"He's my friend," Steve gulps out, as if that excuses him for his actions, as if that makes everything ok, as if that will make Tony magically understand that keeping the cause of his parent's death a secret the right call, as if it will be something they'll laugh about someday. As if that will fix the chasm that is continuing to drag each other further apart.
The amount of hurt that those 3 words cause Tony is unbearable and for once he can't laugh to hide his pain. Steve will never know that saying that hurt more than any punch Tony had taken in the last couple minutes, more pain than actually realizing the man that killed his mom was standing in front of him.
Tony instead grits his teeth, wishing that his helmet was see-through so that Steve could see the devastated look in his eyes. He'll have to settle for making sure Steve hears the unavoidable crack in his voice as Tony speaks quietly, "So was I."
Anger heats up in his chest and he punches Steve and throws him back into the columns with as much strength as he can. Steve bounces off one and lands hard on his stomach. He shakily gets to his hands and knees, groaning and Tony feels a twinge of remorse that quickly disappears. He raises his arm. "Stand down. Final warning."
Steve spits out blood, staggering to the wall he had been thrown against and pulls himself up to his feet, his face bloodied and bruised, but the super solider is still on his feet. He raises his fists and faces Tony, staring him down, "I can do this all day."
Tony snarls and raises his palm, ready to fire when out of the corner of his eye, he sees Bucky grab his leg. Tony kicks him straight in the face, praising himself for his instinct before he realizes that was just a diversion. Steve's arms grab him by the waist and lift him over his head and Tony flails, trying to activate his boosters, FRIDAY shouting warnings in his helmet. Steve slams Tony down, his head smacking hard into the columns. Tony, dazed and in pain, lays there for a split second, trying to regain his bearings and clear the dizziness but Steve leaps and straddles him, batting Tony's arm away before he starts punching. One, two, three- Tony can't defend himself.
Tony is disoriented from the hits, pain flaring across his head and face as each of Cap's hits make contact. And right then, there's an unsettling feeling in Tony's chest. He realizes his downfall. This whole time, Tony had never intended to kill Steve, much less hurt him. He had had multiple occasions where he could have blasted him with a force of a machine gun but didn't. He held back. But now-
-look where that got him. He realizes through the pain, that Steve wasn't holding back. Steve wasn't going easy. These are not punches to just wound...they're punches to kill. Steve was going to kill him.
Steve suddenly grabs his shield with agility that comes from pure adrenaline and blind rage, grabbing it with both hands and slamming it down on Tony's head. A normal person would have been killed on impact, that's how much force Steve used. He hits him again, once, twice, then Steve reaches, and seeing a chink on Tony's armor, rips off his helmet with rigorous anger.
Tony looks up at Steve in fear, not recognizing the blue eyes staring back at him, Cap's gaze cold and unfamiliar, full of hate and haze, a glaze over them that scared Tony to the core. His eyes are almost black they are so angry.
Steve lifts the shield with gritted teeth, blood dripping down his face and Tony brings both arms up to cover his head, fear racing through his veins. The shield comes down and Tony closes his eyes.
I'm sorry Pepper.
I'm sorry Peter.
I'm sorry Rhodes.
Tony opens his eyes with a cry of pain, horrified, choking on his own blood, trying to breathe. There is a searing pain in his chest and Tony sees the faint arc reactor flicker, the edge of Cap's shield buried through the suit, even slicing into his chest. Steve is gritting his teeth but suddenly that scary look he had in his eyes disappears, his expression slackening. He and Tony lock eyes and he slides off of Tony's chest, slumping to the ground, breathing hard. Tony is glaring at him with hate, fear, and pain, unable to move.
He can barely hear hits heartbeat, white spots threatening to swallow up his vision but somehow Tony keeps breathing raspy breaths every 20 seconds, each one lathered with blood and causing immense pain. He gulps down air, trying to get up and failing.
The shield remains where it is, standing straight upright in the center of his suit, pressing harder into his chest with a nauseating crunch at every attempt to move. Steve grabs the edge of it, missing Tony's pleading look that asks him to just end it; he's had enough. Instead Cap grabs and twists and Tony arches his back as more pain fills him, the arc reactor snapping and going dark and Steve forcefully pries out his shield.
Tony gains enough energy to get up and roll painfully onto his side but the minute he does he coughs up blood, the elbow against the ground trembling in effort to keep him upright. His worst enemy turns away and limps to his best friend. Cap offers a hand and helps up Bucky, who's bleeding but still conscious, letting the Winter Solider wrap his good arm around his neck and lean against his side, holding him up.
Cap hefts the shield with his other hand and Tony's mouth fills with bile and hate for that awful piece of metal.
"That shield doesn't belong to you!" he seethes, anger tackling his pain at the moment. "You don't deserve it."
Steve takes two steps and then stops. "My father made that shield," Tony screams after him. And you're holding up his murderer.
Cap doesn't speak.
He doesn't turn around.
Then Steve lifts his chin, unstraps the shield with one hand, and lets it drop without hesitation. After all that- after all that- Cap agrees with him. It hits the concrete ground with a loud bang that echoes in Tony's ears, the metal sending whiffs of snow and dust twirling into the air that's clouded with resentment and burning bridges. After all that, Cap knows he's wrong.
Tony watches Steve and Bucky walk out. He waits until he can't see or hear them anymore, his eyes burning into the spot where Cap's back dissapeared behind the corner. Tony was filled with anger and pain, shaking from both. His breathing wasn't getting any better, still gulping down air every 15 seconds when he could, his vision blurry, pain screaming through every single part of his body.
Tony finally allowed himself to slump to the side, collapsing onto his back, his elbow giving out thankfully. He coughs and blood trickles down the side of his cheek. Tony winces and moves his arm to grab his helmet that is lying, half shattered to the right of his head from where Cap ripped it off. With a cry of pain he lifts his head, alarm bells going off, his ears ringing, and pain, enough to almost knock him unconscious, flares up in his neck. Tony reaches to press gently against the back of his skull and feels the massive gash his fingers coming away sticky with blood. He tries not to panic. Tony looks down, groaning and notices his arc reactor is pitch black, not even flickering anymore; half of it shattered completely.
He shoves his helmet on with effort, again almost collapsing unconscious at the pain in his head.
"FRI-" Tony mumbles. "FRIDAY..."
Nothing. Tony's met for silence for once. The helmet's blank and he wrenches it off.
Tony lets out a sluggish curse and forces himself to stay awake, feeling one hot tear drip down the side of his cheek from the amount of pain he's in. He chokes on his next breath, kick starting a coughing fit in which he's almost convinced he's about to die, unable to get a good breath in for about 2 minutes. When he finally does, it's not in relief as he stares down at the blood that's splattered along the stone from what he's coughed up.
Tony grits his teeth and seethes, pushing himself up into a sitting position against one of the columns. Think Tony, think...
He had nothing.
Tony was sitting in a dead suit.
He was almost dead.
His parents were dead.
Tony didn't know what to do. He lay there, shivering from the cold that was creeping in, the wind blowing harshly, the snow already falling around him in piles. His breath clouded in front of his mouth and snowflakes landed on his bloodied face. Tony was shaking hard, unable to move from his position, numb and bleeding out, unable to check on his injuries, unable to stand or even move from his position. The freezing wind blasted inside the room, the gaps between the columns making him an even easier target for the cold air.
Tony's lips turned blue. He stopped shaking. His eyes were almost frozen shut.
He flinched as he felt the shield sink into his chest again. He flinched as he saw the look in Cap's eyes that he had never seen before. He did not know the man that had been in front of him, the man that no doubt would have killed him if Tony had fought back maybe a little more.
Tony would have died for Steve some time ago. It hurt more than anything else in the world to know that the person he would have gladly taken a bullet for, was the one behind the gun.
A hot tear slipped down his cheek, the warmth burning his skin. Tony's fingers twitched and his head tried to sink to his chest.
What does he do? What can he do? Tony lifts a trembling arm and feels around in the chest of his suit. He pries open a section of the metal with bleeding, ice cold fingertips, coughing up blood that splatters out with a mixture of clouded breath. A small item falls out of the secret compartment and Tony holds it gently in his trembling hand, barely able to hold it up to his eye level.
Blinking back tears and narrowing his eyes in concentration, Tony brings his fingers together and presses hard on the center of the tiny metal spider before he collapses onto his side, his eyes rolling up into the back of his head.
Peter rolled over in his bed in Queens, his first night back home and he can't sleep. He breaths out a loud sigh, wincing at the pain in his ribs. He put a hand gingerly over his side and took a shaky inhale before he squeezed his eyes shut and forced the pain away. He pulled the covers up tight to his chin and suddenly shivered without knowing why. Peter knit his brow, suddenly very cold and he forced himself to leave the comfort of his semi-warm bed in order to grab one of Mr. Stark's Internship sweatshirts he had been given, knowing it would benefit him in the end.
Peter set both feet on the ground, still shivering, recognizing the fact that he was a hot a second ago in confusion before he crosses the room, his toes digging into the carpet. He crosses the room and shoves the sweatshirt over his head. He turns around to head back to his bed before he freezes.
He closes his eyes and focuses, his ears straining to hear. Peter turns toward the very faint beeping sound he hears coming from his closet. Cautiously, Peter straightens his sweatshirt and creeps over to the door, yanking it open on an internal count of 3 and looking for the noise. Peter frowns when he realizes it's coming from his suit. Peter takes the onesie- did he really just call it that- off it's hanger and inspects it, putting the fabric up to his ear. He pinpoints the sound and pulls the suit back to arms length before setting it down on his bed and grabbing the screwdriver kit he had in his bag.
The spider in the center was blinking, letting off that slight beep that was getting more rapid as time passed. Peter slipped the smallest tipped screwdriver edge he had under the black gadget and pried it off.
"Woah," Peter breathed, "What the-"
He picks up a smaller metal spider that was held in place by 2 clasps. He feels around it, finding a button in the center and he presses it, waiting to see what happens.
Nothing happens. The beeping and blinking just stop. Well that wasn't very exciting.
Peter grumbles, "That's useless," and he is about to toss the small spider onto the bed when he hears a small cough, too quiet to be from inside the room.
Peter jumps, on full alert, the hairs on his arm sticking up straight. Another cough, louder when Peter brings the small piece to his ear, but it doesn't just cut off there. This time it's joined with a slight murmur of a 1 syllable word that Peter recognizes as, "Pete-"
Peter had known of him his whole life. He had just met him a couple weeks ago though, but from their small banter and the fact that he had given Peter his very own suit, Peter had already felt a bond with the man. Especially after the genius had dropped everything to come to his side and bench him- getting benched by Iron Man?- that was insane.
It had been a while since Peter had had someone in his life, besides May, who cared about him and loved him. The fear in the man's eyes as he fell to his knees by Peter's side, the gentleness but firmness as he grabbed Peter's wrists and calmed him down, and the way he breathed a sigh of relief when Peter woke up from being unconscious...it scared Peter at how quickly he was allowing himself to get wrapped up in this perfect fantasy of having a father-like mentor in his life for the rest of his life. Peter hasn't considered the possibility that Tony wouldn't want him to stick around, that he had called him because he needed help, not a hyperactive mentee to have tagging along behind him.
But as Peter collected his thoughts, he was sure he knew that man;s voice anywhere, even when it was scratchy, breaking up, and filled with pain. Peter's chest filled with a sense of protectiveness and he stood straight, whispering, "Mr. Stark?"
"Pete," Tony's voice was filled with relief, but broken, using a tone that Peter had never heard before, a tone that he didn't think someone like Tony Stark was capable of.
"Mr. Stark what's wrong? Are you ok? Where are you?" Peter asked urgently.
"Siberia- Pete get Pepper- tell her- say 12%- hurry-"
"Siberia, what the heck are-" Peter questioned.
"Pete-" Tony snapped, before breaking into a coughing fit, spitting out something- oh God what if it's blood- and crying out in pain.
"Mr. Stark!" Peter cried, panicking, pacing in his room.
"Pete hurry- Pepper- 12%- Siberia-"
"I got it Mr. Stark, I'm coming, I'm coming right now, it's gonna be ok, just hang in there ok?" Peter grabs his phone and his mask and handmade web-shooters, not wanting to waste time and put on the suit. He slips into his shoes before he sprints out of his room and bursts out the front door. He shoves on his mask and web-shooters, holding the small spider in his hand and kicking open the emergency exit. Then he flings himself off the balcony, shooting a web at the nearest building and skimming the street with his sneaker.
"Karen!" Peter yells.
"Peter, what are you doing up this-"
"Listen to me!" Peter said quickly, "I need to you get in touch with FRIDAY, now. Hurry!"
Karen immediately senses something is wrong and she speaks calmly, "Ok, ok- hold on."
"Mr. Stark! Mr. Stark? Hey! Talk to me, please, it's Peter, can you hear me?" Peter screams. There's no answer, only static from the device. He screams a curse, fighting back a sob before determinedly tucking the small spider deep into his palm, swinging faster.
"I seem to have lost connection." Karen's tone is nervous, despite being an A.I. "FRIDAY is functional at the Avengers compound but there appears to be a helicopter that was launched yesterday. Tony does not appear to be in the building and the suit he took is not responding."
Peter curses again, his brain whirling. There are tears building in his eyes and he stutters, "Call Pepper. Call Pepper Karen!"
"Calling Pepper Potts."
Peter swings as fast as he can through the quiet city, lit up. "Wait, where's Pepper? I need to get to her- the compound! She's at the- crap where's the compound? Crap! Karen give me a path to the compound, hack whatever you need to, I need to get there as fast as possible!"
"On it. Tracking fastest route."
Before Pepper can answer, Peter remembers his Aunt and bites his lip, knowing May most likely heard him running out of their apartment.
"FRIDAY also can you make up some excuse for May?" Peter groans, his heartbeat pounding through his chest. He swings even faster, making a sharp turn down the street, thankful for his guessing skills. He's already made it about 1/3 of the way to the compound, shown by the tracking screen he's got pulled up, telling him which shortcuts to use and where to go. His muscles are screaming but Peter doesn't care. Tony is hurt, and he needs Peter's help.
"I will send a message to her phone that is 99% believable. Calculating now. Also Mrs. Potts is connecting."
"Thanks," Peter says breathlessly.
"Hello? Who is this?" Pepper asks groggily. Peter winces, realizing it's 2 am. How was he going to possibly explain this one? Let's hope Pepper was as nice as Tony as said.
"Mrs. Pepper- Potts- ma'am, this is Peter Parker-" he stumbles over his words, off to a great start.
"Who?" Crap, she sounds annoyed. Don't hang up, don't hang up, Peter pleads, time to hurry this up.
"Peter Parker, Tony's intern-"
"It's 2 in the morning Mr. Parker-" Pepper says thinly, as if he doesn't know that.
"No you don't understand, I'm not his intern, it's just a cover up-" Peter splutters.
"If this is some prank young man," Pepper sighs.
Screw it. "I'm Spiderman!" Peter finally screams.
There's silence on the other end and Peter takes a huge breath and decides to blurt as much as he can out, "Tony contacted me through this weird spider radio, I think he's hurt, he said he's in Siberia and to come get you and tell you 12% and I'm heading to the compound as fast as I can but I don't know what to do-"
Pepper speaks softly, alert now, cutting him off gently, "Slow down Peter, what?"
"Mr. Stark, he's in trouble," Peter gasps out, his mind whirling, barely able to get one thought out straight. "He radioed me, I think his suit is down and this thing is his only way of contact."
"And what did he say?" Her tone is laced with fear and Peter's blood runs cold.
"He told me to tel you 12%," Peter relayed.
"12%," she breathed, "Oh God- Tony..." Pepper sucks in a breath and Peter doesn't let her explain what awful thing that could mean. Instead he gives her hope.
"I think we can track the signal, but my A.I. isn't strong enough. I need FRIDAY. I'll be at the compound soon, I just-" Peter's voice breaks and he misses a web in his distress, quickly righting himself, but his heartbeat is pounding out of control, his movements sloppy. Peter tries to focus and go faster but that just makes it worse. He starts panicking, the world spinning and Peter suddenly feels very high, his stomach churning, his ears ringing, his breath quickening, his muscles tensing.
He's about to have a panic attack while swinging and he finally let's out a whimper, embarrassed a second after he cries, "I don't know what to do Mrs. Potts!"
"Breathe. Kid, breathe, you've got to stay focused. Calm down, it's going to be ok, just please, Peter get here as fast as you can. I'm getting a jet ready and we'll go and find him as soon as you get here. It's gonna be ok. I'll be waiting for you. Do you know how to access FRIDAY's tracking system?"
"Y-yes," Peter stuttered, "yes, I think so."
"Ok, then hurry. You're doing fine kid, just focus on getting here," Pepper said, her voice calm and comforting.
Peter gulped down a sob, "Ok. Ok, yeah."
"Can you still reach him?" she asked quietly.
"No, it cut off. But I know I can still access the tracker," Peter assures himself.
"Ok well keep trying. Hurry Peter."
"Yes ma'am," Peter said firmly, biting his lip and waiting until the call ended to exhale a breath.
Tony was so cold. He had managed to drag himself in front of a column, so that the wind wasn't that bad. The snow was blowing in still, but at least it wasn't hitting him. Tony was shivering, barely able to breathe, his breath coming out in small puffs of white air that dissapeared as soon as they appeared due to the fact that it was no longer hot air. Tony was going to freeze to death.
Blood was leaking out of his suit, and pain had been numbed by both severity and the freeing temperatures. The suit was still useless, acting only as a metal coffin that was going to give him frostbite, but was better than just laying on the cold ground in a long sleeve shirt and jeans. FRIDAY was down, the arc reactor was shattered, rendering the entire suit immobile.
It had been 2 hours since he talked to Peter on the spider transmitter. It was a miracle it actually worked. Tony had put that in there for emergencies...meaning when the kid got into trouble, or screwed up. He never meant for it to be both ways. A year ago, Tony would have just given up. But knowing Peter had heard him and hearing the worry and determination in the kid's voice...
Peter knew where he was, and that gave him hope. That kid wouldn't stop until he got to him. He was gonna get out of here...alive.
Pepper sped down the road as fast as she could, cutting the corners and driving through the grass. She heard the shouting even 20 yards away.
"Please, I need to get in! You don't understand! Tony Stark needs my help-"
"Yeah sure kid. Back away from the gate please."
"No!" the kid yelled, shoving the 2 guards that were trying to restrain him off with incredible force, "Please, I'm an intern, I work for Tony-"
Pepper undid her seat belt and hurriedly stepped out of the car yelling, "Let him go! That's enough!"
The young boy looked like he had taken out one of the guards already and was fighting with the other two desperately, dressed in PJ's and a spider man mask, something in his fist. Pepper didn't blame the guards for not letting him through but this had to be the famous Peter Parker Tony had been telling her about. She recognized his voice from the phone and when he saw her he raised his fist urgently, something gleaming in his palm. Pepper walked forward furiously. Peter needed to get inside. Now.
"I said that's enough!" she screamed, storming over to the gate and pressing her key to open it herself, grabbing the front of Peter's hoodie and pulling him toward her by the shoulder and away from the security guards.
Peter thankfully stumbled into her half embrace, staggering a bit, before he tripped and pitched forward, gasping for breath. Pepper catches him and eases him into the backseat, murmuring words of encouragement to a boy she's never met. But this was a boy who was willing to sprint to the Avengers Compound from Queens- as FRIDAY had told her in less than 15 minutes, which wasn't even possible for a car. She had heard the way Tony talked about him, how he spoke of him as like a son more than a mentee. She had heard the desperation and the worry in the kid's voice when he called. This was a kid Tony would protect with his life, and a kid who seemed to be willing to do the same for Tony, so she would complete the trust triangle.
Pepper made sure he was safe in the backseat before she slid in the front, turning it on automatic drive as the car spun into reverse and sped back to the compound. She turned around just as Peter took off his mask, breathing hard.
Pepper recoiled, shocked. He didn't even look 16. Spiderman, the one whom Tony had recruited to fight Captain Steve Rogers and the Avengers, was a high schooler from Queens, New York. But the haunting pain in his bloodshot eyes and the rapid rise and fall of his chest, his hands wringing with worry, his fingernails digging into his palms so hard she was afraid they would bleed...that was no common qualities of a teenager.
She realized his gaze was unfocused and he was shaking and she hurriedly placed a hand on his knee. "Peter? Peter!" she snapped him out of his trance.
"Yes ma-am?" he stuttered, looking at her with some sort of fear, gulping down his next breath.
"Pepper," she corrected gently and he nodded vigorously. She let him take a deep breath and then spoke quickly but firmly. "Peter, you're here. You're ok. We need to find Tony now, ok?"
Peter nodded again.
"FRIDAY's connected to this car so do your thing," Pepper encouraged him slowly, cursing herself for putting even more weight on that teenagers shoulders.
"Yeah, yeah, FRIDAY- it's Peter, connect to Karen, she just finished the scan of the tracking device. Can you access the files of the helicopter Tony took, and the last location of the suit he used?" Peter said, the boy becoming more focused with every word he said.
"Scanning Karen's data. Do you authorize this scan?"
"Yes authorize, hurry FRIDAY, skip further authorizations from this point on. Just keep going."
He pulled out the computer that was tucked underneath the seat, Pepper pressing her lips together in amusement that he knew it was there. Add that to his ease with Tony's A.I.? It was clear the kid had been here more than once before their Germany field trip.
"I have his helicopter records but the log that fits the time description that Karen has listed does not match."
"Mr. Stark, you idiot," Peter mumbled under his breath. "He deleted his search history. He didn't want us to find him...something must have gone wrong."
Pepper raised her eyebrows and suppressed a smile at the first sentence, trying not to laugh, but her heart ached when she heard the desperate fear and worry in the teen's voice as he continued. The kid seemed to have forgotten Pepper was even in the car, running a hand through his messy brown hair that stuck up from his bed head, biting his lip so hard she thought it would bleed.
"Run the scan on a global scale Friday, pinpointing my general location. I hacked into Tony's file and it says he set course to an abandoned HYDRA base camp. It's somewhere in Siberia so set your scan to tracer level 3. Set the scanners to pick up any heat scan you can and relay that information back into Karen."
"Scanning. Give me a second Peter," FRIDAY said, also clearly familiar with this genius intern Tony had found.
"Ok you got it?"
"Location found. Weak heat source. Transferring coordinates to assigned jet."
"Can you tell me what condition he's in? Is he hurt? Is he ok?" Peter asked urgently. Pepper was wondering the same thing and they both waited in worried anticipation for the A.I.'s response.
"His suit appears to be down. I can't read vitals. I'm sorry."
Peter and Pepper both cursed, Peter looking up like his hand had just been caught in the cookie jar. Pepper gave him a reassuring smile.
"Well he's alive. We have the coordinates. Let's go," Pepper said, typing in the correct landing pad into the destination bar in the touchscreen on the front of the car.
"Yeah," Peter breathed, sinking into his seat, exhausted.
"You did a good job kid," Pepper smiled, looking backward at him as she regained control of the wheel and sped 20 over the speed limit.
"Thanks," Peter said softly, leaning against the window.
How...long...had it been?
Tony wasn't even shaking anymore. It was so cold the metal suit enclosing him in a freeing prison was burning him. The snow was turning red from his blood, Tony coughing up more and more, the pain from just the spasm in his chest nearly knocking him unconscious each time. His heartbeat was slowing, even without FRIDAY telling him so, Tony knew it.
Was he going to die here? Would Peter get here in time?
The wind blew loudly at the corners of his ears, a high pitch whistle not helping the ringing in his head. He couldn't see straight, his vision blurry. He would try to breathe and it felt like his lungs were collapsing in on him, curling up on themselves and folding, preventing him from taking actual breaths. He was slumped against the pillar, feeling his cuts and bruises from within the mask, feeling the gravel crushing into the cut on the back of his skull, feeling blood seeping onto the ground.
He watched it as it would turn the white snow red.
Then there came a time where watching it became harder, more of a challenge. His eyelids would close every couple seconds, but Tony would force himself awake, telling himself, just this last time, then you can close them.
Tony could only feel pain. He was so tired. So cold. He has stopped shivering. It was no longer hot, nor cold.
One last time, he pleaded with himself. Don't give up. Not yet.
Tony opened his eyes, letting out a painful gasp.
Tony looked up, raising his head with difficulty, and caught sight of a teenager stumbling in through the rubble, the wall shifting from where he had bust through with his super strength. The boy whirled, one hand gripping his messy brown curls, a bedhead. He was dressed in a Stark Industries sweatshirt- Tony had given him that, and matching flannel PJ's. His spiderman mask was clutched with one hand but he was too busy spinning in a circle, his voice cracking in desperation and worry.
Tony grinned at that and then took a deep breath.
"About...time...underoos," he whispered, being choked by blood and coughs.
It was way to quiet for Peter to hear. Any other person would have turned around in sadness and walked away but Tony knew he would hear it. And Peter did, snapping in his direction immediately, perking up.
"TONY!" he screamed. It was the first time he hadn't called him Mr. Stark, as Peter's desperate gaze fell on Tony and he immediately sprinted, hoping over the rubble of the battlefield in haste to get to his side.
"Mr. Stark!" his voice became more clear, jolting Tony even more awake.
"Oh God," the kid muttered, sliding to his knees by his side. His hands hovered over Tony's suit, as if he's unsure if he was going to shatter if Peter touched him. Finally he made up his mind and cupped Tony's cheeks with his warm hands, lifting his head gently and locking his concerned gaze with him.
"Mr. Stark?" he whimpered softly, his eyes wide.
"Hey kid," Tony grinned, getting enough energy to lift his arm and ruffle the boy's hair. He looked down at a piece of familiar tech, hooked through the flannel.
"You taking my stuff?" he teased.
"No," Peter blushed, "Pepper made me-"
"Pepper," Tony perked up.
Peter raised an eyebrow, "You think she'd stay home and wait?"
Tony tried to laugh and instead coughed up blood, his chest exploding with pain. He couldn't hold back his cry of agony and Peter cussed, trying to support him as he doubled over. When Tony could finally breathe again he looked back at Peter who was absolutely terrified, clutching at Tony like he was going to lose him again.
"Watch your mouth," Tony teased weakly, closing his eyes and swallowing painfully.
"Shut up," Peter said simply, missing Tony's famous eyebrow raise at his spunk.
Instead, Peter breathed a sigh of relief, and he moved his hands to grasp the sides of Tony's suit as he started to slide down the column. Peter held him up, looking at Tony with such fear and worry that Tony wanted to just wrap his arms around this kid and hold him.
Peter's voice broke, "We thought you were..."
Tony joked, "Thought I was what, dead? Sorry kid, gonna have to take more than that to kill me."
Then Peter's expression darkened. A look came over his face that Tony had never seen before. His gaze flickered over Tony's visible injuries, and the blood that was making a trail of blood in the snow. The kid reached forward to touch the massive jagged hole in his chest, his fingers trembling in anger. That's what it was. It was pure, blind, white hot rage. Tony caught his hand before he could touch the massive hole in his chest and Peter's head snapped up with such fury that Tony flinched.
"I'm good kid," he lied. Then he made a face, "a little chilly, but ok."
"Yeah about that," Peter grinned. He shoved on his mask, "Karen, send the suit."
"You really are a genius," Tony breathed a sigh of relief, grateful that he was going to be warm soon.
"What can I say? I'm prepared," Peter grinned. Then he shifted his position, "Now let's get out of here."
"Pete I-" Tony faltered. Just say it. "I can't walk."
There was a second of silence.
"I know," Peter said simply, surprising Tony with his repsonce, "I've got you." He slipped his hand under Tony's arm and around his back. Then he grasped Tony's hand, his good arm, pulling him upright. Tony stumbled against him and Peter caught him firmly, tucking him into a half embrace so Tony could stabilize. Tony grasped his arms, surprised by the kid's strength, and thankful for the contact. He suppressed a cry, gritting his teeth from the pain, about to black out, white spots dancing in his vision.
"Stay with me Mr. Stark. Hey, focus on me. We're gonna get out of here," Peter said firmly, holding him tighter, not letting Tony slip even a little. "Lean on me, got it? I'm gonna get you out of here I promise."
"Yea kid, I know," Tony breathed, clutching his arm tighter around the teenager as he limped out with Peter pressed firmly against his side.
Pepper was pacing.
"Pepper, trust me. I'll get him back," Peter said quietly, looking at the entrance to the building they had just touched down near.
"Peter, please, no. It's dangerous. Whatever happened to Tony could happen to you-"
"Tony's in there!" Peter said firmly, "I need to get him out!"
"I know!" Pepper yelled back, grabbing his shoulders, "I want him out of that awful place as much as you do, so listen to me! Spiderman or not, I'm not sending a 16 year old kid in there with no plan. Let me go with you. Or the suits we brought!"
Peter furiously shook his head, "No. If people are in there they can detect those. They can't detect me. And I can't let you go. Pepper please, just let me go get him. Please. I'll bring him back."
Pepper pursed her lips and cupped his cheek, "You'll be safe. You'll take your mask with you, and you will take Tony's self defense tech with you too. You will set a suit up to come find you at your location once you find him. No buts. You get him out there, and you get yourself out too, do you understand Peter?"
"Yes ma'am," Peter said bravely, nodding with gleaming eyes.
"Go," she smiled sadly.
Peter nodded and swung towards the entrance.
That was 20 minutes ago.
10 minutes ago, FRIDAY had alerted her that a suit had been activated. It detached from the jet and flew in the same way Peter had gone in and Pepper breathed a sigh of relief, getting the jet ready and stepping outside into the snow. The storm was getting worse, the wind blowing furiously, her ears ringing from it's high pitched whistle but she stood outside the jet, her eyes fixed on that one spot, pulling her jacket tighter, with a blanket being wrung between her hands out of nervousness.
Come on Peter. Come on kid.
Then she saw it. A tiny bit of movement through the snow. Pepper started forward and saw Peter holding up Tony with his arm around him, holding almost all of Tony's weight as they trudged forward.
"Tony!" she cried, sprinting forward. She ran, stumbling down the slope, into Tony's open arms as he surged forward. She caught him and hugged him, tears falling down her cheeks, muttering, "Oh thank God, thank God, Tony..."
"Hey Pepp," he said quietly.
She wrapped the blanket around his shoulders and suddenly there were webs holding it in place. Peter was right behind them, offering her a lopsided smile, clearly exhausted, and also cold. Pepper gave a gleeful laugh and pulled him forward, planting a kiss on the top of his head.
Peter grinned, his eyelids closing and he motioned for them to keep going, giving her a thumbs up that meant he could make it himself.
"Come on, let's go," Pepper whispered in Tony's ear, slipping his arm over her shoulder and holding him close as he shivered and kissed her. They stumbled up the snowy slope, staggering a bit, but they made it. Peter clasped Tony's hand and arm and helped him up the ramp, Pepper making sure he didn't fall, and while she closed the ramp, Peter gently lowered Tony onto the nearest couch.
Tony groaned in pain and breathed a sigh of relief. Peter was at his side, watching him warily, as if worried he was going to get hurt while sitting there.
"I'm not gonna explode Peter," Tony grinned, assuring him.
Peter raised an eyebrow, "Well that's...that's good to know."
"Sit down kid, rest. You did good," Tony smiled weakly at him, his eyes closing. Pepper came and kissed him, going to go make some tea and grab them all something to eat.
Peter took a seat on the floor, his back against the couch Tony was laying on. Then Tony felt him tense and turn. He steeled himself, knowing exactly what Peter was going to ask. Wh-
"Who?" Peter snarled simply, without even looking at Tony.
"Pete-" Tony started weakly.
"Who?" Peter demanded, now turning around fiercely, "Who did it?"
Tony could practically feel the wave of protective anger rolling of Peter in ripples of heat. The kid's eyes were filled with blind rage.
"He was just protecting him," Tony said weakly, but both he and Peter knew that wasn't true, now that they were on the same page.
Realization hit Peter like a tidal wave; the kid actually fell back onto his haunches, a shocked expression appearing on his heartbroken face. Peter scrunched up his nose and whispered, "Steve?"
Tony didn't answer, but that was answer enough.
"I'm gonna kill him," Peter mumbled, as if he meant to say that to himself but it just came out. The kid was shaking, his hands curled into fists and he shook his head.
"I'm gonna kill him-" Peter muttered again, his voice a low growl, his hands in tight fists.
"Peter-" Tony tried again.
"No!" Peter yelled. "He hurt you. He almost killed you. He's not getting away with that. No one hurts you."
The fire in Peter's eyes made Tony look at him in shock; Peter's anger rivaled his.
"I respected him. I looked up to him. Captain America was my childhood idol. But he's just some sick, cowardly piece of crap- that-"
"Peter, that's enough," Tony said quietly but firmly.
Peter looked at him with misdirected anger and snarled, "He-"
"Parker!" Tony snapped.
Peter hung his head, going silent.
"I'm okay kid," Tony assured him. "I'm gonna be okay. I promise."
Peter was still breathing hard and Tony grabbed his shoulder firmly, locking eyes with him. He didn't say anything. He didn't need to.
Peter nodded, and gave him a weak smile, before he sank back against the couch and lay his head on the soft sofa. Tony moved his hand with the grit of his teeth, trembling with effort, to rest it on Peter's head, ruffling the kid's curls that were plastered to his forehead from the snow. The kid leaned into the touch, breathing a sigh of relief.
"Thanks for coming kid," Tony said sincerely.
Peter, falling asleep, gave a content hum and nod, his head falling heavy against Tony's hand.