Chapter One


He could feel the heat from his thrusters against his hands and feet, shielded though they were by the gold-titanium alloy of his suit. He reveled in the feeling of air rushing past as he dove around buildings and startled passerby. New York City in the middle of the night was his favorite place to fly. The air was muggy and still smelt of hot dogs and cigarette smoke from the formerly bright summer day. He pinned his arms to his side, ready to push his thrusters to the max and soar almost to the stars, when suddenly a siren wailed through the night air. He pushed forward, went towards the sound, and got out his shield, but he couldn't pin the location of the noise. The siren rang out again, but something about it sounded off. Were sirens supposed to sound like that? No, no it didn't sound like a siren…what was that sound? It was…

"Peter! Son, get up, you're going to be late!"

Peter Parker opened his eyes and slammed his right hand down on the top of his alarm clock, which was still screeching like an angry cat. He laid in bed, his eyes closed, trying to hold onto his dream, trying to retain that feeling of flying through the air, just as it slipped like water from his fingers.


Peter groaned and threw the covers off. He grabbed his glasses from the bedside table and his world came into view. All in all, it looked like the bedroom of any other normal (if, perhaps, slightly geeky) teenage boy. Completed Lego sets (the Enterprise, the Death Star, and a surprisingly impressive improvised Mordor, to name a few) were displayed permanently on the shelves. Model cars he'd made with Pops shared the space. Old superhero toys spilled out from a much-used red and blue toy chest in one corner of the room. His desk was littered with his camera equipment and biology books, and somewhere underneath a pile of snickers wrappers was his laptop.

Peter grabbed a pair of dark colored jeans from off the floor and jerked them on. He grabbed a shirt from a hanger and stuffed himself in it. For good measure he also put on his favorite black hoodie. He ran a comb through his hair and put in his contacts before jamming on socks and sneakers and grabbing his backpack. As an after thought he took his camera, too. He ran down the stairs and into the kitchen. Pops sat at the table, sipping coffee and reading the New York Times. Peter didn't need to ask where his Dad was—he was close to making a breakthrough, so he'd probably just slept at Stark Tower in his lab. Or more likely, he'd not slept at all.

"You're going to miss your bus again," he said to Peter with a pointed look.

"I know, Pops," Peter replied, exasperated. He grabbed his dad's coffee cup and stole a gulp—earning him another stern look—before snatching a pair of pop-tarts out of the toaster.

"Have a good day," Pops shouted as Peter ran out the front door.

This was not an irregular occurrence with Peter, missing the bus. He had, in fact, learned every shortcut to the next three stops so that if he ran fast enough, he'd make it in time to catch it the rest of the way to school. His backpack bounced like crazy on his spine, but his spare hands were occupied with holding his camera still and holding pop-tarts, respectively. Peter stumbled over a crack and knocked over a trashcan, dropping one of said pop-tarts in the process.

"Parker!" scolded Mrs. Kerry, a not-so-sweet little old lady who lived five doors down from the Stark-Rogers-Parker household. It was unfortunate that she happened to be hobbling onto her porch to get the newspaper at that moment.

"Sorry!" Peter called out as he continued to stumble his way back into a running pace.

"You'll never make it, Peter!" called out Mr. Jenkins, who was watering his garden.

"Have to try!" Peter said as he leapt over a discarded beer bottle. Peter loved his home in Brooklyn, but scenic it was not. He ran through an alley and when he got out he could see the bus just ahead, stopping to pick up Sally and Jake. "Wait! Wait for me!" Either Sally and Jake couldn't hear him or they were ignoring him on purpose (the more likely of the two). They boarded the bus and Peter sprinted as fast as he could. "Wait!" The doors of the bus closed with a sigh, and it slowly rattled forward. Peter chased it for a few more yards, but eventually the bus picked up speed and Peter slowed to a stop as it turned the corner, out of sight.

Peter groaned in frustration—and that would be yet another tardy against him. He'd have to walk the whole way to school. Peter started walking down the sidewalk, but he stopped when he heard the sound of a motorcycle coming down the street. The blue bike pulled over to the curb, and Peter recognized the driver instantly despite the heavily tinted helmet on his head. Pops held out an extra helmet to Peter.

"What kind of father would I be if I let you be late one more time? Get on," he said in a muffled voice. Peter pulled on the proffered helmet, jumped on the back of the motorcycle, and his pops revved the engine. They streaked down the street. Peter loved the feeling—it was almost like flying. He wondered if that was why Pops loved his bike so much. They passed the bus and arrived at the school in a matter of minutes. Peter hopped off the bike and gave his pops the helmet back.

"Thanks for the ride, Pops," Peter said. His pops patted him on the shoulder.

"You have a good day, son," he said, and then he revved the engine and took off again. Probably, if Peter had to guess, heading to Stark Tower to make his dad get some sleep. Peter took a bite out of his strawberry pop-tart and climbed up the steps of Midtown High—time for yet another day of the painfully ordinary.

Peter, being the son of Tony Stark, head of Stark Industries and, more famously (or infamously, depending on who was talking), the superhero Ironman, and the adopted son of Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, was bound for a life with no sense of normalcy and certainly no sense of privacy. What concerned his dads, however, was the potential danger involved with Peter being publicly known as their son. So, just as Steve and Tony kept their relationship under wraps, they kept Peter under wraps as well, and had for his entire life. In his little Brooklyn neighborhood, they were the Parker family—and to Peter's knowledge, no one had ever seen his parents step outside without their motorcycle helmets on.

Tony had never been to a parent teacher conference day. Neither had Steve for that matter. They were both too instantly recognizable. It was lucky, Peter reflected as he finished the rest of his pop-tart, that he was such a good kid that his parents had never been called in for disciplinary action. That could be an issue.

Peter walked down the locker-lined hall of Midtown High, completely invisible to the other students. Well, metaphorically speaking, anyway. If he could actually turn invisible, maybe he could follow in his parents' footsteps—but, no, he was no superhero. And he never would be.

"Yo, Parker!" Were Peter a lesser soul, he probably would have flinched at the mere sound of that voice. It belonged to Flash Thompson, who, Peter was convinced, existed solely to make his life, and the lives of all the intelligent but socially incapable people at Midtown High, a living hell. Peter turned to face him and his two buddies.

"Hey, Flash," Peter said casually.

"Oh, you think we're on a first name basis, Parker?" Flash asked as his buddies snickered behind him. "The only thing you're well acquainted with is my fist."

"I'm sorry, did you get that line straight from The Really Big Book of Cartoon Villainy?" Peter asked even as Flash backed him against the old green lockers. Adrenaline pounded in his ears, but Peter wasn't the type to run away from a fight.

"Say what you want now, Parker," Flash said with a nasty smile, "because I'm going to knock you in your faggoty mouth so hard you'll be talking funny past graduation." Peter moved to duck, but Flash pinned him to the locker with his left hand alone. The metal rattled, the sound echoing down the hall, but, predictably, no one came to help. Some of his classmates stood and stared. Some stood and smirked. There are no heroes in high school, Peter thought dryly, just as Flash's fist connected with his face.

Flash let him go and Peter fell on his butt to the floor, hands over his throbbing eye. Flash and his buddies walked away, laughing.

"See you around, Parker," Flash said in parting.

"You missed," Peter said under his breath. He'd sport a black eye, but all his teeth were still in tact. He pushed himself up off the floor and flipped up the hood on his hoodie before heading to English class.

He picked a seat in the back and slumped over his desk, concentrating on his notebook. English didn't really interest him. It wasn't enough of a challenge. Usually he spent the period doodling, or designing robotics that he could make in Dad's lab, and today was no exception. The bell rang and Mr. Kaplan began his lecture, but Peter was engrossed in his drawing. Flying through the air in a red and blue suit of metal with a shield proudly stamped with an A attached to his back was Peter's nameless creation. He soared above New York, waiting to hear a cry for help.

"Is that Iron Man?"

Peter flipped his notebook over so fast he was sure he'd accidentally creased the page. Gwen Stacy had turned around in her seat and was looking at him with her big, blue eyes. Peter could have sworn his heart skipped a beat.

"Uh, no," Peter said. "I don't…I don't know what it is."

"Looked like Iron Man to me. But the colors were all wrong," Gwen said. She knit her eyebrows together. "Peter, what happened to your eye?" She reached out as if to touch it, but Peter flinched away in surprise.

"Uh, it's nothing, really. Just uh—"

"Did somebody hit you?" she asked. Peter found it a little hard to believe that she hadn't witnessed the scene in the hallway—but then again, all the teachers seemed to have missed it, too.

"Uh—" Peter said, trying to come up with an excuse, but it was very difficult to think when those big blue eyes were focused right on him.

"Miss Stacy! Mr. Parker!" Mr. Kaplan called out. Gwen turned back around. "Something either of you would like to share with the class?"

"Oh, Peter and I were just arguing over whether or not Macbeth is a tragic hero," Gwen lied easily.

"Well, I'm sure that would be a very interesting debate you'd both like to share with the whole class," Mr. Kaplan said. Peter's stomach sunk. Macbeth? Had he done that reading? …No, he was pretty sure he'd skipped that in favor of playing another hour of Guild Wars. "How about you start us off, Mr. Parker?" Mr. Kaplan's arms were folded and he had a stubborn expression on his face—there would be no bull shitting his way through this one. Peter felt his face start to heat.

"Uh, well—" Peter started, but thankfully he was interrupted by a knock on the door. An office aide cracked open the door.

"Excuse me, Mark, but I need Peter Parker to come down to the principal's office now, please," said the aide quietly, but of course the whole class heard. They ooh'ed at Peter's apparent misfortune. Mr. Kaplan gestured with his hand for Peter to come forward.

"Out you go, Parker," he said. Peter's mind raced as he thought of all the things he could be called to the principal's office for. Was it for dismantling that computer in the library? Because he'd put it all back together again—he'd only been fixing it! Or maybe it was for making a flamethrower in chemistry last Friday—but no one had gotten hurt, and Miss Joplin had told him it was a marvelous example of just how reactive the elements could be. Peter gathered up his stuff and followed the aide out the door.

Five minutes later, Peter was seated in the principal's office, which was, actually, a place he had never been inside before, though he'd met the principal before. He'd put down his hood and tried to make himself look as presentable as possible. Principal Mason was a big, buff guy who would have looked more in place at a pro wrestling match than behind an administration desk at a high school. Principal Mason smiled at him with his bright, white teeth.

"Peter Parker," he said. "You know, I've never had you in here before. That's a good thing. You want a soda, Parker?" Principal Mason pulled a coke out from the mini-fridge under his desk.

"Uh, no thanks, sir," Peter said. "Am I in trouble for something?"

"No. Why, should you be?" Principal Mason asked, suddenly stern and menacing. Peter swallowed.

"No, sir. I don't think so," Peter replied nervously. Principal Mason laughed loudly.

"I'm just messing with you, kid," he said. "Have a coke." He pushed the soda towards Peter and then got out one of his own. Peter took the offered soda but didn't pop the tab. He eyed the principal warily. Mason took a swig of his own drink. Peter felt Mason's eyes on him and it made him squirm in discomfort. "Gee, kid, what happened to your eye?"

"Uh, it's not really—I mean—I fell. Well, I tripped. I tripped and my eye got hit by a…door. Knob. A doorknob," Peter mumbled. Mason raised and eyebrow, but he took another swig of coke and then he smiled again.

"Mighty strong doorknob, if you ask me. Anyway, Parker, we've got a lot of untapped talent at this school. We've got kids who, if they just put their minds to something, could be really great. And you know, it makes me sad to watch us fail them, again and again. But you, Parker, you're something special. And it doesn't even seem like you need anyone behind you to do great things," Mason said.

"Thanks?" Peter said. The principal, of course, couldn't know that Peter had all the support in the world behind him. He had two fantastic parents who helped him to do anything he wanted.

"You're welcome Parker," Principal Mason said. "Mr. Stromberg showed me your entry for the science fair." Peter blinked. He was brought into the principal's office because of his science fair project? He'd made that ages ago—last year, in fact. It had won, predictably. If there was one thing Peter was good at, it was science. He'd invented a serum that helped skin or muscle cells in a Petri dish to grow at four times the normal rate. It could be useful to skin grafts, Peter figured, and it could probably one day have applications in growing whole organs. And S.H.I.E.L.D was always looking for the latest medical advancements. Principal Mason took another gulp of soda. "I went ahead and entered your project into Oscorp's annual Young Scientist scholarship competition—have you ever heard of it?" Peter froze. Had he heard of it?

Oscorp's prestigious Young Scientist scholarship meant a free ride for four years at Empire State University, one of the premier universities in the country for scientific research. But Oscorp happened to be one of the least scrupulous companies around—and one of Stark Industry's biggest rivals. Dad could rant about Oscorp for hours on end—and had, on multiple occasions. He typically stopped only when Pops said things to him that made Peter plug his ears in disgust and horror or kissed him so deeply that Peter would run away to his room before he was scarred for life.

"Yeah, I know it," Peter replied. The principal only smiled wider.

"Well, Mr. Parker, you won," he said. Peter blinked. His mind had frozen.

"Are you kidding?" he asked.

"Nope. Pop open that coke, kid—you've earned yourself a college education!" he said. Peter's brain swam with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, he couldn't believe he'd won. Empire State University was incredible, and now he wouldn't even need to apply—they'd accept him on the basis of the award alone. But Peter's parents could more than easily afford his education—what if he was taking an opportunity from someone less fortunate? And what if he wanted to go to his dad's alma mater, MIT? He hadn't made any final decisions about school yet—it was only October.

"Wow," Peter said, not knowing what else to say. He popped the tab as instructed and took a sip. Principal Mason slid a piece of paper across the desk. Peter could see the Oscorp letterhead and he felt his heart sink a little.

"They'll be displaying your project in a new exhibit with their latest inventions. You and your family are invited to attend the unveiling next week," Principal Mason explained. "You've done Midtown High proud, Parker. You've done yourself proud."

"Thank you sir," Peter said. The bell rang out, announcing the end of English class. "Uh, I have biology next, sir, so if you don't mind, could I—" Peter indicated the door.

"Oh, of course—don't want to neglect your studies, do you? Good man, Peter," Principal Mason said. He stood up and walked him to the door. Mason clapped Peter on the shoulder, which nearly sent the coke flying out of his hand. "Congratulations, son."

"Thanks," Peter said quickly, and he scurried away down the hall. Peter glanced at the letter—

Oscorp Enterprises

52 4th Ave.

New York City, NY 10003

To Mr. Peter Parker:

Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you will be this year's recipient of the Oscorp Young Scientist award. We were highly impressed with

—and glanced away, a guilty feeling settling in his stomach. He knew what his dad was going to say, and it wasn't going to be pretty. Could he accept this? Could he allow his project to go on display at Oscorp?

Well, maybe he could explain the situation. Maybe he could tell whoever was in charge of the whole thing that this was just one big mistake, that he'd never actually entered the contest in the first place. There was an RSVP number on the congratulations letter—maybe it would be good to start there. Peter flipped up his hood and ducked into biology. Maybe this situation wouldn't get ugly.

Well, he could hope, anyway.

The bus dropped Peter off outside his humble little house later that afternoon. The tiny thing was smashed up against houses on either side, and the whole thing could probably fit into the living room of his dad's mansion in California, second story included. He felt a familiar feeling of relief as he opened the short, chain-link gate outside his house. He'd survived yet another day at school—that in and of itself often enough felt like a reason to celebrate, and today was one of those days. His eye was still stinging, and he knew there was no way he could hide it from either of his dads. It was too obvious—and they were too nosy. Peter pushed open the front door.

"Dad? Pops? You in here?" Peter looked around, but he couldn't see any sign of either of his dads, and the house was as quiet as a crypt. He shut the door behind him and dumped his backpack on the couch. "Pops?" Peter wandered into the kitchen, but his pops wasn't there. Peter rushed up the steps to the second story. His dads' room was open. Peter carefully peaked inside, but there was still no sign of them. Peter noticed that Pops' shield was conspicuously missing, and his heart skipped another beat and flew into his throat—something was wrong.

He rushed back downstairs and scrambled to find the remote. He flipped on the news. The first station was doing a puff piece about some first graders sending a message (specifically, a badly sung song) into space for one of the kids' astronaut mom. He flipped to another, but it was going on and on about stocks. The next one was reporting on a high profile murder that happened three days ago, but nothing out of the ordinary. Peter checked his phone—maybe his dad had sent him a text—but nothing was there.

He flopped on the couch, his heart doing somersaults. If they had time, they always sent a text or left a note. If they didn't have time to leave a quick message—well, that wasn't a sign of anything good. Peter could call, he supposed, but he didn't want that one second of JARVIS informing his father that he was calling to be the one critical second that managed to get him killed, so Peter resisted. He got out his notebook and started to draw to distract himself from the fact that, more likely than not, at this very moment his parents were fighting for their lives—and probably for the lives of everyone else on planet earth.

Four o'clock turned into five, five into six, six into seven, seven into eight. Eventually Peter got up to fix dinner, which, since he was cooking, consisted solely of Kraft Mac and Cheese. Eight turned into nine, and the knot in Peter's chest felt near to exploding. He couldn't take it anymore. He picked up his phone to dial his dad's number, but before he hit dial, he heard voices outside. Very familiar voices. He dropped his phone and ran to the door just as his dads burst through. His dad was already out of his suit, but his pops was still in his full outfit, looking a little worse for wear. Peter hoped they'd rushed inside—and he hoped that it was particularly dark out.

"—no, Tony, I don't care. We don't put civilians in the line of fire. Not ever," Steve said vehemently.

"Oh, give me a break Captain Hard Ass," Tony said, rolling his eyes. "What about that time in Tahoe? Or L.A.? Hell, do you even remember Geneva?"

"Those were different!" Steve insisted. "We got all the civilians out, we directed the fire away from them, and when they were in the way, we moved them. We didn't fire over their heads and hope it didn't hit—"

"Uh, we?" Tony asked sarcastically. "Who's we? Not you and me, certainly, because I can't even remember the last time you used a weapon—"

"Uh, Dads?" Peter interjected.

"I can't remember the last time I needed a weapon—"


"Oh, right, because you can just rip someone's throat out with your goddamn bare hands can't you Captain Steroids—"

"DADS!" Peter yelled. Steve and Tony, his pos and his dad, suddenly turned their heads and looked at their son.

"Peter!" Pops said with shock. "Peter, what happened to your eye?"

"What happened to my—really? What happened to your entire body?" Peter asked. Pops' uniform was streaked with mud and ripped and bloody in places. He had a bruise on his forehead that looked like it might swell to be the size of a golf ball, and a welt on his neck that was already that size.

"A little trouble in San Francisco," Pops said. "I'm sorry we didn't leave a note—there really wasn't any time."

"And what, you've been too busy arguing with each other to remember to text me on the plane ride home?" Peter asked, annoyed. Steve and Tony exchanged guilty glances.

"Pete, we're sorry," his dad said. Peter just rolled his eyes and sat back on the couch—all that worrying for nothing!

"Whatever, it's fine," he said, grabbing his notebook and pen. He kept sketching.

"No, it's not fine," Pops said softly. He took a seat next to Peter and put an arm around his shoulder. "I'm sorry kiddo. We should have called. That wasn't fair to you." His dad took a seat on Peter's other side.

"I'm with your Pops on this one, Peter. We're really sorry," Dad said, sitting on his other side.

"I was worried," Peter admitted. "I always worry when you just disappear."

"Hey, we'll always come back, squirt," Pops said with a grin, ruffling Peter's hair. Peter offered up a weak smile in return, but he knew Pops was lying. They might be superheroes, but they weren't infallible. Peter knew that better than anyone. And he dreaded the day when they didn't come walking through that door, bruised but alive. He hated waiting. He hated that he had to sit at home and just take it when his dads were out putting their lives on the line for everyone's safety. His dad looked at him, a very serious expression on his face.

"Steve, why don't you go clean yourself up," he suggested. "You're getting the couch bloody." Pops jumped as fast as if Tony had told him that the couch was filled with spiders.

"Where?" he asked, then he groaned. "Oh, gosh darn it, you're right. I'll be back in a minute." Pops disappeared up the stairs, and Tony stared intently at Peter.

"I'm not a kid anymore," Peter said frankly.

"I know," his dad replied.

"I know you might not come back. I know Pops might not come back. And I hate that I can't do anything about it," Peter said earnestly. His dad gestured to his notebook.

"Is that why you go here?" he asked. Peter looked at the notebook, momentarily confused. His dad pointed to one panel in particular—Iron Man, Captain America, and the mysterious Iron Avenger, Peter's own character, stood together as a team. Peter sighed.

"I don't know. I guess," he said. "You know, if you would just let me try a suit—"

"No, Peter," his dad said firmly. "Your pops and I might argue about a lot of things, but that's one thing we've always agreed on. You can't, Peter."


"But nothing!" his Dad said. "I don't want to hear it again. This house? The name Parker? Public school? It's all to keep you safe, Peter. We've been protecting you your whole life, and I'm not about to stop just because you turned eighteen. Am I clear?" Sometimes, Peter reflected, he could get his dad to let him do whatever he wanted. Eat ice cream for breakfast? Check. Make a robot dog? Check. Watch a horror movie late at night at the tender age of six? Check (although, Peter had to admit that that was one check he regretted—he'd had nightmares for two weeks). His dad was just a big softie on the inside. But the look on his face in that moment told him that nothing was ever going to budge him from this issue. The Iron Avenger would only ever exist on paper.

"Fine, whatever," Peter said flatly.

"Good," his dad said, then less sternly he added, "I know this is tough for you, Pete. I know what you're feeling. I feel it every time your Pops goes out on a mission when I'm sidelined. You just have to have faith that we'll come back, and know that if we don't, you're strong enough to handle it." If we don't, you're strong enough to handle it. The words sent a shiver down Peter's spine. He was definitely not strong enough to handle that. But he didn't say so. He just nodded. He felt his dad's eyes on him for another long moment, but seconds later Pops returned.

"So Peter, how was school?" Pops asked, taking back his seat. His dad turned on the television. He always flipped through every channel and never settled on one. He changed at commercials and sometimes even before that. It drove Pops nuts—it drove Pops even more nuts that he'd passed the trait on to Peter.

"It was fine," Peter said. "We're doing simple genetic testing on Friday in biology. We'll just be looking at a dormant gene, testing for one of two alleles."

"I see," said Pops. "And does that have anything to do with why he hit you? Because I don't remember dropping you off in that condition this morning."

"It's nothing," Peter said.

"I've seen a whole lot of nothing in my years," Pops said. "Usually it came from a big guy with an even bigger fist." Peter groaned.

"I don't want to talk about it Pops. It's nothing to worry about," he said.

"Sure," Pops replied. "I think we've got a couple rib-eyes in the fridge. I'm going to get you one."

"Pops," Peter groaned as his pops got up off the couch and went towards the kitchen. "It's not 1940 anymore. I could just ice it." Pops plopped the steak over his eye.

"That'll freeze your face real fast. This'll cool it," Pops explained. He sat back down and Peter grimaced at the feeling of raw meat on his skin. He glared at his dad, who had an expression of barely contained laughter.

"What? I didn't say anything. I'm not saying anything!" his dad said, but then he started laughing. He whipped out his phone.

"Daaaad," Peter said, trying to cover his face, but his dad managed to snap a picture anyway.

"Aw, our little boy, all grown up and getting beaten on. I hope you gave him as good as he got, Pete," his dad said. Peter mumbled something unintelligible, and his pops gave him a knowing, sympathetic look.

Peter hated that look.

"Anything else happen?" his Pops asked. Peter felt his stomach twist uncomfortably—did they know? Did they know about the award? Had Principal Mason called? He looked at Pops, who stared back expectantly.

"Well, uh," Peter started. It would be better for him to say something now if they already knew. If they caught him lying, there would be hell to pay. His dad would yell, and his Pops would get that 'I'm disappointed in you' look on his face that never failed to make Peter feel like he was two inches tall. "Uh…well, you know that Oscorp Young Scientist award? Because—"

"No," his dad said emphatically. "No, Peter Parker, you are not thinking of entering that contest. Not on my watch."

"A Young Scientist contest?" his Pops asked. "Well, I don't know, Tony. I know it's Oscorp, but that sounds like a great opportunity for Peter—"

"No!" Tony shouted. "No, it's not. Do you know how much environmental damage Oscorp does per day? And that's just the legal statistics—do you know how much they're covering up? I will not have my son be associated in any way with Norman Osborn." He spat the name out like it was a curse word.

"Well—" Peter tried to speak, but he'd put his dad in a mood, and he wasn't having any of it.

"No!" Tony said. "You don't need that scholarship. Your pops and I can pay for your education just fine. You want to go to ESU? Fine, you can go to ESU. You can go wherever you want Peter, and I'm sure any university would be thrilled to get you, but you won't get there because of Oscorp."

"Tony, you're being unreasonable. If Peter wants to make his way in the world—" Steve said, but was also interrupted.

"Then he will, but he won't do it with Oscorp at his back! Besides, you know he'd win, and what would we do then? They always want the parents to be involved with this sort of thing—what are we going to do? Hire actors? Or expose ourselves after trying to protect Peter all this time?"

"He's eighteen! We don't have to be involved with this, not publicly anyway. He wouldn't be in any danger—"

"You don't know that! And it doesn't even matter—I will not have Norman Osborn be the one to pay for my son's education, it's practically blood money—"

"Oh, Tony, stop being so overdramatic—"

Peter slipped away quietly while his dads argued. They always argued, but typically the bickering was at least partly playful. Lately, though, it sounded less like aggressive flirting and more like…aggression. Peter tiptoed up the stairs and slipped inside his room. He still had homework to do, after all. He got out his calculus textbook and started working. By the time he finished, his parents were still arguing, although they'd stopped arguing about Peter. They'd cycled through Peter, into what they'd been arguing about upon entering the house, into arguing about the fact that Tony never did the dishes, which he denied, into arguing about Steve's lack of a sense of humor and/or fun, into arguing about Tony's apparent ogling of the newest S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, who as far as Peter could tell was a woman named Eve. Peter found this at least partly funny, because it sounded like Steve, so through the walls it almost sounded like Steve was yelling at Tony for ogling his own husband's ass.

Peter took a shower, and he could still hear his parents arguing. They weren't yelling anymore, but they were still bickering in their room and Peter could hear them through the thin walls. Peter turned off the lights and slipped into bed.

"—where are you going, Steve?"

"I'm sleeping down stairs."

"Oh, come on, don't be like that—"

"Good night, Tony."

Peter pulled a pillow over his head so he wouldn't have to hear any more. He felt guilty about bringing up the contest—it was obvious they didn't know. And now they were arguing again. Peter sighed. He'd go to Oscorp tomorrow and explain that the whole thing was just one giant mistake. Everything would be fine.