“Are you sure?” Peter asked for what felt like the billionth time. This, to put it mildly, was the worst thing that could’ve happened to them. To May.
“Yes, Peter, I’m sure. Me, and about three other equally capable physicians. She can’t be moved until she regains complete control of her leg. I’m sure that won’t be happening for at least another 6 months, or a year, even. Both leg bones were shattered on impact. The hip bones were affected and thankfully, there was minimal damage to her spine. We’re lucky that only her lower body was affected and not her upper, and especially not her spine. She could’ve ended up an invalid.”
The doctor (Peter kept forgetting her name) must’ve noticed Peter’s dismal reaction to her diagnosis so she added:
“But she will heal in due course. All we need is time and good medicine and physiotherapy, both which we have. Relax and let us do the work. Eat something. She’s still asleep, you know.”
And money, Peter’s brain unhelpfully supplied. They needed money. It sucked that was his first thought, but it was. Treatment this detailed should cost a bomb, and the Parkers were the find of family that ate leftovers for days to save up for a new paint job. This would shred any funds they had left.
Peter wiped one last tear from his face and stood up a little straighter. Strong. He needed to be strong. For May.
“When can I see her? When will she wake up? She’s not in pain, is she?” He asked, his voice quaking a little.
“She’ll be asleep for another two days or so. Don’t worry, she’s just fixing herself. The medicine is working it’s magic. She’s not in any pain.” The doctor gave him one last sad smile and walked away.
As if on cue, another woman walked up to him, looking much less nicer than the doctor. The first thing Peter noticed about her was the ghastly pink lipstick she wore. She extended her hand.
“Hello, Peter. I’m Gloria, the social worker assigned to your case.”
“Social…what?” His brain couldn’t register what she was saying. He had a social worker?
“Yes. We understand your aunt was in a car accident that will take months to recover from. She was your only guardian, and we can’t let you stay alone; you’re a minor by law.” She looked like she couldn’t care less if he slept in a dumpster.
“Emancipation.” Was all he managed before the tears came again.
“Not possible. Your aunt will be back to normal in the future, taking you under her care again. She’s not gone forever.” She muttered something under her breath about teenagers and their fucking independence.
He stared mutely back at her. Stay with someone? Ned? His parents would take him in for the time being, but for months at a stretch? That would be asking for too much. MJ? He knew she had daddy issues, though she refused to talk about it. He was pretty sure another kid living under her roof, friends or not, was the last thing she needed. After that, his mind failed to think up of anything. May didn’t know too many people, so he had nobody.
“So, Peter, I have a foster home lined up for you, and they have another boy your age, so I’m sure they’ll be—“
“No!” he shouted. Anything but a foster home.
“Well, do you have anywhere else to go?” The pink lips curled inwards to form a sneer.
To be honest, there was one person he could call. He wasn’t so sure they would appreciate it, or even pick up his call, but Peter thought he would do anything to delay getting into a foster family.
“I hope.” He said, fishing out his phone from his pocket.
“Try your luck then.”
He walked away from her and dialled.
“Hey Happy. It’s Peter. Something’s happened.”
When FRIDAY’s voice woke Tony up, he half considered temporarily shutting her down. He’d been doing well! Rhodey had (finally) persuaded him to go to bed before the sun rose, and he hadn’t had a nightmare in two days.
“What is it.” He demanded more than asked, his voice gruff from sleep.
“It’s Happy, sir. He stresses the urgency of the situation.”
“Well, tell Happy to go fuck himself. It’s dead ‘o’ clock in the morning.” Tony replied, burrowing himself in pillows again.
“I will not, sir. That’s highly inappropriate.” Was that cheekiness he heard? “And in his defence, you are usually awake at this time.”
“Nope. I’m asleep.”
“Sir, he says that it concerns Mr. Parker.”
Tony shot up. Peter? It was 2 in the morning, and the kid usually didn’t stay up that late. He felt and unfamiliar sense of dread choking him. Almost…protectiveness.
“What…what did he say it was about?” Tony managed.
“He said that Mr. Parker was calling from the hospital and that he needed to be picked up.”
Tony was out of bed and changing into a suit in seconds. The dread intensified. Why would Peter be at a hospital? Had something happened? But he healed faster than regular people! Would he receive the right care?
Downstairs, he found Happy waiting with a car. Wordlessly, Tony got in and the car started. The hour’s drive from the compound to the hospital was spent in tense silence, except for Tony initially drilling Happy on Peter’s message. Gazing tiredly at the black landscape, Tony wondered when he’d started caring so much about his ‘intern’. After the Homecoming fiasco, he’d started to keep a better eye on the boy, giving him his personal number, which he rarely called. When his relationship with Pepper had gone south, he had invited Peter over to his lab to take his mind off things. But what was one lab session became two, then three, slowly progressing to bi-weekly. The pair had started to branch out their activities, watching movies, cooking together and even playing Monopoly.
Tony didn’t know how, but somehow during all this time, Peter had managed to worm his way into Tony’s heart, something Tony didn’t know was possible. After Siberia, then breaking up with Pepper, he swore not to let anyone close enough to hurt him, but apparently that rule hadn’t extended to cute Spider-Kids who were a lot more trouble than they were worth.
His train of thought was interrupted when Happy pulled up into the parking lot of Queens General Hospital, honking rudely (something he’d under normal circumstances refuse on doing) at a crossing pedestrian. Tony hopped out of the car before it stopped and rushed into the emergencies wing, ignoring gaping stares from passers-by.
In the waiting room, he spotted someone curled up into a chair, shaking ever so slightly. He’d recognize that mop of brown curls anywhere. God, Peter looked so young. He walked up to the back of the chair and carded a hand through his hair, overwhelmed with sadness.
Suddenly, Peter felt a hand stroke his hair heard a familiar voice.
“Mr. Stark?” He turned, and saw Tony Stark standing behind him, looking devastated. “Why…how…you’re here.” He finished lamely.
“Of course, kid. You OK?” Mr. Stark asked, looking like he genuinely cared. Did he? Genuinely care? Why else would he be here in the middle of the night? He only remembered calling Happy. “Kid. Kid? You with me? Are you OK?”
Peter swallowed, wiping away persistent tears. “No.” He said. “I’m not. May…May’s hurt, Mr. Stark. There was an accident, and she got hurt bad.”
Mr. Stark didn’t say anything. He just enveloped Peter in a hug he didn’t know he needed. He waited for him to break away awkwardly, but he didn’t. He held on until Peter felt ready to let go.
“Better?” he asked.
“Yeah.” He sniffled, wiping his face furiously. He didn’t want to cry in front of Mr. Stark. He’d already wet his Armani jacket, which probably costed thrice their rent.
“Peter.” Mr. Stark said, as if reading his mind. “Kid. It’s OK to cry. Let it out, Peter. It’s OK. I’m here. I’ve got you.”
Ten minutes later, when he was all cried out and speaking in slightly coherent sentences, he explained the accident to Mr. Stark. He was a good listener, making all the right noises and ignoring the way a few stray tears still made their way down his face.
“It’ll be OK, kid.” Mr. Stark said once he had finished. “I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but it will. May’s safe. You aren’t hurt. She’ll get better soon, and I’m sure she won’t be too happy knowing how worried you were.”
“No, Mr. Stark, it’s not. You don’t get it.”
“What don’t I get?”
“Nobody’s there. I met this—this foster lady. She said I have to stay at a foster home temporarily. I have no one. I—I’m alone.” His voice cracked on the last word and he broke down again. Great work, Parker. He’s been through worse; you don’t wanna waste his time with your sob stories.
“What do you mean, alone?” Mr. Stark said, looking surprised. “You’re many things, Peter, but you’ll never be alone, at least while I’m around.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re staying with me,” Mr. Stark said it with a sense of finality, as if he was shocked that Peter would think of anything else.
“You’d do that? I mean, I know you’re busy, you probably like, have meetings and stuff—“
“Peter.” Mr. Stark cut him off. “Of course I would. The meetings don’t matter. Actually, you might give me an excuse to get out of them. Now, once that’s settled, you wanna get outta here? Get some sleep? You look like you need it.” Joking as his tone was, Mr. Stark looked perfectly serious.
Peter nodded mutely, leaning on the older man as they got up and walked (more like Tony walked and Peter dragged) towards the exit.
But life threw another curveball in the shape of a woman with pink lips. Peter felt a wave of new exhaustion hit him, and zoned out staring at the empty reception while he let Mr. Stark deal with her. They argued for a whole ten minutes, Mr, Starks’s arm around him the whole time. He didn’t listen to their entire conversation, though he could make out the words lawyers, sue you, and I’ll do what I want, along with other jargon he found unintelligible in his current state of mind. He felt himself being walked to a sleek Merc outside the emergency wing and he slid into the blissfully comfortable leather seat. The car purred to life and he fell asleep with his head on Mr. Stark’s lap, staring into the passing black nothingness.