The truth was, Tony Stark truly cared for Peter Parker, even loved him and wanted nothing but the best for him. The boy was amazing company and he enjoyed every moment spent with him.
But as time went on, he noticed the boy was not so perfect.
Don’t get it wrong, Peter was intelligent, smart, funny, reliable and sugar, spice, everything nice but Tony found things annoying about him.
Peter never picked up his clothes, just left them lying around and could not understand the concept of a laundry basket.
The boy kept his feet on the dash.
The boy sleepwalked, not really his fault, but Tony couldn’t help but be slightly irritated when Peter started bumping into walls in the middle of the night, especially when it forced him out of a good sleep.
“That is parenting,” May shrugged when Tony shared his feelings during their biweekly co-parenting lunch, on off-weeks they went to cafeterias. “You love your kid and would do anything for him but still- I was shocked by when I first noticed it and thought I was not a fit guardian.”
“It is scary,” Tony admitted. “Sometimes I catch myself thinking “God, that kid is just the worst” and then stop. I mean, it was one thing when I was just his mentor but now that he lives in the Tower half a week-”
“Proximity brings it out, you get to see Peter in his natural self, without any courtesy or walls.”
“I snapped at him this morning because he had not emptied the dishwasher even if I told him to.”
“No wonder, that boy is scatter-brained as hell.”
“I don’t get it,” Tony set down his fork, venison and potatoes forgotten. “He makes amazing grades, remembers the element table and New York subway line by heart but can’t remember to do household chores!”
“Once I told him to watch the meatloaf while I went to the store, I came home to smoking kitchen and the dish under running water.”
“Did you set a timer-”
“Yes, but Peter had headphones on. You should have seen his face, he was red as a beetroot and yes, I admit I wasn’t in the best of moods-”
“Gossiping about me again,” Teenage voice interrupted May and Tony turned his head to meet the brown eyes of his protege. “How rude!”
“It’s our privilege,” May smirked. “You’ll get it once you have children.”
“But not in another ten years, please,” Tony could not help adding up and Peter glared at him. “Take a seat, do you want something-”
“No,” Peter shook his head. “I just saw you from the window and decided to greet you.”
The man raised an eyebrow: he could tell by Peter’s eyes and the way he played with his fingers that there was something else.
“Also, I need some money.”
“Why didn’t you just say so?” Tony fished out his wallet. It had taken a lot of convincing to get Peter relaxed enough about Tony’s wealth. The boy had not wanted to be considered charity and felt like Tony’s fortune was none of his business. The man had almost thrown a party when Peter had gathered enough courage to ask his mentor money, it had been for chocolate, yes, but it was the principle the counted.
“How much do you need?”
“Just twenty, Ned and I want to get some clothes for this party-”
“That won’t be enough,” Tony took out a hundred dollar bill and Peter almost pushed it back. “Kiddo, get something that will last. It’s better for the environment.”
Peter still looked at the large sum with awe and fear. Tony thought for a moment and then took the bill back but replaced it with five twenties.
“Some places might not have enough change for a hundred,” The man smiled and closed Peter’s hand around the small treasure.
Peter was not one to party, Tony had noticed very soon. He was well-liked but his social circle was not large. Most get-togethers he attended were related to various school clubs, decathlon and band. Yes, Tony had made Peter rejoin the music group since he thought healthy balance was important for a teenager, not everything in his life could be Spiderman related. But that came with the price of listening to the boy practice his instrument, flute did not have the prettiest sound.
Tony had also done his best to encourage Peter to go out more, do teenager stuff. Very quickly, he had noticed the approach did nothing since Peter had the self-confidence that all tutors warned about. The boy did not see his worth, how amazing and handsome he was and that made him an introvert, a social introvert. Peter was polite and smiling but it was difficult to get in and really know him. Tony considered himself very fortunate that Peter had not closed off the road but had allowed the man to see more of himself than anyone before.
Tony’s mission to make Peter more confident and better-adjusted was working. The party invitation was from a classmate, not from decathlon team and Ned was also going.
Since the party was in Manhattan, it was decided that Ned’s mom would take the boys and Tony would fetch Peter when it was time to leave. It also served as an excuse for a Tower weekend.
In the meantime, while Peter was enjoying himself with others, Tony worked on his suit and then had late dinner with Pepper. They would not have much alone time while Peter stayed over so the meal was accompanied with lots of kissing.
Although, it was fun to see the kid flush when they did it in his sight.
Around 1 am, Tony parked in front of the house and texted Peter he was there and to come outside.
Peter answered: Oky
Tony listened to the radio and watched the kids run around the yard. He wondered which neighbor would call the police first.
Well, it was not his problem. His only responsibility was Peter and he would make sure the boy left before law could interrupt the night.
Five minutes went by and no Peter.
Tony frowned and sent another message.
No answer but the front door opened and Peter walked out. Or at least tried to. He hugged Ned, both for adoration and support.
Tony’s jaw dropped and he got out of the car.
“No way,” He breathed out and placed his hands on his hips. “Are you drunk?”
Peter brightened up and walked to his mentor: “Mr Stark!” He hugged the man around the middle so tight Tony could taste the peanuts he had snacked on in the car coming up. “You’re here! Were you invited too?”
Ned shot the man an apologetic look.
Tony was not feeling generous towards either of the boys.
“You sober?” He asked Ned but could tell by his eyes he had had nothing but soda and water.
“Then why is Peter drunk?” Tony tried to detach Peter’s hands from around him.
“I don’t know, he had punch but it was supposed to be virgin.”
“Who told you that? The host?”
“Um, no, we asked from another guest.”
“Yeah, well, you boys were played with,” Tony managed to get Peter standing up and supported him from shoulders. “Help me get him to the front seat.”
It was surprisingly easy to get Peter sitting down, putting on a seat belt was more difficult.
“Hey, wha-” Peter stammered as Tony bent over him to lock the belt in place.
“Easy, kid, just stay still,” Tony used his softest voice and made sure Peter was secure and comfortable. He straightened up and placed his hand on the hood of the car. “You okay? Sick? Dizzy?”
“Yep, good choice of words, yet,” Tony slammed the door closed and after making sure Ned had a ride, walked around the car and took his seat.
The ride was silent, Peter did not get sick but fell asleep very soon. Tony glanced over at the boy and smiled gently. Even drunk, the sounds and movement of a car lulled the boy to slumber land. The boy was snoring lightly, head turned to the side and back against the seat.
Even drunk, Peter was adorable.
He selected a call to Pepper, the woman was waiting for them and had not yet gone to bed.
“Hey, honey, just a heads up, kiddo is not feeling too well so could you make sure his bed is ready, maybe a bucket by the side?”
“Not feeling-” Pepper sighed and Tony could hear her shake her head. “Don’t tell me-”
“Drunk,” Tony leaned over the center console and tapped Peter’s face, the boy groaned and swatted his hand away. “Not passed out but yeah, he had a few.”
Pepper promised to help and the rest of the way was silent. Tony parked in his designated spot, turned off the engine and got out of the car. He opened Peter’s door and waited for the boy to realize the ride was over and open his eyes.
“Think you can walk?”
Peter struggled with the seat belt, Tony felt sorry for him and leaned over to free him. Peter’s fingers tangled into his hair.
“Your hair is so cool,” Peter awed and Tony snickered. If he only had a camera. “Grey is a good look on you.”
His smile dropped and maybe he told the boy to get out of the car a little more harshly than necessary. Growing old was a sore subject to him.
Peter’s walking was surprisingly secure, maybe he overdid the balance thing, but at least he did not stumble. Still, Tony kept an arm wrapped around his shoulders.
“You hungry?” He asked as they reached the floor Tony and Pepper lived in. Yes, Peter could have had his own floor but the man felt it was better Peter had some supervision. He was a teenager after all, and the one thing Tony had missed in his teen years was parental attention.
Peter glanced at his mentor and wrinkled his nose.
“Maybe a sandwich, to soak up all the alcohol still in your stomach,” Tony offered while stroking the boy’s hair. Peter responded by cuddling closer as the reached the hallway where the rooms were.
Pepper was making sure all of Peter’s pillows were in order. There were usual sleeping pillows, those that supported the neck, and also some decorative ones. Even one Hello Kitty that Tony had given as a prank gift.
“Hey, sweetie,” The woman walked up to them and cradled Peter’s face. “How do you feel?”
“Sleepy,” Peter whispered and Pepper caressed his cheek.
Tony rubbed the boy’s shoulder and bent his head.
“Let’s take off your clothes, make you more comfortable, okay.”
Tony guided Peter to the bed and helped take off his button up shirt, Peter tried to help but his fingers would not cooperate. Peter found it fascinating instead of a let down and spent the time being awed by his hands.
Tony thought it was adorable and was grateful Peter did not want to participate. He opened the bell buckle and slid Peter’s jeans to his ankles.
“Lift a leg.”
Peter did as told and took support from his mentor’s shoulders.
“Sorry,” Peter muttered.
“It’s okay, buddy,” Tony reassured. He left the jeans on the floor for later pick up and Peter sat on the bed. His eyes followed the man’s movements as he opened the dressing room and picked a loose fitting t shirt.
“I think this will do for the night,” Tony explained. “Arms up.”
Peter obeyed but it took a couple of minutes for him to find the right holes, even with Tony’s help.
“There, finally,” The man sighed. “I think you’ll be okay without pajama pants. Socks or no?”
“No socks,” Peter took them off himself and slumped on the bed.
“A-a-aa,” Tony waved his finger and pulled the boy up.
“But I’m tired!” Peter whined and pouted.
“You can sleep after you finish this,” The man offered a tall glass of water. Peter knew there was no way out, he would have to drink it all. And with the first sip, he realized just how thirsty he really was.
“Good boy,” Tony ruffled his hair and set the glass back on the bedside table, apparently to be refilled.
Peter curled on his side and sighed as the man pulled the warm covers over him.
Tony sat on the bed and rubbed his back. Peter eased his breathing but Tony could tell he was not yet asleep.
“Why don’t you yell?”
Tony blinked. “Sorry?”
“You said you don’t ever wanna see me drunk until I’m off age.”
The man nodded: “That is true, but the harm is already done. There’s no use in shouting. We will have a talk once you are feeling better.”
“Okay,” Peter nodded.
Tony caressed his cheek and hair.
“Tony,” Peter whispered.
“I- I knew the punch had alcohol. I could taste it and still kept going.”
Tony had expected that much and knew Peter’s conscience must have been hard on him.
“I’m still not going to shout at you,” he told the boy as Peter sniffled and shook lightly. “Hey, you’re okay. You are home, in your bed, safe and uninjured-”
“You’re angry at me.”
“Peter, no, you did a mistake, this is not the end of the world,” The man tried his best loving tone. “This is just your drunk self speaking, you’ll feel better in the morning.”
Peter nodded, breathed harshly for a minute and eventually closed his eyes.
“I’ll stay here until you fall asleep,” Tony rubbed his shoulder and made sure he was tucked in warmly. As extra precaution, he set couple of pillows behind Peter’s back to keep him positioned on his side. FRIDAY would no doubt alarm him if Peter got sick but one could never be too sure.
Rhodey had done the same for him and he was still kicking and strong.
“Just a head’s up, Peter got drunk in the party. Call you in the morning.”
Peter had yet to wake up properly. Tony had opted to stay with him for the night in case something happened. Pepper had shared his unease about leaving the kid alone. The sick bucket stayed empty even though he had made the boy drink a glass of water every couple of hours. Once he had to help Peter to the bathroom but stood behind the door during the process to grant the boy some privacy.
“Peter,” Tony sat on the bed and shook the boy from the shoulder. “You feeling okay?”
The boy groaned and buried his face in the pillow.
“Yeah,” Tony rubbed his back. “I know, I brought you some painkillers.”
He did not even mention having some breakfast.
“Well,” May sighed. “At least he got home safe.”
“That is the most important thing,” Tony shared the sentiment. “I don’t want to be too harsh on him, it was one mistake.”
"Many teens drink and he was not too drunk,” May admitted
"Maybe he just wanted to experiment, I don't want to be too hard on him.."
"How about a week of grounding?"
"No allowance for a month?" Tony offered. "How do you rate this?"
May was silent for a moment, both going through the same issue.
"How did your parents punish you when you drank underage?"
"Oh,” Tony was surprised by the question but understood the significance. “My father yelled I was a disgrace and a shame to both him and mother. It got a bit boring after a while. Mom though, that was tough. She was disappointed in me but wanted to know the reason why I would do it. Jarvis said it was normal for young men to drink but he said I was taking it way overboard. He was the one who had to clean up after me so he made me do his chores for a day. Cleaning the mansion was not fun."
Eventually a punishment was decided and on top of it, May and Tony had a serious talk with Peter two days after the party. The hungover was gone and dealt with and aches were replaced by shame.
“Look, Peter,” May started. “We don’t want to be dictators. So, tell us your side of the story, but know that we know if you try to lie.”
Peter could not fault the last remark so he told how he tasted the punch and he could taste the alcohol.
“I know what alcohol tastes like,” Peter shrugged and looked at Tony. “I think it was vodka, the same kind you let me taste, Mr Stark.”
Tony remembered the incident, Rhodey had brought him a bottle and Peter had asked for a taste. He had seen nothing bad in it, the boy was with trustworthy adults and a small sip was not going to kill anyone.
Peter’s face had been so funny he had asked FRIDAY to make a copy of it for his personal files. It had been his contact picture for Peter until the boy had noticed and made him change it.
“So, I took one glass. It was good and then I started feeling this- buzz, I don’t know? But it was fun and I was relaxed and yeah, it was good.”
May nodded and shared a look with Tony.
“So, you deliberately drank.”
Peter nodded and flushed.
“Well,” Tony shrugged. “It’s better than if there were someone spiking drinks.”
“True,” May admitted. “Peter, we have been talking about this and- if you want to drink, we can’t stop you. We know there are many ways to get alcohol.”
“But we want you to know that alcohol is harmful. It’s one thing to have one or two with your friends but entirely different thing to get drunk at a party with lots of strangers.”
Peter lowered his gaze.
“So, we need some rules. Experimentation is okay, but we want you to be safe.”
“I’m not going to drink again,” Peter shook his head and Tony smiled sadly.
“We don’t want that kind of promises, those are so easy to break. We both would appreciate if you didn’t drink but we can’t stop you if you want.”
“You make me sound like an alcoholic,” Peter grit his teeth.
“No!” May exclaimed and Tony shook his head and crossed his arms. “Sweetie, that is not what we are meaning!”
“Peter, what we mean is that we think it is okay if you want to have one or two with friends.”
“Being drunk is something else,” May nodded. “It’s a hazard to health and can lead to problems.”
Eventually Peter understood their reasoning and admitted the punishment was fair.
“But I didn’t know I was going to drink when I got to the party,” Peter looked at Tony.
“I understand,” The man concluded. “And if something like that happens- Peter, you can always call for help. Be it me , May, Pepper, Happy, Rhodey or even the service desk lady downstairs, if you have more than you should, or are scared or don’t think you can get home safely, you can always call the adults in your life for help. I promise you, no lecture, no questions, just care and support.”
Months went by with ease, days filled with work, training, patrol and various mishaps.
Then, May was signed up for a conference that would take her away for a weekend. Peter usually spent nights he was alone with Tony but this time, he was invited to a party and wanted to attend.
“Okay, so, you can stay at home but Tony is your point man. Call him if anything comes up, anything, Peter, you understand me.”
Tony wanted to know the address, it was in Queens so Peter told he would be alright walking home, the distance wasn’t much. The man still made him promise to either call or text him just as soon as he got home.
“So I don’t spend the entire night heart beating with worry.”
And the party was amazing, even better than the last one.
But the outcome was much much worse.
It took Peter three tries to get his key in and unusually long time to manage to open the door properly. He stumbled inside and almost fell over the shoe rack.
The world was spinning and turning the lights on did not help at all.
That last shot had clearly been too much. Peter had been hoping walking from home would sober him up but no, it had made him feel even worse. He was getting dehydrated and so tired.
He took out his phone: 2.05 AM. Tony was going to be pissed. He opened Whatsapp and tried to form a text but the letters ran in his eyes and he made so many spelling mistakes he dared not send the message. Calling was neither an option because he was slurring, forming certain consonants had become impossible.
Peter took off his jacket and grimaced when he felt his t-shirt sticking to his skin. He reeked of smoke and shots and spilled beer.
He didn’t want to go to bed like this, he would need to change sheets after only an hour. And Tony would most likely come in the morning to get him for breakfast and he didn’t want his mentor to see him in this state, again.
Peter walked to the bathroom and started a bath. He threw his clothes into a corner and added some bubble soap to the water, swishing his hand back and forth, his drunk mind fascinated by the chemical reaction.
“Pretty,” He smiled and carefully stepped into the little pool. He sat down and relaxed in the warm water. He curled up to fit better and laid his head on the edge.
He could feel the sweat and dirt floating away from his body.
It was a good feeling.
Flying from Manhattan to Queens on Friday night was a pretty sight, Tony had to admit. He would enjoy the view if he was not sick with worry.
Peter had not answered his calls.
He had not read any of his messages.
Tony lowered himself before the front doors. They were locked but he had the spare key. He hurried to the Seventh floor, the elevator in this building was so unreliable and slow.
Yes, Peter could already be asleep and muted his phone. More than likely, there was a harmless, innocent explanation.
But just in case-
Tony rang the doorbell.
“Peter?” He called with no answer. Tony opened the door and peeked in.
“So he did come home,” He noticed jacket and shoes in their usual spots. “Kiddo, you in here?”
He opened the door on his left and expected, hoped to see Peter in his bed, fast asleep, curled up like a kitten.
The bed had not been slept in.
“Weird,” Tony tried to mask his worry. Peter was not in any other room. Eventually, he came to the bathroom. He knocked.
“Peter, are you in there?”
The door was slightly open and the lights were on.
“Are you sick?” Tony carefully opened it further, expecting to see Peter.
He didn’t see it. What he did see was a bath. Tony’s heart sunk as he stepped closer. He took slow steps, praying his fears were not met.
Peter was laying in the bottom, eyes closed, peacefully, sleeping like death.
“PETER!” Tony nearly slipped on the water as he thrust his hands into the bath and hoisted Peter up from the shoulders.
“It’s okay, kiddo,” The man breathed out, voice high with fear. “You’re going to be alright.”
He maneuvered the limp, heavy body out of the tub. Peter’s head lolled lifelessly from side to side as Tony tried to find a good position to get him to the floor. Peter was naked but he did not heed that, he had more pressing matters at hand.
“Kiddo,” Tony slapped the boy’s face and rubbed his knuckles against the boy’s sternum to try and rouse him. “Peter, sweetheart, wake up, wake up.”
The boy slept on.
Tony pulled his head back and set his lips against the cold, bluing ones and exhaled deeply. Air filled Peter’s lungs and caused the boy to spurt out water. Tony spat it out and gave another rescue breath. This time no water came out and lungs expanded beautifully, however there was gurgling noise in the background.
The man tried to remember his rescue training and how many times he was supposed to give mouth to mouth initially. He debated between two and five. Eventually, he decided on five since drowning was more the problem of lack of oxygen and not some cardiac abnormality.
“Come on, kiddo,” Tony listened and watched the lungs exhale third breath. “Come on, come on, wake up.”
Fourth breath. Tony adjusted his hand so he could close Peter’s nose better.
Check the pulse.
The man placed his fingers on Peter’s neck, finding the vein with practiced ease, he had had to check Peter’s pulse more than once when the boy got injured on patrol. But now, there was not strong fluttering,
The pulse was barely there, thready and threatening to stop every second.
“Okay, good,” Tony nodded his head, faking that he had control of the situation but this was not something he could bribe with money or fix with some bandages. “Keep fighting, Pete, you’re okay.”
He set his hands on Peter’s sternum, one on top of another and dropped the weight of his upper body on his arms. He pushed in and the boy’s stomach bulged out from the pressure.
Peter gave small snorting sounds and water dribbled down from the side of his mouth.
“Good!” Tony encouraged, trying to focus on anything else but the burning in his arms. “Cough it out! Good boy!”
He wanted the boy to open his eyes, to gasp and wither on the floor but nothing more happened. Tony completed the required 30 compression and turned to Peter’s head again.
“It’s okay,” he closed the boy’s nose and opened his mouth. “I’ll breathe for you,” An exhale and gurgling. “You’ll be just fine.”
Second breath and no reaction.
Tony cursed and began the compressions again. A rib snapped but Peter stayed still, did not cry out in pain or move. Tony did not stop for a second. He compressing the failing heart between bones, trying to awaken Peter’s breathing reflex and bring him back to life.
Two more breaths. Peter’s lips were getting bluer. Tony knew the boy needed proper oxygen, not recycled one from his mentor’s lungs.
He started the compressions. He kept his eyes on Peter’s face, trying to find a sign of life, mark he was doing something right.
Peter did not respond but white foam started coming out of his mouth and nose. Tony cried in alarm and turned the boy’s head to the side.
“Okay, so, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen-”
The noises Peter made were terrifying, it was like the boy was choking and trying to gag out whatever was stuck in his throat. Foam coated the tiles, it spurted out with each compression.
“They fucking did not cover this up in the first aid course,” Tony muttered to the boy as he wiped his mouth clean of the stuff and gave rescue breaths,
He did not know what the stuff was but it was watery so it was most likely a good sign that what had caused Peter to choke was coming out of him.
He completed the required five cycles of CPR, Peter’s small body twitching with each compression and stomach bulging sickeningly. Tony avoided looking that way, he kept his eyes on Peter and encouraged each twitch of fingers and the small movement the boy did in his throat. Like he was trying to cough but could not do it.
Tony prepared to check for pulse again. He expected to find a stronger rhythm, a sign the boy was getting oxygenated blood in all the vital organs.
His fingers met silence.
“No,” Tony’s blood grew icy and pressed his fingers deeper into Peter’s throat. “No, no, no, NO!” He screamed and shook the boy. “You can’t do this! Peter! Peter! You can’t give up!”
The boy’s lips were blue and his face pale.
Tony felt sick and had to force down vomit.
He could not do this, he needed help.
Tony took out his phone and somehow was able to connect to FRIDAY although his hands were shaking like he had severe Parkinson’s.
“FRIDAY, I- I need an ambulance at Peter’s, get Med team here.”
“Certainly, Sir, what is the matter.”
“Peter-” Tears rolled down his face. “I- I came here and he was in the bathtub and he doesn’t breathe and there is no pulse-”
“Calm down, Sir, take a deep breath-”
“I did everything like the said,” He wanted to hold Peter, caress his hair and face but could not dare. His actions had not helped and now the boy was dying under his arms. “I gave him five rescue breaths before compressions and I made sure they were right depth but it-”
“Sir, you need to help Peter but you need to collect yourself now.”
FRIDAY’s sharp interruption jolted Tony out of his panic.
“Now, Medteam is coming but if Peter has no pulse, you need to see if defibrillator would be of any help. Didn’t you give one for Peter and May?”
Tony had forgotten all about it. He had stocked up the Parkers’ medicine cabinet with basic things and also some higher level medical equipment.
“FUCK!” He shouted and clutched his head. “I forgot- I forgot-”
“It’s alright, forgetting is human-”
“I killed him, I didn’t use it- I-”
“Sir, Peter needs you to stay focused!” FRIDAY snapped and gave Tony a small shot from the bracelet. The man cried in surprise, not pain and his eyes cleared.
“Okay,” He breathed out and forced his numb, shaking hands to work. “Let’s get you off this wet floor.”
Peter felt even heavier than before. Tony sat him up and awkwardly collected him into his arms. At least when the boy was sleeping, it was easier to grab him but now, all the limbs were positioned haphazardly. Peter’s head hung back and and water from his lungs filled his mouth. Tony saw it drip down towards his temple.
“That is good, kiddo,” The man lowered the boy into a sitting position as carefully as he could and slapped his back. “Throw it up, come on.”
Tony checked the boy’s mouth and scraped out some foam.
“Where the hell is this coming from?”
“It’s the water in his lungs reacting with chest compressions,” FRIDAY supplied helpfully.
“What? Is- is it bad?”
“It’s neither good or bad, a very common occurrence when resuscitating a drowning victim.”
Drowning victim, two words he never wanted to associate with the boy.
Fetching the first aid case went quickly, luckily May nor Peter had bothered to change its location, it was in the same cupboard where Tony had stored it months ago. With the way Peter got injured, Tony had nightmares of the worst happening to the kid and so had chosen equipment that would help May keep the boy clinging to life before medical help arrived.
He pulled a blanket from the couch and tried his best to wipe the boy’s chest dry. The woolen material was not the best for soaking up water but he did not want to waste time in fetching a towel. The remaining drops of water he wiped off with the sleeves of his shirt.
He made commentary as he took out the defibrillator and placed the sticky pads in their required positions, on top of left breast and to the side of heart. The machine turned on.
“Your lungs must be screaming for air,” Tony placed the mask of an ambu bag over Peter’s mouth and nose. He squeezed the valve and heard and saw the boy’s chest expand like it normally would. At least this way he would get more oxygen than through standard mouth-to-mouth.
He could only hope the delay in cycles of CPR did not worsen Peter’s chances of survival.
The boy’s lungs managed to fill six times before the machine told Tony to stand clear of the patient. He reluctantly pulled the mask away, cringing at the gurgling exhale.
The man looked at the monitor and inspected the rhythm. It was not a straight line, there was at least some activity in the heart.
“VFib, okay, good, good, we just need to jolt your heart back to normal rhythm. Ready?”
He pressed the button, Peter’s chest jolted up from the floor and his hands twitched. Tony immediately pressed the mask over the boy’s face and gave two breaths, all the while glancing at the monitor. No change yet.
“It’s okay,” Tony muttered, set aside ambu bag and placed his hands on the boy’s chest. The pause had allowed his arms to recover from the stress and the compressions were sharp, strong, with required depth.
“Come back, Peter, come back,” The man grunted while the boy snorted, gasped and foam spurted out from his nostrils and coated his face white. “I’ll help you, you just need to open your eyes.”
Peter’s toned, flat stomach bulged with each compression and combined with the sounds and noises of resuscitation efforts, Tony was close to throwing up every second. But he could not afford it.
He had to keep going, with no pauses, until medics arrived and Peter would get better treatment.
He had to keep the boy’s heart miming a normal rhythm, he had to give unmoving lungs oxygen and help keep Peter’s brain from not dying.
Out of the blue, Peter lurched and vomit spewed from his mouth. Not water, pure acidic vomit with a smell Tony could recognize way too well.
“Shit!” He rolled the boy to his side, one hand on his back and other carefully pressing his diaphragm. Puke bubbled from Peter’s mouth and Tony scraped it off the best he could. He made sure airway was open, warm vomit ending up under his finger nails.
“I told you to call me!” He shouted and pumped on the boy’s breast bone, deeper and harsher than before. “I told you to call if you got drunk and needed help! Fucking hell, why don’t you ever listen?”
Peter gave no answer. A rib snapped and Tony paused for a second before resuming compressions.
“28- 29- 30,” The man whispered and moved his hands to grasp the ambu bag. He positioned the mask over Peter’s face and squeezed the valve while the machine analyzed the remaining rhythm.
“Come on, kiddo, come one,” Tony muttered while oxygenating the boy’s lungs and blood. “Breathe for me, Peter. Breathe.”
Each exhale fogged up the mask and for a second, hid the blue on the boy’s lips.
The machine gave a sound.
“Okay,” Tony glanced at the monitor. “It’s still VFib, your heart is trying to work. I’ll give you a shock. Ready?”
He pressed the button and Peter jolted, his chest rose from the ground and dropped back sickeningly.
The machine showed no change
Same setting, same jolts coursed through the boy’s chest and heart, trying to encourage the unwilling muscle to contract properly and keep blood flowing in his body.
Tony grit his teeth.
“Goddammit, kiddo,” He cursed and started the chest compressions. He didn’t believe Peter was ever going to recover from the rough maneuvers, he was forever gonna had a deepening in the middle of his chest from his mentor forcing it down so many times. “You are not making this easy!”
“Sir, paramedics are here.”
“Tell them to hurry,” Tony felt a flicker of hope. They would have proper equipment, meds, anything they did not have here.
It took a minute for the group to reach the pair, maybe the elevator was actually working this time.
“How long have you been doing CPR?” One paramedic asked while opening his bag. Another crouched on the other side of Peter.
“I can take over the compressions.”
Tony wanted to say no, but he knew his arms were getting tired and if it kept going, he would not reach the required depth and speed. Right before the medic team had arrived, he had noticed he had been able to reach the required 120 pumps per minute only in short intervals. It was certainly better than nothing but not enough to give Peter a fighting chance.
“On count of three-”
Tony performed the last few compressions with his last strength and lifted his hands away just as the paramedic started the compressions.
Peter began to gag, like responding to more professional, better timed compressions.
“Is that normal?” Tony grasped the boy’s hand, feeling the fingers twitching as blood was forced to pump through his body.
“Yes, it’s his body’s reflexes trying to get him to breathe.”
“Sir, how long has he been under?” The another paramedic tried to get his attention. Tony halted, could he tell the truth.
“I-” He wanted to say 15 minutes but would that mean they would give up sooner. “I don’t- maybe ten minutes, I’m not sure. But I’ve been doing CPR-”
“That is good, it gives him a chance.”
“Injecting 2 mg of epinephrine.”
Foam started coming from Peter’s nostrils again.
“Let’s try to get the rhythm back, what setting was the defibrillator on?”
Tony had to check the machine to give an answer.
“How many shocks?”
“He’s throwing up.”
Tony turned his attention to the boy and the way his neck bent slightly as brown liquid with lots of foam emerged from the boy’s mouth. He helped the other paramedic turn him on his side and accepted the towel a female paramedic offered him.
“Was he drinking?”
“Okay, let’s take blood sugar, he needs glucose.”
Tony wiped Peter’s mouth clean and lowered him on his back. The older man took the blanket Tony had been using and gently covered Peter from the waist down, protecting at least some of his modesty.
“Let’s intubate him, we can’t risk losing airway.”
Intubation was quick and easy.”
“Slight gag reflex,” Female paramedic told while sliding a small tube down Peter’s windpipe. “The kid is a fighter for sure.”
“You did fine, Mister Stark” The older paramedic assured the man who rubbed Peter’s arm to create some warmth. “His body needs just a small remainder of how it is supposed to work.”
“You have to keep fighting, kiddo,” Tony kissed the boy’s knuckles as the older paramedic worked on the settings of a larger, portable defibrillator with handles.
“I’m starting with 220. Mr Stark, you have to let go of him.”
The man set a quick kiss on Peter’s brow while the pads were tightly pressed against the required places.
“Stand back. And clear.”
Peter’s shoulders and arms twitched. Female paramedic immediately squeezed the valve and gave two deep, rattling breaths of oxygen.
“No change, again, 220, clear.”
The second jolt made no difference either. The older paramedic was silent for a moment, inspecting the boy’s prone, bluish body.
“Let’s use autopulse so we don’t have to worry about the compressions and can focus on medicating him.”
While Tony was not a doctor, he was well-educated in the revolutionizing ideas in the field. He had purchased couple of machines that would take care of the chest compressions, especially useful when there weren’t many rescuers or during transport.
Female paramedic opened another bag and took out a large white belt that covered Peter’s entire torso. Tony lifted the kid with no problem so the material could be slid under him. It was taped on top and the machine moved for a moment, taking in Peter’s body structure, calculating how deep compressions he needed and could take.
The compressions were accompanied by a squeaky sound, almost like rusty hinges on a door. The boy’s stomach bulged more than before, maybe because the belt was not only compressing the limited area of breast bone but entire rib cage.
Tony kept his fingers on the pulse point and felt Peter’s heartbeat. He prayed the machine to give the small heart strength, force it to beating like you would make a ball keep bouncing after the initial slam.
Valve was squeezed every couple of second and highly oxygenated air traveled down the breathing tube.
That was what life was about: oxygen and beating. Peter now had both, his body just needed to respond. To remember it had to fulfill the task by itself.
“Still in VFib,” The female paramedic stated. “Blood sugar is slowly coming up.”
“Good, good,” The older paramedic nodded. “Let’s give him another shock. 250 this time.”
Was it good or bad that the jolts kept going higher and higher?
“Show them what you are made of, okay, kiddo,” Tony whispered against the boy’s ear and kissed his temple, fingers carding through his wet hair. “Let’s make this last one, buddy.”
“Mister Stark!” Tony scrambled back. “Clear!”
Tony had lost the count of how many times Peter’s heart had been electrocuted.
Was it fifth or eight?
However many there had been, this time when Peter’s body slammed back to the hardwood floor, monitor did not scream rapidly on detecting abnormal rhythm.
It was the most beautiful sound Tony ever heard and he started crying.
It always amazed Tony how much care drowning victim needed. Even when taken off the ventilator, Peter still was attached to so many monitors and wires that measured his body and functions.
The boy laid in bed, eyes closed, with tubes up his nostrils providing him oxygen and a clip on his left index finger to measure that his body was getting enough air. So far, the values had been good.
Tony had time to close his eyes for maybe 30 seconds before Peter grunted, gagged and sat up. Luckily the bedpan had been placed on the lower shelf of the bedside table for easy reach.
“Easy,” The man brought the basin under Peter’s chin and rubbed the boy’s back. “Cough it up, buddy.”
He slapped the boy’s back a few times and finally Peter spit out mucus, hacked and stomach acids followed.
The kid whimpered and hugged his chest.
“I know it hurts,” Tony selected the sturdiest pillow on the bed and laid it against Peter’s sternum. “Hug this, buddy. Throw up if you have to.”
The bedpan was filled with liquids and Tony called in a nurse to get rid of it.
“You are doing so great, buddy,” He whispered while using a cloth to wipe any traces of vomit and saliva away. Peter opened and closed his mouth reflexively. Sweat glistened on his forehead.
“Cold…” Peter’s voice was a faint whisper.
“Let’s tuck you in then,” Tony obliged and helped tuck his ward gently into the blankets. Peter’s hands shook as pneumonia tormented his system.
“Shh,” He took the cold cloth that had dropped to the side. Peter whimpered when his mentor disappeared from his sight.
“I’m here, Peter. I’m just wetting the cloth.”
Peter was hurting and needy, like a newborn baby who required constant attention. In a way, Tony grimaced, Peter was a newborn. He had been practically dead and had gotten a new chance at life.
If he had made Peter stay the night at the Tower, this could have been avoided.
But Peter had wanted to spend the night at home.
Why hadn’t Tony spend the night at Parker’s to supervise Peter? He would have noticed Peter was drunk, helped him to bed and made sure he was alright. Peter never would have drowned in a bathtub had Tony been there.
What if it was intentional?
“Coming, kiddo,” The man snapped out of his thoughts. He sat back on the chair and draped the cloth across Peter’s forehead.
“No,” The boy shook his head.
“Peter,” Tony grabbed his wrist gently. “It will help your fever.”
“Make it warm,” Peter’s eyes filled with tears and Tony had to fight not to give in. He cradled the boy’s face.
“I can’t, Peter,” He kissed the tip of the boy’s nose and hugged him. Peter was warm, way too warm. Sticky hair matted Tony’s own and the heat coming in waves caused him to start sweating too.
Peter whimpered. He was hurt, nauseous, confused and he did not understand why Tony would not help him.
“Peter, I won’t tell you again!”
“I won’t go! I won’t go!”
They had fought over the same issue for three days now. May was on Tony’s side, Peter was alone in denial. He thought that if he kicked, bit or screamed enough, it would make his mentor turn around back towards the car, away from the building where youth psychiatrist held office.
“Hey!” Tony grabbed both the boy’s wrists in a secure hold and pointed a finger at Peter’s face. “You DO NOT kick me!”
“I don’t need to see a shrink!” Peter screamed and planted his feet on the ground. Parking lot was blessedly empty, Tony didn’t want audience or picture of the great Tony Stark dragging a teenager. Who knows what kind of stories it would bring up. “I don’t want to! It was an accident.”
Peter tried to fall limp but Tony strode back, grabbed his arms and shook his roughly.
“An ACCIDENT? It WAS NOT an accident! Accident is when you sprain your ankle! Peter, you almost died!”
Tony screamed so loud, his voice was rough and hurt and fear evident on his face. Peter whimpered but the man did not let go.
“I had to press your heart to keep it beating! I had to force air into your lungs! I pumped water out of you, Peter,” Tony stared at his protege’s eyes and like a telepathic connection, Peter could see the images. The moments Tony relived in his dreams.
“So don’t tell me it was an accident!”
The psychiatrist Tony had arranged a meeting with was specialized in teenagers and addictions. She treated anything from gambling problems to self-harm.
“I don’t have a problem, Mister Stark,” Peter grit his teeth, hurt evident his his face and posture. “I am not an alcoholic.”
“Peter,” Tony fisted his hand. “I told you to call me if you had more than a few.”
“I got home safely-”
“And decided to take a bath,” The man chuckled darkly. “Kid, either way, you obviously can’t handle your actions when under the influence.”
“I don’t have a problem.”
Tony decided to hold his verdict.
“I will make sure you’ll never have a problem.”