"Just how badly hurt was Spider-man in the attack?"
The newscaster swivelled in her chair to their guest, some fake-looking doctor in a lab coat.
"Well, Anne, I've analysed the footage from the attack and as you can see here, our local vigilante would have suffered some major damage. It wouldn't surprise me if he never put that mask on aga-"
The tv flicked off and Tony threw the remote down, frowning at Peter. "What have I told you about watching that crap?"
Peter rolled his eye and leaned back over his schoolwork. "Whatever."
Tony sighed and rubbed a hand over his forehead, trying to be patient. Peters moods were all over the place lately. One moment he was fine and the next he was sullen and didn't want to talk. It was exhausting.
"What's wrong?" There was little point in asking, Peter barely told him anything anymore but Tony wanted to keep trying in case it changed. He wanted Peter to know that he would always be willing to listen.
"I want to go back to school."
Tony tilted his head, watching the kid write out equations. "You will when you're ready."
Peter didn't look up from his book. "I mean now."
Tony wasn't sure how to say it. He tried to be calm and not make it a big deal but he wasn't really sure what would set Peter off nowadays.
"If that's what you want then we can look into it. But Bruce did say you'll need some more time before you can fully walk around again. And if you go to school in your wheelchair you'll have to explain."
Peter screwed up his nose, shoulders jerking up to his ears. "So? We could lie. Say it was a car accident."
"We could. But you disappearing from school at the same time as Spider-Man getting hurt and then coming back injured will look suspicious. There's already too much connecting Spider-man to your school."
Peter slumped in his seat as he resumed his work. "Fine. I won't go then."
"Peter, don't be mad at me. You know I only want what's best for you."
Peter's voice was low and quiet, like a cat stalking its prey. "I'm not mad."
He certainly sounded mad but Tony thought it best to drop it lest he make the teenagers mood worsen.
"How about you invite Ned and MJ over? I'm sure they miss you."
Peters pen slowed and he frowned at his mentor, thankfully looking more confused than angry now.
"But I'd have to explain my wheelchair to MJ. Then she'd know I was Spider-Man."
Tony shrugged and took a seat on the edge of the kids desk. "She doesn't have to see it. We could just plant you on the couch and you can all play video games. I'll get dinner sorted and Ned can help keep your cover."
Peter thought for a moment, frown tightening his expression before it softened and he smiled. "Okay, that sounds fun. I'll text them."
Tony nodded and moved to leave, only catching Peters words a second before he walked out of the room.
He stopped and looked back at the kid who was already occupied by his phone. Whatever it took to make the kid happy.
"No problem, kiddo."
"Dude! You look so much better!"
Ned has come a little earlier than Mj, to make sure everything was ready. Of course the moment he saw Peter he wrapped him in a hug.
Peter smiled, hugging Med back fiercely from where he sat in his wheelchair. "Thanks, I feel way better too. Dr Banner even said I could upgrade to a walker soon."
Ned released him and walked beside him as Peter wheeled to the lounge. "So, how have you been doing with everything else? I mean, the news still talk about what happened and now the interview with that cops family and-"
Peter stopped, hands faltering on his wheels as he looked up. "What? They interviewed her family?"
Ned frowned. Maybe he shouldn't have said anything. "Yeah. You didn't see it?"
Peter shook his head and started moving again. "No. Mr Stark doesn't like me watching the news anymore. He's worried I'll be tempted to go out in my spider suit. As if I could."
Ned watched Peter wheel himself to the couch and shift himself out and onto it. "Peter, are you sure you're okay? You don't seem okay. You look tired."
Peter sighed and shoved his chair away from the couch, grumpy already. "Would everyone stop saying that? It's so annoying. I'm fine."
Ned frowned as he watched the wheelchair spin away. "Dude, we keep asking because we care about you and if I'm not the only one worried then maybe I have a reason to be."
Peter sighed and sank his face into his hands, leaning his elbows on his knees. "I'm sorry. I just haven't been sleeping that great. I'll be fine. Let's just play video games."
Ned was still worried, his friend clearly needed to talk about it but he didn't seem to want to and there wasn't much convincing Peter of anything once he'd made up his mind. He could talk to Mr Stark about it later.
"Okay, I'll put your wheelchair away. I'll be back in a minute."
Ned left and Peter felt awful. He was being such a jerk lately. He didn't mean to be but with how tired he was and how bored and frustrated it just all bubbled out.
He wasn't sure how anyone put up with him when he was like that.
When Ned came back he found Peter with a new attitude and a smile on his face.
"Hey, Ned? Thanks. For being here and not making me feel weird about the wheelchair and everything. You're my best friend and I'm really lucky to have you."
Ned raised an eyebrow. "Woah, where did this come from?"
Peter ducked his head, embarrassed as Ned got the game system set up. "I was being a dick before. I shouldn't have talked to you like that. I'm sorry."
Ned shrugged and handed him a controller.
"I forgive you. And I get you're going through a lot but you can still talk to me."
"I know." Ned took a seat beside him and rolled out his shoulders as he smiled.
"Okay, now we only have about twenty minutes before MJ gets here so let's go for a quick round so I can beat your ass."
Peter nudged his shoulder, feeling better already. "No way, dude. You're ass is grass."
"Wow. All that time on vacation and you're still as pale as you ever were."
Peter spun on the couch and smiled, face splitting into a huge grin when he saw her. "MJ! You have to come and play this! We just got a bunch of DLC's!"
Ned stood from the couch and high fived her in greeting and she was a little disappointed that Peter hadn't gotten up.
He offered her a controller though and patted the space next to him.
Happy, who had escorted her up walked past the couch to ruffle Peters hair, messing it up as he chuckled.
"Alright, Tony told me you tykes need feeding so what do you want?"
Ned was already distracted by the game so, Peter answered for them all. "Pizzas fine, thanks, Hap. Make sure MJ's is vegetarian and just me and Ned's usual. Oh, and could you get some Vanilla Coke? That's MJ's favourite."
MJ smiled to herself at the small detail that she'd never even told Peter before pushing the joy down and focusing on the game.
"Sure thing, kid."
Ned and Peter droned out the same words in the exact same tone and MJ couldn't help but laugh. "Thaaank you Haaappy."
He rolled his eyes but smiled. As he made his way out. "Whatever, brats."
"So, you just hang out with the Avengers? In Tony Starks building?"
Peter tried to share his concentration equally between the video game and MJ's answer without lending any to the way MJ's thigh and shoulder kept bumping up against his.
"Well, yeah. Mr Stark hired me for the internship and since I was working with him so much we spent a lot of time together. Most of the time it just felt like we were hanging out so, now we're kind of close. I guess."
MJ spared a sceptical glance towards Peter in between combo moves. "And he took you on vacation. Like all bosses do."
Peter ignored the sarcasm, fingers faltering on the controller as he leaned over the back of the couch to grab something, presenting it to her with a shy smile.
"Yeah, I uh, got you something."
He handed her a small woven bracelet, the leather stained a deep purple, almost black with beads hanging off the ends. It was pretty. She frowned.
Peter stammered, unable to help himself from getting nervous. "It's a friendship bracelet. Mr Stark and I got them on our trip. You don't have to wear it. I know it's not like, haunted or part of a conspiracy theory or murder but I don't know, I just thought it was pretty."
MJ loved it. Of course she did. She hadn't had many friends before and now this one had gotten her a gift. While on holiday. Which meant he'd been thinking of her.
She tried to hide her blush, and pushed the bracelet over her hand, tightening it around her wrist so it wouldn't fall off. Ever.
He smiled at her, soft and excited and MJ smiled back.
"He got me one too."
Ned thrust his arm in front of them, oblivious to the moment he'd just interrupted. But MJ was happy for the distraction and bumped her wrist against his.
"Ha. We're matching."
Ned's bracelet was a rainbow stained stark contrast to MJ's. Perfect.
Ned knew of course that Peter hadn't really gotten them on holiday. He'd ordered them online but the thought was still there.
They went back to the game in contented silence until MJ spoke again.
"Hey, so I get that Mr Stark took you with him on his trip to help with a project or whatever but why are you still staying here? As in, not going to school and living with your aunt? Have you been adopted?"
Her tone was teasing but Ned nodded. "Pretty much. He has his own room and everything."
Peter made a face and grumbled as he lost focus and lost the round. "Ned! I-well, not really. I mean, we have family dinners and I really love Mr Stark and he said he loved me too so he's kind of like my dad I guess but I haven't told him that. And no, he hasn't adopted me we're just really close."
MJ side-eyed him and his stuttering. "You didn't answer my first question."
Peter winced. They hadn't exactly worked out a good excuse for that yet. "Mr Stark still needs my help with the project, we're just doing it from his lab and office here. I'm keeping up with my work from school so it's not like I'm falling behind."
MJ nodded but she didn't entirely believe him. Peter had always been terrible at lying. He was too pure and innocent not to feel guilty for every word of deceit that came from his mouth.
But she dropped it and they kept playing.
Happy brought them their food and they ate while watching new episodes of Brooklyn nine-nine.
"Ned, can you grab me another glass from the kitchen?"
The teenager nodded and got up to get it, the kitchen attached the the large lounge making it easier to yell at him from across the expensive space.
"Which cupboard is it again?"
"Top left above the dishwasher."
MJ snickered and grabbed another slice of vegetarian pizza. "Why don't you get it yourself?"
She was joking but Peters face paled and he started fidgeting with his hoodie.
"Uh, I stayed up late last night so I'm tired and I gotta-" he was mumbling, suspicious and unlike himself and MJ nudged his shoulder.
"Calm down, I'm messing with you. Ned can be your butler for all I care."
Peter huffed out a nervous laugh and MJ began to wonder what she'd done wrong.
Then it happened again. "Aw man, the cables come loose."
Ned tried to fix it but it was all high tech screens and super thin wires that he hadn't seen before and Peter explained the whole process to him while he sat on the couch.
"Yeah, then just take that wire and put it back in the yellow port. No, the other one."
It was strange, something was off and whatever it was, Ned knew about it.
MJ didn't know what it could be until their lies finally unravelled.
"If you use your power move I'm gonna end you."
"You're way faster than me! I have to use it!"
Peter laughed and jerked forward, leaning with the movement on his controller like it would help his character move faster. But suddenly he sucked in a breath of pain and his controller dropped into his lap.
"No, no, no, not now. Not now. Shit."
Ned dropped his own controller and turned to look at his friend, game forgotten as his face creased in concern. "Peter?"
Peter closed his eyes and braced his hands on the couch under him, back arching as he tried to escape the pain. "Ned-ugh- get Steve and T-Tony." His voice was so thin MJ could barely hear it.
Ned stood, hands reaching for his friend but not touching as he called out to the empty air. "Friday, tell Mr Stark and Captain Rogers that it's happening again!"
MJ whipped her head between the two of them, not knowing what to do. "What's happening?"
Peter sucked in another breath just to push it out with a cry of pain, lifting a hand to try and reach for MJ. "It's okay. It's nothing just-" He cried out again, hand snapping back down to grab at the couch, sweat beading on his forehead.
It was all happening so fast and suddenly two Avengers were rushing in and reaching for Peter.
"Ned, get MJ out of here!"
Ned did as he was told, gently pulling at MJ's arm even as his eyes stayed glued to Peter.
Captain America was already kneeling next to the teenager and pulling him to lay down on the couch, soft words of comfort spilling from him as he did.
"It's okay, we'll get it to stop. Just focus on your breathing."
Tears were spilling down Peter's face, cheeks a bright pink as Mr Stark brushed his hair back. "You're okay, kiddo. Breathe nice and slow like we practiced. It'll pass. You're doing great buddy."
Ned tugged relentlessly on MJ's arm, pulling her from the room before she could see anymore of Steve kneading the knots from Peters's leg.
Once out of the room she turned to Ned, his eyes sad and mouth right with worry. "What was that? What's wrong with him?"
Peter gripped the couch so tightly he felt the fabric tearing but he didn't have the energy to be sorry. Steve's firm fingers were digging into his tight muscles and the pain was overwhelming.
"You're okay, almost there. Breathe, Peter."
It was easier said than done when the pain was so bad he could barely get a breath in at all. But he was familiar enough with pain to know how to force his chest to relax.
He cried out again, eyes squeezing shut, unable to see through the tears anyway. Every sensation but the pain was blocked away and he clenched his teeth to stop them chattering, whole body trembling from the agony running through it.
It was all he could do to keep his hands on the couch to keep them from ripping Steve's hands off his calf. The pain was bad enough without Steve kneading the muscle but it was the only thing that would get it to stop.
Finally, blessedly, the pain eased and his muscles relaxed, Steve's fingers chasing the last of the stiffness away.
Peters previously tensed body sagged against the couch and his strangled whimpers collapsed into sobs.
He was exhausted and he hurt and it had happened in front of MJ.
Tony gently pulled the teenager's hands from the couch cushions and held them in his own as he cooed. "Aw, kiddo. You're okay. I know. I know."
Steve sighed in relief when the tension faded and patted Peter's knee. "I'll go talk to the kids. You okay with him?"
Tony nodded and gave Steve a grateful smile, slapping a hand to his shoulder in thanks.
"Yeah, I got him."
Peter felt pathetic, laying there sobbing like a kid but Tony understood and scooped him up into his arms.
"It's alright, buddy. You do whatever you need to."
Peter tried to calm himself down but he was so tired. All his muscles were fatigued from their work and he was done. He wrapped his arms around his mentors neck and laid his head down on his shoulder, breaths coming as choppy gasps.
"I h-hate it."
Tony rubbed a hand over Peters back in long soothing pulls and it helped to slow the teenagers breathing. "I know, spiderbaby. Me too. I wish I could make it better for you."
Peter curled his fingers in Tony's shirt and closed his eyes, words wet and quiet. "You are making it better."
Tony couldn't help but smile at that, eyes pricking with really lame tears before he blinked them away.
"You want to get to bed?"
Peter wanted to hang out with his friends and try to explain to MJ what the hell just happened but all his body wanted was to lay down. He nodded against Tony's shoulder but made no move to let go.
Thankfully Tony didn't seem to want to release him either and he simply shifted him in his arms until he was able to lift him from the couch without dislodging his arms.
"Okay, kiddo, let's get you to your room."
MJ could hear Peter crying from behind the door and Mr Starks softer voice trying to calm him down.
"What is happening? What the hell was that?"
MJ liked to think that she was generally pretty tough but Peter was sobbing and if someone didn't tell her what was happening she might join him.
Ned didn't look like he wanted to answer and thankfully, he didn't have to. Captain America opened the door and have them a tight smile as he came through and closed it behind him.
"Hey, guys. Hi, MJ. It's nice to meet you, I'm Steve."
Ordinarily, she would have shaken his hand and told him that she knew his name but she didn't care about that now.
"What's wrong with Peter? Is he okay?"
Steve dropped his offered hand and sighed, gesturing instead to the room he just vacated. "Let's go sit down and I'll explain."
MJ looked to Ned, who definitely knew what was happening and looked guilty for it, before stepping through to the lounge.
Peter was just being carried out by Tony as they entered and MJ caught a glance at the teenagers tear-streaked face over Mr Starks shoulder before they disappeared through another door.
He had still been crying but quietly now and his arms were wound tightly around Tony's neck.
Her eyes pricked with her own tears as he wiped angrily at her face. "You both know what's going on so just tell me. He wasn't on vacation was he? He's hurt."
Steve dragged an armchair over with one hand and took a seat, gesturing for the two kids to do the same.
MJ did as she was asked and tried to slow her angry huffs of air as Ned took the spot beside her.
Finally, Steve shook his head. "You're right, Peter hasn't been on vacation all this time. He and Tony were for a little while but while driving to a restaurant another car hit theirs. Peter was hurt and he's been here recovering. That's why he hasn't been going to school."
MJ lifted a hand to her mouth. She hadn't been expecting that. "Is he okay? What- What was that in there?"
Steve folded his hands, eyes lowered. More bad news. MJ felt sick.
"Peters spine was damaged in the crash-"
MJ sucked in a shaky breath. "Oh my god. He wouldn't get up. I thought it was weird that he wasn't moving from the couch and now- is it permanent?"
Steve quickly shook his head. "His doctors are confident that he'll recover and he is getting better. He's not strong enough to walk on his own just yet. He's been using a wheelchair. What you saw in there was his muscles spasming because of his injury. It's painful but it's not dangerous."
MJ scrubbed angrily at her eyes before any tears could fall and she turned to Ned and she smacked the back of her hand against his chest. "And you knew! You knew and you lied to me!"
Steve leapt to his defence, hands raised as he scooted forward in his seat. "Peter didn't want you to know. He didn't want to worry you."
MJ rolled her eyes. "But Neds allowed to worry?"
Steve sighed and tried again, voice quiet. "He was embarrassed. He's told me how strong and amazing you are and he didn't want you to see him hurt and stuck in bed."
Ned nodded, eyes looking misty. "Yeah, he didn't let me see him at first. He thought seeing him with all the monitors and braces on would freak me out. He was right. I was glad to see him but it was really hard to sit beside him and not be able to do anything. He didn't want to do that to you."
MJ hated that Peter had singled her out as the one to keep secrets from but she got it. She wouldn't have known what to do if she saw Peter hurt and in a hospital bed.
She wiped her eyes and sniffed, pulling herself together. "So, he's okay now? Can we see him?"
Steve offered another small smile but MJ knew that this one meant no. "I'm sorry, the spasms really tire him out. He's sleeping it off now but I'm sure you can come back and see him when he's feeling up to it."
Ned ducked his head and nodded, standing. "Thanks Captain Rogers."
Steve offered a brighter smile this time and stood too. "You can just call me Steve, Ned. I'm not even a captain."
Tony lowered Peter into his bed and pulled the covers over him. "Lets get you settled. Here."
He pulled a tissue from the box on Peters bedside table and dried his cheeks, giving him a small smile as he pushed his hair back. "There you go, kid."
Peter had calmed down some but he was still upset and gathered his blanket to his chest, holding it tight. "What's gonna happen with Ned and MJ?"
Tony knew that the teenager liked the hair patting and he continued to run his fingers through the curls to settle the both of them. "Steve will explain and get Happy to take them home. We knew that something like this was a possibility, Steve will have to tell her you were injured but he'll say that you were in a car accident."
Peter hiccuped a whimper, starting to cry all over again. He didn't want to but he was so tired it was all he could do. "She's gonna know I lied."
Tony tutted, wiping palms over those soft pink cheeks. "Hey, shh, it doesn't matter. She'll understand. Just take a deep breath, Petey. Try to calm down."
Peter's eyes were already drooping and he yawned, hand searching across the blankets when his eyes closed of their own accord.
Tony caught his hand in his ad squeezed it, letting him now he was still there even if he couldn't see him.
"Can you stay?"
Tony smiled and brushed his thumb over Peters cheek, heart warming when he turned into it, face pressing against his palm. "Of course."