This chapter was impossible to write, ugh! I'm giving Peter 3-4 new abilities, but only one is introduced in this chapter.
The adjustment was rocky for Peter. His body kept trying to put him back into hibernation as his young mind was suffering from PTSD, and the combination of super instincts and human mind were working together to make the boy's recovery that much more complicated.
Peter slept most of the time, but only when his father was beside him. Bruce had asked them to move Peter to the guest room he had been given while he stayed to watch over his son. Peter seemed much more settled when Bruce curled up around him as they slept, Bruce acting as a protective cocoon against the rest of the world.
There were moments throughout the weeks following Peter's rescue were filled with both bad and good moments.
Peter didn't say much, not even to his father; he seemed completely unable to respond to even his friends or family. Professor Xavier had many sessions with the boy as he attempted to heal the extensive damage done to Peter's mind as well as get an idea of what enhancements the HYDRA scientists had forced into his already complex genome. The two spent hours sitting quietly as Xavier talked Peter through the trauma he had experienced, healing mental barriers from within Peter's mind.
From what Xavier could understand, a number of new abilities were developing within Peter, and much like childhood growth spurts, growing could sometimes be physically painful. For Peter, these changes were not only extremely painful, but terrifying.
"Peter appears to be developing a kind of telepathic communication, though communication with whom, I do not yet know, "the Professor steepled his fingers in contemplation as he sat across his desk from Banner, "His dreams consist of hundreds of disembodied presences, none of whom I can detect. I can only sense the exchange of mental images and feelings, but seemingly no thoughts nor manifestations of what the boy is sensing," Bruce let out a frustrated sigh, "This should not deter us. I do believe that with a few more sessions, I will have a much better idea of what Peter is sensing. Until then, Peter will keep experiencing these frightening nightmares. He will need you in those moments after."
Bruce met the Professor's eyes, desperation shining through as he wracked his brain, trying to understand what was hurting his child, "Are you sure there's nothing else you can tell me? What, do- should I take him to-"
"-Bruce, we are doing all we can, but until we can suss out what exactly is communicating with the boy, I don't believe there is anyone else out there who could help him more than those present. As I said before, however, you can help Peter by being there for him, comforting him."
Bruce left soon after.
As Bruce reached his room, he could hear Tony inside with Peter, telling some story about a very interesting dinner party Tony had once crashed- and from the sounds of it, he had left out just how very drunk he must've been.
"-and the woman comes up to the senator- that Senator Jenkins guy I mentioned, the one with the third nostril- and she goes…" at this point, Tony let out a high pitched squeal and threw himself back onto the bedding, "Oh, Senator!- she was really pitchy," Tony added, "Oh, Senator! I'm terribly drunk. Take me home!" Tony whipped his head around dramatically, flipping imaginary long hair over his shoulder, "and he says-"
"-he said no, because the only drinks being served at the event was apple juice and Dilly's Dill Soda," Bruce finished, announcing his presence.
The two grinning on the bed snapped their heads to the doorway, Peter smiling- which was as close to a laugh as they had gotten as of late- and Tony frowning.
"No no no," Tony shook his head, exasperated, "You've got it all wrong, he was totally drunk himself and basically he suggested he wouldn't mind getting her pregna-"
"-aaaand that about wraps it up for Tony's storytime, I think," Bruce chuckled, "Bedtime, kiddo."
Peter smiled at Tony, still having yet to say anything to anyone outside of Bruce, and for a very brief moment yesterday, Xavier.
The boy was exhausted and a little overwhelmed at having Tony visit today, and Bruce could see it.
"Alright then, Bub, I'll go then. Man, if only Pepper allowed me to slip in as much as you do. She makes me get up /way/ too early in the morning," Tony grumbled to himself as he stood.
"Logan-" Peter's whisper seemed to fill the room.
Both men looked at Peter, caught off guard.
"Peter?" Bruce prodded, glancing and catching Tony's eye, "Were you gonna ask something about Logan?"
Peter pursed his lips before nodding.
Tony smiled quietly, kneeling down beside the bed to be in front of Peter's crisscrossed legs, "Oh? What about Ol'Canucklhead? He givin' you grief?"
Peter shook his head, his lips warbling as he glanced between the two men, "He… he calls," Peter's voice cracked and he seemed to lose confidence.
Tony nodded, "You talking about when I called you Bub? Yeah, he calls most people that. I think it means he like you," Tony scratched behind his ear, "Yeah, it sounds stupid coming from him. It's cool when I call you that though, right?" Tony gave Peter has Stark charmed smile.
Peter stared at Tony for second with a thoughtful look on his face before shaking his head.
Tony spluttered incredulously, "What?! I-"
"-You heard him, Tony. You just," Bruce tsked dramatically, "can't pull it off."
Tony gasped just as theatrically, "I so can too pull off 'Bub'."
"If Mr. Manicure can pull off Bub- which BTW, he can't- then I can too!"
Bruce snickered, "You hang on to that dream, Tony."
Tony's reply was interrupted by a giggle.
The two adults looked down once more to see a beaming Peter grinning back at them, his smile wide as his laughter echoed off the walls.
Bruce looked at his son, his chest swelling with pride as he began to laugh along with the boy. Tony joined in a moment later with a few genuine chuckles. The smile on Peter's face and his childish giggles were all signs that, slowly but surely, Peter was healing and leaving behind the shell he had been made into, once more becoming the little boy they all loved.
When all was said and done, and Tony had left for the night, Peter curled up against his dad, falling into a steady doze. He had a few nightmares that night, but not as many as in previous days.
Bruce called Tony the next morning, asking him to come again that day.
Tony cleared his schedule for the next week with Pepper.
The two friends sat in Prof. Xavier's office only three days later, the kind mutant having finally found the source of Peter's nightmares.
"Parasteatoda tepidariorum," the Professor began.
"-Gesundheit," Tony commented, coughing lightly as Bruce's elbow poked him hard in the side.
Xavier smiled in amusement, "Yes, well, Parasteatoda tepidariorum is the scientific name for the American House Spider."
Bruce frowned, "Spiders? What has that to do…"
Xavier nodded, "The feelings and mental images Peter has been receiving are telepathic sensations. These seemed to be manifesting centrally in his dreams, although with some practice, we may be able to help him reach the point where he can do so consciously."
Before Bruce could speak, Tony cut in, "How does that help Peter? So he'll be able to hear nightmarish voices not only in his dreams but while he's awake too?"
Xavier shook his head, "With practice, Peter will be able to hone his ability to the point where he will be in complete control of it. This means that he will be able to choose if and when he would like to open up his mind to the spiders."
Bruce nodded thoughtfully. They had discovered the source of the problem, and they had an answer. He felt the tension leave him as he felt an invisible burden lift off his shoulders.
But, as Bruce listened to Tony and Xavier discuss Peter, he had to wonder what other abilities would soon manifest themselves.
The responsibility on Peter's shoulders would grow quickly as the child grew, and Bruce believed wholeheartedly that the boy could handle it, but Banner had to wonder if he was a capable enough father to provide Peter the support he would need.
Ok, that was kind of a crappy cliffhanger, but I'm exhausted and this chapter was hard to work my way around.
There are so many things that I had planned to make happen in this chapter, but I cut a bunch of it.
DELETED SCENE IDEA: the Hulk was supposed to soothe Peter through one of his superpowered nightmares with "HUMPBACK WHALE-LIKE COOING", that being the official word choice.
That would've made for an interesting chapter, don't you think?
1) A grocery list of superhero related food items. What common grocery store grab reminds you of your favorite hero? (i.e. broccoli stalk = The Hulk, Coca-Cola soda can = Iron Man, etc. etc.)