"We have to tell Tony."
Peter crossed his arms, glaring straight ahead at the wall a few feet away. One leg was stretched out in front of him on the bed in the medbay, and his other knee was bent, foot dangling off the side. A boot covered his bandaged foot and ankle, and he could practically feel Natasha's guilt. It didn't really make him feel any better, not when he'd hurt himself in the dumbest way possible in front of the Black Widow...and now they were going to tell Mr. Stark.
Helen entered the room only seconds after the words were uttered, placing a medicine bottle onto the table on Peter's left, sharing a look with Natasha before speaking. "Peter, I do have to tell him." Her voice was gentle, almost apologetic.
He just glared at the wall, so Helen went on.
"He's technically my boss. He doesn't have a lot of rules, but this is a big one. If anything happens to you, especially anything that requires me to treat you and prescribe you pain medicine, I have to inform him."
"He's not my father." As soon as the words were out, Peter regretted them. Flinching, he dropped his eyes, glad Mr. Stark wasn't there to hear them. "Sorry." It wasn't that it wasn't true...Mr. Stark wasn't his father. But in the last two years, he'd become something pretty close. Not quite a father, but more than just a mentor. No one had really said it out loud yet, but that didn't make it any less true.
Helen dropped a hand on his shoulder. "It was an accident. He'll understand."
"He's going to laugh. Everyone's going to laugh."
Natasha sighed, moving to sit on the bed beside him. "He won't laugh, Peter."
"You did." His voice came out snappish and his cheeks flushed in embarrassment. He felt bad for snapping at her. Really, he did. But it was just so humiliating!
Peter had just happened upon her dancing. He'd been sleeping over at the Compound, and Mr. Stark had left that morning for a business trip, promising to be back soon. It was a last minute thing, and he knew the man had felt bad, so Peter had promised that it was fine. That he could entertain himself for a day. In turn, Mr. Stark had promised to be back as soon as he could that evening and that they'd order an obscene amount of takeout and work in the lab and maybe even watch a movie. That had sounded good to Peter, and so after waving goodbye to Mr. Stark from the sofa that morning while eating a bowl of cereal, he'd gone exploring.
That's when he'd found Natasha. He'd seen her around before, and she'd always been friendly, waving or smiling, asking how he was. But most of his time at the Avengers Compound was spent in the lab with Mr. Stark, so he'd never really gotten the chance to have real conversations with her. That morning, he'd paused in the hallway, then followed the music to a room he'd never been in, with a barre running along one wall, and mirrors on all the others. He'd stood and watched, peering in through the cracked door until she'd stopped, spinning around and fixing him with a look that had made him stand up straight. She hadn't been angry. Just curious. Surprised. He'd rushed to apologize anyway.
"I'm sorry...I didn't mean to…"
Natasha had only smiled at him, beckoning for him to come in.
"I didn't know you did ballet." Peter had started lamely.
"Tony built this room for me a few months ago when he saw me practicing in the basement. The next day, he left a note on the kitchen table for me with a key to this room. I haven't done any real dancing in a long time...I was starting to miss it." In the background, the music had continued to play, and a line of sweat had run down the side of her flushed face. "Have you ever tried?"
Peter had thought back to his childhood as an asthmatic klutz and had shaken his head a little sheepishly. "No. It's really cool though. I mean...you're really good."
She'd laughed a little. "Thanks. Why don't you try?"
"Really?" He'd asked, flushing. "Um...no, no thanks. I mean..."
"Come on. I've seen what you can do. This will be a snap. It'll be fun." She'd held out her hand, and, after a hesitation, he'd taken it. What was the worst that could happen?
Peter had lasted for fifteen minutes before he'd broken his ankle.
Natasha's bark of surprised laughter had been the last thing he'd heard as soon as he'd hit the floor, and his cheeks had flushed before the pain had hit, sharp and agonizing. She had rushed to his side, then, dropping to her knees and putting a hand on his arm. "Peter? Are you okay?" She'd asked, flinching back when he cried out in pain, a hand clutching at his ankle.
And then she'd gotten him to Helen who had proclaimed the ankle broken.
"I'm sorry," Natasha whispered, putting a hand on his arm. "I really am. I didn't mean to laugh at you. You should have seen how many times I fell when I first started dancing." At some point, Helen had stepped out of the room, and he wondered if she was calling Mr. Stark. But Natasha went on. "Once, I fell and broke my nose in front of everyone. They all laughed, and I cried...there was blood everywhere. They had to get us out of the room to clean all of it up." Peter glanced over at her, then dropped his eyes once more, still humiliated. "I'm sorry."
He shrugged, dropping his eyes and muttering an okay.
"We do have to tell Tony." He shrugged again, and she sighed, picking up her phone. "I'm going to call him, okay? Get it over with. I'll tell him that you're fine. You'll only be in the boot for a couple of days thanks to your healing." Touching the numbers on her phone, she held it up to her ear, keeping the hand on Peter's arm. As much as he didn't really want to admit it, it was comforting. His ankle still throbbed, and he didn't really want to be alone, despite his embarrassment. "Hey, Tony. Um...I need to tell you something. It's about Peter."
Immediately Peter heard Mr. Stark's raised voice and Natasha gave him a rueful smile. Mr. Stark was nothing if not overprotective.
"He's okay. He's fine. We were…" She hesitated, glancing at him, then smiling a little. "We were training in the gym. Yes, I know...I hit him a little too hard and he fell. It's...Tony calm down." She sighed, rubbing a hand over her face. Peter felt his own lips turn up, hopeful. Would it work? Would Mr. Stark really believe her? "We were training and he fell. It's just a broken ankle. It'll heal in a few days. Helen's already looked him over. He's going to be...yeah, you can."
Natasha held the phone out to Peter and he took it, holding it to his ear and smiling. "Hey, Mr. Stark."
"Peter? Are you okay?"
"Yeah. It's like she said. I just...tripped and broke my ankle. But it's fine."
"Geez, kiddo. I leave you alone for one day."
Peter flushed. "I know...I'm sorry."
Mr. Stark sighed, tone softening. "Don't be sorry, buddy. Are you sure you're okay? Does it hurt?"
He decided to go with a lie. Mr. Stark couldn't see his face, so it would probably be fine. "Not really. Helen gave me some pain meds."
"Good. Alright." The man took a deep breath, sounding like he was trying to calm himself down. He always worried so much. "Keep it elevated. No more training until it's healed, okay?"
"I know. I won't."
"Now let me talk to Nat?"
Peter handed her the phone again, and she endured the lecture with a patient smile, nodding along with Tony's admonishments. "I know, Tony. I'm sorry." She told him finally when he'd finished telling her that Peter was just a kid and his responsibility and that she needed to be careful with him. It was all only mildly humiliating for Peter who had to listen to it too. "I messed up. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your kid."
Peter waited for Mr. Stark to contradict her...to remind Natasha that Peter wasn't his kid. Instead, the man just released a breath. "I know. I'll be home in a few hours. Tell Pete I'll bring him some cheeseburgers...I know healing makes him hungry."
Once she'd hung up, Peter peered at her sheepishly, all of his anger forgotten. He supposed, if he thought about it, it probably had been kind of funny, especially considering he could walk a web tightrope but couldn't manage to do a few ballet moves without getting his feet tangled up. "Thank you. For not telling him what really happened."
"If Tony knew that, not only did I cause you to fall and break your ankle, but that I also accidentally laughed at you while doing so, I'd have to find a new place to live." She smiled, ruffling his hair. "It'll just be our little secret?"
Peter nodded, wide-eyed and relieved. "And...um...after my leg is healed...do you think we could...maybe…"
She smiled. "Do you want to try ballet again?"
He nodded, sheepish, and Natasha nodded.
"Of course we can."