"Oh my God!" a loud voice sounded from the kitchen down the hall. Peter's heavy eyelids slowly slid open as he listened for the voice to sound again. It sounded like Pops, but in Peter's groggy state, he wasn't quite sure.
"Peter!" the voice shouted again. "Peter get in here. Right now!"
The teen now lifted his head and sat up, the comforter sliding off of his body and onto the bed. The boy knew that Steve probably wasn't shouting too loud, but in his state, everything seemed too loud.
For the last two days Peter had been laid up in bed with a horrific cold. Ever since he had the spider-bite it was rare that Peter would get a sick, but apparently he still could. And this was proof of it. The boy had chills, a high fever, a stuffy nose, and now his throat was starting to feel the effects. He figured it was due to the cold weather and him staying out almost all night while on patrol as Spider-Man. So when Peter came in from his duties two days ago, he bought a bottle of NyQuil, took a dosage, and went straight to bed. And there he had remained for the past 48 hours. The only times he came out was to use the bathroom, or fulfill the small chores Steve had him do.
"Peter Benjamin Star-Rogers you get in here right now!" Steve called. Oh boy, Peter thought. He used the full name. Tossing himself out of bed, the sickly boy shuffled out of his room and down the hall into the kitchen where he assumed Steve was. And he was correct .
Steve Stark-Rogers stood in the kitchen with hell in his eyes as he held a gold wrapped item in his hands. Upon further inspection Peter decided that it was a ham. But why did he look so angry? Okay, he was wearing his winter coat…so he was just outside but…
"Peter…do you know what day it is today?" Steve asked, trying to stay calm. The teen narrowed his eyes and looked around the kitchen, trying to find something that would proclaim the date. A clock, a calendar, anything would do. Because to be honest, Peter had no clue what day it was. A Tuesday maybe?
"Uh…not really," The lanky teen said as he ran a hand through his messy hair.
"It's Thursday Peter. It's December 24th. Do you know what that means?" Steve asked before biting down on his lip, still trying to keep his cool. It took the sick boy a moment, but things seemed to click.
"Christmas eve?" Peter asked before sucking in air and letting out a horrible cough.
"Right. Meaning tomorrow is Christmas. And do you have any idea what you just did to this ham?" Steve asked, slightly shaking the gold item in his hands.
"No," Peter said honestly as he cleared his throat. What was Steve getting at?
"Peter. Please don't play dumb. You left the ham out in the kitchen all day. I brought the groceries home after my morning run, and I asked you to put them away while I was at work. It's been almost nine hours." Steve said with a groan. "I've spent almost seventy dollars on meat and you've spoiled half of it!" Steve said, dropping the ham on the counter. "What am I supposed to feed our guests tomorrow night!?" Steve asked in frustration.
Right. Sam, Bucky, Clint, and Natasha were coming over for Christmas Dinner.
"Look…Pops! I-I'm sorry. I didn't see the ham when I was putting things away I-I'm sorry." Peter said, trying to remember if there was actually a ham in the bag of food earlier this morning.
"I'm sorry isn't going to cut it Peter! I can't feed them this! They could get food poising!" Steve said, letting out an aggravated sigh as he leaned against the kitchen counter.
"I-I'll get another one," Peter muttered quietly as he turned to go back into his bedroom and get dressed to go outside.
"Get another one!? Peter! It's Christmas eve! All the stores are closed up!" the blonde called out.
"Don't worry, I'll take care of it," Peter huffed as he closed the door so he could get dressed with a bit of privacy. After pulling on his jeans, Peter grabbed his Stark-phone and looked up the number to their local super-market before calling them. And low and behold, they were going to be open for another forty-five minutes.
"I'm going, I'll be back," Peter called out as he pulled on a hoodie and stepped out of the apartment door.
On any other given day, Peter would opt for web-slinging. But in the state that he was currently in, that wouldn't be such a good idea. So the boy just took the subway.
How could it be Christmas already? It didn't even feel like Christmas. Hell, there wasn't even any snow on the ground. This was literally the most ill prepared Peter felt for the holiday. When he was younger Peter remembered how excited he always felt around this time of the year. He remembered all the hype that Pops and Dad would add to the holiday, even after they had split.
Peter remembered going around the city with Pops and looking at all the buildings that had Christmas lights. He remembered laying a blanket out with him on the floor next to the Christmas tree and watching Christmas movies every night until he would fall asleep. And on Christmas eve, Steve would read The Night Before Christmas, and The Polar Express, before putting out milk and cookies for Santa, and sending Peter to bed.
And then there was Dad. Dad would always make hot sider and light a bunch of apple-cinnamon candles and place them around the living room. He would turn off the lights and then he and Peter would just lie on the couch together and watch the city from the windows while soft Christmas music played in the background. And then on Christmas Eve, Tony would pull Peter to the side and let him open one of his Christmas presents early. Of course Peter was too old for a lot of things like that now, but he just missed doing yearly rituals like that. It's what seemed to hold all of the Christmas magic. It's what made Christmas seem like…Christmas.
"Next Stop, Eighth Street," The voice over the subway system called out, dragging Peter from his thoughts.
By the time Peter walked into the store, he only had ten minutes before they were going to close. If Peter didn't know exactly what he needed, this might be a problem. But he was on a mission. Walking straight towards the meat department, Peter set out, looking for a gold wrapped ham.
As he walked further and further down the lane, Peter started to wonder if all the hams had been taken, but at the last cooler, there seemed to be a surplus of them. Good. Peter looked around in the bin for a moment, trying to find the perfect ham. After selecting it, he slowly moved towards the checkout counter. All of this walking was really starting to wear him out.
While waiting for the woman ahead of him, Peter's eyes started to wonder, and he found himself staring at a strawberry-banana smoothie drink in the cooler ahead of him. Peter figured he should have something slightly healthy in his system to help fight off this could, so he plucked it out of the cooler and onto the counter.
"How are you doing today sweetie?" The old woman at the register asked as she began to ring Peter up.
"Could be better. Could be worse," He said with a small laugh. "Just doing some last minute shopping, ya' know?" He said in a stuffy voice as he pulled out his wallet.
"I hear ya'!" She laughed. "But it's almost Christmas. Once Christmas is here everything will be better," She said with a smile, just waiting for the form of payment from Peter.
"Right. Yeah." Peter said as his eyes flashed down to his wallet, and suddenly his stomach dropped. His card. It was gone. He only had a five dollar bill. The rest of his money was all on his card and his card was in his actual coat pocket. He had pulled it out to buy the Nyquil and never put it back. "Shit," Peter hissed under his breath as he looked up at the woman. "I-I'm so sorry. I-I thought I had my money with me but I guess not. I'm going to have to put the ham back," Peter said, feeling his ears and neck turn red from embarrassment.
"That's quite alright sweetie," She said, though she seemed a bit perturbed.
"Sorry," Peter muttered under his breath. This was the worst Christmas ever.
In the end, Peter ended up only buying the smoothie and was back on the subway. He drank the entire smoothie, but could hardly taste it. Peter wasn't sure if it was because he was sick, or because he was so upset at himself that everything lasted awful.
What was he going to do? He didn't want his aunt and uncles getting sick because of him. But now almost every store was going to be closed. It was Christmas Eve and…wait. Peter remembered watching TV and seeing that The Target department store was going to be open till eleven. Peter had never been there in his life. But he was sure that they had food. Surly they would have a ham. Especially if it was on the holidays. Pulling out his phone, Peter looked up the directions. It was going to be about an hour trip from Pop's apartment. He just had to get his card.
Opening the door to the apartment quietly, Peter made his way towards his room. He just needed his card, and another dose of Nyquil. If Pops didn't see him, it would make things even better.
"Peter?" Steve asked, rounding the corner from the living room. "Did you get the Ham?" He asked. He clearly seemed to be in a better mood.
"I uh..."Peter muttered, a sudden wave of emotion flooding over him. How could Pops seem so angry almost an hour ago and now be so calm? "I went to the store but I didn't have my card on me," Peter admitted with a shrug as he pushed past Steve, and towards his bedroom where his coat resided.
"It's okay Peter. You tried. We'll figure something out," Steve said with a kind smile. And with that Peter stopped in his tracks. He acted like everything was okay. But it wasn't okay. It was Christmas. Peter was sick. Steve was disappointed in Peter. They had no tree up. There were no Christmas songs being played. There wasn't going to be a reading of The Polar Express and there wasn't going to be any cookies for Santa. There was no Christmas Spirit. There was no Christmas.
Suddenly Peter was furious and all he wanted to do was get away from Steve.
"It's not okay, we have guests coming over. We can't not give them food. You know how Bucky is. I know where to get a ham though. So don't worry." Peter huffed as he closed the door to his room and rummaged through his coat pocket before he found the card. After that he stumbled over to his desk and poured himself a shot of NyQuil before downing the red liquid.
"Peter. Peter." Steve called from the other side of the door.
"What?" The boy called as he opened the door, coming face to face with the blue eyed soldier.
"Where are you going to go at this hour on Christmas Eve?" Steve asked.
"I found a place. It's an hour away. Don't worry," The seventeen year old responded, trying to move past, but Steve put his hands on Peter's shoulders, giving him a concerned look. "Peter. It's okay. You don't have to go out and do this. I forgive you." Steve said, squeezing Peter's shoulder.
"I don't care," Peter spat back, pushing past Steve.
"Well...at…at least let me go with you," Steve called.
"Well how are you going to pay for it!?" Steve called out, to which Peter turned to look at his Pops.
"I'm using the card Dad gave me. I hope you're okay with him paying for Christmas dinner," the teen huffed before closing the door and marching out.
Peter knew he probably shouldn't have said something like that to Pops, but he was a grown man, he could handle something like that, right? And it wasn't like they were newly divorced. Hell, they had been separated for over ten years, which was longer than they had been married. Besides they seemed to be very civil towards each other when they were in the same room. It's not like they hated each other's guts. In fact Tony had told Peter once that he would always love Steve…no matter what…but Steve…he was different.
Yeah. Maybe Peter shouldn't have said that to Pops.
Peter had never been inside a Target before, and he thought he might have to hunt down the food department, but all of his worries fell away as he entered the sliding doors. The food department was a lot bigger than he imagined and as he walked down the isle of never-ending frozen foods, he wondered if there even was a meat department. It seemed to be like a light and the end of the tunnel, though, as a small shelf space full of brightly wrapped items could be seen. Ham.
If Peter wasn't on medication, he probably would have ran up to it, but decided on just walking. When he got there, a big sigh of relief washed over the boy. It was just the ham he was looking for. It was wrapped in a silver wrapping, but it was still a honey ham. Hell, it was even a little bit bigger than the one Steve had. He should be happy when Peter brought it home.
After purchasing the only item he was there for, Peter walked out of the store and was heading for the subway once more when he looked around at his surroundings. Only one block away stood Stark-Tower. Hell, how had Peter not noticed the area he was in!?
All thoughts about going home vanished from his mind as Peter pressed on towards the tower. Tony might be gone for the Holidays, but if he was home, Peter would drop by for a bit before heading home.
"Master Peter, it's good to see you," a metallic voice rang out as soon as Peter entered the front Lobby. It was closed, but JARVIS must have seen him from the cameras outside and unlocked the door for him.
"Hey JARVIS," Peter hummed gently. It felt good to be in the tower. He hadn't been there in a little less than a month. "Is my dad here?" Peter asked as he moved towards the private elevator towards the back of the room.
"Yes he is sir, shall I alert him that you are here?" JARVIS asked politely.
"No. Please don't. I want to leave it as a surprise," Peter said with a small smile as he entered the elevator. "Please take me to him," He added.
Honestly, Peter would have thought that Tony was in his lab, but as the elevator went by that floor, Peter became a little confused. The elevator soon stopped, though, and the doors opened to the top floor. The commons area. Suddenly Peter wondered if Tony had a guest over. It's not like Peter was against Tony having someone over…he just didn't want to interrupt them, but surly JARVIS would have said something. As Peter walked deeper into the floor, though, he saw a figure sitting on a couch, watching TV, their back towards the teen.
It was definitely Tony, though. He didn't seem asleep, but he didn't seem like he was paying much attention to the TV. It was playing A Christmas Story, and the entire family was sitting around the table at the Chinese restaurant as the employees sang "Deck the halls," very poorly. It was Pop's favorite parts in the movie.
Peter approached Tony quietly, and set a hand on the man's shoulder, waiting for him to respond. Tony shifted slightly and let out a sigh, but he didn't look up at Peter.
"Listen Rhody, I-" He began as he turned around, only to be cut short as his eyes landed on Peter. "P-Peter!" He said, his entire face lighting up as a large smile grew on his face. "Hey squirt! What are you doing here!?" He said as he stood up and fell over the couch before he was standing next to Peter, pulling him into a hug. It seemed like a desperate hug, like Tony never wanted to let go, but Peter was giving him a bigger hug back.
"Hey Dad!" Peter said, fighting back the tears. He hated seeing his dad alone like this. Especially when it was nearly Christmas. And if Peter felt horrible during the holiday season, he could be sure that the inventor felt even worse.
"Wh-what's wrong buddy?" Tony asked suddenly as he pulled away from his son to get a better look at his face.
"N-Nothing," Peter lied as he wiped some tears away. "I-I'm just sick," he said…which was true. "And I uh…I just missed you." Peter admitted. They had seen each other three weeks ago, with some phone calls and texting in-between. But suddenly it seemed like it had been centuries. "I was also in the neighborhood," Peter said, holding up his sack that contained the ham. "I was on a quest to get ham," Peter said, laughing slightly.
"You came all the way out here, just for Ham?" Tony asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"I kind of fucked some stuff up at home with Pops," Peter said with a small shrug and Tony only nodded before leading Peter over to the couch to sit. "And I was getting the ham and noticed the tower was a few blocks away. I wasn't sure if you were here or not…but I thought I would just stop by and check," Peter explained with a sheepish smile.
"Well I'm really glad you did Peter. You made my night," Tony said, that smile still on his face.
"You watching The Christmas Story?" Peter asked, motioning towards the TV as he noticed the movie was starting again. It must be TNT's "continuous Christmas Story programming" that they had every year. "I love that movie," Peter then admitted.
"Really?" Tony asked in disbelief as he turned his head slightly. "I hate it. It's so stupid. There's no real plot." Tony said with a heavy sigh, only to laugh a second later as the younger brother fell over in the snow because he had on too many coats.
A part of Peter seemed to feel embarrassed that he liked the movie, because that was one movie that he and Pops loved to watch every year, and then suddenly Peter understood why Tony was watching it. Peter's heart hurt even more.
"Is it okay if I just sit here with you for a little bit?" Peter asked, sniffing back some snot as he looked at Tony.
"Sure thing kiddo," Tony said, patting Peter's leg as he looked back at the TV.
They sat there in silence for most of the time, and every once in a while talked about the weather or what the other was working on in terms of science projects. Suddenly Peter found himself not even wanting to go home. What would Steve say? It wasn't by law or anything, but it was an unspoken rule that Steve had Peter for Christmas. In fact Peter had only been at Tony's twice after the divorce for Christmas day. And one of the times, Peter had been very uncomfortable and miserable due to the crippling separation anxiety he had directly after the divorce. He was attached to Steve. It was something that he got over with time, but Peter was sure Tony was aware of it during that time. He felt terrible for acting so rotten. He was sure it made Tony feel horrible.
But how did Tony feel now? He was all alone. It wasn't fair.
"I'm sorry I can't stay longer," Peter said, a few tears escaping his eyes.
"It's okay Peter. You're busy. So am I…just promise you'll be here for New Years, Okay?" He asked, looking over at Peter and smiling.
"Yeah. Okay," Peter nodded before standing up. "I better get his ham home before Pops starts to worry," Peter laughed sourly as it turned into a coughing fit.
"Sure. Sure," Tony said as he stood up as well. "I'll walk you outside, okay?" He said as he walked with his son to the elevator. It was silent as they made their way to the front doors. "Text me when you get home, okay? You may be seventeen now, but I still worry about you kid," Tony hummed.
"Okay," Peter said as he leaned forward and wrapped his arms around Tony. "I love you dad," He said, his voice hoarse as he spoke. "I love you, I'm sorry I can't stay longer. I wish I could." Peter said. He was so mad. Why did he always have to please one parent and make the other suffer? Why couldn't things be a win-win for once?
"I know you do," Tony said with a nod as he patted Peter's back. "I know. I love you to, okay Peter?" He said, looking his son dead in the eyes.
"Merry Christmas Dad," He said, hugging Tony one last time
When Peter returned back to the apartment, Steve was already asleep. The apartment felt dark and cold. Where was the warmth that Christmas was supposed to bring? Where was the family? Where were the friends? Where was the happiness? Peter felt empty, he was sure Pops and Dad felt empty. Wasn't this a feeling that newly divorced family's felt? This wasn't new for Peter. So why did he feel so terrible? Was it because when he was younger his parents felt they had to make things up to him by making Christmas feel special? Didn't they know that even though Peter was older, he still desperately wanted to feel like a kid again? Or was he just getting older? Was this what Christmas was like for all adults? If it was, Peter never wanted to get older.
Sitting on the couch, Peter turned on the TV and flipped through the channels till he found a movie to watch. Elf. If that wasn't the move to make him feel better then he didn't know what movie would do it.
Christmas just wasn't the same. It would never be the same. But maybe next year he would spend it with Dad instead. No one deserved to be alone on Christmas. No. He would spend it with Dad. And if Pops had anything to say against it…then he was just a big fat cotton-headed ninny-muggins.