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.