This was, by far, the coldest winter Peter could remember.
Granted, compared to some residents of the Big Apple, Peter hadn't really seen that many winters. But the sidewalks and the tops of buildings were coated in a thick blanket of snow, frost ate at the edges of windowpanes, and the Hudson River had frozen along its banks.
So he thought he had a point.
His stream of consciousness was interrupted by an elbow in the ribs from Ned, who surreptitiously slipped a piece of paper across the desk while staring at him with eyes the size of dinner plates.
u ok? u started staring out the window 10 mins ago. did you get hurt on patrol last night? do me and MJ need to get the first aid kit again?
Peter frowned and shook his head at the other boy. Ned tapped at the desk anxiously with his pencil before taking the paper back and scribbling something else.
Peter gave Ned an exaggerated smile, nodded, and flipped Ned a thumbs-up under the desk.
"Mr. Parker, Mr. Leeds. Am I interrupting something?"
So Ms. Middleton had seen them.
"Uh, no, ma'am," Peter said, smothering a yawn.
Ms. Middleton only nodded. "As I was saying, Hydra began as a part of Hitler's Science Corps and quickly grew into a–"
Peter sighed and let his head fall into his hands. They weren't even halfway through AP World History and he already felt tired.
He spent the rest of the class staring down at an empty sheet of notebook paper.
The trains were down.
Peter trudged sluggishly through the snow toward the apartment. He'd almost decided to put on the suit and swing home, but it was too cold to change outside and leaving the Midtown locker rooms as Spider-Man was probably not the best idea.
He pulled his jacket tighter around his body and steeled himself against the icy wind. Oddly enough, he doesn't shiver. He'd stopped doing that since the bite.
The heating was malfunctioning in their building.
Parker luck strikes again.
With fumbling hands, Peter pulled his keys out of his pocket and unlocked the door.
May was waiting for him on the couch, wrapped in a blanket by a space heater and nursing a cup of hot chocolate.
"Wh- oh, hey, May."
"Hey, Pete. How was school?"
"Uh, good. We did Reimann sums in Calculus today. MJ and Ned say 'hi'. I'm actually kind of tired. I think I'm gonna-" Peter stifled another yawn. "I'm actually gonna go take a nap before dinner."
May instantly went on high alert. "Oh, no. Not this again. Peter, tell me you haven't pulled another set of all-nighters as Spider-Man."
Huh. She was still hesitating when she used the name.
"No, May, I swear. I'm just tired from- from school."
Another stifled yawn. May still looked unsure; she pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders and stood up, crossing the room and laying a hand on Peter's forehead. "You don't have a fever. You actually feel a little cold. Are you sure you're feeling okay?"
"I'm fine, May, just tired. The trains were down because of all the snow, so I walked home."
Truth be told, he wasn't just tired. He'd nearly fallen asleep in Physics.
He loved Physics.
At this point, he was ready to crawl into his bed and nap for a very long time.
"Okay, well if you're sure." May returned to her spot on the couch. "Oh, and I've got the night shift at the hospital. I can order pizza for dinner if you want."
"Nah, it's ok. I can eat the leftover Chinese food." Peter opened the door to his room. May had put their second space heater (the slightly larger one that didn't break) in the corner by his desk.
"You sure?" Peter paused, hand on the doorknob, ready to close it. "Yeah, don't worry about it," he responded, shutting the door behind him. He tossed his backpack down by the desk and pulled out his laptop. Instead of eating lunch, he'd outlined an essay so he could spend more time patrolling the streets. After he finished typing up a draft, he could change into the suit and stop crime, quip at incompetent bank robbers, and help old ladies cross the street.
Concentration was hard.
Concentration was too hard.
Peter didn't know whether it was the heat or the white noise created by the space heater, but he was starting to fall asleep.
With a sigh of frustration, he abandoned his paper. Tugging his suit out of the backpack, he lowered the miniblinds and changed quickly, then slipped the mask on and dove out the window. He'd expected the cold air to shock his system and wake him up a little bit.
Wrong again, of course.
Peter started in midair. He narrowly avoided releasing his grip on the web (why was it getting so hard to hold on to?) and plummeting several hundred feet to his death.
"Karen, what the hell?" he muttered.
I'm sorry, Peter. I didn't mean to startle you.
"'S okay. Have you seen anythin' on the police scanners?"
A bystander reported a robbery in progress at a grocery store on the corner of Lefferts Boulevard and 111th Avenue in Queens. Should I calculate the quickest rout from your location?
"Yeah, Karen, that'd be great. Thanks."
Spider-Man had gotten there just in time to web up the perps exiting the store with a backpack full of cash. He'd only gotten a light stab wound in the process. More of a scratch, really. It was barely more than two and a half inches deep. Nothing he couldn't handle.
He regretted going on about an hour after the robbery. It'd been dark for a while, and the temperature was really starting to drop. He felt exhausted and slightly confused, kind of like he used to when he got sick (the last time was before he'd been bitten by a radioactive spider). He'd just decided to call it quits for the night when he remembered: May was at the hospital, the microwave was broken, he had cold Chinese food to eat (not that he was complaining, but hot food would be nice on a night like this), and their place was warmed only by two small space heaters.
He decided to take a break in Manhatten on top of the United Nations headquarters Peter's predicament only worsened when Karen decided to pipe up.
Peter, you received a stab wound on the outside of your left thigh at approximately 11:03 PM. The blade did not pierce your femoral artery.
"I know, Karen, thanks."
Your temperature is dropping rapidly. You have not yet begun to show symptoms of hypothermia, but it is recommended that you raise your core temperature within the next thirty minutes.
Your temperature is dropping-
"Nonononono, I heard you."
The A.I. paused. She seemed almost hesitant.
Peter was aware enough to guess what she would say next.
Should I call Mr. Stark?
Peter sighed. He really didn't want to explain this to his mentor. All he wanted was a nap.
With a jaw-popping yawn, Peter let his head fall back against the brick wall and closes his eyes. He really should've started shivering a while ago.
Tony Stark is dozing in a plush recliner, StarkPad with the schematics for the Iron Spider suit in hand, when his watch starts beeping frantically. Frowning, he tapped at it, bringing the display off of the watch and into the air above his wrist.
"Shit." Speak of the devil, apparently. Karen - or whatever the kid called his A.I. - had activated the Ice Bath Protocol.
He activates the comm he'd put in the kid's suit. Just for emergencies. Like this one, apparently.
"Hey, kid, you all right?"
"Yeah, Mis'r Stark. 'M fine."
"Really?" he asks sarcastically.
The kid only hums what he thinks is an affirmative before going silent again. Tony thinks he hears a whoosh and guesses that the kid had launched himself off of a building somewhere.
Tony knows that Peter probably won't tell him if he's injured (having him fall through the living room window at midnight with a gash in his side after he'd repeatedly told everyone that he was fine, don't worry had proven that).
So he summons the Mark 19 and prepares to pick the stupid child up.
He's halfway out the door when he sees Peter curled up on the landing strip outside the sliding door.
He's not moving. There's blood on his leg. Oh, God, there's blood.
Tony doesn't waste a second. He's by the kid's side as fast as possible, tugging the kid's mask and his own helmet off simultaneously, slinging an arm under Peter's and dragging him to his feet.
Peter grunts. His eyes open only slightly, but it doesn't look like he understands where he is. The kid is like dead weight slung over Tony's metal-clad shoulders. He's also freezing cold.
The billionaire drags his protege through the double doors and deposits him on the couch. He dismisses the armor. Peter immediately falls into a slump, weakly lifting an arm and attempting to drag a blanket over himself. Tony catches his arm.
"Uh-uh, kid. Not yet. You wanna tell me what you were doing out there?"
Peter's eyes slide shut again. "Nappin'," he mutters. It almost sounds defensive.
Tony actually scoffs this time. "On the snowy landing strip with weather in the negative digits? I don't think so. What happened to your leg?"
Peter actually winces at that. "Scratch." Tony lifts the (still folded) blanket and examines it. "No, kid, this is a stab wound. How'd you get that?"
"S'me guy. Tr'd to rob a store. Stopped 'em."
"You got stabbed and you didn't call me?!"
Peter shrugs. Sort of. Really, he just wobbles his shoulders and looks slightly sheepish. "S'ry. Didn' wanna scare you. 'S already healed."
Tony checks the wound. Underneath a layer of dried blood, there's a layer of slightly reddened skin. "Well, you scared me. What were you thinking?"
"Nope. No apologies. We're removing that from your vocabulary. And next time this happens, you call me. Immediately. Understand?"
Peter nods. He looks like he's seconds away from passing out. Tony knows the feeling all too well.
Unfolding the blanket and draping it over the kid, Tony sits down on the couch beside him and hesitates for a second before placing a hand on his shoulder. "When's the last time you slept, kiddo?" he asks gently.
The kid blinks up at him, looking bemused. "Las' night," he slurs, before attempting to burrow between the couch cushions.
"Okay, then. Shit. You've probably got hypothermia. F.R.I.D.A.Y, scan him."
As the A.I. scans his stupid
kid protege, Tony stands up and walks to the kitchenette. He pulls a hot cocoa Keurig pod from the tree on the counter and sticks it into the coffee-maker.
Boss, Peter Parker's core temperature is 94.9 degrees Fahrenheit and dropping. Brain scans show reduced neural activity. His brain is not damaged.
"So, hypothermia?" Tony pulls the steaming mug off of the Keurig and makes his way back toward the couch.
Peter Parker is exhibiting behaviors similar to those of dormant spiders.
Peter Parker is exhibiting-
"Yeah, I heard you the first time. But why?"
Some components of Peter Parker's DNA are identical to those of common house spiders.
So his kid hibernates now. Great.
Tony is out of his depth. So he does the only thing he can think of.
He pulls out his phone and dials The Science Bros.
Steven Strange picks up the call in five seconds.
"Stark, I swear to-"
"Shut up and listen, Strange. How do you wake up a dormant spider?"
Strange makes an incredulous noise. Bruce Banner picks up and yawns into the speaker.
"Tony, it's two in the morning."
"I know," Tony replies impatiently.
"Banner, Stark called us because he's a bored insomniac," Strange drawls.
"Shut the fu-" Tony glances at Peter, who is staring at him, eyes half-lidded and mouth open slightly, "-hell up. How do you wake up a dormant spider?"
"Can it, Banner! This is about my- the kid."
"Oh." Banner goes completely silent. Strange clears his throat. "Try to raise his core temp. A warm drink, blanket, maybe body heat-"
Tony just about chokes on his spit. Strange continues, unfazed. "-should do it. Is he still conscious?"
The engineer sets Peter's hot cocoa down on a coffee table and snaps the fingers of his free hand in front of the kid's face. Peter doesn't flinch. Tony's actually starting to get worried. He grips the kids shoulder and shakes him as gently as he can.
Peter's eyes drift open. He glances lazily at Tony's hand, then drags his eyes back to his mentor's face. Slowly, he raises one eyebrow.
Despite his raised stress levels (and heartbeat), Tony has to choke back laughter. "Yes."
"I don't know, Tony. Strange would be right if Peter was a spider."
"I mean, he's a mammal. What if this isn't a response to the cold? What if it's like - like a bear or a hedgehog or something?"
"It'd be set off by hormones rather than the cold weather. When did Peter start acting like this?"
Tony frowns and throws himself onto the couch. Peter mutters something incomprehensible and slumps against him, nuzzling his (still freezing cold) nose into the engineer's neck. Tony actually chokes this time.
"Peter, Bruce wants to know how long you've been tired for."
Peter hums. "School. Walked h'me."
"Since earlier this afternoon, Bruce. The trains were down because of the snow. Idiot actually walked home."
"Okay, I give up. Strange was right. Again."
"Let us know if his condition changes, Stark."
The scientists hang up. Tony presses the hot mug into Peter's hand.
"Hey, Pete." He cards his fingers through Peter's hair.
Peter leans into the touch and hums contentedly.
"Drink your hot cocoa. I'm gonna go get you some clothes and another blanket. Don't fall asleep yet, okay, kid?. We're gonna watch Alien."
Thirty minutes into the movie and the kid's using Tony as a human pillow. Tony runs his fingers through Peter's curls absentmindedly.
Strange sent a text to the group chat at 2:34 in the morning, reminding him of the time zone difference between New York and Tibet. It was official. Tony hated the man.
Peter's asleep. Normally. As in 'not hibernation.' Bruce had checked. In his panic, Tony had forgotten that Bruce was sleeping in his room downstairs.
Peter shifts slightly and mutters something in his sleep. Tony sighs.
"You're gonna be the death of me, kid."