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Broken Crown

Chapter Text

A way out.

A second chance.

Revenge. 

And all they needed was his tech. Such a simple request for such a heavy reward. Of course he accepted. Of course he followed their rules, didn't even hesitate. 

Revenge. 

They took him to a private airstrip, gave him some warm clothes, and after the plane crossed a blue, blue ocean, they gave him a thick coat and told him: "Держите голову низко, keep your head low", of course he listened. But he managed to catch sight of a local newspaper with his pale face glaring back. A mug shot several years old.

When he asked why his name was in that newspaper, here, across the blue, blue ocean- the man escorting him simply smiled, eyes shining and teeth glimmering like a shark's after a kill.

"это конец. . . you died," the man explained with a thick enough accent that it took him a moment to understand. When he did, a thrill shivered down his spine and made him shake with adrenaline.

So this is what it felt like.

The man led him to an auto garage. Instead of getting into one of the multiple cars that sat covered in snow, he was led onto the shop, the heat hitting him like a bucket of boiling water compared to the freezing temperatures outside. They walked up to what looked like broom closet, but when the man opened it, a shiny elevator was revealed.

He barely noticed the silent ride down into the earth, his mind stuck on a spinning mantra of revenge revenge revenge.

The doors slid open with a *ping* to reveal an enormous warehouse full of massive equipment and smaller concrete rooms scattered throughout- the movement and noise, and  the overpowering smells of oil, gunpowder, and several other foreign substances filled his head. 

He was led into a small office in the corner, where they took his thick coat and offered him a seat and a drink. 

He was left in the silence of his own thoughts.

Revenge revenge revenge. . .

The thick door swung open behind him, letting a chilly draft hit the back of his neck. A man wearing an expensive suit and slicked back hair slid behind the desk before him with the smile of a man who was just offered the world.

I used to look like that.

"Justin Hammer. So wonderful to finally meet you. I followed your work very closely back in the day," the man said neatly, smile unnaturally white, "I work for some people with very similar interests to yours. We are called Hydra, and we will give you what you want, if you help us get what we want."

"All I want is Tony Stark's blood," Hammer gritted out, setting the untouched drink on the desk.

"And we can get it for you . Very soon, in fact," the man said with a glimmer in his eyes akin to that of a madman, "but what do you say we hit him where it hurts most? Break him down a bit first. Then bring him right to us, where you can exact your revenge with gusto."

Revenge revenge revenge. . .

A smile crept onto Hammer's face, pulling his lips into a replica of the man's before him. Madman.

"Where it hurts most?"

"The boy he's 'mentoring'. They've gotten quite close. Treats him almost as if he's a son. It would be a pity to take that away from him. "

"Such a pity," he repeated softly. 

"Do we have a deal?" The man asked, stretching a hand before him to shake.

"We do."

They shook hands.

Revenge.

Revenge.

Revenge.

Madmen.

Chapter Text

It was Friday, movie night at Ned's house.

Normally, Peter would be bouncing off the walls (literally) with excitement.

Normally, May would have made her famous caramel popcorn that, impossibly, tasted nothing like caramel popcorn.

And normally, MJ would complain and rant about how she couldn't believe she was friends with such nerds but would end up enjoying herself anyway.

But tonight was not 'normally'.

Peter cursed as he inspected his dirty reflection in a puddle in the ally where he crouched. His mask was torn above the right eye lens, his skin bloody and bruised beneath sweat soaked hair.

He would have to take it to Mr. Stark to get it fixed before his next patrol. Which he totally didn't mind, but he had just been to the compound on Tuesday and he didn't want to bother Mr. Stark that much. Or Happy, for that matter. He'd been especially annoyed on Tuesday, and an unhappy Happy just didn't sit well with Peter. Especially if he had to sit with him for a long period of time in a cramped car.

"Karen do you think I can stitch the mask up until I can take it to Mr. Stark in a couple days?"

"I would not recommend it. If you don't want to damage the suit more, the best action would be to contact Tony Stark."

"Great."

"Would you like me to call him now?"

He's gonna kill me for ruining it so soon. Not even a week, this is a new record.

Peter stood on sore legs, "No, no that's alright Karen. I'll just take it to him tomorrow. Mark it as my official death date 'kay?

"Alright."

"Wait no. With my luck that might actually come true. Delete that, quick," he insisted, shooting a web at the nearest lamp post and swinging to the top of a nearby office building.

"Alright, Peter," Karen said.

Peter could swear she was laughing at him sometimes, and wondered for the hundredth time if Mr. Stark had upgraded his AI enough that they had developed their own personalities. He wouldn't be surprised.

"Incoming call from "Guy in the Chair" Do you want me answer?"

"Yeah, thanks."

A picture of Ned wearing a storm trooper helmet showed up on the screen and his excited voice blasted Peter's sensitive ears.

"Dude! Where are you?! Mom ordered stuffed crust and it's already here and guess what? You aren't."

"Sorry man, there was a robbery on 5th and then a truck crashed into a bus and it caught on fire and I was there so I just, you know, saved like two dozen people from exploding. No biggie."

"What? Did you get any video? Did any girls ask for pictures with you? Did anyone die?" Ned asked frantically, a small crash echoing in the background.

"No one died. Geez, Ned. And stuffed crust? Is there bacon on it?" Peter asked, mood lifting dramatically. 

"Sorry, sorry. Yeah, she got the Everything pizza. When will you be here? MJ said she'd be here in a minute."

"I'll be there in like half an hour. I still need to go home and shower and stuff." 

"Fine but hurry."

"See ya Ned."

Karen cut the call. 

Peter considered patrolling for a few more minutes, but the start of a serious adrenaline crash combined with the ever-growing ache in his limbs told him he would regret it if he did. Besides, the wound on his head still hadn't stopped bleeding sluggishly and even if he didn't have a concussion, he knew that bleeding continuously wasn't ideal when chasing bad guys around New York's twists and turns. 

The thought of passing out between his two best friends with damp, clean hair and empty pizza boxes at their feet with Star Wars playing in the background became increasingly more inviting as he swung towards his apartment.

By the time he stumbled into the ally at the foot of his building, he was bone-tired and more than ready to knock out on his bed. But he had missed last week's movie night as well and there was a reason he had agreed with May that every Friday night he would give himself a break from patrol to hang out with his friends and lead the life of a "normal teen". Though he suspected it was more to give her a break from the emotional stress than to give him a break.

 He didn't mind though. Between school and Spiderman-ing around the Big Apple, he enjoyed having time with his closest friends. Though it didn't stop that little voice from nagging at this conscience all night.

Just as he was about to climb the brick to get to his window, his spider-sense zapped to life with frightening force, causing him to drop and roll into a defensive position in the ally corner, eyes wide. A man crouched where he had just been standing- as if he had just jumped from the roof of the opposite apartment, a small black box held in a gloved hand.

Peter glanced up, expecting to see a rope or something. This guy couldn't have jumped from that height unless he was enhanced in some way.

The hairs on the back of the arachnid's neck quivered as another man  dropped next to the first, a similar device in his own hands. Black face masks covered the bottom half of their faces and they wore thin helmets. With his enhanced hearing, Peter could faintly hear a tinny voice coming from an earpiece in each of their ears. It wasn't speaking English.

"Hey guys. What're you doing here?" He tried, forcing his voice steady, keeping his hands up. He didn't dare look up but he desperately wanted to check his apartment to see if May was alright. "You know the dojo is a couple blocks down. Bright Red. Can't miss it."


"Заткнись! You come with us," guy number one growled menacingly. His accent was thick, and Peter had trouble understanding at first.

"Yeah, no-can-do man. Sorry, It's movie night with my friends and they ordered my favorite pizza-"

"You will come with us. . . or your Тетя will not finish that episode of Бачлоретте," the second man interrupted calmly. His accent was less pronounced.

Peter's entire body went cold, adrenaline spiking. His fight or flight response went haywire, legs tensing to run and hands itching to punch their lights out. He swallowed his fear, shifting his weight from foot to foot, ready to pounce.

"How do you know where I live?" He asked hesitantly as they each took a step closer, raising the boxes that made his spider-sense shriek in the back of his skull.

"We've known about you for a long time, Peter. Longer, even, than Tony Stark."

The first man spit on the ground at his mentor's name and Peter felt his heart race even faster.

"Peter are you alright?" Karen's concerned voice interrupted, "your vitals show your heartbeat is 27% higher than its normal speed during your patrols."

Peter didn't have time to answer his AI, as one of the men suddenly leapt forward, jabbing the black box at his ribs. With a yelp Peter jumped back, only to find himself backed against a brick wall. The box was sizzling like a bug zapper, an irony Peter was too panicked to care about at the moment.

Man number two  came from the other side as number one righted himself. Peter kicked number one in the head as he jumped over him, narrowly missing a swing from two. One howled in pain, gripping his ear where Peter could hear the broken earpiece emitting a high-pitched screach. Two grabbed Peter's arm as he landed, throwing a knee into his side with an audible *crack*. Peter bit his cheek to keep from screaming, dropping his body to the concrete and kicking  two's legs from beneath him as he scrambled away. 

Away from May. 

Away from the boxes. 

Heaving himself up with a grunt he started to run, but a fist caught him in the jaw just as he reached the end of the ally- sending him crashing into the brick wall.

 A third man had dropped from the rooftops, possibly a lookout or simply backup. This guy had to be enhanced, because Peter lay sprawled in agony, clutching his bloody jaw. He had never felt this kind of pain before. Raw and constant- it flashed hot through his skull and neck- thoughts unintelligible as a scream forced itself past the sudden swelling if his throat and mouth. 

His mouth was flooding with  blood and he  could only watch through tears as two helped one up, still grasping his ear. Three grabbed his own box, crouching next to the boy. 

"The little паук not so strong, hey?" he chuckled darkly, reaching out with the box, pressing it between Peter's exposed ribs. Every muscle in his body suddenly tensed, scrambling his brain as he jerked on the dirty concrete as if he was having a seizure. He couldn't move, couldn't make a sound, as he writhed before the men.

 Finally the man removed the box, and Peter's muscles went completely lax, almost paralyzed. He watched absently as one of the men brought out handcuffs and a black piece of fabric, the shadows around them blurring as he faded into unconsciousness. 

Chapter Text

It was either the change of altitude pressure or the noise that brought Peter to sudden awareness.

The first thing he noticed was the nauseating pain pulsing from his jaw into his skull. The entire left side of his face felt swollen and stiff, and he didn't think he'd be able to move it if he wanted to.

The second thing he noticed were his arms- crossed and tied uncomfortably tight against his torso with hot layers of fabric. Terrified of what he'd find if he opened his eyes, he tried curling his fingers into a fist. With the realization that even his hands were being held flat his eyes flew open in panic.

It took him a minute to focus on his entrapment, and once he did he had to force himself to close his eyes and take several deep breaths.

A straight jacket.

He's wearing a straight jacket. 

He's tied to an airplane seat with thick cables, wearing a straight jacket.

I'm gonna throw up.

"Settle down, breathe паук. Here is some water,"  a gravelly voice urged quietly.

Peter rolled his heavy head against the seat and glared up at the blurry shape before him, forcing his eyes to focus against the  bright lights of the private jet's open windows.

A plastic straw touched his chapped lips and Peter turned his head away, grunting his discontent.

The man's calloused fingers gripped his chin and forced his head back up, unbidden tears springing to the boy's eyes as pain erupted from his jaw with the rough handling.

"You have a concussion and a dislocated jaw. Maisha set it for you. Drink, it will help you feel better, little  паук."

Peter reluctantly let the man lift the straw to his lips and drank as many sips as he could until he felt like he was going to throw it back up. The water felt textured on his heavy tongue and he idly wondered what kind of  drugs he'd just drank willingly.

The arachnid let his head drop in exhaustion as the cup fell away. The man left, and Peter passed out again.

* * *

 

Tony groaned in frustration.

Nothing was going his way, and it was getting dangerous.

This was probably the worst thing he'd done in a while. . . and that was saying something.

"Three sevens."

"Bullshit."

Clint threw his hands up in disbelief, "How the fuck do you do this? That's the seventh time in a row!"

Natasha grinned smugly, pushing the huge stack of cards his way, "Read 'em and weep, bird brains. We all have our secrets."

"It's always the Russians, I swear," he grumbled, adding the stack to his already impressive collection.

Tony regarded the blonde assassin's three cards to his five. If he didn't play this right, she'd win and they would have to buy her food whenever she felt like it for the next month. He could physically feel the stress rolling off Clint in waves.

Just as Tony was about to set his carefully selected cards down he noticed Nat's sly glance at Wanda, who was methodically stirring her smoothie from the kitchen.

"Now hold on, I call absolute bullshit," Tony protested loudly, pointing an accusing finger at Nat as he threw his cards down, "the rules are no powers, you cheaters!"

Natasha sniggered as Wanda choked on her smoothie laughing.

"Hey, I never used powers, so it doesn't count," Natasha defended as Clint stared at the two with a look of absolute betrayal.

"I can't believe this," Tony waxed dramatically as Pepper walked into the kitchen, "Pepper, I think we need to re-evaluate our lives. Apparently, we've been housing liars and cheaters under our roof."

The redhead mumbled something about 12% of a roof and Wanda nearly choked again.

"Babe, your closest friends are assassins and spies. I think you're a bit past the point of no return," she pointed out.

"And now we know all your dirty secrets, so you're stuck with us. Sorry Stark," Nat shrugged, laughing.

Tony huffed, getting up and kissing Pepper on the cheek as he started the coffee machine for round two.

"Friday, remind me to never play Bullshit or any other card game with my stowaway spies, will you?"

"You got it boss," the AI replied from the ceiling.

"Since nobody won or lost is the bet off?" Clint asked hopefully.

"Clint, I already pay for everyone to eat around here," Tony pointed out as Nat stuck her tongue out at the archer.

"In that case can I order some doughnuts?" Wanda requested.

"Order whatever you want. Within reason. I'm going back down to the lab. I have actual work to do, unlike you people."

"So early?" Pepper asked, watching him pour a mug of coffee with a raised eyebrow, "You know it's Saturday, right?"

"Genius never rests, Pep. You should know."

She grinned, kissing him, "No I don't, because I have a bad habit called 'sleeping'. You should try it sometime."

"Mmm, bad habits are the best," Clint hummed from where he was picking up the cards.

"Catch you children later," he called over his shoulder as he headed to the elevator.

_

A few hours later Friday interrupted his tinkering.

"Excuse me boss."

"Yeah Fri?" He wiped oil-greased hands on his already filthy jeans.

"Incoming call from May Parker."

Tony froze, frantically trying to remember if he'd said anything to Peter on Tuesday that would get him in trouble with The Boss. Mentally he started preparing himself in case May was in one of her moods.

"Put it up on the main speaker, thanks."

There was a *click* signifying the call was answered.

"What's the kid done this time?" He asked with mock exasperation. When he didn't get an immediate reprimand he sat up straighter and stared at the ceiling, waiting for May to address this week's fuck up.

"May? C'mon, it can't be that bad?" He inquired, though Tony knew full well it could be, which is why he was pulling up the suit's data charts as he spoke.

After another few moment's silence there was another *click*.

"The call has ended," Friday informed Tony.

Tony stared speechless at the ceiling.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"That's not worrying at all," he mumbled, studying the charts before him. Peter wasn't wearing it at the moment, which wasn't surprising as it was nine thirty on a Saturday morning and Peter was, in fact, a teenager.

Everything seemed normal. Did May just accidentally call him? As unlikely as it seemed, it was possible. Still, the silence rang in his ears like a bad sign. Like the calm before the storm. He called Happy.

"Hey, Hap, have you heard from Parker lately?"

"Did you seriously just wake me up to go get the kid?" The body guard grumbled, sounding very much like he would love to strangle Tony over the phone.

"No, I don't need you to get him I was just wondering," Tony chuckled.

"You couldn't wonder at a later time?"

"Nope."

He groaned, "Fine, let me check."

After a few seconds of Tony drumming his fingers on his thighs nervously Happy finally sighed and spoke.

"Yeah last night around ten he sent me a text saying he was going on a school trip with May."

Tony paused. That didn't sound right.

"Can you read it to me?"

There was a moment of dead silence and Tony could almost hear Happy considering other job options in his head.

He must have decided the economy was too messed up to quit right now, because he begrudgingly repeated the text aloud: "'Hey Happy, I just got home. I forgot to tell you that I'm going on a field trip with my school tomorrow and May is coming with us. Tell Tony that I won't be available for the next couple days. Sorry.' Then there are some of those stupid pictures he uses too much."

"They're called emojis, Hap," Tony said distractedly, turning the text's words over in his head. They seemed legit. Maybe he was just being paranoid.

"Why do you want to know?"

"Aunt Hottie just butt-dialed me. It was strange."

"First, don't call her that. It's weird. Second, he called me after school yesterday to bother me. He sounded fine then," Happy grunted. He sounded more awake now.

"I know. I guess I'm just being paranoid."

"Wow I'm telling Pepper about this. 'Tony Stark Becomes Self Aware.' I can already hear the news-networks shitting themselves."

"Don't be a jerk, Hap. I'll see you later," Tony smirked, rolling his eyes as the call ended.

Half an hour later May's call was still bothering him, but he refused to call the kid himself. That would be overstepping the line between 'paranoid' and 'parent'. Which he wasn't. Totally not.

After debating with himself for a few more minutes, Tony decided to let it slide. The suit's data was normal. Peter did go on school trips quite often, and May wasn't storming into his lab.

So everything must be fine.

Right?

***

May was not fine.

In fact, she was pissed.

Last night around ten Peter had texted telling her that he was fine and that he was staying over at Ned's for their weekly movie night. She reminded him that it was fine so long as he got back in the morning, because their sweet old neighbor across the hall was moving in the morning and needed help with her boxes and things.

It was almost eight thirty in the morning when she decided to call him and tell him to hurry his butt up, but he didn't answer. Nor did he answer her texts. A shot of worry slithered down her spine, but she ignored it, figuring his phone was probably just dead.

It was like that a lot these days. The worry over every little out-of-the-ordinary thing. The stress gnawing at her nerves every waking moment that she didn't know where he was. Sitting across his room with his door open and the local news playing in the background as she wondered if her boy would make it through the window that night.

She knew he had good reasons to be out there as much as he was. And she had so much respect for it. In fact, sometimes she became so overwhelmed with the fact that this was her kid- her kid whom she had raised for the better part of his life and had so much of Ben in him it made her want to cry.

But it was almost nine now, and she was pissed because he had promised to be here, and now sweet Mrs. Smith had to call a moving company.

Huffing into the fridge before shutting it forcefully, she pulled out her phone again.

That kid better have the excuse of his life when he gets home.

She called Ned's mother, but only got the answering machine because she was at work. Next she tried Ned, forcing herself to remain civil as it rang a few times.

"Mrs. Parker?" His confused, groggy voice mumbled over the line.

"Hi, Ned. How are you doing?"

"I'm great, just woke up so I'm kinda hungry. How are you doing?"

"I'm fine. Hey, I have a question, hun. Is Peter there with you?"

There was a confused pause, "Uhh, no. Actually, he never made it last night either. He said something came up."

May felt like a bucket of ice water had just been dumped over her head.

"Did he mention what it was?" She asked slowly.

"No it was just a short text saying sorry. You know, he missed last week's movie night too," he rambled, unaware of May's worried silence, "if he keeps this up there won't even be a weekly movie night. So uncool. But I guess if he's missing it because of his Spiderman-ly duties it's alright though-"

"I'll tell him you missed him when he gets home, if he calls can you let me know, please?"

"Uh, yeah. I guess so. Is he alright?"

"Honestly, I'm not sure right now. Just let me know okay?"

"Yeah sure, Mrs. Parker," he agreed hastily.

"Thank you, Ned."

She ended the call, staring at her phone, unsure what to do. There was a sudden crash outside the door and she jumped, standing from where she'd been sitting at the table to see if the Movers were here already.

But when she opened the door nobody was in the hall. Funny, it had sounded like it was right outside her door. The echo of the crash in her ears and the emptiness of the hall left her feeling exposed so she quickly closed her door again, turning the lock after a moment's hesitation. 

She walked back to her previous seat and not a second after she sat back down, she heard Peter's window slide open with deliberate slowness. Though she new it was Peter, she still felt uneasy, the sound in the hall still on her mind, as she jumped up again and walked to his room. 

Phone clutched in hand she gripped his door handle and inched it open, fearing the worst. What she saw at the window made her freeze.

It wasn't Peter.

It was a large man dressed in all black, gun strapped to his leg; he shut the window behind him with finality. 

He turned and stared at her with a wicked gleam in his eye. 

May slammed the door shut and ran into the kitchen, heart pounding against her chest. The man was seconds behind her and she grabbed the closest knife she could find, long and sharp and covered in last night's dinner, and swung at him with all her might, catching him on the cheek and spraying crimson blood all over her pristine cupboards. 

He snarled and grabbed her arm, yanking her to him with inhuman strength. She screamed and bit his arm as hard as she could, tasting copper. As he yanked his hand away she kicked him in the crotch and sprinted down the hall into her room, slamming the door shut and locking it, shoving an armchair in front of the handle.

Frantically she grabbed her phone, hitting the first name on her emergency contact list. 

It rang once and she could hear the man stomping down the hall.

It rang twice and she heard a noise behind her.

It rang three times and before she could scream, another man had her by the neck, cutting off her air.

"Заткнись!" He demanded, yanking  her back against him as the phone fell to the floor, Tony Stark's face glowing up at them.

It rang four times and Tony answered.

 Asked a question. 

And another.

May sobbed in terror, the man's other hand clamped solidly on her mouth as he reached down and slowly, silently, pressed the "hang up" button. 

The original man kicked the door once, it shook on its hinges. Then twice, and it crashed down next to where the second man held his struggling captive, chair flying to hit the opposite wall. 

The man brought out a small black box, fiddled with something on the side, pressed it to her neck. 

And after a moment of her entire body seizing in pain, she was out cold. 

Chapter Text

Thirst, like a desert before it's monsoon season, plagued Peter's every waking thought. As the fog in his brain lifted, he ran a dry tongue across his teeth in an effort to get rid of the sewer taste in his mouth, smacking chapped lips.

Slowly he took stock of his body. His jaw was stiff but the pain had dropped from 'crippling' to 'noticeable', his ribs felt normal- the man's kick must not have damaged them too bad. And there was no way to decide whether or not the concussion had faded.  All in all he felt in fighting shape, which  was great because he had no clue where he was- but he knew whoever these people were,  they couldn't want anything good.   

The sound of shuffling papers reached his ears and he tensed, tearing his eyes open. Blinding lights pierced his skull and he squinted at the man sitting behind a desk before him, startling when they focused.

The man was staring  at him with bloodshot, sunken eyes. They contrasted heavily with his pale face, almost as if he were ill.  The man's lips curled  into a permanent sneer.

The worst part about him wasn't his ghostly appearance or his ill-fitting white lab coat, it was the  sense of familiarity Peter got when he looked into  the man's eyes, gleaming with the sick determination and malice of a madman.

"Who are you?" Peter croaked.

The man cocked his head to the side as if analyzing a new specimen, and Peter shivered under his gaze.

"Your healing factor is amazing," he said softly, eyeing the arachnid's bruises, "You had a severe dislocation of your temporomandibular joint, an injury that would take any normal person over five weeks to heal completely."

He stood from behind the paper-covered desk, shuffling to where Peter sat handcuffed to a metal chair, running frigid fingertips over the black and blue bruising. Peter jerked his head away, disgust riding up his dry throat. 

He drew away, amused, and leaned against the desk, "And you are healed in under two."

Peter regarded the man hesitantly, "Answer my question."

"I'm a man who can help you, Peter."

The boy's spider sense tingled on the back of his neck, and he agreed with it wholeheartedly. Whatever the man had to offer, it was bad news. He needed to get away.

He quickly analyzed the room. One door, no windows, concrete on all sides, a desk screwed into the floor with one metal stool. There was a camera blinking in the corner facing him. But they had only locked him up with one set of handcuffs, so either they didn't know his full strength, or they were hoping he was still concussed.

"Unless you can get me one of Delmar's sandwiches and a ticket home, there's nothing you have to offer, pal," Peter replied, forcing down the thrill of hope from the knowledge of the handcuffs. 

The man cocked his head to the side again, shoving his hands into his jacket like a nervous habit. The movement sparked another sense of recognition.

 "My name is Justin Hammer."

Peter's jaw dropped, and he stared at the world-renowned weapons manufacturer and supposed dead man standing in front of him. 

"But. . .you- you-re dead! They showed pictures of your corpse! How-?"

"Four days ago I committed suicide by arson. And no one in the world mourned my passing," he sat back behind the desk, voice filled with loathing, "Only thanks to one Tony Stark. I'm told you're close to him?"

Peter's mind reeled at the information, a new horror rising in his gullet. Slowly he began rotating his wrists in the tight cuffs, preparing to snap the metal.

"Not really, he's not the type to sit and chat over brunch you know?"

"Oh? Then who made you that fancy suit?" Hammer gestured to the door, voice mocking, "A fellow vigilante? Or maybe your aunt?"

Well, now I know it's here.

"Found it at a local thrift shop, actually. With a matching scarf. Three bucks, Couldn't believe my luck."

Hammer snarled, "Stop mouthing off and give me a straight answer. That suit has Stark's stench all over it."

"That's probably just B.O." Peter snarked, arms tensing, "I missed laundry day because a bunch of thugs managed to kidnap me."

The man took a deep breath before grounding out: "Peter Parker, I have a proposal."

"Funny, I do too. I'll go first-"

 He snapped the cuffs, thrusting the chair over his head at Hammer, who was knocked off the stool and onto the concrete floor, knocked out instantly. Peter leapt over the table with stiff limbs and threw the door open, suddenly overwhelmed with the  stench of chemicals and heavily oiled machinery. 

Gagging, he ignored the massive warehouse filled with bustling activity and located a glowing exit sign above a door several yards from where he stood. Heart racing, he sprinted through it and down a long brightly lit hall that reminded him of a hospital. There were still no windows in sight. 

A realization hit as he ran- this place must be below ground, so he wouldn't find any windows. 

Up.

I need an elevator.

Several men crashed into the hall behind him and he skidded down another corridor- right past an elevator. Now that he knew where one was, he just had to lose these guys without drawing more attention. Maybe find his suit while he was at it. Also, not dying would be nice.

Peter felt frustration kick in as the men shouted in a foreign language behind him, drawing more attention from those in the surrounding rooms. 

A bulky man stepped out in front of him and Peter slammed him with all the strength he could muster, sending him flying into another set of doors. Peter vaulted over his body and through the doors, heart slamming into his ribs as his mind frantically tried to think of a plan. 

This would be so much easier with his web shooters. 

There. A stairwell. 

Up. 

He ran up several steps at a time, blocking out the sound of foreign shouts and heavy booted feet clomping up the stairs just behind him.  He counted five floors until he reached a door with a small gated window at it's center.

Throwing it open, he was met with a gust of freezing wind. It was snowing heavily, and he was barefoot. Panting, he looked out at the pure white street before him with dismay, the shouts behind him bringing him out of his shock. 

He ran down the street, feet numb and eyes watering, and ducked into an alley. 

"Fuck," It was a dead end. 

 He panted heavily, frigid air burning his lungs. In the distance he could hear the door banging open, pursuers spilling out onto the street. 

He jogged to the very end of the narrow alley, setting his hands on the frozen, dirty brick. 

They stuck.

He started climbing the wall, limbs numb with the cold, until he clambered over the edge and tumbled to the  snow covered roof, curling into a shivering ball near the raised ledge.

He could hear the men below him, probably following his foot prints in the fresh snow. He felt frustration build up behind his eyes. 

He wanted to scream. Cry. Punch a wall. 

He wanted May. Or better, Mr. Stark. He would be able to save him, get him away from the dead-eyed Justin Hammer without a second thought.

 "мальчик! иди сюда!" A deep voice demanded from the alley below him.

Peter could already feel the cold seeping into his bones. He would get hypothermia if he stayed out here in nothing but a thin t-shirt and jeans.

"паук! Come down!" Another voice commanded. 

The only other time he'd felt this trapped was when several tons of concrete had collapsed on top of him-he could feel the familiar dredges of panic flowing through his adrenaline-pumped veins. 

He had no suit, no cover from the cold, no money, and no way to contact Mr. Stark. Which meant the only way to stay alive was to go back, but after this he had no clue if they'd actually keep him alive. He didn't even know what they wanted from him.

The boy sat there, shaking and panting, only barely noticing several of the men had climbed to the roof and were lumbering towards him. 

What could he do? Fight, run, and most likely die. Or go with them and think of some other way to escape and contact Tony.

He ignored his spider-sense shrieking in the back of his skull, ignored the twitch of his leg muscles screaming at him to get his ass away from this place, and curled tighter into himself, waiting for the inevitable. 

"не двигайся, паук," one of the men demanded. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a black box, like the one used on him back home, in the man's hand. He flinched away but the man grabbed him by the hair, jerking him to stand up as he jammed the device into his back. This time the seizing of his muscles only lasted a few seconds before he went completely limp, falling to the snow-covered roof, paralyzed.

Peter squeezed damp eyes shut as one of the men heaved him over his shoulder like a rag doll, walking to the other side of the roof and down a fire escape. Back to the building and down an elevator, through the massive room that made his senses go haywire, and dumped his limp form on the concrete floor in a different room than the one he had woken up in. 

He fought hard to remember how to breath, chest constricting like a vise. He couldn't move a single muscle, and his nerves felt like they were on fire, shooting waves of pain through his sore body. 

The boy's head hung heavy on his neck as they handcuffed him to a chair bolted into the floor, another man wrapping duct tape around his wrists and ankles, effectively rendering him immovable to the metal frame.

All but one of the men left the room, and he stood before Peter.

"дурачить не считаются благородными. It will not happen a second time, паук," he admonished, ripping a small piece of the tape and sticking it over the boy's mouth. He left, leaving the arachnid in heavy silence.

Peter's struggle to fill his lungs with oxygen multiplied tenfold as he forced some shaky breathes through his nose. His limbs began to tingle with feeling again, and he relished in the ability to move his freezing fingers. 

The door opened and he wondered if they changed their minds and decided to kill him instead. 

He looked up to once again see Justin Hammer standing before him. 

The man had a freshly-bandaged cut on his forehead, and he looked absolutely livid. He clutched Peter's suit in his hands and Peter's heart skipped a beat at the sight of the red and blue fabric. 

Hammer regarded Peter's heaving form slumped sweaty in the chair, a wicked gleam in his eyes as he dropped the suit on the ground between them. 

"Everything I had ever worked for in my life," he murmured dangerously, "was ripped from me by the hands of Tony Stark. He left me to rot in jail. . .to be forgotten. My legacy crumbled to ruins."

He pulled a canister out of his jacket pocket, slowly unscrewing it as he spoke. 

"But then, Hydra came to me offering revenge. Offering redemption. My mistakes- my old identity- were  wiped clean with fire."

The cap came off and the scent of gasoline filled Peter's nose.   He watched in silent horror as the container was tipped and Hammer began soaking the suit in the substance.

"This is your saving grace, Peter. I'm offering you a new life. A second chance."

Hammer tossed the empty container on the ground, bringing out a match box. Peter struggled against his bonds with what little range of motion he had gained back, strangled sounds escaping from behind the tape as he watched, hopeless. 

"No more working with that pompous liar and thief. Proud of all the lives he's ruined. Tony Stark rules your life with this suit, Peter," he lifted a match out of the box with long, pale fingers, "I'm gifting you with freedom."

Peter's eyes widened and he jerked against his bindings as the match struck the box, igniting with a *hiss*.

 Hammer let go. 

Peter's breath caught in his throat as he watched the match fall as though in slow motion, heart faltering as it touched the soaked fabric.

Fire consumed the suit as though it were starving.

Peter's scream caught in his throat as he watched his only chance at freedom shrivel and melt mere feet in front of him. Heat caressed his skin like an abusive lover. 

The suit  popped and sparked as it burned-the crimson light of flames accentuating the deep lines of Hammer's face, dark eyes reflecting the inferno's dance of death.

He grinned.

Peter could feel tears soaking  his face,  vision blurring as he watched the flames start to sputter out, leaving melted tech and strips of blackened fabric in it's wake.

"You will understand that it was only a matter of time before Tony dragged you down and cut you off. I'm saving you, Peter, from the fate of anyone who gets close to that man."

Peter ripped his eyes from the smoldering pile, forcing himself to breathe through thick smoke and gasoline filling his nose. He felt sick, gut twisting on itself. His body shook without his permission, muscles so tense they could snap at any moment. 

I can't- It's gone. . .Tony. . .I can't. . .

Hammer pocketed the matches and regarded Peter with pity.   

"Be careful about who you trust, boy. It's a bloody world."

Chapter Text

 May woke up to the sound of a boat horn blasting through metal walls. 

Confused, she lifted her heavy head off the cold table's surface, lungs tightening when she noticed the handcuffs clamped uncomfortably tight around her wrists. They were connected to the surface of the table like the ones used in cop shows. Her glasses sat on the table before her and she hurriedly slid them on.

Her muscles screamed at the sudden awakening, shuddering in memory of the electricity used when she was taken. Panic swelled in her chest like a balloon.

"Hello?!" Her voice came out raw and terrified as she desperately looked around the small room she sat trapped in.

Its bare metal walls were barely wide enough to fit the table, the ceiling cramped close to the door frame. The door itself had one small window, which she craned her stiff neck to see out of. 

If she stretched far enough out of her seat, wrists bruising from the pull against the handcuffs, she could just barely make out a swaying blue horizon. 

Cold fear shot through her bloodstream. 

She was on a boat

In the ocean

"Hello?! What the fuck is going on?! Hello!"

The panic and sudden screaming made her head spin. Or maybe it was just the swaying of the ship. No matter the cause, she suddenly felt nauseous, stomach rebelling yesterday's breakfast. 

Was that yesterday? She had no idea. The last thing she remembers before the two men broke in was calling Ned because Peter hadn't made it home. 

Oh god. 

Peter. 

Now she felt sick for an entirely different reason. Slowly she dropped her head back to the desk surface, letting the cool metal soothe the building headache behind her eyes.

It was a long time before someone came. 

A man wearing a foreign navy uniform opened the door and slammed it shut behind him, startling May out of her daze. He held what looked like a large laptop and camera bag in his muscled arms. 

"Where am I? What's going on?" May demanded.

The man ignored her, only opened the laptop and set it on the opposite side of the desk, black screen facing her. 

"Answer me! What the fuck is going on?!" 

He might as well have been deaf for all the screaming that went unnoticed while he set the camera up on a tripod in the corner of the room. 

Just as fast as he came, he was gone again. 

Frustration replaced the panic, and she wished with every ounce of her being that she could pick this table up and flip it- laptop and all- though that would be disastrous as she was still connected to it.  Blood boiling, she sat back and inspected the camera suspiciously. It didn’t appear to be on, but she gave it a two-fingered salute just the same.

What seemed like an eternity later the door opened again, a woman sweeping into the room with an air of graceful poise and dangerous intent.

The brunette wore a pristine pant suit, the black fabric pressed to the satisfaction of the most prideful naval soldier. Sharp facial features were accentuated with a flawless shoulder-length cut, not a single hair out of place.

Something about the woman made May bristle where she sat.

 Perhaps it was the way she held herself, with the calm assurance of one in charge. Or maybe it was the way her calculating eyes shone, their ink-black depths intense in the way they seemed to absorb the light around them. The way they stared piercingly reminded May of the crows back home, the gleam in their eyes knowing and searching all at once.

The woman smiled, leaning against the metal table with one hip, resting a manicured hand on the open laptop.

“May Parker. My name is Zia Vaughn. I’m glad you’re awake,” her lightly accented voice soothed.

May raised an eyebrow at the woman, anger returning full force.

“Alright Miss Vaughn. What the fuck am I doing here? What’s going on?”

Zia didn’t react to the older woman’s seething tone, simply turned the laptop towards herself and pressed a few keys as she spoke.

“It’s ‘Mrs. Vaughn’, and you’re here to help me find my family.”

“What do you mean? I don’t even know you.”

“You don’t have to know me. You simply have to sit there and smile for the camera when we say ‘go’.”

May stared, incredulous.

The young woman continued to tap on the laptop, a small smirk curling the corner of ruby painted lips. They stood out boldly against porcelain skin, giving her an ethereal glow. Like a doll.

May was almost afraid to ask, but the question itched at the front of her mind.

“Did you take Peter too?”

Zia grinned, eyes sparkling darkly, “The человек-паук? Yes, he’s the most important piece to my puzzle.”

May balked at this dangerous stranger, bones feeling like jelly. Tony had told her that something like this could happen. Peter had even told her his fears regarding her connection to his alter-ego. But Tony had assured them both that he set up pre-cautions against these kinds of things.

“The what?” May choked around her panic, “What did you just say?”

“Человек-паук. Spiderman. He is young, yes?”

May leaned forward, a frantic fire in her eyes, “Where is he? I swear if that boy is hurt-“

“You will do what? We are in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. What can you do?”

May regarded Zia’s proud smirk, slumping when realization of just how screwed she was hit her like a truck.

Zia turned the laptop towards the other woman, revealing a static-filled video screen. The brunette walked over to the camera in the corner, stilettos clicking ominously against the concrete floor.

“Today we will not be recording you, just your voice. So don’t bother fixing your hair,” Zia remarked with a small laugh a she pressed a button on the device, “The feed is live. I will come back when it is over. Enjoy, Mrs. Parker.”

The camera’s red light blinked rhythmically.

“Enjoy what? What’s-“

But before she could finish, the static cut out to a brightly lit video. Zia’s exit went completely unnoticed to May as she stared in horror at the laptop, heart sinking to the floor.

Sitting slumped in the center of the screen was a figure locked and duct-taped tightly to a metal chair, shirt soaked in sweat and chest heaving. May felt tears welling in her eyes as the boy looked up through soaked brown curls, nose bloody and swollen, the entire left side of his face sickeningly bruised, jaw beneath his ear black and blue.

Peter.

Despite the injuries May could see a familiar fire in his eyes. A resistance to the weakness his body was visibly portraying.

May couldn’t stop the breathless whimper that escaped her lips, tears starting to flow as she watched her baby struggling on the screen.

A deep scratchy voice from behind the camera’s view rumbled something in another language, causing Peter to flinch away, shaking muscles visibly straining against the ridiculously tight bonds.

May watched helplessly as the man approached Peter with a larger version of the electric box used when she had been taken. It looked like an advanced Taser, but without the wires and nodes.

He turned towards the camera, grizzled face marred by an ugly black eye. May vaguely wondered if it had been Peter’s doing. He grinned wickedly, eyes alight with determination and malice as he fiddled with the taser. 

She lurched toward the screen as he turned and abruptly shoved it against Peter’s collarbone, eliciting a strangled scream from the boy. May sobbed as he gasped for breath, biting a swollen lip to stop from making any noise as he recovered, chest heaving.

It went on for what seemed like an eternity, May cried and screamed at the screen uselessly, begging for Zia to come back and make it stop, just stop hurting him. 

Her heart froze when her name escaped his lips, voice desperate and hazy with pain. His eyes were glossy and tear stained, body shaking as muscles spasmed from the constant shocks.

When Peter finally, mercifully passed out, chin hanging against his chest, the screen went black and May’s heart felt like it would thud straight out onto the floor. Her brain was blank of every lucid thought, just agony for her kid and distant furious confusion.

She looked down through tear-blurred eyes, noting the small drops of blood on her wrists where she had strained too hard against the cuffs. They were swollen now, the metal digging into raw flesh.

The door opened, briefly revealing a mockingly beautiful sunset reflecting against peaceful waves before Zia stepped back in, smiling brightly.

“You did amazing darling,” she cooed, turning the camera off and shutting the laptop, “bravo, I’m impressed.”

May stared at her, shaking with fury and heartache.

“Wh-y are you doing this? Where is he?” her voice broke roughly.

“He’s far, far away from here. But don’t worry, I’ve ordered them to keep him alive for now, so he’s safe.”

Far away.

For now.

Don’t hurt him. Please don’t hurt him anymore.”

Zia studied the disheveled woman with a guarded gaze, obsidian eyes harder than tempered steel.

“I will do what I must until I find my family. You know that feeling, yes? You would be willing to do anything for the boy, yes?”

May nodded miserably, looking away from the unforgiving gaze.

“I will find them, May Parker. And one boy’s life is not going to stand in my way.”

Chapter Text

Happy pushed the call through on Sunday evening. A squeaky pubescent voice piping through the speakers.  

"Tony Stark? Mr. Iron Man, sir? Ar-"

"I'm listening kid, whatever it is, just tell me you didn't hack any more of my tech," Tony mouthed 'embarrassing' at Pepper from where he sat in her office. 

"Oh, um. Wait you remember-" there was a scramble and small yelp and another voice came on the line, "Mr. Stark we need help."

"Wait who are you? Where'd Fred go?"

"It's Ned, and I'm Michelle Jones. We're Peter Parker's friends. Do you know where they are?"

Tony frowned at Pepper, who sat her desk and had been generally ignoring him the entire morning. May's call from yesterday sprung to his mind. 

"What do you mean ‘where they are’? I thought Peter said they were going on a school trip?"

"There was no school trip," her worried tone made the hair on the back of his neck spring up, "Mr. Stark I think someone broke into their apartment. There's blood on the cabinets and we can't find them anywhere."

"What?" he demanded. Standing from the couch he'd been sitting on the last hour, causing Pepper to startle and stare at him in concern. 

"Yeah their apartment is a mess. And we haven't heard from Peter since Friday night."

"Friday night . . .?"  Tony ran out of the office, towards the lab, "I want you kids out of there. Who else knows about this?"

"Just us. We were worried about him so we stopped by to check, but no one is here. Do you want us to call the cops?"

"No, just . . .meet me outside their apartment okay? Don't talk to anyone and don't do anything stupid."

"Alright."

Tony hung up and activated one of his suits, stepping into it and starting the thrusters. 

"Friday call the kid."

After it went straight to voicemail he called May- again no one answered. 

He flew to their apartment in record time, dropping to the roof and disengaging the suit, setting it on sentry mode while he climbed the fire escape to Peter's window and climbed inside. 

After sending Ned a text giving them the OK, he looked around. Nothing seemed out of place. He stepped out into the rest of the apartment. 

The lights were off, so it was dark and eerily quiet. Flipping them on, he immediately noticed the aforementioned blood spotting the cabinets. 

Upon further investigation he found a kitchen knife covered in bread crumbs and a thin splatter of dried blood on the ground. 

"Friday scan for prints."

The screen on his wrist read 'May Parker'. Tony felt his heart hammer in his chest.

Friday night . . . two days ago . . . dried blood on the cabinets . . .

Behind him the door swung open, Ned and Michelle slinked in with shared looks of concern on their faces.

"Oh good you're here. That was fast," Ned sighed with relief. 

"Did you see May's room?" Michelle asked somberly, pointing over her shoulder with a thumb. 

Tony walked down the hall to May's room, balking at the splintered door frame and cracked door lying on the opposite side of the room. 

May's phone lay discarded on the ground at his feet, a shaft of ice running down his spine at the sight.

He picked it up, turning it on. He wasn't surprised to see his own face staring back at him from the screen.

"Friday who's at the compound?" He demanded, pocketing the phone. 

"Natasha Romanov, Clint Barton, Wanda Maximoff, James Rhodes."

"Tell them to meet me in the lab."

Tony turned to the two teens standing awkwardly in the hall behind him. 

"You need to go home. Don't come back over here until I give the OK, got it?"

Michelle grabbed Ned by the shirt sleeve, "Got it. Tell us if you learn anything."

"Wait-" he protested.

"No Ned."

And they were gone.

Tony took a deep breath, forcing the panic to ease up so he could think clearly. Peter and May were kidnapped- or worse. And whoever took them could be anywhere by now.

Friday night.

He cursed, running to the fire escape and re-engaging his suit, flying back to the compound at breakneck speed. 

By the time he walked into the lab, everyone was waiting with a mix of concern and confusion on their faces.  

"Tony what's wrong-?"

"I didn't see anything on the news-"

"Tony-?"

He held a hand up, heart racing from the flight back and the panic pressing against his sternum. 

"May and Peter Parker have been kidnapped. I don’t know when and I don’t know how.”

Wanda gasped as Natasha glowered at him in question.

Rhodes spoke up quickly, "What do you mean? How do you know?" 

"I was just at their apartment. The kid's friends called when they discovered it not half an hour ago."

Tony could feel a migraine building up behind his eyes, ever-present when stress soaked every inch of his being.  He'd put up so much tech in their building that it was ridiculous, all to prevent stuff like this from happening.

“I had safe guards,” he mumbled, walking to his largest work table, “Friday pull up Parker Residence Security.”

The others walked over to him in the second Friday prepared the data. When the hologram charts appeared on the surface Tony felt sick.

“What the fuck? Is that supposed to look like that?” Clint asked darkly as they all inspected the information.

Data charts and were rising and falling dramatically, almost like a weird dance. Video feeds surrounding the building and it's halls were flickering between images so fast, it looked like a holographic strobe light.

He swiped it off the surface, frustration making his hands shake.

“How long ago were they taken?” Natasha asked calmly. Her level voice brought Tony out of his head a bit and he took a breath. If the kid was in as bad trouble as he was thinking, it wouldn’t do for him to get angry over one technology glitch.

Only, this wasn’t a technology glitch. It couldn’t be.

A thought struck him like a baseball bat to the head,

“Rhodey I need you to take your suit and check my tech at their apartment. See if it’s been tampered with. Take Clint.”

“On it.” They nodded and ran out of the lab, determined.

“Tony, when did this happen?” Natasha repeated.

“Friday night, I think,” He shoved his hands into his pockets then yanked them back out, crossing them across his chest for lack of anything better to do.

“Almost two days ago? How do you know?”

 “Because Happy got a suspicious text from the kid around ten, and the next morning May called me for several seconds then hung up. It was the last call on her phone, which I found on the floor of her trashed room.”

He brought it out and handed it to Natasha, who showed it to Wanda.

 The younger woman looked pale, “Why didn’t your safe-guards work?”

“The only reason my tech wouldn’t work is if it was tampered with,” Tony’s mind was racing a hundred miles an hour. Every possible situation from bad to worse running laps around his head, “And at this magnitude Friday should have gotten some sort of alert.”

“So whoever took them isn't the everyday villain,” Natasha concluded, “They’re smart enough to know how to overpower a genetically enhanced hyperactive kid, and bug your tech.”

“Was that pun intended or-“

Tony was interrupted by Friday.

“Sir incoming call from ‘James Rhodes’.”

“Tony?” Rhodes sounded grim.

“Was it tampered with?”

“Yeah, but I’ve never seen this kind of tech before. It’s not the normal scrambler, it looks almost . . . thrown together.”

 “What do you mean? Homemade?”

“No, more like an old device updated with new technology. It’s nothing I’ve seen be. . fo. . .-“

Suddenly his voice warped and fizzled out, a humming silence replacing the call.

“Rhodey?” Tony stared at the ceiling, then at the two women across from him. They looked just as concerned. The silence struck the same nerve as May’s call. A mute storm warning.

“Rhodes can you hear me?”

Instead of an answer, there was a soft *click* over the speakers and very quiet noises, like whispering, reached their ears.

“What is that?” Wanda whispered warily.

Natasha had one ear cocked towards the ceiling, focusing on the noises.

They started to grow in volume, the small noises turning into actual words.

It was a woman. Pleading. Weeping.

Wanda gasped.

“May,” Natasha’s alarmed eyes met Tony’s.

There was a distant scream in the background Tony’s heart skipped a beat. That could only be Peter. Peter, screaming in pain as May cried over him. Tony could see it clearly in his mind’s eye.

As the screaming picked up, the volume steadily grew louder, and suddenly Tony realized that this wasn’t just playing over the lab’s speakers. It was echoing through the other rooms, through the halls, through the entire compound.

May’s begging was echoing from every angle, the volume so loud that it seemed to pierce his skull.

Friday what’s going on?!” Tony demanded over the noise, adrenaline thumping a frantic energy through his body as he paced from side to side uselessly, staring at the ceiling where the sounds of agony emanated.

Wanda covered her ears with desperate hands, face pale as a sheet.

Natasha was at one of his many computers, typing furiously.

Finally, with one more deafening scream from Peter, the noise cut off.

Tony stopped pacing, staring in horror at the ceiling, the silence just as overwhelming as the noise. Possibly more so, because now Tony knew. Now he knew without a single trace of doubt that Peter and May Parker were in trouble. That they were being hurt. Or worse.

“Tony this wasn’t live, it was a recording,” Natasha’s urgent voice cut through his panic.

He ran past a sick looking Wanda to the monitor the blonde was currently working at, sifting through familiar and unfamiliar codes as she traced the recording.

“Can you get a location?” He demanded.

“I’m trying. Call Clint and Rhodes. Get them back here.” She snapped.

He grabbed his phone and called the two, telling them to hurry their asses up and get back to the compound.

“Friday you there?” He asked as he hung up.

“Yeah boss.”

“What was that? Where did it come from?”

“I don’t know. My voice activation was momentarily shut down. Though it did not affect anything other than the main speakers on the compound.”

Suddenly Pepper stomped through the door, looking pale and livid.

“What the fuck just happened? What’s going on, Tony?”

“You heard it?”

“Of course, it was playing in every room I walked into. What was it?”

Tony threw his hands in the air in frustration, “I don’t know. Peter and May were kidnapped. Their apartment is torn apart. I don’t know.”

Pepper brushed past him to Wanda, putting a hand on her shoulder, “You okay?”

“I think so,” she nodded, taking a shaky breath, “what can I do to help?”

Tony thought hard. If it was playing through the entire compound that means that the few people who worked here on Sundays also heard it. But none of them could know who May and Peter are, so it should be safe to let them out.

“I don’t know yet. Pepper can you call an evacuation of the compound?”

“Yes. It might take a few minutes.”

“That’s fine just get everyone out. I don’t know how someone was able to control my tech, or to what extent. But it’s probably not safe for them to be here right now.”

She nodded and hustled back out the door.

“I have a location of where the recording was sent from,” Natasha declared triumphantly, “It came from just outside Athens, Georgia. Do you have a jet on standby?”

“Of course. It’s in my private hangar off the west wing.”

She nodded, sprinting out the door with Wanda on her tail.

Tony followed, heart thumping with every possibility, ears ringing with Peter’s screams.

Chapter Text

 

Peter woke with blood in his mouth and dried tears on his cheeks. He must have bitten his tongue while the man was electrocuting him, but it seemed to have healed while he was unconscious. His jaw ached something awful.  Forcing his eyes open he studied the room hazily.

The camera was gone, thankfully, as well as the man.

He’d guessed the torture was because of his escape attempt, but the camera unnerved him- its purpose as unknown to him as why he was here in the first place.

He closed his eyes again, thinking about what he’d seen while outside. It was snowing, so he couldn’t be anywhere near New York. The buildings surrounding this one were equally run-down. Short and squat in stature. Though he doubted any of them had a hidden underground hideout.

As the exhausted fog in his brain lifted, he realized something that he hadn’t while running- there was no one up there. Nobody walked the streets. No cars rumbled along the frozen asphalt, no lights shone in windows.

The realization added one more weight to his predicament. Even if he did get out, no one would be there to help him. And without his suit, he was well and truly alone.

Peter forced himself not to dwell on it. But it was hard when his thoughts trailed off every few seconds and his shoulders were pulled back painfully- duct tape wrapped so tightly around his limbs, they felt numb.

He had to contact Tony. But now that he knew this place was smack in the middle of a ghost town, that option was looking damn near impossible to accomplish.

It was his only option though.

Several more silent minutes passed, and his mind drifted. He wondered if Tony even knew he was gone. Had May told him? Did May even know? What if no one had even noticed his absence yet? The thought caused anxiety to ripple through his body and he stopped it where it started.

As he tried and failed to get his thoughts to line up legibly, he heard voices nearing the door and he tensed, waiting to see what new torture they had cooked up. Or maybe it was just Hammer, the walking corpse of a man. Neither option sounded great.

The door opened and several burly guards lumbered through. The biggest and baldest of the three scowled at Peter, talking to him in a foreign language. It sounded familiar. Russian, maybe? He couldn’t tell through his scrambled brain.

Those taser things really have some juice.

“Yeah, um. I don’t know if you expect me to understand all that but I only have one semester of Spanish under my belt . . . and I can do a pretty convincing Asgardian accent. But if you guys can’t speak English I can’t help you. Try the next cell over.”

He was rambling, trying his best to keep the fear out of his voice.

Baldy snarled, sliding a knife from his belt and stalking toward the boy. Peter eyed the gleaming blade, swallowing the terror building in his throat.

“Um, sorry?” He tried weakly.

But baldy didn’t gut him, as Peter was expecting. He simply cut the tape around his ankles and arms, sliding another set of bulky cuffs over his bruised wrists before yanking him to his feet.

He almost dropped, limbs still gaining their feeling back, but baldy either didn’t notice or didn’t care because he started shoving him towards the door, the other two thugs falling in behind the pair.

Peter blinked as he took in the wide warehouse. The room he was being led from must have been an office or something, it was shoved in the corner. The chamber was spacious and filled with machinery of every sort. Almost all of it unfamiliar to Peter. But besides the bustling activity everywhere he looked, the smell was so overpowering it made his eyes water.

They led him out a set of doors into a small hallway, much to the relief of his overstimulated senses, and into another room.

Justin Hammer was standing hunched in the center of the room, talking to a woman in a black nurse’s uniform. Peter didn’t even register the glare sent his way as he was too busy staring at the sharp medical equipment laying on a tray next to a hospital-style bed.

He didn’t even realize he’d stopped until one of the thugs shoved him forward.

“Lock him in tight, we don’t want another unfortunate mistake like that to happen,” Hammer told the guards. Peter was pleased to note the large purple bruise on the man’s head from where he’d thrown the chair. At least now they know he won’t go down without a fight.

“Um, shouldn’t you call someone before you do anything with those?” Peter asked cheekily, pointing to the set of syringes with needles longer than his fingers, “Parental permission and all that?”

The guards ignored him as they manhandled him onto the bed.

Hammer smiled darkly, “Your aunt isn’t in any position to make calls, last I heard.”

Peter’s heart skipped a beat, staring at the man as the guards locked several thick straps across his legs, rendering him immovable to the bed.

“What do you mean?”

“You think we’d leave her to rat out your disappearance to Stark? Maybe you’re not as smart as the files say. She’s alive, if you must know.”

Peter snarled as the men unlocked his hands and repositioned them in front of him, “if you hurt her I swear you’ll regret it.”

“What are you going to do? Technically-” Hammer’s bloodshot eyes sparkled with amusement, “-I’m already dead.”

The men, with direction from the nurse, locked the cuffs to a small pole, cranking it closer and closer to the end of the bed, stretching Peter’s torso forward with every crank. He could feel the stretch of his back, and he grunted at the unfamiliar shock of pain as the nurse made sure the spaces between his vertebrae were as wide as possible.

“You will find, Spiderman,” Hammer mocked, lowering his head to meet Peter’s pained eyes, “that there are worse things than death. You are more ignorant than you could know.”

Several faces swirled into his mind, and he thought that maybe he could think of a few things worse than death. But he wasn’t about to say that to this maniac.

The nurse lifted one of the needles from the tray and without any preliminaries, sunk it deep into his spine.

Peter’s scream echoed through the halls.

Hammer laughed.

***

Zia was getting impatient.

To their credit, the average flight from New York to Georgia was eleven hours, and the Avengers were about to make it in four. Still, she was eager to set the third part of her plan into play.

It had almost been a year since the disappearance of her husband and father, and if she was right, their whereabouts and her father’s work were stored deep within Stark’s personal storage vault;  if her sources were correct, the man had no idea what kind of information he had sitting in his basement.

World-ending.

But now that they had Peter . . . everything was going just a little too perfectly. With the boy she could kill two birds with one stone. She felt giddy just thinking about it.

Her family had worked closely on this project with a few of Oscorp’s scientists for years. It had been frustrating and difficult to keep it under wraps while using Osborn’s money and supplies and keeping the scientists loyal. But then the Avengers had started wiping out Hydra’s remaining bases and ended up killing her mother, driving her remaining family into hiding, and Tony Stark unknowingly stole all their work.

It was devastating.

But then, while she was mourning and searching for her family, she discovered Oscorp’s little accident. Peter Parker. The Spiderman.

It was the only missing piece to her families plan, and it was swinging above her head every night. It was a miracle. A sign.

So she studied. And planned. And sabotaged.

With Oscorp’s power and fame growing, it was too dangerous to continue working with them. She ordered a hit on the scientists who knew anything. Then she went searching for the next best option.

Someone with enough money and technology that they would be useful- along with a very powerful tool for her- a one track mind playing revenge.  

When Zia had her assistant break Justin Hammer out of jail, she had no idea just how badly the years had affected him.

The man was completely mad.

Insane.

To the point that it scared her slightly. But of course, she could never show it.

In order for this to work, she needed to be poised and ready to act on any inconvenience. She needed to be the person her family needed her to be. Even if that meant doing things that made her stomach churn.

Maybe it was because May Parker was innocent. Maybe it’s because Zia had recently lost her mother, and it struck a little too close to home. Either way, she hated going near the woman. Her desperate and overwhelming love of that boy was so easy to read on her face, that it was hard for Zia to maintain composure at first. Even now, four hours after forcing her to watch Peter suffering, she dreaded the next time she had to face May.

She sat on the deck of the small ship Hydra had managed to keep a hold of, wondering if her husband was still the man she loved. Wondering if her father still had the same ambition and fire. Wondering if they were even still alive.

Her dark brown hair flowed freely in the wind, the straight locks brushing her cheeks. It was a moment of peace in the chaos about to ensue. And she relished it, breathing the ocean air deep into her lungs.

She heard footsteps from behind and she forced herself to remain relaxed in the lounge chair, waiting for her lackey to deliver the news.

“The compound is under lockdown and the Avengers have made it to Georgia,” the man declared, head bowed respectfully, “They’re an hour out from the broadcast point.”

“Excellent. And Hammer’s progress?”

“They have the spinal fluid and blood samples, they’re in the process of testing right now.”

“Tell the extraction team to prepare. They go on my word. Thank you.”

He nodded and left.

She watched the peaceful blue horizon. Breathed in the salty breeze. She could be the woman her family needed her to be, no matter the cost.

It would be easy from now on.

Everything was working out perfectly.

***

Tony was almost too anxious to miss the confused look on Natasha’s face as she talked to Rhodes on the other side of the ship.

Almost.

“What’s wrong?”

They looked at him, both with a mixture of confusion and worry on their faces.

“Do you know Justin Hammer died this week?”

Tony raised an eyebrow, of course he knew. When he got the call he’d felt bad for about .02 seconds before forgetting. Hammer was one of his least favorite people on God’s green Earth.

“Yeah, what about it?”

“Well supposedly he committed arson in his cell, and they buried the body the same day.”

“’Supposedly’?” Tony didn’t like the look on Rhodes’ face.

“Friday just sent me the scan of the device that was messing with the Parker’s security. It was Hammer’s tech. Tony, we found his fingerprints all over it.”

Tony sat in confused silence, wondering if he’d heard correctly.

“Hammer’s alive?”

That’s what the evidence suggests. But even if he was alive, why would he take Peter and May?” Natasha wondered.

“Suit up, I’m about to land this thing!” Clint called from the front. Wanda sat in the co-pilot seat, though she wasn’t actually flying, just learning from Clint. Tony always wondered why she wanted to learn how to fly a ship if she could just fly using her powers. Seemed useless to him.

“We’ll figure it out later,” Tony said, trying to shake the foreboding sense that he was missing something big, “For now we just need to get them back safe. Rhodey, is the medical station up and running?”

“Yeah. I have my kit on me too.”

“Great. I have a feeling we’re gonna need it.”

After they landed Natasha drove herself and Clint to the coordinates and everyone else flew above them, everyone slipping into a tense battle-ready mode. Tony felt a familiar spike of adrenaline shoot through his veins, every possible scenario running through his brain in high definition: Peter, wounded and alone. Peter, covered in blood and bruised beyond belief. May clutching his lifeless body.

 He forced the images out of his mind so he could focus.

When they reached the coordinates Tony had to admit, this did look like an evil lair. It was an abandoned estate house from what looked like the dinosaur age, by the way it was crumbling in on itself.

“Fucking cliché,” Clint mumbled over the coms. 

Everyone spread out around the house, surrounding it in a thirty yard radius, as Tony and Rhodey scanned the building for heat signatures.

What he saw made him double-take, heart sinking.

“Tony please tell me my suit is screwing up.”

“You don’t see anything either?”

Rhodey flew closer to the house, “Guys its clear. No people, no explosives. Nothing.”

Tony zoomed to the front porch, blasting the door in, “No, no, no.”

“Tony-“

“Are you sure you got the location right?!”


Natasha glared at him, “Yes. They probably shifted locations.”

“”They were supposed to be here. Why aren’t they here?”

“Tones settle down, we’ll figure this out,” Rhodes said, though he sounded just as frustrated.

Everyone followed Tony into the large entry hall, looking at the inch thick dust on floor.

“It. . . Does not look like anyone has been here,” Wanda commented warily.

Tony looked around the huge room, metal boots echoing off the walls as they kicked up dust with every step.

“Wait,” He suddenly announced, “Look. A set of footsteps.”

He followed them quickly into the large dining room, where he stopped in the doorway, taken aback by what he saw.

The dining table was new. It had a modern glass top and five chairs sitting around it, the room itself spotless of any dust or cobwebs.

Atop the glass table was a laptop, a video paused at its very beginning.

“What is this, a treasure hunt?” Rhodey demanded quietly.

Tony swallowed and walked forward, pressing the ‘space’ button to play it, dreading what it could be.

"Tony Stark," a smooth voice crooned from the speakers, "'The Iron Man'. I do believe I have something of yours. An itsy-bitsy spider,” The black screen cut to an image of Peter sitting slumped in a metal chair, duct tape wrapped so tight around his limbs they were turning slightly purple. His face was black and blue, blood dripping lazily from his mouth and nose as his head hung against his sweaty, heaving chest.

Wanda gasped.

The voice continued, “We know you two have gotten quite close the last year, and with your tendency to make a bad situation inherently worse, that can be a dangerous thing for a boy so young to be caught up in." Tony’s heart leapt into his throat as he stared, trance-like, at the screen.  The others were frozen where they stood, listening intently.

"We also have his aunt. She is our collateral. You see, we need something from Peter Parker. If you interrupt our work in any way, she dies. Or worse. I have contacts in the underground who would pay a pretty penny for a woman so beautiful. . ."

 Natasha snarled. Clint took a step forward. Tony saw red.

 "Just know, Stark, that if one thing goes wrong, there will be consequences for the Parkers. If I were you, I would let this go for a few days, then begin the search for their bodies," the voice laughed giddily and the video cut off, going black again.

 Tony was shaking with anger, body wound up with enough tension to snap like a rubber band.  Natasha gestured to Rhodes, bringing him to the computer to help break the video down.

Wanda had her arms wrapped tightly around her torso, face pale as she met Tony’s eyes.

“What are we going to do?” She asked shakily.

“We’re going to find them,” He snarled, forcing his breathing to even out.

“Found them?” Rhodey’s confused voice drew the attention of everyone else in the room, “Um, let me know if I’m reading this right. This is an e-mail for a boat registration? To  . . . Justin Hammer.”

“So he is alive? Great. Fucking great. If he puts one hand on my kid I’m gonna kill him,” Tony raved.

“If we get the boat information we can track it, right?” Wanda asked.

“That’s too easy,” Natasha grumbled, picking up the laptop.

“But it’s the only lead we have. I’m taking it, even if I’m stupid to do it,” Tony said.

“This is stupid, Tones. We have no idea what’s going on here. This person- be it Justin Hammer or his vengeful ghost or whoever- is already several steps ahead of us.”

Clint nodded in agreement, “Yeah I agree with Rhodey, I like playing games but only if I know I can win.”

Tony was silent for a moment, anger towards his old nemesis feeding his anxiety-fueled headache.

“Listen. I don’t care how easy this might seem. Maybe they slipped up. Maybe they did want us to find this. No matter the reason, something is happening on that boat and we can’t risk not going.”

They all nodded, faces grim as they filed back out, racing back to the jet.

Tony had an overwhelming urgency in his bones as he flew.

‘I would let this go for a few days, then begin the search for their bodies.’

That wasn’t going to happen.

Not if he had any say in it.

Chapter Text

For a dead man, Justin Hammer had never felt so alive. He remembers his words to Ivan Vanko when the engineer was is a similar situation.

“Must feel good, being dead, huh?”

The man had never answered, but now Hammer didn’t need an answer. Now he knew.

He watched as Maisha transferred Peter’s blood into testing tubes. There was a lot, and the boy looked sickly pale strapped to the bed. Years ago it might have bothered Hammer, but now, when he knew he was getting second-hand revenge on the man who’d ruined his life, he couldn’t care less. In fact, he felt good.

 Not satisfied. But good.

He’d done what hydra wanted. Given them tech and money for their project. And he was no idiot. He knew what they were doing. Bio-chemicals were not something to take lightly. He knew there was a missing piece of their plan though, and it sat collecting dust in Stark’s basement.

He didn’t care.

Until he got due vengeance on Iron Man, the entire world could burn and he wouldn’t even bother looking out the window.

Maisha finished her work, setting the vials in a transfer box to be taken to the lab, walking out of the room. Peter groaned quietly from where he was lying flat on the bed, muscles pulled taught beneath pale skin.

The more Zia told him, and the more Hammer investigated, he became more and more infatuated with the boy. His muscle mass was logically too small for so much strength, and his advanced healing abilities were astounding. He’d only dislocated his jaw a couple days ago and the bruises decorating the area were already turning green and yellow, healing at an unbelievable rate. Add to that his enhanced metabolism was probably sapping all his energy at this point.

Hammer was only a weapons and tech distributor with a limited knowledge of mechanics, but he’d be damned if he said he wasn’t interested in Peter Parker’s genetics.

***

 Peter didn’t know how long the nurse poked and prodded and stuck him with sharp things, but he did know that the nausea wracking his body could be from either blood loss- or the man standing near the end of the bed he lay strapped to.

 The entire time, Hammer had stood in silence. Dark eyes analyzing things far, far away from this room. Peter wondered if he even realized where he was.

The nurse finally stopped and left, leaving him alone with the man. Deciding anything would be better than this eerie silence, he cleared his throat, croaking a weak:  “Why are you doing this?”

Hammer’s unblinking eyes snapped to his, re-focusing so fast it gave Peter whiplash.

This isn’t me,” he murmured, shuffling several steps to stand above him. Peter could feel a dark, unsteady energy in his gaze.

“Then who is it? Why am I here?”

Hammer cocked his head to the side, sunken eyes never leaving the boy’s exhausted ones.

“Zia Vaughn brought you here.”

“Who?”

“She’s like me. To the governments of the world, she no longer exists.”

Peter shifted on the hard mattress, stomach twisting with hunger. The ache had been nagging at him for the longest time, but now that his body was busy trying to replace the missing fluids, it gnawed at his conscious.

“I don’t understand, Peter,” he continued, “I’ve read your files. I know that suit was Stark’s creation. Why hasn’t he taken advantage of your advanced DNA?”

Peter stared at the man, not quite sure what he was asking.

Hammer stepped back, leaning against the wall. His stare made Peter’s spider-sense bristle uncomfortably.

“The man has only ever wanted to be the best. To build his legacy on the lies he weaves. He takes and he takes and he takes. And yet,” he shook his head as if mystified, “he hasn’t taken anything from you. He even made you a costume full of advanced technology. Why?”

“I don’t. . . I don’t know,” Peter suddenly realized that Hammer was right to wonder. Why had Tony given him the tech?

It’s not like they’d known each other for a long time, and Peter surely hadn’t done anything to deserve the billionaire’s attention. Of course, Tony had offered him a spot on the Avengers. Maybe that was it? Maybe he just wanted to fill a spot on the team- and Peter was the only one gullible enough to take the risk.

Hammer watched his troubled expression, eyes curious.

Peter looked up at the ceiling, feeling a sick sort of uncertainty. What if Tony didn’t actually care? What if no one was coming to save his aunt? Or himself?

What if Hammer was right about Tony?

What if everything Peter thought he knew about his childhood hero was wrong? After all, Hammer had been around him far longer than Peter.

But what about all the times he’d let him work in the lab, side by side? The room at the compound he’d decked out just for Peter? The helpful money nudges each month that May hated to admit eased her stress tenfold?

“Why would a man like Stark hand out free technology to a fifteen year old vigilante? He has no reason other than if he wants something from you.”

Peter tried to reason with himself, Tony wouldn’t be so callous . . . right?

“He has contacts smarter than you could possibly dream of being. You aren’t rich, you aren’t political-” Peter gulped back a hot ball of anxiety, “-And why would he care about your mission to aid the kicked puppies and lost old ladies of New York?”

Hammer smirked at Peter’s shaken expression, eyes sparkling intuitively.

“All you have to offer is your body.”

***

It wasn’t until Zia strode through the door triumphantly that May appreciated the silence she’d been subjected to the last few countless hours.

 “Good news!” The woman announced, looking for all the world like she was talking to a friend and not a prisoner, “We’re done here. Thank you for your help, I couldn’t have done this without you.”

May stared in wary confusion, “Where’s Peter?”

“Oh, he’s still there. Though they should be leaving soon,” she smiled, waving someone in from outside the door, “But soon you won’t have to worry about that anymore.”

May felt a shiver of unease creep across her shoulders. This wasn’t making any sense. Why had they shown her Peter? Were they letting her go?

A man in uniform ducked inside the small room. He handed Zia a bundle of orange fabric and she accepted it with delicately manicured hands. The man then handed her a small key.

The key to May’s handcuffs.

Zia patted the bundle with a smile, “I’m going to leave this with you. We’ll be leaving now.”

“What are you talking about?” May demanded.

“Well the Avengers are on their way, and although this was fun, I’m needed elsewhere.”

Suddenly the boat jerked violently, the loud shrieking of twisting metal filling the room. Zia righted herself, smiling cruelly. Her black eyes glimmered as they regarded May’s terrified expression. In the distance they could hear the swift *chop chop chop* of helicopter blades.

Zia set the orange bundle on the table before May, setting the key on top daintily.

“That’s my ride. You’ll understand, this is nothing personal,” She opened the door, bright sunlight silhouetting her form as a column of shadow, “I just need to keep the Avengers occupied. And the search for your body will take them a good few days.”

She laughed and strutted away, heels clicking, slamming the door shut as she went.

 “Hey! Get back here!” May thundered, yanking at the cuffs painfully, “What’s going on?!”

Her heart beat in time with the helicopter blades vibrating the floor beneath her feet. She stared at the bundle sitting several feet in front of her, mouth hanging open in shock.

It was a deflated life vest.

And the key sat shimmering on top.

“Fuck.”

Freedom, just out of reach.

Adrenaline spiked through her limbs as she heard the helicopter fading away. Zia had said the Avengers were coming, right?

She felt the boat shift jerkily and panicked. Even if they were coming, it would be too late.

The boat was sinking.

 Yanking against the cuffs, she re-opened the sores from when they had tortured Peter. She barely felt the panicked tears on her cheeks as she yanked harder, the boat tilting sideways. The life jacket slid further away from her shaking hands.

No! No! NO!” She screamed in a horror-driven frenzy.

Water started pooling steadily from beneath the door.

The boat was sinking.

It was sinking fast.

***

“Pack your shit. Vaughn found what she needed, she wants you gone before we leave.”

Hammer stopped walking, turning slowly to meet the man’s eyes. He stood expectantly in the hall behind him, beefy arms crossed and a large gun strapped to his back. Hammer stared blankly.

“We have a car waiting to take you as far as Moscow.”

“What do you mean . . . ‘she wants me gone’?” Hammer asked lowly. He could feel his heart starting to beat a familiar pattern of betrayal.

“You глухой or something? You know what it means. Your usefulness has run out.”

Hammer’s eyes widened, taking a step back, “But-”

“I said pack your shit. She doesn’t care about your little pissing match with Iron Man. Be thankful she’s letting you go with your life.”

Hammer swallowed, taking another step back. They wouldn’t let him go with his life. Not with what he knew.

Once again, his work has been crumbled up and tossed to the side. Reward snatched from his hands just before he could catch hold.

It scorched his insides with a fire he knew was never going to extinguish.

The man stepped towards him menacingly, “You need to leave, крыса. Before we change our minds.”

***

Minutes had turned to hours. Hours tumbled past in a hazy period of pain and confusion and silence and noise. Endless experiments and tests and examinations passed until they all melted together. Despite the physical and emotional turmoil eating at Peter’s heart, he forced himself to relax as they led him through familiar halls and into the warehouse.

Maybe his body was so exhausted and abused that his senses were heightened to a ridiculous level, but he could hear every brush of his guard’s clothing as he walked. It made a *slick-swish* rhythm in his ears. It was useless to breathe through his mouth because the stench of the warehouse was so strong and thick he could taste it at the back of his raw throat. The LED lights high above their heads were blinding, giving him another headache on top of the already existing one.

As they neared the room that he’d been in before the testing, something caught his eye.

A bright red fire alarm pull, like the ones in his school, was on the wall right next to the door.

The idea that hit him so fucking cliché and stupid  that it could work.

There were only two guards, both with guns and both large- but Peter had an idea and a severe lack of self-preservation.

The odds were as close to even as they could get in this situation.

 

***

Tony felt like he was being pulled in every direction- like if he leaned too far one way he would tear at the seams.

Adrenaline pumped through his veins and he fidgeted uselessly as the jet blasted across the ocean.

Thoughts of ‘what if’ flitted through his brain and he tried his best to imagine every possible solution for every idea. But there were so many. Of them all, he tried his best to ignore the most common one: what if we’re too late?

Natasha and Rhodes were putting the video through every test they could think of, trying to get an identity or origin point. So far they had nothing. The tension was so thick in the air it made him want to jump out of the goddamn plane into the blue depths below it.

“Clint how much longer?” He demanded.

“We’re getting close, keep your cool,” the man huffed.

Tony took another deep breath and walked away from Nat and Rhodes. Wanda watched him pace to the window with a tired understanding no one her age should have been able to muster. He forced himself to ignore her steady gaze- no doubt she was sifting through his mind without realizing it, though he was used to it after so long living around her that he didn’t mind as much anymore. Still, it was unnerving. Especially since he was so emotionally compromised that his brain felt like it was short circuiting. He wondered if she was able to make sense of the panicked thoughts any better than he has the last couple days.

“Guys, we’re coming up on the coordinates right now. I’m going to hover in a fifty yard radius once you drop down.”

“Copy that,” Rhodes said, standing in his suit.

He and Nat joined Wanda and Tony near the cargo hatch, each with a grim determination set in their shoulders.

Clint spoke through the coms: “Guys, we’re coming up on the ship, but . . .” he trailed off in confusion and Tony glanced back at the silhouette of the pilot’s chair, “there’s only one heat signature. It isn’t- oh, god. Shit.”

“Clint?”

“Shit, fuck. The ship is going under. Go, go!”

Tony cursed, ignoring the implications of how fast the jet was going, and slammed his armored fist against the hold’s release, causing the door to force itself open against the air pressure. Rhodes grasped Natasha around the waist and dropped out of sight, Wanda following close behind. Tony ignited his thrusters, speeding after them.

A holographic map of the ocean and the ship bloomed colorfully inside his faceplate, revealing the situation Barton had discovered.

The ship had a massive blackened hole torn in the side, and it was almost fully submerged. A small room near the center held the only heat signature on the entire vessel.

What if what if what if too late too late too late . . .

Tony felt a flash of frantic energy burn in his chest.

BOOM.

His suit broke the sound barrier.

 

Chapter Text

Every muscle in Peter’s body felt as tense as a rubber band about to snap.

The sweat rolling down his face in rivulets could be from the stress of what he was about to do, or fever. He could care less either way. His thoughts were focused completely on the fire alarm.

What if it doesn’t work? What if they pull the trigger before I even move? But what if it works?

. . . What If Tony won’t come?

. . . What if Hammer was right?

. . . What if-

“-no.”

One of the guards shoved the muzzle of his rifle into the boy’s shoulder blades, causing him to slam into the wall, “Shut it, паук .

Peter groaned and righted himself, he hadn’t realized he had spoken aloud, “Why- why do you call me that?”

“I said shut it!” The guard slammed the butt of his rifle into Peter’s cheek and he went down in a heap, breathing through the blackness swimming in his eyes. This was his only chance of escape, and he had to stay awake if he didn’t want to blow it.

The other guard gripped his arm and hefted his body off the floor, drawing a choked whimper out of the boy as his bruised shoulders threatened to give. His spine felt numb.

Distantly he heard both the men’s earpieces buzzing with another voice. It sounded urgent, but with Peter’s senses going haywire, he couldn’t hear a word that was being said. Probably wouldn’t be able to understand it even if he could hear it

“Hurry up, we leave at 0400,” one of the men snapped. The other yanked Peter across the room to a waiting chair. He slung his rifle across his back to uncuff the boy, movements hurried and methodical. Peter forced himself to relax, wait for the perfect moment.

He felt the cuffs give, heard the sharp *click* of the metal snapping open. He barely blinked and before either of them knew it, the guard was flying across the room- gripping his chest as he slid unconscious to the concrete floor.

Peter barely glanced at him before the next guard ran in, waving his gun. Peter dropped, kicking the man’s legs out from under him. The rifle clattered to the floor and the man snarled, lunging at Peter. Peter clumsily ducked his fists and slammed his elbow into the guard’s nose, breaking it-  blood splattering across both of their forms as the man went down. Peter kicked him in the temple, knocking him out instantly.

The boy breathed hard, abused body screaming at him to stop, and staggered to the door. For a surreal moment he glanced at the rifle lying next to his feet, mind blank. But he shook his head, forcing the thoughts from his brain. Even if he didn’t have his suit, he would have to depend on other methods to get out of here. But no killing. Not that. Never that.

Slowly he opened the door, peering out at the factory and the workers. They were still oblivious as to what happened.Peter hesitated, noticing how they seemed to be packing the equipment up. Everyone had a tense urgency around their shoulders, rushing around the facility.

Taking a deep breath he slipped out, reached a shaking hand towards the bright red box, and pulled emergency the lever.

 

One beat.

 

Peter’s heart dropped.

 

Two.

 

Nothing was happening.

 

Three.

 

It has to work-

 

Then . . .

 

. . .and then . . .

 

all of fucking hell broke loose.

The lights shut off, a siren screeching through the chamber like a banshee wailing through a megaphone tore through Peter’s skull. He crouched low, pressing shaking fists painfully against his ears in a useless attempt at stifling the sound. Emergency lights kicked on, red as the blood staining his clothes, illuminating the frenzied workers dropping their equipment and tripping over each other in a race for the doors.

Peter clenched his eyes shut in a  noiseless scream and realized hazily that he couldn’t hear the sirens anymore.

Something thick and hot dripped through his fingers from the sides of his head, blood running in a thin stream from either ear. Through the haze he blanched, gagging as his stomach forced acidic bile up a raw throat.

Finally he forced sluggish limbs to move, realizing that every moment wasted was another moment closer to everyone realizing there was no fire, another moment closer to his final capture.

Red lights flashed incessantly- causing his vision to swim and multiply. He crashed through the exit doors dizzily, not knowing which way was out , just wanting to be gone already.

A man wearing a thick coat rushed past him without even a glance backwards and Peter decided that where one went many more would be, so he went the other direction.

He walked.

And walked.

And walked for what seemed like hours, but was really only a couple minutes, his muscles refusing to cooperate and his hearing tuning in and out like a static washed radio.

Just when he realized how deep the facility ran- just as the flame of hope was starting to fizzle out- a familiar scent filled his bloody nostrils.

Red and blue sizzling sparking burning.

. . . “I’m gifting you with freedom . . .”

Gasoline.

He stumbled to a stop, leaning heavily against the wall as his brain tried to make sense of this new development.

He had pulled the fire alarm to escape. There wasn’t actually a fire?

But it was very real, and so strong that his eyes watered. Against his better judgement, which had pretty much imploded along with his eardrums, he followed the scent down a side hallway.

Chapter Text

Whatever Peter had been expecting to find, it wasn’t this.

 

Justin Hammer was flying around his office, gripping handfuls of paperwork and models and throwing them into a haphazard pile in the center of the room. In his other hand he held a tank of gasoline- spreading  it on every surface he could reach, not minding the generous amount that soaked into his own clothing.

 

His thinning hair was frizzy and standing on end, a victim to his crazed hair pulling and frantic movements. He was talking to himself, nonsense gibberish that had him sounding like one of the Russians. The purple bruise on his forehead matched the shade around his sunken, bloodshot eyes.

 

Hammer looked like he’d completely lost his mind. Peter’s spider-sense screeched in the back of his skull, but he’d taken one unsteady step backwards when Hammer caught sight of him and snarled.

 

“You!”

 

Peter gulped.

 

“You caused all this. If it weren’t for you , I’d still have a fucking chance! That bitch wouldn’t be trying to kill the world and I’d be free ,” Hammer threw down the file he’d been holding as he swung around to face Peter, whipping a gun from his pocket and pointing it with a shaky hand at the boy. The other still held the gas tank.

 

Despite the rancid smell of gasoline making his head spin, Peter forced himself to push off the wall and face Hammer on his own power.

 

“What- what are you talking about? Who?”

 

“Zia Vaughn,” he spat, “using my money and my tech for her plans. She was going to have me killed! After all I’ve done for her!”

 

“This?” The boy gestured at the gas-soaked pile of work scattered around the office, confused.

 

“This, the experiments, the factory, all of it-” his whole body was shaking now, “she was using it to design a weapon that could rival the bubonic plague. Using you.”

 

He dropped the gas can, reaching into his other pocket and bringing out another lighter.

 

“All I asked of her was to let m-me have Tony Stark. Let me kill the man who k-killed me. And all she gave me was-was you. An itsy-bitsy spider Tony likes to play dress up with. What a fucking joke. My life was ov-over before they pulled me from that god-forsaken cell.”



He flicked the lighter, holding it up and staring dazed at the flickering flame. Peter shifted towards him, aching muscles preparing to lunge.

 

“Hammer, don’t-”

 

He shook his head sharply, dim eyes alight with the intensity of a madman. His voice cracked.

 

“Don’t trust him, kid.”

 

And with that, he dropped the lighter and raised the gun.

 

CRACK!

 

 



Peter clutched his ringing head. After a moment he realized he hadn’t been shot, and his body shook with tension and shock. The relief was short lived, however, when he slowly straightened and looked on in horror as the flames engulfed Hammer’s body, sizzling blood oozing out of the man’s skull.  His pale blue eyes were still open- the insanity was gone, having leaked out with the blood. Fire consumed the room with a liveliness that wasn’t present when Hammer had burnt Peter’s suit.

 

Peter stumbled back, away from the flames, mind blank as he stared at the smoking form on the ground. The sound of emergency sirens and  red lights shot a spike of adrenaline through his veins so he turned and ran.

 

Flames began spreading across the facility and no matter how fast he ran, they always seemed to be licking the walls at the edge of his vision.

 

Through the halls, sirens blaring, smoke, smoke, smoke, flames licking, lungs burning, stairs, stairs , stairs . . . out.

 

A blast of frigid air washed over him, soothing singed flesh as he slammed through the door. Smoke still filled his lungs and he hacked and coughed as he stumbled away, not pausing to look around as he ran to the street corner.

 

BOOOOM!!!

One moment, Peter’s feet pounded the icy pavement, the next he was flying bonelessly through the air, vision white, body weightless. He slammed against something unforgivably hard and everything went dark.



***



May managed to break one of the small metal rings of the handcuffs on her right hand, wrist bleeding freely. She scrambled over the table while her other hand stayed locked behind her and reached shaking fingers to the corner of the room where the deflated life jacket and cuff key had slid.

 

Emitting a frustrated growl she shifted and stretched a leg out, snagging the jacket with the toe of her scuffed sneakers and dragging it closer. Gripping the now blood-soaked key she ignored the water seeping from under the door, heart ramming against her ribcage, and unlocked her left hand. The skin on this wrist was bruised and swelling angrily.

 

May felt a sob rising in her throat and she swallowed it down, pressing her lips to the life jacket’s nozzle and blowing air into it as fast as her lungs would allow. She paused dizzily and glanced down at the water, which was above her knees and rising steadily.

 

The boat lurched and she grabbed the table, heart leaping. As she watched the water slosh freely around the small room she did something she hadn’t done since Ben’s death. She prayed.

 

Please please please if I don’t make it, let them find Peter. Let my baby be safe.

 

The thoughts circulated around her brain as a frantic plea, tears blurring her vision as she started filling up the lifejacket again.

 

Once it was mostly inflated she struggled to the door and pushed against the handle. It didn’t budge.

 

“No!”

 

She pushed with all her might, and still the door didn’t move an inch. The pressure of the ocean outside the metal door was now too heavy.

 

The water was climbing up to her armpits, chilling her to the core. She felt her muscles clench in protest to the cold. Still crying, she pushed one last futile time before clambering up to stand on the table, numb fingers releasing the life jacket and letting it fall at her feat. It swirled around on the foamy water surface, knocking against her leg. It was a stupid symbol of hope. Zia knew that even if May did get out, she wouldn’t be able to use it. She’d timed this perfectly.

 

She decided right then that however much love she had for Peter Parker, she hated Zia Vaughn even more. She hoped that if Tony found the wretch, he wouldn’t be merciful.

 

Each second that passed another inch of freezing water lapped up her body, filling the small air pocket that marked what life May had left to live.

 

Hips.  

 

Sobs wracked her whole body.

 

Elbows.

 

. . .please find him . . .

 

Chest.

 

Was that noise coming from the boat or something just outside it?

 

Shoulders.

 

Breath caught in her lungs as she stood on her tiptoes, gasping inches beneath an unforgiving ceiling.

 

Neck.

 

. . .Oh god, please. . .

 

Chin.

 

That noise . . . wasn’t the boat. Or was it just her adrenaline-pumped imagination?

 

Mouth.

 

Icy salt water mixed with warm tears as she gasped one last breath, squeezing her eyes shut as the water touched the ceiling- and May Parker was completely submerged.

Chapter Text

Peter woke up and the world was on fire.

 

 He lay on his stomach in a snowbank, just below a large black van with a shattered window where he had been thrown  in the explosion. There were drops of blood and shards of glass surrounding the boy’s pale body.

 

Lifting himself up on leaden arms, the world tipped and he gagged, blood dripping in small chunks from trembling lips to the ice crystals below, tarnishing the pure canvas with sticky gore.

 

 A soft whine escaped his throat but he couldn’t hear it. Couldn’t hear anything. The explosion must have been the last straw on his eardrums.

 

 Using the van he pulled himself up; ribs grinding beneath his skin, bringing tears to his eyes as he took in the havoc spread before him.

 

The warehouse with it’s underground factory was on fire. Hellish flames shooting hundreds of meters in the air, kissing the low, snow-heavy clouds above; black smoke and glowing embers churning with the gaseous H2O, sealing the small town like a coffin lid.

 

A few agents were running past Peter, no one paying him any mind as they were too busy running for their lives or dragging fallen hydra members away from the blaze. Peter felt sick, eyeing the shadows of bodies within the inferno. He felt like retching again.

 

My fault.  All my fault.

 

Gotta find May . . . Tony . . .

 

Vauge . . .Vaughn? Vaughn . . . Zia . . .

 

Gotta tell Tony.

 

The ground swayed dangerously as he made his way to the end of the road, where dark trees stood tall and unforgiving. Peter saw shadows dart between the thick trunks, but his thoughts were trained so fully on staying upright that he couldn’t care less about the shadows. His problems were behind him, in the light of the fire.

 

Fire. Ow.

 

Now that he was moving again, Peter could  feel the tug of skin on his back, the knife-like pain that laced across his shoulders and backs of his thighs. It never occurred to him to check the damage, see how bad it was. Probably because, add to the burns every other injury that had been inflicted upon him the last few days, they didn’t amount to much in comparison.

 

After a few minutes saw the flash of a flashlight between the trees.

 

He stared at the beam as it moved closer, numb. Finally his brain clicked, and he realized a hulking agent was slowly aiming a pistol towards his chest, mouth moving and spit flying as he screamed silent orders of surrender. 

 

Peter's heart skipped a beat. Scrambling in the other direction, he started running. He could only run at half-pace, but compared to a normal kid an injured Spiderman was still fast as hell.

 

Frozen branches reached out, cutting into bruised cheeks and shoulders, tearing at his blood-stained clothing as if the forest were trying to drag him back, too.

 

Twigs, rocks, roots, ice. His feet felt torn apart with every step as he ran for what seemed like miles.

 

Until he could no longer see the flashlights.

 

No longer taste the retched smell of burning chemicals and textured smoke. 

 

 

Every drag of breath into haggard lungs felt sticky and warm, every stumble on a deep patch of snow added more weight to his shoulders, until finally, finally his body couldn’t take any more punishment.

 

He collapsed, icy snow a shock against heated skin, freezing the sweat running down blood-stained cheeks.

 

As much as his exhausted mind tried to force his body to get back up, to keep fighting, to even just turn around , he couldn’t move a muscle. His body was taking control, shutting down on it’s own.  He felt raw hopelessness bloom hot in his chest, felt a dull panic at being so exposed and helpless. Trapped in his own body.

 

. . . Mr. Stark. Zia, Zia is trouble . . . gotta warn him. . .

 

. . . gotta move . . .

 

. . .find May, find Tony . . .

 

. . . find May . . . Tony . . .

 

. . . May . . .

 

Peter passed out with tears in his eyes and blood in his mouth.