have her apologize and try to be better, and let the irrevocably changed relationships still exist.
Anyway, that's just me, and if it's not your cup of tea I encourage you to go find something that is, because fanfic is our way of getting our fiction made to order, and this ones mine.
Chapter 15: YEEHAW, ITS FUCKING GUIDANCE COUNSELOR TIME
Thursday was a rather miserable day for Peter. Mr. Stark had offered to let him stay home from school, but he didn’t want to give May any more ammunition. Peter was responsible. He always did what he needed to do, and that would be necessary if he wanted to convince May to let him stay with the internship. Besides, powering through and focusing on other things was what he always did. It might be unhealthy, but he’d managed to keep perfect grades all through the aftermath of Ben by waiting to exit the denial stage of grief until school let out, so clearly it worked.
Thus, Peter woke up on time, picked through the selection of meal bars until he found a flavor that didn’t seem absolutely horrible, brewed a full pot of coffee, and got himself ready for school.
“Hey kiddo.” mumbled Mr. Stark as he stumbled half-conscious into the lab, obviously summoned by the scent of coffee.
“Hi.” said Peter, not looking much better.
Mr. Stark poured himself a mug, and after a few moments he seemed to regain a semblance of humanity. “You headed to school?” he asked. He didn’t seem surprised.
“Yeah.” said Peter, leaning back against the small counter in the corner that housed the lab snacks and coffee (it was pretty much the only place that had food since the kitchen upstairs was never used.) “I’ve got to.” he said.
“You really don’t.” said Mr. Stark.
“Actually I do.” said Peter. “I’ve got to be on my absolute best behavior until we get back from Geneva. May… if I fuck up then… Besides. It’ll keep my mind off of… things.”
Mr. Stark’s eyes softened. “Okay.” he said. “Though I want it on record that you shouldn’t have to. Call me any time if you need to talk or anything.”
Peter sighed. “Just… let’s not touch that.” he said. “I don’t want to think about it.”
They drank their coffee in silence for a while, and Peter began to feel more human. Caffeine didn’t technically work on him, but there was some kind of psychosomatic effect going on, making it seem like it did. Besides, he rather liked the taste. Since the spiderbite his flavor preferences had run towards bitter, nutty, or umami (the main flavors that bugs were, though he tried not to think about it). Coffee straight up was a pure shot of bitterness, and he relished it.
“Do you have everything you need?” asked Mr. Stark.
“Yeah, mostly.” said Peter. “I’m missing a Spanish worksheet, but I can grab another copy and do it at the beginning of class.”
“Good.” said Mr. Stark. “Do you want real breakfast?”
“Nah.” said Peter. “I ate a couple bars. I… technically they’ve got everything I need, and frankly I don’t feel up to any more mastication right now.”
“Feeling more like wrapping your food up and then dissolving it to suck the juices out?” asked Mr. Stark.
“That is the least appealing thing I have ever heard.” said Peter.
“Hmm.” said Mr. Stark. “I’ll have to get the Doc’s team to figure out a liquid version of the bars. Make your little spidery instincts happy.”
Peter shrugged, but on the inside he felt grateful for the subject change. Mr. Stark had mostly broken him of the habit of excessive thanks, and he’d learned that the man responded better to other types of gratitude. It was strange, thinking that such a ‘narcissistic’ man would be uncomfortable with gushing thanks, but Mr. Stark really wasn’t like that at all, and Peter figured he got enough of that from sycophants.
“My spidery instincts might get ideas Mr. Stark. Delusions of grandeur.” he said instead of spewing gratitude like he wanted.
Mr. Stark smiled with both sides of his face, a departure from his regular smirk, and Peter knew he understood perfectly. “It’s not delusions if you’re actually grand.” he said.
“Aw shucks.” said Peter in a ridiculous fake voice. “You’re going to make me blush.”
Peter didn’t deal well with complements either, and he figured snark and humor was better than turning into a gibbering mess. It was probably Mr. Stark’s influence, but it seemed to work for the man well, and Peter’s head had always been full of pithy remarks. He just didn’t say them out loud often except when he was Spiderman. Or Peter-the-Intern, who was starting to turn into almost as much of a different version of himself as Spiderman. Regular-Old-Peter-Parker had nothing on those identities. (Peter really liked who he was when he wasn’t being Regular-Old-Peter-Parker. He felt more like himself. No one else in his regular life liked it though, so he saved it for the tower, and patrols.)
When they finished the coffee, Mr. Stark wordlessly grabbed Peter’s backpack and started in the direction of the elevator. It made Peter feel a bit warm and fuzzy inside, just like every time Mr. Stark spent time on him. Honestly, with all the time they spent together Peter had practically turned into a particularly plush electric blanket with all the warm fuzzies he was getting.
“You know, you could probably go out in public right now and no one would recognize you.” said Peter as they got in the elevator.
It had become second nature to check appearances in the elevator. Mr. Stark never arrived anywhere looking anything but sharp, and Peter tried not to go out with egregiously large grease stains, especially while on Official Intern Business, so it was necessary when leaving the lab to make sure your sciencing didn’t cause any wardrobe catastrophes.
“Here I am taking you to school out of the goodness of my heart and you rag on my pajamas.” said Mr. Stark.
“Those aren’t pajamas.” said Peter. “Those are the clothes you collapsed in after working overly long hours.”
“If they’re clothes you sleep in, then they’re pajamas.” said Mr. Stark.
“That is a blatantly false statement.” said Peter. “It’s like calling a coconut a mammal because it has hair and milk.”
The discussion descended into absurdity, and by the time the solid black Lamborghini Aventador reached Midtown Tech they’d ended up in an impassioned discussion about whether or not a choco taco counted as a taco since it looked like one (But it’s made of ice cream Pete. That disqualifies it from all tacodom)
And that was the last semi-good moment of Peter’s day that didn’t involve utterly destroying his educational career.
His first class was AP Calc. BC, obviously, because Peter wasn’t an idiot. Still, it was so easy as to be insulting, and the banal problems with lifeless and easy numbers chafed worse and worse every day. Mr. Stark had been teaching him ridiculously difficult hydrodynamics concepts for a satellite launch system he was helping him with. Compared to that… basic derivation problems seemed sort of like single digit addition.
Peter wondered what he would do next year after BC Calc. It was the highest level math class in the school, so he was a bit apprehensive about figuring out what came next. Probably some form of concurrent enrollment, but honestly that would be just as easy. With the kind of science he did, Peter was probably way past that too.
“Hey Penis, nice sweatshirt. Very thrift shop. Probably the closest to college you’ll ever get though, so you should probably relish it.”
Peter rubbed the fabric of Mr. Stark’s old MIT sweatshirt between his thumb and forefinger. The softness of innumerable washings and the unmistakable aftershave/motor oil scent combination kept him grounded enough to ignore the comments.
“Then again,” said Flash to one of his friends. “It’s probably bad advertising for MIT. If people thought they took in people like him…”
The friend laughed, and a glare from the teacher had Flash setting up his books like a good little student, in the front row because Flash believed that if you had your face shoved up against someone’s ass they wouldn’t be able to see how stupid you were.
Peter mentally chastised himself. May had taught him better than that. Flash wasn’t actually stupid. He’d managed the Midtown entrance exams at least, and he was taking BC calc for his senior math credit. Plus he was on the decathlon team and had placed in the science fair the last two years, so clearly there was something upstairs, even if Peter--baby freshman that he was--couldn’t see it.
It didn’t change the fact that Flash’s comments hurt. The content didn’t, obviously, since Peter was fairly sure his obscene GPA and flawless test scores would make him a candidate for just about any college, but the laughter did. Peter was a laughingstock, and he always just laid down and took it like some kind of whipped dog. (What other options did he have? Fight back, get in trouble and be expelled, or whine to the administration, at which point Flash’s rich dad would pay away his complaints and leave Peter in an even worse state.)
A ridiculously loud and overly long bell tone shook Peter out of his thoughts and into first period. Oh joy, math so basic as to be nearly arithmetic.
“Okay class, today we’re going to start with a board quiz!” said Mr. Leedom.
The class groaned at the prospect. Board quizzes were where Mr. Leedom wrote various problems up and then had several different people try to solve them simultaneously, like the world's most humiliating race. The prospect of an extra credit point for being the fastest to a correct answer didn’t take away the emotional pain of answering slowly or wrong.
Peter obviously didn’t have either of those problems, but for him the misery came from a different area. Mr. Leedom was a major fan of ‘showing your work’, which was a concept Peter simply didn’t understand at all. Was he also supposed to write out the proofs for how 1+1=2 every time he had to do that? How much work was he even supposed to show?
Somehow everyone else ended up with the same amount of half-solved write-ups, but Peter could never accomplish that. Stopping to write down your thoughts halfway through solving a problem was a stupid waste of time. He tried anyway, but it was always an uphill battle and he maintained his A only through the miracle of multiple choice tests where you couldn’t be marked down for not showing your work.
“Aaiden, Aaron, Aron and Addie, you’re up. We’ll call you the A-team. Grab your pens and take your starting positions.” said Mr. Leedom. Then he wrote up a basic modeling problem that the students in question proceeded to take multiple minutes on. It was so irritating.
Usually, Peter’s thoughts were fairly charitable. He was a generally nice person, and he understood that people's brains worked differently, and that these people were probably able to do things like interpret poetry or draw cartoons that Peter was completely unable to accomplish. Today, though, he was in a horrible mood. May kicking him out, Flash, and the general misery of boring classes had piled up, and Peter sort of wanted to scream a bit. Or go track down another nest of creepy Chitauri/homeless people hybrids. Violence would be therapeutic.
“Peter, Flash, Jenna, and Bailey, it’s your turn at the board,” said Mr. Leedom “All our under-seventeens. Represent guys.”
Flash smirked at the class, and picked up the red expo marker, pointedly ignoring the fact that Mr. Leedom’s posturing and odd categories of students did not in fact make the class a game show. He was just bragging about the fact that he skipped a grade in elementary school and was a Senior in what should be his junior year. “Going down Penis.” he whispered at Peter. Peter imagined him in twenty years working through his second divorce and trying to relive the glory days of high school. With a beer gut.
Flash scoffed at his glare, and then mimed writing on the board like a particularly dull caveman, marker in fist and a stupid expression on his face. It suited him well.
“Looks like everyone’s ready.” said Mr. Leedom. “A rectangle is to be inscribed in the ellipse x 2 /( y 2 +4)=1 . What are the dimensions that would maximize the area, and what is the maximum area?”
Before he’d even finished speaking, the students frantically began writing equations, recording the question and beginning to solve it. Peter didn’t bother starting to write until Mr. Leedom was done asking. Then, realizing he was too tired to pretend to ‘work’ on it, he just wrote L=2 2 , W= 2 , A=4 . Which was the answer. The correct answer, specifically for length width and area.
“Ah, I see Mr. Parker has finished.” said Mr. Leedom with a tone of hostility. The other students stopped their writing. It was no use trying to continue when someone had already finished correctly, earning the extra point. Flash was glaring at him so hard Peter was worried about spontaneous combustion. “Why don’t you take us through your process, Parker. Showing your work is important.”
Now Peter was getting the stink eye from two places.
“You just figure out the coordinates of one of the corners of the rectangle and then double those numbers to find the length and width.” said Peter.
“How do you find the coordinates.” said Mr. Leedom through slightly clenched teeth. He really didn’t like Peter, thought he was ‘showboating’ and ‘corrupting the process with shortcuts that would fail in real life’. There were also complaints about classroom disruption.
“You solve the ellipse equation for the maximum value of x within [0,2], and then plug that back in to find y” said Peter.
“And how do you do that?” prompted Mr. Leedom.
On any other day, Peter would have regurgitated the textbook passage on how to find an absolute maximum. Actually, on any other day he would have attempted to show ‘work’, but he was already far past that point so when he opened his mouth what came out was something that sounded eerily similar to how Peter imagined Mr. Stark would react in this situation. “Math assumably.” he said. “You can read all about it on page 129 of the textbook if you want.”
Mr. Leedom puffed up like an offended bird. “Out.” he said, pointing to the door.”
“OOOOOOH” said about twelve people in the class.
“Parker’s in trouble!” cheered Flash’s friend.
Flash looked close to bowing, as if he was somehow responsible for the performance art that was Peter getting in trouble. Peter rolled his eyes, and grabbed his binder off of his desk as he left the classroom. He didn’t have the energy to deal with Flash’s garbage.
It took exactly four minutes for Peter to be found by one of the administration. Mr Leedom hadn’t told him to go anywhere, so he’d just been wandering the halls. His original plan was to sit in a bathroom stall and work on the Heartstrings Project (which was what Mr. Stark called his bioprinting idea), but someone had stunk up the nearest bathroom with unspeakable scents. Peter’s overclocked senses could barely stand the bathrooms on a normal day, so he simply wandered the halls, trying to look vaguely like he had a hall pass and was going somewhere.
“Hey kid,” said a lady he recognized from assemblies but didn’t actually know because in a school of thousands he was one small fish. “You got a hall pass?”
Peter sighed. Apparently he’d be ending up in detention again. “No.” he said. “Mr. Leedom asked me to leave, but he didn’t say where I should go.”
“Ah, I see.” said the lady. “That… was out of line. Let’s go to my office and talk.”
Peter nodded and followed the lady over into the counselling offices, which was a relief. He did not want to end up in the main office, since Principal Morita really didn’t like him on account of the whole going-to-DC-and-disappearing thing.
The office they went in was labeled Mrs. Herrera, and featured wedding pictures with a gorgeous wife and a golden retriever, so Peter felt safe in assuming that this lady was, in fact, called Herrera.
The woman sat down and then pushed a dish of small candies in Peter’s direction.
“So, what happened.” she said.
“Mr. Leedom asked me to do a problem on the board, and I did it, but he always likes it when people show their work, so he asked me to explain and I did but he wanted even more and I just… I do harder math mentally all the time. I do harder math playing video games!”
“Video games?” asked Mrs. Herrera
“League of Legends requires multiple variable calculus to optimize magic resistance vs armor vs health. If you do it right. You need Lagrange multipliers which is something that I don’t think Leedom is going to cover.”
Mrs. Herrera laughed. “I swear everyone at this school is more serious about video games than education. If we taught all math as a way to cheat at games like that I don’t think there’d ever be late homework.” she leaned in like she was telling him a secret. “I have seen spreadsheets. ”
Peter laughed and leaned in too. “I have made spreadsheets.” he said.
Mrs. Herrera smirked and leaned back. “So, do you want to sit here and complain for a bit--because that’s totally okay--or are you okay with trying to switch things around, find a solution.”
“If you can think of something I’m all ears.” said Peter, unconsciously shifting forward and mentally switching into business mode. Hashing solutions out with people was his jam.
“If you were in a lower level math class I’d probably advocate you testing up into a higher one, but BC Calculus is the highest level class we offer.”
“Yeah.” said Peter. “I have no clue what I’m supposed to do later. I was thinking AP Stats for next year, but after that… Maybe I’ll go for an IB diploma, though I don’t really have a reason to do it since I’m fully on the AP track.”
“Hmm. Tell me your full name, I want to look at your schedule and grades.” said Mrs. Herrera, logging on to her computer.
“Peter Parker.” said Peter.
There was silence for a few seconds. “Let’s see… Peter Benjamin Parker. Unweighted GPA of 4.33, weighted of 5.08… all AP classes except PE and Health, and, dear lord, three school awards for performance at meets for robotics and decathlon. But you’re not doing any extracurriculars anymore… did they bore you?”
“Huh?” asked Peter. He was a bit worried about his Calc grade which had dipped to 107%, which was concerning since Mr. Leedom always added an extra ‘eleventh question’ on every assignment so 110% was entirely possible.
“Answer me honestly Peter. How bored are you.”
Peter frowned guiltily. “I wouldn’t say bored, maybe more just… less challenged and-”
“Okay, bored out of your mind.” said Mrs. Herrera.
Peter nodded. “Was it that obvious?” he said.
She nodded at him “You did an optional extra credit assignment for a class you had more than 100% in Peter, I think I’ve never seen a student be more overprepared.”
“My aunt likes me to do at least an hour of homework every day.” said Peter in his defense. Dragging out English to take longer was never something he was willing to do.
“How long does your full class load of homework take?” asked Mrs. Herrera.
“Depends on the day.” said Peter. “B-day is my easy day, because I’m fluent in Spanish and really good at math and science so… a half hour maybe? Twenty minutes? Most of that’s the art stuff though. I really struggle there. A-days… English, History, PE, and Health. Probably forty-five minutes at the most. Figuring out how to interpret poetry is nearly as bad as art.”
“Okay. Really left brained then.” said Mrs. Herrera. She took a note. “Have you considered graduating early?”
Peter laughed. “People have been trying to give me a GED since the fourth grade. My Aunt says no though, because she wants me to graduate with my peers, and be able to get scholarships since we don’t have enough money for me to go to college otherwise.”
“I see.” said Mrs. Herrera. “I wasn’t talking about a GED though, I was talking about loading your schedule with the right classes, and taking some online so that you could graduate a year or two early. Next year probably. You wouldn’t be able to enjoy quite as many of Midtown’s excellent electives or extracurriculars, but I don’t think that’s a priority for you anyway.”
“Oh.” said Peter. “My aunt won’t let me do that. I wanted to take English online this year so I could have an extra science class, but she wouldn’t let me. She wants me to have time to be a normal kid. So yeah I want to, but no.”
“I could call her in and talk to her.” said Mrs. Herrera. “Because the fact of the matter is… looking at your grades and the incidents logged in your citizenship profile… I really don’t think you’re going to be happy staying here for four years.”
Peter sighed. “Yeah that’s a no can do. It would just piss her off. She’s already mad about my internship, adding on more school would make her go ballistic.” he noted Mrs. Herrera’s concerned expression. “She thinks I work too hard. She’s worried I’m going to get too stressed and collapse, which is a valid point for me because that does happen, but science is like… the least stressful thing there is for me so…”
“You don’t feel that you’re working too hard because for you it’s all just fun.”
“Yeah.” said Peter. “I have literally the best internship in the whole world.”
Mrs. Herrera got a calculating look in her eye. “Where is it?” she said.
Peter nearly laughed. There went any chance of him getting what he wanted. She’d never believe him, just like everyone else. “Stark Industries.” he said.
“Oh?” said Mrs. Herrera. Yes, there it was, the skepticism.
Peter nodded. “A researcher there saw some things that I’d posted online and wanted to ask further questions about them. One thing led to another, and now I’m allowed to go shadow researchers in Stark tower as long as I bring offerings of coffee.” he said. Technically that was mostly true. Mr. Stark did do research within SI, and he’d noticed Peter because of online content. What he actually did at his internship, however, was downplayed by a lot. Peter had used similar stories several times, because he wanted his cover story to be as realistic as it could. (Funny though that his cover story was actually cover for his cover story that had turned into a real thing)
“Hmm…” said Mrs. Herrera. “Can you give me the contact information of your direct superior?” she asked.
Peter was alarmed. “Why?” he asked.
Mrs. Herrera realized he had no idea what she was talking about and explained. “Higher level institutions--colleges that is--are allowed to offer college credit for student internships. The same can’t be said for high schools, but a couple years ago a senior got an internship at an up and coming fashion website, and we managed to concurrently enroll them in classes that the college was willing to take credit from internships for. It was a little convoluted, but there’s precedent there. Stark Industries is a big name in science, so if I thought it sounded right I could run it past the coordinator at the college that we use for concurrent enrollment, and you could get all your science credits through logged work hours. Maybe math too, or even economics depending on what exactly you do there.”
“Oh!” said Peter. “I could put other classes in my math and science slots then, and get a head start on graduating.”
“Actually, how I would do it is finish out this semester and then next semester have only one day of in-school classes and take everything else online. Taking a day off of school would definitely decrease your workload, and judging by how fast you do your homework it would streamline everything even more. You could still see your friends--probably on A-Days, and then progress faster on the other day. If you really did it right you could actually graduate this year since all our online courses are self paced, though no pressure.”
“Really?” said Peter.
“Our Cloud Campus here at Midtown works on a sign in any time basis. Once you finish a class you can go right into the next one. All the lectures are on video. Assuming you have the time you could go as fast as you wanted, though there are a lot of hoops to jump through since it’s just homework.”
It was the most beautiful thing Peter had ever heard. “My aunt would hate that so much.” he said. “There’s no way she would ever say yes.”
Mrs. Herrera leaned in. “I have a secret to tell you.” she said. “We actually aren’t required to have guardian consent for schedule changes, though a lot of the time we try to get a parent signature on it so they aren’t mad. Your class schedule is your own. And if you want to schedule four consecutive periods in concurrent enrollment that happens to be an internship or enroll in an online class…”
“Better to ask forgiveness than permission.” said Peter.
“Yeah.” said Herrera. “Worst case she comes in and yells at me to change it back, which I can’t do without your consent.”
“She could remove me from school.” said Peter. “Force me to go to another one.”
“Not if she wants you in college she won’t.” said Mrs. Herrera. “Midtown is the best science school in the state, anything else is a downgrade and she knows it.”
“That’s really tempting.” said Peter.
“You want to give me those contact details for the internship or have time to think about it?” said Mrs. Herrera.
Peter hesitated for a moment. On the one hand this was a terrible idea and May would go ballistic. On the other hand… she’d already kicked him out, and frankly he was sick of her ‘normal kid’ stuff. He wanted to do this, so he would. “Let’s do this thing.” he said.
Mrs. Herrera grinned, and handed him a pad and a pen. “Put the phone number there.” she said. “Is it okay to call now, or is there a better time?”
Peter flashed back to seeing Mr. Stark’s schedule that morning. He would be just in the lab tinkering until lunchtime. “Now’s fine.” he said. Then he pushed the number over to Mrs. Herrera. “You’ll get a secretary first.” he warned.
It was true. He’d given her Mr. Stark’s personal number, but FRIDAY screened all calls, and only sent through ones from familiar numbers. Everyone else had to go through her first.
“That’s just fine.” said Mrs. Herrera.
FRIDAY answered on the first ring, just like she always did because unlike Mr. Stark himself she didn’t have to fumble through eight piles of random junk to find a phone. “Stark Industries R&D, how can I help you?” she said. Peter’s enhanced hearing allowed him to hear the other side of the call perfectly.
“Hi, this is Ella Herrera calling from Midtown School of Science and Technology. One of your interns is enrolled here--a Peter Parker, and I wanted to discuss the possibility of coordinating college credit for his internship.”
“Please hold, and I’ll direct you to his direct supervisor.” said FRIDAY.
Peter realized that he was seconds away from getting to watch Mrs. Herrera realize she’d just called Tony Fucking Stark. He subtly pulled out his phone so he could take a reaction photo. Twelve seconds later, it happened.
“Hi, this is Stark. You called about Peter?” said Mr. Stark.
The expression on Mrs. Herrera’s face was one for the ages. Peter took photos from several angles.
“Yes?” said Mrs. Herrera as she slowly came back to herself. “I noticed he wasn’t being challenged in class, and I’m hoping to arrange for science and math credits to come from his internship so he doesn’t have to sit bored in class.”
“Oh thank god,” said Mr. Stark. “Someone can finally rescue him from secondary education hell.” This made Peter blush.
“I take it you agree that he’s not being challenged then?” said Mrs. Herrera.
“Do I ever.” said Mr. Stark, “That kid’s smarter than me. If you went by knowledge he’d have about seven doctorates.” Peter swiftly became the color of a tomato, moving towards eggplant.
“Good.” said Mrs. Herrera. “I’m so glad he’s got someone else in his corner. Did you know he has literally the highest GPA I’ve ever seen?”
“No but I’ll believe it.” said Mr. Stark. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him get less than 100% on anything.”
Peter collapsed onto the desk in front of him in mortification. He really hoped Mr. Stark didn’t bring up the fact that there were several assignments taped on the lab fridge. (All English or Art, his hardest classes--the grades he was actually proud of), or even worse mentioned what Peter actually did at his internship.
“Good to hear.” said Mrs. Herrera “So, I’d have to talk it over with someone at the college, and we’d probably need an in person meeting with one of your people, but I’d like to ask now--what sorts of things does Peter do at the internship, so that I can figure out the paperwork for what classes he can receive credit for.”
Peter groaned against the desk. This was the worst possible thing.
“Do I hear mortified groaning in the background?” asked Mr. Stark. “That must be Peter. Ask him, he knows better than me. He does a lot of work under other scientists. I think he’s involved in… twelve major projects, and has contributed to quite a lot of other ones.”
Mrs. Herrera laughed, and put Mr. Stark on speakerphone.
“I hate you.” said Peter.
Then Mr. Stark laughed at him too.
“So, Peter, what do you do--I mean science and math wise so we can figure out what classes it equates to.”
“Um…” said Peter. “Probably enough to get out of Chemistry, and Physics… Computer science definitely… maybe Biology… I don’t know.”
“All of those things.” said Mr. Stark. “And more. So much more.”
“Can you give specific examples of projects that would apply?” asked Mrs. Herrera, “Or is it a company secret.”
“Let’s see.” said Peter. “I helped with a robotic prosthetics project, and one on tissue engineering, so that’s Biology. Um… for computer science--there was a patch to a bug in the control systems for a laser induced plasma CNC I did.”
“He practically rebuilt the thing too, so you can check physics off your list.” said Mr. Stark. “Running the math for plasma and balancing the overheating issues is definitely a physics thing.”
“Yeah.” said Peter. “I was actually going to count the chitauri scanners as the physics though, because of their particle and wave detection stuff.”
“I put those in the Iron Man suit.” said Mr. Stark to Mrs. Herrera. “Peter’s ideas are so brilliant--you know, he actually designed the improved formula for Spiderman’s webs.”
Mrs. Herrera looked intrigued. “Really?” she said. “That’s chemistry then. Does he do work on Avengers tech often?”
“Well there aren’t many Avengers left, but Peter’s the only person besides myself I’d trust to design or maintain anything, he-”
“Anyway.” interrupted Peter before they could enter an embarrassing tangent. “That’s science. What about math? Where do you think I am there?”
“He’s certainly past calculus.” said Mrs. Herrera.
“He’s past everything.” said Mr. Stark. “I don’t think there’s a high school or college class that could teach Peter anything about math--or science come to that. When he does come up on something he doesn’t know he can learn it in about five minutes. That’s the great thing about Peter--he can go from amateur to expert overnight.”
“Well it’s certainly caused a lot of problems in his education.”
“Yeah.” said Mr. Stark. “If he likes a topic he’ll be done with it within a week. I can’t count the times he’s said he doesn’t know something, and then comes back the next day with an idea I didn’t even think of.”
Peter was about to say something, but Mrs. Herrera continued before he could.
“Which isn’t conducive to learning in the standard system.” said Mrs. Herrera. “Was there anything else you think Peter’s covered?”
“He’s done a couple things with the marketing team, shadowed me on some accords things, and I was thinking of sticking him under someone on the business side at some point. I wouldn’t know what’s good there though--I don’t know enough about high schools to know what’s required.”
“New York requires a semester of Economics, and one of Participation in Government. Do you think Peter’s covered that?”
“Not all of it yet, but he will.”
“Great…” said Mrs. Herrera. “I think that’s all for now, though I will need an in person meeting at some point with one of your people. If you could send over examples of Peter’s work or educational opportunities in each area we’ve discussed, that would be great too.”
“I’ll get right on it.” said Mr. Stark. “How soon can you have the meeting?”
“I’ll have to talk to the college people.” said Mrs. Herrera. “Does some time next week sound good?”
“Sure.” said Mr. Stark. “Talk it over with my secretary when you’re ready--same phone number--and I’ll get things arranged on my end.”
“Thank you. Peter’s a brilliant kid, I’m glad he has support.”
“He’s the best. Oh and Pete--I’m sending a car to pick you up today.”
“Thanks Mr. Stark.” said Peter.
“Anytime. See you, and good luck with the college people.” said Mr. Stark
Mrs. Herrera opened her mouth to say something, but there was an explosion in the background of the call, and the connection was quickly cut off.
“Well.” said Mrs. Herrera. “That was certainly something.”
Peter grinned. “I got the best reaction photo.” he said. “It’s like… meme quality”
Mrs. Herrera raised an eyebrow, and Peter flipped his own phone to show her. She laughed.
“Can I tweet it?” asked Peter. “Not like, to embarrass you or anything, but it’s really funny and also expresses exactly how I felt when I got the internship in the first place, so…”
“Sure.” said Mrs. Herrera. “Why not.”
Peter grinned. “Thanks.”
The bell signalling the end of the first period.
“You fine going to your second class?” asked Mrs. Herrera.
“Yeah.” said Peter. “Um… Thank you. I’ve known you for like a half hour, and you totally saved my butt for the next four years.”
“It’s what I do professionally” said Mrs. Herrera. “Have fun in class.”
“You too.” said Peter. “I mean, not have fun in class but just… yeah. I’m going to go now.” he left the room with his tail between his legs. Why did he have to go and say that?
So for everyone that commented on the last chap, I am so sorry I've been terrible with replies. I sort of got a little overwhelmed? Anyway, hello again, sorry for the gap, it's been that time of year where I pretend the lack of sun in this northern clime has no effect on my mental health and then go into a three week depression nap.
As a general reply to all your support--You guys made me cry like... a lot, and some of it got me through a bit of a rough patch there. I am so grateful for how supportive this fandom has been overall, and how interactive you guys are. Thank you so much (:
Also--everybody go check out the podfic, it's fantastic!!! This chapter is dedicated to our lovely podficcer NonExistentArtist whose voice could make angels cry, and also to the guidance counsellor who graduated me from high school through beuracratic bull-shittery despite my 45% attendence rate. School administrators who hate the American School system and allow their students to find loopholes through it are the backbone of our society.