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Protocol

Chapter Text

The Midtown High Academic Decathalon team was known for being near undefeated. Colleges and companies were constantly offering them scholarships and grants and amazing opportunities. Coming up was the Annual New York Decathalon Competition, and every team was more determined to win than ever. 

 

Why?

 

Because the prize this year was a temporary internship at Stark Industries. Ever single nerd in Decathalon wanted that, except for Peter, of course, but there was no way in hell he was going to ruin this for his team. MJ didn’t care, either way, it’s not like she would be working with them much.

 

The Midtown team headed off to the competition, heads held high and nervous energy in the air. It was a long and hard competition, but Midtown came out victorious. The team was beyond ecstatic; Peter smiled too. He was happy for his team, but not so much for his sacred workspace that would now be invaded.

 

3 weeks later…

 

The team was emailed all the information they had to know. Today was their orientation, and they were told to be at the tower at 8 am sharp. Slowly, they all tricked into the lobby, practically buzzing with excitement. Not a single person was late. The only two missing were Peter and MJ. Ned, even though he already had a pass and worked at the tower, decided to stay with the group.

 

The front desk receptionist, Andrea, smiled at them kindly. “Are you Midtown High?”

 

They all confirmed, smiling and puffing their chests with pride. 

 

“Give me one moment, please. FRIDAY? Please send Benjamin down,” She called to the ceiling before leaning down to get something.

 

“Mr. Williams is on his way, Ms. Derekson,” FRIDAY responded. The team, who had already been here before, wasn’t as scared of FRIDAY as they were the first time. Suddenly, one of the elevators opened, and a man stepped out. He had a tired smile plastered on his face and was holding a large coffee mug.

 

“Hello, Midtown! Congratulations on winning that competition! You all must be something truly special,” he complimented them. He set his coffee down on Andrea’s desk, and she handed him the badges and he gave her a smile and wink. 

 

She simply rolled her eyes at him and took a large sip of his coffee, to which he gasped in horror. 

 

“Excuse me! You are drinking away my soul right now! I've been on shift since 4!” He cried out. Andrea raised an eyebrow at him and took another long sip, making sure the slurping noises were exaggerated, before handing it back to him. He hung his head in defeat and walked over to the group, who was watching the strange interaction with confusion written on their faces.

 

“Okay! We are going to go up to Zeta and I’ll show you all the do’s and don’ts!” He started walking back towards the elevator but stopped once he realized an important factor. “Oh shoot! You need your badges!”

 

He scurried back towards them. “Okay, raise your hand when I call your name. Flash Thompson, Abe Brown, Cindy Moon, Sally Avril, Charles Murphy, Josh Spinelli, Zach Cooper, Yasmin Monette, and Tyler Corbyn.  Is that everyone?” 

 

They all collected their badges as their names were called, and then looked at Ned. Ben followed their eyes and his eyes lit up when he saw Ned.

 

“Ned! My man! How’s it going?” Ben said as he walked up to Ned. The two did their secret handshake, and Ben pulled Ned in for a tight hug. The team was, again, very perplexed.

 

“Ned how did you…?” Abe started to ask but didn’t know where to go with his question. Ned shrugged. “What can I say, dude, everyone here has secret handshakes.” As if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Even though that wasn't his question, Abe nodded unsurely as Ben walked back over to Andrea.

 

He attempted to lean flirtatiously on the desk, but misplaced his hand and fell.  The team stiffed their laughter, but Ned did not, at all. Ben wiped himself off and glared at Ned.

 

“Oh, you think that’s funny don’t you?” Ben challenged as he reached behind the desk. Ned’s wide smile and crinkled eyes quickly turned to a horrified expression. 

 

“You wouldn’t dare,” He said somewhat silently. The team looked between the two boys, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Finally, Ben rose back up, now holding a black walkie-talkie, identical to the one on his waist.

 

“Oh, I would,” Ben laughed evilly as he handed Ned the walkie. “You better turn that on, Yoda.”

 

Ned rolled his eyes at the older man but followed instructions.

 

"What time are you here till?" Ben asked with a devilish smirk. Ned sighed, clearly not getting out of this one. "Umm, let's say 5."

 

"FRIDAY, please tell all floors we have a Protocol Yoda until 5. He's on channel 6." Ben said sweetly. Ned quickly turned the walkie to the correct channel and was immediately greeted with voices.

 

“Hey, Yoda, it’s Chase. Delta has a list up here for you of bugs and computer issues. Dr. Banner would also like you to help him with the blueprints of his newest project. I also think I heard that something went wrong with Gamma testing and you’re needed up there, but you would have to confirm that one with Nora. And MJ has  requested you go up to Zeta 77 around 2 o'clock for the hackers meeting, which she assumes you will be leading.”   

 

Ned nodded along to the list and quickly headed through the scanner, already on his way to solve the first problem. The amazing part though was how even as Ned continued to walk, more requests were coming out of his walkie.

 

“Ned Leeds, Alpha,” FRIDAY boomed. The team watched, amazing as he stepped into an elevator. As it was closing, they heard him say “FRIDAY you getting all this? We should be done by 3!"

 

Dumbfounded the team turned back to Ben, who didn’t seem bothered at all by this.

 

“Will he be okay?” Betty asked. “That seems like a lot of work for just one day.”

 

The team frowned and nodded along. They didn't want the company to be abusing Ned's good heart. Ben shrugged slightly. “Hate to break it to you, but that is a light day for him. He, along with all the workers at SI, is used to big amount of work with not a huge amount of time to complete it.”

 

He approached the scanners.”After a few weeks, you’ll get used to it as well.”

 

He sounded confident, but the team wasn’t so sure. The mere thought sounded terrifying. Regardless, they followed him. Ben walked through. “Benjamin Williams, Sector Omega Lab Director,” FRIDAY announced. He motioned for them to follow him. They all hurried into the nearest elevator with Ben and headed up. The team watched every move Ben made, whether it be a small smile or a look to the side. Suddenly, the walkie-talkie went off.

 

“Hey, Tony, it’s Liam. We have a Protocol Sleeping Spider. Looks like he hasn’t slept in a while. Should someone get MJ?” 

 

The team listened, intrigued, at who this boy was and how he knew MJ. They all had their assumptions but didn’t necessarily believe them.

 

“Dammit, not again. I told him to go to sleep at a decent hour! Don’t disturb MJ, trust me, today is not the day.” Tony responded the exhaustion in his voice was obvious. For a moment, there was silence.

 

“How long has she been in meetings?” Chase asked quietly.

 

“I think since around 3 or 4 am. She came into the lab around 2 am to drag Peter to bed, but I don’t think she was very successful. She’s calling international so the time zones are different. They are also discussing matters that the board always fights her on.” 

 

Everyone could hear the smirk in his voice, but Ben looked worried.

 

“And she has on and off meetings today till 2. I’ll come get Pete.” Tony concluded.

 

“Thanks, Tony.”

 

“Pete… as in Peter Parker? And MJ… as in Michelle Jones?” Yasmin asked. Ben nodded in confirmation but didn’t elaborate. 

 

“Was that Tony Stark?” Sally asked, trying to keep the awe out of her voice.

 

"Are Parker and MJ sleeping together?" Flash said and wrinkled his nose in disgust. Ben laughed at that one. "Not in the way that you're thinking."

 

Ben nodded again. “I’ll tell you all more after you sign the NDAs.”

 

The team gazed at each other, silently asking if this was as strange as they all believed it to be.

 

“Mr. Williams. I do recommend you be quiet once you get to Zeta 73. There is currently a meeting occurring in Zeta 73 B-01.” FRIDAY informed them.

 

“Thanks, FRI,” Ben said. He turned towards the group. “You heard the AI. No noise. You will become accustomed to FRIDAY telling you what’s going on in the tower, and trust me you will appreciate it.”

 

The team nodded as the elevator dinged. Ben stepped out and the team waddled behind him like ducks. He looked straight ahead, even when he heard voices coming from one of the rooms. The team, of course, did not have the same restraint, or knowledge, to know not to spy in on meetings. They all peered at the meeting going on and their jaws immediately dropped to the floor.

 

Behind the glass doors, they could see MJ sitting at the head of a long table. She looked… nicer and cleaner than they had ever seen her before. Instead of her usual casual and baggy clothes, she wore a white blouse and a blue blazer. The only thing that gave her away was the plaid pajama pants and shoeless feet she wore. Her feet were covered by socks with little spiderman signs (a gift from Tony), and her messy, beautiful curls were pulled back into a loose bun. 

 

She looked bored as she stared at a screen sitting in front of her. Now and then she would her face would scrunch up in anger and she would say something, before smoothing out and returning to a fake calmness. Only 3 other people were sitting in the room with MJ. Two of them were typing rapidly on laptops and the other was listening intently to whatever MJ was listening to and would whisper something to her when he thought appropriate.

 

“Come on guys! Let’s leave the poor legals alone! In here!” Ben called as he opened one of the glass doors for them. The team quickly snapped their attention away and ran into the room. The first thing Ben did was make them read and sign NDAs. He then gave them packets with all the procedures and rules and started explaining everything they needed to know. 

 

“So, you have the rules in front of you, but there are a few other things you should know. First off, as you all know this is a temporary internship but could segway to a part-time internship if you impress us. Now, you will all be working in the Omega Sector, so your LDs are Zach, Alison, Noah, Charlotte, and me. Please come to us if you have any issues and ask us for help if you need it. We are not very strict here at SI, but we do not tolerate bullying and if we see it going on, you will be removed from your position.

 

“On that note, if you have an issue with a fellow employee, please notify an LD to sort it out. Think of us as your parents. Don’t try to hide anything from us because trust me when I say, we know all. You can also come in whenever you want, but if we find out your missing school for SI, one of us will escort you to school every single day for two weeks. We are extremely embarrassing, so I would not recommend. I also know that you all go to school with Peter and MJ, which makes matters slightly complicated.

 

“Peter and MJ are special cases here and are not regular interns. When working here, you will see things that you never would have thought MJ and Peter can or would do. It is not my place to give you all the details, but I will tell you this. Do not mess with them, their work, or try to distract them. Everyone working at SI will protect them, even if MJ doesn’t need protection, and you will instantly have 6,000 enemies.”

 

Ben said it lightly and casually, but the team gulped at the obvious threat. 

 

“Now! Go over your booklets and ask if you have questions. Yes, I know the protocols have weird names, but it makes it easier to remember. After, we’ll go see your workstations!” Ben said as he clapped his hands together. The team nodded and started flipping through their books, wondering what exactly they got themselves into.

 

Chapter Text

The next week, Cindy and Charles decided to come in on a Thursday after school. They were nervous, especially after reading the number of protocols and how many of them pertained to MJ and Peter specifically. They walked into the lobby and approached the scanners.

 

“Good afternoon Cindy and Charles! How was your day at school?” Andrea asked as she gave them a pleasant smile.

 

“It was good… how did you know our names?” Cindy asked, confusion written on her face. Andrea laughed lightly.

 

“I learn everyone’s names! It helps to have a friendly face when you walk into the lobby. Sorry if I sounded like a character in a horror movie,” She giggled. “Have a good rest of your day!”

 

She waved to them one last time before turning her attention back to the work on her desk. Cindy and Charles gazed at her and then each other. What was going on? No one was ever this nice in the workplace. Especially not too high schoolers. Charles shrugged. They should just accept it for now. He gently pushed Cindy forward and together they walked through the scanner, holding their badges up for FRIDAY to see.

 

“Cindy Moon, Omega Sector Intern Level 1. Charles Murphy, Omega Sector Intern Level 1.” FRIDAY announced. Cindy and Charles grinned at each other.

 

“So cool,” Cindy whispered as they entered the elevator. Luckily, the Midtown kids managed to get workstations on the same floor, so Cindy and Charles headed the same way. They got to the floor and were immediately in awe.

 

It was chaos, but scientific chaos. A few people were working quietly by themselves, but that wasn’t the case for most of the floor. Most were running around and helping each other build or arguing while gesturing to their work. Some poor souls were even attempting to find materials or help. Papers and stationary were covering desks and tools and parts were laying around on floors and desks. 

 

Cindy walked to her desk and set down her backpack. Maybe a small snack before she worked would be good. She pulled out a little container and took the cap off. She didn’t notice immediately, but the floor got quiet. She popped a strawberry in her mouth and heard someone clear their throat.

 

She looked up and became instantly flustered when she saw everyone staring at her.

 

“Um… can I help you?” She asked, wondering what she did wrong.

 

“You must be new here,” one of the guys said. Cindy nodded, still unsure why she had all this attention. The whole floor let out a collective sigh in understanding. 

 

“Did I do something wrong?” She asked. Only her first day and she’s already messing up. The floor chuckled and laughed.

 

“No, you didn’t do anything wrong. You just didn’t know. You see, it's one of those unofficial rules. Strawberries aren’t allowed in the tower. Pepper is allergic and there has been one too many close calls,” a teen explained. Cindy’s lips opened and she let out a quiet “oh.”

 

She quickly put the cap back on the container and shoved it in her backpack. She looked up and saw everyone still staring at her.

 

“Sorry! It won’t happen again!” She said, rubbing the back of her neck awkwardly. The floor responded in various ways of accepting the apology. The elevator doors opened and everyone turned their heads. It was Peter. He looked serious and concerned. “I heard there was a Protocol Pepper Makes you Sneeze. Is it contained?” He asked.

 

The floor nodded and gestured to Cindy.

 

“Oh! Hey Cindy! Sorry about that you didn’t know,” Peter said with a sheepish smile. He then turned to the rest of the floor. “Okay, everyone! Back to work, nothing to see here!”

 

The rest of the floor wasted no time in following his instructions. Cindy shot Peter a grateful smile and he gave her a thumbs up. Not a second later, interns began to crowd him and ask for help. Cindy watched as he smiled and asked them to lead the way. 

 

Chapter Text

Sally ran into her car after school. She was working on a project with a few other people on her floor and she was super excited to get to it. The drive took longer than she hoped because of traffic, but once she got to the tower, she ran up to her floor and was greeted with frustrated groans and arguing. There seemed to be a lot of that at the tower.

 

“I don’t know! There is nothing wrong with the wiring or coding! I asked Ned yesterday!” Aaron yelled, slamming his hands on the table. Samantha flinched back but quickly recovered with a glare. Sometimes, Aaron's frustration got the best of him, especially when they hit roadblocks. 

 

“Well, it’s not the exterior build or the junctions! Peter checked those 2 days ago!” Samantha argued back. Both growled at each other. Besides them were 4 large cups of coffee, all empty and drank. Both had extremely dark eye bags and were glaring intensely at their project with irritation.

 

“Hey! What’s going on guys?” Sally asked as she walked to where partners were. Their other partner, Fahri, was sitting in a chair, hand on his head and shaking it softly. He was chill unless someone tried to restrict him. He had authority issues. Fortunately, though, no one at the tower was strict enough to the point where he felt the need to fight back.

 

“The machine won’t turn on!” Samantha and Aaron yelled at the same time. Sally bit her lip as she tried to think of a solution.

 

“Is the electrical current correct?” She asked. 

 

“Yes!” They both cried out. 

 

“Um… okay? Well, you’ve already gone to Peter and Ned… who else can you ask?” 

 

Samantha and Aaron both cringed slightly. “There is one more person…” Samantha started.

 

“But she is the last resort… people only go to her for extreme emergencies,” Aaron continued.

 

“Maybe we should?” Fahri pipped in. Samantha and Aaron groaned but hung their heads and nodded. 

 

“FRIDAY, is MJ available at the moment?” Aaron asked.

 

“MJ…?” Sally asked in confusion. MJ wasn’t even a techy person.

 

“Yes, Mr. Serva,” FRIDAY responded.

 

“Okay, please ask her to come down. Protocol When in Doubt Bite the Tiger.”

 

“Protocol Accepted. MJ is on her way.”

 

They waited in silence for a moment. Suddenly, the elevator opened and MJ walked out, arms crossed and annoyed look on her face.

 

“What did you, or should I say, didn’t you do dweebs?” She asked as she walked over to the table. She put up a bored mask, but Sally could see the curiosity spark in her eyes.

 

“We checked everything, MJ, but the machine simply won’t turn on,” Samantha explained. MJ examined the machine, turning it over and looking at every inch of it. After a moment she stood up and sighed.

 

“Sally, did you just get here?” MJ asked. Sally nodded.

 

“Serva, Gonelle, Khouri, come here.” 

 

The three scrambled to stand in front of MJ. She pinched the bridge of her nose. “How long have the three of you been here?”

 

The trio froze and stared at each other in fear. They resembled three kids who knew they were about to get scolded by their mother for eating cookies before dinner. “Well, you see, we really wanted to get this project done…” Fahri explained quickly.

 

“And we were so close!” Samantha jumped in.

 

“How long?” MJ asked again, and frankly, it was quite scary. She was staring at the trio, dead on, and arms crossed. Even Sally, who was not in the line of fire, cringed.

 

“49 hours.”

 

“43.”

 

“45.”

 

They all mumbled.

 

“So I’m assuming you’ve all been missing school?” She asked casually; they looked away, giving her the answer she needed. “And when was the last time you slept?”

 

“Umm… I think Monday?” Aaron responded counting on his fingers; Samantha and Fahri answered the same. MJ huffed and blew a piece of hair out of her face.

 

“You do know that it is currently Wednesday?” 

 

They all blushed and nodded.

 

“Well, to answer your question. You didn’t put an on and off switch on it, or anything that can be used as a reactant to turn it on.” MJ said matter-of-a-factly. “Next time, don’t work on projects when you haven’t slept.”

 

They all averted their eyes and gave a version of agreeing.

 

“I’m sending you to Omrikon to get some sleep and informing your Lab Directors of your sleep and school schedules. I want you all to turn in your AJs tonight you are suspended from the tower until Sunday morning. Andrea will be holding them for you until then,” She stated strictly. 

 

The minute she mentioned the AJs, which are their badges to get into the tower, they all started protesting. Samantha even started crying.

 

“It’s not fair!” Fahri yelled as his nostrils flared. Sally admired how he didn't realize he sounded like a two-year-old.

 

“I understand that you are upset, but you know SI’s intern policy; you broke it for three days.” She moved closer to him and tried to put a hand on her shoulder, but he shrugged it off and moved to clean up his table. “FRIDAY, please send Fahri, Aaron, and Samantha to Omri. Send them to Noah with Protocol Bed Bugs.”

 

“Right away, Miss Jones,” FRIDAY said as the elevator opened. Samantha, still crying, began to walk in a dejected way to the elevator.

 

“Samantha. Stay here.” MJ said after a moment. Samantha stopped and waited next to MJ, hiccuping lightly as she furiously rubbed her tears. MJ watched the boys with a cool gaze. They were both pouting majorly, but she didn’t care. Their mental and physical health was more important.

 

"Sleep well and long boys because when you wake up, you are both having a talk with your LDs," MJ told them. Fahri looked like he wanted to protest, but it died in his throat when he saw MJ lift an eyebrow at him. He was definitely not taking that challenge.

 

“Sally, you can continue working on your project. Sorry to take all your lab partners away,” MJ said awkwardly, which was so different from her confidence a moment earlier. Sally gave her a weird thumbs up and returned to the table, eavesdropping on Samantha and MJ’s conversation. MJ had turned to face Samantha.

 

“Is it home?”

 

Just those three words from MJ made Sam break. She tried to hold in the tears already rolling down her cheeks for a minute but then threw a hand over her mouth as sobs quickly built up. Sam nodded rapidly. 

 

“Let’s talk somewhere else,” MJ said. Sam didn't argue and followed MJ into the elevator. Sally watched out of the corner of her eye as MJ wrapped her arms around the weeping girl and pulled her into a hug.

 

“Tony’s lawyers are going to get you out, okay? We’re so close, just hang tight. For now, you can stay on Omri. We all understand and are here to support you,” MJ whispered to Sam. Sam nodded and further buried her face against MJ’s shoulder. 

 

Sally had never seen MJ be this… affectionate with anyone, other than Peter of course. It was heartwarming but also made Sally curious. MJ hid so much from the others at Midtown. It made her wonder what else there was to find out.

Chapter Text

 

Abe arrived at his floor, tired and not ready for the usual craziness the tower offered. It had been a rough week, and he was extremely thankful it was Friday. He said a few hellos to some of the other interns working at their desks. 

 

It was quieter than usual, which was never good. Everyone seemed tense like they were waiting for something. Even Hannah, the energetic intern that sat in the lab station next to him was working silently on her own project. 

 

Abe sat down at his work station and pulled out his notes. He was in the process of writing down all the correct equations and parts needed for his next experiment. It was a slow process. He tapped the pencil against his leg as he thought.

 

The elevator opened, but no one took much notice to it, which, again, was unusual. A person cleared their throat. Abe looked up, it was Peter. He looked awful. He had dark rings around his eyes and looked close to death. He was drowning in the large MIT hoodie he wore and the baggy sweatpants. Abe almost didn’t recognize him without his usual bounce.

 

“Okay, everyone listens up,” he said through a yawn. He looked carefully at the paper in front of him, murmuring to himself as he ran his finger down it. Abe noticed the others on the floor were looking at him anxiously. Seriously, what was happening?

 

“Protocol The Need for Speed starts next Friday.”

 

Everyone groaned and immediately started yelling at the poor boy. Peter stared at them blankly for a moment before running a hand over his face.

 

“I know, I know. It’s not a lot of time. You’ll all be fine. Gamma’s deadlines are due before yours anyway, so you have an extra day or two,” Peter said. The floor quieted down slightly, supposedly content with the explanation. Peter continued “, Please approve all of your projects with your LDs before you start prepping them. We are not having a repeat of last time.”

 

His voice has a sharp edge, making it sound like a warning. The rest of the floor seemed to notice as well because they all either nodded or shifted awkwardly.

 

“And also, since you are all still in high school, we will be keeping a closer eye on you this week. Any missed school results in temporary suspension for 3 weeks and elimination from deadlines, which, as you all know, will result in the LDs on your ass and Show and Tell will be forced to rereview your resume and reconsider if you belong here. Please don’t do anything stupid. We all love you and would hate to lose you over missed school. If you truly, truly have a problem or are extremely behind, please come speak with the LDs or I. I’m sure we can figure something out. Good luck!”

 

And with that incredible threat looming in the air, everyone turned back to their stations and continued their work. The floor quickly turned into a whirlwind of motion, unlike anything Abe has ever seen before.

 

“Hannah, What’s Protocol The Need for Speed?” Abe whispered to the girl. 

 

“It’s the protocol announcing the week of deadlines,” she said without looking up from her laptop, which she was now coding on rapidly. Abe nodded slightly.

 

“There’s a lot at stake… how often are deadlines?” 

 

“4-5 times a year, depending on who’s running it.”

 

Abe thought for a minute before shrugging. It didn’t sound that bad… only once every 3 months or so.

 

“Why’s everyone so freaked out then, aren’t they used to it?” Abe asked.

 

“Well, our projects and experiments are what determine whether we will continue working here. They show the bosses that we are doing things with our time and their technology. Although we are a family here, there are many people who would kill for a spot at the tower, and we have to prove ourselves.”

 

She never looked up from her screen.

 

“You better get going. Time flies,” she said. He nodded and shook himself out of his thoughts.

 

“Right… right.”

Chapter Text

It was 4 in the morning. Omrikon was silent, save for the occasional walkie talkie. Peter was sleeping soundly in Josie, Alex, and West’s room. It was huge. Each had their own queen beds, because “we have standards here, Pep, my LDs will not be sleeping in twin beds for 10 years”. The room showed all of their styles and frankly looked like a ginormous dorm. 

 

Josie’s part of the room held her brown bed and desk and was extremely organized. Alex’s part was messy, with pillows, clothes, and paper covering the floor and their desk. West was a strange mixture of both, with a brown theme, like Josie’s. The room also had some cabinets full of snacks, clothes, and other personal items. Everyone thought the trio was a strange mixture in roommate choice, but they liked it the way it was.

 

Peter was in Josie’s bed, cuddled up in her arms. Both were sleeping soundly and comfortably. The blanket was draped over them so only the top half of their faces could be seen. Peter first found himself on the floor about 3 hours prior, when he had a nightmare. It was about Josie getting hurt and he couldn’t help but go to her for comfort. 

 

Thankfully, Josie had gotten off shift in the afternoon, so she was on the floor, sleeping. At first, she was thoroughly confused when she groggily woke up to an armful of a small shaking and crying figure, but she quickly recovered when she realized it was Peter. She dragged, because he was having a hard time functioning at the moment, him under the covers and pulled him close to her. This wasn’t the first time he had come to her. She whispered reassurances in his ear as he nodded along and clung to her tighter.

 

Alex had woken up by the commotion and sat up in their bed. Josie gave her a look and then pointed to the boy next to her. Alex cocked their head, asking Josie if she needed help. Josie shook her head softly and kissed the boy’s forehead. Alex seemed to get the message because they laid back down with one last look of concern and drifted back off to sleep. Josie rubbed Peter’s back as his breathing slowed and he nestled into her chest. 

 

“Go to sleep,” She murmured to him. “I’m not going anywhere.”

 

Thankfully, he took her advice and slowly let her heartbeat lullaby him to sleep. She fell asleep shortly after. 

 

Back to the current time of the floor, 4 am. 

 

“Hey, it’s Marissa. Whistle While You Work starts in about 5 minutes. I’m going to go wake up the to be on shift LDs; once they arrive on floors, you may clock out of your shift.” The walkie talkie in Alex, Josie, and West’s room went off quietly. They were required to keep one in the room at all times, in case of emergency, and the rest of the walkies were kept in the common area of the floor. The LDs learned to sleep through them unless someone was yelling or there was a lot of talking going on. 

 

A quiet ding of the elevator broke the serene silence of Omri. Marissa walked out of it, looking dead on her feet. She held her tablet in front of her as she read the names of the on-shift LDs. She trudged room to room, gently waking up LDs on shift and being careful to let the ones not on-shift sleep. She was greeted with small groans and reluctance in every room. She made her way to Josie, Alex, and West’s room, which was one of the last rooms to wake up before she could sleep herself.

 

Getting everyone awake was not an easy task. Everyone woke up differently and only certain LDs were actually allowed to wake the others up for shifts. Some of the Lab Directors just needed their light to be turned on to wake up, others needed music, and a majority liked things like hugs or soft tones to wake them up. Sleep and grumpiness were taken very seriously at SI, especially since sleep was so rare for the people of the tower.

 

Marissa pushed the door open quietly and peeked her head in. Alex and Josie were, of course, sleeping, and West was currently on shift. She stepped into the room and towards Alex’s bed. She gently woke them with a few taps and leaned over to give them a soft hug.  Alex hummed in acknowledgment and slowly sat up. “Whistle While You Work?” They asked in a whisper. Marissa smiled and responded “, Start time, 5 am.”

 

Alex nodded to herself with the information she was given. Marissa gave them one last squeeze and walked over to Josie. She glanced at the bed and wasn’t surprised to find 2 bodies instead of one. A lot of the LDs slept together (platonically). 

 

Marissa bent in to get a closer look and smiled fondly when she saw Peter curled in Josie’s arms. She turned on a lamp over Josie’s bed. 

 

“Morning, Jo. Whistle While You Work starts in 20 minutes,” Marissa said in a low voice. She saw Josie blink at her slowly before bringing a hand to rub her eyes. Marissa took it and headed out of the room, waving one last goodbye to Alex, and onto the next one. 

 

Peter buried his head deeper into Josie’s shoulder, shielding his face away from the light. She cracked a smile and ran her fingers through his hair. He let out a content sigh and relaxed further in her warm arms. She hated that she had to get ready, but duty (aka grumpy scientists) calls. She peppered kisses all over his face and a small grin unconsciously formed on Peter's face.

 

“Petey, you awake?”

 

He gave a sleepy yawn and nod as an answer. 

 

“My shift is starting soon, and I have to get ready,” She started to explain. He whined and grabbed her shirt.

 

“Don’t go… please,” he said in a heartbreakingly sad tone. She sighed and sat up, hauling Peter up with her. He leaned against her heavily, not letting go.

 

“That bad, huh?” She muttered into his shoulder. His head jerked as a response and he squeezed her hand. “Peter, you know I have to go to work.”

 

He bit his lip and turned towards her, full puppy eyes activated. She playfully shoved his face away and groaned. “Aw, don’t do that to me! I’m too weak!”

 

She grabbed her chest and fell back on the bed. Peter giggled slightly as he laid down as well.

 

“Do you want to stay here and sleep? It’s still really early.” She suggested. Usually, the first suggestion would always be MJ, who slept with Peter a lot of the time, but she was traveling with Pepper in California for a conference, or Tony, who was at the Avengers compound to run a system check. Peter contemplated for a moment before giving a soft nod. She grinned and planted another kiss on his forehead before rolling out of bed.

 

She quickly got herself ready, wearing her usual black pants, t-shirt, and maroon pullover. She threw her hair into a messy bun and finally grabbed her walkie from the common room.

 

“Hey, I’ll be right downstairs if you need me, okay? And West is getting on break in the next few minutes; I’m sure he would appreciate a cuddle buddy,” Josie said as she pulled the covers over Peter. He nodded drowsily and brought the blanket to his chin. Josie gave the boy one last smile before heading down to her sector. She shook her head slightly as she entered the elevator and adjusted herself one last time. Just another day. 

 

Chapter Text

 

Deadlines week was finally over. There were a lot of tears, little sleep, and not a lot of eating either. Everyone was exhausted yet relieved. Tony had told them all to stay Friday night, aka the last day of deadlines. They all wanted to just go home and sleep, but it was their boss’s wishes so they obliged.

 

Wednesday.

 

“FRIDAY, baby, we have a protocol Pizza Planet on our hands,” Tony said to the ceiling. 

 

“Certainly boss. What would you like to order?” FRIDAY responded. Tony thought for a minute.

 

“Hm, let's do 2,500 pizzas, 5,150 pazookis, and 2,500 ice cream pints. Mix up the flavors.” 

 

“When would you like Pizza Planet delivered?”

 

“Friday afternoon in the loading dock. Make sure they're not late. Also, send some people to clear out Zeta 75 and Zeta 80 and border the rooms with tables and put up the projectors and mattresses.”

 

“Right away, sir.”

 

This was going to be fun.

 

Friday Morning. 9 am.

 

Tony tapped his foot impatiently as he waited for the delivery to get there. He was going to be pissed if they were late. Thankfully, they arrived a moment later. He watched as 6 huge trucks that you see for grocery stores roll into the loading dock. They all parked, had him sign some forms, and then showed him the precious cargo.

 

There was food stacked in every single truck. Tony grinned like a mad man and sent people to help him bring it all up to Zeta 75 and 80. They were unloading and making everything look nice on Zeta 75 and 80 until about 6 pm. The rooms looked great. 

 

“FRI, patch me into the tower’s PA,” Tony asked. She did so. “Attention my tired little brainiacs. We have one more thing planned for today and then I promise to release you back into the wild. Please make your way up to Zeta 75 for an all-staff meeting.”


He grinned evilly. He could practically hear them all groaning in protest. Eventually, people started piling into the room, their faces tired and sad but immediately brightening up when they saw what was in the room. He saw them all vibrating with excited and happy energy. He waited until the last of the LDs piled in (they had to check all floors before heading up) to start talking.

 

“So, this is a very serious meeting,” he said in a deep tone. A lot of them giggled at his ridiculousness. “I know you all have been very hard at work this past week and I know none of you know how to properly take care of yourselves.”

 

“We get it from you!” A random LD called. The entire floor burst out laughing as Tony glared in the direction of the voice.

 

“Whatever. Anyway, as you can see, there is unhealthy food set up on the tables, and yes I finally got those pazookis that have been so highly requested, and I’ll be playing Big Hero Six on the projector. Zeta 80 also has the same setup and will be playing The Little Mermaid.  Both rooms also have a bunch of blankets piled up in that box to use for the mattresses."

 

He pointed to a huge box next to him.

 

"Feel free to eat as much as you want and spend the night. Congrats on your hard work and… party!”

 

And with those words of wisdom people ran off. Some ran off to Zeta 80 while others ran to get food or find themselves and their friends a mattress. 

 

Tony smiled as he watched the happy faces of his staff. A lot of them came up to him to personally thank him for doing this, but he mostly waved them off and gave them hugs. People lined up at the tables, getting their favorite pizza with dessert and then headed to a mattress. 

 

The people on the mattresses giggled and talked as they ate and watched the movie. Many were talking rapidly about what project they had turned in for deadlines this week. Tony was glad he could put a positive spin on the week. Usually, people never spoke about their deadline projects, too nervous about how they would be judged, but it seemed like the right environment.

 

The elevator opened and MJ and Pepper stepped onto the floor. They walked next to Tony and people watched with him.

 

“Stark.”

 

“Jones.”

 

Pepper wrapped an arm around Tony’s waist and kissed his cheek. Immediately the room made sounds of disgust.

“Ew! Don’t kiss in front of the kids!”

 

“Get a room!”

 

They laughed together and Tony pressed a long kiss to Pepper’s lips, making the groans and complains last longer. Tony rolled his eyes as he led Pepper to a mattress in the back of the room. MJ saw Peter, Josie, and Zach and went to them. She cuddled up next to Peter, who offered her a bit of his pazooki and she happily accepted and talked with Josie over Peter’s head.

 

He rested his head on MJ's shoulder, already dozing off, but trying to stay awake to eat. When he didn't eat a lot he lost energy extremely quick. He hadn't eaten a lot this week either, which was really bad for his metabolism. He had lost a good 4-5 pounds in less than a week, and MJ was on his ass. This was actually a reoccurring issue for him that Tony, Pepper, MJ, and the Avengers were trying to break. MJ rolled her eyes at him fondly and ended up feeding him. Josie giggled quietly as she watched the interaction and took an extremely embarrassing picture. 

 

Pepper leaned into Tony’s shoulder and sighed in content. 

 

“You are so good to them,” Pepper whispered after a few minutes.

 

Tony shrugged. “They deserve it.”

 

“They’re your babies,” Pepper said with a smile. A warm feeling spread through Tony that he couldn’t deny. 

 

“Yea, I guess they are.”

 

The duo watched the room in silence, every now and then commenting on something they saw, like someone shoving ice cream into their friend’s face, or someone else falling off the mattress from laughing too hard.

 

It was a beautiful sight and neither of them would trade it for the world.

Chapter Text

Throughout the day, Flash boasted to every person he saw that he was an intern at Stark Industries. He was met with unenthusiastic responses, but it didn’t bother him much. They were all just jealous anyway.

 

Wednesdays were the days he set to go to the tower after school. The workers were nice to him and didn’t judge him for his crappy personality, which was new.

 

Just like every other Wednesday, Flash swiped into the tower and shot Andrea a wink. Andrea politely smiled and wished him a good afternoon. Entering the elevator, Flash tapped his foot impatiently as it ascended to his floor.

 

“Hello, everybody!” He yelled as he entered the floor, not worried about who might be trying to concentrate. A few people shot him genuine smiles, while others strained to stretch the skin on their face. 

 

Flash’s backpack dropped loudly next to his workstation as he leaned over the person sitting next to him, Eric. Eric was a quiet little intern but that didn’t mean he was a pushover.

 

“Hey, dude! Whatcha working on? Woah, are you reprogramming the system? What type of code are you using? What type of metal is that? Is it even metal?” Flash asked excitedly. 

 

Eric didn’t respond, keeping his eyes trained on the project in front of him. Flash hummed in “understanding”.

 

“Aw, I see. You’re trying to concentrate. That’s cool. Do you need help? Want me to get something? Maybe I could--”

 

“Sorry,” Eric cut in, now staring at Flash cooly over his shoulder. “I don’t speak bear.”

 

Flash’s eyes widened in confusion and he blinked a few times, trying to comprehend what he had heard.

 

“I’m sorry, you don’t what?” Flash managed to ask.

 

“Mr. Thompson, I do request that you work on your assignments. Mr. Rodhert is trying to work and does not wish to be disturbed,” FRIDAY called through the ceiling.

 

Flash gulped deeply and fumbled to his chair. “Right, uh, sorry, dude.”

 

Flash began to pull out his work, missing the amused smirk formed on Eric’s lips.

Chapter Text

Yasmin had been to the tower a few times already. She loved the people on her floor and it was hard to stay away from a healthy, collaborative environment. So, when she found herself walking to the tower one day after school she wasn’t surprised. 

 

She entered the main doors of the tower and scanned in.

 

“Yasmin Monette, Omega Intern Level 1.”

 

Yasmin smiled at the ceiling and walked over to the front desk, where Andrea was typing on her computer.

 

“Good afternoon, Andrea! Here, this is for you,” Yasmin said as she held up the drink to the woman. Andrea looked up and beamed at the girl. 

 

“Wow! For me? Thank you! What is it?” She asked as Yasmin handed her the drink.

 

“It’s a latte from that cafe you like a block down. I passed it on my way here,” Yasmin said with a smile. Andrea took a sip and hummed happily. 

 

“Thank you, Yasmin!” Andrea said as she stood from her desk and wrapped the girl in a hug. Yasmin hugged her back. Yasmin and Andrea were actually really close. Yasmin confided in Andrea and was learning the ways of working the front desk at Stark Tower, which was harder and more complicated than one would think.

 

(Little did either of them know that Tony was planning on making Yasmin a permanent assistant receptionist and intern if she wanted. Everyone at the tower loved her.)

 

They continued talking until another intern, Oliver, came through the doors. He looked slightly frantic and was sporting a black eye. He scanned in and booked it towards the elevator.

 

“Oliver Winsdern, Omega Intern Level 3.”

 

Andrea turned to him with a concerned frown.

 

“Ollie?”

 

Oliver turned to her like a deer caught in headlights. 

 

“What’s wrong?” Andrea asked him as she walked towards him. His face crumpled for a minute but the look was gone as soon as it appeared.

 

“Nothing,” he said, “I just have so much work to do.”

 

A lie. Andrea didn’t believe it either. She reached out to him and he took a step back. Her frown increased.

 

“Stay here for a moment, Oliver, I’m going to have someone come get you. Who do you want me to call?” Andrea asked him, Yasmin close at her side.

 

“No one, I’m fine! Let me just go up to the floors!” Oliver said with a slight whine.

 

Andrea crossed her arms and shot him a look. “Who do you want me to call?” She repeated.

 

Oliver glared at her for a moment before sighing deeply. “Noah.”

 

“FRIDAY?” Andrea called to the ceiling.

 

“Mr. Davis is on his way down now,” FRIDAY responded. Andrea smiled at the boy, who just hugged himself tighter.

 

The door of the building swung open. Oliver looked at the noise and his eyes widened in fear at what he saw. Andrea and Yasmin looked too. A man, early 20s maybe and angry as hell, stormed into the lobby.

 

“No, no. Andrea, help me please,” Oliver whispered as he tried to hide behind the woman. However, he was spotted by the intruder.

 

“You little fucking shit. What did I tell you, huh? I said you can’t work here anymore. I’m gonna fucking kill you. Get your ass over here,” the intruder said. Oliver stared at the man in fear, frozen. He grasped Andrea tightly. 

 

“Can I help you?” Andrea said with an edge to her tone. She didn't like this.

 

The man glared at her intensely, which she gladly returned, and bared his teeth. “Give me the bitch. He doesn’t know what’s right for him. I'll just have to beat it into him.”

 

“Sir, I think you should leave. It’s okay, Ollie, just think Happy thoughts. It’s gonna be okay” Andrea said. She pulled Oliver behind her, who was shaking like a leaf. Yasmin put an arm around his shoulder and pulled him into her side, following Andrea’s example and glaring at the man.

 

“You fucking slut need two bitches to protect you, huh?” The man said as he barked out an awful laugh. The elevator opened and Happy and Noah appeared. Noah ran over to the trio and pulled Oliver into his arms. The younger boy clutched onto Noah tightly and hid his face in Noah's shirt.

 

Happy’s death stare was unmatched as he marched towards the man. “You are intruding on Stark Industries property. I strongly suggest you leave now.”

 

The man didn’t get the message. He grinned and spread his arms like he had nothing to lose. “Hey, Oliver needs me. Don’t you, Ollie? ” 

 

Oliver sobbed silently into Noah’s shoulder and shook his head. Noah covered the boy as much as he could with his arms and body.

 

Happy grabbed the man by his throat and pushed him to the ground. The man gasped and fell unceremoniously onto his stomach. Happy put a knee on his back. 

 

“The police are on their way. You’re going to jail for a long time,” Happy said with a sadistic grin.

 

“For what?” The man spit out. “You can’t get me for shit.”

 

“For abusing your boyfriend,” Happy said, not seeing Oliver’s flinch in the background. “Good luck against Stark’s lawyers. You’ll never see the light of day again.”

The man’s eyes widened and he started struggling in Happy’s grasp. Happy rolled his eyes and pressured harder into the man’s back.

 

“Let’s go,” Noah whispered to Oliver, who nodded shakily. 

 

“You fucking bitch! I know you wanted it! You… you need me!” The man screamed as a last attempt.

 

Oliver shuddered and leaned closer to Noah, but otherwise kept walking towards the elevator.

 

“Thanks,” Oliver whispered to Noah.

 

“Anytime," Noah said as the duo stepped into the elevator. Noah tilted Oliver's head up and winced slightly in sympathy. "Now, why don’t we get you some ice for that eye on Omri?"

 

Oliver nodded and leaned back into Noah's arms. The elevator closed in front of them. Andrea, now that the threat was contained, moved back to sit at her desk. Yasmin moved with her.

 

“How did Happy know to come down?” Yasmin asked after a minute.

 

“Protocol Think Happy Thoughts,” Andrea said with a shrug. Yasmin nodded and took a breath, well she certainly hadn’t expected that series of events when she came to the tower today.




Chapter Text

 

It was a cold winter day. Sally was thankful she was in the tower, which was always warm and cozy. She hadn’t been there for long when FRIDAY’s voice urgently rang throughout the floor.

 

“Protocol Ice-Ice Baby. I repeat Protocol Ice-Ice Baby,” FRIDAY said. Marissa, the closest LD to Sally, immediately brought her walkie, which was going off loudly with different voices, to her ear. The rest of the floor stared at her in concern.

 

“Where is he?” Someone demanded angrily over the line.

 

“Josie, we don’t know we are looking for him--”

 

“Did Happy drive him here today?”

 

“Yea he did.”

 

“All LDs available find him. Radio in if you do,” Josie ordered. Suddenly the elevator opened. Peter’s small form was pressed against one of the corners of the elevator barely even shivering. He didn’t look good. He was pale and barely conscious. Sally threw a hand over her mouth. What had happened to him?

 

“Shit,” Marissa cursed as she ran towards him. “Josie. I found him. Omega 18. He’s not looking so good.”

 

Marissa fell to her knees next to him and dragged him out of the elevator. The rest of the floor started crowding near and whispering about what could have possibly happened.

 

“Everyone back to your desks now. He doesn’t need a crowd,” Marissa said sharply. The floor hastily obeyed her.


“Peter? Can you hear me?” She asked. 

 

No response.

 

The elevator opened next to her and Josie and West walked out. They immediately spotted Peter and ran over to him. They bent down next to him.

 

“Where is everyone?” Marissa asked. Josie knew what she meant.

 

“Pepper and MJ are at a conference. Tony and the Avengers are on a mission,” Josie explained. 

 

“Thank you, Marissa. We’re gonna take him up to Omri,” Josie said as she looked up to West. West nodded and pulled Peter into his arms. The boy was like a rag doll, definitely not reassuring. 

 

“Keep us updated,” Marissa said as she stood to her feet. Josie nodded and hurried to the elevator with West.

                                                                             *****

The pair stepped onto Omrikon with Peter and ran to their room. They wasted no time in undressing Peter to his boxers and then stripping themselves as well. Peter moaned quietly in pain and discomfort. 

 

Josie ran a hand through his hair and smiled sadly at the boy. “It’s gonna be okay, Peter. West and I are gonna get you warm again.”

 

West slid into the bed first. Once he got comfortable he opened his arms for Peter. Josie, who had been holding Peter up, settled him between West’s big arms.

 

“Can you get the heated blanket?” West whispered to her as he pulled Peter’s back tightly to his chest. She nodded and ran off. A moment later she returned with the blanket.

 

She threw it over the pair and then crawled in with them. She pulled herself close enough so Peter was cuddled into her chest while still being pressed against West. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed his forehead gently.

 

His shivering had yet to come back. Both West and Josie were not looking forward to that. It was painful for the smaller boy yet they continued to warm him as best they could. West rubbed Peter’s arms consistently while Josie ran her hands down his lower back. 

 

He was cold to the touch. This was one of the worst cases they have witnessed him having. Josie and West had taken the responsibility of being Peter’s “warmers” incase something happened and for some reason, no one else who usually helped him was around. It happened more often than one would think. During the winter months when he was most likely to be on the brink of hypothermia, there were many conferences, galas, and conventions that occurred. Not only that but Tony rarely allowed Peter on missions during these months in case he did go popsicle. 

 

West rested his chin on Peter’s neck and stared at Josie. She tried to smile at him encouragingly but it came off weak.

 

“He’ll be okay,” she said to him. He nodded and held onto the fragile boy tighter. 

 

This stage was always the scariest. He barely moved, his breath was shallow, and he was cold yet rarely had a reaction to it.

 

After a moment or so more, Peter’s shivers started returning. Josie and West held strong. Peter’s teeth chattered and a sudden quiet cry of pain escaped his lips. 

 

“Okay, okay. That’s it, honey. Sh, I know it’s okay,” Josie whispered into Peter’s ear as she moved her face closer to his. 

 

Tears filled Peter’s eyes as the feeling came back to him. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. It was a burning, awful sensation. He gasped and lurched slightly in their hold. West squeezed Peter’s arms gently and then flipped Peter over so he was now facing his chest.

 

Peter thrashed slightly, moving his legs to cope with the pain. Josie pressed herself more firmly against him back.

 

“It’s okay. You’re gonna be okay. West and I are warming you up,” She reassured him. He didn’t really acknowledge her though. Hell, she wasn’t even sure if he heard her.

 

His breaths came out in short pants. 

 

“Burns,” he gasped out. Josie kissed the back fo his head as a response. West gently pushed Peter’s head into the junction between his neck and shoulder. Peter sobbed into it and clutched onto West like a lifeline.

 

The shivering was still there but had lessened slightly. 

 

“Hold on, bud. We’ve got you. We’re almost there,” West comforted the young boy. Peter, apparently hearing some of that, nodded slightly.

 

West looked to Josie, who smiled in relief. He was okay. They gave him another moment, each rubbing their hands down a part of his body to transfer their warmth.

 

“West…” Peter started weakly after a moment. Josie shushed him and she stroked his hair.

 

“It’s okay. You don’t have to say anything right now. You should sleep, baby. We’re gonna be here when you wake up.”

 

Peter nodded tiredly against West’s chest and drifted off to sleep. West reached over and gave Josie a high-five, which she happily returned. They both laughed quietly as Josie crawled out of bed and reached for her walkie.

 

“Reporting on Ice-Ice Baby. Everything is okay. He’s all warmed up and sleeping,” Josie said into the walkie. She then put it down and looked back at the bed. West was clearly on the edge of sleep as well. He blinked slowly as he tried to stay awake. Josie smiled fondly at the older man. 

 

“Sleep, you deserve it,” She mumbled to him. 

 

“You too,” he returned. She rolled her eyes and crawled back into bed next to Peter. Peter was sleeping contently, face pillow on West’s arm/chest area. One arm was sprawled on West’s chest while the other was curled tightly to his body. 

 

Josie snuggled close to his, throwing one hand around his waist and resting her head on his shoulder. He was okay. She would save him and be there for him as many times as he needed.

                                                                           ******

Peter sat in the middle of the couch in the living room of Omri, wrapped in a blanket and being stared down be 15 pissed off Lab Directors.

 

“What happened Peter? What caused you to get so cold? What about your body heaters?” Ben asked as he crossed his arms.

 

Peters faced flushed and he looked down at his lap. “I, um, I may have forgotten them here… MJ usually brings them for me.”

 

He risked a glance up to meet the unimpressed faces of the Lab Directors.

 

“We were worried about you,” Anne said. 

 

“I know. I’m sorry,” Peter said meekly. “But, um, I’m still cold… hugs?”

 

What a faker. They all knew it too. Nevertheless, they obliged and cuddled close to him. Someone turned on the tv and a Dinsey movie appeared.

 

“Thanks,” Peter said with a small smile. Lewis, who was sitting next to him, smiled and pulled the boy closer.

 

“We’ll always have your back,” he said seriously.

 

“I know,” Peter replied easily and settled comfortably against the older’s shoulder.               

     

Chapter Text

Zach was not an organized person by any means. Not even in his workspace. 

 

He had been looking for his damn wrench for days now. He had been able to work around the loss of it for now, but he needed it to complete his project. He tore his workspace apart, searched the entire floor, and even started going onto other floors. No use. He had one last attempt before entirely giving up and having to do another walk of shame to Resources.

 

“FRIDAY… I still haven't found my berries,” Zach called up to the ceiling. He had never done this before. Never had he called this protocol and never had he talked to FRIDAY specifically either. There was a brief pause before she spoke.

 

“Which berry have you lost, Mr. Cooper?” She asked.

 

“Um… my wrench?” 

 

“Searching. One moment please.”

 

He waited silently. 

 

“It appears that your wrench is in the cafeteria on Omega 15,” FRIDAY said. 

 

Zach frowned. How did it get there? He must have taken it up when he was getting a snack.

 

“How’d you know that, FRIDAY?” Zach asked curiously as he walked towards the elevator.

 

“I went through all the security feed of the tower over the last week.”

 

“... Oh. Well, thank you,” he said as he shot a thumbs up at the nearest camera.

 

“You are quite welcome, Mr. Cooper.”

 

She almost sounded pleased. Zach smiled to himself and headed down to get his damn wrench.

 

Chapter Text

The Stark Tower was safe. Between the badge checks and the receptionist being trained by Pepper herself, it was hard to get in when you weren’t supposed to. They had all the security measures and protocols. 

 

Marie, one of the new receptionists being trained under Andrea, started her day like any other. She woke up, had a shift at an art store, ate lunch, and then headed for her second job at the tower. 

 

She technically didn't need to have a second job at the art store, seeing how much Mr. Stark cared about his employees, but she felt better, somehow, having her own money. If there was one thing she hated, it was feeling like a charity case. 

 

Her shift started out simple. Honestly, her job was pretty boring, for all the precautions and safety classes that Mr. Stark made her take. She still shuddered when remembering the hour-long lecture Andrea gave her on how to tell when someone is about to do something dangerous. 

 

Marie’s favorite part of her job was seeing the interns and LD’s every day. Marie was on the older side and has always been a motherly person, so it made sense that she almost immediately “adopted” every intern who came. They all knew her, and she knew them, along with what they like.

 

For example, when one of the lottery (the SI lottery helped kids get into the program who wouldn’t normally be able to) interns, Miles, came in, she reached under her desk and handed him a 12-pack of nice markers she had picked up from her art shift just for him. 

 

Miles was shocked. “Are these for me?”

 

“Well, I certainly have no use for them, and a little birdie told me that you liked art and it was your birthday soon.”

 

“Thanks, Marie!” He beamed as he pulled the markers to his chest and held them tightly.

 

“No problem,” she replied, leaning in for a hug. “And happy birthday too.”

 

Nothing else close to exciting occurred for several hours until he came in. 

 

Stark Tower was supposed to be safe. 

 

_________________________________________

Evan had a pretty mild life. The most extreme thing that had ever happened to them was getting this internship in the first place.

 

They were one of the Summer interns, but Mr. Stark had liked their work enough to keep them full time (which they totally did not freak out over).

 

Evan had built up their whole life around this internship, gaining friends (they had even met another nonbinary person, Alex), and dare they say it, family. Peter and MJ might have had relationships that came with a lot more connections, but they would like to think that theirs were just as important.

 

It was not only the friendships that made the Internship amazing, however, as Evan got to build. Building and engineering had been hobbies of theirs for years , and now they finally had the resources available to turn them into reality. 

 

One strange thing they liked to build were items for self-defense. Their mom used to be concerned for them, but the therapist said it was a coping mechanism, so-

 

For example, they created a simple triangle of metal that was light, small, and easy to transport. When the person using it tapped three times on the center, it would pop out a sharp blade that could be put away once you tapped the outer button. Simple. Easy to reach. Looked benign. 

 

Self-defense.

 

They reached for it on instinct when the alarms went off. 

 

“Protocol ‘Hide ‘n Seek’ activated.”

 

They gasped, their eyes widening. 

 

“What’s that mean?” One of the newer interns, Cindy, Peter’s friend asked.

 

“Intruder. Get to Lab B, with everyone you can. GO!” FRIDAY called urgently through the loudspeakers.

 

The intern ran off, yelling names and trying to find as many people as she could.

 

“FRIDAY? What-where’s-who-DAMNIT!” 

 

There was too much. Too much to do, too much noise, too much of everything

 

One question. 

 

“FRIDAY, are all the other interns safe?” Evan asked as they entered floor after floor through the stairs, trying to find signs of life and hopefully not the invader.

 

“No, Mx. Shaio. You are not currently safe. please make your way to Lab B.”

 

“Other than me, FRIDAY!”

 

“One moment… I’ve detected 28 individuals who are currently unsafe. ”

 

“What are we dealing with, and where the hell is security?”

 

“I’ll tell you once you are safe.”

 

“Damnit! Fuckin-“ Evan dragged their hand alongside their face and sped to Lab B, the only Lab that didn’t have any windows. It was specifically made for flammable experiments, so there were fire extinguishers lining every wall. 

 

Evan ran into the lab, and the door shut behind them. They looked around to find the terrified faces of the interns around them. Some were crying. Some were covering their mouths, trying not to scream. A few LDs ran around trying to make sure everyone was accounted for.

 

“Ok. I’m safe now, FRIDAY.”

 

The AI was deathly quiet. No, the whole floor was deathly quiet. The alarms had stopped, eerie tension filling the air.

 

It was quiet, so horrifyingly quiet, and yet insanely loud at the same time, the small whispers of the scared interns. A mix of calm and chaos that threatened the already fragile state of the tower. 

 

It seemed to shatter, with the gunshots. Small pieces joining the ground with the glass of the lab doors, as whoever was doing this decided to bypass the fingerprinted door. 

 

One of the Interns tried to scream, but Cindy stopped her, her hand flying up to cover the other girl’s mouth. Evan-well, they were flashing back to that day. 

 

It was all too similar-what were they supposed to do? They thought they had been getting better. Their therapist said they were. The medicine said so. And yet, hearing those shots brought them right back to their abandonment issues and their hatred of guns and their need for self-defense.

 

Evan gripped their triangle a little tighter.

 

_________________________________________

God, and it was only his first day here, too. 

 

Mark hadn’t known what Protocol Hide ‘n Seek meant, and he could have happily lived his life without knowing. But alas, it seemed that the universe had other plans. 

 

Obviously, with the loud alarms and all, Protocol Hide ‘n Seek wasn’t a good thing.  Based on the other interns and the LD’s reaction, a really bad thing.

 

One of the Interns from Midtown grabbed his arm as she ran past. She dragged him into the fire lab.

 

“What’s going on?” Mark asked her.

 

“Intruder-there would be no way for them to get this far if security was fine...”

 

“I don’t really like what that implies.”

 

The other intern shook her head. “They have to be fine. We'll be fine.”

 

The LD who had shown him around, Evan, told them to be quiet. “FRIDAY’S not responding, so-“

 

The alarms and lights turned off. 

 

Gunshots rang through the air. 

 

Another intern tried to scream, but the one who had dragged him in covered her mouth. 

 

Mark looked around at all the terrified faces of the interns that he didn’t know yet. All the people who were just as (if not more) scared as him. 

 

He could see the black figures, now. Their heavy footfall had given an indicator of where they were, but now he could see them through the glass. One of the older LD’s stopped him, saying that if you can see them, they can see you. 

 

Mark wasn’t a hero. He knew it and had known it all his life. The most logical thing to do was stay here in the fire lab and not give away his position.

 

But the figures were coming closer. 

 

Evan had a death grip on something in their hands, the girl who had dragged him in was crying, the girl who’s mouth had been covered was shaking, everyone feeling the terror that the figures had brought. 

 

No, he wasn’t a hero. 

 

The window on the door shattered, and a grenade flew through the hole. Everyone screamed, and Evan and the other LD’s didn’t even try to stop them.

 

Seeing how it didn’t immediately explode, Mark assumed it was a dud. He had never seen a grenade before, how was he supposed to know?

 

The smokey white gas that billowed out of it gave evidence that it wasn’t, in fact, a dud. 

 

If Cap was here, he would have jumped on it. That’s how he got chosen, right? He was a true hero. Real brave.

 

Mark really wasn’t a hero. 

 

_________________________________________

“You said we wouldn’t hurt anyone!” Riley protested when John broke out the gas grenade.

 

“Relax, Softie. It’s a knockout one.”

 

“You even sure they’re in there?”

 

“Let’s find out.” With that, John threw the grenade into the room. The screams gave an indicator that yes, people were in there. When the yells subsided, John broke down the door and grabbed a random employee. 

 

“Are you sure he’ll fall for the bait?”

 

John scoffed. “Of course. Now c’mon, we gotta go meet up with the others.”

 

Riley sighed and cradled the employee, not noticing the small triangle tucked in their hands. 

_________________________________________

Tony was on the other side of the tower from the intern labs when the protocol was activated. Immediately, he jumped to action, tucking himself and Pepper into the nearest safe room.

 

“FRIDAY, activate Think Happy Thoughts, tell him to check on security. What’s the status of the lobby?”

 

“The lobby is now clear of people, Intruders included. There was...one casualty.”

 

“Fuck. Who?”

 

“The new receptionist, Marie Josephine.”

 

Marie? He knew Marie. All the kids loved her. 

 

Tony sighed. “Is there anything I can do?”

 

“Unfortunately, the best course of action is to wait for Security. I have notified Mr. Hogan and asked him to check on the security building as I cannot get any readings on it.”

 

Pepper spoke up. “How are Peter & MJ?”

 

There was no response. “FRIDAY?” 

 

Nothing. 

 

“Fuck,” Tony said, turning to his wife, “Something’s wrong with FRIDAY.”

 

“Do you think she could have been hacked?”

 

“It’s nearly impossible for someone to, I made sure of that myself.”

 

The couple heard footsteps outside the door, and Tony wrapped his repulsors around his hands. He heard a banging on the door, and with a few harsh knocks from what could only be a battering ram, the door fell free, revealing a small army of men.

 

One stepped forward. He had grey hair and spoke with a thick accent that Tony couldn’t place.

 

“Stark. As you can see, you’ve been quite outnumbered. Now, come willingly, or something terrible will happen to your dear interns.”

 

Tony froze. “You’re not getting anywhere near them, you hear?”

 

In response, the man grabbed his radio that had been sitting in his belt and spoke into it. “Delta-92. Have you secured hostages yet?”

 

“Yes. Making way to the meeting point. ETA five.”

 

The man smirked. “Come.”



_________________________________________

Evan hated this.

 

They were pretty sure that the soldier carrying them thought that they were asleep, and Evan wasn’t going to let them know otherwise. 

 

The two stopped moving. Evan heard a man with a sharp accent speaking, but their mind was still befuddled to the point where they couldn’t make out anything that the man said. There was another man, too, along with a woman and the man carrying them. 

 

So, four-on-one chances weren’t the greatest, but it was better than being dead, shrapnel in their chest.

 

Evan strained to hear any conversation. They heard Stark, which made sense considering they were in the Stark tower. One man seemed desperate, although for what they couldn’t say. The woman stayed quiet, and the one who was doing the most talking was the man with the heavy accent.

 

They squeezed their fingernails into their palm, a nervous habit, and were elated to find the small triangle. 

 

Ok, Evan thought. That’s one difference from then. 

 

That’s what their therapist says. If anything reminds you of then, think of the differences. What else?

 

There was a woman this time. Their mom had been out that night. 

 

There were four, possibly more. It had been them and their dad and those two-so, they chose to focus on the possibly more aspect. Of course, that only made their chances of escape worse, but Evan had learned to take what they could get. 

 

The man holding them dropped them down to the ground with a thud. A metal circle pressed up against their forehead.

 

A dark room, a crash in the night. Their mom had gone out. It was them and their dad. He came out, investigating. The father and child had laughed about raccoons that morning, but now a false one would bring unending pain. There was a shout. Evan came to investigate. A cold circle and a click of safety coming off. Not only the gun but their safety too.

 

Their safety was off now, too. 

 

The cover was blown, so Evan opened their eyes. There were seven people in the room. Themself, Mr. Stark (so that was why he had sounded desperate), Ms. Potts, and four army-men that Evan didn’t recognize. Seven was different from four. 



_________________________________________

Everything happened quick, although FRIDAY’s cameras were quicker.

 

In truth, the battle lasted five minutes, but FRIDAY had heard several people say that expression. 

 

The LD known as Evan stood up, wielding a knife that had appeared from a triangle. They launched themselves at the soldier who had put a gun up to their head and stabbed them in the eye. 

 

Boss and Ms. Potts got over their shock and begun fighting the soldiers in the back. The soldier who had carried Evan joined after moments of consideration, joining Boss and Ms. Potts’ side.

 

The four of them overpowered the three, tying them up. Boss tied up the soldier who had helped them, much to the chagrin of the man. FRIDAY activated the security building (she couldn’t before as they had cut her main power line), and security marched in, securing the rest of the building. 

 

It was over now. 

 

_________________________________________

A WEEK LATER

_________________________________________

 

Everyone came to Marie’s funeral. They laughed and they cried and they shouted curses at the soldiers. It was simple.

 

Evan still clung to their triangle. They would never forget how it helped. Part of them wondered how it could have helped the first time.

 

Mark went on as normal. Not really paying attention to the other interns, and having them ignore him too. He would never forget their faces as the grenade flew through the window.

 

Riley was shot for treason. He didn’t regret anything.

 

Tony added safety measures. And then he added some more. He wouldn’t let this happen again. 

 

Stark tower was safe.

Chapter Text

MJ and Shuri were walking through one of the Gamma floors of the tower. MJ enjoyed just looking around, and Shuri was on her tablet.

 

It wasn’t uncommon to see the duo together when Shuri was in town.  Shuri and MJ both didn’t really have a lot of other girl friends that were anywhere close to their intelligence level or had an ounce of responsibility that laid on both girls’ shoulders. They connected quickly after they met.

 

They were on their way to test some Beta projects which should be interesting. Hopefully, something would blow up.

 

They passed a group of scientists discussing something excitedly yet quietly to themselves. The group kept glancing at the duo and then turning back to their discussion.

 

MJ rolled her eyes and gently jabbed Shuri’s side to get the other girl’s attention.

 

“What are you nerds gossiping about?” MJ asked, raising her eyebrow slightly. The group froze. One scientist smacked another on the arm and gestured for him to say something. He shot her back a helpless look.

 

“Oh come on, we don’t have all day,” Shuri added playfully. The group, again, shared unsure glances.

 

“Well, we were trying to decide what Hogwarts house you guys would be in,” A girl answered finally. “Shuri, you must be a Ravenclaw. And MJ, you too, or a Gryffindor?”

 

The girls smirked at each other before looking back at the group.

 

“Oh sweeties, we’re both Slytherins,” MJ said with a wink as she linked her elbow with Shuri’s and dragged the other girl away from the group.

 

They missed the jaws drop and wide eyes. However, they immediately heard yelling and arguing coming from the group. 

 

Both girls cackled loudly and headed to their destination. Ah, house pride.



Chapter Text

After a long day at the tower, Zach decided to head home. 

 

I mean… was it really a decision? No, more like the LDs forced him to go because it was midnight and he had 0 period bright and early tomorrow. 

 

Zach bid farewell to the few interns still on the floor before heading to the elevator. He didn’t say anything, but FRIDAY knew to take him to the lobby.

 

“Goodnight FRI, see you on Wednesday,” Zach said to the AI sending her a wave.

 

“Goodnight, Mr. Cooper.”

 

Andrea was gone at the point, of course, and Zach felt a little empty to leave without Andrea’s usual goodbye. He stepped through security when suddenly alarms started going off. The remaining security guards immediately moved to block his exit.

 

“Protocol My Precious. Protocol My Precious,” FRIDAY called loudly through the ceiling.

 

“What the..” Zach murmured as Charlotte, one of the on shift Omega LDs, came running out of the elevator.

 

She looked at the commotion near the door and a confused look struck her face. “Zach?”

 

“Charlotte? What’s happening?”

 

The LD slowed down to approach Zach and the security guards. 

 

“It’s okay, boys,” Charlotte said to the security guards, shooting them a smile.

 

“Lottie, it's the protocol,” The security Zach recognized as Monty argued. Charlotte crossed her arms and shot him a look.

 

“It’s fine, Mo. I’m sure it was a mistake,” Charlotte said, smiling gently at Zach. Zach gave a nervous smile back.

 

The guards hesitantly let go, yet still blocked the entrance.

 

“Zach, is it possible you took something from a lab or a tool before you left?” Charlotte asked the boy, keeping her voice calm and encouraging.

 

“Um, I don’t know. Let me check my backpack."

 

He fumbled to open it and started digging around. His hand hit a cool, metal object. A frown hit his face as he wrenched it out. It was a pair of tongs.

 

The blood drained from Zach’s face. “Shit, I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to take it. Here-”

 

He shoved it out towards her.  “Take it!”

 

Charlotte giggled slightly and shot him an amused smile. Gently, she took the tongs from his hands.

 

“It’s alright, Zach. I know it was an accident. Just be sure to check your bag before you leave next time, okay?”

 

“Yes, of course. Thank you, Charlotte,” He said, giving her a short hug. She hugged him back then pushed him towards the door.

 

“Goodnight, Zach. Get home safe,” She called, her eyes not leaving him as he walked out of the entrance.

 

He sighed out in relief. That could have been a disaster.