All he could hear and feel was the pounding in his skull. His vision was blurred by the tears streaming out of his eyes and down his cheeks.
The words repeated over and over again.
The blade in his hand grounded him but only enough to slow the shaking of his hand as he drew line after line after line across his arms to the rhythm of the words echoing in his head.
Peter bandaged up the fresh cuts, washed off the blade, and curled up in his bed waiting for sleep to come.
The cycle had been going on for a while now, the cutting was more out of control that it had been a year ago, but that didn’t bother Peter as much as it should have. He had been clean for a while, but then Ben had died and Spiderman had happened and then May had died and he’d moved in with the Avengers and Tony and it was just too much. His healing factor had allowed him to become more reckless, dangerous even, to the point where if he didn’t have spider-powers he would probably be dead. Peter didn’t care. He hid behind a mask of long sleeves and a refusal to wear shorts. He hid behind “I’m fine, just cold” and “nothings’ wrong, don’t worry”. He built walls so high even Iron Man himself wouldn’t be able to fly over the top to his rescue. “His rescue” was a funny phrase, because the only thing he needed rescuing from was himself. He cut he cut he cut he cut. No one noticed. He was glad. He didn’t need anyone, just the blade. As long as he had the blade he was okay. It was all lies and it was only a matter of time before the walls around him came crumbling down.
Ned was the first person to say something to him, which didn’t surprise Peter considering Ned had been the one to support him finding better coping skills the first time the cutting had happened. Peter was better at hiding it now, but Ned still managed to notice something was up.
“Hey Peter” Ned waved him over one day during lunch.
“Hey Ned” Peter replied, heading over to his friend and sitting down next to him.
“I got a new star wars lego set if you wanna come over and build it after school”
“Yeah!” Peter smiled and high-fived his friend.
That was a mistake he wished he could take back the minute his sleeve slipped down his wrist as he raised his hand. Peter winced at how much of his cuts were visible as Ned caught on to what was happening. Ned grabbed Peter and pulled him into a tight hug.
“You have to tell someone, tell Tony Peter, please”.
All Peter could manage to get out was a feeble “I’ll try”
He was so ashamed that someone had finally found out. Ashamed that the person had been Ned. His best friend. And now Ned wasn’t going to be able to look him in the eye without seeing how broken he was. At least that’s what Peter had convinced himself was going to happen anyway. His response to the shame wasn’t any different than his response to any other form of sadness, anger, or disappointment. Cutting. As he sat on the edge of the bathtub in his bathroom back at the Compound, he dragged the blade across his thigh over and over and over again. Unconsciously, the blade found its way to his stomach, and then his shoulders, and then his forearms. He no longer cared that he might get caught. He cleaned himself up and went to work with Tony in the lab, pretending everything was okay save for the occasional wince when his clothes rubbed the cuts the wrong way. His healing factor was slower because of the sheer amount of damage he had done, but the scars would be worth it.
Peter woke up shaking, tears running freely, shirt drenched with sweat. Gasping for air, he sat up and shoved the blankets off of him. The dream had been so vivid it felt like a memory rather than something imagined while he slept. Death. The death of his mentor/father figure. Dead because of him. He tried to reassure himself that Tony was okay, asking FRIDAY, “Where is Mister Stark? Is he okay?”
“Everything is fine with Mister Stark, Peter. Would you like me to alert him that you are in distress?”
“No FRI, that’s okay”
But it wasn’t really okay. Even with FRIDAY’s reassurance that Tony was fine, Peter couldn’t go back to sleep. Lip quivering, he made his way to sink in the adjoining bathroom. He turned the tap and listened to the water run as he looked at the face staring back at him in the mirror. The puffy eyes and tear stained cheeks of the broken boy staring back at him made him break down again. He slowly turned the water off as the glint of his balde sitting on the edge of the tub caught his eye. No. he couldn’t. But his feet were already carrying him across the room and a sense of calm washed over him as he picked up the blade. He sat down, rolled up the left sleeve of the shirt he had fallen asleep, and pressed the cold metal to his skin. He drew a line. And then another. And then another. The blood bubbled up and he couldn’t stop. He was so caught up he didn’t hear FRIDAY talking to him until the banging on the bathroom door started.
“Peter? Peter! Friday said you were awake so I thought I should come check on you. What’s up kiddo?”
“Go away.” Peter was crying now.
“No can do Pete. Please open the door. I want to help you with whatever is happening”
“You’ll hate me.”
“But if you knew how broken I am you would.” Peters body was wracked with sobs.
“Kid open the door.”
Tony was scared now. Really scared for his kid.
“I can always just ask FRIDAY to open it, but I’d rather”
He was cut off by the creak of the door opening just a crack. Peter stared miserably up at him from the floor. His eyes were red and tears were rolling down his face. He hastily pulled his sleeve down as Tony sank to his knees beside Peter and pulled him into a tight hug.
“Oh kiddo” he sighed, running his hands through Peters messy curls. Peter cried harder, “I need help Mister Stark. I need help.” Tony held him as Peter tentatively pulled up his sleeve, revealing the reason he’d been in the bathroom. Tony felt tears begin to fall from his own eyes. He hugged Peter tighter.
“We’ll get you help kiddo. I will do everything I can to get you help.”
“I love you Mister Stark.” Peter whispered so quietly Tony almost didn’t hear him.
“I love you too Peter.”