As soon as the bell sounded at the end of the day, Peter was up and out of his seat, determined to beat the horde of students to the front doors of the school.
“Geez, Peter, where’s the fire?” Ned asked as Peter shoved his notebook into his backpack. Peter paused a moment and turned to Ned, nearly dancing on his toes, antsy to leave.
“I have my inte-“ Peter paused again and lowered his voice to a rushed whisper, “my internship, remember?” Peter made intense eye contact with Ned, urging him to acknowledge the unspoken secret between them. Recollection lit up Ned’s face and he leaned in and lowered his voice to Peter’s volume.
“Do you need your guy?” Ned whispered (if it could be considered a whisper due to how Ned was struggling to contain his excitement).
“Not this time, man.” Peter internally flinched when Ned’s face fell at his response. “Next time for sure, though!” He was quick to add. Ned’s enthusiasm returned and he nodded with bright eyes. Peter gave him a small wave and rushed out the door, slinging his backpack over his shoulder. He was instantly caught in the middle of the throng of students but after several “excuse me’s,” he was out the door, striding confidently into the brisk December air. The trademark New York winter hit him like a slap to the face and he shivered violently, walking with renewed purpose towards his favorite back alley.
After a ten minute walk, he arrived and was thoroughly chilled to the bone. I should really bring up the whole “spiders can’t thermo-regulate” thing with Mr. Stark next time we’re in the lab, Peter idly thought as he crouched behind a dumpster and began digging through his backpack. He figured he’d forget by then, though.
Peter wrenched the spider-suit out from under his school supplies and enthusiastically began shucking off his shoes and socks. Once he was shirtless and stripped down to his boxers, Peter could hardly control the shivers wracking through his body enough to shove his legs into the suit. Once everything was situated and he had adjusted his webshooters to fit snugly onto his wrists, Peter webbed his backpack to the back of the dumpster and finally, finally pulled the mask over his head.
As soon as the OS booted up, KAREN was quick to interject.
“Welcome back, Peter. Your internal body temperature is quite lo-“ She started.
“I know, I know, can you crank up the heater, please?” Peter interrupted. Heat instantly flooded throughout the suit and with it, the feeling returned to his fingers and toes. Peter sighed contentedly as his extremities returned to a healthy temperature. “Ah, thanks Karen.” He bounced on the balls of his feet, stretched his shoulders, and rolled his neck, raring to go. “What’s on the docket for today?”
After a split second of silence, KAREN piped up. “A gas station is being held up on Metropolitan and 70th – shall I put it on your map?”
Peter launched himself to the roof of the building adjoining the alley. “Yeah, definitely, that’s awesome, Karen!” A waypoint appeared in the lower corner of his HUD, along with the distance and ETA. “W-well not awesome, obviously, but you know what I mean!” Peter stepped back a few paces like a sprinter awaiting the starting gunshot, ran, vaulted off the building, and he was off. He couldn’t help but let out a whoop of excitement as he swung between buildings and over the heads of onlookers, relishing in their exclamations as they spotted him. In that moment, Peter was never more thrilled to be himself. Nothing was quite as exhilarating as the sensation of rising and falling, rising and falling, at such high speeds. Like a roller coaster without the price of theme park admission (and the stress and noise of large crowds).
As Peter neared the blip on his map, he could hear several police sirens overlapping, and KAREN (always mindful of his enhanced senses) automatically muffled the sounds to a bearable volume. Peter mentally thanked his lucky stars that Mr. Stark had designed her to be so intuitive.
Landing softly behind the barrier of police cars, he approached the group of officers. “Hey, guys!” He announced. “Need help?” As the officers turned and acknowledged his presence, Peter tried not to let his ego inflate as several pairs of shoulders visibly relaxed.
“There’s two guys in there an’ they both got some kinda crazy alien gun with multiple hostages. This is outta’ your league, Spidey, you better sit this one out.” An officer said gruffly, clearly not as relieved as the others. “We got our negotiator on the way.”
Under his mask, Peter grimaced at this. He was about to try and charm the officer into letting him through when a loud explosion sounded from inside the convenience store. The officers were sent into a panic, some huddling behind their patrol cars and others barking orders into their radios. Peter was the first to recover from the initial shock and the explosion was just the distraction he needed to launch himself past the officers and headfirst into the store. Diving through the cloud of dust and debris, he was quick to assess the situation and it seemed as if the two robbers didn’t even notice his entrance. He ducked behind the shelves and began plotting his approach. There were several hostages sitting against the far wall with asshole number one keeping his gun trained on them. Asshole number two was behind the counter and looked as if he was attempting to blow apart the safe. The weapons they held were clearly not anything of human design. Asshole one turned his head to address the other.
“Well?” He demanded. “Did it work?”
“No, man, this safe is made a’ diamonds or something. Didn’t even make a dent!” Asshole two replied, clearly becoming progressively more frantic.
“Well, goddammit, try again!” Asshole one barked back. The men were obviously becoming unhinged and that amplified Peter’s concern for the hostages, seeing as one of the unhinged men was currently aiming a very large gun at them. Asshole two’s gun began to hum, as if it was recharging for another blast. At that moment, one of the hostages, a young woman, noticed Peter slinking around the shelves and her face lit up with recognition. Peter frantically tried to signal her to keep her head down and stay quiet but it was too late. Asshole one instantly noticed the shift in her demeanor and began turning around. Peter made the snap decision to announce his presence.
“Those are some pretty cool guns, guys, where’d you get ‘em?” Peter asked coyly as he stood to full height and came out from behind the shelves.
“Not another step!” Asshole one was quick to react, swinging his gun around to aim directly at Peter. “This doesn’t concern you, Spider-guy. Walk out now and I won’t blow you to pieces.”
“Y-yeah, you’d better leave!” Asshole two hopped over the counter and took Asshole one’s place, aiming his gun at the hostages. It was humming louder now. Peter knew he had to act quickly.
He raised his hands placatingly, “Alright, easy there, gentlemen. Wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt would w-“ Peter’s sixth sense flared to life and he jumped to the side as Asshole one fired, an intense pulse of energy decimating the spot where Peter had been seconds ago. Asshole one seemed taken aback, as if the gun had misfired, but the gun began to recharge all the same. The shot was all that was needed to cause Asshole two to snap completely. He charged at Peter, swinging the gun around like a club and consequently leaving the hostages completely unguarded. With the attention of both men on Peter, the young woman from earlier seized the opportunity to usher the group towards the emergency exit. Peter felt a spark of pride at her initiative but his attention was quickly drawn back to Asshole two. He ducked out of the way, narrowly missing a blow to the head. His spider-sense flared again and Peter dodged as Asshole one fired another blast and several shelves were blown away. Asshole two let out a guttural cry as hes sprinted full-tilt towards Peter. With one sweep of his legs, Peter had incapacitated Asshole two and webbed him, along with his weapon, to the floor.
“You should really work on your attack strategy.” Peter quipped down at him as he struggled fruitlessly against his restraints. He turned around to face the other man. “And now for your frien-“ Peter didn’t get to finish his sentence as his spider-sense screamed at him from the back of his head. It was too little, too late, though, as Asshole one fired another shot and it hit Peter square in the chest. To say he had the wind knocked out of him would be the understatement of the century. Peter was thrown back against the wall with such force that he was pretty sure he created a sizeable hole in the plaster. His head was slammed back so hard Peter’s vision blacked out for several seconds.
When it returned, his HUD was glitching and jumping around, only serving to intensify the intense ache in his head. The horrible ringing in his ears was his only indication that he hadn’t gone completely deaf.
As soon as the ringing subsided enough, Peter realized that KAREN had been speaking to him “-everal functions in the suit are malfunctioning and I am detecting a severe conc-“
“N-Not right now, please, Karen.” Peter choked out. Even his own voice worsened the pain in his head. Shakily rising to his feet, he noticed with a sharp pang of panic that Asshole one had vanished. He launched into action, vaulting over the debris and outside to find with no small degree of relief that the police officers had tackled Asshole one a few yards down the street. Another officer approached him and softly asked if he’d like to be seen by a paramedic but Peter waved her off and returned to Asshole two. Peter ignored the curses and damnations being spit at him as he shuffled past, ripped away the webbing securing the gun and hoisted it into his arms, intent on taking it to Mr. Stark to hear his thoughts on the matter. Peter figured that he had cleaned up the last of the alien tech from the whole Vulture incident but clearly he was mistaken.
With the gun in tow, Peter exited out the back and clamored up the side of the building, picking out Avengers Tower from the distant skyline. It was then that a violent shiver ran up Peter’s spine and his teeth began to chatter.
“K-Karen, can you t-turn up the h-heater, please?” He grated out.
“The blast disabled several suit functions, including the heater. Would you like me to contact Mr. Stark?” She asked innocently.
“N-no, that’s okay, K-Karen. It’s n-not very f-far to the T-tower.” Another shiver wracked his frame. After confirming with KAREN that the webshooters were still functional, Peter made his way towards the tower, albeit slowly.
“Peter, your internal body temperature is decreasing. Would you like me to c-“
“No, d-don’t contact him, K-Karen! It’s not m-much farther, n-now.” Peter hadn’t meant to sound so snappy but his web-swinging was taking up more of his concentration than usual. An intense wave of exhaustion hit him mid-swing and he nearly lost his grip on the gun. “O-okay, I’m j-just gonna t-take a quick b-break.” Peter said more to himself than to Karen as stumbled onto a rooftop and plopped down against the roof access door. The gun slipped out of his arm and clattered to the ground but he was simply too tired to care. He wasn’t shivering anymore as his vision became blurred around the edges. “Just a…quick break…” Peter slurred out.
“Peter, your internal body temperature has violated the baby monitor protocol. Contacting Mr. Stark.” KAREN piped up, seeming as chipper as ever.
“Oh, yeah…that’s nice, Karen.” Peter’s head was bobbing as a dial tone played softly in his ear.
Mr. Stark picked up on the second ring. “Hey, kid, Karen tells me you’re turning into a spider-cicle. How goes the patrol?” Faint rock music could be heard in the background. The sound of his mentors voice snapped some lucidity back into Peter.
“Oh, you know, Mr…uh…Mr. Stark.” Peter mumbled, fighting to keep his eyes open. “It’s good…I’m just…taking a little n-nap…”
There was a beat of silence as the background music cut off completely. “A nap? Pete are you on drugs?”
Peter had to giggle at that. “Y-you know I don’t do…drugs, Mr. Stark. I’m just a little…tired…” Peter head began to droop more drastically. “Just taking…a little…rest.” He slumped over onto his side, teetering dangerously on the edge of unconsciousness.
“What’s going on, kiddo? You’ve gotta give me something here.” There was a faint shuffling on the other end and it sounded like Mr. Stark was on the move.
“Okay, sure…Mr. Stark…” Peter was too far gone to comprehend what was being said to him. Sleep was just too appealing.
“Where ar-“ Mr. Stark began but Peter was already unconscious.
Peter could have been asleep for seconds or hours, he had no way of knowing. When he finally resurfaced out of the inky blackness, his ears were greeted by the sound of his favorite superhero’s suit landing heavily on the ground several feet away. Still slumped on his side, he pried his heavy eyelids open to see the Iron Man suit peeling away from his mentor. Mr. Stark rushed to his side and dropped to his knees. Something about his presence flooded Peter with the warmth of safety so he figured it’d be okay to let sleep take him under. Suddenly, his mask was wrenched from his face and the cold air bit into his already frozen cheeks. From somewhere above him he heard someone let out a soft curse. Peter groaned and clenched his eyes shut, turning his head into the ground in a pitiful attempt to block out the cold. Suddenly, hands were on his face, so warm they almost felt too hot.
“Nuh-uh, Spider-kid, it’s not nap time just yet.” Mr. Stark sounded slightly panicked as he lightly tapped Peter’s cheeks, but that couldn’t be the case. Peter had never seen Mr. Stark lose his composure. “Friday, why the hell isn’t his heater on?” Mr. Stark demanded and there was a beat of silence in which Peter could only assume FRIDAY was giving him a response. “Shit, kid, why didn’t you call me?”
“Is okay…Mr. Stark…not even that…cold.” Peter hoped he sounded coherent but Mr. Stark seemed to get the message. Peter was suddenly struck with recollection. “Mr. Stark, the g-gun!” He blurted.
“Yeah, I see that, kid. But, believe it or not, I’m not too concerned about the gun right this second. I have to make sure a certain spide-“ Realization flashed through Mr. Starks eyes. “Spiders can’t thermoregulate…” He said to himself. He cursed again then addressed FRIDAY with renewed vigor. “Friday, increase external suit temperature,” He commanded. Shoving Peter’s mask into his pocket, he stepped back to let the suit envelop him. Peter was about to open his mouth to remind him about the gun but he was beaten to the punch. “I’ll send a suit later for the gun, kid.” Mr. Stark said, voice muffled slightly. Metallic arms worked their way underneath Peter’s knees and behind his shoulders and he was lifted up against a metal chest. It was pleasantly warm, Peter realized with a pleased sigh, and he turned his face into the source of the warmth. There was another bit of silence and he hardly noticed as the suit held him a little tighter.
“How do you feel about an aerial tour of New York, Pete?” Peter was asked as Mr. Stark readied for take-off.
“Yeah…that sounds…nice…Mr. Stark.” Peter mumbled lowly. Peter was hardly even jostled as they took to the air and he was perfectly content to fall back to sleep in the arms of his mentor.
When Peter awoke next, he was hot. Too hot. In fact, he was sweating profusely. He groaned and wrenched his eyes open only to be greeted by the sight of his own room at the tower. An unpleasant weight was sitting on his body and he stifled his panicked gut reaction when he realized it was only a pile of blankets, several of which were heated. Movement by his bedside drew his eyes to land on Mr. Stark, sitting in an uncomfortable-looking chair and leaning over to rest his arms on the bed. He quietly asked FRIDAY to turn on the lights and she complied, at a dim setting, of course, just how Peter liked them.
“How do you feel, kiddo?” Mr. Stark asked softly as if Peter were a wounded animal.
Peter considered his question for a moment, mentally taking stock of how he actually was feeling. His head was still aching, but considerably less than before. “Sweaty,” He finally decided on.
That earned him a tired chuckle. “Yeah, that’d be the twenty heated blankets and the warm IV drip.” Mr. Stark explained. Peter hadn’t even noticed the drip but his eyes instantly landed on the catheter taped to the inner crease of his right elbow. He grimaced and looked away.
"So, uh…what exactly happened?” Peter asked, not entirely sure he even wanted to know the answer.
“You nearly became a popsicle, is what happened.” Mr. Stark seemed angry but he quickly reigned in his tone. “You got blasted with some kind of EMP which knocked out your heater. Karen called me when your temperature got too low.” Mr. Stark sighed and ran a stressed hand through his hair. “You gotta tell me when shit like this happens, kid.” He was making direct eye contact with Peter now and Peter fought the urge to look down at his hands. “Seriously, my old man heart can’t take it. I need to know the second something happens, kiddo.”
Peter nodded, finally looking down at his hands, trying in vain to keep the shame off of his face. Mr. Stark’s expression softened and he stood to remove a few of the blankets off Peter.
“Just get some more rest, kid, I know you’re still tired.” Mr. Stark smiled gently down at him. “You know the drill, tell Friday to get me if you need anything.” He leaned over and ruffled Peter’s hair before shuffling out the door and shutting it softly behind him. Peter smiled to himself. Mr. Stark had never done that before. He scooted back down into the pillows and conked out almost immediately.
And if Mr. Stark spent the entire night making sure Peter had a back-up heater in his suit and that the back-up had fifty other back-ups- well, Peter was none the wiser.