Actions

Work Header

i thought that i could hold my own

Work Text:

Sometimes, Peter wishes he could be someone else.

Sometimes he wishes that he could crawl out of his skin and into someone else’s, fashion himself into someone that’s better than he is. Sometimes he lays on his bed and stares at the ceiling and makes lists full of traits he’d have or wouldn’t have if he could remake himself.

He wishes he could give a little more. Be a better son and nephew to May, a better friend to Ned and MJ, less of a burden on Tony.

He wishes he could stop being sad so he wouldn’t make them worry all the time.

He wishes he could tell them that he’s getting better and that therapy is helping and that he’s going to be okay.

But that’d be a lie.

-

The thing is, recovery is easier in the summer. It’s easier without the stress of school and exams and friends and the future pressing in on him, with Spider-Man and the internship on top of all of that.

Peter likes being able to sleep in and see Tony and hang out with Ned and MJ whenever he’d like. He doesn’t have to squeeze everything into a tightly-packed schedule and deal with night after night of guilt whenever someone gets kicked off of his internalized schedule.

But then school picks up again, and Peter loses his careful equilibrium. The assignments pile up, tests are already marked on his calendar, patrols are taking a lot out of him with less recovery time in-between, and now he has therapy on top of everything else.

And the therapy and time spent with Tony, at least, are good for him, but mostly, Peter just wants to go back to when he could get away with staying in bed for hours and not think about anything that matters.

“Hey, kid,” Tony greets through the phone as soon as Peter picks up.

“Hi,” Peter says back as he leaves the school to walk home, mind already racing with everything he needs to get done before he goes to sleep tonight.

“How’s your second week going? Do I need to kill that Flash kid yet?” Tony teases, and Peter smiles a little. He’s never told Tony the extent to which Flash likes to mess with him, but even so, Tony’s picked up on at least a little bit.

“Yikes, do I need to have Pepper and May have the ‘no murdering Peter’s classmates’ talk with you again?” Peter quips, picking up his pace as he looks at his watch. He’d slowed when he picked up the phone, but now he’s speed-walking again.

He thinks of the two pages of physics homework waiting for him, his reading he needs to get done for his English class, and the research he needs to start on his first paper before he goes out on patrol. Suddenly, his bookbag feels a lot heavier.

“ - up on Friday, right?”

Peter blinks for a moment, tuning back in, and realizes that he’d completely zoned out of the conversation.  God,  he hates school.

“I’m sorry - I kind of zoned out for a second,” Peter admits. “Can you repeat that?”

Tony gasps. “How dare you not drop your full attention on me whenever I’m talking to you? It’s like I’m not important or something,” Tony says jokingly.

“You said it, not me,” Peter smirks.

“Brat,” Tony says fondly. “I asked if I’m still taking you to therapy on Friday.”

“Yeah, yeah, that’d be good. May has work,” Peter says, taking the stairs to his apartment two at a time.

“I’ll be there,” Tony promises. And then, “You okay? You sound out of breath.”

Peter winces. “Uh yeah, I just have a lot to get done so I’m being speedy.” He works to keep his voice casual, hoping that he doesn’t sound as stressed as he feels.

Tony considers his words for a minute. “I know school’s a lot, but try to take it easy, okay?” Tony says gently. “You’re allowed to cut back a little.”

Peter’s first instinct is to argue.  No, I’m not,  he thinks.  Not when people’s lives are on the line. Not when I have to get good grades to go to a good school. Not when there are so many people I might let down.  Instead, he says, “I know. I will if it gets too much.” Because that’s what a recovering person would say.

And he’s supposed to be better.

-

One the days that Peter has therapy, every other Friday, Tony picks Peter up and drives him there. He waits patiently in the lobby for the full hour that Peter’s inside, and Peter still can’t believe he lives in a world where Tony Stark takes him to therapy, waits through it for him, and then takes him back to the Compound for the weekend.

Surprisingly, Peter actually likes therapy most of the time. It’s hard and frustrating, yes, but his therapist, Andy Hartley, is a bit like Tony. Professional when she needs to be but relaxed, witty, down to earth, and always challenging Peter to think a little harder.

A lot of times, it feels like they’re just going in circles. From what Peter’s experienced so far, recovery is a lot more circles than lines, but sometimes he looks back to where he was - practically starving himself and working himself into the ground - and thinks that here isn’t such a bad place to be. Nevermind that he feels like he’s falling again. It’s better than being on the ground.

“How was it?” Tony asks amiably when they get into the car. This is the part that Peter appreciates most - that Tony always leaves the question open-ended, leaving Peter to pick and choose just how much he wants to share, without ever pressuring him for more.

Peter shrugs. “I dunno.”

“Yeah?” Tony asks, pulling out of the parking lot.

Peter nods. “Yeah. Andy asked me where I think I’ll be ten years from now.”

Tony lets out a big breath. “What a question. Does anyone ever know where they’ll be in ten years?”

“That’s what I said!” Peter exclaims.

“I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it,” Peter had told Andy.

“I was like, ‘There are so many possibilities! It depends on so many unpredictable factors and variables that it’s an impossible question to answer,’” Peter lies. He thinks it says something about where he’s at, that he’s lying about what goes on in therapy.

“I’m surprised,” Andy commented. “You’re constantly worried about the future.”

Peter shrugged. “Ten years from now doesn’t seem real.”

“Why?” Andy prodded, asking Peter’s least favorite question. “Is it just because it’s that far? Or does it seem unattainable?”

“You’re talking like you already know the answer to that,” Peter said wryly.

“Yeah, but I want to hear you say it. I think it’s important for you to acknowledge it.”

Peter sighed. “I mean, yeah. I guess I never… I never thought I’d make it this far. And I’m - I’m really grateful that I have and for all the help, but… Once you get it in your head that killing yourself is an option, it’s hard to imagine life ending any other way.”

Andy nodded. “So how do we change that?”

Peter’s not so sure he can.

-

Sometimes, Peter wishes he could be someone else.

Sometimes he wishes that he could curl up on his bed as tightly as possible and stay that small forever. Because maybe if he were smaller, he wouldn’t leave such a scar behind. He’d mess up and it wouldn’t all be so  big.

Sometimes, he wishes he could swallow a bottle of bleach and it would clean all the bad out of him.

(But repentance doesn’t work like that.)

-

“Heeeeeey!” Ned greets enthusiastically when Peter sits down at their usual table in the cafeteria.

“Hey?” Peter parrots, more of a question than a greeting. “What’s got you so excited on this dreary Monday?”

“He’s being a dork,” MJ tells him, coming up from behind and sitting down beside him. “We finally got an escape room booked for the Decathlon team, and he’s excited about it. Thursday evening. All the weekend ones were full.”

“God, I’ve been dying to do this for ages,” Ned says excitedly. “And, obviously, with all of us there, we’ll get through it easily, but we’re doing the  spooky  Halloween special room.”

Peter laughs. “Already? It’s the end of August.”

Ned gives him an incredulous look. “Which is basically September, which is almost October, which  means…  It’s Spooky Time! And this escape room company knows it.”

Peter turns an accusing look on MJ. “You let him talk you into doing this one?”

“You try saying no when he’s bouncing around beside you like a little puppy,” MJ says dryly, rolling her eyes. “Besides, I figured I’ll have you to suffer through it with me, right?”

Peter nods, “Fair enough.”

He takes a bite of his food then, ignoring the way it sits uncomfortably in his stomach. For the most part, he’s gotten better at how he views food. Instead of thinking of it as something that he doesn’t have time for, or something that needs to be earned, he’s able to see it more as something that can help him be more productive. Be  better.

But still, it’s been a hard mindset to break out of, and it’s not always one hundred percent successful. Shaking the thoughts out of his head, Peter turns his attention back on his friends, who are now discussing the physics test on Friday.

Peter freezes. “Wait, Ned. The physics test is Friday.”

Ned gives him a strange look. “Well, yeah, that’s what we’re talking about.”

Peter swallows the rest of his food hastily. “No, I mean - we can’t do the escape room on Thursday, because we need to be studying for the test.”

Ned shrugs. “To be honest, I’m not too worried about it. The stuff we’ve been going over isn’t that hard, and I’ll probably finish the study guide on Wednesday.”

Peter bites his lip, mentally mapping it all out in his head. He knows that, realistically, he’d probably be fine if went out with the team on Thursday. He doesn’t struggle with physics yet, but the thought of going out when he  should  be studying or patrolling more makes him feel sick to his stomach.

But so does saying no to Ned and MJ.

Ned sees the look on Peter’s face anyway, and his face falls. “You’re not going to come with us, are you?”

A tide rises in Peter’s chest, and he feels like he can’t breathe. MJ doesn’t look that surprised - if anything, she looks like she was expecting it. But Ned looks how he always does when Peter has to back out of plans - like he’d gotten his hopes up, and Peter tore them down to the ground.

“I’m sorry,” Peter says, desperately hoping Ned will understand.

Ned just sighs. “It’s fine, man. I get it.”

Peter tries to swallow back the self-hatred, but it gurgles in his throat, and for a moment, he just wants to tear his hair out and scream. The moment is so overwhelming - of feeling so much and being entirely alone in them, even as he’s surrounded - that Peter wraps his arms tightly around his stomach.

Without even make a conscious decision to do it, he curls his fingers into his skin and scrapes them across his stomach. It stings for a single moment, and then he lets out a sigh of relief.

The tide recedes.

-

The best way Peter can describe what starting to relapse feels like is how when those heroes in a movie are falling and skidding down a cliff or something, and they pull out a knife and stab into whatever they’re skidding on to stop the fall.

Nothing about it is smooth or graceful - just a literal and metaphorical fight for his life. Except, in his case, he’s not even exactly sure what pushed him off the proverbial cliff in the first place.

And he sure as hell isn’t the hero.

-

“Peter, there’s a fire that’s broken out in an apartment complex three blocks over,” Karen tells him on patrol one evening.

“Copy that!” Peter says, immediately changing course to get there as fast as possible. By the time he makes to the complex, smoke is pouring into the air in big puffs, and Peter’s glad Tony had the foresight to make his suit fireproof.

Peter listens carefully, trying to hear through all the shouting and the crackling of flames, but eventually gives up and stands in front of a group of people staring up at the building.

“Spider-Man!” one of them yells.

Peter turns. “Is everyone out? Do you know if anyone’s still in there?” he asks quickly.

The man nods, looking scared. “Sherry was babysitting her granddaughter today, but I never saw them come out. Her room is on the sixth floor, right there.” The man points up at the window, and Peter nods, running over to the wall and leaping up on it.

He hears sirens a couple blocks down, but he knows he’ll be faster, and from the looks of the building, if anyone’s inside, he doesn’t know how much longer they have.

“Karen, I’m gonna need your help here!” Peter says as he scrambles up the building. “I know you can’t scan for heat signatures, but I need you to be my ears and let me know if you hear anyone else in the building.”

“Got it, Peter. Initiating the Horton Hears a Who Protocol,” Karen says as he works the window open. He coughs almost reflexively as smoke hits him full in the face, and even with the mask on, it’s a lot. He carefully inhales and climbs into the living space.

“HELLO?” he yells, trying to ignore how uncomfortably hot he is. “ANYONE HOME?”

Peter strains his ears, and his heart leaps when he hears someone yelling. He follows the sound, hands sticking out blindly as he tries to navigate through the thick smoke. He rounds the corner and nearly chokes at what he finds.

The staircase is half collapsed, and a woman - Sherry, Peter assumes - is holding a baby close to her chest and crying as the flames inch closer and closer to where her foot’s stuck in a stair. Peter rushes forward wraps his arms around the woman, trying to lift her up, but she’s lodged in just a way that her foot won’t come free.

She grabs Peter’s arm with one hand. “The baby, take the baby!” she cries hoarsely, and Peter shakes his head.

“I’m not leaving you!” he argues, bending down and trying to get his hand between her ankle and the wood, hoping to somehow pry it up.

“Peter, the structural integrity of the building is compromised - you need to get out  now  before it collapses,” Karen urges.

“I know - just - I need a minute!” he yells, and the woman tightens her grip on him.

“Just take her and go!” she says firmly, eyes looking sad and defeated, and panic crawls up Peter’s throat. He looks at the baby, and his heart sinks as he realizes that if he doesn’t get her out of there soon, there’s a big chance none of them will make it.

He swallows thickly and takes the baby gently, pressing her against him in a vain attempt to protect her from the smoke.

Peter -  “ Karen practically yells at him.

Peter looks at Sherry and puts a hand on her shoulder. “I’ll be right back for you, I swear. I promise I’ll be right back,” he says firmly before turning on his heel and running back to the window, cradling his precious cargo.

He carefully gets on the ledge and shoots a web to the building across the street, a bit more clear of the smoke, before shimmying down. There are firefighters waiting for him and he’s quick to pass the baby into one of their waiting arms.

Another firefighter grabs him by the shoulder as he tries to turn back towards the burning building. “You can’t go back in there, kid! It’s gonna go down any second now,” the man says firmly. And sure enough, when Peter looks around, he sees that all the civilians have been pushed back.

“There’s someone still in here!” Peter yells at him, yanking his arm away. “I promised - I have to go get her!”

Peter pushes back every ounce of fear that’s trying to get his attention as he prepares to leap back onto the building.

But then a loud crash fills the air, and Peter looks up in horror as the roof of the building caves in, debris flying down around him, and all he can do is watch and listen to people scream. Everything is moving and time is frozen and someone pulls him away from the building and Peter’s heart is no longer beating in his chest.

There’s no way anyone could have survived that.

Someone is talking to him, trying to offer words of comfort, but all he hears is  you failed you failed you failed.

You broke your promise, Parker.

But then again, he’s always been good at that.

-

He’s crying, almost hysterically, not thinking straight. He pulls out his phone with shaky fingers and makes a tweet, rash and in the heat of the moment. He’s angry at himself and at everyone and at the woman he couldn’t save, and he can’t seem to wash the bitterness away. So he logs into Spider-Man’s account and types out a post, clicking the Tweet button before he can stop himself.

anyone want some spider DNA? kinda sick of mine, so the spider-man position is up for grabs. can’t lie, i just wanna be normal like everyone else again.

A minute after he sends the tweet, his phone rings insistently and lights up with a picture of Tony.

He hits ‘Decline,’ rolls over on his bed, cuts a string in his mind, and lets himself float away.

-

Sometimes, Peter wishes he could be someone else.

Sometimes, he wishes his parents never died and he never had to lose Ben and he didn’t have to be the dorky kid who got bullied in school and whispered about or be the kid who got bitten by a radioactive spider and who is constantly thinking about how  with great power comes great responsibility.

Sometimes, the deepest and ugliest parts of him that he tries to keep behind locked doors screams with the desire to be like everyone else. To have what they have. Be who they are.

He never wanted power and he never wanted responsibility and he knows it could be worse, but  God,  does he wish it were better.

-

He wakes up to his phone chiming incessantly, and he groans at the offending noise, pushing himself up into a sitting position and fumbling for the device. He blinks blearily at the screen, noting the plethora of missed texts and calls.

Chair Guy: dude are u okay? saw ur tweet and the fire on tv.
Chair Guy: listen i also heard about the lady and im so sorry. I know you did everything u could.

Reality slams back into Peter so hard that it knocks the breath from his lungs, and instantly, he’s fully awake again as the events from earlier this evening replay in his mind. He looks back at his phone.

Chair Guy: hey i know u probably dont want to talk to anyone rn but please lemme know ur okay when u get the chance
Chair Guy: also, maybe stay off of twitter for awhile. u didnt do anything wrong but some ppl are brutal.

So, naturally, the first thing Peter does is open up Twitter. He groans aloud as he reads the tweet he’d posted earlier, instantly filling with regret as he sees the amount of attention it’s gathered. A lot of, thankfully, are kind.

We appreciate everything you do to keep us safe, Spider-Man!

Sending love from Australia. Keep your head up, Spidey! xoxo

Sorry to hear about what happened today. You did your best and no one blames you for it. Take all the time you need.

And yet, as is always the case, it’s the hate that stands out to him even more. It’s admittedly not a lot, but it’s a couple people responding over and over, and Peter feels his heart fly into his throat as he reads them.

criticalcassie: Youre lucky to have what you have. Thousands of people would kill to be you and have what you have and you’re being really ungrateful rn. Just think about that.

One tweet into the bad ones and Peter’s already shaking, because that’s not - that’s not what he meant. And he knows - he  knows  - he shouldn’t engage but he’s feeling defensive and raw and tired, and his fingers fly across the keyboard before he can help it.

realspiderman: @criticalcassie yeah, but I never said i wasn’t grateful for what i do have. I am grateful for this opportunity to invoke real change and to help people, but sometimes i can’t help but be bitter that my friends get a normal life. obviously, i’m so so lucky to have such an incredible support team and to have most of New York on my side, but sometimes i just want to be like everyone else. that’s all i meant.

Not even a second after that, someone else replies, and Peter feels like his world is narrowing down to just this screen. It hurts and his skin is starting to itch and ache and there are skeletons inside of his head telling him to step away and shut up all the noise, but he  can’t.

toasterstrudel22: you know, the comment above me is right. so many people wish they had the opportunity you had. and to joke like “someone take my spider DNA”? god, this whole post is basically insulting anyone who gets that so-called “normalcy” you so desperately crave. lol sorry we can’t all have gotten bitten by a radioactive spider.

Peter feels a tsunami in his chest all over again, but he barely has time to recover before another message comes in.

criticalcassie: It doesnt really sound like you’re grateful. That spider didn’t purposefully seek you out specifically to bite you. And to be resentful of other people? That’s just low. They can’t help that they have what they have. You don’t see me over here complaining about how I’m jealous that you basically get everything handed to you. I mean, you work with all the Avengers for God’s sake! So maybe you should just be lucky that you have people like Tony Stark looking out for you.

He tries to inhale. Inhale. Inhale. But his breaths stop coming and words fail him and all he can think is  God, I’m such a piece of shit, I want to die, I want to die, I want to die.  Words fail, and yet still he tries.

realspiderman: @toasterstrudel22 i swear i didn’t mean to insult anyone. I’m genuinely happy for other people, i just - sometimes i wish that i could just go to work and do a regular 9-5 job and hang out with my friends and constantly be worried about aliens or the next Big Villain. there’s nothing wrong with wanting that, and it’s hard to be surrounded by people who don’t have to constantly think about those things and not be jealous.

toasterstrudel22: i honestly don’t get it. we may be “normal” but we still have to deal with hard things too. maybe it’s not aliens, but its money or our jobs or family issues. you don’t sound grateful for what you’ve been given at all. you have the necessities. you have friends and a family. you want more?

Peter feels like he might implode. He feels like like a thousand anchors have tied themselves to his chest, he feels like he’s drowning, he feels like someone is burning him from the inside out, and he knows, with sudden clarity, that he will always, always be seen as the bad guy.

And maybe they’re right.

There are so many more words he has to say, but he can’t breathe and he doesn’t have the energy, and he can barely hear his own thoughts over the screaming in his head and his skin. He deletes all of his tweets, and he can’t help but think about that moment in the cafeteria the other day, about the moment of relief.

Come back to me. I’ll make it better,  his skeletons insist.

And it’s true. So he takes his too-long fingernails and drags them deeply across whatever skin he can reach. He’s made promises before - to Ben, to May, to Tony, to Andy - that he’d seek someone out whenever he felt like doing this.

But no one’s home, and Peter’s tired of imploding.

And so down he goes.

-

When he’d first started going to therapy, Peter had a conversation with Andy that he’ll never forget. It was the first time that he realized just how much he’d let anxiety and depression permeate his life.

“Are you suicidal, Peter?” Andy had asked him.

“Yeah,” Peter told her.

“Do you have a plan for suicide?” Andy asked, then, because she had to. Peter thought about it for a moment. It didn’t seem like it should be a hard question, but for some reason, it was.

“I don’t think so,” Peter said, sounding uncertain. Andy quirked her head curiously at that.

“Oh?” she’d asked, sensing there’s more to the answer than what Peter gave.

Peter shrugged. “I mean, I don’t have a time or a date or an actual plan or anything… But sometimes, I think about the ways I could do it. I make lists.”

“And what do those those lists look like? If you don’t mind telling me.”

“Well, I could easily jump off the roof of me and May’s apartment complex,” Peter started. “Or off of Stark Tower, but that might be a little harder with FRIDAY always watching. I could leap off the Brooklyn Bridge, or I could use a blade. I could jump in the middle of an intersection at rush hour, or I could let someone shoot me on patrol. There are many ways to die.”

Peter will never forget the look on Andy’s face, gentle and sad and determined.

“Peter,” Andy had asked, “How often do you think about this list?”

Peter let out a bitter laugh and looked Andy straight in the eyes. “Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? I never stop.”

-

Peter jumps at the sound of insistent pounding on his door.

“Kid, I swear to God, if you don’t open up this door  right now  I’m going to absolutely demolish this place,” Tony practically snarls in his panic, and Peter leaps to his feet.

He looks down at himself - he’s in nothing but a t-shirt and shorts - and his skin is littered with wild, red streaks all over. He sees a bathrobe hanging on his desk chair and hastily puts it on before opening the door to a frazzled-looking Tony.

“Peter!” Tony breathes. “Thank God - I was - God, kid, you can’t do that to me.”

“W-What?” Peter asks, backing into his room. The last few hours have been a rollercoaster, and he’s felt completely disconnected from reality. He looks back at his phone to see more texts from Ned, some from MJ, and more missed calls from both Tony and May.

“I thought - I just - “ Peter’s never seen Tony look so stressed. He runs a shaky hand through his hair and fixes Peter with a serious look. “I was in a meeting and I didn’t even know about the fire until I got out. And then I saw your tweet and the replies and you weren’t answering any of our calls and - “ Tony stops and narrows his eyes at Peter. “Why are you in a bathrobe?”

“I, uh, I just took a shower,” Peter stutters out automatically, heart in his throat. He works to keep his breaths even, tries to appear nonchalant, but he knows as soon as he sees Tony’s face fall that he’s fighting a losing battle.

(As if there’s any other kind.)

“Your hair’s dry, Peter,” Tony points out softly before scraping a tired hand over his face. “I - you relapsed, didn’t you?”

Peter looks down, unable to bear the heartbroken look on Tony’s face. In that moment, all he wants is to go back - to take everything back. To be better again, to be on the uphill, to control his emotions and keep his hands away from himself and not have to stand in front of Tony and tell him that he fucked things up yet again.

“Yeah,” Peter admits quietly.

Tony nods to himself, gathering his emotions and stuffing them away where they can’t affect Peter. “Can I see?” he asks softly.

Peter feels shame flood his veins, and he thinks he might throw up. He hears the words those girls on Twitter told him -  you’re lucky  - and could almost laugh. Because he has so much - he knows he does. But there is still a hole in his chest and red cuts and scrapes all over his skin.

He shrugs out of the robe, doing his best to ignore Tony’s sharp inhale at the marks covering his skin.

“I-I didn’t use a blade or - “ Peter tries to say, as if that will lessen the impact, but Tony shakes his head and ever-so-gently reaches out to touch Peter’s arms.

“It’s still self-harm, buddy,” he says sadly.

For a moment, there’s just silence. And then Peter clears his throat and says, because it’s all he knows how to say anymore, “I’m sorry.”

Tony shakes his head again. “Can I give you a hug?”

Peter’s surprised at how much hearing those words makes him desperate for one. He nods hesitantly, and Tony steps forward to carefully wrap his arms around the kid. At first, Peter’s just limp in his hold. But then Tony squeezes him tighter and Peter clings onto him desperately, shaking apart, chest heaving before he even realizes what’s happening.

Neither of them say anything for awhile. Tony just holds him and lets him cry, and Peter thinks the tsunami that’s been sitting in his chest is finally coming out. He didn’t realize how much he’s just needed a hug until now, and he could beat himself up for not going to Tony or May sooner.

Eventually, Peter pulls back, swiping messily at his eyes, trying to put an end to the tears. Tony bends down a little and lifts Peter’s chin so their eyes meet.

“Hey, kid,” he says gently. “Talk to me. What’s going on in that genius brain of yours?”

Peter inhales shakily and tries to figure out a way to put words to his emotions. “I just - a woman is dead because of me. Because I broke my  promise  -” Peter’s voice cracks on the word.

“Listen to me, kid,” Tony says firmly. “Her death was not your fault. There is nothing you could have done without a worse outcome. And I am  so  proud of you.”

Peter nearly whimpers at the words. “How can - how can you  say  that? How can you say you’re proud of me when I’m - when I did  this  again? When I failed and I fucked up and I broke all of my promises and - and I can’t stop being  scared  all the time?”

“What are you scared of?” Tony asks, trying to understand so he can help his kid.

Peter runs his hands through his curls and tugs at them in frustration before dropping his hands back to his side. He hates how every time he needs them the most, words fail him. “You know the story of Sisyphus?”

If Tony’s surprised by the seeming change in subject, he doesn’t show it. “That’s the king in Greek mythology, right? The one that was condemned by Hades to roll a stone up a hill forever, only to have it fall back down every time he got to the top?”

Peter nods and takes a deep breath before looking up at Tony with scared, tired eyes. “What if - what if all of this - “ He gestures to the marks all over his body. “ - is my stone? What if every time I get to the top, every time I think I’m better, I fall back down again? What if it’s too late for me to really get better?”

Tony studies him for a moment before he finally says, “Because you’re not Sisyphus, Pete. And no God or human will stop you from reaching your full potential, if that’s what you want. And, I know you hate to hear it, but as Andy says, ‘Relapse is a part of recovery.’ And I’m still proud of you. We all are.”

Peter nods. He still doesn’t quite understand. Still doesn’t know how Tony can be proud of him for failing to save a woman or even himself. Tony takes a deep breath and continues speaking.

“And Peter - it’s not too late. It’s  never  too late. And until - until you go somewhere I can’t follow, it’s never going to be too late. Whether you’re on the ledge or halfway down - it’s not too late. There’s always time, buddy,” Tony says with certainty.

Peter nods again and wipes the rest of the tears off his face. “So what now?” he asks in a small voice, as if afraid of the answer.

Tony brightens up a little and slings an arm around his shoulders. “Well, now we call Andy to make an appointment, let May know you’re okay, and absolutely stuff our faces with ice cream. How does that sound?”

Peter offers him a small smile.

Ice cream won’t fix everything, or even most things. But it’s a nice place to start.

-

Peter sits on the couch in Andy’s office, legs bouncing nervously. At Andy’s request, and with Peter’s permission, Tony and May are sitting in with him to discuss how to handle future relapses and how to catch them before they get out of control.

Towards the end of the session, Andy takes out a large notepad and a pen and sets them both on the table in front of Peter.

“Peter, do you remember our first session?”

Peter gives her an uncertain look. “Yes?”

“I asked you if you had a plan to kill yourself, and you said not exactly, but you did have a list of ways you’ve thought about dying,” Andy clarifies.

Peter darts a look at May and Tony, hating how  sad  they look at those words. He tears his gaze away from them and looks at Andy. “Yeah, I remember,” he says shortly.

Andy nods and points to the notepad in front of him. “Well, now I want you to try to list out all the ways you can live. Do you think you can do that?” Andy asks.

Peter looks up at May and Tony, who smile at him encouragingly. He thinks about being able to see them smile more, and how nice that would be. He thinks about spending more time with Ned and MJ, and swinging through the city and sitting on top of skyscrapers to watch the sunset.

Yeah,  Peter thinks.  I can do this.

“Okay,” Peter says with determination.

He picks up the pen and starts writing.