It feels like Peter’s entire body is drenched in sweat. His muscles ache, his breath coming out in rough pants. He can’t find the energy to move from this position, laying passively where he’d been thrown.
Peter glares up at the roof. It’s unfair; Natasha and Steve are breathing a little roughly, sure, but they aren’t even sweating. Natasha’s hair is unruffled. Their clothes look freshly ironed.
“This is bullying,” Peter tells the gym roof. He lays there, sprawled like a starfish, for a long moment. His back throbs where he’d been thrown and landed roughly. His face hurts.
“It’s not bullying,” Steve admonishes lightly. “It’s training. Vital training.”
Natasha brushes a non-existent strand of hair out of her face, and adds, “You have to stop relying on your powers to protect yourself, Peter. What happens if you’re cornered? Or something messes with your powers?”
Peter levers himself up onto his elbows, staring at her open-mouthed. “My powers can be messed with? Is that seriously a thing?”
“Maybe,” Steve says. “So far all you’ve come up against are run-of-the-mill street criminals, and inexperienced villains in fancy costumes. One of these days, you could come up against someone who’s experience trumps your spider-sense and web shooters.”
Peter groans at the ceiling, and resists the urge to throw his fists and feet down on the matt like a toddler throwing a tantrum. Unfortunately, he knows they’re right. He’s been improving in leaps and bounds since he was brought on by the Avengers and had a network of a experienced superheroes to better help guide him, but still. He’s not improving enough, not nearly fast enough.
It gets old being the youngest, untrained member on the team.
“That doesn’t make getting beaten up on the daily by my teammates any less suck-y,” Peter tells them. He is not pouting. He’s an adult and a fully-fledged member of the Avengers and he is not pouting.
Steve extends a hand and helps Peter to his feet. The blond claps him around the shoulder, smiling comfortingly. “If it makes you feel any better, Sam’s making breakfast.”
That… that actually does make Peter feel a lot better. Peter finds himself missing his Aunt everyday, but god, he does not miss her rubbery pancakes. Sam is a blessing.
“Can you bully Tony into making us coffee?” Peter asks, words slipping into a whine. It’s so early, the sun only just beginning to rise outside the Tower’s sleek windows, and he still has to trek to his university campus for class later today. Peter and early mornings are not friends.
Steve laughs a little, the sound light and fond. “We’ll see.”
Tony is almost as good at brewing coffee as Sam is at making large, home-cooked meals. Living a life of wealth has taught Tony to accept only the best of things—buying coffee beans from obscure little farms in Europe, and learning professional recipes, being taught how to create perfect cups of coffee.
Peter is far, far cheaper. His cups of coffee are either near tasteless or ridiculously bitter, a result of living on the cheapest brands or scrapping by on the barest amounts.
Steve falls back into an easy fighting stance, hands curled loosely in front of him. Natasha falls into step alongside him.
“Coffee and food after,” Steve says. “Three more rounds, then we’re done.”
Peter groans, but obeys, falling into step.
“It’s so, so early, please be nice,” Peter tries, “and go easy on me?”
Natasha smirks, just as Steve lunges forward and Peter rolls into a defensive crouch.
“Not a chance,” she says.
“Everything is awful,” Peter announces into the soft silence of the communal kitchen.
Sam is sizzling bacon on the stove. Sitting several cupboards over, perched on an empty countertop, is Clint. He’s playing with an orange, throwing it up before catching it.
The archer takes in Peter’s put-upon expression, the way he’s rolling his shoulders, rubbing at his sore muscles, and snorts. “They didn’t go easy on you, huh?”
Peter throws himself down at the breakfast bar. “No,” he answers. That whiny quality is beginning to creep into his voice again. It makes him sound petulant, somewhat childish, but it always earns Peter smiles from the other Avengers. Peter can see Sam biting back a smile.
“Well, I’m training you tomorrow,” Clint says. The orange continues it’s loose arch, up, down, caught and thrown again in expert hands. “I’m going to show you some real moves. Street moves. Be prepared to get your ass kicked.”
“One of these days,” Peter begins. “One of these days, I’m going to beat all of you. The whole team! At once! Spider-Man VS the Avengers; it’d be the beat-down of the century.”
Clint snorts, and Sam laughs from his place at the stove. “Oh, yeah?” Sam asks.
“Yeah,” Peter says. He crosses his arms over his chest. “Just you wait. You and me. Epic beat-down.”
Clint throws the orange at him. Peter catches it without blinking.
“Just you wait until tomorrow,” Clint says, a thread of challenge in his words but an easy grin spread across his lips.
Peter throws the orange back at Clint. “We’ll see,” he says, grinning, before ducking out of the kitchens for a shower.
When Peter returns, almost an entire hour later, he’s dressed haphazardly, skidding into the kitchen on socked feet. His hair is dripping wet, and his sneakers are held in one hand, satchel full of textbooks in the other.
From his place at the breakfast bar, Thor beams at him. “Good morning, Peter!”
Peter hops from foot to foot, tugging on his sneakers without untying the knotted laces first. “Not a good morning! A late morning!”
“Late?” Steve asks.
Peter looks sheepishly at his leader. “I may have fallen back asleep in the shower. And I forgot I had a morning class today. Thought it wasn’t until this afternoon…”
Clint huffs a laugh from his place at the breakfast bar. There’s empty plates and cutlery spread out before him, a telltale pile of orange peels by his elbow. “You missed Sam’s breakfast."
There’s no sympathy in his voice. Peter wishes he had another orange in hand to throw at the archer.
Steve slides a steaming travel mug over. Peter looks up at his team leader with wide, adoring eyes. “This is why you’re my favourite.”
Thor looks affronted. “I thought I was your favourite!”
Sam, stacking things away by the pantry, raises his eyebrows at him. “Pete, last week you told me I was your favourite.”
“Hey!” Tony protests. The billionaire emerges from deeper into the kitchen, moving away from his prized coffee maker to scowl at his gathered teammates. “I made that coffee, Rogers. How dare you take my credit.”
Peter is too busy correctly re-buttoning his collared shirt to acknowledge that with anything more than a, “Snooze you lose, Tony.”
“Jarvis,” Tony says loudly, “my team is ungrateful and doesn’t appreciate me for the talented human being that I am!”
The answer is dry and amused, “Indeed, sir.”
“Late,” Peter insists. “No time for sass, guys.”
Just before he leaves, Sam pulls out a bacon sandwich wrapped neatly in grease paper, and hands it to Peter. “I had a feeling,” Sam says simply.
“I take it back,” Peter says, a little awed. “Sam’s my favourite again. Sorry, Steve.”
“Oh, no,” Steve says dryly, “how ever will I go on?”
“Go, Peter! You’re late, remember?” Sam tries to usher him off. “Have fun in class!”
Peter offers him a wobbly salute. “Will do, mom.”
Peter slings the strap of his bag over his shoulder and makes for the door. As he passes, he’s offered quick goodbyes and passing touches from the other Avengers —shoulders bumping into his, hands teasingly ruffling at his hair, pats on the back.
He doesn’t duck away from them like he might have once. After he’s slowly grown to know the team—after he allowed himself to adjust to the constant presence of seven other people, allowed friendship to bloom between them—it doesn’t feel so weird. Peter doesn’t feel so lonely anymore.
The elevator door closes on the sight of the Avengers fondly teasing Sam, laughing together over the breakfast bar.
His Professor barely even looks up when Peter dashes into the room, windswept and wide eyed. He’s used to Peter’s tardiness.
Class passes by easily. After, Peter stops by the library to return books, to check out new ones. He picks up lunch on his walk home, and manages to prevent a purse snatching without even putting on the suit.
Half a dozen blocks from Avengers Tower, Peter passes by an electronics store. Wide flat-screens are on display in the gleaming storefront. All of them are switched to a news segment, and show a continuous stream of footage from the base of Peter’s newfound home.
Peter freezes on the sidewalk. People swear at his sudden stop and roughly move around him, shoulders bumping aggressively, but Peter doesn’t care. Doesn’t move. Doesn’t breath.
On screen, the Tower stands as high and proud as ever, but the upper floors have been damaged. Plumes of thick smoke billow off of the Avengers’ quarters, and several windows have been smashed wide open.
The script along the bottom of the screen reads, Avengers Tower attacked. Status of Avengers unknown.
Peter fumbles for his pocket, pulling out his phone, but finds it blank. No alerts, no missed calls or messages. Nothing.
There’s a sudden lump in Peter’s throat that makes it hard to breathe. His teammates had been attacked, likely only hours after breakfast, and he hadn’t known. He hadn’t been there for them.
And for them to not message him, not even Jarvis sending him an update…
Peter changes into his suit and swings the rest of the way there.
When Peter arrives at the Tower, his worries are not reassured at all.
There are police scattered along the base of the Tower, and barriers have been erected to keep the panicking masses at bay. There are dozens of people, hundreds even, far more than Peter might have expected. He knows the Avengers are loved by the general public, but to see the sheer size of the crowd amassing along the street, driven by concern and curiosity after hearing their heroes were attacked, is still surprising.
There are reporters, too. News vans, gaggles of journalists talking into cameras, photographers snapping shots of the ensuing chaos.
Peter doesn’t bother swinging down there. He’d be bombard by the crowds, and he can’t be distracted. Not when his team is in danger. He ignores the shouts that erupt from the people below when they see him swing by, his bright, iconic suit obvious under the midday sun, and quickly scales the Tower.
The rising smoke and long, dangerous cracks in the Tower’s windows seem far more menacing up close.
Peter climbs into the communal kitchen. Hours ago, his teammates had sat around the same breakfast bar, teasing one another and laughing at Peter’s poor time-keeping skills. It’s state now is jarringly when compared to the soft, easy atmosphere of the kitchen earlier.
Shards of glass litter the carpet, and the flat screen hung in the connecting living room is cracked and lopsided. The stools have been knocked over, plates smashed, repulser marks scorching one of the walls.
Peter wet his lips, and tries, “Jarvis?”
The ensuing silence is unnerving. Jarvis always responds immediately.
Peter tries again, “Jarvis? Can you hear me, man?”
Something shifts beyond the couch. Peter’s spider-sense hums a low warning in his head, but it’s Steve that comes into view. The man stumbles to his feet, confused and disjointed. An open gash reddens his temple.
“Steve,” Peter says, sighing with relief. “You’re okay.”
Steve doesn’t answer him. Barely even looks at him. Peter’s ringing spider-sense doesn’t ebb as his leader steps closer.
“You know,” Peter begins, tone light, “if you guys didn’t want me to go to class that badly, you could’ve just said, no need to panic and trash the place—”
When Steve finally looks up, Peter can see that there’s something… off about the man.. His stance is stiff, almost robotic. There’s something in his face, something in his eyes—dark and glazed beneath the bloody gash and blooming bruises—that makes Peter’s stomach turn. Makes his spider-sense scream behind his eyes.
Peter moves without thinking.
Steve throws himself over the back of the couch at the same time Peter throws himself onto the ceiling. Steve dashes forward again, leaping up off of the tiled floors, swiping long arms to try and get at Peter.
“Ohmygod!” Peter cries. “Oh, my god!”
Peter drops back down to the floor. He has to duck as Steve throws a punch aimed for Peter’s beck. His spider-sense is flipping out, and Peter can barely think around the panic and confusion.
“Steve!” Peter tries, as though Steve was lost underneath fog or heavy rain and Peter’s shouting to be heard above it. “It’s me! It’s Spider-Man—it’s Peter!”
It’s like the man is in a trance. Steve doesn’t falter, and doesn’t even flinch when Peter is too slow to duck his swinging fist and is flown across the room. Doesn’t even blink when Peter cries out in pain.
“Please let this be a crazy training exercises.” Peter manages to flip himself up and jump away as Steve lunges for him again. “Like—like the opposite of a surprise birthday party. Surprise, we’re going to try and kill you! For training!”
Peter's spider-sense and fast reflexes are doing him a lot of good against the assault, but Steve is more experienced. Laughably more experienced.
“Sorry for not taking you seriously this morning! I get it, I should have listened when you said I was going to come across more more experienced people. But you’re starting to freak me out…” Steve has never come at him with such unadulterated intensity before. He’s always tried to pull his punches.
Steve moves like a man possessed. His eyes aren’t focussing on anything, flat and distant, features scrunched up like a feral animal’s.
Peter realises quite suddenly that this isn’t Steve. It’s—it’s something, maybe some distant part of him, but not the leader Peter has come to known. Those eyes—those aren’t Steve’s.
Not a training exercise, then.
“You’ve been whammied,” Peter declares. He’s not sure if this makes him feel better or worse, knowing his teammate is being compelled against his will. “So, so whammied. Was it gas, or magic, or mind control—”
Steve snags Peter’s leg, his hold like a vice, and hurls Peter fully across the room for a second time. Peter collides against the far wall, and feels something in his torso crack.
Ribs. Steve—his teammate—his friend just cracked his ribs.
This isn’t so funny, anymore.
Steve advances again. He’s a pillar of muscle, broad shoulders and strong legs, large hands that could cause serious damage. Peter skitters away until his back hits the wall.
Don’t panic, he tells himself. Don’t panic.
So his powerful, superhuman teammate has abruptly turned against him, but he shouldn’t panic. Sure, Captain America has years upon years more experience than him, and Peter has yet to take him down when they spar, and this is Steve, his friend, who he can’t bring himself to hurt even though the man seems determined to rip him apart with his bare hands—
But that doesn’t mean he can panic. Get it together, Parker.
“As fun as this has been,” Peter says lightly, flipping himself back onto the ceiling and scuttling toward the window, ignoring the flaring, burning pain in his ribs as they’re jostled, “I have to skedaddle. Things to do, people to see. Maybe we could reschedule? Maybe you can try and kill me another time? We could do brunch!”
Peter has one arm out of the window, when Steve snarls like a wild animal and lunges after him, all dead eyes and bared teeth.
Peter doesn’t hesitate as he jumps and climbs up the side of the building, away from his enraged teammate.
Below him, Steve growls furiously. If Peter wasn’t still in shock, he would’ve been able to appreciate how strange that was.
The gym is in a similar state to the kitchen.
This room also has glass littering the floor, and broken, tipped over furniture. Unlike the kitchen, though, weapons are scattered about the room. Each one is mangled beyond use, laying in warped piles.
The Tower has never made Peter afraid before—not even his first few visits, when everything was big and shiny and so new—but now, with broken guns lying abandoned on the gym floor before him, Peter can’t help but feel deeply unnerved. He has a major case of the heebie-jeebies.
Peter heads deeper into the room. “Hello?! Anyone home? Hellllllllo?”
His spider-sense pings. Peter stills, one hand braced on the wall, ready to make a vertical retreat. Had Steve followed him up here? Even a super soldier would have taken longer to—
Natasha steps into view.
She’s in a similar state to Steve, disheveled and bloody with flat, glazed eyes. Her hair falls in a messy tangle, a long cut dripping along her cheek. Worryingly, his spider-sense doesn’t ease with the appearance of another teammate.
“Natasha,” Peter says cautiously, “what happened here? Steve attacked me, and if there was ever a sign that something was wrong, it’s having the embodiment of Truth, Justice, and the American Way throw you across the room—”
Natasha comes closer, her stride controlled. Nothing necessarily out of the ordinary, but there’s something in her face, in her eyes—
Natasha jumps across the space and slams into Peter, hard.
This morning, when Natasha had thrown Peter to the gym matt, she’d strategically done it. The wind knocked out of him, and his muscles ached as they had fought against her, but it hadn’t hurt. She hadn’t pressed her entire weight against him, sharp elbow pressed into the tender skin of his cracked ribs, like she does now.
Peter struggles against her, trying to twist and flip out of her grasp, but she counters each move.
She immobilises easily. One of her hands wrap around Peter’s throat, grip tight, too tight, squeezing and choking until Peter’s urgently spluttering for air.
“Na—” he tries, “na—ta—”
She grabs something from the floor beside them. Soon, Peter is frozen against the gym floor, one of Natasha’s hand holding him down by the throat, the other holding a gun to his temple.
The gun is cold against his sweating skin. Natasha looms above him, her red curls swaying around her face.
“Natasha,” Peter pleads, breathlessly. “‘Tasha, please—”
The gun makes a hollow, broken click in her hand.
Natasha had fired. If the gun had have been functional, Peter would be dead.
Peter’s stomach lurches. He wants to throw up.
Natasha snarls and throws the weapon away, furious that it hadn’t worked. It’s all the time Peter needs—he repositions his legs, and flips their position, scrambling out of her hold. (Natasha had taught him that move herself, only days ago. She’d said it might save his life one day.)
Peter races for the gym door. “We should do this again sometime,” he calls over his shoulder. “It’s been so much fun. You can join Steve and I for brunch!”
She shrieks, animalistic, at his retreating form and chases after him.
“Yeah,” Peter mutters under his breath as he darts into a corridor, sprinting away from the murderous former-assassin, “that’s what Steve said, too.”
There’s a low rumble on the other end of the hallway, a gravely sort of growl. Peter looks up, and almost trips over his feet.
Clint, stood on the opposite side of the corridor, has his bow poised in his hands, arrow nocked, the tip aiming for Peter’s chest.
Clint releases the arrow, and Peter’s breath catches his throat. He’s never seen Clint miss a shot before—
The bowstring recoils in on itself, snapping. The arrow falls uselessly to the ground.
Peter stares at the broken bow with wide eyes. It must have been sabotaged, destroyed beforehand. Someone had not only gotten to Clint’s favourite weapon, but had managed to break it so efficiently that it would break when used…
Peter is able to avoid death via arrow, and he’s grateful for that, but the sight of that beloved weapon sitting useless in the archer’s hands is… wrong, somehow. Disconcerting.
“Someone is going to pay for that,” Peter says idly—he doubts Clint and Natasha can understand him in their state, but still, babbling helps ground him—as he gestures at the bow, “and I really hope you don’t try and blame me, man. I’m kind of having a rough enough day as is.”
Natasha throws herself at Peter’s turned back. He dodges, skidding away from her reaching hands. She recovers quickly and scrambles after him with raised fists.
Peter is so busy trying to avoid her vicious swipes, that he doesn’t notice Clint stalk forward and slide an arrow out of his quiver until the archer has plunged it fully into Peter’s thigh.
The arrow lodges itself deep in his leg, and Peter can’t bite back a shout of pain. He rolls, back to the wall, and doesn’t waste any time; he tugs the arrow out of his thigh with a horrific wet sound and a scream muffled into his palm. He throws the bloodied arrow away and pants roughly— his is chest tight, his stomach rolling with pain and panicfearhorror—before climbing up the wall, away from the two super spies, and across the ceiling.
He doesn’t offer a parting quip this time. He’s too busy gritting his teeth and trying to work through the pain.
Peter escapes into an air vent. The winding, metal tunnels are easy to follow deeper into the building. He crawls through the dark space until the sounds of his teammates snarling and scrambling to follow have faded into silence.
He clasps a hand against the bloody wound in his thigh, and inhales deeply. His exhale is caught on a high, desperate laugh. It sounds more like a sob in the small, quiet space.
Okay, okay. This is no big deal. His teammates have just gone rouge and are trying to kill him. Teammates that he trusts and cares for. Who all have more experience and skill than him. No big deal. No big deal.
His head falls against the vent wall with a dull thunk. This doesn’t feel real. Several hours ago, Peter had stood amongst the other Avengers, crowded along the breakfast bar, enjoying amiable teasing and their comfortable morning routine.
Now, Peter’s friends are trying to kill him.
Peter slides out of the air vent, and peeks around the room cautiously.
He finds his way to Bruce’s floor. The scientist had left to meet up with contacts outside of the US, and wouldn’t be back for another week. Hopefully, that meant his rooms were empty.
Peter edges across the space. His spider-sense is silent.
Someone growls to his left. Peter freezes, half expecting to see someone charging out from the bathroom. There’s nothing, just the sound of struggling, metal scrapping against skin, and heavy, frustrated breathing.
Peter tip-toes further into the room. The growling grows louder.
“Ohmygod.” Peter ducks behind the couch on instinct when his teammate comes into view. There is no shame in that, he reasons—Thor looks terrifying in his state.
Thor is strapped against a thick, reinforced wall. Vibranium chains encircle his struggling form, wrapping around each bulging shoulder and intertwining over his heaving chest.
“Thor?” Peter manages around his surprise. He almost makes a bondage joke, before deciding he’s above that. “Y’know, you could’ve just texted me and said you’d gotten tied up.”
The quality of his jokes are rapidly declining. It’s tragic, sure, but Peter is doing his best with cracked ribs, an arrow wound in his thigh, and a building full of murderous teammates. Cut him some slack.
“Why are you all tied up, though?” Peter wonders. Thor doesn’t answer, throwing himself against his bounds and snarling. It’s kind of terrifying; Peter knows that if the demigod got loose, he’d be dead before he could run. “Who tied you up…?”
Peter remembers the weapons he’d seen destroyed throughout the gym. He remembers the way Natasha had raised one without hesitation, aimed it over Peter’s heart, the useless click as the trigger was pulled and the broken equipment failed to kill him.
The guns. The bows. Steve’s lack of shield…
There had been an attack on the Tower, and the Avengers had been effected by something—be it magic or a gas compound, Peter isn’t sure—but they must have had enough time before they went feral. They must’ve realise what they’d been infected with, and the damage they would wrought, and so did their best to lock away dangerous weaponry and tech.
Which, apparently, includes chaining up their impossibly strong alien teammate.
Peter hates himself for the cold shock of relief that floods his system. Thor looks hurt. And he must have truly been afraid for those around him if he had agreed to be chained up like this.
Still, Peter realises how terrifying the thought of coming up against a feral Thor is. But Thor is relatively safe. Thor can’t hurt him.
Peter laughs, and this time it’s less hysterical, more genuine. He plants himself down across from Thor, sitting cross-legged with his hands perched in his lap. The two of them have sat like this many times before—when Peter was teaching Thor to play Uno, the night Thor had found Peter on the rooftop, curled up and shaken after a vicious nightmare…
That time, Peter confessed to watching his Uncle die and knowing it was his fault. Thor had admitted to his past mistakes, the arrogance that dictated his youth, and his lingering guilt over Loki.
Now, Peter’s thigh wound drags blood on Bruce’s cream carpets when he fidgets. Now, Peter is hiding from their teammates, and Thor is chained so that he doesn’t viciously murder him.
“I have a bone to pick with you guys,” Peter starts, adopting a light tone. “Seriously, I was gone for three hours and you guys managed to wreck the Tower and get yourself turned into mindless, violent slaves. In three hours. I can’t leave you guys alone for THREE HOURS?”
Thor growls and bucks against his restraints. The Vibranium holds against him.
Peter levels his teammate with a decidedly unimpressed look. “I don’t think you’re being very sympathetic, man. This is when you’re supposed to look all regretful and apologise and, like, bake me a cake for putting me through this.” Peter points at the arrow wound in his leg. “Do you know how inconvenient this is? I was going to go patrolling this afternoon! And now I’m babysitting violent Avengers?”
Peter smiles underneath the mask. It’s off-putting, seeing Thor in such a state, but the other man is still reassuring. Familiar, even violently possessed like this. Peter tries not to think about how weird that is.
“You guys are going to owe me so much cake when this is over—”
The sudden jolt of his spider-sense and the whine of repulsers is the only thing that saves Peter from a blast to the shoulder. Instinctively, he jumps to the side, rolling into a crouch. The repulser scorches the carpet where he’d just sat.
Tony stands behind him, sans armour, a half-completed gauntlet fitted on one hand.
If Tony was locked out of his armour, if Jarvis was locked away, then that meant Tony’s workshop might be locked away too. If Peter could get in, he might be safe.
“Sorry for not being more grateful about the coffee this morning,” Peter says as he creeps up the wall, edging around the room. “I really did appreciate it. Ten out of ten. Would drink again.”
Peter jumps into the air vent just in time to avoid a second spray of repulser fire.
The workshop vents aren’t ever closed off, even in cases of emergency. Air flow seemed more important than security, especially in such a dangerous environment.
Peter is desperately glad for this as he slides into the workshop. The place is bare—bots and weaponry stored away, the more dangerous tools locked away in their proper containers.
Several Iron Man suits sprawled along the floor, as though all their strings had been abruptly cut. They look dead.
“Jarvis?” Peter calls out, nervous.
He receives an answer—as full of static and jumbled as it is, as Jarvis is being blocked—and almost slumps in relief.
“Mr. Parker… there… breach in… override… y—u ne— to—”
“Jarvis? I can’t—I can’t understand you—”
“Communicator,” is all Jarvis says, before abruptly falling silent.
The comm is one of only things left open on the table, among dirty plates and mugs, old screws and turned off tablets. Peter retrieves it quickly, picking it up and fiddling with it.
“Hello?” The thing hums beneath him, stuttering to life under his fingers. “This is Spider-Man, is anyone—”
The voice shouting on the other end is clear, familiar, like beacon of light through the fog, “Peter!”
“Bruce!” Peter’s grasps the communicator tightly, and the flimsy metal creaks under his fingers. He adjusts his hold on it, cradling it carefully, pressing it gently against the skin between his ear and cheek. “Bruce,” he says, the word softer, thicker.
“It’s me, Peter,” Bruce says. His voice is garbled through static but kind and familiar, and Peter sags with relief. “I’ve been trying to contact the Tower for ages. Are you okay?”
Peter inhales shakily. “Okay enough, I guess. Bruce, the other Avengers, they—”
“I know. I helped Tony shut down all the technology in the Tower from my location when they realised they were going to lose themselves.”
Peter swallows, his throat suddenly dry. (Tony had contacted Bruce immediately, but no one had contacted Peter? Had they… had they thought he couldn’t help them?)
Peter finds himself sliding to the ground, legs curled up on the workshop’s cold floor. He has only been at the Tower for a few hours, and yet he feels so tired, burnt out. He’s still strong and capable, the remnants of adrenaline chasing it’s way through his system, but he doesn’t want to hold his own weight anymore. He wants to just be here, with Bruce, forget about his friends turning feral and violent.
“The rest of them did their best to immobilise themselves, too,” Peter says, “but they’re still—they’re still running around and dangerous, and let me tell you, I have no idea why super-villains would still try and take over the world when they have to face that, the Avengers, coming after them, because holy crap—”
Bruce’s voice cuts through Peter’s panic, clear and concerned, “Peter, did they hurt you?”
Peter is so desperately grateful that Bruce is here. It’s reassuring, after coming up against the other Avengers. He hadn’t realised how badly that had shaken him up until he’s sitting huddled on the workshop floor, quiet and safe, Bruce’s steady voice in his ear.
“I’m fine, Bruce,” Peter says. “I was lucky, considering.” Considering how powerful the Avengers are. Considering how inexperienced and—and weak he is in comparison. Considering that it could be six against one, if the other Avengers learned how to work together in their state. “Nothing that won’t heal up with a little TLC.”
“Peter…” Bruce sounds so, so concerned. It makes something in Peter’s chest ache. “I’m sorry you had to go through that. I can’t get to the Tower just yet, so you’e—”
Peter is momentarily assaulted with images of Bruce, usually full of quiet, worried smiles and familiar salt and pepper hair and ruffled plaid shirts, turning feral.
To think of the Hulk—someone Peter has never been afraid of, someone who has often planted himself bodily in front of Peter, a giant, shielding pillar of muscle—turning on him… Huge green fists and roaring rage, nothing Peter could hope to fight.
After the last few hours, Peter doesn’t think he could survive that. Physically, or mentally.
“Don’t come,” Peter says quickly. “Please, whatever happens—don’t come.”
Bruce’s voice on the other end grows soft, worried. “Peter…”
“Please, Dr. B,” Peter says, equally as quiet, “we can’t take the chance that there’s any lingering gas might effect you. We can’t risk you hulking out and going feral.”
Bruce breathing is hitched on the other end of the line, barely audible above the rush of static. Peter suspects he’s imagining the same thing as Peter.
“I’m fine on my own, Bruce,” Peter reassures, “and I’m going to continue being fine, okay? You try and find cure. I’ll handle things on this end.”
“I know, but Peter, if the Avengers get out of the Tower in their state, they could do some serious damage—”
Peter’s breath catches in his throat. He hadn’t… he hadn’t considered that the Avengers might find a way out of the Tower.
He thinks about the growing mass of people gathered at the base of the Tower. The crowds of police officers and journalists just doing their jobs, the civilians driven by fear for their heroes, all of them innocent. Defenceless.
And if the Avengers so much as touched an innocent person, let alone injured them or, god, killed them, they would never forgive themselves. Peter has to protect them from that.
“I won’t let anyone get hurt,” Peter says. He feels a little desperate, fully beginning to realise the task set before him; he has to protect the surrounding crowds of people, the entire city, but he also has to protect his teammates. He has to contain the Avengers in their feral state.
Peter’s not enough. He’s just one subpar superhero, he needs more than his fists and this wavering courage. He needs—something else.
“We can’t let anyone get hurt,” Peter goes on. “You’re right, if the others get out, in the state they’re in, they’ll hurt someone…” His teammates would fall apart under the self-loathing and guilt, the public would loose all respect for Avengers, the government might try and round them up, confiscate their weapons, lock them away.
Peter takes in a deep breath. Lets it out. He frantically tries to recall all of the failsafes Tony had told them about. He’d rolled his eyes at the time, but now Peter’s thankful the billionaire’s a little paranoid.
Peter continues, voice firm, “Do you remember the defensive measures Tony put up? We’re going to have to work together to put the steel walls. You do what you can on your end, and I’ll activate it from within Tony’s workshop. And we have to keep the steel down, Bruce. No matter what. Until the others are cured.”
From Bruce’s shaky inhale, Peter knows the other man remembers those steel walls. The ones Tony had built to keep anything out of the Tower. It seems strange, now, that these steel walls are going to be used to keep something in.
“And, what? Trap them in there? With you?”
Peter sighs a little in relief. Yes. Bruce understands. “Exactly.”
“That… God, that may actually work.” Bruce doesn’t sound happy about that. “But Peter, what about you?”
Peter laughs a little, confused. “What? What about me?”
“You’re going to be trapped in there, with six Avengers that have gone feral. They’re going to be hunting for you. They’re—they’re going to be trying to kill you.”
Peter gathers himself to his feet. He feels a little numb—his stomach has settled, and the pain in his ribs, in the arrow wound, is no longer so sharp. His heartbeat is still thundering, hammering an unbidden tempo in his chest, and his palms are slick with sweat. He—he feels a little shaky. Like he’s not really here.
He stumbles over to the control panel. Jarvis still has control over the network, able to handle things internally but locked away from his external access. With Bruce’s help, Peter is able to log back into the system, work together with the AI and the other teammate, until the steel walls have been triggered.
Bruce’s voice, in his ear, sounds like final, like a sentence handed down; “It’s done.”
Peter steps back. “We did it.”
“The steel will lock itself down in a few minutes,” Bruce begins. “Peter—there’s still time, if you run you could get out of the Tower—”
His spider-sense shouts a warning. Peter’s listening to it—ducking to the left and scaling up a nearby all—before he registers the thought. The comm is dropped as he moves, lightning fast.
From his position against the wall, Peter can see Natasha, hovering where Peter had stood moments before. Her hands are poised to break his neck.
“What is with super-spies?” Peter swallows thickly, firmly pretending he’s not as shaken as he is. “We should get you guys bells.”
Clint climbs roughly out of the air vent, less stealthy than Natasha had been. His arrows are still strapped to his back, and he’s holding two kitchen knives, the long, broad kind used for chopping vegetables.
Clint hands Natasha her own knife, and she twirls it in deft fingers. Not only are they working together, but they look like one of those murder happy couples from bad horror movies. The kind Peter used to go behind his Aunt and Uncle’s backs to watch when he was younger, the kind that would give him nightmares.
“I swear if someone uses the overdone ‘here’s Johnny!’ reference, I’m going to use that knife on myself.”
Instead of laughing, Natasha throws her knife at Peter. He flinches to the side, but he’s too slow; the blade manages to slice him across the arm, leaving behind a long, bleeding wound.
“Whoa, rough crowd!” Peter claps a hand against the wound. He inches towards the air vents, blood gushing against his fingers. He laughs, shaky and high, but it does little to make him feel better. “You guys really don’t like my jokes, huh?”
Clint plucks at his knife. Natasha shifts by his side, fingers twitching, visibly itching to wrap around Peter and squeeze.
Peter, for once, can tell when it’s time for him to leave.
“Gotta-go-bye!” Peter shouts. He moves for the air vent as Clint throws his knife. The blade buries into wall where Peter’s head had been moments before.
Peter makes it into one of the living rooms. The room’s empty, albeit broken and destroyed.
He rolls onto the floor, grimacing as the new cut in his shoulder is stretched. It’s flowing freely, blood already dripping down from it, running down past his elbow, down his wrist, dripping over his palm. Gross. The arrow wound is only bleeding sluggishly, and his ribs are a dull ache, a reminder every time he breathes too deeply.
Peter’s whole body feels like one big bruise, even though he’s only been fighting a few hours. Normally, he could fight through street patrols and alien invasions and the Sinister Six’s abrupt schemes.
There’s something about this situation that seems infinitely more exhausting than usual. Peter wants to collapse on the sofa and sleep for hours. Sleep for the rest of the day. Sleep forever.
Peter is able to glimpse the world outside of the Tower—the day is bright, the sky blue, an news helicopters flit about in the sky, like birds dancing in the sun—for only a few moments.
The steel lowers itself too fast, like a door slamming shut. There’s not enough time for Peter to run across the broad expanse of the living room and jump out of the window. Not with his injuries.
Peter gets this, this one quick look goodbye at the outside sunlight before the steel lowers completely, blocking out all light and sound outside of the building.
The living room is bathed in the artificial glow of the overhead lights, but Peter feels as though everything has suddenly gone dark.