The first sign of trouble came at lunch two days before it happened.
“Hey Ned, do you want my sandwich?” Peter asked, pushing his lunch away. The smell of it alone made him want to puke his guts out, but he couldn’t bear to have it go to waste. Mr. Delmar had finally been able to reopen his deli, and Peter had spent every Sunday for the last three months helping him paint and clean and reorganize before opening day. Not to mention, he used his “internship” to pull some strings with the Avengers and have Spider-man endorse his store. There had been a line out the door every day for weeks! Claiming he had nobody but Peter to thank, Mr. Delmar had a delivery boy bring a few sandwiches once a week, plus anything Peter wanted, supposedly, was free (although, Peter never took him up on the generous in-store discount, even if he was only buying a pack of gum).
“Again?” Ned asked, taking the bag and passing it to MJ across the table. She grinned madly for a moment before pushing her bare tray aside in favor of the free lunch. “Why even pack it if you know you aren’t going to eat it?”
Peter sighed. “I don’t want May to think I’m being ungrateful. Or worse, think something is going on.” He paused, taking a sip of his water, “Nothing is going on, I just… I dunno, I’m not very hungry recently.”
Ned dropped his voice to a whisper. “You’re eating something before patrolling, right? Please tell me you are.”
Peter nodded slowly, taking another gulp. “Yeah, Ned, I’m not a total idiot. I just don’t have a huge appetite lately. I dunno why. I’m sure it’ll be fine in a few more days. Until then, you and MJ keep getting free lunches.”
“Alright man,” Ned said, before dropping to a whisper again, “Just promise your guy in the chair that you’ll be safe out there, okay?”
Peter smiled, jokingly shoving his shoulder. “For sure.”
The next sign of trouble came that night. Peter had had a pretty uneventful night of patrolling. It wasn’t until he got home that he figured the night had been worse than he thought. Sure, he didn’t remember getting hit in the stomach, but why else would the dull ache be there? With his healing factor, it would be gone in a thirty minutes tops.
Except, it wasn’t. The pain persisted.
Peter had a slight dizzy spell in the shower, not anything too major, but bad enough that he had to sit down, hot water spraying his head for several minutes before he turned off the faucet and dragged himself out and to his bed, a fitful sleep greeting him soon after.
He woke in the middle of the night, the pain having migrated from just beside his belly button to the right side of his abdomen. He groaned, clutching at his stomach as the familiar feeling of nausea that had plagued him for a week already came crawling back. He leaned over the side of his bed and vomited, hot and thick and surprisingly a lot considering how little he had eaten in the past few days. The sound woke May, who stumbled in with a wet towel and thermometer soon after.
“What hurts, tough guy?” She asked, voice soft and comforting amidst the darkness and heat of fever.
“Jus’…” he paused to swallow the lump in his throat. “Just my stomach, Aunt May. I’m sure it’ll be fine in the morning.”
She slipped the thermometer between his lips, frowning the second the reading came back. “Alright. 99.8ºF. I’m not so sure about you going to school tomorrow Peter. I know you have a think with Mr. Stark tomorrow for the internship but these things can always be rescheduled.”
Peter felt anxiety creeping up his sides. This could not be rescheduled. Peter was going to train with Tony himself tomorrow. Normally he trained with a simulator, or with Black Widow at best (which he loved, but c’mon, the chance to beat the shit out of Mr. Stark for Avengers purposes? He could not pass this chance up).
No, no Peter could not miss this. He couldn’t mess this up. He could imagine the interaction now:
“Mr. Stark, I have to cancel, I threw up…”
“What’s the matter kid, scared?”
Nope. Peter simply could not let that or any variation of it happen. So, he lied.
“I hate to do this to you, Aunt May,” he breathed. “But I have three tests tomorrow and two of them are Advanced Placement.”
She groaned and replaced the cap on the thermometer. “Do you think it’s just nerves, Peter?”
He nodded, sitting up. “I’m feeling better already, May, I promise.”
“Alright… but you promise me that if you feel even the slightest bit sick tomorrow morning, you’ll text me, okay?”
Peter nodded, and spent the rest of the night awake, clutching his stomach and dry heaving against his pillow to muffle the sound.
The third sign of danger came after third period. Peter and Ned had Spanish together after second period, and Peter had a difficult phone call to make.
“You need to come get me.” He swallowed thickly. “I’m sitting in math and if I put on my backpack I am going to faint.”
“What?! Oh my god, Peter, what’s wrong, is it something with Sp-”
Peter cut him off. “No, no, I’m just… I think I have the flu. I have something really important to do today at the internship and I just… I need some help to get through today. C’mon Ned, help me out here.”
Only, it wasn’t just getting Peter out of math and into Spanish. He had to carry his backpack and support him all the way there. Once Peter was siting down in class, Ned forced him to drink some water, feeling his forehead with a frown.
“You’re burning up, Peter. Don’t you think you should go home?”
Peter took another sip of his water. “No. I… I’ll be fine, really, just gotta… finish this class…”
At the last sign, it was almost too late. Peter had learned to gain a pretty high tolerance for pain. It was just what you did when you were a super hero. You sucked it up and learned not to scream when you got stabbed. But, even though Peter hadn’t been stabbed, he could feel the stab wound, raw and red-hot, and real. It felt like someone was twisting a knife in his gut, a thought that left him with a nauseous feeling alongside the pain.
Before jogging outside to meet Happy at the car, Peter was kneeling in front of a school toilet, throwing up all the water he had had in the last few hours. It was all he could do to wipe the tears from his eyes and smile for Happy the whole way to the compound. By the time he made it, he felt like he was in another world.
Everything was the tiniest bit blurry, and what felt like TV static clouded around the outskirts of his peripheral vision. Everything spun when he moved his head, each object in view leaving trails as he walked up the steps and into the building. He was sure, for a moment or two, that he heard voices, but they too were blurry around the edges, and none of the words made sense, although he knew they were English. Maybe.
Happy, what’s wrong with him?
Why are his eyes like that? Look at them, they’re glassy for Christ’s sake.
Peter, can you hear me?
Everything was spinning, spinning, spinning. His stomach throbbed painfully at the noise, at the everything around him. Before he could process any more, Peter was hunched over and throwing up again. God, even that hurt. Each retch and fast breath in felt like a punch to the gut. Hot tears spilled from his fever-dull eyes, staining pale skin and red cheeks.
Peter, fuck, can you hear me?
FRIDAY call emergency services! Call an ambulance! Call someone who can fucking treat him!
Tony, I think his appendix burst, he’ll be okay, I think he just-
Mr. Hogan is correct. Peter’s appendix burst approximately 12 minutes ago. His temperature is upwards of 103ºF and is rising. The increase in temperature is due to infection, caused by the spreading puss from the burst.
He could hear sobbing and noises but none of that mattered somehow. Someone was crying, though… shouldn’t he care about that? Why would someone be crying?
“U’cle Ben?” Peter mumbled, feeling something ice-cold against his forehead. Someone was talking to him. Someone needed him… Someone needed him right now…
Please, Peter, you don’t get to die right now! I need you, kid? Got it?
Someone needed him! He had to wake up! Wake up… wake up… but it was so quiet, and the pain was pulling him down just as his arms started to shake. The last thing Peter heard was a siren, and someone screaming his name.
When Peter came to, he was hooked up to what felt like a billion machines. He had an oxygen mask and a few IV’s, a heart monitor, and… a visitor. Tony was beside his bed, holding one of his hands firmly between his two.
“Mr. St’rk?” Peter rasped behind the mask.
“Peter!” Tony exclaimed. “I thought you were… I thought you were gonna… listen, the Avengers have caused so many deaths, kid. Death is a casualty of this job. And we’ve seen so many kids die, Pete… I couldn’t stand you being one of them.”
Peter squeezed his hand. “Mr. Stark, I’m really sorry I scared you. Everything happened so fast, and I just… well, what did happen?”
“You had appendicitis. And once you got to the tower, it burst.” Tony explained. Peter swallowed thickly. That made a lot of sense. He wished it didn’t, but it did. “You were feverish out of your mind, kid. You had no idea what was going on, no clue who we were, where you were, who you were. Scared the shit out of Happy and me.”
“I… I’m so sorry, Mr. Stark, I don’t-”
Tony cut him off, pulling Peter’s blanket back up to his chin.
“Don’t, Peter. It’s… well, it’s not okay. We didn’t know what to do. But neither did you, because shit happens. I just…”
It was bizarre to see Tony Stark open up like this. Tears pricked at the corners of Peter’s eyes.
“It felt wrong because I was trying my best, y’know, kid? Happy and I were really freaking out and you had a seizure and threw up and fell down all at once. My best wasn’t… what if my best wasn’t enough to save you? It did, but what if I was the reason you didn’t…?”
Peter squeezed Tony’s hand once more. “It’s okay, Mr. Stark. I’m okay. And your best was enough, so it’s okay.”