Are you feeling any better man?
I’m literally dead
Tell my wife I love her
Peter sniggered, shovelling another forkful of cafeteria macaroni in his mouth. It was strange not having his best friend with him during the school day and it sucked that he was ill, but at least he was well enough to joke around.
He was halfway through typing a response when the phone was suddenly snatched from his hands, and he whipped his head up to see Flash waving it mockingly.
“Who are you texting, Parker? Your boyfriend?”
Peter rolled his eyes and stood, “Shut up, Flash. Give me my phone back,”
“Maybe I should send him a message myself,” Flash smirked, but it quickly morphed into a frown when he looked at the phone, “This is a Stark Phone,”
“Yeah, so? Give it back,” Peter reached for it but Flash jerked his hand back.
“How did you afford a Stark Phone?”
“I got it from the internship—“ Peter said quietly, trying not to cause a scene.
“—Bullshit Parker!” Flash shouted, “You don’t have an internship!”
“Yes, I do!”
Peter reached for it again but Flash was faster, holding it behind himself. He grit his teeth. If he didn’t have a secret identity to keep hidden at all costs he’d already have his phone back, and wasn’t that just a kick in the teeth. What was the point of having these great powers when he couldn’t use them when he needed them?
“Everyone knows you’re a liar, Penis, why don’t you just give it up al—“
“Do us all a favour, Eugene, and shut up,” MJ said calmly as she grabbed the phone and passed it back to Peter.
Peter took it back gratefully, but Flash flushed a deep red at the laughs and stares coming from around the cafeteria. He glared balefully at the two of them, before turning on his heel and stomping off.
“Thanks,” said Peter after a moment, pocketing his phone. MJ snorted.
“I didn’t do anything you couldn’t have done,” she said cryptically before wandering off.
Peter watched her go, as confused and as... intrigued as ever. He shook his head and took his tray to be cleared.
It was as he was waiting outside his Spanish class that the announcement came over the intercom;
Peter Parker to the principal’s office please, Peter Parker to the principal’s office
All eyes in the corridor turned to him and he grimaced uncomfortably at the attention, quickly pushing off the wall and making his way to the office. When he knocked and entered, Principal Morita was sat behind the desk looking very serious.
“Have a seat, Mr Parker,”
“Is everything alright, sir?”
“May I see your phone please?”
Peter’s stomach dropped, wondering what Flash had done, “Sir?”
“Humour me,” said Morita, extending his hand.
With an unsteady hand, Peter pulled the phone from his pocket and reluctantly handed it over. Morita turned it over in his hands, studying it intently. His eyes met Peter’s.
“Where did you get this, Mr Parker?”
Peter hesitated knowing that the principal, like everyone else at the school, would have difficulty believing the truth.
“I don’t wish to be indelicate,” Morita continued tactfully, “but I know that your particular financial situation would make it near impossible to buy one of these, let alone the latest model,”
Peter bristled at the comment but bit back a snarky retort, instead quietly saying, “I got it as part of my internship,”
Morita sighed, “Ah yes, the infamous internship. You know, I called Stark Industries and spoke to their Human Resources department. They told me they don’t have anyone on their books, intern or not, named Peter Parker,”
Peter struggled not to squirm. Of course he wasn’t official.
He had initially used the ‘internship’ as a code name for his Spider-Man patrols, figuring it wasn’t entirely a lie as he had been recruited by Mr Stark and he was still learning and getting the hang of this superhero thing. Of late he had been doing occasional afternoons and Saturdays in Tony’s workshop, but again that wasn’t official either. He was there on Tony’s invitation.
“They also told me,” Morita went on after an uncomfortable pause, “that their internship program is for people college age and above, meaning that you don’t qualify. Now, I understand the need to fit in and to be cool—“
“—It’s got nothing to do with that, sir, it really is the truth,” Peter said, his right knee bouncing anxiously.
Morita’s stern gaze sharpened, at the interruption, “Very well, Peter, do tell me how, given all the facts to the contrary, you have an internship with Stark Industries,”
Peter took a steadying breath, “It’s not so much a Stark Industries internship as... I mean it is but... I’m Mr Stark’s personal intern,”
“Mr Stark’s personal intern,” Principal Morita repeated slowly. He met Peter’s gaze for a few tense beats before he rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger, sighing in disappointment, “Mr Parker, how gullible do you think I am?”
“I swear it’s true!” said Peter.
“Enough! That’s enough now. It’s one thing to lie to your classmates but it’s another entirely to lie so blatantly to your principal,”
“I’m not lying! I—”
“— No. I don’t want to hear it. What I want to hear is where you got this phone, and I’d like the truth please,”
Peter swallowed hard as his hands began to tremble, “Sir, I really did get it from Mr Stark,”
Morita stared at him for a moment through narrowed eyes, “Do you have any proof that this came from Mr Stark?”
Peter racked his brains, doing some very fast thinking, “Let me call him. On the phone, let me call Mr Stark and he can tell you,”
“Do you really expect me to believe that you have Tony Stark’s personal number?”
“Please?” said Peter.
Morita sighed and passed the phone to Peter, “Unlock it, then hand it back,”
Peter took it and scrolled to his contacts. He brought up Tony’s number and passed the phone back, wishing with all he had that the man would answer. Morita pressed call and raised the phone to his ear.
Peter stopped breathing, despite the knot that sat in his chest, as he waited.
Please pick up, please pick up, please pick up!
The silence stretched on as nothing happened.
Please pick up! Please pick up!
PLEASE PICK UP! PLEASE!
Morita brought the device down and Peter stared at it in horror.
“No answer,” said Morita, unsurprised, “And no voicemail message, it just rang off,”
“Please try again,” said Peter desperately, “maybe he just didn’t hear it, please sir, try again,”
“This has gone on too long. I’ve tried being patient with you and you’ve thrown it back in my face. Now for the last time, where did you get this phone?” Morita’s voice was steely, and Peter was shaking.
He didn’t know what to do. The man clearly didn’t believe the truth and it was only angering him to hear it, but Peter couldn’t lie. He was stuck.
In the wake of Peter’s silence, Morita picked up his desk phone and began dialling, “This is out of my hands,”
Peter wasn’t sure who he was calling, but soon his stomach dropped like a rock and threatened to empty its contents onto the office floor.
“Hello, this is Principal Morita of Midtown School of Science and Technology. I have a student here who I suspect of theft, could you send an officer down please?”
Peter struggled to breathe as his throat tightened painfully. His principal had called the cops on him!?
“Thank you,” said Morita before hanging up the phone. He looked to Peter, “I’m sorry, Peter, but you’ve given me no other choice. I’m going to call your aunt to join us here,”
Peter didn’t respond. He felt numb. How could this be happening!?
Morita put the phone down without having spoken, “Unfortunately, your aunt was unable to pick up. I’ll try again in a few minutes, but the officer should be here soon,”
Peter knew it was useless. May had a long shift that day, and she had to keep her phone in her locker while she was working; there was no way she would be able to answer.
He put his head in his hands, wishing the ground would swallow him up. He knew it would be pointless to run, so his only hope was Tony seeing the missed call and calling him back.
He sent out a silent plea to anyone listening to make Tony look at his phone.
Tony sat in the drivers seat, elbow propped on the door with his hand blocking his face. Even parked a few streets away from the school it was possible for him to be seen; a handful of students walked home this way, and the last thing he wanted was to be discovered.
He glanced at the time and frowned, Peter was usually here by now.
Tony closed the emails he wasn’t reading anyway and went into his messages, opening his chat with Peter.
Sorry I missed your call earlier buddy, I was in a boring ass meeting
I’m on my way to pick you up, everything good?
He’d sent those messages about half an hour ago. They’d been delivered, but not read.
Tony frowned, usually Peter was pretty on it with responding to him, even during class. However, this was also the kid who got so involved with his projects that he didn’t respond for hours, so that wasn’t too worrying. It was the missed call that was bugging Tony.
Peter never called Tony. Ever. They spoke on the phone, sure, but that was when Tony called Peter, or when Karen called Tony from the Spider-Man suit; Tony didn’t think Peter had ever called him willingly and he was so mad that he’d not been able to answer it. And now Peter wasn’t responding to messages.
Tony huffed agitatedly. There could be a very simple explanation for this. Maybe he had decathlon practice and was busy. Maybe he was already on the subway home and didn’t have signal. Maybe he was in detention. Maybe, maybe, maybe
But why had he called Tony?
Tony started the car and drove the short distance to the school. He decided that if something was wrong he needed to go in and find out, and if nothing was wrong then he would just say he was surprising the decathlon team, or whatever club it was Peter was at. Yes, that sounded good.
It was long enough after classes had ended that the area was deserted, and a sleek sports car pulling into the car park didn’t draw too much attention. Looking around, many of the other cars were of a similar style, if not to the same standard, and it was only when he climbed out of the car that heads started to turn.
Tony flashed them a polite smile but largely ignored them as he climbed the front steps.
He approached the receptionist’s desk and flashed a winning smile, “Hi there, I’m here to pick up Peter Parker. He’s usually out by now, just checking he’s not in detention or something,”
The receptionist looked shocked. Tony’s smile wavered; he was used to people being stunned by his presence, but this woman looked absolutely horrified.
“Come with me, please,” she said shakily as she all but ran down the hallway.
“We do know each other,” Tony said, suddenly realising how it might look to have a random man asking for a student, even if he was Tony Stark, “he has an internship with me,”
The receptionist ignored him, “Wait here,”
She knocked and poked her head through the door labelled ‘Principal Morita’.
Tony frowned, was Peter in serious trouble?
“... it can’t wait, sir, it’s urgent. It’s Tony Stark, he’s asking for Peter Parker,”
Wait, what was so urgent about this? Something was fishy and Tony wasn’t about to wait around to find out what was going on. He pushed past the receptionist as gently as he could manage, stopping in surprise when he noticed the chairs opposite the desk were empty.
Tony turned to the startled principal, “Where’s Peter?”
Morita exchanged glances with the receptionist before clearing his throat, “Sorry, am I to understand from this that you do in fact know Peter Parker?”
“Would I be in here asking for him if I didn’t know him?” Tony asked, face pinching in confusion.
“And... he is your personal intern?”
Tony scoffed irritably, “What’s with all these questions? Yes, he’s my intern, now where is he?”
Morita swallowed thickly, suddenly looking incredibly nervous, “You have to understand Mister Stark, I have to investigate when things seem suspicious,”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Tony demanded, not liking how the man kept ducking the question.
“Well, when I find out that a student from a low income family has a very expensive phone I have to start asking questions,”
“And he told you I gave it to him, yes?” Tony snapped.
Morita nodded, but Tony interrupted before he could speak, “So what’s the problem then?”
“Mr Parker could provide no evidence that you’d given it to him, or that he even had an internship in the first place. I called your number in his phone and you didn’t answer,”
Pieces started clicking together in Tony’s mind, creating a seriously unpleasant picture. The words Morita kept using; ‘suspicious’, ‘investigate’, ‘evidence’; he had a terrible feeling he knew where Peter was.
“I’m gonna ask you one more time,” he said lowly, removing his glasses to look Morita straight in the eye, “Where. Is. Peter?”
“I had to call the cops, they took him to the station for questioning,”
Tony exploded, “YOU HAD THE COPS ARREST MY KID ON A THEORY!?”
“He’s not been arrested, they’re only questioning—“
“I DON’T CARE! You called the cops on a kid who’s never done a thing wrong in his life just because you didn’t believe the perfectly valid reason he had for having that phone!” Tony was beyond furious, he was livid. He didn’t think he’d ever been so angry in his life.
“Mr Stark, you have to understand—“ Morita began weakly.
“I don’t have to understand anything! The only thing I have to do is go and bail my kid out of fucking prison because some idiot teacher decided he was a fucking criminal!”
“We’re done here. My legal department will be in touch.”
Tony turned on his heel and stalked from the office, fury burning hot in his stomach. He could feel his heart beat becoming almost painfully irregular but he ignored it; the only priority now was to get to Peter.
The engine revved deafeningly as he sped from the car park.
Peter had never been more terrified in his life.
Never in his fifteen years had he even imagined being here; sat in a rock hard chair, handcuffed to the desk in an interrogation room. He’d already had to sit in a holding cell for nearly three hours with people Spider-Man had brought in, not saying a word for the absolute terror that one of them would recognise his voice.
Peter’s head snapped up from staring at his trembling hands as the door buzzed open and an officer strolled in. He was a younger man, but the stern expression on his face aged him.
“I’m Detective Anderson, I need to ask you a couple of questions, Mr Parker,” he placed an evidence bag on the table, containing Peter’s phone, “could you tell me what this is please?”
“It’s my phone,” Peter murmured, his voice a few octaves higher than normal.
Anderson pulled out a notepad and began taking notes, “Your phone? Did you pay for it?”
“No, it was given to me,”
Anderson levelled Peter with an irritated look, “By ‘Mr Stark’ I presume you are referring to Tony Stark?”
“Yes, sir,” said Peter meekly. His whole body trembled with nerves and his knee jiggled furiously beneath the table.
“And why would Tony Stark give you this phone?”
“Because he saw my old one was all cracked and slow so he gave me a new one,”
Peter remembered the day clearly. It had only been about two weeks ago, when he’d been showing Mister Stark a funny meme and the man had commented on the state of his phone. He’d immediately gotten him a new one and set it up with him before giving him a tutorial of all the cool features and apps it came with. It had been a great day, but now Peter was missing his old cracked phone more than anything.
Anderson’s gruff voice brought him back to the present, “What exactly is the nature of your relationship with Tony Stark?”
“I’m his intern,” said Peter, not liking the implications of the question.
“His personal intern, if what you told my partner was correct,”
“Do you have any proof of this?”
Peter floundered for a moment, heart pounding heavily in his chest. He had nothing, and he knew how bad that was.
“An ID badge to the building, perhaps?” Anderson offered.
“No, sir. F.R.I.D.A.Y., that’s his AI that runs the building, she knows me, she lets me in,”
Anderson raised a brow, “Really?”
Peter watched in trepidation as the detective pulled his own phone from his pocket and typed away.
“And you know his AI’s name from working in the building?” Anderson asked without looking up.
“Yes,” said Peter, sensing a trap.
“And not because you googled it?” Anderson turned his phone to show Peter the screen filled with results and web pages about F.R.I.D.A.Y.
Peter wanted to scream. Instead he closed his watery eyes for a second and said, “Well, I... I first found out from google, but... but since I started going there, I... Mr Stark has programmed her to recognise me,”
Anderson sighed, “This all seems pretty convenient, don’t you think Mr Parker?”
“Maybe, but it’s still the truth,” Peter looked at him through wide, desperate eyes. He just needed one person to believe him, but at every turn something came up to discredit him.
“Your teacher told you he called Stark Industries, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” Peter said dejectedly.
“I made some further enquiries with the company myself, and they happened to confirm that they have no-one on the books named Peter Parker, and that Tony Stark doesn’t have a personal intern,”
Peter said nothing, feeling more and more hopeless by the minute.
“Look, Parker, you’re only making things worse for yourself by lying to me, so why don’t you cut the crap and tell me where you got this phone from,”
Peter’s trembling turned to full-on shaking as a wave of helplessness crashed down on him. He’d told the truth but it had done nothing, he didn’t know what else to do.
Luckily he didn’t have to do anything as the door buzzed open again and another officer entered, pulling a key from his pocket and unlocking Peter’s handcuffs.
“He’s free to go, his story’s been checked out,” the officer said.
“By who?” Anderson asked in annoyance.
“Stark,” said the officer, taking Peter by the arm and guiding him out of the room.
Peter allowed himself to be led back through the building into the reception, where he pulled himself free of the cop and ran into Tony’s waiting arms, nearly knocking the man down.
“Oh, Peter,” Tony murmured into his hair before pulling him back to get a look at him, “Are you alright?”
Peter nodded, not trusting his voice, and wrapped his arms around the man again, burying his face in Tony’s chest. He felt strong, familiar arms hold him securely, and for the first time all day Peter felt safe.
He didn’t quite remember leaving the station, only vaguely aware of Tony’s voice speaking harshly to the officers before being led outside to the car parked half on the road, half on the sidewalk.
Despite feeling safe and warm in Tony’s car the shaking hadn’t stopped, neither had the steady stream of tears he doesn’t remember starting. He was aware of Tony’s hand alternating between changing gears and squeezing his knee comfortingly. He could sort of hear Tony’s voice, saying something about suing someone but he wasn’t sure who.
It didn’t matter anyway, because Peter was hyperventilating. Maybe it was the stress and terror of the day catching up to him. Maybe it was the relief of finally being free and everything being resolved. Whatever it was, he couldn’t breathe.
“It’s okay, buddy, deep breaths,” Tony said, feeling helpless as he navigated the Queens rush hour traffic.
Luckily it wasn’t too long before he pulled up outside Peter’s apartment block. He barely secured the car before turning to the boy in the passenger seat.
“Peter,” Tony took Peter’s hands in his, “Peter look at me. It’s okay, you’re safe now, you’re not in trouble,”
Peter choked a couple of times, causing Tony’s own panic levels to spike, but he latched onto Tony’s presence and monologue of reassurances, and gradually his breathing slowed.
“Okay?” Tony asked, as Peter’s breathing approached some impression of normal.
Peter’s face crumpled at the question, the single word breaking his fragile walls as he broke into sobs.
Tony pulled him as close as he could with the console between them and held him tight, “It’s okay, Peter, it’s okay,”
He kissed Peter’s curls as he rubbed circles into his back.Tony knew that right now it wasn’t okay. For Peter, he needed all the comfort and reassurances Tony could provide, and the man was willing to give him all he could. For Tony, he’d be okay once he made some phone calls and saw some punishment happening for the ordeal Peter had gone through.
When Tony was through with him, that teacher was going to regret ever being born.