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Whumptober Prompt Stories

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It had been a good day so far. It wasn’t even lunchtime yet and Tony recognised the fact, that his day had been damn good – so far at least. He woke up five minutes before his alarm and was able to just lay in his bed and soak up the remaining time he had left before it really roused him. When he wandered into Peter’s room the boy had still been asleep, buried under blankets and pillows with only a small but wild tuft of curly hair poking out from underneath the warm nest he had made in his sleep. He had run his hand through the soft locks and murmured good morning to the boy who was only half awake at that point.

 

“Morning Petey, how’d you sleep?” A mild and incoherent mumble was all he got in reply before he was met with a lapful of sleepy teen.

 

“Mmmm. Yurr warm” Peter slurred, too tired to even work his mouth properly yet. He nuzzled himself further into Tony’s top and furled his arms around his Dad’s waist, humming in content.

 

“Maybe it’s not me that’s warm, just the room. It is actually a nice day, so get up and check outside the windows instead of lying here,” he said fondly, a smile curling the edges of his mouth up. “Besides, you gotta leave for school in awhile anyway.” That woke him up more, because he groaned loudly and rolled over, stretching out like a cat.

 

“Nuuuuuh. I don’ wanna go to school,” he whined, but started to wake himself up slowly, rubbing his eyes and yawning widely.

 

He never said it out loud, but sleepy Peter was one of his favourite things in the morning. He couldn’t help but love it, the kid was just so clingy, and his curly bedhead was absolutely the cutest thing Tony had ever seen in his life. He had about a solid thirty – forty odd minutes till Peter was coherent again, so he made the best possible use of his time.

 

“C’mere then” he offered, slipping off the bed and stretching his arms out wide. Peter rolled back over and as soon as he realised what Tony’s spread-eagled arms meant his face broke into a bright smile. He jumped up with a blanket still draped over his shoulders and fell into the hug eagerly, slotting his head easily against strong shoulders and tucking it under the stubbled chin, his untamed hair brushing against Tony’s lips as he pressed down against the boy’s scalp. “Go get ready for school, I’ll sort breakfast.” Peter relented finally, pushing himself off Tony and dragging himself to the bathroom, leaving the blanket on the bed.

 

But that had been this morning, and even if he hated leaving Peter at home when he finished school because he had a mission, he still had to. That was why he was here, at an old Hydra base, staring directly at Loki’s glowing blue scepter.

 

“Thor, I got eyes on the prize.” He had the hint of a smile on his face, getting this weapon back to Thor would bring the mission to a close quicker, and that meant he could go home and relax with his son for the evening.

 

Good days don’t last – and apparently for Tony, they couldn’t even make it past lunch.

 

He was about three strides away from the main aim of the mission, when he froze. Something in his head tingled, something felt very, horribly wrong. A burst of red filled his vision and he could feel it’s coldness creeping into his skull and etching into his body, burrowing deep inside of him until he couldn’t even see the room anymore. Just a vast, expansive view of red mist.

 

Then, from somewhere behind him, he could see light again. It was yellow hued, and it reminded him of the lights in the kitchen at home. He turned towards it, blinking away the red which seeped out of his vision quickly enough to not raise flags. Tony was standing in his own kitchen, back at the tower. How did he… it didn’t matter, he couldn’t care less, because now he could see Peter.

 

“Hey kid, how was school?” Nothing. The boy didn’t move, make any acknowledgement that he was even standing there in the doorway, his eyes didn’t shift from where he was hunched over a homework book and chewing on the end of a pen. “Pete?” No movement, no response at all. Something was different about the familiar scene, but he just couldn’t… put a finger on exactly what was wrong. The kitchen looked exactly the same, the windows gave the same view of the city and everything outside the glass was normal, the books strewn across the table were ones Tony had seen the teen study a few times before, so that wasn’t it. Maybe it was Peter?

 

Now that he focused on his son, he did notice what was different. He was holding himself strangely, almost like he was on edge, or waiting for something, someone, perhaps even worried? He didn’t have to wonder long, because he heard eerily recognizable footsteps from behind him, and turning, he saw what was wrong with the situation.

 

When he shifted to see behind him, his eyes fell on the source of the footsteps. It was Tony. It was – well it was like looking in a mirror, a recording of yourself, or into another dimension. He wasn’t wearing the same thing, his hair wasn’t sitting the same way as his was today, but it was unmistakably Tony he was staring at. The – clone? Was he a clone? The… Tony… reacted the same way to the real Tony as Peter had, which was no response. ‘What the fuck?’ He thought.

 

“I – uh… what, who are you?” For once in a long time, he was lost for words, stuttering out a shaky question which wasn’t answered by Peter or the other Tony. In fact, the other Tony walked straight past him, and stepped fully into the kitchen.

 

Peter’s head snapped up from what he was working on, and while he hurriedly readjusted his books and piled them into a neater stack, he smiled. It was a small smile, almost forced or strained in how it didn’t meet his eyes, but neither Tony said anything about it. He stayed in place, not daring to move as he watched everything unfold and play to him like a recording. He watched the other Tony walk by Peter, not returning the smile, and behind the counter, keeping his back turned as he reached into the fridge, actions seemingly on auto-pilot. When he pushed the fridge door closed he was holding a beer in one hand. That made possibly the least sense, because for one, Tony didn’t keep beer in the fridge anymore, and secondly, he had quit drinking a long time ago, specifically for Peter’s sake. He never wanted his kid to have to come home from school and give him a hug only to smell alcohol on his breath, or to hear him throwing up the next day, or god forbid – to be the victim of whatever emotion decides to take over when he got drunk. Peter was never going to have to deal with him like that, and so the only time he ever touched alcohol was special occasions, and in those cases, it was kept to an absolute minimum. He was so firm on that, it was his biggest rule for himself, so now standing here watching himself grab a beer from the fridge while his child sat at the kitchen table doing his homework, was dizzyingly worrying.

 

The other Tony popped the cap with a bottle opener he obviously kept close, and leant against the counter, taking a large mouthful of the beer like it wasn’t going to somehow fuck up the best thing in his life, Peter. He wanted to move so badly, he wanted to storm over to the man that was, and wasn’t, himself, and smack the bottle out of his hand. He wanted so much to stop what was unfolding, because he knew he had made mistakes before Peter was in his life, and drinking that shit while he was in his life? That terrified him, because what’s to say he wasn’t going to make mistakes again? Who would stop him if it got out of hand? He couldn’t move his feet, he was somehow stuck where he was and none of his limbs were cooperating. Come to think of it, he couldn’t move in any direction, his entire body was frozen in one place. Sure, he could breathe and blink and wiggle his fingers, but if he tried to take a step or lean forward something was holding him in place. Peter. He couldn’t get to Peter if his body wouldn’t move. This was too familiar, he didn’t like it. It felt too much like being stuck on the fucking couch, slowly dying while his arc reactor was ripped out of his chest by someone he had considered trustworthy.

 

“I can’t walk. Peter! I can’t – I can’t move!” He had to be able to move, he had to be able to get to his son if he needed to. Shit, shit, no, no. This couldn’t be real. He could not be frozen in one spot, in his kitchen, watching himself down a beer while his son looked down at his books and tried to avoid eye contact while his hand shook.

 

Wait. Why was Peter’s hand shaking? Why was he trembling? His eyes flitted between the beer, and the page in front of him. Oh. The beer. He knew what was happening too, he could see where this might turn. Peter recognised the fact that the other Tony was drinking, and it wasn’t an exception to his normal rule.

 

“Dad?” Oh my god. His voice was so small, so timid, so full of questioning and worry. No. If that’s the affect that him drinking one beer had on Peter, then he would burn all the alcohol in the world for that kid. His kid.

 

The other Tony downed the rest of the bottle and set it down harshly on the counter beside the bottle opener.

 

“What.” He would never. Never, talk to Peter like that. His voice was so cold, so distant and far from normal, so angry and demanding. The boy looked about as shocked as Tony felt, his face fell, and he clenched his hands into fists to stop the shaking.

 

“I – what… a – are you okay?” He stuttered, and Peter only stuttered when he was scared, or nervous, or really overexcited about something. God how he wished his stammering was caused by overexcitement right now. The fridges door slammed open and closed again, followed by the popping sound of another beer being opened. He hated this. He despised what he looked like, how he was acting, how his whole being was radiating purpose and anger directed at nothing. The other Tony tilted the bottle back and it made a gurgling sound as he guzzled a third of the bottle in one swig.

 

“What’s it to you?” He spat forcefully. Peter took a shaky breath and opened his mouth to speak again. “I – am fine.” Peter exhaled softly, fists beginning to tremor slightly. Other Tony took another large gulp and then over half of the second bottle was gone. “I am fine” he repeated slowly, insultingly patronising, “you, on the other hand.” He burped slightly, and real Tony was so fucking disgusted he wanted to punch himself in the jaw when he continued talking, “are not fine.” What the hell was the man talking about? Peter was amazing, Peter was a perfect kid – he was so much more than ‘fine.’

 

“Dad I – I don’t know what –”

 

“Don’t interrupt me!” Peter’s left eye twitched when the man raised his voice and shoot him now if Tony didn’t want to wrap his arms around his kid and wipe that dumbfounded shock and fear that was creeping over his face away. The third bottle was opened, and he didn’t even see when the other Tony had finished the second.

 

“Please don’t have a third one…” Peter put down the pen he was clutching tightly, and looked like he was debating something, an internal struggle.

 

“What the fuck did I just say?” Right, that fucking settled it – nobody swore at his kid like that, even if it was him.

 

“Hey! Don’t talk to him like that!” He made no impact on the situation, it was like nobody could see him, like he wasn’t there. Maybe he wasn’t, but that wasn’t going to stop him from trying again. “Put the beer away you drunkard!” Nothing he did was doing anything, he couldn’t move, nobody heard or saw him. He had to stand and watch himself betray Peter’s trust as he drank beers and grew steadily more aggressive.

 

“Don’t interrupt is what I said.” Peter looked down at his books and bit his bottom lip. “You are not fine. You look like you aren’t even working on that.” He raised the hand still holding the third bottle and pointed at the pile of homework sitting in front of Peter.

 

“I am – I was… it’s just that, I – you normally help with homework and we go to the lab and work stuff out together –” He was swiftly cut off by the other Tony after he had downed another mouthful.

 

“I’ll help if you genuinely can’t work shit out for yourself – but I’m not gonna sit and baby you while you pretend to be too dumb to do your own schoolwork.” Peter’s mouth hung open and his eyes were filled with offense and disbelief at his Dad’s harsh words.

 

“I – I don’t do that… I wouldn’t pretend to –”

 

“Oh, save it” other Tony waved an arm in disregard as he swung the fridge open again. “You know it’s true, don’t kid yourself.” He pushed the door shut with his hip and held two more bottles in his hand, the almost finished third bottle still hanging loosely in his other hand as he walked out of the kitchen.

 

Peter’s lip trembled, and he stared after the other Tony with horror painted over his normally smiling face. God, he looked so hurt, so offended by the notion of the words, it was such a backhanded compliment, saying Peter was smart enough on his own and then insinuating that he faked stupidity for time in the lab with his Dad. He shut his eyes and dropped his head after a moment of looking at the blank doorway which the man had just walked out from. He shoved everything in front of him into a messy pile and collected it in his arms before standing and rushing in the direction of his room, away from wherever the other Tony had just left to.

 

“Peter? Peter! Wait I – he didn’t mean…” The sound of his door slamming shut cut him off and he wanted to slide down the wall and just contemplate how the hell he was going to deal with this, but of course the universe hated him because once again, he couldn’t move. He relented to just rubbing his eyes sorely with the heels of his hand and burying his face into his hands for a few moments while he tried to clear his mind. “Jesus Christ, what is going on?” He sighed heavily and let his hands fall to his sides again tiredly. After he blinked a few times and his vision cleared again the kitchen wasn’t the same as before he had closed his eyes. This time, the main lights were off and only the few above the oven were turned on, they still illuminated the room, dim as they were and casting shadows, but still managing to highlight Peter’s lithe form slipping into the room. Was it later that night? No, the boy was wearing different clothes and his hair was laying differently than before.

 

“Pete?” Still nothing. The boy hummed softly as he pulled open the pantry and blinked at the light that was turned on automatically from inside the cupboard. He tipped his head back and peered into the space, reaching in and coming out with a small packet of chips.

 

“What are you doing?” Peter jumped slightly, and even Tony was surprised to see the other version of himself standing behind the counter, beginning to tap his fingers against its surface methodically.

 

“I was just, um, getting a snack.” He shuffled nervously, his grip on the bag wavering as if deciding whether to just put them back. The other Tony said nothing, just turned around and picked up a sheet of paper lying on the table.

 

“This is yours, I take it?” Peter nodded slowly and licked his lip anxiously. “What – am I supposed to congratulate you for scoring a –”

 

“Eighty-six… I – in English today.” He smiled weakly and once again it didn’t manage to meet his eyes.

 

“Mediocre, from someone like you.” Another backhanded compliment that quite clearly took Peter by surprise. “You don’t need food now, it’s late and you’ve already had dinner.” The teen didn’t argue, and he put the packet back in the cupboard carefully.

 

“S – sorry, um… I’ll study more next time I guess.” The real Tony shook his head slowly, brought a hand up to his lips and covered his mouth as he watched his son apologising for something he never should have to. That was an amazing score, surely, he was near, if not the, top of his class. Regardless of figures, he had never cared so much for Peter’s exact grades, because he knew his son was intelligent without them to prove it.

 

“Your school tests may prove you’re a genius, but you act like an idiot.” Peter just hung his head and closed the cupboard behind him, leaving the kitchen dim again. “Don’t leave stuff lying around again” the other Tony put the paper on the counter and left the younger boy standing in the dark without comfort or praise.

 

“I just wanted to show it to you…” He whispered into the empty kitchen, and Tony could hear him sniffle quietly as he picked up the grade and crumpled it, dropping it in the trash as he walked out of the kitchen, small shoulders sagging with the weight of disappointment.

 

“I think you did amazing baby, don’t listen to him.” Tony whispered right back into the now completely empty room.

 

----

 

He stood, stuck in place and unheard for several more encounters like the first two. In most of them the other Tony was either drunk or drinking something when he spoke. Occasionally they were in another room, once the lab, a few times the living room, but almost always in the kitchen. He thought it was the worst thing he’d ever had to witness, but just like he was wrong when he thought it had been a good day, he was wrong again. He was very wrong.

 

It was so much worse.

 

They were in the kitchen again. Peter was standing by the table, chewing his lip as he looked over some notes that Tony couldn’t read from the corner of the room but knew he was concentrating hard. He knew because the kid’s nose scrunched up when he thought hard about something, and on the occasion where he would pull the face when the two were working in the lab, he would look up from whatever he was working on and tap the boy gently on the nose. Without fail Peter would smile, redden slightly, and throw something playfully at him in retaliation. He loved his son so much, it felt like torture watching him slowly fall further into himself. His stutter was almost constant now, whenever he was around other Tony, and he had the suspicion that he had been crying more often. His eyes were red-rimmed, and his nose was pinker than normal, especially after he was yelled at or degraded. It didn’t exactly feel like torture so much as it actually was. He felt a physical urge to comfort the boy whenever he saw him, and it hurt to see his child so close to him, but too far away to even pull him into an embrace. He was pulled from his thoughts as Peter yawned and stretched animatedly, cracking his fingers above his head. He didn’t miss the fact that he immediately pulled back and made his form smaller as other Tony’s footsteps could be heard approaching.

 

“Peter?” He didn’t bother to turn as the man’s voice rang from beside him, but Peter snapped his head up as he waltzed into the room. “I’m sitting down and having a drink, so clear out.” He made a beeline for the fridge and pulled out two beers easily. The teen eyed them, and his nose scrunched in thought again.

 

“Um, actually I w – was wondering… if we could maybe sit t – together tonight? And I could get dinner or something, maybe order takeout or even I could try to make s – something for us?” He fidgeted and rung his hands together nervously, his chin down but looking up pleadingly at other Tony through his eyelashes.

 

“No. I want my beers and you can study in your room, you don’t need the table out here. That’s why I got you a desk – so you could work in your room like a normal kid.” He got the feeling that these weren’t his first drinks of the day.

 

“P – please could we spend some time together Dad?” Peter looked so afraid of asking and real Tony felt like he might start crying because his son was so timid and shy and scared. Sure, he had worries that if he ever started drinking things would get out of hand and Peter would get scared, but that’s exactly why he never did drink. Now, he was stuck here and watching his fear fold out in front of him and it was worse than he had imagined, he had never thought that his kid being so… apprehensive around him would hurt this much.

 

“Peter, I said no. Go away.” Other Tony enunciated each word very clearly, forcing his point across with no care for how much of an asshole he was being.

 

“Dad…” Peter looked like he was about to cry as well, he stared down at the floor like a kicked puppy, and that’s practically what he was. He felt sick when his head made the connection between his child and a hurt animal.

 

“Dammit!” The wrong Tony slammed his fist down on the table, causing it to shake violently, and Peter flinched. He. Fucking. Flinched. Someone made his baby flinch and a small intake of breath was the only other sound he made as he backed up and away from the table, clutching his papers. “For crying out loud kid, I said I didn’t want you here – so get the hell out!” Peter clenched his jaw, his lower lip wobbled dangerously, nostrils flared slightly, and his face burned when he blurted out his next words.

 

“Why don’t you love me anymore?! What did I do…” He trailed off and seemed to realise what he had said, and he took another step backward, chin dropping down to his chest in shame and cheeks flushing.

 

“What did you just say to me?” The other Tony demanded, quirking his head and narrowing his eyes angrily.

 

“I – I didn’t… Dad I –” He took a drink and finished the last of it off, wiping his mouth crudely with the back of his fist.

 

“You wanna know why I don’t care about you?” He sneered and stood up deliberately, the chair scraping against the floor. Peter actually made a tiny squeak of fear and stepped back even more. Oh god what was happening? “You think I cared about you to begin with?” Oh no, no, what was he saying. “You are actually ignorant enough to think I ever gave a fuck about you, huh?” He advanced slowly, his feet dragging as he took each step, fingers drumming along the edge of the table menacingly. Peter took a very shaky breath.

 

“I, uh, no – D – Dad… I’m sorry – I –”

 

“Bullshit!” The man swept his hand against the surface of the table and sent an empty bottle flying across the room. It hit the wall beside Peter and exploded into millions of fragments, the boy cried out and jumped back in fright. “Bullshit you’re sorry! You think you deserve love? You are an intolerable brat – I never cared and I never will, you are a disappointment and a stain on the Stark name! You hear me?!” He had crossed the floor, and Peter rushed backwards away from him until his back hit the wall and he made a small noise of surprise. He moved like a skittish animal and the other Tony knew it.

 

“D – D – Dad –” He raised a hand.

 

“Shut the fuck up!” His hand was above his head and he brought it down as he screamed the words, his alcoholic breath filling the air as the real Tony howled behind everything.

 

“No, stop!” A resounding slap echoed through the room and Peter fell to the floor, his knees giving out underneath him, landing amongst the glass that littered the floor. The papers fluttered around the room and came to a stop amongst the glass shards. His mouth hung open, his eyebrows bent in abject horror at what had just occurred. The other Tony spun on his heel and left the small boy on the floor, surrounded by glass, grabbing his beer from the table and leaving the room without so much as a glance in the teen’s direction.

 

Peter was shaking vigorously, and he brought a trembling hand up to the red mark that now spread across the right side of his face, as if making sure it was real. His face crumpled as tears fell from his eyes and streamed down his cheeks steadily. He curled into himself and pulled his legs to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, burying his face deep into his knees. He started sobbing, his breathing was out of control and he heaved on air like he was hyperventilating.

 

“No! No! Peter! Pete, I’m here, I would – I wouldn’t ever do that baby, oh my god, ohmygod, ohgodno. Petey… I won’t hurt you, I swear on my life, I swear on everything. Oh baby, oh no, this isn’t okay…” He shut his eyes and tried to stop the onslaught of too many emotions building in his head and heart and gut and he let everything turn red again. He watched himself betray his kid. Hurt him. Emotionally degrade him and slap him… what kind of monster was he?

 

----

 

The red seeped out of Wanda’s eyes and she stood quietly, slinking back into the shadows.

 

Tony shook away the red for a second time, his face was beaded with sweat and his chest was heaving, much like how Peter’s had been… Oh god, Peter.

 

“Peter.” He whispered, suddenly feeling the chill in the air despite the sweat still dripping down his face. He pressed the button behind his ear and spoke quickly into it, “you know where I am – get the scepter I have – I need to g – go home, somethings wrong.” The comm line was silent before it came alive in his ear.

 

“Tony what are you –”

 

“I can’t right now! Okay?” He threw his arm out as he stormed out of the room, feeling the metal begin to encase him quickly, forming around him as he walked. “I’m sorry.” He said as he fired his repulsors and flew over the battle site.

 

“I want an explanation later, but you sound pretty shaken up so…” Cap was understanding, that was good – maybe he’d let up on the whole ‘language’ situation. Or maybe not.

 

“Thanks, disconnecting now.” He turned off his comms and increased his repulsor speed as he blasted through the dull, grey skies. Peter’s crying, injured face flashed through his mind as he flew, and it only made him more desperate.

 

He almost fell out of the sky when it clicked for him. He faltered, and it felt like his head short-circuited when he realised why he had an odd sense of familiarity about the entire situation. Howard. The ‘other Tony’ was just Tony as Howard, an alcoholic, abusive version of the Dad he was now. Oh god, he hated how he felt exactly what Peter had. Memories of his own childhood and Father flooded and he felt more and more sick.

 

----

 

‘What do you remember about you Dad, huh?’

 

‘He was cold, he was calculating – never told me he loved me, he never even told me he liked me.’

 

----

 

‘This is yours, I take it?! Is this how you spend your weekend at home?!

 

“D – Dad, I –’

 

‘Waste of time! I don’t need to deal with this nonsense! Do you understand me?!’ He ran from the room when he saw the man raise his hand.

 

‘I wanna go back to school… I wanna go back to school… I wanna go back to school…’

 

----

 

‘Y-you?’

 

‘Losing again, eh, boy? You always were a wimp. Never had the stones to do what had to be done.’

 

‘I always tried to do what was right!’

 

‘Brilliance isn't enough. You'll never reach your true potential worrying about consequences. You're weak... You're no son of mine.’ Howard lunged at him, and Tony turned and fled just like he had as a petulant child, unable to fight his own Father. ‘Coward! You were my greatest shame, but I'll make a man of you yet! I'll beat it into you!’

 

----

 

He focused solely on flying home and tried his best to ignore the memories in his head. He didn’t even realise that tears of his own were dripping down his face and making his shirt damp as he landed at the Tower and the suit began to retract from him.

 

“Peter? Pete! Where are you?” He called and ran through the labs and through the halls like someone had been shot, looking desperately for his son.

 

“Dad? I’m in here, you’re early.” His voice sounded a room over and it was happy, he sounded exited, he sounded like himself.

 

“Peter!” He burst into the kitchen and almost threw up when he saw the boy sitting at the table, luckily not studying but reading instead. “Oh my god Pete” he ran across the room and Peter took in his appearance. He was still crying; his shirt was damp, and his hair was mussed like he had driven with the top down.

 

“Dad? What happened on the mission… What’s going on? Why are yo –” He was cut off as Tony pulled him into his arms and nestled his face into his son’s curls, holding him so close and so tightly that the boy thought they were about to be torn apart. “Oh. Hug – yeah… are you okay?” His voice was hesitant, as if he were afraid to hear whether Tony was hurt or not.

 

“Yeah, yes, I’m okay, I’m fine, you’re fine – you’re better than fine, you’re perfect. You are amazing Peter, don’t ever think otherwise. I love you, I love you, I will never stop loving you baby.” He ran his fingers through his hair and tucked his head closer, sinking to his knees so Peter could wrap his arms around his neck and hold on like a koala would.

 

“I missed you today, you scared me… I thought – you were scared when you came in and I thought the mission had gone wrong or something…” His words were slightly muffled from where he was pressed against Tony, but it was easy enough to understand.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry Pete. I missed you too, so much. I don’t want to scare you, ever. I would never, never hurt you, okay?” He pulled back to cup the boy’s cheek, checking him for any red marks or other wounds.

 

“I know you wouldn’t. You protect me… I love you Dad.” He had another armful of Peter and he wasn’t complaining in any way. He felt better, he just needed to check one thing before he would really, truly believe it.

 

“I love you too baby, I just need to make sure of something so hold tight.” Peter’s arms tightened in response and Tony stood, taking much of the teen’s weight as he stepped round the counter. The ground was clean, not a single piece of glass laid on the floor, and when he opened the fridge there were no bottles of beer, there wasn’t even any alcohol. He smiled and pressed a kiss into Peter’s curls fondly. “You’re the best thing in my life, you are the best genius around and I love you so, so much Peter.”

 

“I – thanks Dad, I love you too.” He smiled and wrapped his hands into Tony’s shirt, using it as a means of pulling him closer into the embrace. He would tell Peter one day, when he was older and understood more about his fear. Because that’s what all of this was, a very rational fear of becoming his Father, of hurting Peter because of it, of making him ever feel like he wasn’t the most amazing, precious thing.

 

“I love you so much Peter” they both squeezed tighter. He was confident that he would never, in his life, betray his son like that.

Chapter Text

“Wait what? Ugh it’s a Sundayyyyy, Mister Stark.”

 

“Don’t even try it kid” he replied with humour in his voice, “we both know you’re already halfway into the suit and very awake by now.” Peter froze from where he was hopping on one leg, the phone tucked between his shoulder and ear, with the suit pulled just over his hips.

 

“What – how did y… actually you know what never mind, I’m on my way now.” He shoved the phone to his other ear and returned to tugging the suit back over his body with a smirk.

 

“Sure kid, see you soon.” The call ended right as he kicked the suit mask up from the floor with his foot, grabbing it with his free hand.

 

“See ya” he muttered as he pulled the mask on and blinked a few times, relaxing as the light was filtered for his sensitive eyes. “Let’s go!” He whooped as he jumped from the building and took the very familiar swing down to the warehouse district of Manhattan. They really should just have someone monitoring that place all the time because the amount of times he had to stop petty crime down there was exhausting. By the time he got there his arms weren’t even that tired, he was just kind of bored, not really though. Spider-Man beat sleeping any day of the week – especially whenever he got one on one missions with Tony.

 

“Hey, Mister Stark, you know what we should have?” He dropped beside the man casually and the suit turned toward him, face-plate up to reveal that the man was really inside. He did that a lot when they had missions together, proving he was there with Peter. He thought maybe the genius noticed when he was a little disappointed the times he wasn’t in the suit.

 

“What’s that kid? You took your time” he grinned and snapped the faceplate shut, satisfied that Peter knew he was really here this time.

 

“Sorry you didn’t give me repulsors” he smiled right back, not as visible under his mask but it didn’t matter. “I was gonna say that you know how you and Cap have that cool move where you shoot his shield and it makes the light beam thingy and it’s super awesome?”

 

“Yep.” He was surveying the area nonchalantly, but he was actually listening to the kid, because he cared what he was saying even though he was just babbling to fill the silence.

 

“Yeah, so I figured we should have something like that right? Maybe I could swing from you or we could make a repulsor web? If that’s even possible to make, I mean the physics behind me shooting a web that shoots repulsor rays would be really tedious so probably not, maybe we could just –”

 

“Wait! Pete… shh.” He raised a finger to his lips and he immediately shut up. His senses weren’t humming, but he did hear a vehicle approaching, and when he focused hard enough he heard some clanging from inside the warehouse. “F.R.I? Run heat scan.”

 

“Mister Stark you never even told me what the mission was, care to de-brief me for a second?” He fiddled with his mask display while he waited.

 

“Uh, yeah. We got some underground organisation that’s been tracking and recreating Avengers shi – stuff, Avengers stuff for a few years now and this is the place they’ve been copycatting the Iron Man suit.”

 

“Avengers shit” Peter huffed under his mask, laughing, “how young do you think I am again?”

 

“Language – think of how disappointed poor Cap would be” Tony returned his laugh as he pressed the suit against the side of the building, ducking back as the van’s wheels screeched when it pulled up.

 

“Someone needs to check their left wheel.” He rubbed his ear sorely but followed Tony’s lead, sticking himself to the wall and crawling just above the man confidently.

 

“Show – off” he muttered, knowing Peter would catch it.

 

“How dare you accuse me of such a thing” he mocked, forcing a very exaggerated gasp of offense. “When are we busting in? I could just drop in through the roof if that’s easier.”

 

“Wait till everyone’s inside so we can contain it. They may have copied my suits, but not well, in any sense of the word.”

 

“Yeah but then again even I probably couldn’t recreate one of the suits to your standard, remember how much of a piece of… uh, crap, my first Spidey suit was?” He chuckled quietly to himself and refrained from swearing.

 

“I was actually impressed; do you know how hard it is to find a fifteen-year-old kid who’s smart enough to develop a web fluid with the bare minimum supplies you had. Weren’t you using a computer you found in the trash or something along those lines?” He pressed further against the wall as several men made their way inside.

 

“Really? You were impressed? That’s awesome –”

 

“Show time.”

 

“We gonna use the front door, or should I jump from the ceiling and you punch through the wall?” The boy was practically vibrating with energy and for a second he considered telling him to punch through a wall, but shook away the thought, biting back a laugh.

 

“You know, I think the front door is pretty bad-ass on its own.” He watched as Peter lurked across the side of the building in the lead. “You really are a Spiderling aren’t you?” He could tell the kid rolled his eyes under the mask as he passed him and turned the corner.

 

“Ready?” The smaller form beside him may have been so innocently non-threatening without the get-up, but with his narrowed mask eyes and classic ‘superhero’ stance he passed for slightly menacing.

 

“Ready to make a better entrance than you” he challenged. Before the boy could protest, he raised his hand and blasted the doors down, stepped through the rubble and waited for the dust to clear.

 

“Oh yeah, it’s on” he muttered to himself as he jumped in behind Tony, using the smoke from the blast to slink back and attach himself to the wall inside, unseen by anyone. He wound his way up to the ceiling and hung there for a second, waiting for the iconic pre-battle banter to begin.

 

“I’ve heard imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this is a bit too far guys.” Tony laughed from inside the suit, waving his arms at the ten or so unmanned Iron Man replica’s, it reminded him of the whole Justin Hammer fiasco. There were only twelve men in the warehouse, eleven of which snapped their heads up to look at him. The twelfth man didn’t bother to turn, just stayed hunched over a large, metal work bench where he was tinkering away at something. “Hey, faceless guy at the back, yeah? The one playing with things he shouldn’t, might wanna appreciate that I’ve actually bothered to grace you with my presence. I’m a busy man and all that.”

 

“Ah yes, Stark, nice to see you finally decided I’m enough of a threat to constitute a little visit, hm?” He swung around in his seat, clutching a remote which he was half-heartedly clicking the back onto.

 

“Nonsense, the pleasure’s truly all mine.” He snarked right back, rolling his eyes from within the armour at the horribly clichéd chair spin entrance. He was mildly surprised the man wasn’t evilly stoking a cat in his lap. “You gonna come quietly or do you plan on turning this into a whole thing?” Gesturing once again to the suits stood at the sides of the room.

 

“Well I don’t know, what do you feel like doing?” The man replied with a smirk.

 

“I don’t know, I’d much rather be at home playing with the cool toys I have in my garage.” He overenunciated the worlds like he was talking to a toddler. “But then again, when do I ever get what I want” he lifted his head as the man stepped down from his table, still waving the remote that perked Tony’s attention in his hand.

 

“I hope you don’t mind, I think personally, I would love to give my little toys a test drive before I scrap them in favour of… other projects.” The pearly smile the guy flashed wasn’t too friendly and he stepped one foot back and raised a hand dramatically, aiming a not yet charged repulsor at the smug face.

 

“You gotta do what ya gotta do when it comes to taking down the self-confident pricks.” The other men moved forward to flock the obvious leader and Tony smiled. “What, don’t feel like manning your little replica’s today boys?”

 

“Bold of you to assume my suits need men Stark.” He didn’t hesitate to press the buttons on the remote and the machines whirred to life less gracefully than the very developed one they were planning on fighting.

 

“Oh, lordy here we go” he sighed, readying himself as a flash of red and blue whipped past his view.

 

“Hey guys, mind if I swing by just to, ah, maybe do some of this,” Peter flicked a web at the remote in the man’s hand, hitting it dead-on before yanking it out of his grip and throwing it in a graceful arc to Tony. “And a little of this too,” he shot two webs at the same man, who was now undecidedly the leader of the whole operation, sticking his hands and waist to the bench behind him. He turned around and spread his arms out, a wide grin plastered across his face as he spoke to his challenger. “What did I tell you Mister Stark, I got a thing for dramatic flair!” He flipped and kicked the nearest man hard enough to drop like a stone, but he was still breathing. One of the suits flew in front of Tony’s path and he spent less than a minute grappling and dodging blows before he was blasting its head off and sending it rolling to the floor with about as much usefulness as an empty tin can. Peter had taken out about a third of the men while he was occupied.

 

“You should stop pulling your punches kid” he could hear the kid’s steady breathing from where he was fighting the second suit alongside him, and it wasn’t fair because he wasn’t out of breath yet and he had webbed eight of the twelve guys down already without so much as a scratch.

 

“I thought adult weren’t supposed to condone murder?” He stuck the second to last man to the wall beside Tony proudly before turning to the last one.

 

“Oh yeah, right, I forget you have super strength with how much effort it takes for you to open a pickle jar.” He sends the third suit flying past Peter in pieces and decides to take the fifth and sixth on together, seeing how easy it was proving to disable them with his repulsor blasts after dodging their blows. They were programmed pretty well, the blows would most likely dent his armour if he didn’t fight back, and he was admittedly a little hesitant to let Peter take one on without any protection, excluding his flimsy spandex.

 

“Hey, if I used full strength on a pickle jar I’d end up with a fistful of glass and the equivalent of pickle guacamole.” He webs to the wall behind the final man and as he swings past he shoots his elbow out and hears a noise as the man drops to the floor in a heap. “That’s gonna be a headache when you wake up” he said as he stuck the man down in precaution. The clanging of the sixth suit is satisfying for the billionaire to hear as he braces himself for the seventh and eighth.

 

“Wanna alert the cops while I finish up here?” He says after he ducks a particularly vicious swing from one of the robots.

 

“Nope, I wanna add fighting Iron Man replicas to my superhero resume if you don’t mind.” He swung towards the opposite end of the warehouse where the fight with the machines had primarily stayed and Tony began to watch him out of the corner of his eye, vehemently denying that he was being overprotective of the kid. He watched as Peter took on the ninth and tenth, having much more trouble with them than the men. He blasted the seventh through the chest and cursed under his breath as he dodged the red and blue figure soaring past him and slamming against the metal wall of the warehouse.

“Kid! You good?” He moved to help as the remaining three robots surrounded the two, but he was back up on his feet in a blur and shaking off all of Tony’s concerns with a childish but annoyingly heart-warming salute. “Cute” he scoffed, masking how adorable he actually found the gesture with a sarcastic tone before choosing to take on two of the three himself. He hoped by forcing Peter to grapple with one he would be chucked around like less of a ragdoll.

 

“Hey Mister Stark, when I’m done here, what do I do about him?” He broke off a bot’s shin and gave himself enough time to glance up at what Peter was talking about. The leader, who hadn’t been knocked out, was slicing through the webbing at an embarrassingly slow pace.

 

“I’ll deal with him, focus on your guy for no – ah!” He was cut off when the robot who’s shin he had blown off shot it straight back at his head.

 

“You okay?” Peter shouted at him in concern, stupidly taking his eyes off his own bot in favour of checking his mentor wasn’t hurt.

 

“Rude!” Tony shouted, fake anger in his tone as he blasted his second to last opponent. “I’m fine kid, like I was saying, focus on your guy for now.” He was in the process of getting his last suit to waver for a second long enough, so he could fire at it, but he abandoned his focus when a pained grunt and a more than exasperated yell sounded from behind him.

 

“Get off!” Peter’s bot had wrapped itself around the boy and had its arms around his neck while his back was pressed against its metallic chest. He surged forward, terrified at the thought of the thing cutting off the kid’s oxygen, not when this was supposed to be an easy mission.

 

“Hey, pick on someone your own size!” He hadn’t even made is five steps when his own bot attached itself to his suit’s arms and the piercing sound of metal against metal was filling his ears. He lurched backward at the extra weight and was almost bowled over when the thing raised its legs and magnetised them to the waist of his armour. “What the hell is this?” He called, jerking his elbows back in hopes of dislodging what was currently latched onto his back. A resounding snap had him pausing, looking up to see that the leader had finally freed his last hand from Peter’s webbing and immediately reached around to grab something from his desk.

 

“Initiate last resort protocol!” He yelled into what Tony presumed was a comm.

 

“Underoos! What’s going on – you good over there?” He continued to struggle with his robot while he called to Peter, choosing to ignore the leader for the time being, more focused on getting himself free so he could help the teen. He could see the metal beginning to warp and bend under the boy’s fingers as he presumably used all his strength to pull away the arms holding his head in place.

 

“I’m good, it isn’t even squeezing my neck, so –” He was cut off by himself, as a blood-curdling scream escaped his lips and blue light surrounded the bot holding him. Tony could feel his suit when it went offline, and the weight of the robot slipped off his back. He didn’t care about himself though, he was focused on Peter whose body was convulsing and seizing under the electric current pulsing through him. That scream was the worst noise he had ever heard, and he wanted it to stop so desperately. He couldn’t move, his suit was locked down, powered completely down so he was practically encased in the iron prison watching Peter jerk and thrash wildly, his screams morphing into howls of agony.

 

And then it stopped. Well, his screaming did, the electricity continued long after his eyes had rolled back in his head under the mask.

 

“Stop it! Stop! You’re going to kill him – turn it off!”

 

“Oh, Stark.” Something tapped against the outside of his suit and he tore his eyes off the haunting sight of Peter writhing with the current. The leader had walked across the room and was tapping an unlit blow torch against his faceplate and smirking. “You care about him, don’t you?” God, he was so sick of people doing this shit to him, this is why he put up walls and denied any form of close relationship with people, because this always happened. They always ended up getting hurt. In saying that, he doesn’t know why he said what he did next, maybe it was impulse, maybe he was just going along with whatever the man was saying so that he would stop.

 

“Of course I fucking do, turn it off – please, you’re hurting him!”

 

“It turns off on its own after a little bit, once the energy runs out.” True to the man’s word, after a few more excruciating seconds the robot stopped emitting the shocks and as it fell back, so too did Peter slump forward and crumple to the ground. He laid, sprawled across the concrete floor of the warehouse on his front, unmoving apart from the smoke rising from his suit. The torch scraped along the paint over his armour as the leader dragged it along with him, stalking toward the unconscious Peter with intent glinting in his eyes.

 

“No! Back away from him or I swear I will fucking –”

 

“You’ll do what? Stand there in your dysfunctional suit and watch while I do whatever I want to, because we both know that’s the only outcome of this situation.” He snapped his mouth shut, unsure of what to say. He tried to move again, wrenching his arms and legs in hopes of forcing his suit forward. Nothing, absolutely nothing happened, and he silently cursed himself for making the thing so immobile when it was powered down. “Let’s see what exactly makes you care so much, huh?” The man was crouched above Peter, his fingers slipping toward the helpless kid’s mask, itching at the edges and dragging his nails toward the seam that separated the head piece from the body of the suit.

 

“No! Leave him alone – I swear to god I will give you nothing but a painful end if you even lay a finger on him!” The man didn’t even flinch at Tony’s threat, in fact he only proceeded to slip his fingers into the underside of the fabric and start to slowly pull it off the boy’s unconscious face. “Get away!” He yelled, pouring every ounce of intimidation and command into his voice as possible. The mask was pulled away and thrown to the side, leaving Peter’s face bare and exposed to the calculating eyes of the man. An aggressive grin split his face as he drank in the stunningly young face of the boy draped out beneath him.

 

“Impressive…” he murmured as he ran a strikingly gentle knuckle across the slowly darkening bruise forming across Peter’s left cheekbone. “So, Tony Stark,” his grin only widened as he gripped the mop of chestnut curls and tugged upward so the teen’s closed eyes faced Tony and his neck twisted at an uncomfortable looking angle. “How did you manage to snag this recruit so young, hm? Bit of blackmail? Persuasion money? Or was it you that gave him the powers, so he was indebted to you from the beginning? Tell me the secret of how something so pure was willingly tainted by you and the Avengers’ antics?”

 

He wanted so badly to check on the poor kid’s vitals like he had made a habit of during battles, but of course his suit was offline and F.R.I.D.A.Y wasn’t functional without power. He didn’t know when exactly it had become a regular occurrence, but whenever he felt the cold grips of anxiety tugging at his chest he would pull up the vitals and watch the steady beat of the boy’s heart and monitor his breathing until the, normally unwarranted, panic had ebbed away, and he could breathe again. From where he was stuck in the suit, he could make out the rapid rise and fall of his chest against the concrete, but what was worrying him at the moment was how unresponsive he was.

 

“Put him down.” He snapped, silently hoping the gut-wrenching interest the guy seemed to have with the young boy would be lost.

 

“And why would I do that when he’s the perfect subject for my actual plan? Or how he seems to have you, the all-powerful Tony Stark, wrapped around his finger?” He turned his attention back down to Peter and brought a hand to his chin, angling his face around in the light playfully before turning his torso over with his foot. He rested with his back on the floor and his head tilted towards where Tony was frozen.

 

“What the hell do you mean ‘perfect subject,’ don’t even dream of a world where I’d let you fucking experiment on that kid.” Under his faceplate his lips curled back into a snarl as he shoved against the metal, trying to get even somewhat closer to where the man was hovering over Peter’s limp form. He was arranging the boy’s limbs, so he wasn’t laying so haphazardly, and it was having a surprising effect of Tony. Anytime the man’s fingers touched Peter he felt his blood boiling more and more, he never knew he could want to kill someone so many times over. He couldn’t understand when or why he had become so protective of the teen.

 

“He’s comprised very similarly to Captain America, is he not? The whole super soldier serum makeup works well enough for him and I’d assume the same amount of drugs would be required to knock both of them out.” He stood, turning away from Peter and pacing back over to the bench, ignoring his men who were all beginning to wake slowly, groaning from under the webs and starting to tug impatiently at them.

 

“I don’t know what you’re getting at and I don’t care, I haven’t spoken to Captain America since Germany, so you can quit the evil monologue and leave the kid alone, he doesn’t have anything to do with this.” The man shrugged a white lab coat on and clipped a nametag which Tony couldn’t read from his distance, but he did slip some things into the pockets before whirling around to face the dysfunctional suit.

 

“Oh, but he really does matter Stark. Granted, he’s not my target, but why let a perfect opportunity to test the drugs I’ve synthesised for the super soldier on someone who’s body works the same way?” He was beginning to use the blowtorch to burn through the webbing that held down the rest of the men, and it was working far quicker than the knife had.

 

“Don’t even think about testing your shit on him, he isn’t comprised the same way, you could kill him if you go messing around with enhanced drugs.” That wasn’t strictly true, the anaesthetic he had made specifically for Spider-Man’s DNA had been incredibly similar to the one he had made for Steve. To be fair, the kid needed it a lot more than Steve had, because he wasn’t trained and yet he still stubbornly got himself into trouble almost every week that required some bones to be set or a bullet extraction. For a ‘friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man’ he sure did get himself into a whole lot of shit.

 

“Considering the amount of electricity he just endured was enough to stop a normal humans heart, something tells me he won’t be easy to kill with some drugs.” He freed the last of his men and threw the blowtorch to the side, which rolled across the floor loudly and rolled straight past Peter, grating against the concrete right by his ear. The poor kid’s face scrunched in discomfort even in unconsciousness and he whined softly, tucking his head under an elbow and curling into himself more. Seeing such a vulnerable display of something which would normally have been adorable if he were merely asleep in his bed at the compound made Tony’s insides twist horribly. He felt a sudden urge to pull the boy into his lap and card his fingers through his hair until he settled into sleep again. It was such a paternal instinct and he desperately shoved it deeper down inside himself, refusing to think about how much he had grown to care for him.

 

As he neared Peter again he pulled something from the pocket of his lab coat that made Tony’s heart clench and stutter on fear. It was a vial of purple serum, attached into a needle.

 

“Get that away from him!” He shoved against the inside of his suit and felt the terror fighting its way into his throat at he yelled helplessly and pounded against the metal. Peter made small noises and twitched as the man crouched above him once more, tilting his head further to the side and probing his neck for the right vein he needed. When he plunged the needle into the soft flesh and started injecting whatever the purple liquid was, the boy whimpered delicately, and his face scrunched in pain as his eyelids fluttered slightly, not opening, but still dancing at the sensation. “Stop it! What was that?” The man didn’t seem alarmed by how Peter was slowly beginning to rouse, just lazily rubbed at his forehead as if to smooth out the lines of discomfort on the teen’s face.

 

“Just a simple sedative made to knock out an enhanced, no need to worry Mister Stark. We’ll be out of your hair by the time your suit reboots, so just stay put for the meantime while we transport the boy.”

 

“You aren’t taking him anywhere, leave him alone.” He ignored the suggestion to stop struggling, and only proceeded to fight harder against his own armour as the rest of the men in the room moved toward Peter. The sedative must have been fast acting, because his entire body had stilled, his muscles were limp, and his cheek rested against the floor. It reminded Tony of the few times he had fallen asleep at the tower, his small head lounging easily against whatever paper he’d been working on at the time of his impromptu nap.

 

Two of the men were gripping his upper arms, pulling him up so his knees grazed the floor and his head slouched forward with his chin against his chest. The leader came forward, forcing his head back using his chin as a means of tilting it back, he used a thumb to peel open one of Peter’s eyelids open, flashing a small light in it, checking the dilation.

 

“Get away, stop touching him!” He was slamming his fists into the sides of his suit, not caring about the nasty bruises he was giving himself. He only fought harder when the man pulled away and let the poor kid’s chin drop, where it thudded down against his chest again. He hoped for Peter’s sake he hadn’t bitten his tongue.

 

“Hold on, before you carry him to the trucks I need to get rid of these.” The web shooters were tugged off his wrists and thrown over by his mask without care. These men didn’t care if Peter worked for months perfecting the web fluid, they didn’t care that he came over to the lab on Friday’s afterschool and stayed the night at the compound. None of them cared about Peter Parker, the sweet, nerdy boy from Queens who only became a hero because he couldn’t stand the idea of having powers and not helping people. They only cared about the genetic makeup of Spider-Man, so they could test drugs on him. It made Tony sick, he couldn’t understand how anyone could overlook how perfect and amazing that kid was.

 

He watched the men lifting the teen like a dead weight, manhandling him and letting his feet drag along the floor uselessly. He felt his heart clench when one of them slung the languish body over their shoulder and his arms hung loosely, swinging slightly as the men stepped around the debris left from Tony’s entrance. The sound of the vans driving away with a drugged Peter inside was followed by over half an hour of silence where he was left in the warehouse, inside his unmoving suit. He took the time to really work out how the kid had managed to worm his way into his heart and stick there. He thought about how protective and responsible he felt for the boy, and how worked up he got himself when he got the inevitable call of Peter asking to swing over to the tower because he ‘uh, may have gotten a little shot during patrol tonight?’ He will admit to himself, that the kid was endearing, and his kindred spirit mirrored the one he had when he was the same age, perhaps a bit younger. Sure, he had a pretty large amount of care and concern for the boy, but that was probably just because he feels incredibly responsible for his wellbeing, seeing as he made the suit and whatnot. Tony’s own Father was cold and distant, he wants to give Peter more vocal support that he himself got from Howard, but that doesn’t mean he was the kid’s Dad or anything. He may get weird paternal urges when the boy was hurt or upset, but that was as mentor, surely it was just natural, protective instinct for someone unable to defend themselves. Thankfully, his ‘logically, why is this kid so adorable to me’ spiral was cut off by his suit, which began to whirr, and the display lit up again.

 

“Boss, I believe I was shut down due to an intense electrical output which damaged the suit and forced an emergency reboot to occur.” The A.I’s voice was familiar, and comforting, because it meant he could move. It meant he could start working on saving Peter.

 

“Yup, I managed to work that one out myself while you took a nap, let’s get to the tower so I can track this kid.”

 

----

 

Meanwhile, after three-quarters of an hour, Peter was beginning to wake up.

 

He was extremely groggy, and his head felt like it had been stuffed full of cotton balls. His mouth tasted funny, almost metallic in flavour. He felt like he was going to throw up, his head was pounding, and he had a migraine working away behind his eyes, which he refused to open. Groaning, he rolled his head back, wincing when the sound of a stiff neck clicking at the movement hurt his ears. He should probably open his eyes, it was the most logical thing to do when the rest of his senses were taking awhile to adjust to the lovely world of consciousness. With his senses so dulled he felt like everything was underwater.

 

“Ughhh…” he groaned loudly and proceeded to lift a hand up in hopes of rubbing small circles over his temples to ease the headache, he didn’t get far. His hand was wrenched back down and his hit a hard surface, making him groan once more. He peeled his eyes open and looked down at his wrists. They were both tied down to the metal arms of a chair. He would have rolled his eyes if it wouldn’t have made him incredibly nauseous. “Really, is this necessary?” His tongue didn’t comply with his brain that well and his words slurred slightly, which only really served to emphasize his point. With how terrible he felt the restraints probably weren’t needed. He felt strange without his web shooters, and he felt immediately unsafe when he recognised the mundane sensation of the air on his face. Shit. Someone had taken his mask off, and to make it worse he didn’t have any webs to defend himself. “Mis’errr St – ‘ark?” He gave up on trying to force his words into the realm of understandable, as long as someone knew he was awake they would respond, surely Mr. Stark would talk to him until the headache went away. Maybe if he was so out of it that he probably wouldn’t remember it, he would scratch his scalp comfortingly. Peter loved it when he did that but he didn’t even think Tony knew he was aware of it, he only played with his hair when he pretended to be asleep.

 

“Nope, Stark’s back at the warehouse kid, you can wait till I’ve finished testing some things then you can go home.” The voice was vaguely familiar, but his brain didn’t work anything out quick enough for him to realise who it was that spoke.

 

“Who – whaa?” He heard a not very friendly sounding chuckle and then there was a pinch at his neck and his eyes were feeling so much heavier.

 

“Just a few more doses and we’ll be done with the first one, it’s fast acting but you metabolise it pretty quick. In fact, you’ve already burnt through two vials of the stuff…” Peter was losing the battle to stay awake and the words he was trying to listen to were jumbling together and slipping away like a dream and he didn’t notice before, but the darkness felt far nicer than the harsh lights on his un-masked eyes.

 

----

 

“F.R.I track the suit; first priority is getting Pete’s location.” He drummed his fingers against the desk, tapping his foot anxiously, watching the screen pull up and zoom in around different areas of New York, trying to catch a signal.

 

“Unfortunately, I am unable to get a proper reading on Mister Parker’s suit when the mask and the body are in two separate locations.” He grit his teeth is grim determination.

 

“Well I’m holding the web shooters and mask right here, so is there no way of just tracking the body of the suit?” There was a mechanical pause before a solemn reply.

 

“I am afraid not.” He hung his head and licked his lips. “Although, I am able to say with viable certainty that Mister Parker has not left New York, as Karen would automatically shut off if the body travelled out of range.” He had a sudden idea, and he spun in his desk chair, pulling up the warehouse district he had flown back from not too long ago.

 

“Can you find me all the camera’s and satellite footage of the roads that these two vans are on F.R.I?”

 

“Working on it now Sir.” He blew out a breath and allowed himself to relax his shoulders slightly, propping one side of his head up on a fist and biting at one side of his cheek. “I have the footage here and have managed to trace them to a small facility on the boarders of Brooklyn and Manhattan.”

 

“Thanks, load that into my suit, would you?”

 

“Already on it Sir, however I would advise against extended flights for the time being, the power is still dispersing itself evenly and booster strength is not fully functional as of yet.”

 

“Can I make it to the location without much trouble?” He let the suit form around his body and the headset switched on, the volume of F.R.I.D.A.Y’s voice adjusting slightly in his ear.

 

“Yes, although making it back seems to be where the problem arises.”

 

“Text Happy the location and have him meet me there then.” The A.I confirmed, and he was off, murmuring a silent promise to Peter that he would get to him soon.

 

----

 

If it were possible, when Peter awoke a second time his head felt even fuzzier, and the pain behind his eyes had not only spread across his entire face and neck, but the sharp throbbing was agonising. He felt bile rising in his throat when he tried to suck in a shaky breath. A choked gasp rasped from his too-dry throat and he held back tears when he tried to force his eyes open again. He mumbled incoherently and twisted his wrists and ankles against the bonds that were strapping him down to the uncomfortable chair.

 

“Wh – wha’s goin’ on?” Although everything still felt underwater, his ears didn’t feel so pressurised anymore and he could actually make out a distant and muffled shuffling as if someone were moving closer to him. He was in a considerable amount of pain, but he wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, so he kept his eyes squeezed shut against the harsh lighting and tried to divert all the energy he had to his hearing. He jerked back in surprise as a voice whispered right by his face, which only made the queasy feeling in his stomach to worsen.

 

“You’re in my personal lab space and I’m just testing some drugs out on you, so try to relax a bit.”

 

“S’ hard to do tha’ when I’ve been tied to a chair agains’ my will.” He heard a soft laugh and then there was pressure in his upper arm and he was too tired to tilt away from the needle, but he tried weakly to do so anyway. “Why’re you doin’ this?” A coldness was spreading through his arm and soaking into him, all the while the dizziness was getting worse. Even behind his eyelids Peter could feel the room spinning around him and his throat getting dryer.

 

“I’m just testing these out and making sure they work on you, the lesser Avenger, before getting to the real deal.” He managed to force a very incoherent sounding laugh and regretted it when his head protested.

 

“Well jokes on you, I’m not an Avenger” he giggled again, despite himself and was beginning to wonder what the hell were these drugs because he could still hear himself and he was acting drunk, or high. He didn’t really know the difference considering he wasn’t exactly the party type.

 

“That’s not much of a surprise given how easy you were to take down.” The voice darkened and didn’t seem to respond well to Peter’s poor attempt at humour. Naturally, he decided to keep talking.

 

“That’s a bi’ offensive bu’ okay…” He made a high-pitched whining noise and squirmed in his seat, arching his back away from the chair as a very weird sensation flooded through his chest. He felt funny, and then he felt an ache as his lungs constricted and it got harder to draw in a breath. “Ugh, n – no… Don’ – don’ like it…” A finger pressed his sternum and pressed his back against the chair again in warning.

 

“Stop moving around so much kid, I’ve got the pretty anti-serum here if you have a bad reaction.” There was a rattling of glass against plastic from his right and he assumed the voice was tapping the anti-serum teasingly. He couldn’t stop himself from twisting his body around as much as he could under the restraints. It hurt his face and skull to reposition himself but the fluttery, squeezing feeling in his lungs was worsening and he was finding it more difficult to breathe.

 

“St – stop it’, hur’s, hur’s… Mm Ah! Hur’s!” He jerked as his breath caught in his chest and he felt the all too familiar burn of not getting enough air. It felt like someone had wrapped their hand over his lungs and were beginning to squeeze them like a stress ball. “I – I…” he wheezed and tried to suck in air, but nothing was working, and all of his breaths were getting caught in his throat before they reached his chest and the burning was getting worse.

 

“You need to use words, c’mon spit it out, what’s happening.” The voice sounded angrier than before and he flinched away despite the throbbing in his head.

 

“N – no a – a – air… no br – breathe!” He wheezed again, and it whistled and died out before any oxygen could reach his lungs.”

 

“Right, I’ll mark that down as inconclusive then because you’re having a bad reaction to it.” He heard the tapping of someone’s finger on a screen and he assumed it was a tablet the voice was using to record his results, but he couldn’t care any less right now because he wasn’t breathing, and he needed the anti-serum now.

 

There was a crunching and the very familiar and amazing sound of Iron Man’s repulsors blasting through something, but he found it hard to allow the rush of joy to get far because he still. Couldn’t. Breathe.

 

“M’s’er S’rk…” He gasped weakly and wiggled the restraints again, trying to move in a way that would lessen the pressure that was pressing down on his lungs and stopping them from working. Logically, he knew there wasn’t anything that was really pushing down, but that’s what it felt like. And it felt like pain.

 

“Hey kiddo, hold tight I’m almost with you!” He keened at his mentor’s comforting voice and arched his back again as his throat began to squeeze shut. He made a horrible, raspy noise that sounded like he was gagged but his lips were parted, and his chest was rising and falling as if he were panting but none of the oxygen was passing through. He whined, and the world was starting to spin around again. He clutched at the arms of the chair and his nails scrabbled at the metal uselessly as the burning spread through his entire torso and neck. “Jesus, kid I’m coming!” He made another tortured noise before promptly letting his body slump under the restraints as he passed out.

 

Tony worked his way through the room, blasting tables into guards and knocking anyone and anything aside that got in between his path to Peter. “Move” he grunted and sent the leader flying across the lab and slamming into a cleaning station. He checked everybody was either passed out or skittering out of the room in fear before he stepped out of the suit, relishing in the feeling that it actually opened for him this time. “Pete!” He stumbled forward quickly and pressed his fingers to the boy’s neck, finding a healthy, if not mildly rapid, pulse which happily thrummed away under his fingertips. He pulled away to survey the way his lips were far too pale and tinted blue. There was a smear of blood on his neck and upper arm, likely from the repeated injections he had undergone. He fumbled with the restraints and unclipped them hastily before placing steadying but firm hands on the teen’s shoulders. “Wake up now Peter, you gotta wake up for this.” He jostled the boy as roughly as he dared, which wasn’t all that rough at all.

 

“Mm, hur’s… M’s’er S’rk…” He wasn’t fully awake; his lids were shut but Tony could see his eyes darting around wildly underneath them. He was mumbling incoherently, and it was hard to make out the words, but it was impossible to miss the way he said ‘Mister Stark’ because even if he wasn’t aware now, he uttered it the same way he always did when he was half-asleep or incredibly tired from an intense nap.

 

“Yep, that’s my name kiddo, don’t wear it out.” He undid the ankle restraints and kept a hand on one of Peter’s shoulders, so he wouldn’t slump forward and fall out of the chair. He leant over and cupped his cheek gently, rubbing the pad of his thumb over his cheekbone to coax him awake. “Come on then, bat those spidery lashes for me, huh?” He waited, and when the teen did nothing but hum and lean into the touch he gave up with soft pleading. “Don’t hate me for this but if you want to breathe you need to wake up,” he proceeded to pinch the boy.

 

“No! No more needl’s, no… no a – air!” He snapped to, somewhat, attention, but his eyes stayed shut and his head lolled against Tony’s hand.

 

“I need you to open your eyes for me please, real important bud.” They squeezed shut more before one hesitantly peeked open, revealing a slit just large enough for him to make out the hazel orbs that laid behind them. “Hey there, nice time for a nap, trust me I know, but you need to breathe now Pete.” He blinked lazily, his thoughts swimming around before the burning in his chest caught up and he reached out with his arms and clutched at Tony’s shirt tightly, balling his hand up in the fabric as he began to wheeze painfully again.

 

“Need… need an – anti-serum, rev’rse it please M’s’er S’rk, hur’s… hur’s.” He was gasping, and his fingers were twisting at the fabric tightly and Tony blearily wondered if it would rip in the small hands. He guided Peter’s back against the chair again and tapped his chin gently for attention.

 

“You have to tell me which one it is, see the bench there to your right” his head flopped to the side slackly and his eyes swivelled to what he was pointing out. “Yeah, which one do I give you? There are four there, which one is the anti – serum?” The teen shifted and shook his head.

 

“I – I don’ – I don’ know…” His breath whistled, and his lips looked bluer than before.

 

“F.R.I, scan all four, which one is it?” The suit moved for the bench and hovered for a moment before the A.I spoke.

 

“I am unable to discern –” she began before Tony cut her off.

 

“Shit! Okay, okay Pete… you really need to think hard, focus up here.” He squeezed his eyes back shut and tried to remember.

 

“Rattle th – them” he managed, keeping his eyes shut and channelled his hearing as best he could through the pain. Tony shook one vial and it sounded too far away, then another, then another and finally one more. “I – I don’ – the third o – or fourth…”

 

“Okay, this is – alright, we know it isn’t the last ones but we’re running low on time kid, those lips are really blue, and you seem to be drifting a bit.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and sucked in a breath, immediately feeling guilty that Peter couldn’t. The boy forced his eyes open again with considerable effort and stared at the vials, scrunching his face in either concentration or pain, Tony didn’t know.

 

“Th – thir – third one…” He said, his voice dropping off a little at the end. He wanted to explain himself, but it was hard enough forcing those two words out. He was slumping more in the chair and his head was getting heavier as the edges of his vision swirled black.

 

“Might hurt a little but I’ll be careful bud,” he didn’t remember seeing Tony move beside him, but he could feel the pain in his arm when the needle pierced his skin. He grumbled under his breath and the room didn’t stop spinning but he did calm himself a little, knowing his mentor was right by his side, a warm hand on his shoulder.

 

He watched Peter’s face very carefully after he injected him, watching for any change. He didn’t seem to react immediately, but after a minute or two his breathing wasn’t so raspy, and his lips stopped getting bluer. He slipped his fingers back over the boy’s pulse and held them there, hoping that it slowing down was a good sign. “How’s that feeling?” Peter hummed and lolled his head, so it rested fully on his arm. He smiled to himself and closed his eyes, focusing everything on the feeling of the steady pulse thrumming under his fingers. They both let out a breath and for once, both of them were even and solid. “We should get to the car sooner rather than later Pete, I don’t want anyone else busting in here.”

 

“Mm – m’kay then.” He thinks the teen was just sleepy now.

 

“Can you walk?” He nodded and pushed himself off the chair, swayed slightly before pitching forward dangerously. He most likely would be nursing a broken nose if Tony hadn’t caught his arm and pulled him into his chest securely. “Alright, I’ll help you then kid, come on.” He threw Peter’s arm over his shoulder and put a hand around his middle, supporting most of his weight as he half guided, and half carried the boy to the car where Happy was waiting.

 

“Damn, what kind of party was this?” He rolled his eyes at the driver.

 

“Not a party Hap, he was drugged up for super-soldier purposes and had a bad reaction to a poorly synthesised drug. Get us back to the tower quickly so I can sort him out properly.” The suit folded away and was put into the trunk as he clambered into the backseat, pulling the exhausted Peter in behind him and clicking his seatbelt like a toddler. “Tell me if you’re gonna puke so I can get a safe distance” he joked before buckling himself in next to the boy.

 

“M’s’er S’rk… m’ play w’th m’ hair…” Peter flopped against him and curled his arms around his waist and snuggled in. Shit. He had a lapful of dozing teenager and was completely unaware of the fact that he even knew he played with his hair while he slept.

 

“Uhm, you sure that’s comfy kid?” He was not a Dad, he was not a huggy person, he absolutely did not find sleepy Peter excruciatingly adorable. The boy made a humming whiney noise and nuzzled closer into Tony’s chest, relaxing his frame completely in a show of complete and unwavering trust. “O – okay then” he put his arm down from where it was awkwardly raised above the kid, he let it rest along his back and rub small circles over the bumps in his spine. Peter made a noise of content before reaching his own arm out blindly, slapping lightly at the seat before finding Tony’s other hand and tugging at it gently. He relented and let the smaller hand guide his into the mop of fluffy, brunette curls before nestling it there and squeezing his fingers. The squeeze prompted Tony to huff out a laugh and begin to card his fingers through the waves, swirling strands around his finger and scratching at the scalp as Peter practically purred like a cat from below him.

 

“Mm… than’ ‘ou M’s’er S’rk – feels nice” he didn’t miss the dopey smile that was plastered across the kid’s face as he melted easily into sleep under the rhythmic sensation of his D – mentor ruffling his hair… mentor.

 

“Anytime kiddo” he sighed contentedly and looked down at the boy who had, without a doubt, melted his heart and made a home there. “Sleep well” he whispered, pressing a feather-light kiss into the curls when the teen was definitely asleep. Peter’s smile broadened, and a blush crept across his cheeks in his very 'real' sleep.

Chapter Text

“Pops come on, please? Just for a few hours, please, I need to patrol tonight, I swear I won’t go do my own investigation or anything.” He softened his face and batted his dark eyelashes, peering up through them pleadingly. “Pleeeeeease Pops?” Steve sighed and rubbed his hands over his face tiredly.

 

“Peter, I don’t want anything happening to you… there’s a bigger risk for you and me right now because we don’t have any information on your Dad except that he’s somewhere underground and he’s cold.” He thought back to the staticky phone call the two had received hours ago before Tony’s suit was forcibly shut down and all of F.R.I.D.A.Y’s trackers went offline.

 

“Hey, hey, uh, Steve, honey – I – I think there might be a… yeah, a – a slight proble – Ah, shit!” His shaky, hurried voice was muffled by an explosion that didn’t sound too far off from where he was whispering into the phone. “So – sorry, about the language babe, just – I may need some backup, these guys, uh, they have something that’s gonna shut the suit off and force it into power down…” There was frantic yelling in the background and Tony’s rapid breathing filled the break between his words. When he spoke again it was a faint whisper, as if he were trying to stay quiet, “maybe, yeah maybe just – just leave Petey at home for this one Cap, it’s a bit – ah ow – um, a bit… more than he’s ready for I think, these guys are kinda –” There was a metallic clanging and it sounded as if he were shifting away from the voices and angry shouting in the background of the call. “These guys are kinda rude, pretty brutal if you ask me, so just – fuck! Ow, ow, ah, shit!” A shot rang out and it must have dented the armour pretty badly because it sounded painful with all the cussing Tony was doing. “Sorry, sorry babe, I love you, maybe hurry up a bit getting here? The uh, the suit’s thruster and repulsors are down and I’m gonna hang up and check to see if I – if I can send you my location or coordinates, but, um, I’m pretty sure the base is underground somewhere, s – still New York so no need to w – worry ‘bout me. Hopefully I – I’ll see ya soon Capsicle.” The call shut off just after the shouting morphed into angry screams and vague threats, followed by more gunshots.

 

Steve had gotten the call and happily put it on speaker while he was in the car on his way home with Peter in the passenger seat, clutching his school bag with a sandwich hanging halfway out of his mouth. He had calmed him down in the driveway to the compound before hurrying them both inside and alerting Nat, Clint, Bucky and Steve of the situation, promising himself to tell everyone else later if it progressed. He had told Peter they would surely be getting a message with Tony’s location shortly, but it never came, so himself and everyone else had frantically gotten to work on the computers to try and track him down. That brought him to now, where he was nursing a stress headache and looking at Peter from his desk chair, trying to convince the boy that going on patrol right now wasn’t a good idea considering the unknown threat. The pleading puppy eyes were wearing him down and the kid knew it.

 

“Please Pops, I swear I’ll be really careful and keep my tracker watch on just in case. I’ll even come home if you call and I promise to call you if anything is out of the ordinary. Please?” He caved, like the big softie Tony always accused him of being. To be perfectly fair, it was hard not to crumble, Peter was so much like his Dad with the large, Hazel eyes and dark lashes, soft, innocent smile complimenting the begging look.

 

“Fine, only if you keep all your communications on at all times and absolutely do not go looking under the city for Dad, okay?” Peter grinned and pressed a quick hug to his side, nodding eagerly.

 

“Yeah, yeah, of course. Bye! I won’t be out for too long, call if you need me!” He was already halfway out the window and waving goodbye to everyone in the office.

 

“Bye паук, keep safe” Natasha called back, swiping a sip of Clint’s coffee while he was pre-occupied waving to Peter.

 

“Hope he’s not in as reckless of a mood as Tones was today,” Rhodey sighed to himself and shot Steve a worried look before turning back to his screen and resuming the search for the genius.

 

----

 

Peter whooped loudly as he swung from New York’s skyscrapers, working his way down, closer to the streets.

 

“Okay Karen, open the files I pulled from Dad’s lab on the mission he was working on today.” He flipped and shot another web out, letting himself free fall for a moment before pulling it taught and tugging his body down a side street.

 

“It seems as though the general plan for his mission was to locate and disarm an underground group operating primarily in New York whose main aim was distributing illegal weaponry and technology.”

 

“Thanks Karen, mind sending me the most recent location of his suit?”

 

“There are two possible locations, one which was sent out from Mister Stark’s own suit and another online report stating he was seen on the subway.” He turned a corner and gripped a lamp to slow down enough to drop into an empty alley.

 

“Um, I’ll check out the subway first because that’s underground, but it could be a cold lead, show me the station it was?” His display lit up with the subway station only a few blocks away. “Awesome! Let’s head there and find my Dad,” he stuck to the brick wall of the building beside him and scurried up it, using the roof as a good enough vantage point before swinging off it and making his way to the subway.

 

“I find it best to advise you that your Pops requested you specifically not search underground or conduct your own investigation for your Dad.” He sighed heavily and shot another web.

 

“So, you heard all of that conversation then?”

 

“My protocol is to always record and listen when your mask is on, therefore I did hear you and Captain Rodgers speaking.”

 

“What Pops doesn’t know won’t hurt him Karen.” He was only a block away from the station and he really didn’t want someone to step in and cut his search short for no good reason.

 

“I am afraid your parents still have requested my ‘Baby-Monitor Protocol’ stay in place, I am going to have to contact your Dad’s suit if you continue on with your mission.”

 

“Ugh, Karen, stop being such a buzzkill. Besides, I’m not looking for my Dad, I’m just making sure nobody needs Spider-Man’s help down at the subway. Completely unrelated, don’t worry.” There was silence from the A.I and he knew that to mean she was not in the process of calling his parents, thank god. Luckily Karen was slightly more gullible than F.R.I.D.A.Y and Jarvis had been.

 

After all that effort the subway had turned out to be a false lead, it was an Iron Man cosplayer headed to some sort of convention by train, not his Dad going underground. “Hey, uh, Karen? Could I take a quick look at that location my Dad’s suit last transmitted, not so I can trace it – just so I can, um, know…” There was a pause before the display showed a small dot and he immediately began to swing that way.

 

“Peter why are you headed in the direction of the suit’s last location?”

 

“Oh, I’m not, I just heard Mister Delmar was having a deal or something on sandwiches… so I’m just checking that out to see if it’s uh – if that’s any good.” He was such a terrible liar, he definitely didn’t take after his Dad in how smooth he was.

 

“Mister Delmar’s shop is in Queens, the location you are heading towards is in Manhattan.” If Karen were a real person she definitely would have sounded unimpressed then.

 

“No, whaaat? Pshhh, me disobeying Pops? Never.” He waved a hand distractedly and used his left arm to pull himself up and shoot another web.

 

“If you go underground I will unfortunately have to contact your parents and alert them of your location.”

 

“Okay Karen, I understand. Mind opening my personal files and running program T.T.K?”

 

“Of course, Peter.” There was a pause, the displays flickered for a brief moment then the A.I spoke again. “Program successfully up and running, may I ask what TTK is? I have detected a slight change to one of my systems.” He grinned under his mask before replying.

 

“T.T.K is my own protocol I designed, and it means ‘Tattle-Tale Karen,’ so that’s probably why you’re detecting a system change. Hey, could you tell me what your protocols are for contacting my parents now?”

 

“Very impressive Peter, my new protocol is to contact your parents if your vitals drop dangerously, you go too high or you are unresponsive for an extended period. However, there is also a system that requires your permission before I contact either of your parents unless you are unconscious.”

 

“That’s perfect Karen, I’ll change you back when my Dad does a routine system check, so don’t worry about that. I’m coming up on the location now, get ready for a fight.”

 

“Understood Peter, no problem’s here. I do not detect any heat signatures that indicate the possibility of an altercation, let me know when I should contact your parents.” He swung forward and stuck to the side of a building, crawling along it and checking the street was clear before jumping down into the shadows.

 

“You probably won’t need to call my parents but thanks anyways.” There was zero evidence of his Dad ever being here but given his suit had sent a signal from this street Peter assumed he had. To the side, in a small alcove off the building, there was a manhole cover that lead underground. He stuck a web to the top of it and peeled it back, staring down into the darkness and letting the eyes of his suit adjust to the light before slipping down the ladder quickly, pulling the cover back above him. “I’m underground, keep looking for any heat signatures or just my Dad’s suit,” he got an affirmative from Karen and proceeded to crawl along the wall of the sewers. He stuck to the sides and avoided the water, scrunching his enhanced nose in disgust.

 

He continued on like that until a small walkway made itself available and he dropped down to it and continued walking through the dark. Eventually he grew bored and began to quietly talk Karen’s ear off and recount his day at school, giving excruciating detail of the homework he had finished during study period. His A.I was great though, she never complained, well that’s because she wasn’t programmed to but regardless. His Pops always said Jarvis and F.R.I.D.A.Y were built to match his Dad’s sarcastic, quippy nature, but Karen was always meant to be soft and supportive for him, which he thought to a certain degree was true. Tony always looked away and shrugged knowingly when they asked him about it, so Peter figured it was definitely probable. “How long’s it been, Karen?”

 

“Just over two hours since your patrol began and one hour forty-seven minutes since you went underground.” He sighed and picked up the pace, turning in a quick three-sixty turn to double check he hadn’t missed any secret doors or something else interesting. After almost another hour he told Karen to text his Pops and let him know he was doing good, having fun, saving a few lives and finding some cats in trees. “Picking anything interesting up?”

 

“Nothing abnormal, although I do sense there is a ventilation system above your head, but below the surface of the city.” He perked up slightly at that.

 

“Oh cool, that must mean we’re under some buildings or something, right? How do I crawl in there, because it stinks out here?”

 

“There may be a grate along the wall further ahead which you could enter through, but the space may be too small.”

 

“I’m basically a Spider, just like Aunty Nat says, so I can squeeze. Whereabouts is this grate?” He ran a hand over the wall and felt for anything rough or unusual in the concrete wall.

 

“About fifty odd paces ahead.” He broke into a light jog until his hand met slated metal and he could easily tug it off the wall. He hummed to himself as he crawled into the vents, only having to force himself in slightly, he imagined he was the only person in his family that could fit in here. Humming quietly, he began to crawl forward on his elbows and stomach, just like Clint had taught him. Although he kept relative track of the turns he was taking, it mostly relied on Karen recording his direction and path. He kept up a steady stream of chatter about a range of things to keep himself entertained for the next hour or so, but around the same time his nose unwrinkled, and he couldn’t smell the sewer water anymore, Karen’s display shut off and he was left alone.

 

“Karen?” He whispered into the dark, halting his crawling for a moment, “Hellooooo, am I really that boring?” No reply, nothing from his suit, so he checked his watch only to find the screen and the Stark Industries logo were shut off and not producing their normal blue glow. “Weird,” he muttered to himself, deciding to continue moving until he got to the end of the ventilation system.

 

----

 

“Hey, Peter’s watch just shut off, I got the notification now.” Steve looked up at Bucky who was resting on the couch at the other side of the room, holding up a Stark Pad.

 

“Yeah, my watch buzzed when it turned off, hopefully it was just him dropping it again or just forgetting to charge it like normal.” Rhodey quirked an eyebrow at him in question, “he has the other version of it while Tony fixes his normal one, which he dropped last patrol. The one he’s using now is older and needs to be charged every now and then but he’s forgetful so…”

 

“Same,” Clint said, holding up his own tracker watch, a dull screen and a stained wrist band. “What, my kid threw paint at me and it wouldn’t come off.” Natasha rolled her eyes and kicked his chair, spinning him in a circle.

 

“You know, if you washed the watch the paint would probably come off, it was water-based acrylic, it’s the easiest pain to clean.” The archer gripped the side of his desk and stopped spinning, chipping the paint away with his fingernail before licking his thumb and beginning to rub it away.

 

“Oh, duh.” Natasha rolled her eyes again and flashed Steve a look telling him not to worry about Peter.

 

“I’m not worried, if he loses all communication Tony put a protocol on the Spidey-suit so it notifies us that his signal’s being blocked.” Bucky nodded and swiped away the notification, settling back down on the couch and going back to lazily researching Iron Man sightings in the past few days. Rhodey turned back to his work and silently hoped Peter hadn’t put his own protocol blocker on the suit again, he had faith the kid probably wouldn’t do that.

 

----

 

Peter’s elbows were starting to hurt slightly, he wasn’t sure how long he had been crawling, but time seemed to stretch without Karen to talk to. It got colder and colder the further he advanced through the vents and after what must have been another quarter of an hour, his hearing picked up voices. They were distant, not to mentioned extremely muffled through the metal walls of the vents, but eventually he managed to find the source of the noises. There was a metallic whirring which almost sounded like someone was drilling or welding, but that was further along then where the voices were echoing.

 

“This’ll be interesting,” he murmured to himself as he saw a grate in the bottom of the vent shaft he was crawling through, which was letting light into the small space. Figuring he was in an underground buildings ventilation system and had a shut-down suit for no good reason, the teen stayed as silent as he possibly could when he drew the courage to peek over the edge and stare through the slits of the grate. A sharp inhale of breath was drawn when he saw what was in the room, it was large, white, clean and seemed to resemble a lab or workshop. On a bench that took up an entire wall of the room, lay his Dad’s suit, completely powered down with the faceplate beside it, thankfully showing that his Dad wasn’t in the suit. The source of the metallic whirring sound he had heard was from two men in lab coats who were both using handheld circular saws in a poor attempt to disassemble the armour. “Shit…” he breathed out, ducking back from the grate and taking a moment to compose himself.

 

“How long do we have till the rest of them come looking?”

 

“Who knows, its likely he’s not that well liked, considering how much of a self-satisfied asshole he’s been to us. The whole Avenger’s deal is a publicity stunt, they probably all hate each other.” Peter perked up when he heard the source of the voices much closer, drifting up from a grate a little bit further ahead in the shaft. Using extreme caution just like he learnt from his Uncle Clint, he crawled around and over the grate looking into the lab, he was careful not to put weight over it, to avoid falling through the ceiling and blowing his cover. Another few minutes and he was peering into the second room, which again, was another lab.

 

“Has he agreed to the terms yet?” What were the two men talking about, and why had they mentioned the Avengers.

 

“Nothing yet, but I did send a few of our guys in there to, uh, persuade him a little. I’ll send them back in again after another hour or two, I’m just letting him stew for a bit, alone.” They were both dressed in plain, black uniforms that had various weapons and gadgets attached to their hips, and Peter thought he could make out a taser on one of them. Shuddering with his whole body, he leant down further and tried to listen in for more information, maybe these were the guys that had his Dad.

 

“What if he managed to send something out or raise alarm before we turned on the communications blocker? They could already be looking for him.”

 

“I’m sure we’ll be fine, it’s not like he had much of a chance to call someone during the attack, his armour shut down almost immediately.” Okay these guys were definitely talking about his Dad, he needed to keep looking so he could find the room he was being kept in. Crawling forward again for another few minutes he found a third grate which looked over a hallway, which he followed along to what must have been the stairwell. He doubled back, shifting in the vents as quietly as possible and trying to turn into as many of the rooms in the hallway as possible, looking for one which held his Dad. Over the persistent sound of the sawing, he could listen for heartbeats within the rooms, and he skipped over ones that had no sound. It took another half hour, but he finally found a grate that looked into a smaller room with only one heartbeat, located at the very back of the corridor and nearest the end of the vents. The grate looked out from the corner of the room and Peter could make out almost all of the room.

 

“Oh god…” he whispered, frightened. On the same wall that the grate was, chained by one ankle and both wrists, was his Dad, who sported numerous injuries and torn clothes. “No, no, no shit,” he spoke softly but with intensity in his tone. Tony was slumped, his back resting against the wall and seemingly holding all his weight, through a large tear in his shirt there were at least two, very dark bruises that signified a broken rib or two. In fact, majority of the visible skin on his torso and arms looked heavily beaten, littered with bruises and in some areas even smeared with drying blood. There was a trickle of red that leaked down from his hairline and framed a black eye which hadn’t yet begun to swell. “Dad,” Peter spoke the name on a concerned exhale and reached his hand out to touch the grate lightly, wishing he could crawl backwards to that second room and mirror the same injuries on the two assholes that had hurt his Dad.

 

Before he made any move to reveal himself, Peter checked diligently for any sort of camera or recording device in the dingy room, but the concrete walls didn’t hold anything except one small splattering of blood and the chains that encircled his Dad’s limbs. He unscrewed the grate slowly, carefully let it swing open, wincing to himself when it creaked and irritated his sensitive hearing. He reached one hand out and made sure it was stuck just below the grate before he inched his body out and held himself against the wall for a moment, observing and listening for any footsteps in the hall. When there was nothing, he unattached his hand and dropped to the floor, landing on his toes and sinking to the balls of his feet to conceal any unnecessary noise. Looking to his Dad, he noted his eyes were shut and his chest was moving in and out with very shallow breaths, it was without a doubt because of the broken ribs. Peter moved over to the drooping form and checked him over with his eyes quickly before reaching out and touching his shoulder lightly, urging him to wake up, “Dad.”

 

Tony flailed instantly as soon as he felt the hand on his shoulder, he lifted his hands up in a defensive position and pulled his back off the wall, whipping his head around before they settled on the familiar face beside him. He rubbed his good eye frantically and took in the panicked, young face of his son.

 

“Peter?” The teen smiled weakly and hovered his arms over Tony, letting them ghost over his sides and assess how much damage there really was.

 

“Dad, what the hell happened?” His eyes flickered up to meet the mechanic’s, peering up at him and creasing his forehead in thorough anxiety.

 

“Hey Bambi, I’m sorry. Mission’s taking a bit longer than expected, huh?” He huffed a laugh and waved his hand, giving Peter permission to fall into an embrace, assuring him it wouldn’t upset his wounds too much.

 

“Yeah, heaps longer Dad. We’re so worried about you and that phone call scared the shit out of me, I was in the car when Pops answered. Y – you sounded so outnumbered and there were like, explosions or something, you were supposed to be home for dinner tonight and I just thought you… I don’t know what I thought but P – Pops and everyone are already looking for you and –”

 

“Hey, hey, I’m alright – see?” He looked down at himself and frowned slightly, as if only noticing how ragged and unkempt he looked. “Okay, I got a few bumps and scrapes but it’s perfectly fine, okay kiddo? Just take a breath and stop rambling for a sec.” He rubbed circles into Peter’s shoulder blades and kissed the top of his head once he had tugged the mask off. “There you go, I’m good, everything’s fine… keep focusing on breathing bud, good job.” He forced himself to take in his own deep breaths to guide Peter but couldn’t contain the involuntary flinch when the squeezing pain flickered in his chest. Of course, being the observant Spider, he was, Peter pulled back from the hug and gently laid a flat hand over his side. It was a feather-light touch, but Tony’s reaction was to jolt, and grab hold of his wrist quickly, “uh, be careful there Petey, might be a little broken, so just, c’mere.” Repositioning Peter rather than himself, the genius shuffled him to his side and guided his head down to rest against his shoulder.

 

“Sorry, just checking it’s broken… Dad you gotta take deeper breaths, I know it hurts but you have to prevent Pneumonia.” He sighed, then winced accordingly, and sucked in a deeper breath, clenching his teeth and fists when the pressure increased again.

 

“I know, I’ve had a few of these before, just – try to… uh, let’s talk about something else.” He concentrated on breathing through the pain while Peter reached up and lightly probed at his forehead, wiping away some of the sticky blood and checking for cuts.

 

“I need to call Pops, get everyone here, I’m gonna get in so much trouble for showing up, ugh.” He pulled his mask back on and fiddled with the display for a while.

 

“Good luck with that, these guys are really good with technology, they have some sort of block on and you can’t send or receive any signals. It shut down my suit and judging by the look of your tracker watch, it’s powered everything you have down too.” He scrunched his face sympathetically even though it was him that was in pain and him that needed to be rescued. “Why are you in trouble, what’d you this time?” Peter bit his lip and took his mask off frustratedly.

 

“I asked to go on patrol while everyone was looking for you and basically wavered away my soul trying to convince Pops to let me, he said keep my tracker on, do not go underground and absolutely no looking for you on my own.” Tony smirked knowingly and rolled his eyes fondly.

 

“Lemme guess, first thing you did was…” He waved his hand in question, dropping it against his lap and taking another pained breath.

 

“Yeah, I followed the last signal your suit gave out and crawled into the sewers… um…” He licked his lips and looked away, clearly hiding something else.

 

“Aaand?” Peter sighed and fiddled with his mask distractedly.

 

“I may have…” he trailed off and mumbled something very quietly under his breath.

 

“What was that?” He tapped his ear and when Peter didn’t answer he lifted his finger and delicately rested it on his chin, tilting his face back around and connecting their gazes. “You mumbled, what did you do aside from what you said before?”

 

“I sorta… overrode Karen’s protocol that you made and activated my own one… just so she wouldn’t tattle on me to Pops while I was close to finding you.” He looked down guiltily and twisted his Dad’s ripped sleeve in his fingers, “m’ sorry, I was just really worried, and Pops was being paranoid and –”

 

“Alright Bambi, it’s okay, I’m not mad,” he cut the rambling boy off and grazed a knuckle over his cheek, wiping away non-existent grime. “We’re gonna talk about how you managed to mess with my programming, but for now you should head out of here.” Peter snapped his head up and scrambled to grip onto his Dad’s hand.

 

“No! Dad what – no way, I’m not leaving you here now. I don’t know anything about why you’re here and they clearly aren’t above hurting you for information or whatever, I can’t just swing home and pretend like I didn’t find anything!” Tony hurriedly held up a finger to shush his cries of disagreement, nodding slowly and resting a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Okay, okay, calm down kiddo. They want me to make a bomb or something along those lines, you don’t have to go far, just back out of the area enough, so your suit comes online and then send off your location.” He cupped Peter’s cheek and stared into his frantic, hazel eyes, “Listen, I’ll be fine, I can handle a lot more than this, I can’t handle you getting hurt, okay?”

 

“Dad… I don’t wanna – what if I just disable the block and call Pops from here? I’ll have my suit online when I disable the thing, so I can fight just fine and –”

 

“No, Pete, no way are you fighting these guys without backup – or at all.” He spoke firmly but Peter was staring up at him incredulously. He reached out and laid both of his hands on the side of Tony’s face, moving his head to face him better and biting his lip again.

 

“Oh god, your eyes are dilated all weird – you’re concussed, Dad!”

 

“Shh, Pete keep your voice down. It’s just a minor bump I’m fine, you gotta go –”

 

“Just a bump?” Peter whispered as loudly as possible, his voice rasped, and it was like he was stage whispering and his cheeks flushed in what Tony thought might be anger. “Dad that is not just a bump, Jesus you’re concussed, covered in bruises and have at least two broken ribs. You. Are. Not. Fine. Stop treating me like a child, I can handle this okay, I can’t just leave you here like a sitting duck.” He gripped onto his arm and shook it gently, trying to get his point across. “Dad come on.”

 

“Bambi, it’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before okay. Now you get why I act like this when you get hurt, it’s scary, I get that, but you can’t stay here much longer, they could bust in any moment now. These restraints don’t have enough give and I won’t be able to protect you if they try to take you, alright? This is serious stuff now, please listen to me?” Peter chewed at his bottom lip again nervously, looking between the door, the grate and then back to his Dad.

 

“They said they’d send more guys in an hour or two, if I go quick I should be able to get far away enough to send a signal then come back in time to –”

 

“No, Pete, listen to me. You get out, send a signal and then you wait, okay, wait!” He looked at Peter intently, searching for a reaction. “Wait for Pops to get here with backup an then you can get close again. Once your suit is disabled you practically only have web shooters, all it would take is one well-aimed hit or a taser and you’re down. What do you think they’re gonna do once they have you and I’m still chained to the stupid wall?” He paused, continuing to stare, “they’ll use you as incentive for me, they’ll hurt you unless I do what they want, and as much as I don’t want to make a bomb, I hate the idea of you being hurt so much more.” Peter gaped, he stared back with just as much intensity in his gaze before locking his jaw.

 

“I’m not waiting, I don’t care if you ground me, I can protect myself just fine with web shooters, and I refuse to let them hurt you just because you’re worried about me.” He frowned and waited for his Dad to either relent or get angrier, but before either of them had the chance, Peter stood up and tried to yank at his Dad’s chains. “If none of these break after two minutes then I’m going to head out the way I came in and call for backup, but sorry to say I will come back for you. Pops is already going to ground me for lying, you can add on as much as you want but it’ll be worth it to protect you.”

 

“God, y’know you’re so much like a mini Steve and I sometimes, it’s annoying.” Peter quirked an eyebrow in question but continued to tug at the chains, careful not to disturb his Dad’s injuries. “My stubbornness and his righteousness, horrible combination when it comes to arguments.” A small smile played at the edges of Tony’s lips, but he still pushed Peter gently away, pointing at the grate and waving him off. “We’re gonna have to talk about working on the inflexibility our arguments have young man, hurry up and call Pops so I can watch him chew you out when he gets here.” Peter smiled and stuck himself to the wall again, lifting himself up slowly. Once he pulled his body and folded it into the vents again he stuck his head out once more, tilting to look at his Dad who smiled wide. “Look at those gorgeous curls, love you Bambi and for fuck’s sake please be safe.” He blew an exaggerated kiss like he did at all the paparazzi but waved a genuine goodbye with fondness clouding his eyes.

 

“Love you too Dad, keep breathing and just… try not to mouth off too much. If you have any more bruises when I get back I’m gonna hurt someone. Also, language,” Tony rolled his eyes and shook his head in mock disbelief.

 

“Me mouthing off, like I would ever.” He flashed a very knowing, sarcastic smile and watched as Peter pulled the grate shut and began to crawl back the way he had came with far more intent than before. He propelled himself down the vent shaft, only slowing to take his time when crawling over grates, careful again not to break the ceiling. He concentrated on going quickly and memorising his turns. It must have been under an hour until his suit display flickered back on and he let out a whoosh of relief, but it felt like days.

 

“Hello Peter.”

 

“Oh, thank God Karen, call Pops right now, it’s really urgent.”

 

“Dialling Popsical now,” he managed a smile at his contact name but immediately began worrying at his lower lip again when he remembered to brace himself for the parental concern and anger he was probably about to get.

 

“Peter?” The voice was about as frantic as he felt.

 

“Pops.” He was milliseconds away from launching into the mini explanation-speech he had poorly planned while crawling through the vents, but he was cut off.

 

“Oh, thank god baby, you went blank I couldn’t see you and you weren’t answering, Karen wasn’t even online. You scared everyone Pete, I thought – god, I thought whoever took Dad got you –”

 

“Pops? Pops!” His eye twitched when his voice echoed in the vent shaft, but he was confident enough that he was too far for anyone in the building to hear him. “Okay you’re gonna be mad but please just listen and yell at me later, this is really super important. Put me on speaker.”

 

“Already are.”

 

“Hey Underoos, scared the shit outta us all.”

 

“What’s wrong паук, are you safe?”

 

“C’mon Punk don’t scare your Pops like that or he’ll fly another plane into the sea – ow that hurt.” The sound of a metallic punch which he recognised as his Pops punching his Uncle Bucky’s metal arm.

 

“Y’know when I taught you how to prank I didn’t mean to actually give us ass heart attacks.” The sound of his family talking into the receiver drowned out most of his worry but the feeling of ‘go fast, faster, Dad’s hurt, save him now!’ Was growing in his gut and he shoved the words out without care for the consequences and forced them over the sounds of his family’s concern.

 

“Okay I lied to you and I overrode Karen and went underground to find Dad. I crawled through some vents just like Uncle Clint taught me, but it was taking forever then it got cold and then I heard voices and I could see Dad’s suit and there were these guys trying to cut into it, but I kept crawling. More guys were talking, and they mentioned you and I got scared so I kept going and I had to double-back, but I finally found Dad and he’s chained to a wall and he’s hurt, and it’s so messed up. There’s a weird block on all communications and when I get too close to the building my whole suit just turns off. I couldn’t break the chains and Dad said I need to go and he’s definitely gonna ground me because he said to wait for you but I argued and so now I’m sending you my location and going back, please hurry up and don’t freak out if your technology blocks, bring some sort of first aid for Dad and know I’m super sorry but also not because I found Dad and it’ll be okay once you’re here but please, please just hurry up and get here because I’m kind of still freaking out! Pops don’t even respond just go now, get the Quinjet or something fast.”

 

He took several deep breaths and hoped that most of what he said was intelligible enough to get through to everyone. Karen had sent his location and although the line didn’t immediately fill with questions and angry yelling he did hear rustling and the sound of things moving.

 

“Everyone suit up, Peter I swear –”

 

“Yeah, I know, just tell me off when you get here. I’m going back in now so there isn’t any point in telling me not to, ground me later, I’m sorry for lying and stuff though okay? I gotta help Dad.” There was a very heavy sigh and then a clipped response before he had moved too far into the shaft and his suit was shutting off again.

 

“Okay, be carefu –”

 

“Damn it, why’d this stupid block have to ruin everything,” he muttered angrily before scurrying back through the vents, somehow even quicker than the last two times. He whispered the directions he could remember under his breath and was for once glad when he felt the air growing cooler around him. “M’ coming Dad,” he promised quietly before shutting up completely in favour of listening to the sawing that was growing louder as he approached. He slipped slightly and almost smashed his face in when he turned the corner to get to the room his Dad was in and met the sound of grunting and chains jingling.

 

“You wanna keep refusing to do this and I’m gonna keep breaking bones,” there was a resounding slap and Peter’s eyes widened as he forgot all need to stay quiet and practically threw himself down the shaft to get to the final grate.

 

“If you break my fingers I can’t build shit,” his Dad, biting back pain very obviously but keeping his normal wall of sarcasm up. There was a muffled noise and then another groan followed by a string of curses that would have Pops reeling.

 

“I swear to god you aren’t worth half as much trouble as you are. You’re still the same egotistical rich boy that you were before the suit, don’t think for a second I believe any of the stupid Avenger family press bullshit.” He scrabbled toward the vent with a desperation he didn’t know he possessed. “I read the magazines, they all said you and the Cap were getting really close?” The tone was nasty and implying, there was silence that followed, Peter knew how much of a touchy subject it was when the media brought up Steve or himself. The few times any report came out about a secret kid or a romance between Iron Man and Captain America his Dad would absolutely reem whatever company had released it, he hated people looking into their life, he also couldn’t deal with the idea of anyone getting hurt because of him. “You fucking the Captain real nice, to secure your place on the team? You gave him a little bitch child to make sure you don’t have to fly into another hole above New York? Yeah? That’s what I thought.”

 

Peter reached the grate in time to see his Dad kicking out at the man who was gripping his hair and slamming right into his knee. While he feverishly ripped the grate from the wall two guards were surging forward and forcing his Dad to his feet and slamming him up against the concrete wall. There was yelling, and he thinks his Dad was swearing again but he couldn’t focus on anything except the buss of his Spidey-Senses and the feeling of his elbow connecting to the men’s faces.

 

“Kid go!” He shook his head and threw someone across the room, letting them slump into unconsciousness just like his Dad had first been. “Hey! I’m fine, you gotta go!” More men were beginning to pour into the small room and he was shoving as many people back as he could, even going so far as to propel himself off the wall and slam his shoulder into them.

 

“Taser him agent, what the hell are you doing!” Peter’s head screamed, and he ducked in time for something to sail over his head and embed itself into the back of the man he had just kicked in the groin.

 

“Pe – Spidey they have guns, go!” He spun around and shot a web over the head of the taser, pulling it roughly from the agents grip and letting it smash into the wall bedside him. He spun around and counted eight guys, all lined across where the door was hanging open. He shot a second web and pulled it shut before jumping to the ceiling, attaching his hands and using them as a way to swing at head height and kick another man into the wood. He flipped and landed on his feet, knees bent and arms out to steady himself, he slid sideways and positioned his body in front of His Dad’s, who had slipped back down the wall into a sitting position, holding part of his ripped shit to his lip.

 

“I’m not exactly an expert on these kinds of things Sir, but I’d assume pissing off Iron Man isn’t your best bet in this situation.” He ducked a blow from his left and swiped the man’s feet out from under him before he could advance any closer to Tony. “Moreover, if you think you’re smart enough to block communications…” he caught a well-aimed kick and used it to swing another guard around and tumbling into a fourth. “Maybe you should try to build your own bomb next time, instead of taking an Avenger hostage, cus, no offence, that plan was bound to turn pear-shaped from the start.” He shot two webs at two men and collided them into each other. Disarming and webbing up the last few men was just a case of blocking a couple punches, grabbing the barrel of the one gun they had and slamming it back into their faces before shoving them back against the wall and sticking the firmly to it. He approached the man his Dad had clipped in the knee and turned over his body, webbing him to the floor for good measure and swiping the key from his belt. He checked everyone was either tied up or unconscious before he unlocked the shackles and helped his Dad to his feet. They stumbled into the hallway before either of them spoke.

 

“Shit, Dad, your lip,” before Tony could even shrug the split lip off he had an armful of Peter, who thankfully was also using the hug to keep them both upright.

 

“Bambi,” he whispered softly, half wishing Peter’s mask was off, so he could tangle his fingers in the brunette curls he was so fond of. “You did good,” he assured, stroking a hand up and down his kid’s back, letting his fingers glide smoothly over the fabric of his suit and check for any wounds he may have missed before. “You okay baby? Didn’t get hurt at all?”

 

“No, those guys suck at hand-to-hand.” He smiled against the ripped fabric of his Dad’s shirt, keeping an arm wrapped around his waist to steady him.

 

“Yeah, I should’ve just disengaged my suit and taken them down street style,” he laughed lightly before groaning and slapping a hand out to grip the wall and keep himself from pitching forward. Peter immediately steadied him, laying a hand on his hip and one on his shoulder, squeezing his fingers and keeping him upright.

 

“You need to sit, there’s an empty room just two doors down and Pops will be here really soon.” Tony was too tired to argue, and he let Peter guide him down the hall till he kicked open a door and rested him down on a lab bench pushed against the wall. “Did you get any more hits I didn’t see?”

 

“Nope.” The exhausted mechanic rested his head back against the wall and closed his eyes, taking another deep breath and wincing slightly.

 

“You may be better at lying then me, but I have super hearing so… where’d he kick you?” He grumbled and shifted his weight, moaning when his ribs flared up.

 

“It – its fine kiddo, you fought really well in there, where’d you learn to disable a taser like that?”

 

“Don’t change the subject,” Peter warned, pulling off his mask and crossing his arms across his chest and trying to look grumpy.

 

“Aw, c’mere Bambi, lemme play with your hair,” he cooed annoyingly and made grabby hands, knowing how to press Peter’s buttons expertly.

 

“Daaaad, let me see your ribs, it’s serious, they could puncture a lung if its bad enough.” He rolled his eyes but gingerly pulled part of his shirt apart to reveal a large, shadowy bruise that spread across an area that indicated at least two of his ribs were bruised, probably more were fractured. “God, that looks just like when I… yeah um, let’s see if they have an icepack or something in here.” He ignored the way his Dad flashed him a ‘what are you talking about’ look and turned away to rifle through the draws at the other end of the bench.

 

“Okay Mister, one, you get one free pass on crap like that and two, lemme play with your curls so I can relax, come on, I just took a beating and it’s the least I could ask for.” Peter found an instant cold pack which he immediately squeezed so the inner packed would break and start the reaction.

 

“Fine, but you already know about the time I broke my ribs, so that doesn’t count as a pass.” He pressed the icepack to his Dad’s side and muttered apologies when he hissed in pain, from the cold or the ribs he wasn’t sure, it could have been both.

 

“Ouch, I know abou – ah shit that’s cold, I know about the four times you’ve broken a rib, so stop thinking you can sneak around behind my back and lean forward so I can reach you.” Peter sighed but didn’t bother to wipe the smirk off his unmasked face. He hummed happily when his Dad buried his free hand into his hair and combed them through gently, ruffling his curls and resting his elbow on his back. “Why didn’t you just stay in the vents until the guy left Pete? You must’ve seen the taser on his belt.”

 

“He was going to hurt you, he was hurting you, and he was saying… he was saying really messed up things and when he mentioned New York I was worried you would – you’d have a bad reaction or something, which you did cus you kicked him, even though you were chained to a wall and couldn’t defend yourself.” Tony twisted a tuft of hair near the nape of Peter’s neck between his fingers and smiled when the boy melted into the touch. They stayed still for a moment longer, Peter continuing to hold the icepack against his Dad while his hair was played with lazily. “Wait!” He jerked back, dropping the cooler pack and tugging away from Tony’s hand which was still tangled in his hair. “Shit,” he cursed and pulled his mask back on while his Dad frowned.

 

“What’s happening, is Steve here?” His curiosity only grew when Peter shook his head and crept towards the door to press the side of his head against it.

 

“Uhhhh, you’re going to hate this so, so much but you have to crawl into that cupboard and stay really quiet.” He looked up towards the grate in the ceiling and sighed when he realised his Dad definitely wouldn’t fit through there, especially with his ribs.

 

“Like hell I am, you can tell me what’s happening and then explain why you’re reloading your webs.”

 

“Come out with your hands up or we will kill the Spider-thing.” There was banging on the door and Peter was thankful he thought to lock it.

 

“More guys, they’re moving something heavy down the hall and I think it’s a weapon.” Tony pinched his face oddly and twisted his lips together.

 

“Does it have wheels?” He sighed when Peter nodded. “It’s the same thing they messed my suit up with, you cannot go out there Pete, you’re gonna get in a cupboard like me.” He pushed himself off the bench and threw the cold pack aside, nudging Peter toward a cupboard.

 

“O – okay.” He let Tony watch him clamber into the small space before making sure he was in his own safely. “I’m webbing your door shut, don’t freak out,” he warned, shooting a web and plastering it up and down the handles of his Dad’s cupboard. “I love you, I’m super sorry about this, feel free to, uh, double ground me because this is a dick move on my part.” He slipped out of his own cupboard and frowned sympathetically when Tony started to half-heartedly try and push his door open.

 

“What are you doing kiddo, come on don’t be stupid about this.” He shut the cupboard door and hid the ice pack away in the sink before webbing up the door with almost an entire canister of web fluid. “Peter, what the hell are you webbing, I swear if you do something stupid and get yourself hurt I’ll up the ‘Baby Monitor Protocol’ on your suit.”

 

“Nice threat Dad, you can punish my self-sacrifice later, but Pops will get here really soon I promise… Don’t worry I changed my web canister so it’s the one that dissolves in half an hour, again, super sorry ‘bout this!” He popped the grate open and climbed inside the vents again, closing it behind him. He ignored the guilt squeezing his throat and reminded himself that if went out there to sort the guards out then his Dad wouldn’t get any more hurt. “Please get here soon Pops,” he whispered as he twisted around in the vents and made his way to the grate in the hallway. There were about twenty men lining the walls and four more setting up a weird canon looking weapon that sat right outside the door to the lab his Dad was currently barricaded in. He kicked the grate open and dropped down, immediately straightening out and raising his hands in the air, innocently stepping between the weapon and the door. “Hey guys, might wanna play with guns your own size now because Mister Stark is long gone, he went through the vents, probably in Mexico or something by now.” He shrugged but tensed himself when one of the men walked forward.

 

“And why are you still here then?” He drew a taser and hovered it over Peter’s chest dangerously, he only stiffened and silently hoped that everyone had found the building by now and was right about to storm it.

 

“Uh, sight-seeing, wanted to know what all the fuss was about, collecting some bits and pieces from the Iron Man suit you guys still have, anything that’ll occupy my time I guess.” He waved his hands nonchalantly, trying to buy as much time as possibly while also focusing his hearing on the steady beat of his Dad’s heartbeat from within the cupboard. “That lab was pretty boring, you should give me the tour, maybe some free food? Do you have a gift shop?” Someone else moved towards him and shoved the muzzle of their gun against his chest, forcing him back against the door.

 

“You wanna play games, or you wanna show us where Stark went? It won’t be pretty if you keep fucking around like a child.” He jerked his head towards the opposite end of the hall.

 

“Stark? Like the Tony Stark? Yeah he’s a, uh, full-bodied apparition, he’ll probably come drifting through that wall there in say five, four…” He honed his hearing and felt his mouth go dry with raw anticipation as he realised his count down would be off by about three seconds. “Three…” He shifted his foot an inch to the right and bent his elbows and knees marginally, not enough to be noticed. “Two…” Most of the men were staring at the wall by now, only a few were keeping their gazes trained on him, which was probably the smartest thing to do as a bad guy. “One…” He snapped his fingers and crouched low. “Now!” He slammed his head into the guy closest, knocking the gun from the other man’s hand and jumping onto the ceiling while all the others fumbled for their guns. “Oh no I miscounted and misjudged how smart you all were.” He shot webs at as many guns he could but had to begin dodging some tasers after a second or two. “That’s rude, down here! Helloooo, I got some first class asshats over here guys!” He dodged another taser and managed to web the guys hand to the wall and kick two others in the sternum, using them as a makeshift stepping stool to get to the ground. Over the yelling of the sixteen men he was taking on at once he could hear the pounding of familiar footsteps and the voice of his Uncle Clint screaming something about painting over saw marks. He ducked one hit and took a boot to the back of his knee, stumbling forward and converting his momentum he was barely able to tackle two men and forward roll over them, sliding to a stop against the back wall of the hall, a few steps away from the door and also the weird canon. He heard a scraping noise and then saw the blurry flash of red hair and his Aunt Nat was storming down the hall towards him, his Pops dragging the Iron Man armour behind her and almost everyone else a few steps behind. “Hey guys,” he waved meekly before getting kicked in the stomach and careening backwards, throwing an arm out for balance only to firstly knock one guard down and be tackled by another two. “You could just ask for an autograph, no need to attack me for one!” He yelped when his shoulder slammed down into the side of the canon and his knees buckled under the weight of the men.

 

“Spidey-Boy!” He heard someone yell before he had a fist buried in his gut and someone pinning one of his arms down. He threw one guy off him and copped an elbow to the side of his face and kicking the man backward into the canon and pulling himself off the ground. He was joined by Clint, Natasha, Steve, Bucky and the badly dented and half sawed into Iron Man armour, which sat against the wall and did nothing to help fight.

 

“Tash duck!” Something flew over their heads and he had a split second to step aside as an arrow whistled past him and into the mouth of the canon before a clinking noise echoed and Bucky was grabbing his arm and pulling him into a doorway and shielding him with his metal arm.

 

“Hey punk,” he smiled back at the smile before stepping back into the fight and relaxing when he saw the canon completely disabled and no longer threatening to blow into the room where his Dad was still barricaded.

 

“Oh crap!” He observed the hallway and saw only three men still actively fighting, it was as good as over and he slunk up the wall and back into the grate. “Be right back!” He called, and he thinks he saw his Uncle Clint smile proudly at him when he noted the vent shaft.

 

“I taught him that Nat, in your face,” he pulled off his mask and held it in his teeth, smiling as he heard the bragging going down beneath him. He grunted softly when he dropped into the lab, gingerly pressing a hand to the side of his face and wincing when it stung his cheek. He threw dissolver fluid onto the cupboard and the door, unlocking the handle and waiting patiently for all of two seconds before tugging the doors open.

 

“Dad!” He stumbled backwards when he was almost bowled over with the force of his Dad’s grip.

 

“Peter never do anything remotely that stupid again or I swear I’m not gonna make it to retirement.” After stumbling for a moment, he found his balance and wrapped his arms around his Dad, squeezing back lightly. “You’re a self-sacrificing idiot Bambi, don’t pull those stunts ever.” He spat his mask out of his mouth and dropped it on the bench before pushing his head into Tony’s neck and moving his arms up around the back of his neck.

 

“M’ sorry, but you were injured and there were like twenty guys who you definitely couldn’t fight off.”

 

“God you’re such an adorable little shit aren’t you,” his Dad whispered as he tangled his fingers into his hair again and began to let Peter take more of his weight. Peter vaguely heard from their right as the door was pushed open and then the sound of footsteps nearing.

 

“Tony! My god babe, your face!” He felt larger arms surrounding him and his Dad and he squirmed out of their grip and pulled a face when he heard the sound of his parents pressing their lips together. “Your shirt, honey those ribs are broken we need to get you to the jet.”

 

“Hey Pops, thanks for the backu –” He was cut off when Steve whirled around and pulled him into his chest, pressing his face down into his hair and breathing out strings of barely coherent parental worry.

 

“Pete you scared me so much with that call and then you decided it would be a good idea to take on thirty guys at once – what were you thinking baby?” He saw Bucky give him a wry thumbs up from behind Steve and he stuck his tongue out childishly in return.

 

“I uh, sorta webbed Dad up so he wouldn’t get any more hurt? Also, there were more like twenty guys so that’s not really such a bad thing –”

 

“Ha! You’re so grounded, I’m gonna beat all your high scores while you’re stuck doing chores.” He groaned loudly and rolled his eyes from within his Pops’ embrace but pulled back and pointed to his Dad.

 

“We need to get him home before he passes out or something scary.” He moved to his Dad’s side and held onto his arm and moved him towards the door. “I don’t know the way out; can we start to head soon please?” His Pops took charge and less than ten minutes later they were flying towards home.

 

----

 

“How is he?” Bucky leant against the doorframe leading into the Med Bay and smiled at the sight of his Nephew curled up in Steve’s arm while his other was wrapped around his partners hand comfortingly.

 

“He’s on a few pain meds but there weren’t any complications with the ribs, which is good.”

 

“Yeah it is, how are you doing Pete?” He held back a laugh when the kid in question mumbled something unintelligible and rolled over in his Pops’ arms, pressing his face against his chest so Bucky could clearly see how asleep he was. “He okay?” Steve smiled and repositioned his arm, so his son was caged in snug against his torso and wouldn’t slip off the chair.

 

“He’s good, just a couple bruises which’ll fade overnight, he did refuse to do anything for himself until he knew Tony was okay. I think they’re both just tired, he’ll be released tomorrow morning.” He nodded over to where Tony was dozing in the hospital bed, his face devoid of any pain.

 

“Need me to get you anything while you’re…” he wiggled his fingers and gestured to the teen that was sprawled across his lap and the man who still clutched his hand even in sleep. “While you’re currently occupied?” He smirked.

 

“I’m good, thanks Buck, just needed my family.” He looked down and stared adoringly at his kid before flicking his friend a playful salute goodbye. “Night Buck,” he smiled warmly.

 

“Night Stevie.” He closed the door quietly shut behind him and Steve leaned down to press a kiss to Peter’s forehead before doing the same to Tony’s lax knuckles.

Chapter Text

To be brutally honest, Peter would rather have spent his Friday night… Saturday morning? He didn’t know for sure but one of the two, he would rather have spent them at home, or in the lab with Mister Stark.

 

He almost made it the entire week without getting in trouble, so close. His class had taken a mandatory trip to Canada, something about the opportunity to tour the newest science facilities or something in that nature, him and Ned had been too busy excitedly chatting to each other. When the trip was announced, Peter hadn’t thought in a thousand years that all he would be wishing for was curling up at home or at the compound with a cup of hot chocolate. But then again, here he was, stumbling through the snow and refusing to look back at the bloody trail he was surely leaving behind him.

 

Friday morning the class had left the hotel bundled in warm clothing to visit some museum, but of course, of course Hydra would have a facility in Canada. And of course, being Spider-Man, he would slip out of the group and follow the men with the freaky octopus tattoos to their van parked outside. Of course, he would get himself knocked out and thrown into the van… Before he passed out he blandly thought that ‘Mister Stark was going to be so pissed.’

 

The men must have thought he wasn’t much of a threat because they didn’t bother restraining him, and they really didn’t think about him waking up and kicking the door off the back of the van. Luckily for Peter, apparently, they were smart enough to open fire while he blindly stumbled off the road and into the snowy treeline. It wasn’t really all that lucky, because they weren’t horrible shots lie he had hoped, and two of them managed to clip him in the shoulder and thigh before they were out of rage and he was falling against a tree and breathing heavily.

 

“Ow, ow, ow, shit!” He yelped as he peeled back his jacket, t-shirt and undershirt to check on the wound. He didn’t have his phone, he didn’t have his suit and he was miles away from anyone who could help, stranded in the snow on the radar of Hydra agents with guns. How had he even managed to mess up his day this badly? “Ughhh Mister Stark is never gonna let me hear the end of this,” he complained as he pulled his jacket tight against his body and began to limp further into the trees. His fingers were freezing so he pulled them up into his sleeves and forced his sleeves into his pockets, wishing he could do more for the snow leaking into his shoes. His face burnt in the wind and his lips were cracked and dry after the first five minutes. His leg screamed when he put too much weight on it and his shoulder was aching more than anything, but at least the blood was at least slightly warm. That was an incredibly grim outlook, even though it sounded positive.

 

He wasn’t familiar enough with first aid to know whether or not the snow would help his wounds, but he did know he needed to find help soon unless he wanted to either freeze or pass out. He wasn’t going to bleed out, the bullets hadn’t hit anything vital and he healed quickly, it was more the issue of getting the bullets out from where they were still inside him, god it hurt. After ten minutes of wandering he slowed from a stumbling jog to a walk, preying the Hydra agents weren’t catching up to him. He can’t believe he left his phone back at the hotel, he should have just worn his suit underneath his clothes and used the heater at the museum. He pressed his hands against his thigh and tried to staunch the blood that was still sluggishly dripping down his leg. When he peeled his hands away they were soaked in crimson, and he turned in a clumsy circle to see that every few metres there was a tiny puddle of red that trailed out from where he had come from and disappeared into the wintery view. “Shit, not good, really not good.”

 

He tugged of his beanie and scrunched his nose up when his ears immediately complained with the cold. He used the hole the bullet had left in his pant leg and ripped it further open, shoving the beanie inside and knotting the edges of fabric back together so they held the makeshift bandage in place. Now for his shoulder, he pulled his arm along the inside of his jacket sleeve and tucked it up against his chest, still inside his clothing so that the sleeve hung and made it look like he was missing an arm. He rolled it up and wrapped it around his shoulder and held his opposite hand against the wound, biting his tongue as the pain flared up momentarily. He needed to find help or some sort of shelter from the harsh climate that had already drenched most of him with the falling snow. His best bet was to follow the road back to where there were homes or any kind of structure, but he worried about the van and the men who took him. He forced his enhanced hearing to work over the howl of the wind, and he couldn’t hear anything apart from the rustle of branches against branches and the pitter patter of snow touching the bark of tree trunks.

 

It was incredibly risky to turn back now but the only way he would find any help would be following that road. He kept an eye on the trail of blood he had left, staying to the left side and a couple tree lengths away so if anyone was following him, he would be able to duck behind a log and hide before they saw him. It took almost twenty minutes before he could see the outline of the road in the distance, and he came to a stop, still holding his shoulder but searching for any sight of the van. Nothing appeared, no footprints, none of the men, no gunshots or yelling, so he decided to risk it and stay at the edges of the treeline but begin to follow the road back the way the van had come.

 

It was uncomfortable to say the least, his socks squelched with the melted snow filling his shoes, the wind was blowing directly into his face and little flakes of snow pelted his bare neck and made him tuck his head down to his chest. His lips were wind burnt, nose and cheeks pink from the cold while his hair was beginning to curl up and frizz in the wind. If Tony had been with Peter, he would have ruffled the curls playfully and made a joke while the teen pretended to be annoyed.

 

They were traveling back to New York on Saturday, and Peter made plans to go to the lab on Sunday. Dread filled him suddenly, and he realised if he didn’t make it back to the hotel or museum the class could very well leave without him and he would truly be stuck in Canada with no suit, no phone, no money and no way to alert Tony of his predicament. He pushed himself to walk faster, avoiding the trees and winding through them, constantly looking back up at the road and listening out for any cars.

 

He wasn’t sure how long it had been before he heard it, but the roar of a quickly approaching vehicle had him stumbling behind a thick tree trunk as soon as he saw the outline of a van. He breathed heavily and pressed his back up against the bark, staying as motionless as possible. The van was driving slowly, staying to the side of the road as if looking for something, for him.

 

“What if he’s still back that way and just covered up his wounds to stop bleeding, we should have just kept walking the same direction as the trail!” He could hear people arguing in the driver’s side, yelling about where he could have hidden, snapping over the way he would have ran.

 

“What if he just passed out behind a tree right by where the blood stopped, and we just missed him?” He pressed his lips together and squeezed his eyes shut as the van drove by the tree he was hidden behind. ‘Please don’t stop, please don’t stop, please don’t stop.’ He repeated in his head, silently preying they would keep driving straight past him.

 

“This isn’t a ‘what if’ game, okay? We’ll circle back and check the blood again, so you shut up before it’s buried by more snow, but then we’re doing it my way and you keep quiet, got it?” The man must have gotten a nod because he slammed on the breaks and the screech of the tyres told Peter he was making an illegal U-turn and driving back to where he had dripped blood. He stayed behind the tree for ten minutes, not daring to move until he was completely certain they were far enough away for him to make his next move. When he did shift from the tree, he looked out across the road nervously and told himself he needed to do it.

 

The men wouldn’t expect him to cross the road and hide in the trees on the opposite side, they had only seen him run to the right, they wouldn’t check the left. He put a foot on the tar covered stones and braced himself to dash across, they wouldn’t be coming back for another twenty minutes at least, but he still willed his teeth to stop chattering as he ran. His feet slid slightly over a patch of ice of the far side, but he didn’t fall, only faltering when he saw the ditch that separated the road and the trees. He slid down, tripping over some loose roots and yelping as his thigh screamed in protest.

 

“Shit!” He gasped as his foot splashed down into a puddle of freezing water and he threw his arms out wildly, loosing his balance as his arm pinned to his side from inside the jacket. He fell, twisting at the last second so his bad shoulder didn’t land in the icy water and grunting as he thudded into the snow and dirt. “G – g – god that’s c – cold,” he murmured to himself as his teeth clicked together relentlessly and he pulled himself up, biting back another yelp as his thigh began to bleed lazily again. His lips were beginning to tint blue, but he shuffled into the treeline and rested his forehead against a tree, taking a moment to catch his breath and reposition the sleeve closer against his shoulder.

 

He hoped Ned had noticed he was missing by now and the teachers were looking for him, maybe they’d even call May and she’d get Tony involved. Walking forward through the hazy snowfall again, he imagined the Iron Man armour landing before him and Tony melting out, scolding him without real anger and flying him back to warmth. It was so cold, everything was aching, and it was an incredible effort to even flex his fingers. His nose felt numb by now and even when he paused to bury his face into his neck the feeling of it made him shiver even more violently. He was half tempted to put his beanie back on now that it didn’t really matter about the blood considering the Hydra men weren’t checking this side of the road, but it was already soaked through and it wasn’t a very enticing thought to put a bloody hat on. He grew more and more tired the further he stumbled down beside the road, and it vaguely registered in his exhausted head that when he stopped shivering it was probably a bad sign.

 

After was must have been at least another hour of walking his legs finally gave out. He collapsed into the snow and had just enough energy and common sense left to roll down into the ditch where the ground was more dirt than snow. He turned onto his side and tucked his knees up into his jacket, pulling both of his arms inside despite how it strained his shoulder and made him wince. Each puff of air was visible in the cool air and he remembered as a child he would run around blowing into the wind and imagining flames licking out of his mouth with smoke. The irony of how much he would love fire right now wasn’t lost on him, but the possibility of him passing out did linger in the forefront of his mind. He willed himself to crawl forward, but his limbs weren’t cooperating, and it was too much of a relief to finally lie on the ground and curl into himself. He groaned loudly, without care for any of the men hearing him, they were long gone, they had sped of what felt like hours ago and hadn’t been back since. Maybe kicking down the door of the van and running into the freezing climate wasn’t the best idea but being driven to a Hydra facility didn’t sound like much fun either.

 

Peter thought about how exhausted he felt and how amazing sleep sounded right now, but then he thought about May and Ned, even Tony who he had grown so much closer to recently. His mentor was getting better at the whole physical contact thing, he ruffled Peter’s hair occasionally and threw his arm around his shoulders casually when he was proud of the boy, but they still hadn’t hugged. Peter didn’t mind, he was patient and really content with the time they spent together in the lab, over the break he had even started to stay the night in his own room at the compound every now and then. Tony cared about him, Peter still left him voicemail reports when he finished patrol, and sometimes the mechanic would reference something he mentioned in one of them, so Peter knew he actually listened to a few of them.

 

Little did Peter know, but Tony listened to every one of them with a fond smile. After Germany and the Vulture, he had put more effort into the whole mentoring situation, working with Peter in the lab proved useful as the kid could keep up with him easily. Peter was even getting some training done on the days he would stay the night at the compound, making new web fluids in the lab then using the training room to practice swinging around with them. Every so often, Tony would get a notification from Karen saying Peter was injured, or out past curfew, or in some need of assistance, and every time he would fly over to the location, get him out of trouble, ruffle his hair and send him back home to sleep it off. He wouldn’t deny the cold feeling of fear that gripped his heart when the injury report would flash up at random times at night and he jumped to his suit, breathing heavy and worrying intensively the entire flight.

 

It was freezing, but Peter didn’t shiver any more, he did close his eyes and lay his head against the dirt, whispering silent apologies for falling asleep into the air, his words being whipped away by the wind as his lashes fluttered shut and his body fell lax with sleep.

 

----

 

“F.R.I? What time did Peter get back to New York again?” He pried the casing off the front of the armour’s chest, fiddling around with some wiring while he waited for her response.

 

“Mister Parker was due to get home on Saturday afternoon, he has not yet called to confirm he arrived safely as you asked him to before he left.” He frowned slightly and soldered two wires together lazily, blowing on the finished product and pressing the chest plate back on half-heartedly.

 

“That’s fine, he’s forgetful. What time is it?” He was honestly unsure whether it was Saturday night or Sunday morning, considering his sleep schedule was so thrown off it wasn’t unusual.

 

“It is six thirty-four am, Sunday morning. Mister Parker is due to arrive at the lab in approximately two hours.” He sighed and rubbed his eyes, he needed more coffee, and an energetic kid chatting his ear off to keep him awake.

 

“M’kay, thanks F.R.I, lemme know when he shows up and buzz him in.” He downed some more caffeine and delved back into his work, getting grease on his hands and wiping them on an old rag until he grew bored and flipped over to the next project. He was in the middle of a repulsor strength test when the A.I interrupted him.

 

“Sir, there is an incoming call from May Parker.” He de attached the arm and laid it on his desk to the side, flopping down into a desk chair and waving to answer.

 

“Is Peter with you?” May’s voice was urgent, she seemed frantic and he could hear her slightly increased breathing. He glanced to his watch, it was nearly ten, Peter was supposed to arrive at eight thirty.

 

“No, he’s over an hour late, I assumed he slept in from the trip?” There was a breathy choking noise and it sounded like May was on the verge of tears.

 

“H – he didn’t stay the night at the compound? I thought he went straight there after getting back but Ned just called and said nobody’s seen him since Friday, he could still be in Canada and –”

 

“Okay, May, it’s gonna be fine, he took his suit with him on the trip just in case. Alright, I’ll track it now and fly over to grab him, okay? It’ll all be fine; just take a breath and I’ll call when I find something.” He waited until he got an affirmative from May before hanging up and immediately pulling his chair over to the computer and bringing up Peter’s suit signal. “Where you at kid?” He muttered to himself, pinpointing the location of both his phone and suit to be at a hotel in Canada. He figured it was the same hotel the class had been staying at, he suited up quickly, the familiar feeling of worry creeping inside him again.

 

When he landed, he let the suit melt away into a briefcase, keeping a calm composure as he slipped into the hotel and retrieved the phone and suit, which were still lying at the bottom of the kid’s suitcase inside the room. He was stumped on what to do for a short while, then he thought to look up what the class had done on Friday, reading over the information they had on a museum not too far from the hotel. “Bingo,” he whispered, easily hacking into the security footage of the museum and watched from the time the class arrived.

 

Peter and Ned stuck together near the back of the group, marvelling over some of the exhibits happily until Peter seemed to get distracted by something. He followed the direction the teen was looking in, watching three men in black clothing walk by and out the back door. Peter waited until his group moved on before he trailed after the men, sneaking out the door behind them so the camera angle switched to outside where a van was parked. From the new angle, Tony could make out the tattoos the men each had, recognising the symbol easily and groaning as he realised exactly how stupid Peter was being, following three Hydra agents without his suit or phone close by. “Come on kid, we need to work on your stealth skills.”

 

Peter may have had spider-like abilities, but that didn’t stop one of the men from hiding behind one side of the van while the other two stood talking, very aware of the teen who was attempting to listen to them from the opposite side of the van. He practically walked into the third man that had hidden, and Tony knew that he would have walked fully into him if his senses hadn’t warned him. Peter was a good fighter, fast reflexes and impressive reaction times, but he wasn’t good enough to win against three fully-trained Hydra agents while simultaneously not giving away his powers.

 

Tracking the van with satellite and highway speed cameras proved a bit more difficult that hacking into the museums feed, but Tony managed to place the general area they were when Peter busted the door down and ran into the trees. As soon as he was in the suit and flying above the same road he had seen on the footage, he turned on thermal imaging. It took twelve minutes to pick up the only slightly warmer blip on his display.

 

“Peter?” He let the suit retract when he landed, running into the ditch toward the puffy jacket curled up on the side of the road. He could just make out the wild curls blowing in the wind and peeking out from where his face must have been shoved into his chest. “Peter! What the hell, is this blood?” He kneeled beside the boy and didn’t take notice of the dirt ruining his pant knees as he made F.R.I.D.A.Y run diagnostics on his condition.

 

“Mister Parker appears to be unconscious and suffering from hypothermia and two gunshot wounds which have begun to heal at an accelerated rate. I suggest finding medical attention and seeking shelter from the weather.” He lifted Peter’s chin up and touched his forehead gently, flinching when he felt how cold the boy’s skin was and how blue his lips were.

 

“You just had to skip out on the museum, didn’t you?” He sighed dramatically and picked the teen up gingerly. “How quickly does he need medical attention? Can I take him back to the Med Bay at the compound or is that too far?”

 

“The altitude of the flight may prove to be detrimental to his condition, the heater in his suit may prove useful for his body temperature.” Of course, Peter’s suit had a heater, he needed to get the teen out of his damp clothes and get him into the suit. He unzipped the kid’s jacket and very carefully peeled away the part of his shirt that had stuck to the wound. He decided to leave the pants and undershirt on because they weren’t very wet, and he didn’t want Peter to be any more exposed to the cold even if it was just until he got the suit on. Luckily, when he tapped the spider emblem on the chest, it adjusted around the clothes and Tony immediately turned the heater on and zipped the jacket up over the top.

 

“Let’s get you to the Med Bay and call you aunt before she kills me.” He put his own suit on and lifted Peter, making sure to hold him where it wouldn’t aggravate the bullet wounds. As he flew, he called May, wincing when her voice rang out loud and concerned.

 

“Did you get him? Is he okay?”

 

“He will be okay, he was still in Canada, he left his suit and phone at the hotel and got himself stranded in the snow. Can you meet me at the compound, I’m getting him warm and sorting out the – uh, the wounds.” He prepared himself for the yelling and thankfully the A.I adjusted the call volume so May didn’t deafen him.

 

“What do you mean wounds?” She began patiently.

 

“He’s going to be fine, they’ve already healed up well, but I just need to get the bullets out, he was shot.” He braced.

 

“He was what? Peter was shot! It was a school trip, how did he even – okay, you know what, I’m saving this till he’s at the compound, I’m on my way.” She hung up and Tony smirked, looking down at the teen bundled in his arms and huffing a small laugh.

 

“When you get better you should prepare for an earful kid, how you manage to get yourself in these situations baffles me every time.” The flight wasn’t too long, it would have been longer for the rest of his class.

 

The doctors were ready when he arrived, and May was about ten minutes out. He took the jacket and the suit, leaving the doctors to do the rest and watching from the window as they heated the kid up and removed the bullets, administering him some enhanced anaesthetics that Tony had altered specifically for him. When May arrived they both walked to his room together, talking in hushed whispers about the security footage and what had actually happened.

 

“M – May? M’s’er S’rk?” Tony turned to the bed to see Peter’s eyes fluttering open and his head turning toward them amongst the pile of blankets he was covered in.

 

“Hey kid, museum’s bit too boring for you, huh?” He smiled warmly and wished he had found the boy sooner. Peter didn’t have the energy to roll his eyes, but Tony knew he wanted to. May leapt up and hugged him, avoiding his shoulder but still pressing a kiss to his forehead before sitting back down.

 

“Do not, ever, do something like that again, you get me?” Peter nodded sheepishly and mumbled an apology while he shifted in the bed. “You scared the hell out of me Pete, I don’t want you going anywhere without your phone for a while.”

 

“M’ sorry…” He took the hand May was offering and let her squeeze gently. “Feeling kinda funny,” he said, slouching his head and looking at Tony curiously.

 

“That’ll be the drugs kiddo, they’re starting to wear off, it’ll go away soon.” He nodded tiredly, and his eyes drooped so he was watching and smiling with a half-asleep expression. “You can get some rest, we’re not going anywhere till you’re good. We can get some work done in the lab next weekend, that sound good?” Peter was still conscious enough to grin sloppily and chirp an eager ‘yep,’ popping the ‘p’ sound as he did so.

 

“M’ go to sleep, thanks f’r getting’ me Mis’er S’ark, sorry f’r worrying you Aunt May,” he interrupted himself with a yawn and let his eyes drop fully shut. He stayed awake long enough for Tony to scoot his chair around the opposite side of the bed and comb his fingers through his curls. May kept her hand on Peter’s and he fell asleep with a smile still on his lips.

Chapter Text

“Really? Jesus, do any bad guys stay in jail these days?” Tony sighed dramatically and rolled his eyes at the grade A douchebag standing before him. The man smiled and raised his arms out in a flashy gesture, motioning up and down at himself and keeping the self-satisfied smirk on his face.

 

“Anthony, long time no see.” The mechanic grit his teeth at the purposeful use of his full name, trying not to draw attention to how much it actually irked him. “You know, it may have been unrealistic, but I almost hoped you’d take the time to come see me in prison.” From the look on his face, he was being sarcastic, and Tony fixed him with an irritated frown. “Seems to me like you were busy with a few other… important things while I was in there,” something on his face made out that he was satisfied. He was wearing a custom-fit suit, the usual drab greyness of the material gave a weak contrast to his always untrustworthy brown eyes. He must have cleaned up a bit after either escaping or being let out of prison, Tony didn’t know which, he also didn’t care.

 

Justin Hammer.

 

“Yeah, I was pretty busy, probably a lot busier than you were all cooped up in that fancy cell of yours.” Justin laughed dryly, his eyes dragging across the single cuff that attached Tony to the wall of the moving van. He noted how the man was staying a few steps further away then the max length of the chain if he were to lash out. “I’m not going to attack you yet, I’m too genuinely interested in whatever stupid thing you have planned this time.” Hammer narrowed his eyes.

 

“I can assure you it’s not stupid, Stark. I’ve taken the time to actually plot this thing out, taking each and every necessary...” He paused for a moment and tapped his chin, as if thinking, “shall we call it – motivator?” When he smirked this time, his face translated something darker than before.

 

“Mm, yeah. I can feel myself quaking right now. You’re aware I’m part of the Avengers, right?” He wasn’t hesitant to say that anymore, after the Accords and Siberia, things had been… tough, to say the least. Everybody was okay now, they had sucked it up and acted like grown-ups, talking out the issues and moving back to how they had been before the entire mess. With the Accords scrapped, they all stayed at the Tower together, of course they each practically had their own floors. “I’m pretty sure they’re all on their way as we speak, I was on dishes tonight so… yeah, kidnapping or not, they’ll be getting me out of here, so I can get that done.” He jangled the single chain pointedly, raising an eyebrow as Justin showed absolutely no signs of worry over his mild threat. “Oh, I forgot, you probably didn’t get the news station in prison, guessing you don’t know the Avengers, huh?”

 

“I’m perfectly aware,” the man said slyly, leaning forward slightly as the van slowed. “I also kept track of some other minor heroes, employees, friends, interns, lovers, really Anthony, anyone you could be close to at all.” The vehicle came to a stop and he heard the rustling of feet on concrete from outside the doors. “Pretty easy too, if I may say so. It was harder to keep tabs on regulars, but a couple public figures were much easier to watch.” Hammer stepped backward as the van’s door slid open and a couple men took his place, holding a second pair of cuffs which would assumingly be used to keep him from struggling too much. “I’m rather eager to see how much you really care for who exactly I decided to go for, but it was quite a win-win situation on my side. You get some tugs on the heartstrings, I get someone to test my new tech on.”

 

“I’m glad you still think I even have a heart to tug at, Justin, considering how little I care for your shit.” He didn’t get a reply, just the feeling of more metal being secured around his wrists while he was roughly pulled to his feet and escorted from the van. “So, who’d ya go for?” He asked casually, ignoring the feeling of worry that had started to pinch at him, small voices whispering someone he could care about was going to get hurt because of him.

 

“Well, you know me, I’m one for dramatic flair, so how boring would it be if I just told you?” At least he knew how much of a theatrical asshole he was.

 

“Oh lord, just get to it would you? God, I forgot how annoying you were.” He was shoved forward and turned to face the road, away from the small building they were going to be taking him too shortly. “Grand entrance, oh I’m soooo exited,” he groaned unenthusiastically as he noted the second van driving toward them over the dirty country road. Tony wondered how far out from the city they were, why Justin felt the need to keep him somewhere so secluded and far from any other people.

 

“Here we go!” Hammer said excitedly, bouncing on his heels as the vehicle pulled up and the drivers stepped out, opening the doors to allow far more men then he had needed to pile out. “Needed some more security, aggressive little bugger, isn’t he?” He didn’t answer, choosing instead to focus on who the men were about to pull from the van. Whoever it was must have been fighting back, because he could hear the grunts that Justin’s men were making as they forced someone to their feet. When they were finally thrown from the van and into the sunlight, it took Tony all of three second until his heart was dropping into his stomach.

 

There was a black sack covering his face, but nothing hid what he was wearing, and the bright fabric was all too familiar to the man that made it.

 

“Ow, ow, you guys suck. Get off me!” There were two men on each of his sides, holding him up so his feet dragged across the ground while what looked to be enforced shackles connected his ankles and wrists together. “Wow, you’re all assholes,” he grumbled while Tony tried to keep himself from displaying too much horror when he realised who it was. From the red feet, blue legs, emblem on his chest and dangerously young voice, the boy was unmistakably Peter Parker.

 

For a brief moment, Tony tried to deny it, reasoning that it was probably some drunk guy in a well-constructed replica of Peter’s suit under that sack, but he was so familiar with the teen by now that he couldn’t convince himself.

 

“How’s that for a big reveal, eh? You like?” He swallowed, choosing to once again neglect Justin’s question. “It’s rude to look away, so I’d suggest answering me,” the man threatened lowly, not able to keep the satisfied look of his face as he watched Tony squirm as he recognised Spider-Man’s get up.

 

“Uhhhh, not sure what big reveal you’re talking about man, the sack’s still on my head, so if you take that off I could probably ans –” Peter began before Hammer cut him off sharply.

 

“Not speaking to you, so shut up,” he kept his eyes firmly locked on Tony, waiting for him to give away some sort of clue that choosing Spider-Man hadn’t been such a bad idea.

 

“Rude,” Peter muttered unhappily, not yet realising what kind of situation he was in.

 

“Fuck you, you made a shitty choice. I don’t care about anything.” He tried to keep the fear off his face while he spoke, hoping that Justin wouldn’t catch on to how much he actually cared about the kid, who had just recognised his voice.

 

“M – Mister Stark?” He asked hesitantly, biting his lip from under the sack.

 

“See? We aren’t close, he still calls me Mister Stark, you’re an idiot Hammer, let him go and stop being an asshole.” He knew Peter could be easily offended by his charade of not caring, but he would rather pretend like he had no heart, so the boy wasn’t hurt.

 

“I don’t know why, but I find that hard to believe, Anthony. Move them inside, don’t let that one bleed out or anything.” Tony immediately snapped his head up to look for any injuries on Peter. What the hell did Justin mean ‘bleed out,’ had the teen been hurt? When he noticed the darker staining of red splotched across the suit, he felt sicker then when the men had shoved Peter from the van.

 

Below his ribcage, far to the side and above his hip was the hilt of a knife, the surrounding fabric was soaked crimson and tiny drops of blood fell from the wound, landing among the dirt while Tony looked on in horror.

 

“You fucking stabbed him? Jesus, what the hell is wrong with you, he needs medical attention!” The minimal number of times Peter had dealt with a knife wound from his patrols had worried Tony greatly, but thankfully Karen had notified him each and every time, so he was able to sort the kid out in the Med Bay before he could slink off home and sleep away the worst of the injury. But somehow, this felt very different, it could’ve been the fact that the blade was still lodged inside of the boy, or perhaps the way he was trying to simultaneously trying to not act like he cared, whilst also trying to get Peter some sort of medical care.

 

“Sounds an awful lot like you care, maybe I’ll let you patch him up later if you stop insulting me.” Peter’s chest was rising and falling quickly, although his breaths didn’t seem uneven, the panic was evident as the two were led inside and down multiple flights of stairs.

 

They were forced into a room which Tony would describe as a dusty basement, but he was too busy watching the men chaining Peter to the wall while Justin ripped off the sack. “You know, the whole secret identity thing always irritated me, especially when you’re just some guy in spandex running around Queens, not making much of a difference.” He had started to peel the Spider-Man mask upwards, despite how much the boy was trying to wriggle away from him, the chains didn’t have any give and he was already pressed up against the wall, so he couldn’t jerk his head away. Tony worried at the inside of his cheek when the mask was thrown aside, and Justin went oddly silent for a moment, his body blocking the line of sight to Peter. “Amazing,” he breathed softly, reaching an arm out to brush a lock of sweaty hair off the teens face, marvelling in how young he was. “How old is he Stark, fifteen?”

 

“I’m almost seventeen so in your face, jerk.” Tony could practically hear the scowl in Peter’s voice, and it was only confirmed when Justin moved aside to tilt the boy’s face towards where he was chained opposite to him.

 

“A sixteen-year-old protégé, huh? I bet there’s a real father-son dynamic there, what do you say Anthony?” He mimicked the glare Peter had, wrinkling his nose in distaste as Hammer attempted to pick apart the relationship they had. “Wonder where exactly you scooped him up from. Well, enjoy the time you have to chat it out, I’m getting some of the tech finished while you get situated.” Justin dropped his hand from Peter’s chin and the boy glowered angrily, jerking his head away from the man as he stood and hovered at the door for a moment. “Unlike other products, I’ve really put some considerable time and effort into the ones I’m making for you to observe in action,” he smiled at Tony and shut the door behind him, the metal clanging and making Peter wince slightly as he heard the multiple locks sliding into place.

 

The two sat in silence for a few more minutes, Tony refused to meet Peter’s gaze and the boy tried to listen to Justin’s footsteps until they moved too far for him to hear. The mechanic knew the quiet wouldn’t last much time, considering how much the teen chained opposite him liked to chatter his ear off when they worked in the lab together. He took note of the low-grade surveillance camera which moved its frame across the room every few seconds, making sure to keep that in the back of his mind.

 

“Mister Stark, I – I’m really sorry. I did fight, but there were too many and when one of them had the knife I couldn’t get out of the way in time and it just sorta… happened.” Peter seemed to be more worried about how angry Tony might be, rather than the knife that was still lodged inside of him, which made the mechanic grind his teeth and shake the restraints, testing their strength. He took a moment to pause, carefully surveying Peter’s wound and trying to keep the concerned expression off his face.

 

The blade was fully lodged inside him, the only actual part of the knife that Tony could make out was the hilt. Luckily, from the positioning of the wound, it looked like the only damage was skin and soft tissue, nothing major or vital. Part of the hilt was bloody, and it he silently hoped that Peter hadn’t tried to pull the blade out himself, especially considering he was the one that taught the boy to always leave knives where they were so that he didn’t go into shock from blood loss.

 

“Can you say something? Please?” Peter looked to where Tony was still very obviously checking over the knife, and his face dropped as he began to bite his lower lip. “I – I think I’m gonna have to take it out Mister Stark… I know you always said to leave it but… M’ kinda already starting to heal around it, so I don’t really want it to be stuck there for much longer.” He looked up incredulously at the teen and mimicked the way he was gnawing at his bottom lip.

 

“You could start to bleed more, wait until I can… Jesus, I don’t know – lemme try to get you a med kit or something.” His voice almost wobbled with the intentional effort he was putting into keeping it emotionless and impartial. “It’s okay, I’m not mad – I just…” He trailed off and nudged his head upwards slightly, motioning inconspicuously for Peter to look up at the security camera and hoping that he would catch on to the whole ‘not caring’ act.

 

“O – okay, um… it’s not deep, the blade’s pretty small,” he shuffled a little and Tony didn’t miss the way he winced lightly and sucked in a small breath as the knife shifted along with him. “Can I – uh, is… shit,” he waited until the camera was facing away from him before mouthing silently ‘is Steve coming?’

 

“Yeah kid, just – try to stay still, okay?” Peter nodded and blew out another puff of air while he let his head drop back against the wall. His hair was damp with sweat and beginning to furl around the edges, so Tony assumed Justin’s men cornered him during his patrol after school. “You good?” He whispered after another period of quiet.

 

“Mhm, just a little – ah, a little sore is all… M’ good though.” His hazel eyes gleamed while he tilted his head to the side and his face asked the question silently ‘what about you?’

 

“I’m fine, stop worrying so much,” Peter looked unconvinced and his eyes trailed up and down, searching for any unseen injuries on his mentor. “It’s a headache and nothing else, just relax for now.” He hesitated briefly, continuing to check for any indication that Tony was actually hurt and hiding it well, before he slumped again and resorted to just keeping his breathing steady and watching the camera sweep across the room methodically.

 

It must have been at least half an hour before Peter picked his head up again, quirking it to the side and appearing to listen intently. He could pick up the slight tapping of expensive sounding shoes coming back their way.

 

“Mister Stark,” he said quietly, nodding his head towards the door in warning.

 

“Let me do the talking, just don’t draw attention to yourself, for once. Please just let me take charge here, okay kiddo.” Peter huffed but didn’t argue, just continued to track the rapidly shortening distance of the person. He narrowed his eyes as the tell-tale click of the locks announced Justin’s entrance, along with the bang of the door being pushed open.

 

“Not staying, need some measurements is all. If you don’t squirm, then I’ll give you this to play around with.” He directed all his words to Peter, motioning at the measuring tape in one of his hands and the small medical kit in his other. He surged straight past Tony, dropping the kit a few feet away from Peter and out of his reach while he lifted the tape out, frowning when the teen instinctively leaned away from it. “Don’t move, it’s just tape, not gonna hurt… yet.” Tony gritted his teeth at the insinuation of Hammer’s words.

 

Peter’s mouth opened as if to speak, but his eyes darted over to where Tony was shaking his head and it snapped back shut again. They both figured that letting Justin measure whatever he needed for the med kit was a good trade, and the mechanic especially worried now that he noticed the few splatters of blood on the ground beside Peter. “There you go, keep still,” the man wrapped the tape around Peter’s forehead, then all the way around his head starting at his nose and finally directly over his eyes. “Good, very good,” he muttered to himself, ignoring the way the boy wrinkled his face at the praise. “I’ll be back soon, patch yourself up and I’m taking this, so you aren’t tempted to try anything with it.” His fingers tapped at the handle of the knife and Peter winced.

 

“Don’t touch it, he won’t do anything with it, just leave it alone Hammer.” Tony lowered his voice angrily as the only thing that Justin did in response was shoot him a smirk and dance his fingers along the hilt and grin as Peter’s face twisted in discomfort. “Back off,” he growled sharply as Peter’s lip began to quiver almost imperceptibly.

 

“Don’t think you’re in the position to tell me what to do, Stark.” Justin bared his overly white teeth as he flashed a grin and wrapped his hand around the handle, making Peter suck in a very shaky breath. “You should just be grateful I found a kit lying around for your kid to use,” he jerked his arm backward and pulled the knife along with it, chuckling darkly at the look on Tony’s face when Peter gasped and made a small shout of sudden pain. The blade was coated red and it dripped as Justin carried it back out the door with him, kicking the box against Peter’s feet on his way out.

 

Tony could hear the teen’s heavy breaths from across the room, and he watched as shaky fingers pressed against the bloody cut and he knocked his head back against the wall and bit his upper lip to keep himself quiet.

 

“Hey, hey, take it slow okay? Yeah put pressure on it, just like that.” He took his own breath and tried to stay calm when Peter’s hands shook against his side and more drops of blood slid down his suit and collected in a small pool on the floor next to his hip. “Keep breathing and press the emblem, get the suit off your torso and pull some of that gauze out to hold against it,” the boy followed his instructions and gingerly peeled his suit away from his chest and left it hanging over his hips, so he could press the gauze firmly against the wound. He groaned quietly and arched his back as his hands trembled, looking up to the ceiling while his features scrunched in pain. “Hey, you’re doing good, don’t think about the pain, just focus on me, alright?”

 

“I th – think it’s stopped bleeding now,” Peter said unsteadily after several minutes of keeping pressure over the cut.

 

“That’s good, really good kid. Take the gauze away and use some of that water in the kit to clean it,” he watched while Peter did just that, his hands still trembling slightly as the water began to wash away majority of the blood. Once the area seemed clean enough he craned his neck and looked at the contents of the kit more carefully, “put some of that antiseptic cream on there and wrap it up with the dressing.”

 

“Okay it – it doesn’t hurt that bad now, I’m just… I feel tired,” Peter’s eyes were half lidded, but he stayed alert enough to keep them open while he leant further against the wall and managed a weak smile.

 

“Don’t go to sleep yet, try to relax though kid. I’m sorry you’re going through this shit with me,” he frowned at the camera and hoped that wherever Justin was, he could see it.

 

“Not your fault Mister Stark,” the teen murmured tiredly. They both kept still and quiet for what must have been another half hour, Peter had begun to blink lethargically, and he kept a lazy eye on both the camera and Tony while he kept himself awake. “I can hear him walking,” he whispered, his shoulders tensing while he draped a protective arm over his side and sat up straighter.

 

“Okay, just stay quiet like last time,” the mechanic tugged at the chains once more before settling into the same tense position as Peter.

 

“There are more of them…” the teen said dejectedly, propping himself up further as if he would be able to defend himself. The locks clicked before Tony could respond, then Justin and four men were walking into the room, one of them dragging an enforced chair behind him.

 

“Ah, I see you’ve cleaned yourself up a bit Peter,” the boy’s eyes widened noticeably at the use of his name and Justin picked up on it quickly. “Yeah, I did my research on you before I even thought about how much better it’d be to use Spider-Man,” he leaned down to eye-level and scoffed. “Something about being Stark’s intern seemed curious, but those senses that Spidey has were so much more intriguing, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a play around with that.” Justin stood, gesturing at the men and the chair, continuing to talk while they did their job. “Imagine my surprise when you were like two rolled as one, a genius intern and a vigilante protégé.” As the men detached Peter’s chains from the wall and shoved him down into the chair, Hammer spun around to face Tony, eyes glinting in what looked like excitement. “You make it too easy for me,” he sneered and circled Peter’s chair.

 

“Stop it, leave him alone,” Tony warned, baring his teeth when Justin slowed and came to rest his chin atop Peter’s head, watching the guards strapping him to the chair while he leaned away from everyone and tried to not disturb the wound. “Back off Hammer,” he hissed aggressively as the man twirled a finger idly around a strand of Peter’s hair and smiled conceitedly at how much he was getting to Tony.

 

“Admit it, you care about him and you don’t want me to do anything to him,” the teen squirmed under the restraints and arched his back to try and pull away from where Justin was leaning against him.

 

“I’d care regardless of who it was, I don’t want to sit here and watch you hurt an innocent teenager to get to me, you’re sadistic,” he spat angrily. Justin only hummed disinterestedly and swung some thing in his hands which Tony was only just noticing.

 

“Yes, but this hurts you more,” the man tapped his foot on the floor before slamming it down harshly, stomping loudly and looking pleased when Peter flinched at the sound. “Heed those senses Anthony, so precise, so stimulating, perfectly enticing for someone like me. You understand, being a man of science and all,” he reached a finger down to tap at Peter’s chin and gain his attention. “Like the looks?” He dangled the object in his hand above the boy’s face but continued to watch Tony carefully.

 

The thing he held looked at first to be some sort of sleeping mask, but the light caught the surface and gleamed in a way that only metal would. When it turned in Justin’s hand, Tony could see the small forceps and circular lenses that were on the inside of the mask. There was a bulky strap that looped around the sides of the gadget and created a circle, presumably measured to fit Peter’s head. It was silver and black, it reflected the light in such a clean way that Tony recognised it to be newly built and most likely tailored to Peter’s measurements.

 

“What is that?” Justin only smiled wider as he twined his fingers through Peter’s curls and stared ahead at Tony provokingly, hovering the device closer and closer towards the teen’s face. “Keep it away from him, you’ve got me, you don’t need anything else.” He hooked whatever the tool was over his arm and clasped his fingers together, resting them over Peter’s head and resting his chin overtop of them teasingly.

 

“The thing is, you ruined my public image, you got my weapons contract suspended and I wound up in Seagate Prison. You tore down Hammer industries and I’m thinking…” Justin paused to still his fingers in Peter’s hair, gripping the strands tightly, using the force to tug his head up brutally and expose his neck so his eyes were meeting Tony’s. “It’s only fair if I get to tear down the little relationships you’ve made while I was busy doing time for no good reason.”

 

“You hired a terrorist to build an army of robots which attacked the Stark Expo and almost killed harmless kids running around in plastic Iron Man masks. The time you spent was pretty well deserved, Hammer.” Peter grimaced as his hair was pulled roughly, but he kept his eyes open, facing Tony with an unrelenting trust that the mechanic never thought he deserved.

 

“M – Mister Stark?” His voice cracked from the odd angle and Justin looked down at him, a threateningly pleasant smile on his face.

 

“That’s it Stark, tell the kid how much he’s going to suffer because of you,” his fingers tightened, and Peter yelped as he felt his eye’s beginning to tear up.

 

“He saved me as a kid at that Expo, a – and he’ll do it again, now.” The unwavering faith the teen had in Tony made him feel borderline assured in his ability to protect, but as he watched Justin yanking the boy’s neck back and hushing him firmly, the guilt grew in the pit of his stomach.

 

“Back away from him.” He snarled fiercely, the chains rattling as he pulled them taught, feeling more satisfied when the grin fell off Justin’s face and he dropped Peter’s head and stalked towards him.

 

“You know what? I don’t care about messing up your little mentee, I have nothing against him. All I care about is making you suffer like how I did,” the man prodded a finger against Tony’s chest and waved a hand in Peter’s direction.

 

“If you even touch him –” he began.

 

“Oh, I don’t need to touch him, my tech does all the work for me. Just like your stupid suits do for you.” Justin stood again, backing up closer to Peter and signalling two of his men to join him. “Like I said, I spent time on this. You aren’t stopping me, no matter how much faith the kid puts in you.” The men must have known what Hammer wanted, because when they stepped forward and held Peter’s head in place, they were holding him still in a specific way, so the device could fit over his face easily.

 

“M – Mister Stark!” Peter was jerking his body and trying to dislodge the men holding his head in place, but when he saw Justin lowering the mask towards him he began to thrash wildly to the point where Tony worried his knife wound may start bleeding again. “No! No! Get away – please! Get off me, Mister Stark, help! Get them a – away!” His voice was rising in panic and no matter how hard he was struggling under the restraints, his head stayed in place while the gadget was moved closer to his face. “N – no!” He whimpered as the first parts of the metal frame touched his skin and Tony could see his body shiver in response.

 

“Hey, Pete, hey buddy I know it’s scary, I know. Keep your eyes closed for me, just keep them shut, I’m working on it, I swear!” He tugged at his own bonds and barely took the time to wince as they wrenched his shoulders and wrists while he pulled. “Justin stop! Okay, just leave him alone!” The man didn’t even look up from where he was dangling the object onto Peter’s face, but he did pause for a moment and bend down, digging his fingers over the gauze that was wrapped over where the knife had protruded from. “Stop it!” Tony yelled as Peter lurched and gasped as the wound began to sluggishly bleed once again.

 

“Keep your eyes open or I’ll force the knife back in there, kay?” The boy’s chin quivered at Justin’s threat and he sniffled, Tony wasn’t sure if he had opened his eyes or not. The mask continued to lower, and soon enough Peter was crying out as the circular lenses were touching his eyes. “There you go, let the forceps hold them open while I adjust the band,” Justin laid a placating hand on the top of the teen’s head while he tugged the band to the tightest setting and made sure it held the mask against Peter’s eyes.

 

“Get it off him, your issue is with me, not him. Take the mask off.” Tony couldn’t meet Peter’s eyes with the gadget covering them, but he could imagine the terrified haze that would cloud over them and the way they would widen in fear of what was to come. He didn’t get to see that look often and he was glad that Peter was never in situations where his fright was so evident like it clearly was now.

 

“M – M – Mister Stark? Mister Stark! Please, I – I can’t – I can’t close my eyes, please, please help! It’s hurting – it hurts, it hurts…” His chest was moving rapidly with terror and his cries were bordering on hysterical. His mouth was opened in a grimace and his entire jaw was shivering as pained noises escaped. “Stop! Stop, please – please… it hurts, I can’t – I can’t see anything –”

 

“Shh, Peter, you aren’t supposed to see anything yet. Let the device moisten your eyes and I’ll turn it on, so Stark can watch the show.” Tony gave a furious shout and heaved with his restraints, trying desperately to kick out at Justin. “No, you can stay there Anthony, leave the boy to deal with the mask and you focus on how this is all your fault.”

 

“N – No!” Peter yelled, “it’s not his fault, he’s a hero!” Justin looked at them both distastefully and pressed something on the side of the device, waving the rest of the men out of the room as Peter wailed in reaction to whatever the button had done.

 

“What did you press? What’s it doing to him?” Peter was gripping the arms of the chair with a white-knuckled grip and he shook his head weakly as if testing to see whether the mask would dislodge.

 

“Relax, I turned it on, he’s looking at a white screen right now. I haven’t started up the visuals yet.” Tony didn’t fully understand the extent of Peter’s senses, but he knew they got overloaded frequently and the boy would often get migraines on bad days. When he had first spent time with the teen on a day where everything was too much, he spent all of that night setting up a ‘Lights Out Protocol.’ Any time after that, when he recognised the kid wincing under harsh lights or wearing his mask at unnecessary times in the tower, he’d call sensory overload and F.R.I.D.A.Y would lower all the lighting and as much noise as possible in the rooms Peter frequented. “I’m glad it fits you, I made sure to design it, so you couldn’t blink or close your eyes against the lighting. I didn’t want your cornea to dry out so it’s just dripping some moisture every few seconds to stop that.” Peter shuddered, and Tony saw his flexing his wrists and legs against the restraints, trying to get out of them.

 

“I – I can’t, it’s hurting… stop it – please stop it.” Peter’s face was flicking between scrunching and trembling, Tony was starting to see where the moisture was beginning to run down his cheeks, he hoped that’s what those were, because Peter crying wasn’t something he wanted to see.

 

“Hammer stop, you’re hurting him, and he doesn’t deserve this,” he pulled more at the chains and yearned to be closer to the teen, so he could give him some sort of comfort.

 

“Be quiet, I’m starting it up now, and this isn’t about whether he deserves it or not, this is about seeing if my tech works like it’s supposed to.” He was leaning over and fiddling with something on the side of the mask, before plugging in a small stick into a slot and uploading information to the screens.

 

“What is it supposed to do when it works?” Justin paused as he looked directly at Tony with a sly expression.

 

“Hurt you,” he said clearly, tapping a second button and stepping back as Peter began to writhe around in the chair. He watched with interest, tilting his head and observing how the teen whined and struggled uselessly.

 

----

 

“Hurt you,” Justin claimed boldly while Peter was forced to stare at a blank screen. He heard something click from outside the mask and then the white light began to strobe aggressively, and patterns of wild colours were flashing into his eyes. The sudden change caught him off guard and he jerked backward, as if he could move away from the assault on his senses, but the device followed. With the forceps holding his eyes and the makeshift contact lenses displaying the feverish visuals, he couldn’t look away, there was absolutely no way to escape the pain that was beginning to build behind his eyes.

 

Another whine was torn from his throat as the white strobe lighting began to flash different colours, he was overloaded immediately. The lights, colours and patterns were flashing too quickly for him to make anything out, but they didn’t seem to be real images, all digitally created and closely resembling optical illusions. After a few minutes the sensation in his skull was more than painful, it was severe, and he didn’t understand how much more the displays could intensify but somehow, they did.

 

The colours came in rapid succession and the strobing increased in speed while the patterns grew more and more complex and in motion. A strangled cry fell from his mouth and the tears pooling at the bottom of his eyes began to fall, he felt them rolling down his cheeks and dripping onto his legs.

 

“Please, please, please! I – it’s too – it’s too much, it hurts… I – I can’t – I can’t, Mister S – Stark, please!” He arched his back away from the chair and tried to rip his arms away from the restraints, so he could pull the horrible thing away from his eyes, but they were strapped down too tightly and the most he could do was recoil and thrash around violently. Not much time passed before his whines and cries had grown to screams as the pain in his head became agonising. “Ah! Pl – please, please!” A particularly vicious scream was torn from his throat and it broke at the end on a sob.

 

“Peter I’m here! I’m here kiddo, please don’t hurt yourself.” He didn’t know if his struggling was hurting him, all he could feel was the fiery affliction that continued to grow behind his eyes. He choked on more sobs and began to howl in agony as it all seemed to crash together before his eyes and he was bawling. Hot tears streamed down his face and he could barely make out Tony’s cries of attempted comfort and how he screamed for Justin to turn it off.

 

He didn’t know how much time was passing, or had passed, all he knew was the pain and the screen that continued to attack his sight and chip away at his will. Peter didn’t know if his vision was blurring or if the patterns were growing to that effect, but a numbness was spreading through his body and it tingled beneath his skin. Something flooded in his mouth and it tasted like steel amongst the sensation of something crawling from his stomach up his throat. His eyes rolled back into his skull, so the whites were showing, and his jaw clamped shut, his teeth grinding together as he lost control and the numb tingling overtook his entire body. The onslaught of rapid-fire colour switches were beginning to blur together as he felt himself fading.

 

The last thing he remembers hearing, was his own quiet mewl of terror as the screen seemed to consume every part of him.

 

----

 

“Peter? Peter! Pete, come on talk to me! What’s happening? What the hell is that thing doing to him!” Tony wrenched against his own restraints as Peter fell silent and his jaw appeared to lock up. For a few seconds his entire body clenched, and he went completely rigid, not even fighting against the straps holding him to the chair. Then, the boy began small, jerking movements as he convulsed and seized violently. “Stop, stop the mask – turn it off! Turn it off!” Justin didn’t move from where he stood, just continued to observe and admire his own tech.

 

Small sounds started to come from where Peter’s teeth were clenched shut, it sounded as if he were choking and Tony felt his own eyes burning as he watched the congested gasping noises escape. “Shit, shit, Justin please – please turn it off, he – he’s having a seizure! He can’t stay in the chair, please get the restraints off him, he’s going to choke on his own saliva. Fuck! Please, let me help him, he needs help!” He was trying to run forward so forcefully that he could feel the metal digging into his own hands, but he wouldn’t stop because he was watching Peter have a seizure and nobody was helping.

 

“It’s working then,” the man murmured to himself. Justin looked torn between being proud of himself and feeling a twinge of worry that the kid could die if it was serious enough. Tony looked up at him with wet eyes while continuing to struggle against his bonds.

 

“Please, please, he’s bleeding again, let me help him!” His tugging only relented slightly when he looked back over to Peter and saw the frothy, red tinged saliva and grime beginning to foam around his pale lips. “I have to help him! Please!” He threw himself forward with even more force than before and Justin rolled his eyes but ambled forward and began to unlock his cuffs slowly. “Shit, he – he’s seizing, I have to – ah!” He cried out as the cuffs were released and he fell forward to his knees, skinning his palms on the floor but picking himself up immediately and sprinting forward.

 

“God, this is pitiful,” Justin muttered to himself as he walked outside the room, locking the door behind him and rolling his eyes.

 

“Peter!” Tony yelled, urgently reaching for the mask and loosening the strap so he could try and ease it from the boy’s head without hurting his eyes more. The forceps keeping his lids open unlocked along with the band and as he threw the offending device aside he managed to catch the whites of Peter’s eyes before they slid shut and his lashes were rested against his cheeks while he continued to jerk around. “I’m here, I’m here kiddo, I don’t know if you can even hear me but I’m here now.” He undid the restraints and rested the teen against his body before he gently laid him on his side against the floor to keep his airway clear. He cupped the teen’s head in his hands to stop it from hitting the ground and stayed crouched beside him.

 

Eventually, the jerking and convulsions stopped, and Peter’s body seemed to become less rigid. He stayed unresponsive and Tony rolled him into the recovery position carefully and tore off his own jacket to lie it underneath his head like a pillow. “You’re okay, it’s over, it’s over,” he repeated softly, wiping the froth away from the corners of his lips with the edge of his sleeve and opening his mouth to check he hadn’t bitten his tongue too badly.

 

Peter regained consciousness slowly, he was dazed, confused and disorientated. When his eyes opened he whimpered and snapped them shut again, reaching out to clutch at Tony hand while more tears slipped down his face. “Hey, it’s okay, he’s gone, he’s gone now. I’m here Pete, you’re okay. The mask’s gone, you’re okay,” he continued the soft reassurances until the teen stopped trembling in fear and began to melt into as much physical comfort as he could. He was still sobbing when he reached up to bury his face away into Tony’s neck and press himself in deeper, so the mechanic could shade his eyes from the burning light.

 

He gingerly rested a hand over Peter’s eyes and tried to feel assured when the boy sighed and leant into the touch, but he was more worried about how warm his skin felt. When Tony hesitantly lifted the bloody gauze, he could see the redness that had begun to expand around the wound which looked as if it were beginning to swell slightly. “Pete, hey kiddo, you need to tell me how bad the knife wound hurts, okay?” He lifted two fingers and rested them against his forehead, biting his lip nervously when he felt the fever already beginning to rise.

 

“Feels hot, n’ hurts more than before…” Peter’s words were slurred, and he looks drained. Considering he hadn’t hit his head and Tony knew that the physical exertion of struggling for that long would be exhausting, he nestled the boy against his chest and shoulder. Now that they were in close proximity and he could turn to whisper in Peter’s ear, he mumbled that Steve was coming and everything would be okay until the teen’s tears had mostly stopped falling and he slumped in his sleep. While he rested, Tony changed the gauze of his wound and applied antibiotic cream in hopes of calming the infection, and in turn, the fever which only seemed to rise.

 

He shuffled backward until he held Peter against himself and leant against the furthest corner from the door. The mechanic didn’t sleep, he just kept a hand over the boy’s eyes and tried not to think about how Peter had begun to sweat and shiver in his sleep.

 

What must have been hours after Justin left the room and Peter had come down from the seizure, a red light leaked in under the door, flashing on and off in tune to the pounding of footsteps. He pulled the teen closer and pushed himself further into the corner using his body as a shield for the boy who couldn’t fight for himself.

 

“Tony!” He heard a familiar voice calling from somewhere in the building and he perked up, shifting so Peter was turned away, so he could yell without disturbing him.

 

“Steve? Rhodes? We’re here! Basement, we’re in the basement!” Despite his best efforts, Peter scrunched his face up and whined, turning over in Tony’s hold so he could press his face against his neck and puff small breaths through the intolerable fever.

 

There was more banging, the lights shut off and then the door locks were clicking again. The locks seemed unnecessary when Rhodey’s armour blew the door in and Steve’s shield emerged from behind the clearing smoke. “Thank fuck,” he sighed and used the wall to pull both himself and Peter up, ignoring the incoherent mumbling that the boy began to spew as he cradled him and staggered forward.

 

“Jesus Tones, what the hell happened?” Rhodey’s faceplate lifted and from the doorway the mechanic could make out the silhouettes of the rest of the team.

 

“Justin Hammer happened. Had his guys take the kid during patrol, stab wound on his side and…” he rubbed a hand over the side of his face as he handed Peter over to Steve who wasn’t shaky on his feet. “And some messed up mask thing that gave him a seizure,” Rhodey led him outside and Steve stayed close in front, so Tony could keep eyes on the teen that was still asleep.

 

----

 

The flight back to the Tower and the two days he spent in the Med Bay next to Peter weren’t the issue. The problem was how the kid refused to sleep.

 

“Peter, come on. You know exactly why I’m sending you to bed, you haven’t slept since we got back.” He put down the screwdriver he was holding and spun around in his chair till he faced the teen and fixed him with a serious look.

 

“M’ not tired, I can keep working on my suit for longer, stop worrying about me so much.” He fiddled with the eyes of the mask, adjusting the amount of light that the filters allowed. His headache had only recently begun to fade away, the lights in every room still dimmed drastically in every room he entered, and he silently thanked the A.I for noticing how much he had been massaging his temples in discomfort.

 

“Okay, you get that worry about you is basically my job kid, put down the suit and head to bed.” His voice wasn’t stern, but he was attempting to put emphasis on how badly the boy needed to rest. If the dark bags and lack of his usual enthusiasm was anything to go by, he was in desperate need of a day long nap.

 

“I’m good, alright? You don’t have to keep babying me,” Peter snapped, frowning down at his hands and squeezing them into fists as he took a long breath. Tony gave him a moment, raising his eyebrows when the unfamiliar aggression leaked from the normally carefree teen. “I’m sorry, I just – I’m not tired and you don’t need to ‘send me to bed’ like a kid. I can go to sleep on my own.”

 

“I’m not treating you like a kid, I’m treating you like an incompetent adult who won’t rest. What’s it been Pete, you tell me, four days?” He let the firmness sink into his words and was surprised when the boy didn’t immediately shrink in on himself and apologise like always.

 

“Five. It’s been five days and I’m. Fine.” The mask dropped to the table, the eyes making a noise as they hit the bench and the stool scooted back loudly. “I can go to bed any time I want, I just don’t feel like it right now, okay?” His voice softened slightly before he continued, “I’m sorry this is worrying you so much, and whatever happened after I passed out in the basement must have been… unpleasant for you to see –”

 

“Understatement of the century,” Tony scoffed, not bothering to apologise for interrupting as Peter ploughed on like he hadn’t even spoken.

 

“But, you need to let me sort through this by myself, I’m not going to bother you with this stuff anymore Mister Stark.” He got up to leave but the mechanic caught his sleeve and swung around in his chair.

 

“What do you mean ‘sort through this’ and ‘this stuff,’ what aren’t you telling me?” Peter shook away the hand and shrugged, which was what really caught Tony’s attention because the kid normally sunk into any physical contact with ease. “Peter, sit back down and talk to me about this,” he said calmly.

 

“Look I’ll just go study or something, you can stay down here, I’m going, alright?” He shook his head and pulled the boy’s chair back out, pointing to it obviously.

 

“Nu uh, I’m not asking here. Sit. Talk.” He crossed his arms and leant back in the chair, ignoring the way Peter sighed as he slumped in his seat and glowered at the floor accusingly.

 

“I’m not tired,” he said plainly, still refusing to make eye contact.

 

“Try again,” he pressed, tapping Peter’s ankle with his foot and tilting his head when the boy finally looked up.

 

“Fine. God. I just – it still… ugh, why’re you making me do this?” He dragged his hand over his face and sighed again, peeking out from behind a finger to see if Tony would let up. “I can still see the stupid lights when I close my eyes, there. You happy? I’m going now, thanks for the pep talk Mister Stark, I’m glad we talked through insomnia together,” he grumbled sarcastically and stood again, not even bothering to push the stool in as he charged for the door.

 

“F.R.I,” Tony called deliberately. The handle of the door clicked just as Peter began to push down on it and he cursed quietly, spinning around and glaring at the mechanic.

 

“Why can’t you just let me sort out my own problems? You don’t have to waste your time on me!” He slammed an open palm against the handle hotly and dropped his gaze while his cheeks burnt in embarrassment. “You shouldn’t have to parent me all the time,” he whispered into his hands as Tony rose from his chair.

 

“Come on, F.R.I, boil the jug, we’re going to the kitchen.” He rested a hand on the small of Peter’s back and guided him to the elevator placidly. “You’re right, I don’t have to,” he looked forward and kept the hand on the teen when he steered the kid towards the bench in the kitchen and sat him down while he pulled two cups out and made coco. “I don’t have to… but I want to,” he slid a mug over to the boy and ushered him to the couches. “I never wanted to be a weird mentor, parent, hybrid thing, but now I’m taking charge and sorting you out, so you don’t turn into a mini-me.”

 

“Just… you don’t need to justify any of this, it’s fine. I know you feel guilty about the whole kidnapping thing, but don’t force yourself to baby me, I’m going back to Aunt May’s in a few days and I’m cool with the whole lab time once or twice a week, don’t feel obliged to take care of me.” He looked up from his coco when Tony huffed a laugh.

 

“You think I’m babying you because I feel like I have to after the kidnapping? Aw Pete,” he brushed a fallen curl aside from the boy’s face and let his own break into a fond expression. “I’m looking out for you because, well… you mean as much to me as Hammer thought you did. I want to make sure you’re okay, sure, but it’s been like this since homecoming kid, you’re like a ball of self-sacrificial energy and teenage angst. You can’t blame me for wanting to keep you safe.” Peter shut his mouth from where it had fallen open.

 

“I – I… you… since homecoming?” He gaped, swirling the coco around in his mug and taking a long swig as he collected himself. When he set the empty cup aside and turned back to face Tony, there was a small smile playing at his lips. He puffed his chest out and straightened imaginary glasses, trying to exude as much over confident business-owner-like energy as possible. “I bet there’s a real father-son dynamic there,” he mimicked Justin’s voice poorly, but it was enough to drag another laugh from Tony, who put his own cup down and exchanged it for the remote.

 

“Yeah, super funny kid,” he teased lightly, ruffling the boy’s curls distractedly as he switched the T.V on and turned the volume down to a comfortable white noise volume. “If I do this, can you see things behind your eyes?” He gently rested his free hand over Peter’s eyes like he did in the basement and paused to see if the teen would startle or not.

 

“No,” he said quietly, pitching forward so he leant against Tony’s chest almost horizontally. “It – it’s good, feels less… less like the screen’s gonna turn on again.” The mechanic kept his hand laid over his eyes and could feel when his eyelashes fluttered completely shut as he relaxed against his torso.

 

“Get some sleep, then maybe I’ll stop parenting you,” he whispered with a smile, running his unoccupied hand through the boy’s hair and scratching the nape of his neck as he stifled his own yawn.

 

It took nearly an entire eight minutes for Peter to fall completely asleep, and Tony followed only twelve minutes later, leaving both of their empty mugs for the next morning. Or as it turns out, the next afternoon, when they both woke with a blanket that somebody had draped over them some time during the night.

Chapter Text

He didn’t mean for this to happen.

 

God, he really screwed up this time.

 

“M’st’r St’rk?” He popped open the singular window that F.R.I.D.A.Y always left unlocked for him and attempted to stick down the wall. It didn’t exactly work out how he wanted it to, because he more… tumbled… through the window, well that and getting a mouthful of carpet. “Mmm…” he began to call for his mentor again, but his vision clouded for a moment and he gripped the wall for support.

 

“Hello Peter, would you like me to alert Sir of your arrival?” The A.I’s voice fizzled as his hearing swayed in and out under the ringing in his skull, but thankfully he managed a nod before his hand on the wall slipped and he was facedown against the floor for the second time. Somehow, he couldn’t find the strength to get back up this time.

 

“Hey kid, F.R.I said you came in through the window agai –” the tapping stopped, and Peter was barely coherent enough to register that they were Tony’s footsteps. “Pete, what happened?” A weight dropped next to him and he could feel something touching his sides and rolling him over, so he faced the ceiling.

 

Maybe that’s why he couldn’t breathe that easily? Had he been facedown?

 

“Guy w’th gas… n’ stuck… kinda funny feelin’?” He was slurring almost unintelligibly now, but the hands were still moving, touching his neck, his forehead, reaching underneath him and tugging so the carpet wasn’t there anymore. “Wha’ you doin’?”

 

“Shh, kid, I’m getting Bruce and we’re just gonna take a trip to the Med Bay.” Peter vaguely recognised the sensation of the elevator moving and then everything fizzled out again until he was fading back to consciousness to the feeling of sheets underneath him and the prick of a needle.

 

“Oww, not v’ry nice…” He wriggled on the bed and almost immediately felt hands on his shoulders, steadying him.

 

“Hey Pete, that’s just Bruce getting some blood, so we can see what’s happening. Can you tell me any more about the, uh – the gas?” He groaned as his head pounded and he couldn’t help but shuffle around some more.

 

“Guy n’ a mask… made some purple gas, n’ m’ head hurt… woke up n’ came here.” He didn’t open his eyes, but it was like he could feel Tony checking him over with his gaze. He heard a vaguely familiar voice and then the weight beside him was shuffling towards the call and away from him. There was a whispered discussion which he was too out of it to even bother listening in. He must have passed out again or fallen asleep because there were hands on his face, they were warm and calloused. “M’st’r St’rk… b – bin please,” he could feel his skin throbbing and burning, and although the warm hands were comforting, the heat that radiated from them soon felt unbearable.

 

“Bin? What do you mean kid?” He squirmed away from the hands and whined as his body protested the movement and his eyes snapped open as his stomach rolled.

 

“Bin!” He reached his arms out despite the ache and sat himself up, clenching his mouth shut and trying to breathe heavily through his nose.

 

“Here,” Bruce shoved a bowl onto his lap while Tony’s brain finally caught up and he realised what Peter had been asking for. The teen retched, and the contents of his stomach emptied as he shivered feverishly. “I need to run some tests, stay with him and call me if anything changes. Anything.” Footsteps exited the room and Peter was left with Tony’s hand rubbing small circles, high on his back while he tried to settle his stomach unsuccessfully.

 

“M’ not feelin’ that nice…” he coughed weakly and his body tilted forward. A hand on his chest slowed him as the bowl was moved away and his eyes slid back shut.

 

“I know, Bruce is running some tests kid, you’ll be okay soon.” A damp washcloth dragged against his forehead and he leaned into the coolness, whining tiredly as the pillow was propped up underneath him. “F.R.I, bring up Karen’s suit cam,” there were sounds that Peter recognised as himself web-slinging, but then he was falling asleep to the sound of windows breaking and the eerie hiss of gas leaking into the room he had previously stood in.

 

----

 

“I don’t know, okay? I just… I’m not sure right now Tony. The tests came back positive, but I couldn’t identify what the hell that stuff was, he isn’t getting any worse so –”

 

“Well he isn’t getting any better either Bruce, whatever that gas was, we need to get it out of his system before it gets to his head because… I – I don’t have any idea what’ll happen if it does.” There was a pause, something like fabric rustling, test tubes ratting.

 

“It’s moving fast Tony… I don’t know how to stop it, everything I can think of won’t work with his DNA makeup.” The was a soft noise, almost like someone trying to conceal a sniffle, then a hand was on his and it squeezed gently.

 

“We’re going to figure it out, he’s going to be fine.” He wanted to squeeze back, but it hurt to move, and his head was throbbing horribly. “He’ll be okay, he will.” The washcloth was back against his forehead, but it didn’t feel good any more, he shivered involuntarily, and everything was too cold.

 

“Mm… s’ cold,” he groaned and tried to pull away but before he could, the cloth was moving off him and being replaced by a warm hand.

 

“Bruce his temp’s gone down heaps, it – he’s really cold.” Peter shuddered and weakly reached up for the hand, but it pressed steadily against his forehead and cheeks. “Hey kiddo, everything’s going to be fine, okay? We’re working on it.” He blew out a breath and furled closer into himself, trying to soak up any heat he could.

 

“Wha’ happens if it reaches m’ head?” Tony stayed silent, in fact, he didn’t move or respond to the teen’s question in any way, which was worrying. Peter forced his eyes open and rolled his head to the side, taking a moment for his sight to focus in on the mechanic. “Mister St’rk?” The hand over his own moved away and he followed Tony as he stood and turned away from the ben.

 

“You’re going to be okay,” he said firmly, almost as if he were telling himself that the boy he had taken under his wing would be alright.

 

“Wha’s gonna happen?” Peter was surprised when his own voice came out shaky and his eyes blurred with unshed tears. “I – I didn’t mean to breathe in the gas… I didn’t know, I didn’t…” Tony sighed and rubbed his face.

 

“I know Pete, it isn’t your fault. I’m not going to let anything bad happen to y –” He was interrupted when the teen moaned and wrapped his arms around himself. “You okay kiddo? What’s going on? Talk to me,” Tony turned to face the bed once again.

 

“Nothing… m’ jus’ cold, really c – cold.” His teeth began to chatter as he held his own arms tighter, his shivering increasing.

 

“Bruce?” Tony mumbled to himself as he ripped blankets from other Med Bay beds, bringing them over to Peter and tucking them around the quivering form. “Is it progressing? Getting better? Can’t we flush it out of his system, try and slow it down?”

 

“The throwing up was his body’s way of flushing it out, I don’t know if the chills are good… he could be – I think… Tony, his body could be starting to shut down to slow the progression down. His vitals… might indicate the possibility of a coma.” Peter whimpered and tugged the blankets closer, feeling his eyes drooping but trying to keep them open.

 

“No. He’s not – we aren’t putting him into a medically induced coma Bruce, he’s going to be fine. He’s okay!” When his hands came to rest on the bench, his movement was rough, and the weight made the table shake. “We can’t… I can’t.”

 

“Tony that isn’t what I’m saying… I didn’t mean medically induced, it – it’s his own body, it’s like a failsafe. I won’t be able to stop it, but I can monitor him and stop it from getting to his head… okay?” Peter could see Tony shifting closer to his bedside and he felt something wet hitting the blanket beside him, they were tears. “If I put him in a medically induced coma, pulling him out of it will be easier… it’s the only way to slow the poison down enough so I have time to synthesize something to get rid of it completely.”

 

Tony picked up his hand, resting it against his lips and tapping them against each other in thought. Peter could just make out the reflection of light on the man’s wet cheeks while he fought to keep his eyes open.

 

“Kid… I know this is the only way but I just – I want you to stay awake… stay with me,” he whispered the next word almost inaudibly, but Peter could hear. “Stay…”

 

“Tony, if you want the poison out, I need to put him to sleep.” He shook his head but ultimately, he knew if the teen was making it through this, it needed to happen. “I’m doing it now; Peter I promise this isn’t going to hurt and you’ll be okay. Everything will be flushed out when you wake up.” Tony threaded a spare hand through the soft curls, wiping his tears on the elbow of his sleeve.

 

“Just a little nap, okay Spidey?” He sniffed and smiled at the teen, not wiping the tear that was following the old tracks down his cheek. “You’re gonna be okay, I’m staying here,” he laughed weakly, and the noise broke on something similar to a sob. “Don’t nap too long, kay kiddo? Need some mindless chatter for the lab, maybe some terrible pop culture references and science puns.” He dropped his head to Peter’s lap and squeezed his hand tightly. “I’ll miss ya while you’re off in dreamland squirt. Don’t stay there too long,” the sad smile clung to Tony’s lips while Peter let his lashes flutter shut. “Night buddy,” he heard the words from far away as his thoughts dripped into a stream of unconsciousness.

 

Bruce looked empathetic, but he was quick to work on something that was capable of matching the boy’s DNA while also flooding the poison from his system without consequence. Tony stayed at the bedside for hours, listening to the beeping of the monitors and watching the rise and fall of the teen’s chest from under the nest of blankets.

 

----

 

“Given how severe it was and how much work his body’s been doing to wash everything out, you’ll have to stay and care for him for a few days because he’ll be completely out of it.” He didn’t care, Bruce got the cure done in four days, he had been by Peter’s side for all of them and it wasn’t changing now he was going to be waking up. “He’ll be up in less than an hour, but he won’t have any energy,” Tony nodded, squeezing the small hand he still held in his own.

 

“I’m taking care of him Bruce.”

 

----

 

When Peter woke up, he wasn’t coherent enough to hold a conversation, but Tony hoped he would remember the hand in his hair and fingers rubbing over his palm soothingly.

 

The next few days were a blur of soup, rest, an unnecessary number of pillows and one sleepy, clingy teenager that wouldn’t stop apologising for scaring everyone. The mechanic was surprisingly okay with being a makeshift caregiver for the bedridden teen, he grew relatively fond of lounging around next to the boy while he worked on finishing a cup of soup and binging any and all movies F.R.I.D.A.Y could dig up for him.

 

“You know, not that I enjoy the confinements of the Med Bay, but… this is good, it – it’s nice,” he looked to his mentor and fixed a relaxed smile on his lips. “Thank you, Mister Stark, for real, I appreciate it.” Tony returned the smile easily and patted Peter’s knee gently.

 

“All good kiddo, don’t inhale any more mystery purple stuff anytime soon though, not the most fun of times.”

 

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he pulled the blankets under his chin and rolled to his side, fingers looping lightly over the arm of Tony’s chair. He hid his smile in the mountain of pillows when the mechanic picked up his hand and held it until he was asleep again.

Chapter Text

“Nat, come on.” The line stayed silent, Tony didn’t need to see the assassin’s face to know there was an unimpressed look that crossed it. “Two more days, why couldn’t this wait for two more days?”

 

“Tony, I know you and Steve took the time off months ago, but this debriefing is less than a day and the rest of us aren’t sitting around and waiting for you three to finish your holiday, so we can start the mission.” He sighed but fixed a smile as Peter looked up from his book and smiled gleefully at him. He waved and shot Steve a half-smile.

 

“Okay, okay. Gimme an hour then I’ll fly over,” Natasha clicked her tongue disapprovingly and he heard the rustle of her hair as she presumably shook her head.

 

“Were you really not listening? We need everyone.” He frowned and quirked his head to the side as if it were a face to face conversation.

 

“Buck doesn’t do Hydra missions, and I’m not leaving Pete in the hotel when we’re flying overseas.” As if he would ever leave his eight-year-old in a hotel in Algarve, Portugal while he flew to Russia for a ‘quick mission debrief.’

 

“Well, this turned out to be a lot bigger than we thought, so Bucky and Steve will do the less involved work like sorting though the files we’ll find when we blow this joint.” He scrunched his face in confusion and rubbed at the resulting crinkles above his eyebrows tiredly.

 

“So, to get this straight, you want me to fly my husband and son, in the middle of our vacation, to Russia, with a layover in New York to pick Bucky up, so we can all get debriefed on this mission which Bucky won’t want to take part in regardless?” A pause followed, and he waved a hopefully placating hand in Steve’s direction from where his head had snapped up from his sketchbook. ‘I know,’ he mouthed frustratedly, standing and walking over to rest a hand on the man’s shoulder and rubbing tenderly before dropping his forehead against the blonde’s head.

 

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Peter’s going to be fine, he’s always wanted to tag along, and this is a no-risk deal, all you’re doing is flying over for the meeting and then you can head back to Algarve and I’ll convince Fury to give you an extra day off for the trouble.” He huffed and peeked an eye open from Steve’s hair to look over at his son, who was curled up in the covers of the bed and reading his book happily, unaware of the phone call as his eyes skimmed the pages interestedly. “Tony? You all good with that?”

 

“Gimme a sec,” he leaned back and looked into Steve’s blue eyes, blowing out a breath when the soldier’s face pinched and the ocean-esque irises flooded with confliction. “I’ll call you back, okay? Let me talk to the Capsicle here,” he heard Natasha laughing lightly.

 

“I thought I could hear you gazing into each other’s eyes through the phone, text me when you’re done.” The line clicked off and he moved to sit by Peter, dropping the phone on the bedside, brushing a sleep-mussed curl from the boy’s face and tilting his chin up gently with a warm smile.

 

“Hey kiddo, you hungry?” He leant over the side of the bed and fished through the draws on the table when Peter nodded, pulling a bill from his wallet and placing it in his kid’s hand before pressing a kiss to his forehead. “You remember where the vending machine is? Just down the hall, don’t forget the key card,” he ruffled the wavy, brown hair and watched as Peter bounded out the door.

 

He swung around on the bed and kicked himself back to the floor, leaning over Steve’s back lazily and dropping his nose against the broad shoulders and humming idly. The soldier pushed his sketch book aside, along with the pencil, and stretched his neck to make room for Tony.

 

“She wants us back early, with Petey and Buck?” The mechanic crooned in reply to the question and stood up fully, arching his back and rolling his shoulders with a yawn.

 

“Yes, she does, but she’s also offering an extra day off to make up for it, so does it really matter?” Steve raised an eyebrow and stood from his chair by the window, resting a finger against Tony’s hand lightly and frowning mildly.

 

“Not particularly, but it’s one of those things, if we roll over now, who’s to say the next time we take time off, nothing’s stopping them from calling us back in?” The brunette unfurled his hand to accept and laced his fingers with Steve’s, thinking about his next words carefully.

 

“Okay, I get that, but… if we’re picking Bucky up on the way and presumably dropping him back off, you know Peter’s going to wanna lounge around at the compound with him when we’re done.” Steve huffed out an amused exhale and rolled his eyes to the ceiling as he thought about it.

 

“Yeah, no doubt. Last time we let him babysit, Peter wrapped himself in tinfoil and stuck all the magnets onto Buck’s arm.” Tony smiled at the memory and looked up to see Steve sighing. “He said it helped him associate the arm with something other than murder, and I know that Natasha wouldn’t ever set him on a mission where he’d get too involved with Hydra again, but he’s still touchy about getting anywhere near them again.”

 

“I know, that’s why this is strictly a debrief, nothings set in stone here. I’m not letting you two sink into any Hydra case that you don’t feel comfortable with.” The blonde looked down at Tony and smirked with the same look of revenge he always did when he thought about what Bucky had gone through.

 

“Oh, I’m perfectly content dealing with some Hydra agents, if it means I get to take down another base and throw the shield, I’m all in. The only thing holding me back here is that I don’t want to cut the vacation short just yet.” The mechanic grinned and stepped forward, so they were pressed closer together, chest to chest.

 

“Ya know, if Peter’s going to latch onto Bucky, and we’re dropping him off on the way back here, I’m sure he’d love to hang out at the compound… we could take the extra day for ourselves?” He wrapped an arm around the back of Steve neck and looked up innocently, as if he weren’t implying anything with the suggestion. “Take a walk on the beach, bottle of wine, watch the sea from the balcony. Just the two of us?” He lifted his remaining arm, dragging it up and along Steve’s side lightly before resting it over the other, which still hung loosely around the nape of the blonde’s neck. Tony met his eyes, smiling in question as his eyebrow raised and he leant back, dipping slightly so he could take in all of Steve’s face which seemed to be pondering the offer.

 

“We’d have to extend the hotel booking,” he murmured, laying a hand on Tony’s waist to pull him back closer with a returned smile.

 

“Mhm, billionaire, remember?” He hummed gently and lifted Steve’s chin with the tip of his nose, looking up at him curiously, waiting for an answer less than patiently.

 

“I couldn’t think of anything better,” he whispered before closing the gap between them for a short period before the clicking of the door handle warned them to pull apart. While Peter flopped back onto the mattress, listening eagerly as Steve explained the change of plans, Tony messaged Natasha to confirm and made sure Bucky knew the jet would pick him up from the compound.

 

----

 

Peter had always loved the freedom he had in his Dad’s private jet, he could sit by the window leisurely and watch the clouds flood by, he could wander the isle, alternating between distracting his Dad or stretching out on his Pop’s lap.

 

Tony read over the initial information they had gotten on the newly developing mission, frowning when it seemed to snowball into a great enough issue that he was pulled away from time with his family. They had gotten some mildly eyebrow raising incidents that pointed towards a rogue soldier, or underground weapons operation, but when Natasha, Clint and Sam had gone into greater depth, they uncovered a much larger situation than any of them had previously planned for. After careful surveillance and multiple covert heat scans of the relatively unassuming, squat building that was hidden away, deep in a Siberian taiga, they concluded it was a previously undiscovered Hydra base. Now him and his family were dragging themselves to New York, then to Russia, then back to New York, and finally, hopefully, him and Steve could haul back to Algarve and soak up the rest of their supposed ‘time-off,’ without interruption. Tony was lying if he said he wasn’t looking forward to the mission briefing being over and done with.

 

Steve scratched lazily at Peter’s scalp, resting his crossed legs and watching his husband scroll through the original information they had gotten on the mission. He lifted his ankles up and rested them delicately onto Tony lap. The mechanic looked up from his device and tilted his head back, so he was making eye contact with Steve as he dropped a free hand, draping it over the blonde’s knee like he had so many other times.

 

“When do we land?” He asked after a period of comfortable quiet, continuing to card his fingers through Peter’s curls adoringly.

 

“Only forty minutes, take a load off,” Tony punctuated his suggestion as his hand gently squeezed Steve’s knee. “Relax a bit, once we’ve got Bucky it’s not that long till we’re in Russia, so we can get this over with, kay?” He smiled fondly and settled further back into his chair, swirling the tips of his fingers in circular motions over Peter’s head as he burrowed closer into his lap and smiled against his jacket.

 

----

 

They landed, Bucky got on with a face that said Natasha’s call had definitely woken him up and immediately sunk into the nearest seat, lifting his arms so Peter could clamber into his lap and wrap his arms around him in a tight hug,

 

“I’m pretty sure I just slept for twelve hours straight, and also I broke another one of your punching bags while I was training.” He smirked, nodded in greeting to Tony while directing his words at Steve as he nonchalantly snuck in the fact that he broke the forth punching bag that month into the conversation. “Hey punk, you giving these two a hard time for me?” Peter leaned back and slipped onto the next seat over and leaning against the window, fogging it up with his breath.

 

“Yep, we saw a baby Iberian Lynx, it was so big though!” He pulled back from the glass to rest his chin on the arm rest and look back at his parents with an exited gleam in his eyes as he pictured the fluffy cub they had seen.

 

After not much longer, Bucky pulled the arm rest up and rested Peter’s head on his shoulder before looking back and flicking an ‘all good?’ to Tony and Steve, who nodded in reply. The plane didn’t take off and Tony frowned in annoyance, standing to move into the cockpit and fiddle around with the displays.

 

“Ugh, seriously?” He sat in the front seat and brought up a screen, tapping wildly at the keypad while Steve watched him, confused.

 

“What’s up?” He asked, slipping into the cockpit to join the mechanic who was huffing bitterly and looking very put out as his fingers danced over the screens and buttons with precision.

 

“Just a poorly constructed virus trying to hack into the navigation system.” He paused when Steve’s face dropped into a concerned expression. “It’s probably some low-grade programmer trying to mess with the trajectory path and send us to Mexico, happens more often then you’d think.” He rubbed a comforting hand over the blonde’s hip and smiled softly at him when he noted the worried look painting his face. “Hey, it’s all good, this is why I have blockers and systems in place for mediocre hackers. It hasn’t done any harm whatsoever, we’re fine, not even a minor setback, okay?” Tony pulled up the flight path and tapped on the blue dot hovering over the landing base in Russia as proof, before leading Steve back to their seats and closing the cockpit door with his ankle.

 

“Are we taking off now?” Bucky looked up from where Peter’s head rested on his shoulder, smirking at the two teammates whose hands were linked. Tony nodded and kicked back in his seat, folding one arm behind his head and resting his eyes shut.

 

Things were comfortable for a good time.

 

They were halfway through the flight from New York to Russia when Peter poked Tony’s shoulder and held up his device, wiggling into his lap and prodding the screen.

 

“Dad it’s not working, can you help?” The boy pressed his hand against his cheek so his eye crinkled and he leant his head against his palm lazily, content to watch his Dad fix the device.

 

“Mm, when did it stop working?” Peter shrugged, “something weird has gotten into it, you didn’t download anything onto it?” He frowned and brought up all the running applications on the device, scrolling through and not finding anything out of the ordinary.

 

“It was working fine till we took off, then the screen went black and I thought it had lost power but then it came back on and I didn’t think anything was wrong. Now it’s not working again, and I can’t use the internet or anything?” Tony pulled out his own phone and his frown deepened when all of his communications were blocked, similar to Peter’s.

 

“Steve, Buck, check your phones and see if you can call or message me, something’s up.” Their phones took a moment to switch on, then the dial tones rang for barely a second before each call dropped and an error message displayed on the screens. “Uhm, that’s… not ideal,” Tony muttered, running a hand through his hair and standing up from his seat, shuffling Peter off his lap and settling him in the chair next to Steve.

 

“Dad?” He ruffled the boy’s hair comfortingly and moved him back in the seat, so he could recline more comfortably.

 

“Thanks for showing me kiddo, I’m sorting it now,” he promised, moving to the cockpit with the same look on his face that he had when a project in the lab required more attention. “Let’s see what the deal is here…” he said to himself distractedly as he began to investigate the issue.

 

Steve and Bucky didn’t think much of it, Peter was content to just laze in his Dad’s seat while he tinkered around in the cockpit. Tony would often get side-tracked with technology and mini projects, especially when he was bored or had nothing to do, so him wandering off and repairing random things that were easily fixed wasn’t anything new to the small family.

 

What was new, however, was the lights in the jet flickering before shutting off completely. Bucky sits up immediately and so does Steve. They hear Tony curse under his breath from the cockpit and Peter lifts his head curiously.

 

“Tones, what’s happening?” Steve moves to his feet, placing a hand to Peter’s shoulder and pushing gently to get him sitting back down. “Stay in the seat for now, I’m checking on him,” he pushes the door of the cockpit open and Tony doesn’t turn to face him. The interior of the plane is dark, majority of the lights on the dashboard are shut off, only one screen is on and when the gentle hand that Steve presses to the mechanics shoulder guides him in a slow circle so the two are facing, the blue light illuminates his face.

 

Tony’s hair is wild, it’s clear that he’s run a hurried hand through the locks in either frustration or annoyance. His eyes are wider than they were previously, and his lips are parted so he can chew at the inside of his cheek worriedly. “Hey, what’s going on, you alright?”

 

“I – I don’t…” the brunette blows a breath as if to calm himself and drags a hand through his hair quickly before continuing. “Everything’s shut off, it’s all operational but it – it’s like something’s blocking me from seeing what’s going on. I mean… it’s everything Steve, radar and primary flight display, direction finder, altitude indicator, even the systems info display is off!” He waves a hand at a dial on the left-hand side of the room and darts his head back to lock eyes with him. “The only thing I can see is the navigation system, but it’s not fully functional, the controls are all locked up, I can’t change the flight path.”

 

“Is that… is that where Nat said –” Tony cuts him off abruptly and he straightens out stiffly, checking behind the blonde to make sure the door was closed.

 

“Yes. Yes, it is the base, I don’t know for sure, and I definitely don’t know how the hell they’ve managed to do it, but the jet’s locked onto the base.” Steve flicked his eyes over the flustered and agitated face of his husband before looking back over to the new blue dot that hovered right over the Hydra base, the small green dashes highlighting their trajectory showed that Tony was right, the jet was set to fly around where they were supposed to land and take them directly to a facility packed with Hydra agents.

 

“The phones, all our devices, the jet’s communication… we can’t contact anyone, everything’s blocked.” Tony looked up at him, his expression unhinged as they took the time to fully comprehend how badly this flight was turning out to be.

 

“Steve… I can’t see how fast we’re going now, but last I saw we were directly over the Arctic Ocean.” His eyes darted to the glass and looked out into the whiteness, it was all clouds and nothing else. Steve parted his lips to say something, to exude some fraction of positivity, but before he could, Bucky was calling, and the door was being tugged open.

 

“Tony, Steve, get in here!” Peter threw open the door and almost fell at Tony’s feet with the force that he threw himself into his arms.

 

“Dad, I don’t like this anymore,” he whined while Steve moved around the two and back into the main cabin where Bucky was now standing.

 

“Steve, the screens…” Tony had picked Peter up and when he came to stand beside the two soldiers and saw the T.V screens they were staring at, he pushed the boy’s face into his shoulder. “Shit,” Bucky whispered, mimicking the murderous look Steve had alongside where Tony was clenching his jaw.

 

The two screens projected the same image, a dark skull surrounding with six protruding tentacles which hovered above the short demand.

 

‘We want the Winter Soldier.’

 

----

 

“Absolutely not, we are not doing that Buck.”

 

“This isn’t something I’m arguing over with you Stevie,” Tony stayed out of it, he had his own opinions, but he busied himself regardless. Peter stayed glued to his side while he unplugged the screens and disable as much of the navigation system as he could, but whatever had hacked and locked the jet in the first place wasn’t exactly the easiest fix, let alone a fast one.

 

“What, so you’d rather jump out of a plane then take our chances on the ground!” Honestly, Tony could see it from both of their perspectives, there was no way in hell Bucky was particularly fond of taking a field trip to the awaiting Hydra base, but then again, Steve wouldn’t want to end up in the ice again.

 

“That’s exactly what I’m saying! Tony said the jet automatically sends a distress signal when the interior shuts down, so everyone’s probably already looking for us now, and I’d rather risk exposure to the elements then being used as a weapon again, okay?” Steve stilled from where he was blocking Bucky from the emergency compartment which held parachutes and reached an arm out to rest it on his friends’ shoulder.

 

“I wouldn’t let that happen, and I know you’d never hurt us.” The comforting hand was shrugged off as Bucky yanked open the compartment and pulled out two parachutes.

 

“I have no doubt that you’d throw your sacrificial ass on the line for me, but no matter how much you could fight for me, all they’d have to do was say some words and then I’m gone.” Steve opened his mouth to speak but Bucky continued, “it’s not a debate, we’re doing this.” He looked over his metallic shoulder to where Peter’s fingers were clutching at his Dad’s shirt and turned back to the blonde in front of him. “Think about the kid, you really want to argue that parachuting down is more dangerous than landing at a Hydra base and fighting your way out of there while protecting me when you have Peter and Tony to defend too?”

 

From behind the two, the blank screens that Tony had disabled flickered back on, the symbol and demand flashing back up. The mechanic grunted angrily and tugged the entire screen downward, as if the mere sight of the tentacles would harm the innocent child that still held onto his shirt cuff.

 

“No, I don’t argue this one… you’re right Buck.” The emphatic bang from behind them had Steve on his feet and rushing towards his kid immediately, Bucky raised his arms as if to fight before dropping them as he realised what was happening.

 

“Fuck,” Tony threw his phone at the blinking screen, growling heatedly when the symbol didn’t fade from the T.V he thought had been successfully disabled. Steve was at his side instantaneously, Peter not far behind.

 

“Hey, leave it, okay?” The blonde rubbed up and down his agitated husband’s shoulders, dropping his voice lower and lighter to mollify the mechanic. “It doesn’t matter,” he murmured, guiding Peter closer to his hip and pulling Tony closer with one arm.

 

“No, it does matter because all our communications are down, I can’t call my suit, I can’t get the jet on course and this isn’t a stupid debriefing anymore, its Hydra Steve!” Peter made a noise in the back of his throat that sounded like a soft whine when his voice rose higher, but he bent down and laid a gentle kiss on the crown of the boy’s head as a wordless apology before turning to glare at the screen once more. “They’re taking us right to them, it’s a pointless fight and Peter isn’t getting anywhere near those people,” his quieter voice had lowered to a hiss by the time he finished the sentence.

 

“I know, trust me, I do. We’re not going to be on this jet when it lands,” Steve folded his finger into the belt loop on Tony’s pants and used his spare hand to guide Peter over to where Bucky had finished pulling out the parachutes. “Buck, I need you to go down with Pete.”

 

“I don’t want to hurt him if they get to us before we hit the water,” he said mildly, casting his gaze to where the kid had his face tucked away under his Dad’s arm.

 

“Firstly, I know you wouldn’t do that, and secondly, Hydra’s sloppy, they wouldn’t bother to send anyone over to make sure we landed. They’re overconfident in their ability to mess with the jet and obviously didn’t think we could do this,” Steve manoeuvred Tony and Peter back before lifting his leg up to his chest and kicking out with brutal force.

 

Tony’ grip on Peter tightened when the emergency exit door flew open and the strong winds from the altitude ripped the entire door off with a snap. When Steve spoke again, he had to yell over the rush of the wind that had begun whipping through the cabin. “Bucky, you and I are the only ones with enough experience jumping out of planes, so you take Peter, and Tony’s going with me.” The wind swallowed some of his words, but Bucky was already pulling the pack onto his back.

 

“You’re gonna be right behind me and Pops, okay?” Peter’s nose and cheeks were already beginning to tint a rosier shade of pink from the cold of the wind, but Tony pressed his hand against his neck to feel the pulse point and relax himself as Steve hoisted his own parachute on.

 

Peter’s lips moved, but over the roar of the wind Tony couldn’t hear what he was saying until he crouched and pulled the boy’s head onto his shoulder, so his breath tickled against his cheek.

 

“Is it goin’ to be cold?” Even underneath the howling and whistling of the air rushing past the jet, he could hear exactly how timid Peter was. The mechanic picked up his hand and rested it over the thud of his heart as he spoke.

 

“Maybe kiddo, maybe. After we get the parachutes off, you swim over to me and I’ll make sure you’re okay while we wait for Nat and everyone else.” He squeezed the smaller hand reassuringly and pulled Peter in for an embrace before Steve was helping their kid into Bucky’s arms, so the pack was secured around them both.

 

“Everything’s going to be alright Pete, you and Buck are jumping right after us.” Once Steve was confident that Tony was tucked securely against him, he moved to wrap an arm around his side and lean to rest his forehead against Peter’s. “We’re going to be okay kiddo, I promise,” they stayed in the hug for as long as they could before Tony was gripping his arm and whispering something about time.

 

“If we’re doing it, this needs to happen now, before they take us any higher.” Looking out the broken door, Steve could see how the jet was only just underneath the clouds, he could see the water if he stepped closer to the edge, but logically, he knew that if anyone tapped into the camera feeds and figured out they were jumping, they could pull the whole thing higher so jumping was unsafe. “We gotta go now, Pete, Buck, you’re right behind us once we’ve gone.” Bucky nodded and the look of steely determination on his face and the way he had a protective arm holding Peter gave Tony comfort, knowing his kid was safe.

 

“I’m taking us to the edge Tones, dangle your legs out, I’m holding on.” Steve knew that the mechanic wasn’t put off by heights, considering how often he used the suit to get around, but he was very aware that the combined stress of not being by Peter and the knowledge that once they hit the water, there was probably a fifteen-minute window before hypothermia made swimming impossible. He prayed Natasha had gotten the automated distress signal.

 

Tony’s legs hovered outside the door and Steve had a white-knuckled grip on his arm and the handle beside the door. “You ready?” He called over the wind, wrapping his arm over his husband’s middle and tugging him impossibly closer.

 

“It’s now or never Cap, I got you,” he felt the brunette clasping their hands together and when he leaned back to check over the other pair, a strange calm overtook him.

 

Peter’s hair was unbrushed and windswept, considering they had left the hotel in a rush and he had spent majority of the flight to New York with his Pops carding fingers through it. Bucky was gripping the seat and had crouched lower, so Peter’s shorter legs weren’t perched on tip-toes. He looked forward and could eye the choppy surface of the water far below them and through the tangle of Tony’s hair.

 

“I love you,” he said, to both nobody and all three of the boy’s around him before he was letting himself and Tony pitch forward until the expensive carpeting of the jet wasn’t underneath him anymore and the roaring of the wind grew.

 

----

 

Bucky waited all of two seconds for Steve and Tony to reach a safe enough distance for him to jump out behind them. He tucked Peter closer and shuffled to the edge, fully prepared to roll out of the jet without a second thought.

 

“U – Uncle Bucky…” Peter’s voice was soft at his ear, and he momentarily paused as he felt the boy scrabbling for something to grip onto.

 

“Pete what are y –” He was cut off when his own arm snapped out to grip the wall as the jet lurched. The open doorway, and their exit from the jet, tilted to the side and gravity seemed non-existent as his whole body fell backwards. Peter shrieked in fear and his hands shot up from where they had been clutching the carpet, so he was holding Bucky’s wrist when they toppled away from the door. “Shit!”

 

Bucky cursed, and Peter gasped while they tumbled across the floor, only coming to a stop as his metal arm flew out and latched onto an armrest. “Pete you got me, we’re going now,” he pulled himself up and it felt like he was climbing a hill as he ploughed forward, towards the opening while simultaneously attempting to figure out why everything was tilting wildly.

 

“We’re moving! They turned the jet!” Peter’s panicky voice was shrill and high while he kicked out at the floor and wrapped his legs up around the soldier’s torso, so Bucky could stand fully without hurting him. The boy was right, somehow, the jet had jerked both upward and to the side, so the pair fell further in and away from their escape. “No! Dad and Pops jumped!” Peter was wriggling now, while Bucky was still trying to pull them back toward the door.

 

“I know, we need to – Ah!” The jet lurched again, and he lost his footing as everything seemed to turn completely on its side so the windows lining the walls became the floor. He pressed his arm against the floor and pushed himself up from the wall, or what was now the floor.

 

“Th – the screen!” Peter’s cry made him look up from where he was trying to figure out where the door had relocated, and his eyes immediately locked onto the now sideways T.V screens that Tony had previously tried to disable.

 

‘Stay in the jet until you’ve landed, and the child sees his parents again.’ The white text flashed across the monitor. Peter whimpered from where he was strapped to Bucky’s chest, and he brought a spare hand up to cover his eyes.

 

“Don’t read it kid, we’re gonna be fine, they aren’t taking you from Steve and Tony.” He turns the boy’s head against his neck and uses the headrest of a seat to pull them to their feet.

 

‘Stand down Soldier.’ He scowled at the screen and pulled Peter closer to his torso, turning them both away from the offending threats.

 

“We’re good, we’re okay, everything’s fine.” He hated lying, but they had, at the most, one or two hours before they landed at the base, and he was confident that they would find some way out of the jet by then. A thought crossed his mind, if he detached himself from the pack and aimed well enough, he could probably get Peter out of the door before the jet tilted again. He didn’t even toy with the concept for more than a second, the fact was, that they had climbed too high and Steve had jumped more than a minute ago. Peter wasn’t going to be left treading water on his own in the middle of the Arctic Ocean without his parents, it wasn’t fair, and it was probably worse than the possibility of them landing at the stupid base.

 

“The window,” the whisper at his ear had him uncovering Peter’s eyes and looking down at him carefully, before what he meant was clicking. The window they were leant against was barely big enough for them to fit out, and if he kicked it, they would get cut up by the glass on their way out, not to mention the possibility of the parachute ripping. “I want Dad,” the kid said quietly, and Bucky could see the watery look in his eyes as they flickered back to the screens which still projected the Hydra symbol proudly.

 

“I know bud, it’s gonna be a tight fit though.” Peter curled his legs to his torso and balled himself up against Bucky, shrinking smaller than before. He took a breath before bracing himself against the wall and lifting his leg. “We really doing this?” He asked, watching the little head nod against his neck before kicking out at the window.

 

It took three blows and less than six seconds before the jet angled upward and he was slipping away from the cracked glass with a frustrated yell. Peter yelped and rolled them to the side just before a pitcher of water from one of the tables was smashing where their heads have been. “Damn it!” He pulled them into a corner as all the loose objects in the jet fell toward the back where they were pressed against the wall.

 

‘Stand. Down.’ The screens flashed in warning and he paid them no attention as he ripped the pack off himself and held it out in front of Peter’s head as the cutlery and glasses from the bar smacked the wall next to them. The jet was steadily climbing higher and he continued to shuffle Peter further into the corner, trying to shelter him from the never-ending onslaught of décor and in-flight drinks smashing around them. A vase clipped his non-metal arm and he grunted, using the parachute to push away the shards of ceramic and glass.

 

The screaming of the wind grew to a peak as things began to fly out of the open door and partially cracked window. Bucky cursed again and looped his metal arm into a seatbelt, gripping Peter’s hoodie and holding him tightly as the altitude grew to a substantial height.

 

“A – air,” Peter huffed, reaching out to hold the metal arm and wrap an elbow around Bucky’s neck as the pressure differential pulled him towards the hole where the door was. His small arms dug in sharply, but the soldier would prefer tiny finger marks then empty arms and Peter falling without a parachute. “N – not enough… air at this a – altitude,” the boy gasped and buried his face further into Bucky’s shoulder, his chest heaving with the effort to pull in the rapidly decreasing oxygen in the cabin.

 

“Stop, I’ll stay till we land – lower the… lower the jet,” he dropped his head against the wall and watched as the seat cushions were ripped out of the window, tearing open as they caught on the glass and spilling stuffing into the sky. The screens didn’t answer, the same tentacles and skull stared back at him while Peter began to slump in his arms and the rushing of the wind decreased as the edges of his vison went grainy.

 

Peter couldn’t see much from where his face was pressed in Bucky’s shoulder, he could barely make out the silver arm tangled in a seatbelt and the feeling of his cheek slowly sliding downward along with his eyelids fluttering shut.

 

----

 

The force of the wind was immediate, Steve could feel Tony’s body twisting around in the air before he pulled the cords and let the parachute fly. He could feel arms around his neck and Tony’s cheek against his as the pack opened with a burst and there was a jolt at his shoulders. The pair’s descent slowed, but not enough to make the landing less of a shock. At the last moment, Steve turned on his side so his shoulder took the first plunge into the water and Tony’s back didn’t carry the full brunt of the impact.

 

The force of the landing tore his breath away as the two plunged into the sea. Before Tony even opened his eyes, all he could feel was the cold. It was icy and piercing to his system, he opened his mouth to gasp before his eyes snapped open and through the dark, he remembered where exactly he was and why taking a breath was the worst thing he could do right then. The parachute had slowed the fall enough that hitting the water didn’t kill them, but his body was screaming as he looked around blindly, searching for the surface through the silence. For a moment, all he could see was the dirty floor of the tub the Ten Rings had plunged his head into while water flooded up his nose and down his throat painfully.

 

He jerked when hands gripped his shoulder’s, the fingers slipped down to his upper arms and then he was being pulled in a direction he couldn’t discern while bubbles danced around his head. When he broke what must have been the surface, he gasped and heaved, choking on residue water that dripped from his hair and upper lip.

 

“F – f – fuck,” he spluttered, coughing as a mouthful of salt water crashed over his head while the parachute drifted down around him and floated on the surface of the water. The hands around his arms were connected to a person, and when he saw the ironically oceanic eyes and flash of blonde hair, he lunged at Steve. “H – hey,” he managed as he forced his legs to start pumping under the water to keep him afloat while his body instinctively wrapped around Steve’s chest.

 

“H – hold up, I ne – need to…” his fingers were fumbling, and Tony looked down to see the pack still strapped to Steve’s back, secured around his front where he must have been held up until they hit the water.

 

“S – sor – sorry,” he gagged as a handful of water flicked up his nose and into his eyes when the straps of the pack unclipped and sent another small wave toward his head. “H – here, l – lemme do it,” he tugged at the bag and it loosened from Steve’s back, immediately sinking under the surface, slowly beginning to pull the fabric of the parachute with it. When he locked eyes and stopped kicking for a moment, enraptured by the vastness of the ocean that surrounded them, his head fell underwater again. The material flowed like silk around them, and he could see where Steve’s jacket was riding up while he kicked.

 

“T – Tony!” He felt the hands at his chest again and he was being pulled upwards by his collar and pulled into Steve’s chest as his brain caught up while he began to kick again. “D – don’t do th – that,” the soldier choked out, spinning the mechanic around so his head rested against his shoulder and kept it above water. “S – s’ colder than I th – thought,” he gasped, breathing heavily and pushing his face into Tony’s wet hair, burying his nose at the nape of his neck and tightening his hold.

 

“Y – you gotta t – take the jacket off,” he coughed, reaching his arms between them and struggling with the zip.

 

“C – calm down, w – we’re not back at A – A – Algarve yet,” Steve laughed light-heartedly before choking on more water and pausing to shiver between coughs.

 

“W – weighs – you down when it’s w – wet,” Tony insisted, tugging at the zipper more decisively. He peeled away the jacket with numb fingers before digging them up and under Tony’s shirt, searching for the buttons to undo it. “S – someone’s a b – bit e – eager,” he mimicked Steve’s laugh before shivering violently as he felt the man’s icy fingers brushing against the fabric of his shirt and popping open the first button.

 

“W – why does everything you wear have s – s – so many bu – buttons.” It took a minute to pull away Tony’s overshirt, so he was left in the lighter top. When the shirt sunk off one arm, his kicking slowed so he could tug it off the other, and he subsequently dropped lower so his mouth went under the surface and Steve pulled him back up before it could cover his nose. “C – come here, I – I’ll keep you u – up,” the water lapped at his chest when he pulled Tony’s head back against his shoulder. He made sure the billionaire’s chin was tucked securely between his neck and collarbone before he let a single arm fall away to aid his kicking.

 

“N – not the most ideal t – temp, h – h – huh?” Salt stung his eyes when he huffed a breathy chuckle at Tony’s remark. “Y – you g – good?” The brunette clawed at Steve’s back when a harsh wave splashed over their heads and pulled them both under, an unseen current tugged around their bodies and Steve lifted his chin when Tony’s hip jabbed at his side while he began to kick again. When he pulled them both back up and breached the surface, the mechanic was gagging again while seawater dripped from his nose.

 

“S – sorry,” he panted, lifting his husband higher so their heads were almost at the same height. “You g – gotta keep k – kicking with me,” Tony’s head dropped against his forehead and Steve could see each little puff of air he exhaled with a small cloud against his neck.

 

“Wh – where’s P – Pete,” Tony gasped, finally expelling the last of the water from his throat before lifting his head and twirling around in Steve’s hold. Even tilting his neck back and scouring the clouds above them, there was no jet, no matching parachute, not even the distant noise of an engine or the familiar mop of honey curls dancing amongst the waves. “P – Peter! Kiddo? Petey!” He stopped kicking for a moment and Steve exerted more energy into his swimming to make up for Tony’s instantaneous panic. “Peter!” He was twisting so much that he nearly slipped out of the blonde’s arms.

 

“Hey, Tony. Tones? Hey,” he reached a spare arm up to cup Tony’s face and pull his wild gaze downward back to his. “W – we’ll find him, it’s okay, they probably j – jumped a little later and landed further away then we expected,” Steve rubbed small circles over Tony’s cheekbone while the initial fright faded.

 

“No, no, Steve, it’s empty, they aren’t anywhere, there’s no parachute or anything.” Now Tony was gripping his shoulders tightly and whipping his head from side to side, desperately trying to see something, anything, that could possibly be his kid.

 

“You need to calm d – down Tony, they’re o – okay.” The adrenaline might have been keeping the frantic billionaire in a state of panicky heat, but Steve was starting to struggle with the effort it was taking to force his freezing legs to move and keep them both afloat. “B – Bucky wouldn’t let a – any… anything happen to Pete, t – trust me.” Tony was still perching himself on Steve’s shoulders and craning his head to look for a flash of metal or the flicker of wide, hazel eyes that he knew so well.

 

“Steve… w – what if they didn’t jump? Th – the jet could’ve –”

 

“H – hey, hey, we’re not going to d – do that. Don’t do the worst-case scenario, n – none of that.” He could see the adrenaline giving way to the anxiety and Tony was starting to sag in his arms, likely from the slow ebbing feeling of the icy water licking at his skin and seeping into his veins. “J – just try t – to stay c – calm, k – kay? L – look at me,” he pulled closer when Tony slid down and remembered to kick. His eyes swivelled from the choppy waters and met Steve’s eyes.

 

“S – sorry, I’m c – calm, I am. It – s’ just… y – yeah, t – too cold,” Tony shuddered again, and his teeth chattered when he pressed his nose against Steve’s neck. “Th – they better h – have c – coffee at the s – stupid debriefing,” he huffed, his lingering humour in the face of pain always holding strong.

 

“I – if they don’t, I’ll g – get you one, f – from the p – place you like,” his breathing started to shudder like Tony’s, and he blearily wondered if the mechanic was suffering the bite of the cold faster than he was. “Y – you’re c – colder than me,” he murmured, his quivering lips brushed Tony’s cheek when he spoke.

 

“B – barel –” a gust of wind cut him off as another wave was blown towards them. Of course, Tony went under before Steve did, and of course he was the one who didn’t make it to the surface before he was swallowing a mouthful of salt water. When the lurking current caught his lower-half, he drifted down far enough that his thrashing legs brushed against the fabric of the still sinking parachute and he gave a full-bodied flinch before Steve was hauling him to the surface again. He expelled at least a lungful of water before he was coughing again, and his hands fisted in Steve’s shirt. “A – as I was s – saying, b – barely.” His persistent shivering was worrying, but it meant that the serious stages of hypothermia hadn’t been reached yet, so despite how painful it was to watch Tony shaking in his arms, he knew it was better than stillness.

 

“K – keep kicking, f – for me,” he dropped his forehead against the brunette’s head, squeezing him closer and trying to shelter his face from the arctic wind. His throat was burning along with his eyes, but he focused on the feeling of Tony’s breaths against his pulse point and ignored the way he was still gasping every few seconds. “C – can you b – breathe okay?”

 

“H – hurts m’ chest, but I’m f – fine,” he quivered and pulled his arms up around Steve’s neck, drawing them closer even through their legs would knock together when they kicked. It was so much colder than he thought it would have been, and a selfish part of him was glad Peter wasn’t in the water with them right now, because he didn’t think he could handle seeing the boy’s damp curls framing his face in contrast to his too-pale skin.

 

“Y – your lips are going b – blue,” Steve sounded concerned, but Tony didn’t think he needed to be, considering how the numbness that started in his fingers and toes was beginning to travel to his chest and legs. “H – hey, k – kick, don’t s – stop moving babe, n – not much longer.” Steve waved a hand under the water to keep them steady while he waited for Tony to start kicking again, but he didn’t, his face stayed buried in his neck and he wasn’t even attempting to swim anymore. “T – Tony? C – come on,” his voice croaked as salty water sprayed up his nose as a smaller wave brushed past them.

 

“M – m’ what?” Tony groaned, and his head drooped listlessly, his forehead dragged down Steve’s chest and he didn’t get a chance to pick the head back up before the mechanic’s face dropped into the water and he came to, moments later with a fractured coughing fit. “F – fuck, s – s’ cold,” to Steve’s disappointment, Tony didn’t shiver when he spoke, and he didn’t seem any more coherent. He retched and drops of salt water fell from his lips, washing away with the current.

 

“S – stay with m – me,” he pulled Tony’s arms up and tucked them between both of their chests, wrapping an arm around him securely and holding his lips and nose well above the water. “I kn – know it’s cold, b – but you gotta stay w – with me here, n – no sleeping on the job.” He hoped he could pull a weak laugh from his husband, but Tony stayed quiet, his fingers were loosening from the grip he had on Steve’s shirt and the soldier lowered his arm to shake him gently. “Tony? Co – come on. Tony!” He jostled the billionaire a bit more feverishly, almost stopping the constant pumping of his legs in pure thankfulness when glazed brown eyes fluttered open at his chest.

 

“W – what? Where’s Peter, S – Steve?” Tony blinked sluggishly, and his limbs seemed to loosen as his cheek lulled against the broad shoulders. He was exhausted, it was obvious, but Steve didn’t want him to fall asleep. He didn’t know how long he could keep them both afloat for, and he didn’t want Tony underwater while unconscious, especially considering the hypothermia that was beginning to impact them both.

 

“St – stay awake and we’ll f – find him,” he tried to keep his gaze on Tony’s eyes as they bobbed up and down in the water, but he could still regretfully make out how his lids were slipping shut again. “H – hey, d – don’t go silent on m – me,” shaking his husband did nothing this time around, his head flopped until it was completely supported by Steve’s chest. He shivered as Tony’s nose brushed against his collarbone and he hoped neither of them got frostbite.

 

Steve didn’t know how much longer he tried to keep them above water for, but he could feel his legs cramping and the numb tingle reaching from his toes and slowly, clawing its way upward. He counted three more times a wave pulled them under, and each time he had to tilt Tony’s head to drain the water from his throat. By the fourth time they went under, his legs were faltering and the most he could do was hold his breathe and try to keep Tony’s head higher than his own.

 

He blew out through his nose and watched the bubbles rising upward and clinging to Tony’s bare arms, everything was eerily clear, even through the burn of the salt in his eyes. He clutched the man closer and closed his eyes, praying that wherever Peter and Bucky were, it wasn’t the ocean.

 

----

 

When Peter opened his eyes, he couldn’t see Bucky’s metal arm fisted in the seatbelt anymore, but he could feel something touching his face and brushing against his lips each time he took a breath. He groaned, but it was high-pitched and sounded more like a whine. When he rolled on his side and his back rested against the carpet, he felt a weight falling from his chest. He slouched his head to the side and saw Bucky, who was blinking hazily while securing his own mask.

 

“Mm?” He felt strangely lethargic, but he still managed to lift a heavy arm and drop it atop Bucky’s shoulder, prompting the soldier to turn to face him.

 

“Hey kiddo, just take some deep breaths,” his voice was slightly muffled from under the oxygen mask, it was also strained like he had only just pulled it on. Peter turned his head to see that the jet was filled with deployed masks, each dangling over the skeletons of seats which were no longer covered by plush cushions. “Breathe Pete, the mask helps.” He sucked in and his foggy head started to clear, the dazed look in Bucky’s eyes seemed to be receding too.

 

“Wh – what happened?” Ignoring the way his voice came out croaked, he watched Bucky eyeing the screens and looking out the still cracked window, checking for something.

 

“Jet went too high, ran out of air. We’re descending now, I can see the water… but we need to stay in here till we land.” Bucky sounded both irritated and nervous, but he shuffled so Peter could sit up and lean against the wall.

 

“What ab – about Dad and Pops?” He felt an arm tugging him closer and then Bucky was letting him rest his head against his shoulder comfortingly.

 

“I – I… I’m not sure kid. The distress call should’ve gone out, so they’ll be okay. I promise,” his heart clenched when Peter sniffled quietly and wrapped his small hand around his wrist.

 

“What about us? Pops said we wouldn’t be on here when it landed…” if he leant over Bucky he could see the water too, and the underside of the clouds they must have flown beneath.

 

“I’m not going to let them hurt you if we land.” Peter looked up at him with a frightened look on his face.

 

“Who are they?” He clamped his jaw and looked back to the screen with an accusing expression.

 

“Just… bad people,” he answered quietly, tilting Peter’s body so he wasn’t facing the screens. The boy repositioned himself easily, squeezing Bucky’s wrist as if he understood, but he didn’t think an eight-year-old could understand Hydra, even if he was smart for his age. He wanted to assure the kid that nothing bad was going to happen to them, or that the rest of the team would get to them before the jet landed, but he couldn’t guarantee any of that and he didn’t want to lie.

 

“I won’t let them make you go away,” Peter said into his shoulder.

 

“What do you mean?” He watched as the kid’s face scrunched in thought, thinking of how to explain it.

 

“I heard you, when you said that they would say words then you’d be gone. I’ll stop them from taking you away.” Somehow, Peter’s misunderstanding and poorly placed optimism made him smile, and he rested his hand on the boy’s head and smiled lightly.

 

“Sure thing kiddo, I’ll do the same for you,” the jet evened out as he spoke, and he assumed they had descended enough to be safe. “I’m taking my mask off to see if there’s air, only take yours off if I tell you it’s okay.” He peeled the mask away from his face and lifted it off his head, so it bounced on the cord it hung from. The air had a chill to it that could only come from the Arctic ocean, but it was breathable, and he pulled Peter’s mask off for him.

 

They sat in relative silence, Peter fidgeted every so often, he played with the carpet but kept one hand around Bucky’s wrist the whole time.

 

----

 

“ – ny? Tony, you with us?” His head pounded, and his fingers felt stiff, he couldn’t be bothered to force his eyes open, so he settled on a bubbly groan and scrunched them further shut. “Can we take the mask off him yet?” He turned his head against whatever the soft thing underneath him was and faced the familiar voice.

 

“Rhodey?” His voice cracked but he still felt as a hand rested on his arm.

 

“Yeah Tones, it’s me, Steve’s to your left. Nat, Clint and Sam are somewhere around too.” He unscrewed his eyes and tried to pry them open when he heard Steve’s name, but it took considerable effort.

 

“Hey,” Steve spoke softly, he sounded a few steps away, but Tony still smiled warmly. Once he finally willed one of his eyelids to open enough for him to see, he could make out Steve’s face across from his.

 

“Hi Cap, how long was I out for?” He winced when his voice came out hoarse and strained, but the burn of salt water wasn’t stinging when he opened his mouth anymore, and he could feel thick fabric draped over his body, so he gathered they weren’t still floating.

 

“We all showed up right before Steve went under, we got you two stable and you’ve been out for about an hour.” Rhodey answered for him, and Tony assumed that talking was as draining for Steve as it was for him, so he relented to a nod before closing his eyes again. “We picked up your jet on our radar, we’re gaining on it now, you’re in the Quinjet.” He wrenched his eyes open again and compelled his aching body to sit up.

 

“Peter. Where’s Pete and Bucky?” He blinked rapidly as his head adjusted to the sudden movement and Rhodey put a hand on his shoulder to stop the swaying.

 

“They’re okay, still in the jet, just under two hours away from landing, we’ll get to them before they do. Once we’re close enough to them we can try to hack in to get a message to them.” He relaxed and tilted to the side, so he could get a better look at Steve, who was also beginning to sit up in his bed. “You can take the mask off but don’t walk around too much.” Rhodey put the mask aside as Steve pulled it off his face and shoved the covers off himself. “Go slow Cap,” he warned before the solider was swinging his legs off the bed and moving over to Tony.

 

“You scared the crap out of me,” he muttered while he pulled Tony’s head against his chest. “Don’t do that again, ever.” He tilted Tony’s head to the side in the embrace, so his mask wasn’t disrupted. The warmed oxygen helped to dislodge the cold weight that seemed to fill his torso, and he took it in greedily, letting Steve’s chest support him as he breathed in and out, knowing they weren’t going to let that jet land.

 

“Sorry, I’ll make it up to you, promise.” He smiled innocently as he heard the blonde laugh, he closed his eyes and hummed happily when he felt a gentle kiss being pressed to his forehead. His fingers inched toward his mask, reaching to pull it off, but Steve laid a hand overtop and shook his head.

 

“You were worse off when they got us out, you need the humidified oxygen a lot more than I do Tony, keep it on at least till we’ve got eyes on the jet.”

 

“Okay,” he dropped the arm, but only so he could subtly brush his fingers against Steve’s until the man picked his hand up and squeezed gently. “How far from them are we?”

 

“Twenty minutes,” Steve murmurs into his hair, clasping Tony’s hand a little tighter in hopes of getting him to relax for those twenty minutes.

 

Steve stayed where he was, leant against the side of Tony’s bed and holding his hand while he watched the mask fog each time the brunette took a breath.

 

Tony was content to keep his head rested against Steve’s chest while the Quinjet slowly closed that gap between them, Peter and Bucky.

 

----

 

“Um, B – Bucky?” He lifted his head from where it had dropped to lean on the wall and followed Peter’s finger. “The screen’s doing something… a – are we landing?” The T.V was flickering, the Hydra symbol was covered by multi coloured static before the whole thing went blank.

 

“No, we shouldn’t be landing, it’s too soon.” Text appeared and for a moment, Bucky thought it was going to be another threat from Hydra.

 

‘Incoming Signal. Call request successful.’ He sat both himself and Peter up more, pulling them back behind the nearest seat to shield them from the screen as the blackness swirled into a picture he didn’t care to see.

 

“Peter? Bucky?” The boy pressed against his side perked up as the tension eased from his body. “It’s us, we’re behind you, we intercepted the screens. Where are you?” Peter was squirming beside him, and he held the kid back with one hand as he peered out from behind the seat, checking the screen before he saw Steve staring back. “Buck?”

 

“Pops!” Peter threw himself over Bucky and scrabbled over the seat until he was falling gracelessly in front of the screen and staring up at Steve.

 

“Peter!” He could hear Tony’s voice from somewhere offscreen and then he was standing and moving beside Peter again, keeping a hand on his arm in case the jet tilted suddenly again.

 

“Dad?” The screen shifted, and he could see Tony ripping an oxygen mask from his face and reaching out to hold what must have been a laptop.

 

“Peter, Bucky, we don’t have much time till you fly over land, we need to get you out before then. I’m going to hit the engines and you need to jump out before you hit the water.” Natasha’s voice cut in from the screen and from the looks on Tony and Steve’s faces, they had already discussed it and they weren’t happy.

 

“I know it’s going to be cold kiddo, but you have to jump before you go down, Pop’s is going to get you out as soon as you jump, okay?” Tony’s face was pinched, and it was clear he didn’t want either of them jumping.

 

“I’ve got him guys, we’re going to be fine.” He lifted Peter, so the boy was clinging to his front and slowly walked as close to the door as he could manage. “Just a little friendly-fire, take us down Nat.” He gripped the seat and through the hole where the door used to be, he could hear the engines of the Quinjet somewhere behind them.

 

“I’m hitting the left engine first, brace yourselves.” He crouched down on her word and braced himself and Peter against one of the seat skeletons, holding the frame until his knuckles were white and he could feel Peter doing the same. There was nothing for a moment, then the tell-tale sound of the Quinjet releasing a shot, before the entire jet rocked and shuddered as the engine caught fire. “You guys good if I hit the right one now?”

 

“Yeah,” he gritted out through a clenched jaw, pulling Peter’s body impossibly closer as the second shot rung out and they jolted once again. Something was beeping in warning from the cockpit, but he didn’t spare a glance, he focused on tracking how close they were getting to the water through the billowing smoke that poured from the engines.

 

The water seemed to be rising to meet them, and for every second that passed, Bucky could make out more and more of the choppy surface. He could see Peter doing the same thing as him, but the boy continued to turn and look to his parents every few seconds, he could hear Tony and Steve calling out assurances, but his eyes stayed glued on the water below them, trying to calculate when they should jump.

 

“Pete, get ready,” he warned carefully.

 

When he did jump, he felt Peter’s fingers tightening and the ferocity of the chilled air rushing past them as he tilted to the side and they hit the water.

 

From the force of the impact, they sunk low enough under the surface that they were still under when the jet, with its still burning engines, slammed into the ocean. Luckily, it was a safe enough distance away from them that Bucky had enough time to drag them above the surface and start to swim them out before the waves it caused pulled them back under.

 

Peter was coughing and already shivering against his chest, but he swam with his metal arm and both legs, making sure to keep the boy against his torso so he had some heat. “You okay kid?”

 

“Y – yeah. I can s – see Pops, n – nearly here.” He looked up as he paddled and true to Peter’s word, he could see Steve on the ramp of the Quinjet, seconds away from pulling them up.

 

“I told you th – they’d be fine,” he said while Peter’s teeth continued to chatter vehemently, and Steve was already reaching out an arm to help him up the platform. He accepted the hand and let Peter cling to him while he got his feet onto the metal and let Steve guide them both to warmer clothes and a bed where Tony was sitting, looking like he’d bolt from it as soon as he saw Peter.

 

“Pete,” he let the boy jump from his arms and wrap around Tony while Steve thanked him relentlessly.

 

Looking around the room where Tony was fussing over Peter’s soaked hair, Steve was pulling heating packs out of nowhere and he was wrapping a blanket around himself, he knew that taking down the last Hydra base wouldn’t serve as much of a hassle.

 

Showdown or not, they would always come out on top, and everyone knew it.