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In. Hold. Out. Repeat.

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Peter was really starting to wish he had listened to his mentor-turned-father-figure when the man insisted that he wasn’t ready to go back to school.

The latest mission with the team was a rough one. The fight lasted much longer than it should have and ended with another building getting dropped on the teen while he was evacuating the last of the civilians.

He had narrowly avoided being crushed to death by the grace of some deity out there, and to say that he was still a little shaken up would have been a gross understatement.

Tony and Harley hadn’t been keen on letting the youngest Avenger out of their sight, going as far to choose to sleep with the teen to chase off the inevitable nightmares they all would have that night, but Peter couldn’t afford to miss another quiz in organic chemistry.

With his senses keyed up to eleven, he was having a hard time convincing his subconscious that he wasn’t in danger anymore, and that the threat was over. Every sudden noise and movement in the crowded high school made him flinch.

It was bad enough that even Ned and MJ took notice. They kept shooting him wary glances.

“You really should have stayed home, dude,” Ned said after Peter nearly jumped out of his skin when a student had slammed their locker shut as they were passing.

“Yeah. This is pitiful even by your standards,” MJ added, not bothering to look up from the book she had her nose buried in.

“I’m fine, guys, really. I promise. I’m just still working off the high from that fight. I’ll be back to normal by lunch.”

MJ hummed noncommittally, not at all convinced.

“I still think that you should just take the orgo quiz and just have Mr. Stark or someone check you out. You really don’t need to be here all day.”

Peter knew that his friends were just trying look out for him, but he couldn’t help his huff of annoyance.

“I can’t do that, Ned. I have way too many absences already, and we have decathlon practice after school. Mr. Harrington will kill me if I miss another one.”

“Listen, loser, you look like there’s going to be another killer robot around every corner. You’re not even going to be able to keep going let alone focus with that amount of stress,” MJ snorted.

That was another Peter had to deal with. He didn’t really have traditional ‘fight or flight’ response. He only had a ‘fight’ response and seemed to lack the ‘flight’ portion of it. His body was on a constant high alert, ready to intercept an attack at any time. During a fight, it was an invaluable skill, but sometimes, he wasn’t able to turn it off right away, and it would drive him into the ground with exhaustion in a matter of hours.

“I’ll be alright, guys.”

Peter wasn’t sure if he was reiterating the point to his friends or himself.

“Whatever you say, Parker,” MJ paused, giving Peter quick onceover. “Okay, losers. This is my stop. I’ll catch you guys at lunch.”

The boys waved in goodbye as she peeled off to the English classroom, and they kept making their way through the steadily dwindling group of high schoolers in the hall.

Ned started talking, but something caused a chill to race up and down Peter’s spine, and he drowned out every word his best friend was saying.

He felt the hair on his arms stand up.

“Well, look who it is! Penis Parker,” Flash drawled, strolling up behind the duo with a smirk plastered firmly on his face.

Under any normal circumstance, he wouldn’t have had such a systematic response to the other teen, but unfortunately for Peter, normal circumstances were becoming fewer and farther in between.

“Now really isn’t the time, Flash,” Ned stopped and muttered, subtly moving to angle himself in front of Peter.

“Shut up, dumbass. I wasn’t talking to you,” Flash snapped, sneering at the teen.

“What the hell do you want?” Peter asked, turning to face the darker-skinned boy, his tone shorter than it normally would be.

He was tired and didn’t want to deal with whatever it was that Flash wanted to harass him about this time. He could already feel the headache forming behind his eyes from all the excess stimulation.

Flash seemed to pick up on the attitude and raised a perfectly manicured brow.

“Wow. I don’t know what crawled up your ass and died, Parker, but you need to watch your tone. Remember who you’re speaking to.”

Anger flared up in Peter, red hot in his veins, fueled by left over adrenaline and years of pent up emotion. Something about the haughty tone nearly set him off.

His stance shifted into something more defensive before he even realized it.

Ned must have noticed the change because he stepped off to the side and started nervously looking between the two, trying to determine when it would be best to intervene.

“I’m not in the mood today. You can push my buttons all you want any other day, but not today,” Peter ground out through his teeth.

Flash threw his head back and laughed.

“Oh yeah? Why’s that? You finally come to terms that you’re never going to amount to anything, or did you run out of things to lie about to make yourself sound cool?” he taunted.

Peter started focusing on his breathing, forcing himself to calm down.

In. Hold. Out. Repeat.

His watch gently buzzed on his wrist, and he didn’t need to check to know that it was Harley texting him about the notification he got about the spike in his vitals.

There was a second buzz.

That one was probably Tony.

“Cat got your tongue, Penis? God, you’re so pathetic. I don’t understand how you’ve managed to find not one, but two people in the world that actually like you.”

In. Hold. Out. Repeat.

“Why the fuck are you just staring at me like that, you freak? Did your mommy and daddy not hug you enough as a child or something?”

The cruel grin on Flash’s face told Peter that he knew the implications of what he said.

Another buzz.

In. Hold. Out. Repeat.

A crowd started forming around them.

Flash started stalking toward Peter in way that had his senses buzzing in warning, itching to put him on the ground and eliminate the threat. He was practically shaking with the force of self-control to fight against instinct and combat experience.

“You know, Penis, I wonder what Tony Stark would actually say if he found out the lies you’ve been spreading. I like to personally think that he would laugh right in your face if he knew that a nobody orphan in high school on a scholarship was claiming to be an intern for his company. Maybe if I was the one that told him, he’d thank me for stopping you from dragging his name through the mud and offer me a position instead. Wouldn’t that be hilarious?”

“Flash, I need you to take a step back.”

Peter hoped that his voice wasn’t as shaky as it sounded.

The snort from the other teen told him otherwise.

“Or what? Are you scared?” he leered.

In. Hold. Out. Repeat.

He grabbed the straps of his backpack to give his hands something to hold, to remind himself that he wasn’t on the battlefield, and that he was at school. Flash was just an asshole, not a threat to his safety.

Flash put himself directly in Peter’s personal space, practically daring him to do something.

“Back up. I mean it,” he said flatly.

“I’m getting real tired of you just getting your way around here with no repercussions. I get that you’re the local charity case, but I’m starting to believe that you’re just taking advantage of all of the leeway the faculty gives you. If you were treated like every other student here, you wouldn’t be half as far as you are now.”

In. Hold. Out. Repeat.

Peter’s hand twitched, his knuckles white from how hard he was holding the fabric.

Flash dropped his eyes to the movement and smirked.

Wrong. Wrong.Wrong.

“Maybe it’s time I knock you down a peg or two.”

Flash’s sudden shift in body language broadcasted what he was about to do before he even formed a fist.

It was like Peter blacked out. One second, he registered the other teen lifting his arm, the next second, Flash was pinned the floor on his stomach under him. He had one hand twisted in dark hair, pinning his face to the hard tile, and the other hand had the offending arm pinned to his back at an awkward angle.

There were shouts of alarm from all around him.

Flash had cried out, and whether it was from surprise or pain, Peter didn’t know.

He suddenly realized what he did and threw himself off other the other teen in horror. He had done the one thing he swore not to do and used his powers on someone that didn’t deserve it.

Bile made its way up his throat as he scooted backwards with his feet and hands until his back met the cool metal of a set of lockers.

Flash immediately rolled over and looked at Peter with wide eyes.

“What the fuck is wrong with you. You’re so dead-“

“What’s going on out here?” Mrs. Warren demanded, flying out of her classroom and surveying the two boys on the ground with a group of shocked teenagers staring at them.

Peter didn’t pay her any attention. He was too focused on Flash cradling his arm.

He had hurt him. He- oh God, he hurt him.

He looked down at his shaking hands, feeling his breathing become irregular and erratic.

Ned hesitantly crouched down next to him and put a hand on his shoulder. Peter snapped his head to see the source of contact and felt like throwing up when his best friend flinched at the sudden movement.

He felt like a monster.

“Parker attacked me out of no where!”

“Mr. Parker, is that true?”

Peter didn’t look up. He just stared back his in own hands in horror.

“Hold on a second! Flash started it!” Ned shouted, visibly shocked at Flash’s outright lie.

“Can anyone that saw this happen attest to that?” she asked, her tone exasperated as she looked around the crowd of students.

No one said a word, no one willing to speak out against someone with as influential parents as Flash had.

“Are you kidding me? Everyone saw what happened!” Ned snapped.

“I’ll let the principal handle this. Parker, Thompson, go. Now. I’ll inform them that you’re on your way. Leeds, Richmond, escort them. ”

Peter stumbled to his feet, his limbs felt numb and heavy.

The trip to the administrative building went by in a blur. Nobody spoke.

“Text me, okay, Peter?” Ned asked softly, his eyes full of concern.

Peter nodded numbly as he took a seat in the waiting area.

Flash sat on the opposite side of the room, glaring sharply at him, and made a show of favoring his injured arm.

Somewhere in the back of Peter’s mind, he knew that Flash wasn’t severely hurt. He knew what bones snapping and muscles tearing felt like under his fingers.

The thought didn’t make him feel better. He could have seriously injured the other teen. With as much strength as he had, he could have shoved Flash’s arm through his spine, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Peter suddenly felt clammy and chilly.

His watch buzzed several more times, but he couldn’t look. His eyes were glued to a spot on the wall in front of him as his thoughts spiraled out of control.

“-arker. Mr. Parker!”

Peter jumped as the secretary snapping her fingers at him snatched him back to the present.

“Y-yes?”

“We had to contact your guardian, but we weren’t able to reach your Aunt. I’ve spoken with your emergency contact, Anthony Rhodes, and he said that he would be here shortly.”

Peter felt like someone had ripped the floor out from under him, and he went from one internal crisis to another.

Of course they weren’t going to reach May. She had taken a travel nursing contract in Europe at Peter and Tony’s insistence that she get out an experience the world and travel. Tony had become his temporary guardian in the meantime, listed on all legal documents at Anthony Rhodes to avoid any unnecessary speculation.

“Why does he have to come?” he asked before he could stop himself.

“We were required to contact Mr. Thompson’s parents per protocol, and they demanded that they speak with your guardian,” she explained, her expression unamused.

Flash curled his lip.

 

“I hope you’re ready for the lawsuit of your life, Parker. Did you forget that my dad runs the most successful law firm in the country?”

Peter swallowed. It wasn’t the law suit he was worried about.

Tony Stark was coming to his school, and he knew he was going to be mad at him.

After what felt like hours, Mr. Thompson strode into the building and made a beeline for his son.

“Dad!” Flash cried out, his face lighting up in smug victory.

Peter felt something twist painfully in his chest as Mr. Thompson put a hand on top of Flash’s head and checked him over.

Mr. Morita came out of his office and silently waved them back.

The teen reluctantly rose and followed Flash and his father back into what felt like an execution chamber.

There were four empty chairs in front of the desk, and they all took their respective seats.

“Thank you for coming on such short notice, Mr. Thompson. I am terribly sorry for the inconvenience,” the principal said remorsefully.

“Yes, yes. Now, let’s get on with this. I expect the fullest extent of punishment for the transgressions against my son,” the man snapped.

“Of course, sir, I-“

“And where is his guardian? I specifically requested that they be present because I intend to have a very lengthy conversation as well as get their contact information for my legal team.”

Morita paled at the admission and casted a worried glance at Peter who only ducked his head in response.

“Rest assured that his guardian has been contacted, and he is on his way as we speak. I would like to get both sides of the story, however,” he said, unsure of how to handle the intrusive presence of Mr. Thompson.

Flash was grinning from ear-to-ear, his ‘injured’ arm seemingly forgotten in his anticipation of humiliating Peter.

“My son got assaulted by this child. I think that’s all the information you need to know,” the lawyer snarled, leaning forward in his seat.

Peter’s hands started to shake again, and he suddenly felt like someone had sucked all of the air out of the room.

“Yes, I- I understand, but Peter, would you like to say anything?” Mr. Morita asked, turning to address the hero.

Peter opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. He shook his head sadly. He knew he had fucked up. He knew he should have just taken the punch, and they never would have been in this situation. Even better, he knew that he should have listened to Tony and never came to school in the first place.

The man had been right. He wasn’t ready.

“That’s what I thought. I-“ Mr. Thompson was cut off by the sound of the office door slamming open.

“I thought the point of contacting the guardians to discuss the situation at hand was to wait until both guardians were present,” Tony drawled, leveling his unimpressed stare at Mr. Thompson, Flash, and the principal.

All three jaws slowly fell open at the sight before them.

Tony was dressed in a smart black suit, with his signature sunglasses perched on his nose and his hair styled to PR perfection. The man emanated power, his presence smothering the room.

Someone behind him cleared their throat, and Peter felt his own throat clench at the familiar sound.

“Oh, yes. I brought company. I hope you don’t mind,” he said with a smirk, stepping aside to reveal Harley to the occupants of the room.

“Harley, dad,” Peter breathed despite himself.

Tony’s gaze snapped over to Peter and his eyes softened.

“Hey there, darlin’,” Harley said with an easy smile, moving forward into the room to stand behind Peter’s chair, placing his hands firmly on his shoulders.

He leaned down and pressed a quick kiss to the top of his head before he returned to his full height, fixing a nonchalant gaze on the others around him.

“Hey, kiddo,” the genius said.

From the tone alone, Peter knew that he wasn’t in any serious trouble.

Tony took the seat next to Peter, his posture deceptively casual.

Both Peter and Harley knew that look all too well. That was the same look the man had when he was about to eat a board room alive.

The youngest Avenger felt his world slowly returning to its normal way of order with both men in the room with him.

If the scenario had been any different, he would have laughed at the matching looks of shock on Mr. Thompson and Flash’s faces.

“M-Mr. Stark, how can I help you, sir?” Morita asked, stumbling over his words.

“I was contacted because I was told that my kid got into a fight,” Tony said as if he were discussing the weather.

Morita opened and closed his mouth a few times.

”Your kid?” Flash squeaked.

“What’s going on here?” Mr. Thompson demanded.

“Ah, right. Anthony Rhodes is just the pen name. We can’t have the whole world knowing that I’m Pete’s legal guardian, can we?” he said with a wink.

“I- uh, well- I-“ Morita stammered.

“Now, if it’s all the same to you gentlemen, I’d like to hear Peter’s side of the story before this goes on any longer.”

Every set of eyes turned to Peter, and he felt himself sink down in the chair under all of the attention.

Harley squeezed his shoulders reassuringly, sending him a soft, encouraging smile.

The waves of uneasiness started to ebb away, and he started to question why he was really even that nervous at all. He went toe-to-toe with businessmen and supervillains alike.

Even without the suit, he was still Spiderman, but more importantly, he was, as Tony called him, an honorary Stark, and Stark men bowed to no one.

In. Hold. Out. Repeat.

Peter sat up a little straighter and a smile tugged at the corner of his lips when he saw Tony’s proud gaze out of the corner of his eye. The man must have noticed the change as well.

“We got into an argument. Flash got in my personal space. I asked him to step back, and he didn’t. He raised his fist to hit me so I defended myself,” Peter explained in the best way he could.

“This is preposterous! My son would never start a fight. Why are we sitting here entertaining lies?” Mr. Thompson snapped, rolling his eyes.

Tony and Harley turned their heads to glare at him.

“Were there any witnesses to back that claim up? It was my understanding that Mrs. Warren said that there wasn’t an unbiased party that was willing to speak up,” Morita said slowly, as if unsure of the words coming out of his own mouth.

“There were plenty of people there, but like you said, no one would say anything,” Peter shrugged.

“Eugene, for records sake, could you tell me what you believed happened?”

Flash nodded eagerly and sat forward, chin held high in the air.

“Of course, Principal Morita. I was minding my own business when Parker came right up to me and started verbally assaulting me. I asked that he stop because there is a strict bullying policy, but he didn’t. Then, out of nowhere, he got in my face, and before I knew it, I was on the ground. He nearly broke my arm!”

Peter couldn’t help but raise his eyebrows at the dramatics.

“Is this kid for real? He’s claiming Peter is the bully here?” Harley growled.

Peter felt him tense. He placed a hand on the one that rested on his shoulder and started rubbing soft circles with his thumb.

“I can see we have, uh, two very different stories here,” Morita said, looking between the two teens.

“It’s incredibly obvious as to who is telling the truth here. You and I both know that Eugene is a model student,” Mr. Thompson said, curling his lip at Peter.

Tony’s face remained impassive as he pulled his phone of his pocket and started rapidly tapping away at the screen.

Morita shifted uncomfortably at the silence, unsure of what the hero’s plan was.

“Since we’re playing a ‘he said, she said’ kind of game here, let’s work with something concrete, something that should have been done from the start,” Tony said with a pointed look the man behind the desk. “Friday, be a dear and pull the camera footage from the fight. Sync the audio and blow it up for us.”

“Sure thing, Boss.”

A hologram appeared in front of them, and the sounds of students milling through the halls filled the small office.

Peter looked over to Flash and his father, only to see the teen wide-eyed and pale. He almost felt bad.

“Isolate the audio, prioritizing Pete and the delinquent.”

The background noise fell away and Harley snorted at the indignant noise that came from Mr. Thompson.

From start to finish, the entire altercation between Peter and Flash played for everyone to see, and the hologram disappeared as soon as it was over.

Tony turned to Peter and sighed.

“I think I recall saying something about it being too soon for you to go back to school today.”

Peter felt his face get hot.

“I was fine,” he defended.

“Clearly,” the genius deadpanned.

“I think y’all’ve seen all you need to see,” Harley said, interrupting the two.

“So, surprise surprise. Peter was defending himself like he said, and little Eugene over there was in fact the instigator.”

Tony smile was every bit of a predator’s that had just cornered its prey.

“We can continue with the legal action like Mr. Thompson oh so dearly wanted to pursue, but something tells me that it would be a fruitless endeavor,” he added, somehow making a metal framed chair look like a throne.

“I- I don’t-“ Mr. Thompson stuttered, his eyes wide.

“Figures. Here’s a word of advice to remember next time you go throwing your weight around when you shouldn’t. There’s always someone out there that’s heavier than you. Unless you’re me, of course, but I digress. Harley and I will be taking Peter now. I think that an appropriate punishment can be determined without us present,” Tony said, rising to his feet.

Peter did the same automatically, trying to hide the smile that was threatening to break out on his face when Harley stepped around the chair to wrap and arm around his waist.

“Oh, and Eugene? Stay away from my kid. If I catch wind of you saying anything even remotely in his direction, and believe me, I’ll know, you’ll find out what a real legal team looks like. Is that clear?”

Flash’s slow nod seemed to satisfy the genius enough, and he ruffled Peter’s hair before leading the two teens out.

“You sure you’re alright? I saw your freak out in the hall,” Tony said once they made it out of the building.

Peter nodded and hesitated for a moment before speaking.

“I’m okay now. I just panicked because I lost control. I used my powers on someone that didn’t deserve it. I could have really hurt Flash.”

His voice was small even to his own ears.

“You didn’t,” Tony emphasized.

“But I could have.”

“I think what the old man is trying to say is that even when you’re half a step away from a sensory overload and hyped up on post-mission adrenaline, you showed subconscious restraint when some asshat tried to hit you,” Harley explained.

“I’m just impressed that you had the mind set to put the kid on the ground and not through the ground. Remember what happened last time you were spooked that bad after a fight? You nearly put Rogers through a wall.”

Peter snorted at the memory. That was the first and last time the super soldier got into Peter’s space too fast after a particularly rough mission.

“You know that you guys didn’t have to go all out like you did back there,” he said.

Harley chuckled and pulled Peter closer to his side.

“Tony and I were already on our way over when we got the message from Karen that you were in distress.”

“It was past time I put that Eugene brat in his place anyway. I- don’t look at me like that, kid, you know damn well that you couldn’t keep something like that from me. I know everything,” Tony said, shaking his head at the surprised look on Peter’s face.

The youngest Avenger had never outwardly mentioned the bullying, but he apparently didn’t have to.

“Besides, who names their kid Eugene?” he made a show of scrunching his nose up in disgust. “Doesn’t he go by some stupid nickname?”

“Flash,” Peter supplied.

“That’s somehow worse.”

A laughed bubbled up out of Peter’s throat, and he felt the last bit of tension flowed out of him as the familiar non-descript black car came into view.

“Thanks guys,” he murmured softly.

Tony put his hand on Peter’s opposite shoulder, leaving the boy sandwiched between the two.

“Anything for you, Bug Boy.”