So, I've discovered that if I actually just write the darn thing instead of complaining about writing it or making up excuses about why I haven't written it yet, it actually gets written. Go figure.
Many thanks to mpathy, EmilyF.6, BeautifulKnight, Yabas, AwEsOmEiZR123, ScarletMacguyver, monkeybaby, Dolphelcat, MugetsuPipefox, trustpixiedust, Wisdomqueen, padfootl0ve, I Am A Difference Maker, TeamCaptain2016 (same, btw), Fuxxy-Panda, PrimeReader, curry-llama, MobiBlue, .rebirth, 10sBlueRose (YAS DOCTOR WHOOOOOOO 5EVER), cal numbers, little miss BANANNA HEAD, Style1234, JaneGriffin, Darlin, SummerMistedDragon, Sarcastic Radiation, unluckyoen13, SoftballSuperhero, littlemissliketofight, Tabbitoast, Paulina, AkaDeca (x6, wow! Thank you!), sleepy247, Style1234 (again, thank you so much!), tardisgater (YAS GO WHOVIANS GO), The FlashFire, and all you guests for your support! You guys are seriously the best, I can't thank you enough!
Sunday. Today was the big day. Peter had set his alarm clock to go off extra early that morning so that he could get everything sorted out before his aunt got back home. Of course, considering the fact that it was still the weekend and Peter was a teenager, 'extra early' meant about ten o'clock in the morning.
First things first: Cleaning. The apartment was a mess. Imagine releasing one hundred wild dogs into an 850 square foot apartment. That's about how the apartment looked. Dirty dishes were piled high in the sink and flour covered the counter tops from Peter's "Baking with the Avengers" video that he'd filmed earlier in the week. Dirty clothes were flung all over the place, the bathroom was a mess, and the overflowing trash had a sickly, sweet-and-salty scent, like sesame chicken that had been composting for a month, or the decaying corpse of a snake that had curled up and died in a bowl of day-old popcorn. Also, the couch in the living room was stained with about a fifth a Steve's total blood volume. Oops.
Speaking of Steve, the Super Soldier in question was passed out on the couch, tucked under three different quilts because the poor guy really wasn't fond of being cold while he slept. Go figure.
Peter tiptoes towards Steve and quietly loomed over him, cocking his head and squinting at him to get a better look at his face in the dim light. Luckily, Steve was looking better—meaning that he looked more like a Calvin Klein model who'd picked a fight with a raccoon and lost, rather than a Calvin Klein model who'd picked a fight with a bear and three thousand badgers and lost. His face wasn't as pale, the circles under his eyes weren't as dark. He looked peaceful. Still exhausted, yes, but peaceful. For a moment, Peter debated waking him and requesting his help in cleaning up the apartment. However, the idea was quickly discarded because A.) the poor guy still looked pretty worse-for-wear and, seeing as he was still healing, he could use all the sleep he could get. And B.) somehow, it felt wrong to wake up Steve Rogers, an Avenger and literally one of the coolest people ever, and request his help with something as menial as cleaning. He felt that, somehow, cleaning was beneath the Avenger.
So, Peter set to work by himself. After making himself a cup of coffee for breakfast, he started in the kitchen. First, he loaded everything that would fit into the dishwasher, like a masterfully played game of 'Tetris for functioning adults'. Then, he wiped off the counter and mopped up the floor (without first sweeping it) before hand-washing the stray dishes that hadn't fit into the dishwasher. Afterwards, he set to work picking up all of his dirty clothes and dumping them (well, more like cramming them) into the washing machine. He wanted to get them all done quickly, so he didn't bother separating them out into lights and darks, as his aunt had cautioned him to do so, so many times. The bathroom was the easiest to clean; with just a little bit of Windex and some All Purpose cleaner, he was done in a flash.
With the task finished in record time, Peter stood in the middle of the living room and admired his work. Imagine releasing one hundred wild dogs into an 850 square foot apartment, except the dogs were all part of a Disney film and knew how to clean. Not an animated Disney film, mind you, but a live action Disney film, like Enchanted. That's how the apartment looked when Peter had finished.
The most frustrating part about the whole ordeal, was the fact that he couldn't use his injured arm, which was still propped up in a sling, and made everything much more difficult. Washing dishes with one arm, Peter had discovered, was a lot like trying to herd cats whilst riding a unicycle: it was completely ineffective and mostly he just looked like an idiot. Speaking of his injured arm, he still had no idea how he was going to explain it to May, because no matter what he told her, she was definitely going to freak out.
And speaking of freaking out, Captain America suddenly bolted upright with a loud gasp, startling poor Peter so much that he jumped in the air a good three feet and stuck onto the wall.
Steve's chest was heaving, and for a moment, all he could do was stare down at his lap, his fists balled tightly in the fabric of the quilts, as he tried to get a better grasp on reality.
Peter was somewhat surprised. A nightmare? Bruce had mentioned that Steve had a tendency to get them, but Peter hadn't really believed him. Much like cleaning, nightmares were also the sort of thing that Peter assumed was beneath the Avenger. After all, Steve Rogers was a hero and heroes don't get scared, right? Right?
"Hey, uh, Mister Captain America, sir?" Peter asked cautiously as he climbed off of the wall. "Are you okay? I didn't wake you, did I?" Seeing the Super Soldier so disheveled was somehow both comforting and unnerving. Peter was glad that he wasn't the only one who was effected by trauma, but it didn't feel right seeing the good captain in such a vulnerable state.
Somewhat startled, Steve whipped around, an action which he deeply regretted, as the movement caused him to jostle the many injures that marred his Greek-god-like torso. He was momentarily surprised to see the teen before his memories came flooding back and he relaxed. "Yeah… Yeah, I'm okay. It was just a dream," he waved the teen off dismissively before adding, with a tiny smile, "And you can call me Steve, remember?"
Peter's eyes widened slightly. "Uh, oh yeah! Of course. Sorry about that, Mister Steve. I mean... Steve. Sorry,"
Steve couldn't help but snort. This poor kid was too polite for his own good. Carefully, he threw the blankets aside and slowly rose to his feet, a hand flying to his abdomen from the pain of standing. He was upright for about a minute before his legs gave out and he collapsed backwards onto the couch with a cry of pain.
Luckily, Peter's spidey senses had alerted him to the impending collapse and he rushed forward, managing to catch the soldier and help him back down onto the couch.
"What happened? Are you okay?" Peter cried, immediately stepping back to give Steve some space. His mind was firing off at a thousand miles an hour, which meant that his mouth was, too. "Did you lose to much blood? Are you dying? Your ribs are broken. Do you think one of them just puncture a lung? Should we go to a hospital?"
Feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the bombardment, Steve waved his non-broken hand dismissively. "I'm fine, Peter. It's alright. It's just my leg," he said, gesturing to the wrapped wound on his thigh.
"Oh," Peter said, visibly relaxing. "Yeah, that makes a lot of sense,"
Steve looked rather uncomfortable, Peter noted, sitting on the couch with nothing on but his underwear. Luckily, Peter seemed to cue in on the soldier's discomfort because he snapped his fingers and said, "Oh yeah! I almost forgot!" and dashed off into May's room.
He returned moments later carrying some neatly folded fabric. "Here, you can wear these," he said, and placed his cargo into the super soldier's arms. "I… I, uh… I h-had to cut you out of your other clothes, so… they're kinda…. destroyed," Peter squeaked. His whole face burned read and he was doing his very best to avoid eye contact because how embarrassing! "But I only did it because Karen told me to! You were really hurt and she said that I had to, so it wasn't my fault, it was hers!" he explained, tripping over his own words.
"Karen?" Steve asked, trying not to laugh at the poor kid's embarrassment.
"Huh?" Peter asked, finally lifting his head to look at the Super Soldier. All embarrassment was forgotten in an instant. His eyes lit up and he said, "Oh yeah! Karen is my suit lady! She talks to me and helps me out with stuff," he explained.
"An AI?" Steve asked, clarifying.
Peter nodded. "Yeah, Stark put her in my suit for me. She's really cool!"
Steve's smile seemed to falter for a moment at the mention of Tony's name. His grip on the clothing tightened ever so slightly, but he said nothing.
Peter, sensing the change in the atmosphere, said, "Uh, yeah. So, uh, you can wear those. Those were my Uncle Ben's and he was a little smaller than you, so they might be a little bit tight. If they don't work I can go down to Goodwill if you want, and find something that's your size, or I dunno if you have an apartment around here—well, I suppose Brooklyn is kinda far from here. Well, actually, it's only like, ten miles and I'm sure I could probably make it over there pretty quick, I've gone farther before—but, yeah. Anyways, I dunno if you have an apartment I could go to and pick up clothes or something…?" Peter trailed off, twiddling his thumbs as a way to deal with the nervous energy.
Steve was, once again, a little overwhelmed with Peter's rapid-fire rambling, but at the end of it, he just smiled and said, "Don't worry about it. I'm sure these will be just fine,"
Steve rose to his feet, groaning as he did so. He was very careful not to put any weight on his damaged leg, lest he collapse again. He was about to head off to the bathroom to change, but Peter quickly interject, "Hey wait! Actually, before you go, we should probably change your bandages!"
Steve blinked in surprise and nodded. He sat back down on the couch and Peter sidled right up next to him, just in case he needed help with the bandages. Steve seemed somewhat tentative, but realized that with his broken arm and Peter's dislocated shoulder, they only had two good hands between them. Teamwork was probably the best option.
Peter was buzzing with excitement (and caffeine) and doing his very best not to be totally star struck but this was just so cool! Captain flipping America! In his home! Man, he had so many questions he wanted to ask!
"Questions?" Steve asked and Peter blushed fiercely, realizing that he might've accidentally said that last bit out loud.
"Yeah, but not super important questions. Just some stuff about the forties," Peter explained and Steve nodded in understanding. "Like, what was it like when you first heard about the moon landing? Did it totally blow your mind? Also, what about when they told you that smoking was actually bad for your health? What did you think when you watched the original Star Wars trilogy? We're you totally shocked about the whole Vader thing? Do you ever miss eating candy that got discontinued years ago? Did they have sliced bread in the thirties and forties? What about—"
"Okay, let's focus on the task at hand first," Steve said, already beginning to undo some of his bandages. His bright blue eyes were lit up with a mixture of irritation and amusement.
Peter's face turned beet red (again) and he nodded. "Uh… yeah. Yeah, oh yeah. Okay," His one good hand hovered over Steve's torso and he suddenly felt very uncomfortable again, worrying about boundaries and such.
This was super awkward.
"Are you alright?" Steve asked, concern lacing his voice. "You're shaking," he noted, gesturing to Peter's trembling hands.
"Huh? Oh yeah! I'm totally fine. I, uh, made some coffee for breakfast, sometimes it makes me kinda jittery," he explained with a sheepish grin.
Peter Parker and caffeine weren't the best of combinations. Caffeine always made Peter jittery and a little bit hyperactive, and sometimes it made his sensory overload problems worse, but that didn't ever seem to stop Peter from binge drinking every caffeinated drink he could get his hands on. He kinda liked the way it made him feel; he always felt super productive, like he could accomplish a billion things!
"I see…" Steve trailed off, as if he were completely unsure as to how to respond.
Peter looked mortified. "Did I say that whole coffee thing out loud?" he asked and Steve nodded.
"A little bit, yeah," Steve said and Peter groaned mournfully.
Not wanting to make himself a bigger fool than he was, Peter set to work unwrapping the bandages. Steve helped where he could, but his movement was limited by pain. Peter didn't bother unwrapping the splint around Steve's arm, as there really wasn't much he could do while the bone healed. Luckily, his arm looked less purple and swollen, so, hopefully, the bone was healing.
However, Peter couldn't help but gasp when he saw the sight of Steve's other wounds. They were exactly the same as they were when he'd wrapped them, two days before. They hadn't even scabbed over! In fact, as soon as the tight bandages were removed, blood began to flow freely.
Steve looked just as concerned. This had never happened before!
"I thought you had super quick healing?" Peter asked.
"I do," Steve said, knitting his brows together in concern.
By far, the worst of them all, was the deep puncture wound on his thigh. Where as the other wounds looked fresh, just as they had been when they were inflicted, the stab wound on his thigh was far worse than it had been. The flesh of the area was turning gray, dark, black veins spiderwebbing away from the wound. It looked almost necrotic.
Peter gagged and had to look away. "What did you get hit with?" Peter asked, eyes wandering anywhere but the good Captain's thigh. "It looks almost poisoned. Do you think it could be poison?"
"Might be. I don't know, I didn't see it properly, I was focused on the one with the ice gauntlet. Some sort of blade, I think. A knife, or a spear? I don't really remember much about the fight," he admitted. He winced again and brought a hand up to his head. A headache split through his skull when he tried to remember.
"You've probably got a concussion," Peter said. "Well, that's what Karen said when I brought you in. Wait, am I not supposed to let you sleep with those? Why is that? Crap, did I make it worse?"
"No, no, you've done just fine, Spider-Man. I'm fine, don't worry about it too much, okay?" he suggested.
Peter looked pretty unsure, but nodded nonetheless. He finished bandaging the wounds in silence (a task which was, again, infinitely harder with only one arm.)
With everything patched up, Steve left to change. He returned not long afterwards, looking even more exhausted than he had been, as if the action of simply chancing his clothes had been a great and painful ordeal. The clothes—grey sweatpants and a loose fitting Hawaiian shirt—were, luckily, not as tight as he thought they were going to be. Peter had to pause for a moment, just to stare. The shirt was absolutely hideous. Imagine releasing one hundred wild dogs into an 850 square foot apartment, and asking them to design the ugliest Hawaiian shirt they can possibly dream up. That's what it looked like.
Peter cringed. In his haste, he'd grabbed the first shirt he found, and, unfortunately, he'd picked the worst one. It had been Uncle Ben's lucky Hawaiian shirt, one he'd only worn on special occasions.
"Your uncle certainly had an interesting taste in clothes," Steve commented.
Peter nodded, and couldn't help but feel somewhat sad. "Yeah… yeah, he did,"
Steve 'Mom-at-the-Ready' Rogers smiled sympathetically and put a hand on Peter's shoulder and said, "Hey," in a gentle, compassionate voice. "It gets better,"
Peter couldn't help but slump a little. "I know it does. And it has been! Just sometimes… I dunno. I feel guilty,"
"It wasn't your fault, you know. From what you told me, it sounds like there was really nothing you could do. Peter, it wasn't your fault," Steve said. "I understand the feeling. Really, I do,"
"Thanks," Peter said, somewhat listlessly. He didn't quite believe Steve, but he was grateful, nonetheless, for the support.
Steve nodded in understanding before casting his eyes around the tiny apartment. "You cleaned," he commented. Not very well, Steve noted, but then again, Steve had been no better when he was fifteen.
"Yeah! I did," Peter said. There was more than a hint of pride in his voice, as if cleaning up were some sort of Herculean task. "My aunt's coming home in a little while and I didn't want her to freak out," he explained.
Steve clicked his tongue. "You should've woken me up, I could've helped," he offered.
Peter felt his face flush at the offer and shook his head quickly. "What? No! I'd never ask you do to something like that. You're an Avenger! Besides, you're hurt,"
"So what?" Steve countered, looking amused. "Avenger or no, I'd be more than happy to help clean up. Back when we all lived at the tower together, we used to have a chore chart,"
Peter's jaw practically hit the floor. "A chore chart? What? No way! That's so… so…"
"Domestic?" Steve asked with a smirk.
"Yeah!" Peter exclaimed.
"Kid, you don't know the half of it," Steve said with a snort. "We had to start using stickers to get people motivated to actually stick to the chore chart,"
Peter's mouth twisted into a wry smile. "Stickers?" he echoed in disbelief. "Wait, what kind of stickers? Like the lame stickers with smiley faces? Or the ones with the bad space puns?"
"Animals, usually. Nat once found some dinosaur stickers at Krogers, and those were the most popular for a while," Steve explained. There was something distant about the look on Steve's face, something sad.
Peter opened his mouth to add something else when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw an all too familiar car pull up into the parking lot. Peter cursed loudly. "We gotta go!" he shouted.
Steve's eyes grew wide and his body went rigid as he prepared for a fight. "Why? What's going on?" he demanded.
"May just parked, she'll be up here any second! You gotta hide!" Spider-Man exclaimed, pushing Captain America in the direction of his bedroom, which was somewhat difficult, considering Steve's awkward gait, thanks to the necrotic stab wound in his leg.
Steve all but collapsed onto the lower bunk of Peter's bed after accidentally hitting his head on the base of the upper bunk. The bed, clearly built for teenagers and not super soldiers, creaked under Steve's weight. Peter rushed back out of the room and slammed the door closed just in time to watch May come through the front door, carefully inspecting the broken handle as she did so.
"Peter? What happened to the—Peter!" May cried, spotting her nephew standing sheepishly in front of his bedroom door. The first thing she noticed was the sling, followed by the scrapes and bruises that littered his face. She immediately went into panic mode. Her purse and suitcase were immediately abandoned and she rushed towards him, taking his face in her hands and inspecting him thoroughly.
"What the hell happened, Peter? Who did this to you?" she demanded as he struggled to free himself from her grasp.
"I'm fine, May, I promise. I'm okay!" he countered.
"Clearly you're not! What happened?" she asked again, giving him a look that would send any baddie running for their lives.
After squirming out of her grasp, Peter sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck with his good hand. "So I was at this Decathlon practice, right?" he began, trying to come up with a clever fib.
"Peter Benjamin Parker—" May warned, clearly not buying the obvious lie.
"Okay, okay," he relented, holding his hand in the air in defeat. "It was while I was out on patrol. Some guys were using those alien-hybrid weapons that I was telling you about, and they were beating up… this one civilian… and I had to rescue the guy, so I fought them, and I wasn't really paying attention, and one of them got me and dislocated my shoulder," he said, speaking as fast as he possibly could hoping that, maybe, May wouldn't hear him properly and he wouldn't be in so much trouble.
"They dislocated your shoulder?!" she cried. Peter could've sworn that there was bloodlust in her eyes. She looked absolutely ready to go hunt those men down and beat them up with her bare hands.
"Just a little… I mean, yeah! But it's okay, 'cause I still got 'em," he said, his voice full of pride. He really couldn't help it. He did a great job taking them down! "And I went straight to the hospital afterwards," he said. "Well… the Avengers Compound. And Bruce Banner was my doctor! The Hulk! Can you believe it? May, it was the coolest thing ever!"
"Why didn't you call me, Peter?" she asked. She was proud of him, of course, but her eyes were filled with hurt and deep concern. Peter was the only family she had left. If she ever lost him…
Peter curled in on himself, ashamed. "I'm really sorry, May," he said. "I just… I didn't want you to worry, y'know?"
May sighed. "Peter, I will always worry about you," she said and pulled him into a hug. "Baby, we've talked about this. You are not a burden, do you understand? And if something happens to you, I want you to call me, right away," she reprimanded.
Now, it was Peter's turn to sigh. "Alright, I will. I'm sorry, May,"
"No more secrets, okay?" May requested and Peter's eyes widened.
"Uh… yeah. Okay," he squeaked.
May nodded, accepting this, and released him. When she turned away, she immediately noticed the blood on the couch and whirled back around. "Is this all your blood?!" she demanded, the panic returning.
Peter winced. He couldn't exactly tell her the truth so… "I'm really sorry, May," he whispered, wincing.
May ran a hand through her hair. "I don't know what I'm going to do with you, Peter," she said reaching out to hold him once more. It scared her to see the blood and the bruises and to know that people were hurting the boy she loved like a son.
Suddenly overcome with emotion, Peter stepped forward into his aunt's arm and held onto her like she was a lifeline. He wanted to cry. "I'm so sorry, May. I'll be more careful, I promise," he said softly. He could take the occasional beating from a bad guy in an alleyway. That was fine. It was the expression on May's face that caused him distress.
Suddenly, a loud thud (and a quiet, almost inaudible curse) sounded in Peter's room and May straightened, her hold on the teen loosening. She looked from Peter to the door, then back at Peter and asked, "What was that?"
Once again, Peter's eyes got wide and he swallowed thickly, stepping away. "Uh…. Nothing," he said quickly.
"Is Ned here?" May asked.
"Yes. Yeah, that's Ned," Peter said quickly, nodded.
May narrowed her eyes and studied his face carefully. "No, it's not. Peter…" she warned again. Peter wracked his brain trying desperately to think of something to cover up the fact that he was hiding a fugitive super soldier in his room when, suddenly, May's shoulder's slumped and an exasperated expression crossed her features. "Peter, did you bring that wild dog inside, again?" she asked.
Peter almost fell over, he was so relieved. "May," he whined. "Tessa's not wild. She's just a stray," he explained.
May exhaled. "Peter, we've been through this! We're not allowed to have pets in here!"
"I know!" Peter countered. "I know, I just figured that you were out of town so…"
"Go take her back outside before the landlord catches you," May ordered and Peter nodded compliantly.
"Okay, May," he said and slipped into his room.