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Don't Touch Me

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His day had been pretty miserable. He had a pop quiz in Spanish that he wasn't entirely sure he passed, he had to keep Harley out of a couple of fights, and on their way home from started raining. Heavily. He and Harley were soaked the first minute they got off the subway and headed to the tower. Except this time there was no cat to rescue. Tibbs would probably think they looked like drowned rats when they got home and Peter wouldn't blame him. He felt like one at the very least and if Harley's grumbling was anything to go by, he did too.

"Think someone will make us hot chocolate?" Harley asks and Peter shrugs.
"If they haven't already."

Once they arrive at the tower and enter, they make their way into the private elevator and Peter once again apologizes to the receptionist for the watery mess they leave behind. He always apologized and she always waved him off with a smile, but he was raised to have manners. If he wasn't polite, he was afraid Ben and May woukd be rolling in their graves and quite possibly come to haunt him. Ever since meeting Stephen and listening to his stories of whatever he encountered, ghosts didn't seem as far fetched as he used to think.

When they reach the penthouse and the elevator doors open, both boys grin when they find Wanda in the kitchen and holding two steaming mugs out in their direction. They throw their backpacks toward the stairs and rush over to each take a mug of hot chocolate in enthusiastic gratitude, and Peter sniffs his suspiciously. Wanda smiles softly at the action.

"No mint. Marshmallows are on the counter." She adds and walks toward the elevator.
"Thanks again Wanda!" Peter says and she waves over her shoulder before disappearing onto the elevator.

He turns toward the bag of marshmallows on the counter and cackles when he finds Harley's  cheeks stuffed full like a hamster as he actually adds some marshmallows to his hot chocolate. It was probably only because he couldn't fit anymore into his mouth.

"Hey! I want some too!" Peter gives Harley an unimpressed look when the older teen grabs a single marshmallow and drops it into Peter's mug. "How generous of you."

Harley ignores him to munch happily on the fluffy sugar currently in his mouth and Peter steals a few more from the bag to put in his mug before chugging it down. Seconds after he drains the last few drops, a portal opens up near the living room and Peter sets his empty mug in the sink so he can go greet the sorcerer that steps into the room. Peter doesn't even make it three feet from Stephen though before the man throws out his hand to stop the teens approach.


Peter freezes at the tone and even Harley was on alert at the uncharacteristic shout. They both study the doctor curiously and notice him practically curling in on himself, his hands shaking violently, and if Peter listened carefully, Stephen's thundering heartbeat. He even had a wild look in his eyes that looked both pained, tired, and frightened all at the same time and it had both boys worried.

"Mom?" Peter asks carefully and Stephen flinches when he tries to move closer.
"Don't touch me." The man whispers and immediately breaks Peter's heart as Harley asks FRIDAY to get Tony.

Did he do something wrong? His spider senses weren't going off like they had with the evil version of Stephen, so Peter knew that this was the right one, but he was keeping Peter away. The sorcerer just mumbled to himself and flinched away whenever the teen tried to get closer and it hurt. The hurt got even worse when his father showed up and was able to get much closer to Stephen, and only made him wonder if maybe he was the cause of Stephen's...pain. That was what this all looked like at least.

"Honey?" Tony soothes as he slowly reaches out. "What happened baby?"

He stops for a moment when Stephen flinches again but reaches out again until he's gently cupping the other's cheek. Stephen whimpers at the touch and it turns into a sob as he continues to mumble almost incoherently as Tony tries to make out the words. Even Peter was having trouble figuring out what Stephen was saying and he had enhanced senses. Words sounded like 'door room' and 'dorm mom' was all Peter could put together and when he told Tony, his father's eyes widen.

"Stephen? Did Dormammu come back?" Tony ask gently and winces when he gets a single sharp nod as an answer. "Was is just like last time?" Another sharp nod. "Okay. Okay. I'm going to touch you a little bit more so we can get you up to bed alright?"

Peter and Harley watch Tony lead their trembling mother up the stairs to the master bedroom, and Peter climbs the stairs himself minutes after to go up to his own room. Watching Tony be able to touch Stephen with little problem and hardly any protest or repercussions was a bit of a blow for him. It made Peter think that Stephen didn't trust him at all. He knew that was a stupid thought, but the relationship he had with the sorcerer was important to him. Just like his relationship with Tony. They were his parents, and he really wanted to do whatever he could to help them and prevent the possibility of losing them.

From what Tony said downstairs, he lost Stephen several times again and didn't even know it. He and Harley were griping about the rain when Stephen was fighting off a powerful deity by putting it through a time loop again and dying endlessly. Each death more horrendous than the previous one. Deaths he only knew as little detail about as Stephen could possibly give him when he told the family about his first encounter with Dormammu.

"Pete?" Tony raps on the door with his knuckles. "Can I come in?"
"...sure." Peter responds quietly and his bedroom door opens. Tony walks in and closes it behind him before sitting on the bed next to Peter and putting an arm around him to pull him into his side.
"I know what you're thinking. Mom doesn't hate you or anything like that."
"He wouldn't let me touch him."
Tony exhales through his nose. "He's a little touch averse right now and he didn't want to accidently lash out at you. He'd much rather take that risk with me than with you or Harley. If he hurt either of you--"
"He would never forgive himself." Peter finishes softly. "Is he going to be okay?"
Tony stares ahead at the Star Wars poster on the teen's wall. "Eventually. It might take a day or two of TLC on my part, but yes."

Tony pats his back and tells him and Harley to order pizza when they get hungry, and then kisses the top of his head before he leaves Peter's room. Access to the family floor was cut off to everybody who didn't live on it for the rest of the evening so Stephen could rest quietly. It didn't matter that the room was sound proof. The fewer problems they had to deal with, the better. Harley only left the floor once to get the pizza when it arrived, and he and Peter binged watched a tv show while they polished off the pizza. Thankfully Tony went down to get some for himself and Stephen before they dug in, and they went up to bed when they both started to nod off in the middle of one of their episodes.

Peter didn't rest well that night, and he only knew that because when he woke up in the middle of the night, he found himself standing in the middle of the living room. He knew for a fact that he had fallen asleep in bed, so that and finding Harley standing nearby and watching him closely was proof enough that he had been sleepwalking again. It very rarely happened.

"What are you doing down here?" Peter asks  and Harley sighs.
"Making sure you didn't hurt yourself. I didn't know you sleep walk. You scared the crap out if me." He admits.
"It uh...only happens when I'm stressed or upset...or both."
Harley nods and picks up Tibbs from one of the couches and hands him to Peter. "Here. Take your cat and go back up to bed. Don't fall on the way up."

That was as nice as Harley was going to get and Peter wasn't about to make fun of him for it right now. Harley could have left him to bump into furniture or hurt himself, but he stayed and watched Peter just so that wouldn't happen. He may act aloof and like he didn't care, but Harley had a big heart. Nothing like Peter's of course, but he was nice in his own way. He cared about his family, and like Peter, would do anything to keep them.

So Peter goes up to his room and goes back to bed.

True to Tony's word, Stephen was more amiable to touch and mingle when a couple of days had passed, and the first thing he did was crawl into Peter's bed. All of the stress and anxiety that the teen didn't even realize he was feeling or had went away after he exhaled from a deep inhale. Tea leaves and incense calmed his nerves as well as the slightly trembling fingers that weaved gently through his hair. Tony had tried to spend some time cuddling with Peter over the past couple of days, and it helped a little bit, but there were just some things that only Stephen could do. Everything about his embraces and cuddles were firm but gentle. Tony's were than soothing.

"I'm sorry for pushing you away." Stephen says quietly into the top of the teen's head. "I imagine what I was feeling was what you feel during a sensory overload times one hundred...if I had to explain it."
"Yikes. Remind me not to complain next time I have a sensory attack." Peter half jokes and Stephen chuckles quietly.
"You're allowed to complain. It may not be as severe as that...or maybe it is...but you experience it more often."
"Are you sure you're okay now?"
"...I'm much better than I was." Stephen admits. "Your father was a big help and incredibly patient."

They lay there quietly for a few minutes, the only sounds Peter heard being Stephen's calmer heartbeat and Tibbs purring at the end of his bed. The calm atmosphere was only temporarily interrupted when Harley came into the room to lay on the bed on Stephen's other side, forcing the eldest of the three to lay on his back so both teens could curl into his sides.  The peace lasted for another few minutes as they both enjoyed being able to cuddle Mama Bear again until Harley eventually opened his mouth.

"Mom hog."

Peter grabs a loose pillow and whaps the other teen with it, and Stephen sighs.

"It's a miracle the quiet lasted as long as it did."