We start this one on a cold night on Coney Island, an abandoned warehouse. To be honest, my friend, I don't know why I'm here. Sometimes I'm too early, or sometimes, I don't need to be here at all.
Peter Parker's - or as you and I know him as Spider-Man - senses keep him heightened as he enters the warehouse, ceilings high, air thick and stuffy. Vulture stands ahead of him, leaning over a table. Anger boils in his veins, knowing that the man in front of him had hurt his father.
*** A REASSURING ANNOUNCEMENT FOR YOU ***
Please, remain calm, I ask of you, Peter Stark-Strange, will not die. He will only get injured severely.
His mouth runs before he can stop it, the anger cresting over. "HEY!" He shouts, the sound echoes around the warehouse, making Vulture drop the tool in his hand and whip around to look at him. "Surprised?" Peter snarls, walking closer to the older man.
"Oh, hey, Pete..." Vulture's voice echoes back, sending chills down Peter's spine. No, he will not be scared, he'll be strong. For his dad, he thinks. "Didn't hear you come in," he continues with a dry laugh, Peter again, grows angry. "It's over. I've got you!" Peter growls, continuing to move closer to the enemy. "You know, I gotta tell you, Pete..." Vulture starts again, picking his jacket up off the work table. "...I really, really admire your grit."
Peter keeps his fists clenched as Vulture tosses his jacket over his shoulders. "I see why Liz likes you." He says, looking over at him. "I do. When you first came to the house... I wasn't sure." Vulture grins at him and it makes Peter feel absolutely sick. "I thought, "Really?" But I get it now."
The arachnid grows angry, sweat dripping down his face from under his mask. "How could you do this to her?" He spits, feeling his knuckles turning white from the applied pressure. "To her? I'm not doing anything to her, Pete. I'm doing this for her." Vulture sighs, resting against the table.
Peter finally stops walking, seeing red when Vulture stops talking. "Huh, yeah." He flings webbing at Vulture's hand, trapping it to the table.
Vulture let's out an exasperated sigh, looking to his left and then back to Peter. "Peter... You're young. You don't understand how the world works." He starts, but Peter cuts him off again, annoyed. "Yeah, well I understand that selling weapons to criminals is wrong." He shoots back, reeling himself up again. "And that hurting people makes you a shitty person." His words are laced with venom as he thinks back to his father. Vulture laughs, knowing exactly what he's talking about.
*** SOME SMALL FACTS ABOUT ADRIAN TOOMES ***
1. He has one daughter.
2. He has escaped my hands four times.
3. He hates Stark Industries.
4. He is an asshole. Always has been, always will be.
5. He will die to the hands of one Natalia Romanova.
"How do you think your precious daddy payed for that tower? Or any of his little toys." He quips, letting out a sarcastic laugh. "DON'T SAY A WORD AGAINST MY FATHER!" Peter roars, angry tears forming behind his eyes; because his dad had been through hell and back, and each and every day he still finds it in him to play with his hair to help him fall asleep, to cuddle up with him and watch a movie, stay with him in his room whenever he has a nightmare, give him little forehead kisses, and give him the sweetest nicknames. His dad still finds it in him to hug and kiss pops, to help him down from a flashback episode, take care of him when he's sick, and so much more.
He still finds it in him to be the father that Peter needs, and the husband that Stephen depends on.
And Peter doesn't want it any other way.
"Those people, Pete.. Those people up there, the rich and powerful, they do whatever they want." Vulture starts, but Peter frantically shakes his head. "No.." He croaks out, voice thick with emotion. "Not my dad."
"They don't care about guys like us, Pete!" Vulture shouts, making Peter flinch. "We pick up after them, we eat their table scraps-" "STOP! JUST STOP!" Peter screams, taking Vulture back. "MY FATHER RAISED ME RIGHT, MY FATHER IS A GOOD MAN, SO JUST STOP IT!" Peter wants to cry, scream, and yank his hair out because of the man in front of him.
"Why are you telling me this?" Peter rasps, throat scratchy from screaming. "Because," the wicked smile on Vulture's face makes Peter's heart drop. "I want you to understand... And I needed a little time to get her airborne."
Peter goes to ask what he's talking about, but a mechanical whirring followed by an explosion behind him cuts him off. "Shit!" He yelps, pulling himself up onto one of the pillars in the warehouse.
Dodging the wings for five minutes tires him out as they crash into the wall. Vulture's maniacal laughter echos in his ears. "I'm sorry, Peter!" He calls, laughing again when Peter gets thrown backwards. "What are you talking about?" He asks, scrambling up to his feet again. "That thing hasn't even touched me yet!"
Vulture smirks, "True. Then again... It wasn't really trying to."
Peter watches in confusion as the wings come back, crashing into the remaining pillars it hadn't hit. Realization hits too late as the ceiling comes down, crashing into the floor, taking Peter with it.
In the rubble, panic sets into Peter's nerves, the weight causing sharp gasps of breath that sound like Pete's choking to escape his lips. There's metal pressing into his leg and Peter knows that if he moves the wrong way, it'll cut him. He starts hyperventilating, ripping his mask from his head. He wants his dad, he wants his pops, and he wants to be home at the tower watching a movie with the two of them.
Setting his hand on a jarred piece of rock, he sobs, trying to push himself up to slither out of the rubble. "Hello?" He chokes, trying to look out into the night sky, but the rubble above him only lets him see parts of it with the way it crisscrosses. "Pops? Dad?" His voice is scratchy, tears blurring his vision, or it could be dust, he doesn't know. "Hello!" He screams, falling against the rubble in defeat. "Please, hey."
"Pops, please. I'm down here." He cries, banging his fist on the rock in front of him, hoping to alert someone or something. "I'm down here. Dad, I'm stuck." His voice shakes, cracking. It's too small, the space is crushing down on him. A final cry of plea escapes his mouth before the darkness overtakes his vision.
Believe me, please believe me, I ask. For just this once. I wanted to crouch down, to whisper to the young boy, that it will be okay, that I was sorry, that it was just temporary, that help would be on the way soon. But I didn't, because it wasn't allowed. I only watched, hoped, prayed, and waited.
Back at Stark Tower, Tony Stark-Strange stands in the lab, his husband Stephen is lounging on a couch behind him. "Boss, there's an emergency." F.R.I.D.A.Y.'s voice rings through the speakers, making the two men perch up. "What is it, FRI?" Tony asks, moving towards his monitors. Stephen gets up, walking over and placing a hand on Tony's waist. "Peter has been out on patrol for about five hours, and I just lost signal from his suit. He seems to have his webslingers; as you so graciously decided to bug." Tony ignores Stephen's amused yet incredulous stare on him, fiddling with the monitors again. "Where was his last known location, FRI?"
"An abandoned warehouse near Coney Island, boss."
Tony's face drains in color, Steven's hand squeezing his waist, reminding him that he's still there. "It's okay," Stephen murmurs, rubbing Tony's hip reassuringly. "He's Peter, he can't have gotten into too much trouble."
"Y-Yeah..." Tony whispers, swiping plans for new cloak holders for Stephen off the screen. "FRI, give me his webslinger coordinates, please..."
A dot pops up on the map, nestled on the outskirts of Coney Island. "Pete... What did you get yourself in to..." Tony whispers, making Stephen squeeze his hand reassuringly. "C'mon, let's go find our kid..." Tony guides Stephen out of the lab, telling F.R.I.D.A.Y. to open the doors to his suit and Stephen's cloak. "Hun, you know that just because his slingers are there, doesn't mean Pete's there..." Stephen tries to tell his husband, but the look on Tony's face makes his voice trail off. "You and I both know that Pete doesn't go anywhere without his webbing; on his wrists or not." Tony quips back, stepping inside his suit as Stephen's cloak sets itself into place on his shoulders. Stephen sighs, starting to open up a portal to Peter's location. "Boss, I just got a report of a building collapsing at Peter's last known location, I cannot retrieve his vitals at this time, I suggest you hurry." F.R.I.D.A.Y's voice rings out, making Tony's blood run cold. His mask retracts and he's looking at Stephen with teary eyes because their kid is in danger. "Don't worry, everything's going to be okay, we're going to bring him home."
With Stephen's promise, he opens the portal, nodding Tony to jump through first. Tony's repulsors fire up, sending him through the portal, Stephen jumping in after him.
Smoke clouds Tony's vision, flames dancing around him. "Steph?" He calls, getting a grunt in response. Knowing that Stephen made it through okay, he flies upward, trying to get a better look around. "FRI, run a thermal scan," he tells his AI, praying with every fiber in his being that Peter's okay. "Running a thermal scan, boss." F.R.I.D.A.Y confirms, setting a filter over Tony's vision.
Looking frantically, hearing the woosh of Stephen's cloak every so often, Tony spots a lump of red underneath a bunch of rocks. The way that the red disappears and reappears, how long the lump is, Tony knows.
He knows that's his son under there.
"Stephen! Babe, I found him!" Tony cries, flying towards the red lump. "FRI, give me the most direct route to Pete." Tony pleads, careful not to knock any rocks down into the hole. Tony retracts his mask as Stephen pops up next to him. "PETER!?" He shouts, voice cracking when he gets no response. "FRI, can you get his vitals?" He begs, looking at his husband's smoke stained face. "Still unable to get Peter's vitals, perhaps Stephen could open a portal?" She suggests, making the two want to slap their foreheads for being so stupid for not thinking of that.
Stephen opens a portal, Tony holding out a sensor to shine light down into it.
There, trapped under rubble and debris is their son.
Tony lets out a strangled sob, wanting to do nothing more than reach in there and pull Peter out. Tony isn't stupid though, he knows that if he doesn't have F.R.I.D.A.Y. run a scan on the building, he could kill Peter because of his carelessness. "F.R.I.D.A.Y, run a scan on the structure, is it safe for me to pull Pete out?" His mask flips back over, his vision being filled with a scan of the whole building. "If you do it quick enough, boss, you can pull him out." She tells him, relief flooding through his body. "How quick?" He demands, settling himself on a sturdy looking rock. "You'd have ten seconds, at best."
*** AN INTERRUPTION FROM YOURS TRULY. ***
Tony Stark-Strange did not have ten seconds at best. His AI was fool enough to lie to him when he had five seconds.
Stephen looks down at him, cocking an eyebrow. "I'm doing this, and you're closing the portal as soon as he's through." Tony tells him, Stephen nodding, focusing back on his boy.
Tony leans in, setting his arms on either side of Pete's body. Gently, yet quickly, he jerks Peter out from the rubble, listening to the swoosh of the portal closing. Tony holds Peter close to his chest, sobs escaping from his mouth at the sight of Pete's bloodied and battered face.
His hands cup Peter's cheeks, swiping away any blood that's still wet and not crusted to his son's face.
He doesn't pay much attention as another portal opens from Stephen, only focusing on holding Peter; that if he were to loosen his grip, Peter would fade away.
He feels Stephen pulling him through the portal, away from the suffocating smoke, away from the dancing fires.
The living room greets him as he looks up again, feeling relief flood through him. His suit retracts, letting him step out and take a seat on the couch with Peter still in his arms. Tony looks over his son, his suit torn and ripped, his face bloodied, bruised, and battered, his head is bleeding from a cut on his temple, his face is covered with ash and soot. "B-Bambi!" He cries brokenly, holding his son close to his chest.
It hurt to hear, the amount of pain in a human's voice. Then again, who am I to talk?
Stephen kneels in front of Tony, cloak floating alongside Tony's suit. His eyes cloud with tears, his hand finding Peter's cheek, stroking carefully. "We should get him down to Medbay..." He whispers, trying not to alert Tony any worse. "F-FRI, have Bruce come up here, p-please.." Tony's lip quivers when he looks over Peter's face again, listening to his ragged, shallow, and sharp breathing. "Sure thing, boss. I have alerted Mister Banner, and I think that you would like to know that Mister Barnes and Mister Rogers are in the elevator right now; heading up to your level." F.R.I.D.A.Y's voice fills the living room, making Stephen perch right up. "They can't see him like this," Stephen starts, but it's too late... The elevator ding rings throughout the floor, sending a chill down Tony's backside.
"Hey Tones? Steph?" That's Steve, undoubtedly swinging his keys around his finger.
"We brought Thai!" Bucky, voice cheery.
The mention of Peter's favorite food causes Tony to latch onto Peter even tighter, a choked sob escaping his mouth as he buries his face into Peter's charred hair; trying to silence himself. Then Tony remembers.
He had planned it as a surprise. Having Pete's uncles come over with Thai to surprise him, to have a movie night all together before Fury shipped Steve and Bucky off on another mission. He'd forgot until now, holding his son's broken figure, unsure of whether he'd make it or not.
At that thought, Tony's sobs grow louder, much to Stephen's horror, nothing he can do or say calms his husband. Bucky and Steve appear in the doorway in an instant, drawn in by Tony's crying, because Tony never cries. Bucky nearly drops the bag of food, Steve letting out a sound that sounds like a mix of a gag and a sob.
They both rush in, food long forgotten on the floor. "What the hell happened?" Steve whispers, looking over his nephew's lax figure. "B-Building collapsed on him," Tony whispers as Bruce comes out of the elevator, med kit in hand. Stephen lets a tear slip, pressing his lips firmly to Tony's temple.
Bruce runs in, sweaty faced gripping his med kit tightly. His steps seem to falter at the sight of Peter's crumpled body, stumbling over his own feet. "Let me see him, Tony. If it's as bad as I think, he needs to be brought down to Medbay. Now." Bruce says with urgency in his voice, clear to the other four adults in the room. Tony looks up at him, a new wave of fear coating his face. "A-As bad?" He whispers, fear coursing his veins. Bruce falters momentarily, looking at Peter again. "Tony... Just please give him to me."
With reluctance, Tony hands Peter over; fresh tears running down his cheeks. Bruce gives him one last reassuring smile before walking towards the elevator with Peter in his arms.
When the elevator descends, Tony breaks down again, reaching for Stephen's hand blindly. Their hands interlock, Stephen squeezes his hand and lifts it to press his lips softly to Tony's knuckles.
"I-its my fault!" Tony cries, his eyes nearly swollen shut from his tears. Stephen shakes his head, giving him the same heartbroken look. "No. It isn't your fault, Tony." Stephen tries to tell him, but Tony shakes his head vigorously. "Y-yes it is!" He cries, running his hand through his mussed hair. "I told h-him to not go o-on patrol, and I w-was lenient when I s-shouldn't have been!"
They wait for about four hours in the living room before heading down to the MedBay, Tony constantly muttering under his breath that it's his fault. Nothing Stephen can do or say calms his husband.
*** ONE LAST TIME ***
Believe me one last time, or maybe more if you want, but Peter Parker didn't deserve to die the way he did, more of the ways he did.
That boy was laid on an uncomfortable operating table and his heart stopped five times, and there was one time where his heart almost didn't start again.
I'm being rude, I know this. It's how I am. I've basically spoiled the book for you, or in fact, one particular part. Don't fear, little one. Peter is okay, I promise. Suspense bores me, it makes me tired. I hate it.
They waited in the MedBay for fifteen hours. No words on Peter or his condition for that matter. Tony sits in the corner, his head tucked into his legs as Stephen rubs his back, trying to sooth his husband. Bucky is furiously texting Natasha, who is on a Quinjet with the destination of Stark Tower to see her nephew. Steve sits next to Bucky, his head on the taller one's shoulder.
When the clock strikes one a.m, the doors to the emergency wing swing open, two doctors walking out. One is Bruce Banner, another is an intern with a bright future in the medical field, he is holding the file to one Peter Stark-Strange.
Stephen looks up with tired eyes as their footsteps grow louder. Bruce looks tired as well, there's blood on his scrubs, blood on his cheeks. Undoubtedly Peter's. Stephen chokes back a sob, standing up for the first time in at least three hours. "Is he okay?" The words fill the room, causing Tony to jerk up from his uncomfortable position, looking at Bruce with bleary, pleading eyes. Bruce takes a deep breath in, forcing himself to look away from Tony's heartbreaking expression. "Peter is... okay," he starts and Stephen beats him to the next word. "But..." He says, sensing Tony now beside him. "His lungs collapsed on him, his heart stopped five times, but we brought him back. We can't tell if he's paralyzed or not, he has a concussion... And, and because of how many times his heart stopped, we had to put an arc reactor in. He wouldn't have survived without it." The room is silent as Bruce finishes explaining, holding its breath.
"When can we see him?"
Tony looks over as the feminine voice fills the room. Natalia Romanova stands against the wall, knife clutched in her right hand, cleaning the blood off of it with a black rag in her left. "Because I want to see my nephew before I go and kill the son of a bitch that hurt him."
Bruce pales, everyone in the room does really, at the sight of the pissed off assassin. She's not joking, they all know that, they know better than to make her more angry, so Bruce mumbles under his breath that they can all follow him and he'll take them to Peter. Natasha nods in appreciation, setting her knife down into the holster on her leg, moving forward first to follow after Bruce.
The group of terrified men follow after her, letting her take the lead, because no way in hell are they going to pass her to piss her off more.
And honestly? A good move on their part.
Bruce stops in front of a door, swiping a key card. The room inside is dark, the only light coming from the machines next to Peter's sleeping figure, and oh, yeah... The blue hue of the arc reactor. Tony stuffs his hand into his mouth to block the scream that tries to force its way out of his throat. Stephen pulls him into his arms, wrapping him tight, rocking him back and forth. Bucky lets a tear slip, looking away from Peter's face, turning to look down the hallway instead. Steve takes Bucky's hand and they start walking down the hall, with a promise to be back later.
Natasha hesitates, looking back at the tired and broken down couple. "G-go ahead," Tony whispers, his voice hoarse and skipping like a broken record. It's the first words he's spoken since they arrived in the MedBay. Stephen rubs his shoulder, giving a nod to Nat before she does move into the room, the door sliding shut behind her. Bruce stays, waiting for Nat to come out.
"He'll be okay, right?" Stephen breaks the silence, causing Bruce to look up from the file in his hands. Bruce takes another deep breath, which he seems to do a lot. "Define okay," he starts, taking his glasses off and folding them. "Like, he'll still remember us, right? He knows that we're Dad and Pops, that his uncles are you, Clint, Thor, Steve, Bucky, and his aunts are Natalia, Wanda, and so on and so forth? He'll be o-okay, right?" Stephen's hanging on by a string, and Tony must notice because he holds his husband's hand tighter, reminding him that he's still there. Bruce looks between the two distressed husbands, sweeping a lock of hair out of his face. "Yes, he will remember everyone and everything. I mean, everything. He will remember the building, he will remember who dropped it on him, he will remember the the pain and crushing feeling before he passed out. He will remember you and I alike, he will be okay, for the most part."
Stephen opens his mouth to say something, but the door opens, and Natalia steps out. If you and I were there, you'd be able to tell that she'd been crying, the way she discreetly tries to wipe away her tears. "Я собираюсь убить его," the words are watery, a sign of weakness.
*** A TRANSLATION OF SORTS. ***
"I'm going to kill him."
Tony, Bruce, and Stephen made no move to stop her, because in the end, what could they have done to stop her? She's a S.H.I.E.L.D assassin, and there is no stopping an assassin of those ranks. So they watched her go, her curls bouncing as she walked towards the elevator.
An hour later, I picked up the soul of Adrian Toomes, leaving one S.H.I.E.L.D assassin to wipe her angry tears away from her cheeks, because it wasn't my scene to watch. It was hers, and I had spent enough time with Natalia Romanova before to know that she needs time alone. So that's what I gave her, time alone, as I carried Adrian Toomes's soul to the gates of Hell, a swell of pride stirred in me, because I had finally got him, and he couldn't hurt anyone anymore.
I arrived back at the hospital, just to check I promise you.
Peter Stark-Strange was awake when I got there, sitting up, tapping on his arc reactor. "Look Dad," he giggled, looking up at Tony with a dopey smile. "We're twinsies!" He squealed, laughing as his head flopped back on to the pillow. A part of me wanted to laugh too, because it was a cute moment. I know that Peter deserved this, he deserved to be happy. I didn't intrude, only watched and felt the room warm up.
So, I assure you, Peter Stark-Strange will be fine. He will get a new suit, designed to fit his arc reactor, matching his father's. I left him alone from there on out, until it was, unfortunately, his time to go. In reality, though? I was always with him.... When he lost his aunt, when Tony reversed the snap, Hell, I met him personally in the Soul Realm. I was with him when Stephen passed away, and then, did I allow myself to wrap an arm around him, in the form of Tony's arm.
In reality? Peter Stark-Strange was never alone.
And see? Even death has a heart.