For Peter Parker, normal has always been a relative term.
At one point, his normal was coming home from kindergarten to a mom and a dad, just like any other kid. After the plane crash, his normal was coming home to Ben and May. Then it evolved into not coming home at all—it was spending afternoons and late nights furiously trying to work out his powers in a desperate attempt to understand what, exactly, had happened to him during that field trip to Oscorp. When Ben died, that was his new normal. Mr. Stark barged into his life and his new normal hadn’t exactly been normal in the most common sense, but Avengers missions and late night movies with the team on the couch of the Avengers Compound were about as normal as a teenage vigilante was going to get.
In the past month, Peter’s normal changed again. After the bus and the gym and the general mess of a hostage situation, Peter’s new normal is Spider-Man watch parties with added commentary from his decathlon team. It’s Flash Thompson apologizing in the hallways and disappearing whenever Peter tries to talk to him. It’s watching Spider-Man Fails compilations and Buzzfeed: Unsolved (all the while wondering how many were S.H.I.E.L.D or alien related) on the couch of the Avengers Compound while the actual Avengers mingle about their daily lives with the added benefit of an entire team of teenagers and one Mr. Harrington crashing at their place. It’s a group of ordinary teenagers and their superhero friend trying to get through high school in addition to hiding one of the biggest secrets in their lives from just about everyone.
The sound of a bell chimes.
Normal is spending weekends practicing at the Avengers Compound in a fit of panic because the upcoming decathlon competition is only weeks away and there’s been a distinct lack of practice ever since the field trip.
“Abe rung first,” MJ says.
Abe has his hand positioned above the bell with an expression that could only be described as that of incredible confidence.
Sally, his current partner for the 2 vs. 2 practice matchup, eyes him and says, “I hope you actually know the answer to this.”
“Of course I do,” Abe says. “The answer is Ruthenium.”
MJ looks down at her cards. She raises an eyebrow. “Wrong.”
“Are you kidding me?” Abe says, incredulously. “I studied my ass off. I’m pretty sure it’s Ruthenium.”
“Cindy, Charles?” MJ asks. “Want to steal?”
“It’s Rutherfordium,” Cindy says.
As the point goes to Cindy and Charles’ team, Abe’s confidence crumbles before Peter’s eyes. He looks down at his hands with a face full of dread, buries his face in his arms, and whispers a quiet fuck.
“Language, please,” Mr. Harrington sighs.
Cindy and Charles muffle their laughter from the other side of the table where they’re playing the opposing team. MJ, their card holder and decathlon leader, looks on impassively. The rest of the remaining team members that actually has shown up to practice, Peter included, hold back snickers from their position on the opposite couch. Mr. Stark and Mr. Harrington are chaperoning for the day, lounging on the opposing couch and watching the team. Whereas Mr. Stark always seems to find teenage antics amusing, Mr. Harrington has put up with them long enough and knows all of their bullshit by now.
Sally pushes her bell away with a sigh. “Alright, I give. Someone switch with me ‘cause I need a break.”
“Personally, I’m rather fond of Badassium but that’s a PR nightmare that Pepper still won’t talk to me about,” Mr. Stark says. “Alright, I have the cards. MJ, you’re up.”
MJ passes the cards to Mr. Stark on her way up to the table. “Don’t skip cards again.”
“It mixes them up,” Mr. Stark says and points a finger at her. “Prevents you from memorizing order.”
“It’s a pain in the ass when I have to sort them again,” MJ corrects. “Ned, Betty, you’re on deck for Charles and Cindy. Peter, you’re on deck for Abe.”
“Got it, Cap’n,” Betty says. Ned gives her a slight nod but goes back to furiously working on his homework for Monday. Peter gives her a two fingered wave and makes exactly zero effort to get up from his spot.
Weekends like these aren’t, exactly, what one would call normal in any sense of the way. It’s been four weeks since the episode on the bus and again in the gym—one to recover, three more to start meeting at the Avengers’ Compound for practice on Saturday mornings. Normally, Peter is at the compound around this time anyways, but it would've have been quiet and peaceful. Maybe an Avengers cooking in the kitchen, if he’s lucky that particular day. The added chaos of another eight teenagers and a teacher has taken more than a bit of adjustment.
The Avengers have been welcoming, at least. Peter knows it isn’t easy hosting a decathlon meeting, but the freshly baked cookies and the extra handwritten note cards on everything from the Spanish Inquisition to basic college algebra from a mysterious benefactor sure seemed to help.
(Peter knows that it’s a team effort—he’s walked into more than one suspicious meeting with a bunch of 3x5s spread out on the table and there’s a whiteboard on the third floor that still has Peter’s Decathlon Team Welcoming Ideas written in bold expo marker.)
Sure, some are still a little uncomfortable—Peter hasn’t seen Rhodey here since Tuesday, Vision stays holed up in his room unless Wanda is with him, Sam doesn’t really talk much when he is out—but they’re making an effort and Peter can’t help but be a little grateful. The Avengers, through their tough exteriors and battle hardened personalities, really do care. They understand more than anyone that getting held hostage in a school gym after a bus explosion isn’t exactly something that a bunch of sixteen year olds can just walk off.
“I thought Flash was on deck for Abe,” Sally says. “He usually is.”
“Flash had something come up,” Mr. Harrington says. “He won’t be here today.”
“But he’s supposed to be here, right?” Sally asks as if she hadn’t noticed that Flash never showed up to begin with. “He’s been skipping as much as Peter, lately."
Peter feels he should be vaguely offended by this considering everyone here knows very well why he skips in the first place. He tells this to Sally. Sally ignores him.
Betty barely looks up from her phone when she answers, “He said he’d be here next week.”
Ned pauses in his homework long enough to look up and catch Peter’s eye. There’s a silent question there, a do you know anything? but Peter just shrugs because, well, he hasn’t seen Flash at all recently. Even in school, there’s a suspicious lack of spitballs in chemistry and being shoved into lockers during passing period. It’s not necessarily a bad thing—Peter is never going to complain about the lack of books knocked out of his hands— but it’s new and more than a little weird, especially from someone with as much boundless determination to make his life a living hell as Flash.
“Awfully convenient that Flash misses the third Avengers’ practice for the third time in a row,” Cindy drawls out sarcastically.
Charles rolls his eyes. “He’s just avoiding it ‘cause Peter’s Spider-Man and he feels weird about being an asshole to his hero for, like, years.”
The team turns to look at Peter and Peter freezes. He flexes his hands into fists and tries to school his expression but Mr. Stark definitely notices if the look he’s getting is anything to go by. Peter will definitely have another talk later, which sucks.
The exposed feeling of someone casually mentioning his alter-ego isn’t new, exactly, but having a group of people other than the Avengers know his identity is more than a little uncomfortable. The past three weeks have been the biggest adjustment period that Peter’s had to go through since getting his powers in the first place.
Revealing his identity to the Avengers had been easy. After all, a group of superheroes knows how to react around other people with enhancements. Plus, it had been Mr. Stark who found and introduced them in the first place. For a while, Mr. Stark had been the buffer between Peter and the team until he slowly came out of his shell over the course of a few months, a few fights and more than a few shared post-battle movie nights.
Revealing his identity to the team? Much harder. Even forgetting the trauma inducing hostage situation that forced Peter to reveal his identity in the first place, it just isn’t the same. His decathlon team, while full of amazingly smart and bright people, are just normal kids. Much like Peter had been before the bite. They still don’t really get this superhero stuff despite being more than willing to try. It’s not that he doesn’t trust them, he does trust them—really!—it’s just that he doesn’t know how to make sense of the new dynamic.
Over the past four weeks, things have changed. The last of his teams’ bruises and cuts were fading away. The residual shock had worn off. They're getting a little bit closer, a little more comfortable. Mr. Harrington had even mentioned off hand that even the other teachers noticed a sudden change in behavior in all of them.
(Mr. Harrington assures Peter, later, that he’s trying everything in his power to throw them off. Not even he would do anything to risk Peter’s secret.)
It’s a big change for all of them; going from nerd group to secret superhero support group all because of a squid-like dude with a rocket launcher and two cronies who were looking for a quick buck and didn’t mind holding a group of high-school kids hostage. Peter goes from making sure absolutely no one in school is suspicious to oh my god please stop making the Spider-Man hand when I’m around because someone is definitely going to notice at least twice a day.
The little tidbit about Flash doesn’t help either because Peter knows that Flash loves (loved?) Spider-Man. It’s not like he’s unaware of it—the fact that Flash was consistently an asshole to Peter but waxed poetry about Spider-Man had been the punchline of several shared jokes between him and Ned—but Flash apologized weeks ago and Peter had thought they were finally on the way to some sort of truce.
Apparently not, if Flash is avoiding him. Peter’s smart enough to realize that there’s probably a little more to this situation than he realizes. With a little determination, he thinks that he might be able to mend something there. He’s no sherlock, but he’s pretty damn good at getting to the bottom of things. It comes with being a vigilante, fighting crime and all of that interesting stuff.
“Lay off your teammate, please,” Mr. Harrington calls. Charles snorts but covers it with a cough and doesn’t say anything else. “Especially if he is not here to defend himself.”
Cindy relents with a huff and says, “If Thor shows up while we practice and Flash misses it I’m rubbing it in his face for the rest of his life.”
Which is, admittedly, fair. Whenever Thor shows up at the compound, Peter feels like rubbing it in a bit too. It’s not his fault that Thor, god of Thunder and of any hairstyle he pleases, is just so cool. Even Mr. Stark has finally let up on Thor being Peter’s favorite Avenger, because, really, who else would it be?
Mr. Harrington apparently thinks something similar because he only shakes his head and lets the subject drop. The rest of the practice, despite some rocky answers and general teenage bullshit, goes rather smoothly and without further mention of Peter’s current number one problem that is Flash Thompson.
Long after his decathlon team leaves for the weekend, Peter is left with cleaning up the large mess they made in the common area. It’s fine with him, truthfully, as it gives him something to do with his hands. Plus it’s another way he’s found that he can say thank you for not telling the entire world that I, Peter Parker, am Spider-Man without actually having to say words to his teammates. He’s tried, in the past, to express his gratitude verbally on multiple occasions. MJ punched him for being an idiot. Abe said he’d do the same for any of them so it’s no big deal, really.
Peter folds the makeshift table, cleans up the wrappers and throws them in the trash. He takes the multitude of decathlon cards, stacks them and stores them underneath the coffee table for next time. By the time he finishes making the place spotless once again, it’s almost ten at night and there’s absolutely no one around the common area.
As per Parker luck, that’s when things go to hell.
He’s not exactly sure what comes over him at that point; one moment he’s fine and the next there’s a suffocating feeling in his chest and it feels hard to breathe. His hands shake and he tries to chase away the feeling of helplessness in his mind. He feels his gut churn and his vision dance and he knows what’s happening—panic attacks are nothing new—but that doesn’t stop the annoyance in the back of his mind.
“Fuck,” Peter whispers because he does not have time to deal with random trauma induced bullshit when absolutely none of his triggers are here. This is awful. Peter hates it. He wants a refund, please.
Of course Mr. Stark that chooses that exact moment to enter the room. It’s always Mr. Stark. It’s like he has a built in radar for when Peter’s suffering from panic attacks in the dead of night with absolutely no trigger in sight, seriously what the fuck, brain.
Peter gives him the one moment gesture with his hands and tries to focus on his breathing so his useless brain could start figuring out that he is not, in fact, crushed under a building or on a bus or held hostage in a gym or in an alley.
Mr. Stark approaches him anyways, slowly, and sits him on the couch. It takes a hot minute, but Peter eventually manages to get his breathing under control and his hands to stop shaking which he counts as a win.
Panic attacks are not, exactly, uncommon. Especially not in Peter’s line of work. He’s been having them long before he became Spider-Man. Losing Ben had been the start. It’s just added up from there.
“Thanks,” Peter tells Mr. Stark. Mr. Stark doesn’t respond and chooses to give him a vaguely familiar look. Peter balks and says, voice tight, “Please no more are-you-okay talks.”
Mr. Stark gives him the most unimpressed look he can muster. “Maybe if you actually talked to someone else about this then I wouldn’t have to.”
“I talk to Sam,” Peter protests. He’s not one to look away from the gift that is a free licensed therapist with superhero experience, “I talk to my team too.”
“You make jokes with your team as you all silently suffer under the weight of your shared trauma,” Mr. Stark corrects which, yeah, fair. “Sam is good though. Keep talking to him.”
Peter huffs. “I hate this.”
“Don’t we all.”
“I’m Spider-Man,” Peter says. He really wishes he could explain why, exactly, he should not be having panic attacks at 10pm for absolutely no reason. Unfortunately for Peter, he’s never really been good with the whole communication-with-words thing. “I should be, I dunno, out saving people right now. I should be—I should be doing something. Not sitting around ‘cause I had a panic attack.”
It doesn’t feel like enough, Peter wants to say but knows Mr. Stark will only say it never does.
“Peter—” Mr. Stark says. He catches Peter before he can go on another verbal barf. “Nuh, uh. Listen for a sec before you start blaming yourself again. I’ve been through a lot of bullshit, kiddo. I can’t sleep, sometimes. Too many thoughts in my head so I’m usually in the lab. It’s hard to close my eyes sometimes. Cap doesn’t sleep well either. He usually takes it out on the punching bags in the training room. Clint wanders the halls, Nat avoids people. Wanda stays holed up in her room. Bruce stays in his lab.”
Peter pauses, just for a second. He’s not quite sure what to say, or how to respond. Luckily for him, Mr. Stark isn’t quite done yet.
“Just because you’re a superhero,” Mr. Stark says. “And just because you think you have a responsibility to be fine doesn’t mean you are. That’s okay. It’s okay not to be okay, kid. You don’t have to keep pushing yourself to be something you’re not.”
“It’s hard,” Peter admits and picks at the helm of his T-shirt. “It feels like I have to be, for everyone else ‘cause they keep looking at me when this kinda stuff goes on.”
It’s very obvious to the both of them who everyone else refers to.
“You and your team went through the ringer, Underoos,” Mr. Stark says. “It sucks. A bona fide disaster of a situation but you don’t have to be the pillar of support for all of them. You’re going to run yourself into the ground doing that. Instead, help where you can and let time and professionals do the rest. It’ll take a while, but eventually things are going to start to change. The world continues. It doesn’t always get better, but we move on.”
“And if they—if I don’t?”
“Then don’t,” Mr. Stark says. “No one will ever think less of you for it.”
Peter sighs through his nose, words jumbled in his mind and he thinks that he can’t really process them even if he wants to. Instead, he opts for a simple, “Thanks, Mr. Stark.”
Mr. Stark lifts himself from the couch and offers Peter a hand. Peter takes it. “Go to bed, kid. You look dead on your feet.”
You look about the same, Peter wants to say but knows that Mr. Stark has worn eyebags like a fashion accessory long before Iron Man made his first appearance. Out loud, he says, “Night, Mr. Stark.”
Betty B @BBrant · 34m
a buddy of mine saw spider-man take his shirt off in the shower and he said that spider-man had an eight pack. that spider-man was shredded
[cindy]: hey guys check out this awesome video i made [spiderman-swinging-into-buildings.mov]
[peter]: cindy why do you hate me
[cindy]: i don’t hate you
[cindy]: also it has 100k views on youtube
[charles]: congrats on being youtube famous :)
[cindy]: thanks charles i knew i could count on you for support :)
[abe]: its good thing i don’t know spiderman personally or anything. wouldnt that would be embarrassing
[michelle]: its pretty embarrassing
[ned]: yeah dude being spiderman would suck right about now
[peter]: guys please i dont deserve this
[betty]: i, for one, would just not swing into walls
[betty]: rip to spiderman but im different
Peter conveniently forgets that Ned is fiercely protective and ready to throw hands with just about anyone if it means keeping Peter safe. This also means that he is ready to throw hands with just about anyone if it meant keeping the Spider-Man aspect safe, too.
This, unfortunately, included his Guy in the Chair title as well. If Peter let him, he’s absolutely sure Spider-Man’s Guy in the Chair would be on Ned’s college resumé by now.
It’s why he can’t say he’s overly surprised when on his way to decathlon, walking down the empty hallways after school, he distinctly hears Ned’s voice loudly proclaim, “I want to let everyone know that I am Spider-Man’s go-to Guy in the Chair and you will all have to pry that from my cold dead hands.”
There are sounds of protests almost immediately. Someone slams something on the table. Everyone shuts up.
“Thank you,” MJ says. “Does anyone have anything actually productive to add?”
“If Ned is Peter’s Guy in the Chair then what does that make us?” Sally says. She almost sounds like she’s whining. “We need a title or something.”
Peter rounds the corner and watches as his team, huddled together in the far table, starts to heatedly debate what they are, exactly, to Spider-Man. They don’t notice him, too wrapped up in the own discussion to notice that Spider-Man is, in fact, standing only a few feet away and can hear every single word they’re saying.
“Teenage mutant ninja support group,” Charles says, then pauses to think. He tries again, “Teenage mutant spider support group?”
“Absolutely not,” Cindy vetoes immediately.
Abe taps his fingers on the table and asks, “Can we be, like, getaway drivers?”
“Can anyone here actually drive?”
No, of course, not, because they’re all from New York City and just barley sixteen. There’s a muffled chorus of no from around the table.
Peter doesn’t even try to hide his snort. The entire team, with the exception of MJ (who doesn’t care) and Flash (who still isn’t here), turns to snap in his direction. It’s very, very obvious that none of them even considered the fact that he has this super cool thing called super-hearing.
“Hi Peter,” Ned says as if he doesn’t know that he’s the exact reason they’re having this mess of a conversation in the first place.
“Hey Peter,” Abe says. “I’m guessing you heard literally all of that.”
Peter raises his eyebrow at him, not even dignifying that with a response. He drops his bag on the floor and lounges in the chair next to MJ which is rather daring considering he’s two minutes late according to the library clock.
MJ elbows him in the side, just because she can.
“So,” Betty says to break the silence. “What are we, exactly? In the grand scheme of superheroes.”
“Moral support,” Peter answers but stops to actually think about it for a second and amends, “But only about half the time.”
They start kicking up protests immediately—"What do you mean only half the time? This superhero support is a full time gig!”—but Peter is content to rummage through his bag an conveniently ignore the riot he’s created. MJ loudly slams her textbook on the table. Once again, everyone stops talking.
“If we’re done with this enlightening conversation, we have decathlon to get to. Competition in a week and all that,” MJ says. She turns to Peter, eyebrow raised. “You’re late again.”
By two minutes. Peter debates the pros and cons of saying screw it and leaving then and there. MJ, unfortunately, does not let him and Peter spends the rest of the afternoon laughing, answering questions and prepping for their first competition of the season in a mere six days.
Charles @c.murph · 2d
honestly lets just be happy that it was a spider that spiderman took inspiration from and not like, a naked mole rat. can u imagine. can you even imagine naked mole rat man
[betty]: hey peter check this out https://www.youtube.com/watch/buzzedfeed-unsolved-area-51
[peter]: PLEASE stop sending me buzzfeed unsolved links
[peter]: i don’t know anything
[abe]: thats what the government wants u to think
[peter]: just because ms natasha knew what happened in one episode does not not mean every episode is a government conspiracy
[charles]: or does it
[ned]: i think peter knows more than hes letting on and thats kinda uncool of him
[peter]: ned you traitor
[peter]: listen i know nothing. the only thing the avengers tell me is
[cindy]: oh my god hes dead
[michelle]: sniped by the very organization he works for
Adjusting and pretending nothing happened four weeks ago is hard.
After the attack, it took five days before any of them, besides Peter, could even come back to school. Most of the time it’s fine; it’s easy to conveniently forget hostage situations when stuck doing drills in calculus. However, gym was—still very much is—a huge adjustment. It had been fine for a while, due to gym renovations forcing gym to be held outside in the courtyard instead, but the new gym had opened back up a week ago and it hadn’t been easy to willingly enter those double doors.
His teammates are nowhere near as good as hiding their absolute distain for the newly finished gym. Peter usually shares the period with Abe, Cindy, Ned, MJ and Flash but he’s only seen three of them in the building during third period. Flash comes and goes, never staying long enough for Peter to catch him for a conversation. Abe’s been trying, recently, but he’s has a doctor’s note from Dr. Cho saying that he does not need to be there unless he’s feeling up to it. MJ’s a little wary but she hides it well enough to do laps with no problem. Ned has always been confident enough if Peter’s with him, so Peter’s been forcing himself to suck it up and go anyways.
It’s not like they could just up and tell their teachers, either. Mr. Stark had very carefully buried everything that happened in the gym and parking lot. The cover story had been simple: the decathlon team had left for Stark Industries moments before Spider-Man crashed into the gym due to the usual big bad villain fighting. The parking lot and gym were both so damaged that they needed to be repaired. Mr. Stark, a benevolent benefactor, offered to step up and pay for any damages that had insured.
Peter thinks it’s quite possibly the stupidest cover story he’s ever been conned into pretending. He tells his feelings to Mr. Stark. Mr. Stark says that his cover stories are never any better and Mr. Stark actually has the resources to back this one up which is, admittedly, a valid assessment.
In the end, the story is all they have to go by. Peter sucks it up, shoves his hands in his pocket and, like he’s done before, buries all his feelings as he walks towards third period gym class. It’s as simple as getting through the day. Peter hopes, one day, that if he can flood himself enough then maybe gym might not be so bad.
(It’s unlikely to work. Peter’s forced himself in enough collapsed buildings to know that flooding is, in fact, a very bad coping mechanism. It does not stop him from trying again anyways.)
“Peter! Hey, wait—shit, you walk fast.”
Peter stops dead in the middle of the hallway. People bustle around him, rushing to get to their class in the fifteen minutes they have for passing period. When he turns, it’s Abe that called his name.
“What’s up?” Peter greets because it’s not uncommon to walk to gym together but it’s been a week since Abe tried to go to gym and Peter had figured it might be another week before he tried again so he’s rather surprised to see him heading that direction.
Abe is out of breath when he reaches Peter, panting like he’d just run down the halls. He looks pretty worried if the furrowed brow and twisted frown is anything to go by. He grabs Peter’s shoulder and yanks him in a less crowded hallway. Peter, for his part, lets himself be dragged along.
“Abe, hey, what’s wrong?”
“Could you check on Cindy for me?” Abe asks then hesitates. Getting Peter’s nod of encouragement, he continues, “We figured, y’know, it’s been a while so we were going to try gym again together but she just—it wasn’t a good day, I guess. I tried, but I can’t find her and I’ve been running around the school looking for her. You know how she gets about gym and I’m,” he pauses to take a breath. “I’m just worried, man.”
“I’ll find her,” Peter promises. The halls are cleaning out with the bell only seconds away. “Tell Coach Wilson I’m sick?”
“Thank you,” Abe say with a sort of a bone-deep relief in his voice. “I can go get Mr. Harrington so he can cover for you.”
The bell rings right as Peter shakes his head. “It would be more trouble than it’s worth. I’ll just skip.”
“Alright,” Abe relents. “I’m still going to head to gym, I think. Or try, at least. I can talk to Ned if it gets bad. You really are a lifesaver, Peter.”
You’re a lifesaver, Peter has become somewhat of a joke in the group, but also very much not. It still brings a smile to his face as he and Abe part ways and start to walk back around the hall. He calls over his shoulder, “See you at practice.”
“Last practice until competition!” Abe calls back. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
No one would miss it. MJ would personally destroy all of them if they tried.
Peter takes a turn and the gym doors are nothing but a memory in the back of his mind. He hoists his backpack a little higher over his shoulder, notices the complete lack of people in the hallways, and starts his search for one Cindy Moon.
Peter is no Daredevil, but years of being a vigilante on the streets and the added benefit of super-senses give him the benefit of the doubt when searching for wayward team members. The halls are mostly quiet, with everyone being in class, but Peter still tries extra hard not to be seen. It would be hard to explain to a teacher why he’s sneaking around campus instead of heading to gym class.
Peter checks all the places he knows can hide a person—changing into his suit for emergencies has left him with a rather good map for hiding spots—but doesn’t find her. He searches the entirety of the west and east wing of the school before combing through the north wing.
It takes another couple of minutes before he hears something; a tiny little tapping sound from around the corner that definably isn’t a student or teacher out of class. He takes off, rounds the corner and sees nothing except the stairway that leads up to the second story. It’s a little disappointing and he almost leaves, but the tapping sound doesn’t go away.
When he actually looks, Peter sees the corner of a backpack right behind the stairwell, hidden from view. The white and pink strap is more than familiar and more than a little welcoming right now.
Peter walks towards the stairwell, looks behind it and, lo and behold, one Cindy Moon is curled up in the furthest corner, hidden from almost anyone who would pass her on the way to class.
She’s on her phone, scrolling through her Instagram feed or something. Overall, she doesn’t look terrible. Her eyes are a little red, her breathing still a little uneven but Peter thinks that she’s using her phone for a big enough distraction. She doesn’t notice him at all until he gets about five or six feet away. When she looks up, there's no surprise in her expression.
“Hey,” he says.
“Hi, Peter,” her voice is a lot more subdued than usual, but she’s not mad at him so Peter counts that as a win. “Did Abe set you up to this?”
Peter shrugs since there really isn’t any use hiding it. “Abe’s just worried. He’s not the only one.”
She sighs and puts her phone away. Peter takes that as an invitation to sit on the dusty school floor next to her. He doesn’t say anything, content to wait as long as she needs—if she even wants to talk in the first place. For a while, she says nothing, just staring blankly at the wall in front of them.
“I really did want to try," she says eventually. "Everyone else has been trying but I haven’t been to gym once. Still can’t look at a bus. I thought about switching school for a while I couldn’t just…leave, I guess. It’s stupid.”
“It’s not stupid,” Peter says immediately.
“It is, though,” she shakes her head, “Can’t get on a bus, can’t look at pictures of guns, can’t go to gym class. Everyone else can do those things and not think twice about them.”
“But you’re not everyone else.”
“But I’m not everyone else,” Cindy agrees. “And that’s the problem.”
“Cindy,” Peter tries. “What happened was sucky. Like, truthfully, terrible. It’s something that will never happen to most people. You’re not them. They didn’t have their bus explode when they were supposed to be going on a really cool field trip, but you did. They didn’t get held hostage by the three scrooges, you did. They didn’t throw a bunch of gym trash at Squidward to save me from getting a rocket launcher to the face—that’s all you. Which was pretty awesome, by the way. I still owe you for that.”
Cindy huffs out a laugh. He can tell she doesn’t quite believe him, but she relents anyways. The redness in her eyes is already fading so it’s marginally harder to tell that she had a breakdown behind the school staircase.
“It was pretty cool,” She sighs and leans back up against the wall. There’s the tiniest smile on her face when she says, “You’re really good at this stuff, y’know, Peter?
He blinks, confused, “Good at what?”
She waves her arms around sporadically, “Dealing with all of this. Being a superhero. Hiding you identity. I never would’ve known if that shit hadn’t gone down. If I were you, I’d be constantly worried, I guess. Freaked out. I would’ve slipped up and quit at the beginning. But you still go out every night just to save others when I can’t even walk down to the gym without having a panic attack,” she shrugs. “You’re good at it.”
Peter thinks, privately, of his latest panic attack in the Avengers’ common room. He thinks of every time he’s closed his eyes only to see the vulture, or a plane crashing, or a building falling. How often he’s woken up with Uncle Ben’s face in his mind and the feeling of blood on his hands.
“I’m not, really,” he says in lieu of trying to explain. She obviously doesn’t believe him but he can’t find the words to say that his brain function is actually pretty awful too. Instead, he pushes himself off of the cold ground and offers her a hand. “You want to go to the library?”
Cindy hesitates for a second, but takes his hand so he can pull her up from the floor. “I guess it’s better than the gym.”
“It’s better than the gym,” Peter agrees.
The walk to the library is rather uneventful. Class is still in session for another twenty minutes, so the hallways are eerily silent. Peter and Cindy avoid any and all teachers, since the lack of hall pass would be rather damning, and instead take the longer way to the library just as a precaution.
The library is the most lax with hall passes so it’s no surprise that the librarian just waves them through without bothering to check.
It is more of a surprise when Peter sees Charles near the back, browsing a plethora of thick textbooks because he knows for a fact that Charles has chemistry with Ms. Warren during third period.
Charles spots them almost immediately and waves them over. Cindy gives him a two fingered wave back.
“Hey,” Peter greets. “I thought you had chem?”
“We have a term paper due in a couple of weeks and since she’s giving us class time to work on it, I asked if I could go to the library to look for references,” Charles gestures to the hoard of chemistry books littered around the floor and makes a face. “What about you two?”
“Gym,” Cindy says.
There’s a flicker of understanding in his expression when he says, “Oh.”
“Yeah,” Peter says. “Mind if we stay here?”
The expression is gone within a moment and Charles gives them both an easy smile. “Of course. I don’t mind harboring hall pass fugitives. I’ll give you a warning if I see a teacher coming.”
Cindy sighs in relief and slides to the floor, “Thanks.”
It’s quiet for the next few minutes. Peter helps Charles groom through chemistry book after chemistry book looking for citations and useable information. Cindy doesn’t say much, content to curl up against the bookshelf and keep to herself. She’s back on her phone again, scrolling through. Sometimes she types something out or gives a small smile. Charles side-eyes her every once in a while just to make sure she’s alright
(Not that any of them are alright, but, well, alright has always been a relative term.)
At some point, both Peter and Charles join her on the floor surrounded by papers, discarded pencils and mounds of books. They don’t say anything, but honestly there’s never really any need. Charles and Cindy have enough on their minds to figure out themselves and Peter’s never been one to push buttons. Especially when those buttons are created via bus explosion and result from subsequent trauma of said bus explosion.
There’s only five minutes left until class ends. Charles sighs, pushes back the books and leans against the book case. “This sucks.”
Cindy snorts but hides it with a cough. Peter isn’t quite sure if he’s referring to the pile of chemistry books or the impending doom of negative thoughts.
“Sometimes I feel as if I can get through the day, y’know?” Charles elaborates. “Just be a normal teenager or something. Then sometimes it’s like my brain sets itself off and it gets hard to breathe and I can’t…” he trails off and huffs in frustration. “This really sucks.”
Peter is quick to console. “Hey, it’s cool, don’t sweat it.”
“You’re doing better than I am, Charles,” Cindy says. “I haven’t even managed to walk towards the gym. You’re still in gym practice.”
Take one step at a time, Sam said once when Peter had first confided with him, It’s not about doing better than each other. Not everyone’s step is the same length.
“It’s embarrassing, kinda,” Cindy continues. There’s a pink tingle to her cheek and she’s not meeting either their eyes. “Because Peter goes through this bullshit every night and it doesn’t stop him. Spider-Man always gets back on his feet. I can’t handle it once, right? I get panic attacks that are bad enough that I have to go skip class. That’s humiliating.”
“It’s not,” Peter tries, “I have panic attacks too.”
Charles looks at him like it’s the first time seeing him. “You do?”
“Yeah,” Peter says. “It’s hard to avoid. They don’t ever really go away, you just get better at hiding them.”
They seem surprised. Peter wonders how good of an actor he is for them to never realize he’s a big pile of human anxiety with the added benefit of some nice superhero-related and other general trauma.
“Huh,” Charles whistles. “Damn.”
“I always thought…” Cindy stares at him before shaking her head. “Never mind. You know you can come to us too, right, Peter? If you’re ever feeling like a steaming pile of garbage?”
“I always feel like that,” Peter says but he’s smiling. “Thanks, though.”
“I mean it.”
“I know,” Peter says. He does. He’s there for his team as much as his team is there for him. “And I mean it too when I say thank you.”
The period ends, kids come streaming from their classes. Peter and Charles and Cindy stay tucked up amongst the bookshelves, feeling lighter than they have in days all the while laughing joking and working through their problems long enough for a teacher to find them and shoo them to class.
The next day, they work towards going to gym period. They do it again on the next day, and the day after that and the day after that. It’s slow moving and more than a little frustrating some days, but they try and that’s all Peter can as for. In turn, he tries, too. It takes a while—some bribery and mandated therapy sessions too— but eventually most of the decathlon team is able to return to gym class.
Some don’t and that’s okay. As Mr. Stark so kindly put it, just because they think they have a responsibility to be fine doesn’t mean they are. That’s okay. It’s okay not to be okay.
Betty B @BBrant · 1h
spiderman does not have a twitter which is unfortunate because sometimes the things he says are hilarious
spooderman @smfan · 30m
Replying to @BBrant
You know him?
Betty B @BBrant · 4m
Replying to @smfan @BBrant
buddy im from queens. everyone and their cat has heard him chatting while swinging through the city
[sally]: should we let the avengers fanclub know we know the avengers
[cindy]: please do it
[michelle]: absolutely not
[sally]: oh my god please let me just release one picture of hawkeye anonymously to the fan club. please
[michelle]: absolutely. not.
They win the decathlon competition, but it’s a near thing.
It’s Ned who scores the winning point. Afterwards, his face is flushes as he’s mobbed by the entire team with their congratulations. Parents politely clap from their seats. Peter can make out the vague outline of a group of inconspicuous—that’s sarcasm, by the way because baseball caps and t-shirts are not an appropriate disguise when sneaking into high school decathlon meets—of the Avengers in the very back of the competition area.
It’s the first time Peter has been near Flash since, well, everything. Despite no longer being an alternate, Flash doesn’t look at him once—just like during the practices that he actually showed up at—for the duration of the event. He answers what he has to, smiles when they win and disappears into the crowd before Peter can say anything.
Things with Flash have been rocky, at best. Flash, for his part, hasn’t said anything about Spider-Man. In fact, Flash hasn’t said anything at all.
However, Peter notices a lot more than people give him credit for. He didn’t used to, but being a teenage vigilante kinda helps in the whole pay attention skillset. Helps not getting shot and all. So it’s really not hard to notice the general avoidance, the lack of harsh words, the lack of vindictive looks. No one has bothered Peter about his Stark Internship anymore. Flash stops hanging out with some of his other friends, too.
As much as Peter appreciates the lack of being an asshole, Peter’s pretty worried about Flash.
He can’t focus on that now, however. His team’s happiness is contagious. Peter finds himself wrapped up in the celebration, dragged from the stage. Their trophy is held high in the air as everyone croons about their victory.
Everyone splits off to find their parents in the aftermath of the competition. It’s rowdy and loud, but Peter shakes them off eventually, gets a hug and a congratulations from his Aunt, and makes his way over to the Avengers is disguise.
Vision, Sam, Thor and Rhodey, predictably, aren’t here, but that’s okay because just about everyone else is. Mr. Stark is smiling at him with something that Peter hopes is pride, Mr. Rogers and Clint pat him on the shoulder, Wanda pulls him into a hug. Bruce and Natasha don’t say anything, but the expressions on their faces make Peter’s heart swell.
He’s glad they came. It means more than they’ll probably ever know.
“Congratulations on your win,” Wanda says. “It looks like fun.”
“You’re welcome to join us next time we practice,” Peter says and means it. He knows that Wanda doesn’t always feel comfortable—after all, his team reminds her too much of her late brother—but she’s been trying more than anyone and if Peter can ease that pain, just by a little, he would do anything.
“Maybe I will take you up on that, in the future,” Wanda says, tone light. Peter beams at her.
“You guys really didn’t have to come. Not that I don’t appreciate you guys come out here—” Peter rushes to explain. “I do! I really do, but it’s just some dumb decathlon competition. I’m sure you had Avengers stuff to do.”
“We wanted to,” Natasha assures. “You and your team don’t get to spend hours on our couch and expect us not to be a little invested.”
Peter doesn’t notice when Ned sneaks up behind him until Ned brushes past him, looking like a kid in a candy store and rushes out, “Oh my god is that Black Widow?!”
Natasha puts a finger to her lips, smile on her face, and Ned shuts his mouth for all of five seconds. Then, in a whisper, “I’m so sorry Ms. Black Widow ma’am, it’s such an honor.”
Peter wants to mention that Ned sees them every other week and has, in fact, met her before. He doesn’t, though, content to let Natasha and the others handle it while Ned flips out about the Avengers showing up at their decathlon meet, because, really Peter, how cool is that?!
Sally spots them and meanders over to the group. Her face lights up in recognition. “You guys came!”
“What, like we’d miss it?” Mr. Stark says. Both Sally and Ned’s faces brighten that much more and Peter fights to hide his smile.
“Congratulations,” Mr. Rogers tells them.
The rest of his team seems to take notice because most seem to shake their parents and slowly make their way over. Almost all of them recognize the group immediately considering the amount of times an Avenger has crashed a decathlon practice. A few of the braver members of his team, Charles and Betty, strike up a conversation with one of the various Avengers. It doesn’t take long for the rest of the team, too, to join in. They’re laughing and joking and excited. Even Mr. Harrington comes up and thanks the Avengers for coming because it really means a lot of the kids, you see, so we very much appreciate your continued support—
The joy from the rest of his team makes Flash that much more noticeable.
He’s sitting on the steps of the stage, far away from the crowd and mostly in the shadows. His shoulders are hunched, hands twisting in his lap. His back is turned. He’s on his phone but not really looking at it. Every once in a while, he’ll scan the room like he’s waiting for someone to show up.
Peter hesitates for just the tiniest second.
In the past, Peter had always hesitated because Flash had always been with others. Another jerk, a teacher, or anyone really. Peter hesitates now, not because Flash has someone by his side, but because Flash is utterly alone. His parents are nowhere to be seen and Peter, with a twisted feeling in his gut, understands why.
No one showed up for him.
Peter doesn’t have a mom and dad. It’s been a long time since he’s had his mom and dad; the plane crash took them away long before Peter ever really knew them. He understands that feeling of loneliness when people run and hug their mom and dad, but Peter still has parents. His uncle and aunt had loved and cared for him like he was their own. Even with Uncle Ben gone, his aunt is more of a mom to him than he remembers his birth mother to be. That’s not her fault, really—Peter was too young to remember and too young to form a connection.
Peter makes his way over to Flash
He has his aunt and he has the Avengers. Flash has no one, because no one showed up. No one ever shows up.
Flash sees him, sighs, and hunches over just a bit more. He doesn’t run away, though, so Peter takes that as an invitation. He takes a seat next to him on the stairs leading up to the stage, silent, and waits for Flash to speak first.
“You’re not going to leave, right?” Flash eventually asks.
“Not unless you want me to.”
Flash eyes him for a second, then goes back to his phone. It’s an avoidance behavior—Cindy does the same thing when there’s a lot on her mind and not enough words to say exactly what it is. Peter doesn’t push, leans back against the stairs, and waits. Not a single person takes notice of the two teenagers, hidden away mostly by the shadows of the competition area.
“I should expect it by now,” Flash says slowly and a little unsure. He gestures to the empty space around them before shoving his hands in the pockets of his letter jacket. “My parents. They’ve never shown up before. It’s just some stupid competition. I’m used to it.”
“It doesn’t make it right,” Peter says.
Flash huffs out a sigh. “Why are you here, Parker?”
“No offense,” Peter says. “But you kind of look like shit.”
“Is this some superhero requirement? Trying to cheer up people when they’re being pathetic?”
“You’re not being pathetic, Flash,” Peter says immediately. “And I wouldn’t know, I’ve never read the superhero manual.”
Flash blinks at him before shaking his head and muttering under his breath, almost quiet enough that Peter doesn’t hear, “I didn’t know there’s a superhero manual.”
“There’s not. That was a joke,” Peter says. Flash stays quiet. Should he...? Screw it. “You want to come to the compound with me tonight?”
Flash stares at him for a hot minute. Peter almost starts squirming. Maybe he shouldn’t have said anything.
“…Why would you offer that?” Flash asks eventually.
Peter bites his lip. “Since you’re not an alternate anymore, I dunno, I figured we could practice together? If you wanted, of course. That way you can show your parents up when we win nationals and you answer the winning question.”
Yep. Peter is definitely nervous. Flash isn’t really giving him any emotional cues to go by and Peter doesn’t know Flash well enough to know when to back off and leave him alone. It comes with the whole being a jackass for literal years and changing your entire personally in five weeks after a really traumatic situation kinda thing. “Is that a yes?”
“It’s…” Flash hesitates before shaking his head. “I mean, I just don’t understand why me? I was—I was awful to you. I said a lot of shit, did a lot of shit and you still saved my life, man. I don't even know why you're talking to me right now.”
“You’re working on getting better,” Flash gives him a look and Peter hides his smile. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed. You told everyone else to back off of me. You haven’t thrown spitballs at all in calculus. Haven’t said anything awful since the gym. You even let me borrow a pencil last period.”
“I’m not being awful to you because I found out you are Spider-Man,” Flash snaps.
“You’re not being awful to me because you realized you were wrong,” Peter corrects. “I don’t care how that happened.”
“It doesn’t make it right,” Flash parrots his own words right back at him.
“Then make it better,” Peter says and stands up. He offers out his hand to pull Flash up, or rather, as a truce. “So, compound?”
There’s a second of hesitation, but there's a tiny smile on Flash's hand when he takes it. “Sure, Parker.”
(Flash shows up for his first Avengers compound team meeting the very next weekend.
Charles says, particularly vindictive, “Oh? Do my eyes deceive me or is Flash Thompson actually at an Avengers practice?”
Flash tells him to shut up. Everyone laughs.
MJ shuffles the decathlon cards and picks out the ones hastily added with Avengers trivia on them. Peter calls the entire team’s attention lest a playful fight breaks out. They stare up at him and he starts the meeting with, “Can we please stop spreading wildly inaccurate things about Spider-Man on twitter?”
Peter is shut down immediately.
Everything else settles in, comfortably, from there.)
Flash @f.thompson · 1d
im not saying spider-man is actually a spider in real life. im just saying no one can prove that he isn’t
[flash]: hey guys
[sally]: holy shit flash speaks
[charles]: welcome to hell population nine and a half :)
[flash]: whos the half
[charles]: mr harrington when i send him screenshots of our texts
[betty]: godspeed mr harrington
[flash]: anyways, sorry about everything i was just. yeah.
[peter]: but its cool now
[flash]: which is great and all because i have so many spider-man memes saved
[cindy]: why is flash the only one who uses a hyphen
[peter]: its called respect
[cindy]: ive never respected u less in my life
[peter]: unfriended. blocked.
[abe]: ok are we gonna ignore the fact that flash had a buttfuck of spiderman memes saved and hes not sharing them, right now,
[abe]: welcome to the gc
[abe]: send in the memes
Ned shows him the tweet the next day. Flash, who’s account had previously been inactive for close to a month, has a shiny new post right at the top of the page and several new messages in the group chat.
Peter reads them, stares for second before he laughs and laughs and thinks, just maybe, this isn’t so bad after all.